The four days of holiday gifts

It is that time of year again, Black Friday is behind us and Cyber Monday is here and everyone is thinking of the holidays to come that get us in the giving mood. To honor this time of year, and to talk about some cool stuff, we will spend this week talking about some of the geotoys we like and may even have. I, clearly, am starting things off with my Jacob Marley impersonation and Barb, Frank and Sue will each take a turn through the week. I am going to harken back to our first holiday gift guide episode of VerySpatialTV and break my selections into three tiers: Stocking stuffer, in a box, and in a big box.

Stocking stuffers

Affordable is good in the current monetary reality, whether because of general economic conditions or trying to dig your way out of grad school debt, so I have a few choices in this category. The first geotoy is the Hugg-A-Planet series that started out with the great plush globe and has extended to include other celestial bodies (Mars, Moon, etc), a plush map of the US, and other great options. For that person in your life that needs a map on the wall, desk, cufflinks…you get the idea, you may want to look at some of the handmade options at etsy. These great gift options are dangerous though because while you start looking for others you will invariably end up with more in your cart for yourself than for others.

In a box

The last couple of years have seen the rise of the in-car nav system, the question of whether they would be replaced by smart phones, and resounding answer of ‘no’. It is clear that, for the majority of folks, a simple interface that lives in their vehicle is the better option. It used to be that when you gave a GPS you were giving a gift that had to be paid for again by the recipient when the maps grew out of date, luckily those days are drawing to a close. TomTom, Garmin, and other manufacturers are now offering units that come with lifetime map updates and traffic updates, just make sure to look for product names that include M or T for maps or traffic.

The big box

This is more of a ‘for us all’ holiday wish. While the Landsat Data Continuity Mission is ongoing with the satellite launching in late 2012 or so, let’s start the discussion of Landsat 9 right now. It would be great (in my opinion) to see the program achieve redundancy so that we wouldn’t be faced daily with concerns of an aged constellation and issues with sensors. If we start the discussion and planning now, by the time it gets to the engineering phase the economy will probably have righted itself.

So those are my thoughts on some of the toys out there that might make the location aware person on your gift list happy. What are you giving this holiday season?

Multi-Touch Spherical Display DIY

I want one!  It’s a multi-touch spherical display that you can make for around $1,000.  Oddly enough for such a high tech device, it’s got a bit of a steampunk vibe to it.  The first example they use is the obvious Google Earth example, but they do show using it in other contexts.  I’m not convinced the photo viewer or music making device really needs a globe surface.  If you’re interested in making your own, the directions for building one can be found here.  WARNING: The directions aren’t exactly the simplest to follow and I’d imagine there’s a lot of winging it involved.

ESRI Map Books

A recent post on the GIS and Science blog noted that submissions are being accepted for the 26th volume of the ESRI Map Book. If you have a map made with ESRI products then you can submit your map for consideration by the end of Geography Awareness Week, Friday, November 19 at 5:00PM PST.

If you have attended the ESRI International User Conference then you probably have a copy of one of the Map Books gracing your shelf, and it is (in my opinion) the best part of the SWAG bag that you get with your registration. If you have not had a chance to check out one of the hard copies, however, you can access volumes 1 and 20-25 online. The online version provides descriptions of maps along with full views of the maps along with PDF versions of the pages from the map book. I have been using the Map Books as examples in my Intro to Cartography class to show the wide range of design approaches.

Episode 1 of the Geospatial Revolution Project is now out!

It’s a project we’ve been excited for ever since we first heard about it, and was great to be able to interview some of the Geospatial Revolution Project team, so it’s great to be able to post that Episode 1 is now live on the Geospatial Revolution Project website!

The full episode is jut over 13 minutes, but it’s also broken up into smaller videos via YouTube for those who can’t stream the whole thing. The team have also made the episode video shareable, so spread the word and to get you started, here’s Chapter 1 of Episode 1:

Google Earth goes steampunk

I admit it, I love steampunk mods. If I had lots of spare time, and a little cash, I’d love to try my hand at creating a few cool gadgets myself. But in the meantime, I will have to be content to admire the handiwork of others, like the project John Knight is showing off at Maker Faire Detroit. Dubbed the “Electromagnetic Geospatial Globe and Remote View with Obligatory Goggles”, it’s Google Earth meets steampunk, with Google Earth running on a tablet, and controlled by the cool brass globe outfitted with RFID tags. Better than me trying to describe it, check out this video:

Via Gizmodo

Light Bulbs to Get New Labels

The FTC is mandating that in 2011, light bulbs get new labels that emphasis luminosity more so that watts.  If you take a look at the labels shown at the link, it features quit a bit of new information to help buyers determine the best bulb for their needs.  The emphasis on lumens over watts is a good change, as it’s the actual measure of light instead of energy usage.  I personally like the “average yearly cost in electricity” of the bulbs.  From the example, I’m not sure $7.23 for a incandescent bulb will hurt many people’s wallet, but think how many light bulbs you have in your house.  The total can become a healthy chunk of change each month!

Mobile Phones Collecting Location Information About Customers

Assuming you don’t live in a metal box that’s trapped under a heavy rock buried far, far into the Earth’s surface, you should be aware Apple is launching a new phone in the next day or so.  Part of that is the role out of a new iPhone OS – OS 4.  It’s available for most of the current iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch devices already and can be downloaded as of… well, now.  However, what you might not be aware is if you install the OS, you’re agreeing to allow Apple to collect anonymous location information about you.  The information is supposed to be used to help make their location services better, as well as to sell to location providers to do the same.  The information is collected in near real-time and there’s literally no way to opt out (other than the obvious opt out of not using one).  Think you’re safe with Android?  Think again. Google has been collection location information (sometimes not so anonymously because it includes your phone number) for a long time.

To me, this represents one of the great potential downsides to the mobile phone market.  There’s a lot of value in information about you and companies will most likely be fairly aggressive to collect the information.  There isn’t really a functional way to opt out of these systems without grossly crippling your phone.  We hope that phone carriers and phone manufacturers use this information responsibly and protect the rights of their customers.  Unfortunately there’s a long history of corporations NOT being so responsible with customer information, despite intentions to the contrary.  For me, the take away from this change in the iPhone’s terms of service is that we, as consumers, need to more aware of the value of our information, and take as many steps as possible to protect that information.  That being said, if I had AT&T, I would be second in line (behind Jesse, most likely) to grab the new iPhone.  So it’s hard to practice what I preach at the end of the day.

Heavy metal…not just for the 80’s

BBC News has a great graphic showing the fastest supercomputers around the world, sorting them by Country (where they are located), speed, OS (Linux in a landslide), application, processor manufacturer, and system manufacturer (IBM has more but Cray has faster). It is pretty interesting to see all of this information, though I would like to see a comparison between these supercomputer numbers and the total computing power behind a Google, Amazon, or Microsoft cloud system. In the geospatial arena, while it is nice to have the supercomputing muscle behind global, 3D, or large network models, most of our daily activities take place on a smaller scale that can run locally or across copper and still perform admirably. But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t like to have a supercomputer in the closet for those special occasions.