Apple Maps Data Sources

The Apple Maps fiasco on iOS 6 needs no introduction, but it’s of interest to note that the data sources that Apple pulls map data from differ not only based on the location being viewed, but also based on where the user is viewing the data from (I don’t know how widely known this is). For example, when I’m in Hong Kong, I get data from an unknown source, but when I’m in China, I get data for the entire world provided by AutoNavi.

Ironically, the maps I get for Hong Kong are better when viewed from China than when viewed from Hong Kong itself!

Here are a few comparison shots (left side view from China/right side view from Hong Kong):

Google Apps – Panacea or Headache?

The email on ebrahim.org is currently hosted on pair Networks, a great webhost, but one whose email solutions are lacking in flexibility. I want to move to a solution where I can sync Email/Contacts/Calendar over multiple devices, for a domain with 7 mailboxes.

I’m considering two options:

Rackspace
Pros: Has all the features I’d ever need, excellent support, even for small customers.
Cons: Relatively small quota, and completely out of budget (at least US$13/user/month), email migration into Rackspace is difficult for large datasets.

As Rackspace is out of budget, I didn’t really spend much time looking into it in too much detail.

Google Apps Premier
Pros: Within budget (US$50/user/year), wide ranging feature set.
Cons: Technical support lacking (mainly DIY), doesn’t care about small customers, only compatible with old software, and import into Google Apps is a nightmare scenario due to lack of compatibility of migration tools.

However, there are significant issues which block my migration to Google Apps at the moment, most of which are shocking, given Google’s desire to capture the enterprise messaging/collaboration market.

Let’s make a list of missing features:

  • Google Apps Sync does not support Outlook 2010
  • Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Outlook does not support Outlook 2010
  • Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Outlook does not support Windows 7
  • There is no supported way to import a mbox format mailbox into Google Apps (there is a workaround where you can use third-party software to import the mbox into Outlook, and then use the Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Outlook, but then the Google migration tool doesn’t support Windows 7 or Outlook 2010, so you’re back to square one)

Sales of Windows 7 began in October 2009, and Office 2010 was made available to volume licensing customers in April 2010. When everybody else already supports Windows 7/Outlook 2010, Google lags far behind and lose all credibility when they claim they are the best solution for enterprise customers.

Enterprise customers rely on predictability, but yet, when asked for a timeline for when the above configurations will be supported, Google replied “we do not have a release date as yet”.

I’m ready to spend money with Google, if only they’d deliver support for modern software. A year in the software world is an eternity, and for Google to not support Windows 7 is akin to a wannabe top-tier airport telling pilots to land using VFR because they’ve not installed an ILS yet.

Google Munging Search Result URIs

I just noticed that Google is munging search result URIs. For example, if you run a search on “mozilla”, the first result is http://www.mozilla.org/. However, the URI that they link to on the search results page is:

http://www.google.com/url?sa=U&start=1&q=http://www.mozilla.org/&usg=AFQjCNGjMwD4PF4GezESBBRN2It3HBj5Qg

I suspect that the usg parameter is probably one used to prevent bots from gaming whatever results they’re trying to garner, and possibly also to link clicked search results to a specific user or browser session. I understand why they do this, but the downside for the end user is that the copy link option in the context menu of any browser is no longer useful. One needs to actually follow the link to get the URL in a form that you can copy into another application.

From my perspective, this is a pretty major usability bug, and I hope they revert it.

Google Groups and FeedDemon Woes

I’ve been having a couple of issues recently with a Google Groups hosted list that I manage, for which no solutions seem to be available.

Issue #1 – Google Groups Atom Feed id and link attribute broken

I’ve detailed this issue more in my post to the Is Something Broken forum on the Google Groups website, but so far there’s no resolution. Basically the Atom feeds generated by Google Groups generate a id and link attribute that contains a relative link without an FQDN so that when viewed from an RSS reader, the links are broken because the RSS reader passes a URL without an FQDN to the web browser. I hope this gets fixed as it seems like a pretty major problem.

When viewed from Firefox’s Live Bookmarks it works fine, but not otherwise.

The RSS 2.0 feed generated by Google Groups does have an FQDN in the link attribute so it works properly. The “obvious” solution (other than fixing the issue, which is up to Google) is to use the RSS 2.0 feed instead of the Atom feed but that creates another problem.

UPDATE (18/06/2008): As of today, Google seems to have fixed the issue with the Atom feeds.

Issue #2 – FeedDemon 2.7 does not handle the pubDate in the RSS 2.0 feeds correctly

The pubDates in the RSS 2.0 feed seem to be generated correctly, like the following:

<pubDate>Fri, 06 Jun 2008 00:02:27 UT</pubDate>

When the RSS 2.0 feed is added to FeedDemon in synced mode (where it syncs with the Newsgator servers), it seems to ignore the pubDate and pick some arbitrary date for all the entries, and all the entries share this same date.

When the RSS 2.0 feed is added in non-synced mode (where FeedDemon pulls from the feed server directly), all the pubDates are respected and it works properly. In Firefox Live Bookmarks it works properly too.

With the Atom 1.0 feed from Google, the dates are correct in all cases but the links are broken. But at the moment users are in a quandry as there appear to be problems in both Google’s feed implementation and FeedDemon’s parsing of Google’s feeds.

UPDATE (08/06/2008): Nick Bradbury, the creator of FeedDemon has been able to reproduce the bug and has added it to the FeedDemon bug tracking database.

google rankings

I have a question for webmasters out there who have some experience with SEO. How does Google treat the following?

a) Text that has class=”foo” where class foo is undefined.
b) HTML comments (including IE’s conditional comments).

My expectation is that it that for (a), class foo will be ignored entirely (no loss or gain in terms of SEO), and that HTML comments (including conditional comments) are also ignored entirely.

Does anyone have evidence to the contrary? Maybe some Mozilla folks out there know about this. I’m not worried about this for my blog, but another site that is considering advertising Firefox in place of some normal header text. For them, even marginal loss in terms of SEO may place it below another competing site (which would be unacceptable). Thanks in advance for your input.

where to get gmail invites

I decided a while ago that giving out Gmail invites on my blog was too much hassle to be worth it. So I had a bunch of invites (27 in total) that I had unused, lying wasted. But all is not lost if you still want to get an account. Just head over to SpreadFirefox.com, where a huge Gmail giveaway is taking place. I’ve donated all the invites I have to that programme.

UPDATE: Looks like I spoke too soon. According to this post by RobinMonks, the sfx team has decided that the Gmail invite program is no longer going to be an sfx feature:

Well, I just found out not 30 seconds ago myself that the Gmail automation process was taken down.

Here’s what I know:
1) For unknown reasons and reasons I might never know the SFX team decided not to make Gmail an official site feature.
2) The automation process while it was online was successful and worked wonderfully.
3) The greater percentage of users were happy with the system
4) The project has been handed back to me to handle by hand.

Of cource, it’s almost impossible to handle all of the invite requests by hand.

From what I gather RobinMonks has been making some important contributions to sfx. Not cool pulling the rug out from under him. Also, what about all the invites that people have already donated, and haven’t been given out yet?

In the meantime, if you haven’t yet got an invite and want one, you can try your luck over here.