More On Using Google Earth with a GPS Device Part II

Though it’s probably still not the hottest story in Hua Hin, I see that there is interest elsewhere about getting GPS Devices and Google Earth working together so I will add a little more based on some recent experience.

We did a little road trip last week and though I didn’t use the laptop and Google Earth in realtime, I did make use of the caching capabilities of GA and a utility I found called Google Earth Voyager 6.0.

GEV allows one to fairly painlessly create a cache of the area one intends to travel through. It does this by taking advantage of the Touring/Fly To option in Google Earth. As everything you see on your screen in GE is cached by GE, GE Voyager enables you to create a rectangle of the area you want to cache AND set a level of resolution of your cache. This is done with a combination of altitude, speed, and distance between points. If you want very rich detail, you’ll need to set a low altitude, a small distance between points, and a slower speed for the flyover. The speed of the flyover is also dependent on the speed of your internet connection–if you have low bandwidth, you may not be able to download the detail needed in the time allotted so you may need to give it more time. Once you’ve entered the parameters, GEV has GE fly, or more aptly, bounce over the grid you’ve outlined. It’s sorta interesting to watch at first though with a large rectangle you’ll get quickly bored and can go back to more interesting pursuits as GEV does its thing in the background. Rather than make a short story anymore endless and painful, GEV comes with good docs so it won’t take you long at all to start building up your cache sets.

One more thing on GEV and GE before we get back to the road trip. Though GE is fairly effecient in its caching, you can fill up that 2Gb limit but that’s not difficult to take care of.  GE uses two files for the cache. The cache is dbCache.dat and its index is dbCache.dat.index. These two files are found in the
C:\Documents and Settings\YOURUSERNAMEHERE\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\GoogleEarth directory though your mileage may vary a little. Should you reach the 2Gb limit caching say, Hua Hin, you simply rename those two files so you know they contain the cache for Hua Hin and then create new cache files for Korat or Pattaya, or whatever.

OK, a little about the road trip. I didn’t expect to be able to do any realtime Google Earth and didn’t expect much internet connectivity once we stopped and I was pretty much correct on both counts. However, due to a nice cache created by GEV before we left, once stopped, I was able to load the tracks of the days’ travels from the GPS to the computer and get a bird’s eye view of what we’d done in GE, even though I wasn’t on line. Now, if only GPSMapEdit and Google Earth used the same cache, I’d be able to make maps easier during the down time on the road.

Part I is here.

If anyone has anything to add to this post or the previous concerning any tips I may not be aware of, I’d appreciate hearing about them.

More On Using Google Earth with a GPS Device

There’s probably a very limited audience for this but FBF thinks it’s pretty cool so will share it anyway.

Until a few months ago, Google required that one upgrade to Google Earth Plus in order to use a GPS device with Google Earth. However, Google Earth 5.0 was introduced in February 2009 and incorporated for free most of what Google Earth Plus had offered for a premium, including GPS services.

This means you can how run Google Earth on your laptop, connect your GPS device to the computer and monitor your movement on Google Earth in REALTIME while on the road. I’ve got a dinky little Garmin hand held device with a screen smaller than most modern cellphones. I usually pretty much know where I’m going anyway and the GPS is just another toy so it’s no big deal. Now, the sky’s the limit on the size of your screen. There’s got to be some fellow with a Winnebago somewhere who’s got a 47″ LCD monitor hooked to the video out of his laptop which is connected to a GPS. Talk about not ever having to ask for directions again.

Another interesting feature of the realtime tracking is that an internet connection is NOT essential. If one has the foresight to track the route in Google Earth prior to making the journey AND has set the option to store the largest cache possible, the maps will be in the cache and while Google Earth will give a couple of error messages about 1) not being able to connect to the server so will use cache and 2) another nag about not being to access the server, the realtime display will continue as long as the cache contains maps of the route taken. Of course, this will probably not work on a trip such as the one Al made to escape the ASEAN conference though updating the cache each night along the way would help.

This is very nice for those of us who don’t have unlimited budgets for mobile internet access or are outside say, the Hutch CDMA coverage area.

I don’t know what happens when one is using mobile internet access and moves from one cell to another. The cache may help here and may not.

At any rate, this takes GPS usage to another level and we can even do it here in Hua Hin.  FBF thinks that’s more than pretty cool.

A couple of privisos on the above mentioned use of a laptop in an automobile.

  • Having a laptop displaying maps in the passenger seat of a moving car is not very safe, especially if you’re already watching a DVD in the dashboard player and/or are talking on a cell phone.
  • You better have the mother of all batteries in the laptop as not only are you powering the laptop but also the GPS and mobile internet device, if used.

FBF is now looking for a mount for his laptop or, alternatively, a small LCD display that might be more easily mounted on the dash or console AND a converter/power supply that could power the laptop from the cigarette lighter socket.

For more information on using Google Earth with your GPS device click here.

Thailand: The Land of the Free

FBF is not the biggest fan of The Nation but figures if one is going to say anything on this subject at this point in time, it’s better just to quote something from the established press.

Better ways to save thai online freedom

By Kavi Chongkittavorn
The Nation
Published on April 6, 2009

SUWICHA TAKOR was the perfect fall guy for the dysfunctional bureaucracy and officials that have been assigned to protect the monarchy. He is just an ordinary online user who passed on “offensive” materials that he received to other surfers on the Internet. The court decision to sentence him to 10 years in prison last week was disproportionately harsh.

His conviction will have far-reaching repercussions on two fronts. First of all, it would imbed a culture of fear deeper into Thai society, especially its netizens, and that would further sterilise society. In that sense, Thailand, which means the land of the free, is no longer free with gagged citizens.

Second, in the long run it would sow the seeds of discontent within the young generation and awaken the silent majority with unimaginable consequences.

On April 3, the court decided that the 34-year-old father of three children was guilty of offences under the 2007 Constitution, the Criminal Code and the Computer Crime-related law of 2007. Suwicha Thakor was sentenced to 20 years in jail on two counts of 10 years each. His sentence was halved due to his confession that he sent pictures offensive to the heir apparent to the throne via the Internet.

Truth be told, from 2004-2008 there must be several thousands of online users, Thais and non-Thais, who have done the same thing as Suwicha – knowingly or unknowingly. After all, it just takes one click. Just imagine what Thailand would be like if thousands of netizens were imprisoned on a similar charge. Just think of the public’s reactions.

In fact, an urgent and frequently asked question is quite simple: why were these offensive pictures, including old and fresh ones, posted in cyberspace in the first place? Who were these people?

Investigations should have been seriously conducted to go after the culprits, who could be far or near to the sources.

After his arrest, Suwicha’s life was completely shattered. Now the future of his family of five including his father is in limbo as he is the only breadwinner. Worst of all, he was dismissed from his job without any compensation. His company reacted quickly for fear that the case would affect its reputation and business interests.

During the uproar over the controversial 44-second clip on YouTube in April 2007, the authorities took down the whole site, attracting severe criticism from around the world. The source was identified and subsequently an apology was issued. Further negotiations with the officials at Google hosting the popular online video-sharing site, have successfully blocked and banned the indecent uploads to the site.

After the YouTube incident, more websites have sprung up with materials considered by Thai authorities to be indecent and offensive. Their standard response has always been to take down these websites.

Interviews with the authorities involved in monitoring and surveying these websites have yielded a one-pattern answer: shut down the sites, otherwise they have to face the consequences at their own peril.

This kind of insistence can also be found in other related laws such as the Official Information Act of 1997. For instance, according to Article 40, officials who disclose information incorrectly to the public would face a harsher term of punishment of a one-year jail term and Bt20,000 fine.

In case they simply break the law and refuse to disclose any information, they would face only three-month imprisonment and Bt5,000 fine. The choice is very clear on what the officials would do.

Naturally, when it comes to the revered institution, nobody wants to be perceived as a recalcitrant public servant. That explains why there are many pending cases of lese majeste and more than 4,000 websites to date have been shut down.

For the time being, officials would be content now that they have taught a lesson to Suwicha and in the process scared millions of online users.

But this tactic would eventually backfire and turn into frustration and could yield worse results in the future. The best preventive measure is to educate online regulators and enforcers as well as online users. Most users are teenagers, who rely on digital media as a means of communication.

As previously stated, authorities must change their mindsets in tackling such a sensitive issue. And netizens must learn that freedom of expression must not infringe on other people’s rights, whether they are ordinary citizens or members of royal families.

Young users, who often do not read newspapers, must be acquainted with cyberspace and criminal laws. If this unhealthy trend continues, which is likely the case, Thailand’s reputation and the effort to recoup from the past calamity would be wasted.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has personally tackled this sensitive issue. After the police raid of the Prachatai.com office in early March, two days later he quickly met with the representatives of netizens to assure them that his government respected freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by the new Constitution.

He vowed to work together with online communities to come up with Internet norms and standards acceptable to all. Besides, Thailand is the first Asian signatory to the 60-year-old Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This is an uphill task as authorities are apparently not on the same wavelength with the prime minister. They continue to follow outmoded standard procedures, which only create more problems and fear than provide solutions.

Like all previous cases, the only way to rescue Suwicha’s family from the quagmire confronting them is by a royal pardon. His lawyer said that he would seek one.

This is a matter of urgency as lives are at stake here. It is hoped that common sense will prevail in our country with its long tradition of freedom of expression and pragmatism. 

Anna and Harry

There’s very likely a Google Ad on this page for an essay in an Australian magazine by a fellow who was unceremoniously delivered from Thailand a few weeks ago. If it’s not on this page, it’s popping up on almost all the pages on The Hua Hin Pages or you’ve probably seen it on just about every Thai website that has Google Ads.

My question is: are these website in trouble? Shaved head, tears and bars make a great picture but the fellow is not highly thought of in these parts and I can’t see the likes of the Post or the Nation enjoying seeing that ad on their pages. Some of the political blogs are probably loving it but the more straight press must be having a hissy fit.

Will the MICT ban Google Ads?