Monday, June 30, 2003

Subway Blogger Maps Redux

Slate has a piece by Brian Montopoli about subway maps of bloggers (see previous entry) that takes it a step further: by arguing that blog maps offer “an alternative city guide that enables a little point-and-click sightseeing,” he tries to elicit something about a neighbourhood based on the bloggers that live there.

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 9:21 PM

I’m Ready for My Close-up: Dickens’s London, Pony Express

More maps from Iconomy:

To show closeups of various London locales, Dickens’s London links to a detailed 1859 map of London (hosted on the web site of UCLA’s Department of Epidemiology — there’s actually a good explanation for that) that, like all good online maps, you can click and zoom to a ludicrous level of detail.

Pony Express Route, which provides contemporary maps of the Pony Express’s routes, works in the same way: click to zoom in closer.

In each case, though, I would have liked it if the close-up maps weren’t quite so tight in focus: once you’re at the maximum level of detail, you’re able to see only a tiny tiny bit at very very high resolution. You have to zoom out for context. But it no doubt keeps the bandwidth charges down.

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 9:32 AM

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Garmin iQue 3600 Photos

I told you (see previous entry) that I would be keeping an eye on the iQue 3600 (Amazon), Garmin’s forthcoming GPS Palm handheld. Here are some photos of a preproduction unit that demonstrate some of its features and compare its size with Palm’s Tungsten T handheld (via Palm Infocenter). The text is in Dutch.

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 12:17 PM

Friday, June 27, 2003

Atlas of England and Wales, 1742

Chorographia Brittaniæ: “This site contains a detailed examination of Chorographia Britanniæ, an atlas of the counties of England and Wales, first published in 1742 by William Henry Toms.” Extremely detailed and complete, with excellent, academic-quality annotations. This link courtesy of The Cartoonist, who writes, “Jonathan, have you blogged the above already? It’s brilliant.” Now I have, and it is. I’m getting quite fond of The Cartoonist, too.

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 12:12 PM

Thursday, June 26, 2003

CanCon: Iqaluit, Nunavut

More CanCon. The Historical and Spatial Evolution of the City of Iqaluit uses aerial photography and maps to trace the development of Nunavut’s capital city. Because the city is so small (it only recently passed 6,000 inhabitants) and its history so recent, the close focus is remarkable: you can click on a map and get the history of individual buildings.

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 4:06 PM

CanCon: Centre for Topographic Information

Jason writes in to say this about this site: “I dig it. I like maps myself. I especially like the CanCon.” Wasn’t my plan to focus so much on the CanCon (Canadian content); I suppose it’s just a matter of posting what you know. I’d post on Kazakhstan if given the opportunity. Anyway, here’s some more CanCon for the Jasons in my readership, from Canada’s Centre for Topographic Information, which is ground zero for Canadian topographic maps. The site not only includes information on topo maps, but also aerial photography (available on CD-ROM) and digital topography services. It also has a helpful online topo map tutorial, of which the UTM tutorial referenced in my earlier post is a part.

Those of us who take topo maps into the field (I myself fit into two categories of topo map use: as amateur field naturalist and as mountain hiker) need something durable: a rolled-up paper map doesn’t stand much of a chance folded up and stuffed into a backpack, especially if you get water on it. Thus, the government issues many of its topo maps in folded Tyvek waterproof form. They cost a little more, but they’re wonderful: I own several of them myself, and many map stores seem to consider Tyvek as a selling point. My local store (see previous entry) claims that Tyvek maps will no longer be produced, but I’ve yet to see confirmation of that elsewhere.

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 4:02 PM

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Maps on Your PDA

For the last two years I have carried a Palm m505 with me wherever I go. Strange as though it may sound, I usually don’t have any maps installed on it, despite the numerous mapping solutions available for the platform; I usually just take a paper map with me. That has something to do, I think, with the various shortcomings of each solution, and the fact that there isn’t a standard yet (it might also be that I simply can’t be bothered). Here’s a summary of some of the ways you can get maps on your PDA, which is clearly biased in favour of the Palm platform.

HandMap tries to provide a single-source solution: it provides both the software to view the maps (US$16) and the maps themselves (prices vary for packs and subscriptions, with a few freebies once you buy the viewer). Since I am an egregiously cheap bastard, I haven’t tried this out, but the screenshots suggest that the map quality is, well, not great. Though, to be fair, much of that has to do with the standard 160 x 160 resolution on older Palms. The Pocket PC screenshots look a little better.

MapQuest (see previous entry) has a mobile option — in fact, it has two of them. One is simply to download the map at which you’ve arrived via a web search to your PDA. The other is a special mobile version that you reach through a wireless or network-connected PDA. There are two methods: download a web-clipping app (included on Palm VIIs); or go directly to a wireless version. I tried downloading a map a couple of years ago and didn’t think much of the quality (see previous entry), but then I was calling up a map of a rural area, if memory serves.

The option that many of us are looking forward to is Garmin’s iQue 3600: a Palm OS 5 handheld with a built-in GPS receiver. Many gadget enthusiasts lust over it for the 320 x 480 screen alone; map enthusiasts will note that, unlike other Garmin GPS receivers, it comes with a fully unlocked licence for either the North American or European city map CD-ROM, rather than a licence for one region. Very promising. How it will hold up as a PDA remains to be seen; it’s scheduled to be released within the next month. I’ll be watching this one closely. (Amazon)

Other, more general tools can be adapted for mapping use. The most interesting and unusual of these is called FireViewer: it’s a general, all-purpose viewer for downloaded images and web pages, but it handles maps very well. For example, the RATP (see previous entry) uses FireViewer for its PDA maps; I’ve uploaded them to my Palm, and they look surprisingly good, which isn’t what you’d expect given the poor quality of some of the other options. They zoom in and out well, panning over the map is quick and easy, and the images are nicely antialiased. The drawback is that the FireViewer is crippleware: after a 30-day trial, it adds a pause. It’s a minor delay, and a lesser drawback than Handmap’s, but it may limit the software’s adoption — even so, many free maps are available, as is free online conversion, so if the software costs, the content is virtually limitless.

Beyond that, the remaining options include converting PDFs to be read on Adobe Reader for the Palm (or Pocket PC, or Symbian) or using whatever image viewer came with your gadget to convert and view JPEG images — in that case, it’s a matter of having the map in PDF or JPEG format and doing the conversion yourself.

If there are any other mobile mapping solutions out there, I’d like to hear about them. And, if you have some experience with using one of the above options and have an opinion about it, I’d like to hear from you too.

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 12:09 PM

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

James Turner Illustration

I wish I knew what James Turner was up to here and here; even so, I could stare at them all day (via Iconomy and Semi Compos Mentis).

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 12:48 PM

Friday, June 20, 2003

New Maproom-discuss E-mail Discussion List

Not sure if this will take off or even if it’s a good idea, but I’ve set up an e-mail discussion list for readers of The Map Room, on the off chance that posts here might set off a conversation or debate or somesuch. Feel free to use it to discuss any map-related topics. A digest version is also available if your e-mail inbox is polluted enough already. Probably of more interest to the die-hard map freak than to the casual commenter, but let’s see how this turns out.

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 9:53 AM

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Miscellaneous Blogdex Map Links

Some other interesting links I found via Blogdex:

(Blogdex search results.)

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 5:17 PM

Good Maps, Bad Maps

Sifting through Blogdex yielded some prize links from last year that made the weblog rounds at that time. Why not mention them here?

Lee McCormack’s You Are Here: Maps 101 is an introduction to creating a good map, replete with useful hints. It’s always neat to know what goes on behind the scenes of map production.

At the opposite end of the scale might be the maps that many of us use by default — they’re integrated into OS X’s Address Book, for example — namely, those of MapQuest. This Wired article from last September recounts users’ stories of getting lost by following MapQuest’s directions. A user quoted in the article probably has the right idea:

I like to think of MapQuest as more of a guide to get you in the general vicinity, instead of an exact roadmap. MapQuest is good if you have common sense and instincts because it’ll usually get you close, but you’ll have to navigate on your own at some point.

In fact that’s how I’ve used the service myself: to get a general sense of where a given address is. Particularly useful when you have long streets and you don’t necessarily want to travel their entire length to find a given address. I’ve never used trip directions because that spoils the fun. I’ve never found an error-free map; it seems to me that you have to take some responsibility for being aware of your own geography and be able to note when a map — or a friend’s directions, for that matter — might lead you astray.

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 2:14 PM

The Atlas of Canada

If you can put up with the sluggish load times and the clunky interface (the JavaScript menus don’t work in Safari, for example), then you’ll enjoy spending vast amounts of time exploring the web site of the Atlas of Canada. The Atlas went through five printed editions before the sixth edition became an online collection of interactive maps in 1999. It has everything you’d expect from a national atlas: reference maps, maps based on statistical and historical data, some of which are interactive (zoom, pan), some of which are not. Of historical interest, scans from three previous atlases dating to the 1960s are available in the Map Archives section.

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 9:03 AM

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Schnebelin’s Schlaraffenland

Iconomy wrote in over the weekend with a link, via The Cartoonist, to this fictitious German map, which, while she couldn’t figure out what the map actually said, she still thought was pretty cool. And it is. Now my own German is fairly atrophied, but a little Googling, plus some judicious use of online translators (inadequate though they may be), has at least allowed me to get the gist of what this map means and its context.

“Schlaraffenland” translates as “paradise”; it’s the title of a Heinrich Mann novel and shows up on the names of resort hotels. This map, dated 1716, may be one of the earliest references (if not the origin of the term); according to the description, it apparently followed a book by Johannes Schnebelin, about which little is said. The map, however, is a satire — a Teutonic version of Swift, as it were — with place names like Stultorum regnum (country of fools), Prodigalia regnum (country of spendthrifts) and Iuronia regnum (cursed country). Hardly what you would expect from a so-called paradise, but that apparently is the point.

I’d appreciate hearing from anyone who can shed any more light on this subject.

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 7:10 PM

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Springfield, USA

In the fictional maps department, in case you haven’t seen this before, the Guide to Springfield, USA, which includes a fairly detailed map, should be fun for any Simpsons fan (via Iconomy).

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 9:08 AM

Monday, June 16, 2003

City of St. John’s, Newfoundland / London Underground Maps

Owen Massey writes to refer us to the Mapcentre of the City of St. John’s:

From the municipal site of the capital of Newfoundland: rescalable maps, down to aerial photographs, linked to a business directory and a garbage collection schedule.

Incidentally, Owen’s own page linking to all sorts of maps of the London Underground is definitely not to be missed; it’s one of the most diverse and entertaining collections of map links I’ve yet seen.

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 7:20 PM

Friday, June 13, 2003


Nineteenth-century maps of Liberia from the American Colonization Society Collection (via Metafilter, but it’s really Plep), which is found in the Library of Congress’s Geography and Map Division (see previous entry).

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 7:29 AM

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Another Map Blog

Thanks to a check of Technorati, I’ve stumbled across another blog about maps, The Map Service, which started in early May. Unlike this blog, it’s written by an actual, no-kidding, bona fide geographer.

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 1:56 PM

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

International Plep Day

The Map Room is proud to celebrate International Plep Day (via Languagehat and MetaFilter). Mind you, considering how many of the map links posted here are cribbed from the outstanding Plep, just about every day is Plep Day here at The Map Room. Long may he Plep!

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 5:54 PM

Monday, June 09, 2003

Maps as Mnemonic Aid — My Trip to Paris in 1997

The flurry of recent posts about Paris maps (see Historic Maps of Paris, Noise Map of Paris, Paris Metro) led me to dig out my copy of the Michelin Plan de Paris, which never left my possession during my six-week stay in Paris in 1997.

Flipping through it, I was amazed at how much of my trip I could recall, and how clearly I could recall it. I didn’t keep a travel diary or, at the time, a weblog, so I have no definitive record of the trip other than the expense records I kept (I was there as a research assistant funded by an external grant) and the letters I wrote (copies of which, of course, I don’t have). So it came as a great surprise that as I scanned each page, I could recall whether I had or had not visited a place in Paris — Place Gambetta after visiting Père Lachaise, Place des Vosges after dinner in the Marais — or whether I had gone througha certain Metro or RER station or strolled through a certain neighbourhood.

Not in any particular order, mind you, because, like early childhood memories, while I can remember that I did something, I can’t remember exactly when, and in what sequence. This probably only works because I’ve only been there once, without multiple visits to overlap upon the memory, and because I kept checking the map compulsively at every step — even though I spoke French and carefully dressed to avoid looking like a tourist (i.e., no sneakers or camera), that probably pegged me as one.

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 9:30 AM

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Historic Maps of Paris

A few historic maps of Paris — the oldest dates from circa 1552 — are hosted at the Paris Pages; the twist is that you can zoom in on them to a truly excessive degree. (Plep)

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 5:26 PM

Universal Transverse Mercator

The Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) projection applies a zone-by-zone square grid that allows a user to pinpoint a location by specifing easting and northing (from a given point) distances in metres. It was originally designed for military purposes, but it’s not just for artillery officers any more. It has industrial and emergency-services uses, and allows field naturalists to pinpoint the precise location of observation records — which is how I was introduced to it.

One advantage to UTM is that it provides constant distance — the grid is measured in metres, easting and northing — whereas latitude and longitude are angular measurements that vary depending on your position on the globe; a degree of longitude is much smaller near the poles than at the equator. Calculating UTM coordinates is, as a result, much simpler, especially since topographic maps in the U.S. and Canada have the UTM grid. On Canadian topo maps, the UTM grid is light blue and the squares are 1 km across. They’re also 2 cm across on the 1:50,000-scale map, which means that, with a ruler, you can get a 100-m UTM grid by measuring 2 mm per 100 m.

I’m probably not explaining this very well, so here are some links.

The Canadian Department of Natural Resources’s Centre for Topographic Information has an excellent tutorial on the UTM grid. The U.S. National Parks Service also provides a tutorial on how to read the UTM grid on its web site.

Based on what I’ve observed, many people are using latitude/longitude on their GPS receivers rather than UTM. Here’s a Java applet that converts between UTM and latitude/longitude. MapTools, a GPS enthusiast site, has a UTM tutorial aimed at GPS users.

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 1:21 PM

Monday, June 02, 2003

More Old Japanese Maps

Following up on my previous post on Japanese historical maps, here are some more for you. Jan’s Anime Pages links to the Ashida Antique Map Collection and to the George Beans Collection of Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Period at the UBC library. If only the map images were larger. (via Iconomy)

Posted by Jonathan Crowe at 8:51 AM