Book: “Beginning Google Maps Applications with Rails and Ajax”

Previous post I mentioned a new book about Google Maps and Rails: Beginning Google Maps Applications with Rails and Ajax.

I haven’t read the book, but I’ve download chapter 7 and I think it’s an awesome book. A recommendation for everybody who’s building Google Maps Mashups with Rails.

You can even get it for free. There’s a contest where you can win a copy of the book, they are giving away 3 free copies. They call it a ‘contest’, but all you have to do is leave your name and email address. You have to hurry, because they’ll randomly draw three entries on March 15th, 2007 (deadline is midnight March 14th EDT).

If you haven’t won a copy on the 15th, you could always order a hard-copy (also available as an ebook)

All the examples of the book can be viewed online and the sourcecode can be downloaded.

Google Maps and Ruby on Rails

For a new project I’m working on, I will make extensive use of Google Maps. At this moment I’m doing some research to find out what the best practices are to use Google Maps in Rails applications. I also want to find out what tools there are.

The first projects I ran into are the tools which simplify the creation of a map: Cartographer and YM4R. These two projects give the user a Ruby based approach for building maps. According to Andre Lewis in his Google Talk about Ruby and Google Maps you’ll run into the limitations of these projects very soon if you’re building complex applications. Andre is one of the writers of the new book about Google Maps and Rails, called “Beginning Google Maps Applications with Rails and Ajax: From Novice to Professional”.

These tools can be very useful if you want to build a Google Maps application fast or if you don’t want to make your hands dirty on the Javascript (or maybe you just don’t have the knowledge).

The application I’m building will be rather complex and I don’t mind programming in Javascript. So I’m not going to make use of this kind of tools. The next category of tools you can use in building maps, are the geocoding tools. These will be the subject of a future post.

B.t.w. It looks like the cartographer project is dead, so if you want to use this way of building maps, there’s only one solution left, YM4R.

Google Maps API feature request

Through this article at the geonames blog I found the ‘API Feature Requests’ page.

This page lists feature requests for the Google Maps API. If you like a feature and it’s already listed, you can write your name next to it to. If it’s not listed you can append it to the list.

There are a few very interesting feature requests.

‘Compatibility with other map APIs’. This is the feature request the article at the Geonames weblog talks about. Indeed it would be very nice if there’s a common API which is shared between all the Map vendors. There can be different reasons why you want to switch between different maps, eg the license changes, the area your application is about is covered better in a different map, etc. One problem I can think of with this approach is the that the feature set is not the same for every Map. So this common API can only cover the basics, but maybe that’s enough?

If you want a common API right away you have to take a look at projects like myMap, or Mapstraction. These projects are adding an extra layer on top of the major Map APIs from Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. You could also use the Open Layers API which also supports the APIs of these vendors.

Another nice feature request is ‘Ability to restrict geocoder to a particular region, country’. If this would be possible and your application is about a specific region you even could create an auto completion search on addresses.

If you’re using the Google Maps API a lot, take a look at the list and add your name or feature request to it.

Google geo developer day

Yesterday I got a phone call from Google. The lady on the phone said Google is organizing a Geo developer day in Amsterdam somewhere in march. She asked me to whom she could address the invitation.

After the call I realized I didn’t ask for the precise date, so I guess I have to wait for the invitation. I can’t find any information about this developers day on the web.

The lady said she got my phone number from this website. Probably the Stemlocaties Amsterdam page (Google Maps mashup with all vote locations for the Dutch General Elections) got their attention somehow 🙂

update 1: Today (March 1) I got the invitation, so now I know the date :-). The program looks very interesting, so Google count me in!

update 2: Read my report about the GeoDay