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Entries from September 2011.

A small observation regarding usability and Gnome 3
17th September 2011

I've been running Nautilus 3.0.2 for the last few weeks, I noticed the delete key didn't actually delete files so I've been painstakingly deleting files by right click then "Move to Trash" or "Delete" from the menu. I always thought this was a bug and it would get fixed soon, but after getting sick of this workaround I finally did a Google search and found that this is by design. Now you need to use Ctrl+Del to send to trash and Shift+Del to skip the trash.

I think this is a poor choice, my reasoning is because now you have to use modifier+Del for both send to trash and skip trash. It makes sense to have Del as safe delete (send to trash) and a modified+Del for hard delete (no trash) that is logical and it is easy to remember the difference between the two. But now in this new situation a large majority of users (me included) won't be able to remember which modifier does what. Is it Ctrl or Shift and will just pick one at random, giving you a 0.5 chance of doing the actual type of delete you wanted.

Also I don't see any reason to add more safety to the straight delete key, after all it only goes to the trash so you can recover it if you accidentally hit the key. If you want add a sound upon sending something to the trash as an audio cue.

The number one thing I learned in my Human Computer Interaction course at uni was get feedback from the users (this isn't just asking for feedback, but also observing how they use the software). This is my feedback as a user, and if Gnome developers want to improve usability then they should take in the feedback, i.e. read this.

Tags: computing, usability.
All Roads Lead to Packaging for Debian
12th September 2011

Just a quick update to say that I have exhausted all my options to build a latest .osm file from fosm.org minute-replicate osc files + a base .osm file from osm.org. Currently fosm.org is down, but I still want to edit on top of the latest data so I can submit my changesets when it comes back online. This is proving to be more difficult that I thought. Although really it is a good thing as even though I've tried to ensure I have everything I need to rebuild fosm.org if it were to go down for good, I'm still not 100% sure as I haven't tried, well now I get to try.

My first method was to use osmconvert with the aid of the workflow given in https://github.com/rrankin/osmconvert/blob/e1fbb7319f92f338e0023d110a3098f5a979fd64/update_osm.sh. It was quite fast and it almost worked, but due to limitation of osmconvert it seems that it expects the objects to be sorted in the order given by the object IDs. We can either patch osmconvert to work around this, or sort the osc files...

Putting the first method on hold, I gave installing the rails port that runs the API at osm.org a go with the idea that I can load the changesets or osc files directly into the API or DB. I got it installed and got to the step of loading in my starting OSM .osm file from before the FOSM fork. http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/The_Rails_Port#Populating_the_database even gives the command line to run, but osmosis didn't like this. I believe the issue is fixed with later versions of osmosis though.

This leads me to require a later version of osmosis. I don't really want to install osmosis from source using the upstream project's method as it will pull in a bunch of 3rd party libraries using maven, so the only real option is to work to upgrade the debian package for osmosis. This isn't easy either as I don't know that much about ant/maven/ivy. I could spend I whole weekend just trying to update the debian package of osmosis and still get nowhere, all the time I'm just getting further away from my original goal which was to make some FOSM changesets from my latest trip while my memory is still fresh...

Tags: debian, dev, osm.
3D NearMap Prototype From 4 Oblique + 1 Ortho
4th September 2011

I was on a flight the other day and I enjoyed looking down and seeing the land from a different perspective. It reminded me of a project I was working on which was essentially a 3D map viewer like Google Earth, but not in perspective and just implemented in the web browser. The main incentive was NearMap doesn't just offer orthophotos, but 4 oblique views too. So leveraging on Polymaps I got a prototype working: http://tianjara.net/3d-nearmap.html It allows you to move the camera with the WASD keys, when your view angle gets smaller (less straight overhead) it switches to the oblique views. (It would be nicer if you could use the mouse to rotate though... patches welcome)

Just viewing the obliques with NearMap's front end at nearmap.com, you will often find all the buildings are slanted on an angle, with my viewer however you can correct this to make them straight and looking nice again by tweaking the camera rotation. If nothing else came out of this experiment I think that just the mere ability to easily correct this artefact to produce nicer looking obliques made it a worthwhile endeavour.

You could push the concept further and add perspective (like Google Earth, rather than my simple parallel projection) and have each tile pick the optimal {Vert|N|S|E|W} layer, although with LIDAR progressing we can now capture true 3D so we don't need to fake it with 2D images any more...

Tags: geo, nearmap.

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