Multiple Destinations on a Map – My BatchGeo Review

My love for maps began in the very early 90’s with the movie The Phantom Tollbooth. All those amazing places and regions sparked my 6 year old mind and gave me a lifelong love for abstractions of the landscape.

Tollbooth-map

My mapping story started up again a few years back when I was put in charge of a compost logistics company. I had to plot 10 ever-changing pickup routes weekly. I tried a lot of different free mapping tools online and the best by far for my purposes was BatchGeo. It’s an extraordinarily powerful mapping application that turns an excel spreadsheet into a detailed map.

customer-map

In this example, you can see that each region has its own color. In any given week, only a fraction (about 1/3) of each region actually gets a pickup. So a single day’s map looks like the following example. Each week I would manually mark the drop-off location with an X in MSpaint.

lyndenmap

The only criticism I had of BatchGeo at the time (these maps were made in January 2012) is that the letter system only brought the total possible number of labeled markers in a given category up to 26. You can get around this by  splitting a larger route in half, but that would have been very inconvenient for the pickup person. It would have been nice if the indexing system would have switched to numerals after 26. Fortunately for our unique purposes we very rarely needed more than 26 separate plots in any given map category.

Update: BatchGeo got in touch with me to inform me that my wish for a higher indexing was granted about a year ago! Now markers in a category can go all the way up to 99.

Over the 18 months of running this company, BatchGeo probably saved me over 100 hours of mapping time vs the old method the manager previous to me used, the gmaps app within google documents, now called “Google Drive.”

I don’t do as much mapping anymore, but I recently revisited BatchGeo to create this North Shore Thrift Store Tour map of all the thrift stores in North Vancouver. Annoyingly, all the roads are white, the same color as the background. As you can see it’s difficult to tell which road leads where, which is very important in the very chaotic mountainous, suburban road network of North Vancouver.

map-northshorethriftstore-tour

The only way to actually see the roads clearly is to use the “terrain” view, but this has the severe disadvantage of being much more wasteful on printer ink if you wanted to print this out. Which I always do with BatchGeo maps.

map-northshorethriftstore-tour-sattelite

I’m sure this isn’t BatchGeo’s fault, as they simply use Google Map’s API to create their maps and probably have very little control over the styling. However I imagine they could quite easily add on another of Google Maps’ lesser known layers to make the map more revealing. Here is the same area using Google Maps’ ARCgis and OSM layer views, respectively. These maps are not default on Google Maps, but you can access them using TrailForks.com, an outstanding mountain biking trail mapping site. Both are incredible views, one even has outlines of every individual building.

 

ARCgis layer, Google Maps via Trailforks.com.arcgis-map-northvancouver

OSM layer, Google Maps via Trailforks.com.

osm-map-northvancouver

Despite not meeting just a couple of my power-user wants and needs, for most situations I can comfortably recommend BatchGeo. I’ve never needed to use their paid service, as their free service has always met my needs perfectly.

Use BatchGeo for free at www.batchgeo.com.

Update: After seeing my review BatchGeo made a small change to their road styling to put some grey outlines on the smaller streets, making roads more visible. Here’s the Thrift Tour map again with the new road styling.

thrift-tour-map

 

Speed up your Computer by running Old Software

love using old programs. In most cases, old software was built to work on older, slower hardware. That means it runs smoothly and lightning quick on newer hardware. Using new software in most cases means using the most bloated and slow version of that software.

This problem came to a head recently for me when my iTunes upgraded itself. The newest iTunes is an ugly monstrosity that constantly changes the view panels around. The newest sub-version froze up for about 5 seconds every time I wanted to scroll up or down.

So I backdated to iTunes 10.5, which I got from one of my favorite websites OldVersion.com. I would have gone back even further but my iPhone (running a legacy version of ios, 5.1.1) needed at least iTunes 10.5.

itunes10-5

And holy shit is it fast and wonderful to use. Compared to iTunes 11 which I’ve been stupidly using for the last 5 months it is ten times better. Here’s a short list of why.

  • Much more information dense, the new itunes has way more wasteful negative space everywhere which requires the panels to switch around all over the place.
  • Podcasts don’t automatically unsubscribe themselves when
  • Podcasts display ALL old episodes instead of just the last 20 or so.
  • NO delays or stutters or freezes, ever.
  • Syncing just one playlist actually works again. In iTunes 11 when you want to sync just a few episodes,  it tries to update ALL the episodes in that podcast. What the frack, seriously.
  • The program is lighter on RAM and CPU. This makes sense since the it was built to run on computers from 2011.
  • Navigation makes sense again. Everything is in the left sidebar, unlike iTunes 11 which has navigation all over the place for no reason. Look at this screenshot of iTunes 11 and try to find “podcasts.”
    redesigned_player_albumviewThat’s right it’s nowhere to be seen. “Podcasts” is actually in the drop down menu under Music. The podcast interface in iTunes 11 is shit, and if you breathe wrong, iTunes will kick you back into the Music section. Ugh

But this isn’t really a post about iTunes, it’s a post about using older software in general. These are just a few examples of extremely bloated software that you should try to use the old version of if possible.

  • Anything made by Adobe (use Sumatra instead of Adobe for your PDF reader.)
  • Anything in the Microsoft Office suite, in most cases.
  • Windows. My tablet updated from 8.0 to 8.1 without my consent and 8.1 is HORRIBLE. Keystrokes now have a 2 second delay which is totally unacceptable for 2014. Win 7 is the best, some people are still joyfully using Windows XP.
  • Skype. This software only gets worse as time goes on.
  • uTorrent. Newer versions are heavy with ads and slow.
  • Azureus. That’s the bittorrent client for Macintosh.
  • Firefox and Opera, probably. They are bloated pieces of shit nowadays. Chrome is still pretty lightweight and fast, because Google actually values speed above almost all else and has from the very beginning.
    google-search-in-2001

Links:

http://www.oldapps.com/ old programs for windows and Mac OS

http://findoldapps.com/ old apps for iOS

Fully Amphibious Human Powered Transport

I’d like to someday have a bike+canoe setup and do some island hopping around Vancouver Island. My idea is to go fully human powered over both land and sea. Wicycle.com sells ultra-compact trailers that can pull a canoe or kayak of any size. Here’s an example of an Old Town canoe being pulled along by mountain bike.

pulling-a-canoo

Then once it’s time for a water crossing, you can break the bike down and pack it into the canoe. One Old Town canoe is big enough for 2 bikes plus some cargo.

bikes_in_canoe_4

Set up Mail Forwarding in cPanel

This 2 minute task will make an email address containing your website’s URL that you can stick on a business card or write on a whiteboard.

But since you’re not creating a new email account, just forwarding mail to an existing one, you don’t have to log in to a bunch of different accounts.

In this short tutorial we will

  1. Log into cPanel
  2. Use the “Forwarding” panel to permanently forward email from a new email address to an existing email address.

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Advice for Extended Truck Camping

From a 4chan thread about living in your pickup truck.

living-in-pickup-truck

  • It gets cold. Real cold. Insulate your truck bed and camper shell as well as you can. Get a really good mattress to lay on.
  • You will want to install privacy curtains in your shell. You can do without for a few days but you will need some privacy. Velcro and cheap cloth will work.
  • You will want a way to heat up food and make a cup of coffee. Eating out all the time will destroy any savings you are achieving by living in a truck. I recommend a propane stove because butane doesn’t work well below 32F and white gas is too messy in an enclosed environment.
  • You will probably want a weapon. There’s no telling who is going to come rattle the door handles of your truck in the middle of the night. Being armed with something more effective than strong language is advised.
  • You will need a mailing address. There are a few options for this, but you will need to have one. Maybe you can receive mail at work. Maybe you have a friend in the area willing to receive your mail. Maybe you need a PO Box.
  • You will want electricity. Not much, but you will want it. You can wire a deep-cycle marine battery into your trucks’ 12V charging system and then run an inverter to power a laptop, or charge a cell phone, or power a reading light.
  • You will want a lockbox or safe. Burglary from automobiles is very common compared to home burglary. You don’t want to be worried about your valuables any time you’re away from your truck. A strongbox can be bolted to your truck bed and will give you a semi-safe place to store cash, IDs, passport, weapon, camera, etc.
  • You will need of a reliable way to dispose of waste. Have a plan for disposing of garbage, 3am piss, and emergency shit or vomit. Somewhere secluded. Your boss won’t want you tossing piss bottles in the company dumpster. A 5-gallon bucket makes a good trash can and can double as an emergency shit bucket.
  • You will want at least minor water storage and disposal. Cooking, sponge baths, dish washing… all require a little water. Expect to use 1 gallon per day. I used a 6 gallon “Jerry can” for my primary storage and then had some 1L canteens I used for my daily washing. I topped it off every 3 or 4 days with plain old tap water.
  • Disposing of used water involved another 5 gallon bucket. I’d dump waste water in it until it was nearly full then dispose of it somewhere out of sight – an alley or the roadside at night.
  • Last but not least you need to have SEVERAL parking locations mapped out. Staying in the same spot for night after night is a great way to find yourself talking to the cops. 4 or 5 good private parking spots should be considered the minimum. Wal-Mart is generally very accommodating to overnights in their parking lot, so that’s a good back up. You won’t want a bunch of HOA type neighborhood watch people talking about your truck and jotting down your licence plate. Stick to blue-collar neighborhoods, or park along fencelines where you’re not within easy view of anyone’s house. I live in a low-rent area. It’s safe but it’s not prim and proper. There’s a guy who lives out of his van 3 doors down. He’s nice to everyone. Doesn’t put anyone on edge. Nice guy, just down on his luck. No one cares. But if he tried to set up shop in a richer area he’d be fucked.

Don’t Burn your House Down! Here’s how to not suffer a disaster with your Electric Heater.

I love electrical heat, but it’s dangerous. Electric heaters burn down more houses than anything else. Be sure you understand the electrical needs of your heater and the electrical system in your home before using them for an extended period of time, like an entire winter.

Prevent Electrical Fires

Never plug more than one in at a time, the typical electric heater will pull almost 15 amps, and the typical older home in canada only has circuits that go up to 15 amps. If your wiring is 15 amp like mine is, you should dedicate 1 entire circuit to the heater, don’t plug in anything else on that circuit, not even a light bulb. You can test circuits by flipping one breaker and plugging something into various outlets. Outlets that don’t work are on the chosen circuit. Outlets that do work are on another circuit.

Never use an extension cord with a space heater unless you know what you are doing. If you must use extension, make sure you use the shortest possible and the highest gauge possible (lower numbers are thicker.) I use a 6 foot, 16 gauge extension cord for our heater. I would not go any smaller. You can get higher gauge extension cords at Home Depot, that’s where we got ours. The “contractor’s” stuff is usually a good gauge because it’s meant for power tools which are max 15 amps, the same power draw of a heater.

You can always test whether your heater is drawing a dangerous amount of power.  Run your heater on your chosen circuit for a few minutes, then unplug the cord from the wall and feel the plug. A little bit warm is ok but if it’s hot you need to either reduce draw or buy a thicker extension cord. A electrical heater fire starts in the walls which is why they go out of control fast – you can’t get at the fire to put them out.

Heat the Smallest Space Possible

The proper way to keep warm is to heat as small of a space as possible. I live in 206 ft^2 RV but I still close up the cab, the bedroom, the bathroom, and the overcab sleeping area when I run the heater. So I’m only heating about 120 ft^2 which means it gets warm in here and it gets warm fast. Don’t try to heat 900 ft^2 with electrical heat, that’s a good way to increase your risk of fires and to make yourself broke. One electrical heater going all out will cost 16 cents an hour (assuming you are in Ontario) which is 115$ a month just for one single heater. To keep a 900 ft^2 home warm you probably need 3, which will run you almost 400$ in electricity, not counting everything else you run – dryer, computer, oven, etc.

Try to heat up a room in the “heart” of your house rather than the periphery. The fewer windows the better. If you must have windows, pick a room on the south side rather than the north so at least you can heat partially with the sun.

Embedding a Video into a Joomla Article

This is an in-depth tutorial article about embedding a youtube video into a Joomla article. Topics covered are:

  1. Hunting down the hard-to-find Youtube embed code.
  2. Logging into Joomla and finding the right article
  3. Using Joomla Code View to insert the Youtube embed code.
  4. Verifying that the code was inserted correctly.
  5. Centering a youtube iframe
  6. Saving a Joomla article.
  7. Clearing a Joomla cache properly so as to see your changes immediately.
    Continue reading

Spring and Summer Search Boom and Bust

This is sort of a tradition now, a twice yearly look back at that most effortless river of traffic, organic search.

Last time I checked it was Feb 21. The traffic growth rate was high and uninterrupted. This time we’re introducing a bit more ambiguity.

period-2-traffic-growth

As you will note, search traffic growth took off during the summer of 2014, and tapered off toward the end of summer.

These were Period 2‘s statistics.

week of aug 18: 3115
week of feb 9: 6223
growth amount: 3108
growth per week: 124

And now, Period 3:

Week of aug 18: 3115
Week of Sep 28: 7904
Growth amount (34 weeks): 4789
Growth per week: 140

What’s up with Summer?

My most popular article by an enormous margin this summer was a summer-time only topic about keeping cool during hot days. It’s not terribly surprising to see traffic dropping off, although I’d hate for this drastic trend to continue!

But it won’t. Here is the same chart with traffic from just that summertime article overlayed in orange. Search traffic from the “keeping cool” article has disappeared almost completely, from its high of over 6,100 per week, down to last week’s 391.

trafic growth overlayed summertime

I’ve always been surprised that my sites never get that consistent weekly shape that most sites do. Maybe instead I’ll have a consistent seasonal shape.