Net Neutrality – Cable Providers owning TV Networks?

May 3, 2010 at 2:06 pm (Uncategorized)

As I recently read and commented about on a classmate’s blog, net neutrality has become an increasingly debated issue over the past several years.  The issue goes deeper, however, as mentioned in an article in the NY Times.  Comcast is now looking into obtaining a majority share of NBC Universal, the parent corporation for the NBC television network.  This could cause Comcast, a cable and television provider, to promote the NBC/Comcast channels over those provided by competing networks.  As stated by the Times, Comcast claims it has no intention of doing that, but the idea of Comcast owning a major television network is a touchy subjects, for sure.  Given its troubles with net neutrality in the past, can we really trust Comcast to commit itself to staying neutral when it controls all the power?  I personally think that if this comes to pass, it is only one step closer to us having one major internet/television corporation dominating its lesser competitors.  Comcast has already been buying up other providers, and NBC is one of the largest networks on television.  I don’t know if this merger would be a bad thing, but I’m certainly apprehensive about it.

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Web-Based Activism – Saving Our State Parks

May 3, 2010 at 1:25 pm (Uncategorized)

When Rod Blagojevich was Governor of Illinois, he tried to shut down over 15 state parks and historic sites across the state, in order to cut down the state budget.  An initiative started by then-Lt. Gov Pat Quinn resulted in an impressive display of web-based activism: SaveOurStateParks.org

This website, while no longer active (the domain was taken down and is no someone’s wordpress blog, ironically), allowed visitors to sign a petition to restore the sites being closed by Blagojevich, as well as helping them locate and contact their local legislative representatives to call for the same.  It did not successfully convince the Governor to make this change, but the overwhelming support from the state’s citizens allowed Quinn and the legislature to call strongly for these changes, and when charges came up to impeach Blagojevich, he had completely lost his base of support.  This sort of online activism allowed people to better participate in democracy and the choices of their government by making their voice known.  When people like Blagojevich try to force through unpopular decisions, the internet allows people to easily make their voices heard en masse.  This form of activism replaces and improves upon real-life forums such as community meetings.  It is better because people do not have to travel or meet certain schedules in order to have their voices heard, but they can express themselves from home or the nearest computer lab.

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Business Intelligence?

May 3, 2010 at 1:12 pm (Uncategorized)

I just recently saw an article about advances in “Business Intelligence“, which piqued my interest as someone who is applying for a graduate degree in Business, specializing in Technology Management.  The article talks about how Google mapping technology is being used to link addresses to maps for business applications.  It also refers to the further application of these tools for use by the U.S. Army.  I think that this is a very important area of GIS to consider.  If we can improve the ways we apply business data to current mapping technology, we can increase the effectiveness of our business practices and create a more successful company.  Business Intelligence can integrate very well with GIS data, and this area of research will see a lot of advancements in the coming years.

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Updated California Fault Map

May 3, 2010 at 1:05 pm (Uncategorized)

According to the LA Times, a new map showing update fault data for California is being released.  The last map having been released in 1994, this new data includes 50 faults that were undiscovered 16 years ago.  I think it’s important to update maps like this more often, considering that fault location and the probability of dangerous tremors is a huge public safety issue in California.  It’s good to see that this is being done, though, because sharing this information with the public is a good application for the fault mapping research being conducted.  However, I think they should take this map one step further, the way the Times did.  They should release to the public a combination of the probability of tremor occurrance with the new fault map, and this should come from the state as an official map available to the public.  It’s important to have this data available and updated on a regular basis.  In addition, they should take advantage of our online mapping technology to make this data available over the internet, so that it’s not just people who go out and get a paper copy that are aware of these new faults and the dangers they indicate.

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Subjective Mapping?

May 3, 2010 at 12:56 pm (Uncategorized)

BBC just posted an article about how maps are subjective to the mapmaker’s intent and personal views, rather than objectively showing the world the way it really exists.  I feel that while many maps are objective, it is actually possible to create an objective map, as long as we limit the types of data shown.  Keeping with geographic information and eliminating other data can allow us to eliminate subjective input if that’s what we want.  As the article said, it’s certainly possible to create a map with unrealistic data, but the improved instruments available to us today should allow us to create a completely objective map.  As mentioned by one of the early comments to the aticle, we should soon be able to look at world maps in 3-D all the time, rather than having to worry about distortion from flat maps.  We can slowly eliminate subjective choices from basic mapmaking, although the insertion of additional data will make it harder and harder to keep the maps objective.

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University of Illinois Campus Green Map

April 23, 2010 at 6:45 pm (Uncategorized)

Champaign-Urbana Green Map

The above is a green map I helped create of the U of I campus.  One of the most noticable features is the abundance of bike parking throughout the campus.  Despite being a large university, though, there are not many recycling spots marked.  There are a lot of icons marking places that don’t really matter for a green map, such as places of worship or free speech locations.

The bike parking is most numerous on the Engineering Campus to the north, since it is the furthest from university dorms.  Thus, it’s easy for students to bike there for class, so we need to have a lot of bike parking available.  In contrast, we didn’t list very many icons in the greek housing/six pack area or the north end of the engineering campus (Beckman Quad).  Our map would have been better with improved coverage in those areas.

I looked at three other green maps to see how ours compared.  The maps were of Providence, Easton, and Stevens Point.  A trend I noticed among all three maps was that they all tended to focus on places of business rather than the eco-friendly aspects listed on our map.  Easton also showed a large number of parks in comparison to our map.  I think we could have improved by listing places of business, but not at the expense of removing the information we already have.

I think we have a good map for the purposes of showing where environmentally friendly aspects of campus are located.  However, I think there is more than just shown on our map, and it gives an incomplete view of our campus.  We didn’t list much in the way of bus stops, even though we have one of the best non-metropolitan area transit systems in the country.

    1. ICONS: Which icons are used the most?  Which are used the least?  Which icons are the most important for our map and for the particular place that we are mapping and why?   Out of the icons we selected to use for this project, which are least important and why?   Did we choose too many icons or not enough?
    2. SITES: What parts of campus have more green sites on the map than others or more of a certain type of green site than others?  Why is this?  Are there areas that we missed? – Where?
    3. COMPARISON: Examine three other green maps on the website and compare and contrast them to ours.  How and why are they different or the same?  Any tips for improving ours?

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iPad Mapping – Part 2

April 9, 2010 at 6:39 pm (Uncategorized)

Why is the iPad so big?  As I mentioned before, the screen size increase creates a number of useful features in the way of mapping technology.  The larger screen means maps can be viewed in greater detail, and we don’t have to zoom in as far to see the level of detail we are looking for.  This allows us to see a larger area of the map in detail.  Also, the screen size allows us to divide up the screen, showing information off to one side while displaying the map simultaneously.  The greatly improves the usefulness of the mapping apps on the iPad over the similarly available apps on the iPhone or Android series.

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iPad Mapping

April 8, 2010 at 7:54 pm (Uncategorized)

The release of the iPad has brought a whole new era in mobile computing.  Apple has jumped ahead of the competition by bringing us touch screen applications on a larger scale than the iPhone, which already holds a commanding share of the market.  However, the smartphone market is shared by strong competition using the Android application series.  One of the most important features to consider in the race to mobile domination is mapping.  Part of the reason the iPhone has been so dominant is that its superior selection of apps includes applications such as Google Maps and Google Earth.  Google controls the mapping industry right now, and the Google Mobile apps are included on Android devices as well.  However, will the iPad have this mapping technology?  According to an article from Information Week, none of the mobile applications developed by Google yet appear to have been optimized for the iPad.  As it is, the iPhone version can be used, but only with a reduced screen size or distorted appearance when expanded to fit the iPad’s larger resolution.

Thus, Apple needed to work on creating its own mapping features or translate the Google app for their new device.  There are already several apps for the iPad that deal with travel and mapping, according to Business Insider.  These apps allow travelers to find points of interest, track flight delays, look at street maps offline, and any number of other useful things.  Ultimately, though, Apple has adapted Google maps as a built-in iPad app.  In a review by CNet, the expansion of the maps app for the iPad screen makes it feel more like a real map, giving a clearer view of the surrounding area to users.  The touch-screen utilizes hand motions to zoom, drop markers, and roll the map back to view information on a location.  It seems that Apple has come out with a maps application that utilizes the full potential of the iPad, providing features that appeal to any consumer, be it the road tripper or daily commuter.

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Beckman Institute Illinois Simulator Lab

April 1, 2010 at 6:29 pm (Uncategorized)

I visited the Illinois Simulator Lab recently and got to see some of the simulators they use for research.  I didn’t get to experience any of the simulators myself, but I did enjoy looking at the flight simulator.  They based their design on a the cockpit of Frasca 152 simulator, but with a lot of hardware upgrades to increase the research capabilities.  The room itself has two seats for the cockpit surrounding by 3 screens showing views directly ahead and off to each side at an angle.

This simulator is very useful because researchers can use it to create and modify aircraft designs, which lets them test how well they perform under certain conditions.  This allows researchers to find out if a design is viable for production or not.

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Jimmy John’s Geocoding

April 1, 2010 at 6:15 pm (Uncategorized)

I decided to map all Jimmy John’s locations near me.  I had problems coming up with enough addresses, so I branched out to other cities near me that I travel to.  The addresses were then mapped using geocoding:

Jimmy John’s Locations

The geocoding is useful because it allows the addresses to be easily placed on a map showing all the locations within a certain region.  We can then use these geocoded addresses to find driving directions to and from those locations.

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