12 January 2010

One more map app for the N900

Well, I finaly got my hands on a N900 (given as a Christmas gift by Collabora to Gabriel).  This gave me the occasion to observe first hand that the Ovi Maps, while having a lot of features, is slow and that the Hildon Emerillon port is less than perfect.  It is hard to use with fingers and feels alien to the platform.

To solve this, I created Map Buddy: a map application specifically designed for Maemo 5.  It is quite simple to use and works out of the box (no configuration or selection of plug-ins required!).  It also has something other apps don’t: it uses web-services to provide business search capabilities.

Here’s the use case I built Map Buddy upon: you just arrived in Montréal and want to find a sushi restaurant.

  1. You start Map Buddy, it will be centred on the place you closed Map Buddy on.  You can click on the “Center on me” icon on the bottom left, and it will centre the map on Montréal ‒ remember you are in Montréal for this example! By the way, your position is marked by a blue dot. Later version will display the precision too.
  2. To search for businesses, you have to switch in business search mode, tap on the magnifying glass to do so.
  3. Enter sushi in the search bar and press enter! The map will be populated with markers representing the places tagged with sushi (powered by Praized Media, a Montréal start-up).
  4. To get the name of the place, tap once on the marker.
  5. To get the complete details about a place, tap once on the name: a new window will be opened with the business’ address, phone number and web site if available.  Map Buddy even provides a call button!
  6. To clear the search results, tap on the trash can in the search bar or do a new search.

It’s that simple!

Map Buddy includes a place search so that if you are looking for Pizza in New York, you don’t have to scroll from San Francisco to New York to get there.  Select the Place search mode, enter New York in the search field and press enter.  A picker dialog will be opened to let you select the correct New York.

To switch to other maps, click on the layer icon, it will bring up the list of possible maps to display.

I hope you like it!  Try it today! WARNING: Installing Map Buddy in this early stage requires adding the extras-devel repository which might install unstable software on your device.  Try it at your own risk or if you are a professional ;-)

NB: Praized Media only has strong data sets for Canada and United States.  They plan to sign business partnerships to get data for Europe in 2010.  In the mean time, you can directly add businesses using this form.

NB: Help is appreciated to translate it!

Comments (27)

  1. 12 January 2010
    thp said...

    Would it be possible for us to show data in OSM as “places” (e.g. shops, restaurants, etc..) so that the “data coverage” is more worldwide without the reliance on a “proprietary” data provider?

  2. 12 January 2010
    Erik said...

    Any plans to promote this to extras-testing soon? I’ve been anxiously watching the development and waiting for that to happen.
    (Note that I believe extras-devel download links are supposed to come along with a disclaimer that
    they may brick your device — many software versions in extra-devel are not yet stable or ready for actual use.)

    Thanks for developing this! I can’t wait to try it out and use it!

    Maep is the closest app so far, but it doesn’t yet seem to have search capabilities.

  3. 12 January 2010
    sorodoros said...

    Can you save the merchant detail information as a new contact? Thx!

  4. 12 January 2010
    qhartman said...

    This looks great! Can’t wait to try it out.

  5. 12 January 2010
    Martin Grimme said...

    Please do not post install files for extras-devel. This will enable the extras-devel repository on the users’ devices, without them even realizing.

  6. 12 January 2010
    Pierre-Luc Beaudoin said...

    Thp: adding OpenStreetMap Nominatim as a source of data shouldn’t too hard.
    Erik: 0.1 is stable enought, I should promote it. And yes, Maep rocks, I only discovered it after I was quite advanced with Map Buddy.
    Sorodoros: Jonathon Jongsma pointed me the right dialogs to use for that, I will add it in a later version.

  7. 12 January 2010
    Pierre-Luc Beaudoin said...

    Alright, I just added a warning about the extras-devel repo until it gets moved to extras-testing

  8. 13 January 2010
    Luarvique L. Luarvique said...

    Any way to add Google Maps place search? Google has data sets for the whole world.

  9. 13 January 2010
    liberforce said...

    I don’t have a N900, but that looks really nice and intuitive! The only thing I think could be improved is the trashcan icon, that conveys more a “throw out” idea than a “clean up” metaphor. GNOME uses a broom icon to clean up fields, but I understand it may be hard to make a nice broom icon for that icon theme. Keep up the good work !

  10. 13 January 2010
    Peter said...

    I could help with the Slovak translation – if you are interested.


  11. 13 January 2010
    Pierre-Luc Beaudoin said...

    liberforce: the icon comes from the Hildon theme… its their fault! :) I’ll consider changing it thought.

    Luarvique: Google Maps services can be accessed at will, it breaks the Terms of Usage. They will have to make it more open I guess!

  12. 13 January 2010

    [...] writes about his experience building the application on his blog: Well, I finally got my hands on a N900 [...]

  13. 13 January 2010
    Scott said...

    Ha ha! That map on the screenshot contains all three different apartments I lived in when I went to McGill University! I was sad to see that Mama Pizza on Ave des Pins and Parc isn’t showing up in the search. That was the best pizza anywhere.

    Very cool work, anyways.

  14. 13 January 2010
    Bratag said...

    Does this cache the map data anywhere? If so where?

    Good app by the way

  15. 14 January 2010

    Tiles are shared between apps that use libchamplain. They are in /home/user/.cache/champlain/…

  16. 14 January 2010
    eric ribellarsi said...

    can this do routing?

  17. 14 January 2010
    Pierre-Luc Beaudoin said...

    No routing yet, it could be made possible with some of the OSM routing services, but they seem to be regional (ie there’s none that I know for North America).

  18. 15 January 2010
    DaSilva said...

    It would be really nice if you could support Google Maps because this application is really great but nearly useless outside the US & Canada.

  19. 15 January 2010
    Till Harbaum said...

    > Tiles are shared between apps that use libchamplain.
    > /home/user/.cache/champlain/…

    In coordination with the Maemo-Mapper developer, Maep has just been updated to store it’s tiles /home/user/MyDocs/.maps Would you mind also using that cache. If all tile map developers agree on this, we can save users a lot of bandwidth and precious memory space.

    And using /home/user/MyDocs instead of /home/user saves the maps in the 30Gig bulk data space on the device instead of the 2Gig partition mainly meant to be used for the applications themselves.

  20. 15 January 2010
    Pierre-Luc Beaudoin said...

    Til, noted. Next update of libchamplain will move the cache.

    DaSilva, it’s not a question of supporting Google Maps, it’s a question of being legal. Google Maps doesn’t offer API or ways to access their data the way Map Buddy does. Therefore, accessing it would be reverse engineering and I am not doing that. There are plenty of widely and most freely available services that do the same and WANT to be used in apps such as Map Buddy.

  21. 18 January 2010
    DaSilva said...

    I understand that. Do you have a plan to implement those other services so that Map Buddy will be useable for more countries?

  22. 18 January 2010
    Pierre-Luc Beaudoin said...

    Give me a list of “those other services” and I’ll see what I can do!

  23. 19 January 2010
    barbacha said...

    Very good little app ! It’s good to see an app that allows you to find your way and starts quickly. Nokia Maps is good but it takes forever and a day to load.

    Moving the cache outside the “install space” is realy a must be !

    I guess the app could also gain from having a “clear cache button” not all people can navigate their way to a rm -rf, and playing with the app for 5 minutes users 10MB on the device.

    I guess you don’t need help for a french translation, but in case you do, just ask ;)

    Using OSM as datapoints source would be “freaking ultimate” but I guess Xapi might not be efficient enough (as of now).

    Keep the good work !

  24. 20 January 2010
    DaSilva said...

    You have written “There are plenty of widely and most freely available services that do the same and WANT to be used in apps such as Map Buddy” and so I thought you would already know different services.
    What about http://www.microsoft.com/maps/developers/ ? Is Microsoft more open for this? I would always prefer the big services because they have the most POIs.

  25. 20 January 2010
    Pierre-Luc Beaudoin said...

    AFAIK Bing Maps does not want their tiles reused either. Those online services usually come with odd usage terms such as “you as to display a logo” or “you have to only have our maps” or “you can only display the data you geocode with our service on our maps”.

    OSM’s on the order side are simple: you are free to do what every you want with our data as long as you mention “CC-BY-SA OpenStreetMap contributors”.

  26. 12 February 2010
    Clayton said...

    Pierre-Luc: There is another Maemo application called Maep that uses Google Maps as a source for maps. Are they doing so illegally or is there some clause they fall under in which developers can use Google Maps? It might be worth looking into in case you haven’t already? Also, do you have any plans to incorporate routing?

    With that said, I use Map Buddy way more than Ovi Maps, it’s an excellent application! I really look forward to more updates! Keep up the great work!

  27. 12 April 2010
    Aurelien said...

    thanks for this very nice application.
    Living in europe, I miss the “search for services” part and just discovered “casualservices”, another app which seems to work fine here. I don’t know how t gets its data but if it is a legal source, it would be a great addition to map buddy :)