Time for a little update

Hmm, it’s been more than two months since I last posted. Time for an update. A lot has happened since January.

So,

  • I moved out of Finland as planned.
  • I stayed in a temporary apartment for a month. Central-home is the company managing the facility where I lived (on Habersaathstrasse 24) and if you’re looking for temporary housing in Berlin, look no further.
  • I managed to find a nice apartment for long term in Berlin Mitte, in the Bergstrasse, which is more or less walking distance from tourist attractions like Alexanderplatz, Hackeschermarkt, Friedrichstrasse and of course the Brandenburger Tor.
  • I re-aquainted myself with Java, Java development, and lately also release management. Fun days of hacking but the normal Nokia routine of meetings creeping into my calendar is sadly kicking in.
  • I learned tons of new stuff
  • Unfortunately German is not yet one of those things. My linguistic skills are ever pathetic and English remains the only foreign language I ever managed to master more or less properly. On paper German should be dead easy since I can get by mumbling in my native language and people can still figure out what I want. In practice, I can understand it if spoken slowly (and clearly). Speaking back is challenging.
  • I’m working on it though, once a week, in a beginners class. Relearning stuff that 3 years of trying to stuff German grammar in my head in High-school did not accomplish.

Moving is tedious and tiresome. But the end result is some genuine improvement in life. I absolutely love Berlin and am looking forward to an early Spring. I was in a telco with some Finnish people today discussion the weather. They, so how’s Berlin. Any snow there still? Me: no about 20 degrees outside right now :-). Nice to have spring start at the normal time again. Not to mention the more sane distribution of daylight and darkness, throughout the year.

A shitload of updates is overdue. For several months already. I have a ton of photos to upload. WordPress needs upgrading. And some technical stuff might need some blogging about as well. Then there is still some unfinnished papers in the pipeline. So, I’ll be back with more. Some day.

Back from vacation

I just got back from vacation. The past two weeks I’ve been visiting Barcelona, my parents in France, Girona, Figueres, Lleida and Zaragoza. Despite having a car for only eight days, I still managed to drive 1650km. I updated my placemarks in Google Earth and regenerated my places website where you can find a complete overview of this trip.

I’ll add some photos later on. I filled a 1GB memory card so, processing them properly is going to take some time.

Placeopedia

A feature in Google Earth I was not aware of is the ability to add layers from external services. One such service is placeopedia that provides placemarks with a name and a link to the relevant wikipedia article.

How does it work? Just open this link http://www.placeopedia.com/cgi-bin/kml.cgi/searchwithin.kml. It will open up in Google earth showing the latest 15 additions to placeopedia. Now move the map to an area you are interested in and it will automatically update.

Doh! and phewwwww

This morning I had some more fun marking locations in Google Earth. I documented more holidays. Then I managed to lose all my additions by crashing google earth. It reset to the version I saved last evening. It turns out, it doesn’t actually save anything until you exit properly. :-(.
Next time, I’ll be saving and exporting a lot more often. Luckily I did some exporting just before it crashed. The exported file imported perfectly. But I came very close to losing a few hours of work. :-).
Anyway, I now have placemarks for all my summer holidays since 1998. The turkey and sweden vacations already have a lot of text on my photo site, so I did not bother to write much text. Both greece vacations will get some more attention later on.

Update 07-12-2006: Google introduced a feature that allows you to display kmz’s on Google Maps. This has now been integrated into the xsl so you can now view the kmz in Google Earth or Google Maps. Also I created a nice zip file distribution with some documentation (download here).

kml2html.xsl

A nice feature in Google Earth is that you can export your placemarks as a kmz file. This is just a zipfile with a .kml file inside. This file in turn is just a xml format that Google uses to list your placemarks.

I spent some time creating a nice xsl file with which you can use to convert these files to html. I use it to publish some of my own placemarks on my website. Effectively, it turns Google Earth into a content management system for publishing information about places.

I do the transformation statically using an ant build file. But you can of course also let the browser do the transformation. However, search engines probably have difficulty handling the kml format. Also, not all browsers can do xsl, e.g. mobile browsers and screen readers. This is why I prefer to generate the html.

The stylesheet has the following nice features:

  • Generates link to Google Maps for each location. It also creates a link to Google Maps pointing to the original kmz file (note you need to set the base url in the build file for that to work)
  • Generates the coordinates of the location formatted using the geo microformat. This allows firefox extensions such as operator and future browsers that support microformats to detect the coordiantes.
  • Produces nice semantic html (makes it easy to style using css).
  • It works for nested folders of placemarks and structures the page using nested unordered lists.
  • Preserves any html you type in the descriptions in Google Earth. So you can add links there and have them appear in the html.
  • Of course includes a link to the original kmz file.

Update. Since posting this I made several updates to the xsl and the css. The link above always points to the latest version of the stylesheet. In the zip file you will also find the css and a ant build file. As part of this update, I also rewrote the text above.

Places where I lived (2)

A few months ago I posted a set of placemarks with all the places where I ever lived marked in Google Earth. Last week, Google updated the imagery for the entire Netherlands so I had to revisit those places and found that in a few cases some adjustments were needed. Most of the places are now clearly recognizable and in most cases I tried to position the placemarks roughly where my bed would have been (as far as I can remember): Places where I used to live

Nice Photo of Helsinki

I did not take it myself but it gives a good overview of where I live (click for fullsize photo):

Helsinki seen from above

As you can see, I live quite close to where I work. It’s about a 15 minute walk. The historical center with the south and north harbor is a little further (top right).