GCI Goodies: Favorite weather stations

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Published on: January 2, 2012

Earlier I already wrote about some of the nice tasks accomplished by the GCI students for Marble. We’re near the end of Code-In now and thanks to never sleeping Torsten and the busy GCI students an incredible amount of more than 70 (yes, seventy) Marble tasks have been done. Among them are a couple of enhancements to Marble’s weather plugin, all done by Valery Kharitonov: Weather stations from geonames.org are now displayed among the existing services, weather station data is refreshed automatically after a configurable interval and last but not least you can mark weather stations as favorite and only display those as illustrated in the screenshot below. So go grab Marble from master and have your holiday weather always at sight 😉

This year the GCI rules were changed a bit and filing new tasks was only possible at selected times. This cut off the following tasks that I’d like to see as further extensions of Marble’s weather plugin:

  • Favorite weather stations should show more information than non-favorite ones: Forecast data with icons and a larger icon for the current state
  • The data retrieval logic needs some enhancements for the new favorite mode
  • The plugin should be touch-friendly such that toggling stations as favorite and switching between selection and favorite mode is also possible in Marble Touch.

Of course working on that is not bound to GCI. Anyone with some programming background can work on it and I’d welcome any patches in that direction. Drop by in #marble on freenode or send a mail to marble-devel@kde.org if you’re interested…


GCI Goodies: Public Transport Map Theme

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Published on: December 6, 2011

Google Code-In is running and we’re busy mentoring lots of Marble tasks. This year we added many data related tasks: Voice navigation speakers for different languages, OpenStreetMap derived map themes, historic map themes and more. Just like last year the results are pretty awesome and a few of the results are already available for public consumption. Earlier today I uploaded the shiny new Public Transport map theme to our GHNS server. The theme was done by Paul Kocialkowski. It uses the public transport (ÖPNV) map http://openbusmap.org/ created and maintained by Melchior Moos, who kindly allows us the usage within Marble. The map data itself is CC-BY-SA 2.0.

Do you miss your local bus? Please add it to OpenStreetMap. Contributing is easy, see Öpnvkarte for details.

If you’re using KDE 4.5.1 or later with Marble installed, you can install the public transport map theme easily using the “Download Maps” menu entry in Marble. Older KDE versions before 4.5.1 are not supported right now, though if there is a significant number of people who are stuck with older versions for some reasons I can do a version compatible with older versions as well. Please comment in that case.

How would you like your current position?

Categories: KDE, Maemo
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Published on: December 1, 2011

We’re currently discussing how to give a good visual indicator to users of Marble Touch where their current GPS position is (once it moves outside the visible region of the map). I created a video that shows two possible approaches: The first one (sticky indicator) shows the indicator on the bottom right of the screen and an arrow to point towards it. The second one (moving indicator) also moves the indicator to the nearest border of the screen. Please take a look at the video comparing both and add your comments.

Here are some things to consider:

The sticky indicator has the advantage of a predictable location. Look at the bottom right corner of the map to see the distance to the current position and in which direction it is. A disadvantage is that the distance is measured to the bottom right corner, which is not always intuitive (measuring to the center can be as confusing though). Likewise it’s confusing two see two position indicators when the current position is inside the view. This could be fixed however by hiding the position indicator when the position is visible.

The moving indicator feels a bit nicer as it is just one element and has a visually somewhat more exciting behavior. This could be annoying as well, however. Additionally I’m missing a good idea how to stick the distance label to it (therefore that one is missing in the second part of the video).

Which version to you like better? Which additional suggestions do you have? I’m interested in your opinion!


Introducing Marble Touch

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Published on: November 27, 2011

It’s release preparation time again. As most features are fixed by now, this is a good time to show some of the things we’ve been working on lately. There were a couple of blogs about Marble features that will debut in KDE 4.8 / Marble 1.3 already, but I’d like to introduce another one which we didn’t announce properly yet: Marble Touch, a Qt Quick Components based version of Marble built for the Nokia N9/N950. It is centered around different views or activities that align the user interface for common tasks like searching or routing.

The first version is planned for release in about two months. Like all Marble programs it’s based on the Marble library to reuse the vast amount of features it offers. Marble Touch 1.3.0 will come with the following activities: Virtual Globe, Search, Routing, Tracking, Weather, Friends, Space View. See the current state in the Youtube video Marble Touch on the Nokia N950.

You may notice certain glitches in the video — missing icons, missing animations, missing pinch zoom, z-order problems, slow response time. That’s alright for the beta state and we’ll take care of as much as possible until the release. I’d love to see help from a designer or usability person though! If you’re interested, please visit #marble in Freenode or write to marble-devel@kde.org.

After the first release there’ll be feature releases every month. They’ll add features that are currently implemented in the Marble library, but not yet available from the Marble Touch user interface: Bookmark support, guidance mode, voice navigation. In parallel I’d like to work on an Android version of Marble Touch optimized for tablets. A Plasma Active version would be nice as well, but I lack the hardware to play with it.


Berlin Maps and More

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Published on: August 4, 2011

Are you attending the Desktop Summit 2011 in Berlin? Do you own a Nokia N900? Then we’ve got something for you.


The Marble Desktop Summit 2011 package contains data for offline usage in Berlin. Find your way and explore Berlin during the Desktop Summit. Get offline OSM maps, offline routing and offline search data for Berlin in a single package. Bookmarks for important places (airports, conference venue, party locations, …) are included as well. Further instructions here. Have fun :-)


Voice of Marble: Deadline extension until 2011-07-20

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Published on: July 16, 2011

We decided to extend the deadline for the Voice of Marble contest by five days. Those of you who didn’t make it in time (or hear about it just now) can continue to work on their submission until July 20th. Please note that this is a sharp deadline — the packaging will start soon after, so we can’t extend it any further. I’m looking forward to more contributions :-)


Become the Voice Of Marble!

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Published on: June 15, 2011

Thousands of people use Marble on the Nokia N900 to find their way and explore the world. Become their voice! Record your voice speaking a handful of turn instructions like Bear left! and participate in the Voice of Marble contest. With a bit of luck you’ll become the voice of Marble: Your voice will be used as the default speaker for voice guidance in Marble’s next version 1.2 (to be released in July 2011).

Today we’re starting the Voice of Marble contest to collect voice guidance speakers from the community. We’re looking for an english speaker to be shipped with the Marble packages. And we’re looking for alternative speakers for each language supported by KDE — at least one each, and that’s a lot! Please participate in the contest and spread the word among your friends. The five best contributions will get a cool Marble T-shirt as a little present.

Interested? Please head over to the Voice of Marble wiki page which contains all the details you need to participate. The deadline for submissions is July 15th. I’m looking forward to your contribution!


Offline Search in Marble

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Published on: May 24, 2011

The release of Marble 1.1 in beetween two KDE releases shortened the development cycle for Marble 1.2. Still we have some nice new features to debut in 1.2. Among them is support for offline search that extends the existing city search by addresses (streets and house numbers) and points of interest (supermarkets, tourist attractions, restaurants, hotels, train stations and much more). This feature is a natural extension of our offline routing, enabling you to use addresses and points of interest as routing targets. Currently you either need an Internet connection for that or you have to select routing targets directly in the map in offline mode.

The data needed to search for addresses worldwide is huge, no doubt. Given that we like to ship small Marble packages the data for offline search will not ship with the Marble packages, but can be downloaded from within Marble after installation. For your convenience it is packaged with the Monav offline routing maps, so installing a country-level offline routing map (or upgrading it) will include the data for offline address search in that country. I’m currently updating the OpenStreetMap data on my system to generate new Monav maps as well as offline address databases for all countries worldwide. Offline map updates will be available in the next weeks.

I made a small screencast that shows the feature in action on Marble’s desktop version. Of course it also works on the mobile version on the N900, where the feature is primarily needed. Some minor glitches are left (e.g. some results appearing twice, missing repaints), but there’s plenty of time to fix that until the release in July. When watching the screencast you can see another new feature added by Bernhard Beschow recently: Zoom steps now coincide with OpenStreetMap tile levels, resulting in a sharper appearance of texture maps. Most of that is hidden by compression and scaling of the video though, it’s best to see it live. Or maybe Bernhard blogs about it himself, I remember him saying something like that… :-)

Blip.tv Player |  OGG Video |  H.264 Video

A Sneak Preview at Marble 1.1 on the N900

Categories: KDE, Maemo
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Published on: March 30, 2011

As you may know, we plan to do an intermediate Marble 1.1 release:

January 2011 Marble 1.0 libmarble 0.11 KDE 4.6
April 2011 Marble 1.1 libmarble 0.11
July 2011 Marble 1.2 libmarble 0.12 KDE 4.7

The initial release schedule got revised a bit, now listing

  • March 31st: Marble 1.1 Beta 1
  • April 7th: Marble 1.1 RC 1
  • April 15th: Marble 1.1.0

This release is not aligned with the other KDE applications and will therefore not be (fully) translated. On the plus side, the library is ABI compatible with the one used in Marble 1.0. Marble 1.1 brings many new features for the Desktop — see Torsten’s blog for an overview. This blog post is concerned with new features in the Maemo version that runs on the Nokia N900.

We replaced a couple of dialogs with stackable windows, which leave more space and feel more intuitive. As a nice side effect, the turn instructions now open in their own stackable window, fixing the annoying scrolling problem in the routing dialog.

A couple of people complained that the overview map in the top left corner had little use. You can now hide it (without editing the configuration file). The same goes for all the other info boxes.

If you upgrade from Marble 1.0 and used the “Download Region” feature a lot, the installation might take a bit longer than usual: We’re now sharing OpenStreetMap data with other applications like mappero and the data you downloaded within Marble is moved to the shared location during the installation. Sharing data means that you can download map data with mappero and view it in Marble (or vice versa). In the end it helps to save some disk space and reduces network traffic. On my N900, the migration moved 3.6 GB of OSM tiles from Marble to the shared directory which had a size of 2.5 GB. Since most of the tiles in the shared directory were duplicates, the shared directory only grew to 3.8 GB. That’s pretty neat, saving more than 2 GB for me.

One of the much requested features is voice navigation. We’ll ship a preliminary version with Marble 1.1. You can choose between sound output (turn points are announced with a sound) and speakers. We don’t ship any speaker with our packages, but you can use TomTom voices: Download one of the free ones (some websites offer them for personal use), convert it with our web frontend and copy it to your N900. A Userbase article has all the details you need. Enjoy :-)

For future versions we plan to include distance estimations in the output. Additionally we’d like to ship a custom Marble speaker, granted we can fund some money for a professional speaker.


Marble 1.0.0 now available in Maemo extras

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Published on: February 4, 2011

Version 1.0.0 of our mobile Virtual Globe comes with an improved user interface, is significantly faster and brings a lot of new navigation features to your Nokia N900. It is the first version available in the Maemo extras repository. This means that you can install it directly from the application manager of your N900.

“Find your way and explore the world with Marble” is the tagline that decorates the Marble 1.0 release. “Marble is a Virtual Globe with advanced routing capabilities. Use it as your personal navigation device to guide you to any destination in the world. Download maps from a variety of themes and explore the surroundings. Record your trip and share it with your friends.“, our package description continues. Let’s look into that in detail.

Online and Offline Routing

When an Internet connection is available, Marble can retrieve routes from OpenRouteService (Europe) and Yours (Worldwide). An arbitrary number of via-points is supported. Furthermore routing profiles can be created that define which routing backends are run with which configuration. The default configuration sets up motorcar routing (fastest and shortest) as well as bike and pedestrian routing.

Additionally you can calculate routes directly on the N900 without the need for an Internet connection using the Monav backend.

Offline routing requires additional country maps which can be downloaded conveniently from within Marble.

See this tutorial for further instructions.

GPS Tracking and Route Guidance Mode

The internal GPS of the N900 is used to retrieve your current location. The track is shown in the map (red line) and can be saved for further analysis in other programs.

In route guidance mode, driving instructions are announced in front of turn points. The map follows you as you move; Marble adjusts the zoom value automatically according to your speed.

Please see the GPS Tracking and the Guidance Mode tutorials for more information.

Themable Maps in Different Projections

A wide variety of map themes is supported, each consisting of one or more layers. The interactive legend can be used to adjust the current map theme to your liking.

Note that not all map themes can be shipped due to legal reasons. Google Maps or Ovi Maps themes are therefore not shipped, for example.

And More…

Translations for more than 40 languages are included. Compared to Marble 0.10, the first version available for the N900, Marble 1.0 is significantly faster. The OpenStreetMap theme in Mercator projection (default settings) for example renders more than ten times faster thanks to various optimizations. The hard to operate tab widget on the left is now replaced by dialogs. We plan to continue to improve the user interface, speed and memory consumption in future versions.

If you’re interested in Marble on the N900, don’t miss our KDE Userbase tutorials. You can install Marble directly from Maemo’s application manager. Please give feedback on the Marble download page, our mailing list or in the #marble IRC channel on Freenode.

Please note: Some of the screenshots above show map themes from the marble-maps package. This package is still in extras-testing, waiting for at least three more testers before it can be promoted to extras. The same holds for monav-routing-daemon, the offline routing backend. If you can spare some time, please become a tester and vote for marble-maps 1.0.0 and monav-routing-daemon. Thanks :-)

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