Back to the roots

Nokia used to produce some excellent smartphone hardware. If you’re happy to own a N900, there’s an upgrade to Marble 1.5 on its way that brings some fresh life to good old Maemo. It’s in extras-testing now and should appear in extras soon. Kudos to Bernhard who took over maintainership of the Maemo version and worked hard to make this release possible.




Sisyphus Work

The OpenStreetMap database keeps growing nicely. Missing regions are added, details completed and changes to the environment reflected by the very active mapping community.

When using the data — by opening or using applications like Marble — you want to use the latest data that is available. For Marble, this includes the monav offline routing data and the offline search databases. Until the end of last year these two data types were updated by me running a couple of scripts manually, downloading a few dozen gigabyte of raw data and transforming it to the right formats, then uploading the final data (around 12 GB).

Doing things manually is tedious and time consuming, so I ended up regenerating the data rather infrequently (say 2-3 times a year). That wasn’t quite the frequency I’d like to have, so at the end of last year instead of doing another manual round I invested the time (and more, of course) to automate the process. Sisyphus was born and after solving the usual initial quirks it is now converting fresh OpenStreetMap offline data for Marble 24/7 since the start of this year. Thanks to Geofabrik for providing the .pbf data sources and Ben Cooksley helping to setup the KDE servers as needed.

A full roundtrip (converting all regions worldwide) takes 7-8 days currently, so you have the option of updating your offline data quite often now…

In Marble on the Desktop: Routing tab => Configure => Monav
In Marble on the Nokia N900: Main menu => Routing => Configure => Monav
In Marble on the Nokia N9/N950: Preferences => Offline Data


Marble Touch – Approaching the First Release

Over the weekend I’ve been working on the last features and polishing for the first release of Marble Touch (Marble on the Nokia N9/N950) at the end of the month. Things are coming together nicely; the first release will even have a navigation activity and newstuff integration although I originally planned to leave them out for the 1.3.0 release. The latest additions are pretty neat as they help you customize Marble Touch to your needs easily without having to copy things manually via USB. Just open the Preferences page from the main view as shown in this screenshot:

The installation of additional voice navigation speakers is quite convenient: The list of speakers you can select among presents the locally installed ones and those available via newstuff in one common list. If you select a speaker that is not yet available locally, it will be installed automatically for you.

The same feature will be available in Desktop Marble 1.4. Another nice newstuff feature is the installation of additional map themes you might already know from Marble’s KDE Desktop version. In a similar fashion you can use it in Marble Touch:

The last piece missing in the puzzle is the installation of offline data (offline routing and offline search) via newstuff. I hope to get that implemented in the next days. Additionally I plan to do a bit more polishing of the Navigation activity, which currently looks like this:

It’s pretty much set now and just some remaining quirks need fixes: The blue and gray background colors from the oxygen palette don’t fit too well with the Harmattan theme, the offline mode icon in the toolbar is not exactly a toolbar icon, the measure tool borders have pixel errors and the distance indicator font is a bit unreadable against the map background. At least most of that is easy to fix.

If you know Marble on the N900 you’ll notice some gradual improvements to its navigation mode: Besides supporting both portrait and landscape mode the information shown is grouped logically on the N9/N950, making it easier to read while giving you more information at the same time. The two toolbar icons are handy shortcuts to quickly mute voice navigation and toggle offline mode.

How would you like your current position?

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

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

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

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

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!

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

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… 🙂 Player |  OGG Video |  H.264 Video