Thursday, April 24, 2008

Yahoo! and Windows Live Maps in Google Earth

Google Earth is one of the most advanced desktop mapping application for consumers. It has superior coverage in terms of satellite imagery and road data compared to Yahoo! Maps and Windows Live Maps, both created by archrivals of Google.

Despite that, there are gaps in Google Earth's coverage that can be filled in by both Yahoo! Maps and Windows Live Maps. What Google Earth users need is a tool or plug-in that can display map data from Yahoo!, Microsoft and possibly other sources like Maps and OpenStreetMap.

Cristian Streng, developer of MGMaps, has created just this tool. It is a KML network link that downloads and displays map tiles from the sources mentioned above. The file can be downloaded here. Previously, there is a similar tool that only works with data from Google Maps.

Let me summarize what you can do with this new tool:

1. View street maps in Google Earth

Street Maps in Google Earth (click to expand).

A better way of browsing Google Maps without using Google Map's online interface. There are also options to load street maps from the sources mentioned above and also Google China Maps (Ditu).

2. Get a better road layer

Normal Google Earth roads layer (top) vs. Google Maps Hybrid overlay (bottom).

The Google Maps Hybrid overlay shows more details compared to the roads layer in Google Earth. Notice the traffic flow arrows and additional labels (like "Jacob K. Javits Convention Center").

3. Compare satellite imagery from various sources

Google Earth and Windows Live satellite images of Eiffel Tower.

With more sources of satellite imagery, you can see the world with different perspectives. If Google's satellite imagery of an area is of poor quality, you can easily check out whether Yahoo! or Microsoft has better images.

What you can't do with this tool is using advanced features of other mapping services like the bird's eye view and driving directions. You have to use the original interface provided.

Overall, this is an excellent tool to use when you explore the world with Google Earth. The only thing that will prevent widespread use of this tool is possible protest by Yahoo! and Microsoft, who might not be happy that their map data is being displayed and used in Google Earth.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bypassing Your Browser's Cache

As your browse the web, your browser frequently stores many parts of a web page (content, images, javascript etc.) into a so-called "cache" located in your computer's hard drive. This is done with the belief that certain parts of a web page won't change much, for example a company's logo.

But because of this, you might find that sometimes your browser refuses to download the latest data from a web site but instead uses the outdated data stored in its cache. Refreshing might help, but certain elements of a web page may still be retrieved from the cache.

When this happens, you have to be hard on your browser by forcing it to do a "hard refresh", i.e. bypassing your browser's cache entirely. Listed below are the ways to do this for different browsers.

Internet Explorer

either: Hold the Control key, and press F5.
or: Hold the Control key, and click the Refresh button on the toolbar.

Firefox, Netscape (versions 6.x and 7.x) and SeaMonkey.

either: Hold down the Control key, and press F5. On an Apple Mac, use the Command key instead of Control.
or: Hold down the Control key, and click the Reload button on the navigation toolbar.


either: Hold down the Command and Shift keys, and press R.
or: Hold down the Shift key and click the Reload toolbar button.

Opera doesn't have an option to do a hard refresh, so if a normal refresh does not seem to work, you'll have to clear the cache by going to 'Tools' > 'Delete private data'. Click 'Details', make sure that 'Delete entire cache' is selected, and then choose any other data you want to remove.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Scan a File With Multiple Antivirus Engines

What do you do when you come across a suspicious file that you think contains a virus but your antivirus software gives a negative result? Or when you got a seemingly safe file from a trusted source but your antivirus software says otherwise?

Enter VirusTotal - "a free service for scanning suspicious files using several antivirus engines". Just send them a file, either through the web interface or e-mail, and they'll scan the file using antivirus engines from various companies, which includes:-

Here's a screenshot of a test I carried out:

Click to expand.

Because of the server load, I had to wait a few minutes before my request is processed. The results show that different antivirus engines give varying opinions about whether my file (IEHelp.dll) is infected or not - but when antivirus companies like McAfee and Symantec say it's safe, then it probably is. Therefore, this service is also useful to gauge the effectiveness of different antivirus solutions.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Birth of TechnoFries

TechnoFries is a new internet magazine owned by InfoFries. It aims to provide news, articles and more about science, technology and the internet (as provided in the blog description). However, the actual type of content that will appear is still undecided.

I as the manager of InfoFries will be writing in this blog, albeit using a different identity - W. Jaylee. I will be using this webmaster identity to deliver announcements like this. It is also possible in the future that more writers will contribute to TechnoFries.

I hope you will stay tuned to TechnoFries to see the latest developments.