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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Google’s My Maps and Custom POI Files

I’ve written about Google’s My Maps in this blog before. As much as possible I am now using Google’s My Maps for planning, and recording, our travels. Something I like to see when working on a plan is the location of all our Thousands Trails membership parks.
Below is a screenshot of what it looks like on my phone. Each brown square has a TT for Thousand Trails. This is stored in a ‘layer’ on my map and I can turn it on or off at any time.

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I got this data from the Discovery owners website. I used the Google earth format.
You can also create your own data set using Excel. For example, here's a list I made of all the presidential museums – we’ve visited every one of them! Notice I did not even enter a complete address. Since this information is being imported to Google Maps, it can find the place based on the name and the city. Of course, the more detail you provide, the more accurate the markers will be.

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Once the data is imported to your map, you can even personalize the icons and make the labels visible.

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To make a new map and import a data file in My Maps:

  1. Go to Maps.Google.com on a computer browser – preferably Chrome.
  2. Click the empty search field and you should see My Maps link appear. Click on that and then Create.
  3. Under a new Untitled Layer, you will see a link to Import. Click that and navigate to the file of data you want to import.
  4. Depending on the file format, it will ask you which column(s) contain the information for the location of the marker. In the Presidential Museums example above, that would be both columns. Next, you will be asked which column contains the name or label for the marker. In this example it would be the first column with the name of the President.

There is a lot to learn about using Google My Maps. If you are a member of Geeks on Tour, there are several tutorial videos on My Maps. If you want to join Geeks on Tour, you can use the coupon code: rvtravel for a 20% discount.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Toolbox Replaces Swiss Army Knife App

A while back we wrote about an App called Swiss Army Knife. It contained several useful apps all in one, but it’s gone. I don’t know why, but you can’t find it in the Play Store any more. In searching for a replacement, we found Toolbox (available on Android), and it’s great!
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With one app, you get 22 different functions:
  • Measuring Tools: Compass, Leveler, Measure, Protractor, Vibrometer, Mag Detector, Altimeter, Tracker
  • Utility Tools: Flashlight, Converter, Magnifier, Calculator, Abacus, Counter, Score Board, Roulette Wheel, Code Reader, Mirror, Tuner
  • Time Tools: Stopwatch, Timer, Metronome
I use it most often for the Magnifier. I have also used the counter when I don’t trust myself to keep track as I’m counting people in a room for example. And, although I have a couple of other code readers (Barcode and QR code) I could remove them to save space on my phone since the reader in toolbox is just fine. If you play music, the metronome might be useful. But “Roulette Wheel”, really? Yes, really! You can set the roulette wheel to have from 2 to 16 numbers on it. Imagine being out to dinner with 4 friends, you could each be numbered, then spin the wheel to see who pays the check! Or, on a more positive note, if you have 6 possible gifts to give away, let a customer spin the wheel to see what they’ve won!
I’ve been disappointed in the Leveler tool. Since we live in an RV I like having a leveler to use, but this one is registering level when I can feel that we’re not. I expect it would work a lot better if I ever remembered to calibrate it. The problem is, I need to remember to do that when I have a known level surface to use. Did I mention I live in a motorhome?!
Be aware that the Free version is ad-supported, so you will see messages pop up on the screen that are ads. You can ignore them, don’t be lured into believing these are messages for something that needs to be done!
Toolbox is only available on Android.