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Map+ 1.2 now available

The e-mail I’ve been waiting for finally arrived today. The latest version of Map+ has just cleared Mozilla dev review and is now available on the Firefox add-ons web site. Here’s a list of what’s new.

Added:

  • If possible, partial addresses are now completed using the Yahoo! Maps API.
  • The location marker is finally centered on the map.
  • The zoom level of the map is dynamically set based on the precision of the selected address. (For example, if you view a map for a city, it’ll be zoomed out a little more than if you view a map for a specific street address.)

Fixed:

  • Fixed a bug that removed commas and periods from addresses.

Updated:

  • Updated add-on to be compatible with Firefox 3.
  • Updated Yahoo! Maps to 3.8.
  • Updated Yahoo! YUI libraries to 2.0.

I wasn’t able to get any language translations done in time for the release, so they’ll be included in the next version. So far, all I have is Traditional Chinese.

Special thanks go to Sunny Chan who added the code for dynamic zoom and address completion while I was still working at IBM. Open source at work, it’s a beautiful thing.

I’ve created a Get Satisfaction page for Map+, so be sure to post there if you need help or have feature requests. Hopefully, it’ll keep things more organized than everything ending up in my e-mail inbox.

Firefox 3 and Map+

I got an e-mail from Mozilla yesterday announcing that Firefox 3 is scheduled to be released on June 17th. I’ve been using Firefox 3 since the first betas were made available and it’s been great even in beta form, so I’m confident that the official release will go smoothly. I’m not sure how I feel about the world record Mozilla is trying to set—it feels like a needless PR gimmick—but I “pledged” anyway. Yeah, I’m a Firefox fanboy.

Now that I’m no longer an IBM employee (I quit on April 1st), I’m finally free to make whatever I want without worrying about IBM taking control of it. I’ve got a few small projects in the works, but I’m not going to say anything about them right now since I’m not sure how many will actually see the light of day. They’re nothing special anyway.

However, I will say that I’ve started working on a new version of Map+ today. Right now, my top priority is making it compatible with Firefox 3. After that, I’ll work on getting it localized and displaying maps for addresses outside of the United States. It’s looking good so far–I should be able to get it done in time for the official Firefox 3 release.

As far as new whizbang features, there won’t be any for this upcoming 1.2 release. It may be true that Google Maps is the best (double true), but I don’t see Map+ switching from Yahoo! Maps to Google Maps anytime soon. If this is a deal breaker for you, let me know.

Apologies to Map+ users

Update: A new version is on its way.

I owe everyone that uses Map+ an apology. There have been requests for new features and bug fixes queuing up in my e-mail inbox and on the extension’s download page, and yet I haven’t released an update in over a year. I’m sorry.

Since you’re all here anyway, I suppose I should take the time to explain myself as well as answer some common questions.

Why haven’t you updated Map+ in over a year?

The short answer: I can’t. Or rather, I can, but I won’t.

Not too long ago, I decided I wanted to take a break from writing software for companies. I wanted to work on whatever I thought was interesting, and the only way I saw to do that was to work for myself. The “damn the man, work for yourself” bit didn’t last very long (although, it probably could have if I tried harder), but it wasn’t a total waste. During that time, I wrote Map+ for a friend who wanted to offer it as a free tool for his travel insurance business. So far, so good. Shortly after that, I started working for FileNet which was then acquired by IBM. This is where things get complicated.

Like all large software companies, IBM is inherently evil. Amongst many other evil things (which I won’t mention for fear of being sued), IBM has all engineers sign a contract that states that anything we produce—even if it’s in our own time after work and on our own equipment—is the property of IBM. I was told that I could make updates to Map+, but that it would become part of IBM’s intellectual property. I don’t agree with that. If I make it in my free time and on my own equipment, it should be mine. So, as long as I work for IBM, I will not make updates to Map+.

All is not lost, though. My original intention was to stay with IBM until I finished graduate school, but that would mean that I would be with the company for another four years, at least. (IBM agrees to pay for graduate school, if you agree to stay with the company for a few years after your graduate.) Four years without an update is completely unacceptable. And since IBM refuses to budge on allowing me to work on my own projects while still retaining ownership, there is only one solution: I must find another—less evil—company (hopefully, one that pays for school). Know of one?

Why doesn’t Map+ use Google Maps?

Ask anyone that knows me, I love Google. (Hell, I even bought this domain through them.) If I could make it work, I would.

The problem is Google requires that you specify what domain the Google maps will be displayed on. For example, if I wanted to display Google maps on this page, I’d have to register for an API key and specify www.hirahim.com as the domain. Since Map+ runs on millions of computers, there is no single domain for the maps. Yahoo doesn’t have this restriction, so I went with Yahoo maps.

Side note: technically, I could set up a server that generates the Google maps dynamically and have Map+ display them, but I can’t afford to maintain such a high-traffic server. (The maps Map+ displays are generated and stored by Yahoo.)

Why doesn’t Map+ work internationally?

I’ve had dozens of requests to make Map+ work internationally. People have even gone as far as to call me an ethnocentric American (that cuts deep, Paul McKenzie). It’s the first item on my to-do list for the next version of Map+. I want to give you guys an international version. A real one, one that’s localized, not just one that shows road maps of Japan, but right now I can’t (see the first question for the explanation).