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No posts for a while

Not that I posted all that often anyway, but as a heads up, there aren’t going to be any posts for a while. I’ll be spending nearly a month in Beijing and Hong Kong, so I doubt I’ll be writing anything. I’ll definitely have some stuff to say about the trip when I return, so fire up those feed readers and subscribe.

This is probably a shot in the dark, but if you’ll be in the area around the same time, drop me an e-mail. I leave December 12th and return January 3rd.

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).