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Map problems and some questions

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1. Posted by luzian (Full Member 36 posts) 8y

Hello,

I'm new around here and currently testing the blog and evaluating it against some other travel blog systems, for a trip starting very soon (in fact planning to head out this week, just sorting the last things which include starting a travel blog). I like the design, range of features, and the community on this site.. seems the most complete overall solution that I've found. :)

However I'm having some trouble with the blog map. In my default browser (Firefox 3), it keeps telling me "If you had Flash (version 7 or higher) installed, you'd see here a graphical world map with luzian's trips and photos displayed on it" anywhere where I would see a map. But I have Flash Version 9.0.47.0 installed, confirmed here. What could be going wrong? Is this a known problem? Am I doing something wrong? Interestingly, on Internet Explorer on the same computer the maps work fine.

Also this flash map is the only major drawback of this site. I will mainly use the blog while I travel so I have to rely on internet cafés etc. but I doubt that they all have the latest Flash installed, particularly as it's not even working with Flash 9 in Mozilla. Do people have trouble with this "on the road"?

Now the big question: Are there any plans to change this site to use Google maps (or to support it as additional option)? If so, what is the expected timeline... weeks, months, years? Not only do I think google maps will work on a much larger range of systems and connection speeds than the flash map, but also it is a zillion times more exact and customisable (satellite/map/terrain views). What I like about the map here is that it allows to put items (blog entries, pictures) to exact locations (not just "default" locations of cities/places that the system suggests, and which are sometimes off or not the exact location that you want). But all this is not of much use if there's no detailed map to display the position... all this could be fixed by using google maps, and this could be by far the best travel blog site I see this mentioned before in the forums, is there any status update on this idea? Oh and if this is being done, one suggestion, please make it user customisable to select satellite/map/terrain views by default, or even per map view (ie maps in different blog entries could be a different default view).

One more question while I'm asking questions I see as I'm new here I'm a "Budding Member" and have a picture upload capacity of 25MB per month. This may be a problem especially "on the road" where I may not always have the possibility to resize pictures before uploading them. I realise it may take a while of participating here to get into a higher user class, but as my trip starts soon I won't get there. Hence I wonter if there's also an option to upgrade the capacity by paying some "premium member" fee as used on other sites? Or is getting into other user class the only way? And could there ever be an option to include external pictures (eg by adding a Flickr interface) instead of using the internal capacity?

I hope these questions/requests make sense and are not too much demanded by a complete newbie

Cheers, happy travelling
Luzian

2. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4835 posts) 8y

Quoting luzian

However I'm having some trouble with the blog map. In my default browser (Firefox 3), it keeps telling me "If you had Flash (version 7 or higher) installed, you'd see here a graphical world map with luzian's trips and photos displayed on it" anywhere where I would see a map. But I have Flash Version 9.0.47.0 installed, confirmed here. What could be going wrong? Is this a known problem?

No, this is something I've never heard of, and which should of course just work.
My first hunch is that something is interfering with the script which detects if you have flash installed, and so doesn't kick off the loading of Flash. Do you maybe use noscript, or any other extension which could have this effect? (Could you try testing in safe-mode, just to rule out all extension problems?)

Also this flash map is the only major drawback of this site. I will mainly use the blog while I travel so I have to rely on internet cafés etc. but I doubt that they all have the latest Flash installed, particularly as it's not even working with Flash 9 in Mozilla. Do people have trouble with this "on the road"?

The "not even working with Flash 9" thing is unique for your setup (at least, no one else has ever reported the same before), and Flash 7 is so old and so deeply penetrated everywhere that this really shouldn't prove any problem on the road. (Also, the form to create and edit trips will work perfectly stand-alone without the flash map visualization, so even if Flash for some reason isn't available, that shouldn't hamper you more than not being able to pinpoint coordinates by clicking.)

Now the big question: Are there any plans to change this site to use Google maps (or to support it as additional option)? If so, what is the expected timeline... weeks, months, years? Not only do I think google maps will work on a much larger range of systems and connection speeds than the flash map, but also it is a zillion times more exact and customisable (satellite/map/terrain views).

Although I'll be the first to say that I'm no fan of the choice to go with Flash for the map (I fought quite hard against this when we were in the initial planning stages), it does have a couple of benefits, the largest of which is that google maps could never handle the amount of trips and photos and destinations which have been entered by the people who most actively use the maps. In google maps, every dot or line would be one (or several) absolutely positioned elements, and displaying literally thousands of those on top of the map slows performance down to a veritable crawl. The flash map we use isn't the swiftest thing out there either (someday I really want to dig into its source code and optimize away a couple of the O(n^2) loops which I'm sure live in there (the third-party who created the original version of the Flash map was no programmer)), but at least it scales okay-ish.
As far as I know, there's also very little call for pinpointing locations more exactly than on city level; in fact, I've heard praise from several sides for the concept of not cluttering up the system with zoom deeper than city-level.

I know a transition to Google maps has been tossed up once or twice (it was an option when the map was originally designed, as well, which I advocated for back then). Some day it might even happen. But as far as I know there's no current plans to go down this road, and if it did happen, it would take months, at least.
(Note that although I implemented the mapping system for travellerspoint, I'm not currently working for them, and am not in the loop with such decisions and plans. There's always a remote but not entirely impossible chance that they're currently three months into the development of such a new version. (And everything I say here is of course my personal opinion, not representing anyone.)) :)

"default" locations of cities/places that the system suggests, and which are sometimes off or not the exact location that you want

If you notice locations which are wrong, please report them here. I spent a lot of time on cleaning up the database of 2 million locations which drives the map, but there's undoubtedly still hundreds, or maybe even thousands of wrong locations in there, and I know the overlords are happy enough to clean those up one at a time when they're identified.

One more question while I'm asking questions I see as I'm new here I'm a "Budding Member" and have a picture upload capacity of 25MB per month. This may be a problem especially "on the road" where I may not always have the possibility to resize pictures before uploading them. I realise it may take a while of participating here to get into a higher user class, but as my trip starts soon I won't get there.

This might surprise you. Write a blog post or two, upload a dozen photos, post a couple more times in the forum, maybe help edit a guide article or two, and you'll be a Full Member with 100MB per month already. It might not quite happen before you leave, but I'd be very surprised if would take more than a week or two after. There's no exact science to it (other than a very convoluted algorithm) ;), but basically contributing usefully to the site gets noticed and rewarded quite swiftly, with a lot of human input as well. (e.g. rating of useful forum posts and such.)

Hence I wonter if there's also an option to upgrade the capacity by paying some "premium member" fee as used on other sites?

The request comes up every so often. As far as I'm aware, Peter and Sam are opposed to it, since it'd abandon the concept of keeping the site completely free (and might scare away people who'll fear that more and more they'd have to start paying to get access to the good features). (But again, I'm not in the loop for such things.)
What does sometimes happen (very rarely, don't rely on it) is for Sam or Peter to just tweak the monthly limit manually when they see someone actively make use of the site and upload photos and basically be certain to hit that higher member status soon - but running into the limit already before that could happen.
You could also attempt to win one of the monthly photo contests, which will immediately upgrade your limit to 200MB.

And could there ever be an option to include external pictures (eg by adding a Flickr interface) instead of using the internal capacity?

The map supports this; it would just need UI to enable people to add those photos. I don't know if there's any current plans for it, but if the decision was taken to enable it, it could be here very swiftly. In the blogs you can just link out to an external picture by using code like this:
[img=http://some.image.site/photo_url.jpg]

I hope these questions/requests make sense and are not too much demanded by a complete newbie

They make perfect sense, and it's always very useful to hear what people find important on the site; what they like and don't like. Thanks for taking the time to write all of it. I hope my answers explain sufficiently why things are as they are, and that we can get that flash problem in Firefox sorted out swiftly for you.

[ Edit: Edited on Oct 21, 2008, at 5:31 AM by Sander ]

3. Posted by Peter (Admin 5809 posts) 8y

Hi Luzian,

I suspect your issues are due to some known problems with FF3 and Flash. A quick search for "flash and firefox 3" brought up a substantial number of pages with people having problems. I *believe* the new version of Flash (10) has helped, but can't say that first hand.

Re: Google maps, yes, it is possible. I can't say any time frame I'm afraid, definitely not within days or weeks though. We have yet to commit to it and once we do, we will have a better idea of how long it will take.

Re: Photos. This will be resolved very soon. As in within days. We're just ironing out some browser issues at the moment. Ah, the joys that Microsoft brings us Incidentally, you can already insert photos from anywhere on the internet in your blog. You just need to manually enter the location in the [img] tag that we use. Where normally the code you use in your blog to insert a photo looks something like this: [img=http://photos.travellerspoint.com/1/IMG_4027.jpg], you can just replace that with any url: [img=http://farm1.static.flickr.com/98/255295421_ac27795b2a.jpg?v=0]

Edit: Woops, cross posted with Sander. ;)

[ Edit: Edited on Oct 21, 2008, at 5:31 AM by Peter ]

4. Posted by luzian (Full Member 36 posts) 8y

Hi Peter and Sander,

Thanks for your replies and the time you took to answer all my questions. This was much faster and in much more detail than I ever expected! :) (I wish member support on any of the paying websites and services out there would be anywhere near this quick...)

For Flash vs. FF: I use Adblock but have already turned it off as I suspected this was the cause of the map problems, but it didn't help. One weird thing I just noticed is although both FF and IE display Flash 9 on the adobe test page, they show different minor versions.. 9.0.47.0 vs. 9.0.28.0. There does seem to be something fishy over here. I'll see if I find anything else that I can play around with on my local settings and possibly upgrade to Flash 10. I'll post back if I have any news.

For Flash vs. Google: Ok I see your valid points, gives me a much better idea what was behind the decisions to use Flash. I'll have to see if I can get myself away from thinking I need google maps for everything. In fact you may or may not have noticed I'm a bit of a google maps addict. I can spend hours surfing around on zoomed satellite view and spend ages to place my pictures on the exact map coords (a few meters range) from where I took them I even already thought about getting a camera with GPS. Hence often I prefer not to place a picture (or even blog entry) in the city centre (where the registered coords would point) but to the exact point where I'm located. Not that I would expect anybody to look at the exact loctions... Just have to get my mind used to the flash map I guess. Of course I would still support the idea of adding google maps as an option (ideally not taking the option of flash maps away from those who prefer them.. but of course supporting two systems is always more effort).

For Budding vs. Full Member.. ok I'll try my best to get there.. how about just creating a bunch of useless messages? ah no you said manual rating of useful posts. There goes my plan

For bad locations on the map: haven't looked for or seen any bad ones here yet.. this was referring to other sites (where ofthen you don't have the option of correcting/entering your own coords if you want). I'll let you know if I find any bad ones once I enter the back country of Albania etc. ;)

For Flickr.. that's great news! And thanks for the url link trick.

The fact that things like the Flickr interface are actually being actively developed, and the way you both responded to my bunch of questions which came quite out of the blue from an entirely new member, might just have convinced me that indeed I found the best travel site... if only I get used to the flash maps ;)

Thanks again
Luzian

[ Edit: Edited on Oct 21, 2008, at 6:40 AM by luzian ]

5. Posted by TLWH (Travel Guru 516 posts) 8y

I don't know if this helps Luzian out a little.

But when I first started off on Travellerspoint I had issues with the map as well. Primarily because it wasn't google map. And I was on public computers and found learning a new system a bit strange.

In actual fact it turned out just fine and worked a treat in the end. I particularly like the photo linked to the location and the ability to input exact names into it. It helped when trying to remember the places I had been. And quite a few people commented on this. It was nice to see something that wasn't google maps1 (if you know what I mean)

I can only ever remember having issues with flash not working in a low bandwidth cafe in Pakistan and Nepal. But I could still add map entries via text interface. Not the same, but it still worked. BTW, in low bandwidth google maps didn't show either. I also used Firefox on a stick, which worked just fine!

I actually wayyyyy prefer Microsofts map software. I was going to use it for my own personal website until I discovered what pain it was to custom draw lines and the like. But for details and the like I much prefer it. I also wanted to stay away from everything google. Unfortunately I had to go with google due to its ease of use. Shame I can't afford to hire Sander

Also with the photo upload thing. Try posting a few blog entries and the like about preparation, lists, gear etc. Or fill out your home town, state in the travel guide. It really zooms up fast.

What I like about TP as a travel blog, is everything is in the same place. Not dotted around here and there. The map thing took a while for me to get used to. But with guide book in hand, it really only took 5 mins to enter in location details and the like when on the road at a cafe.

Anyways, just thought I'd add in my 2 cents as someone who once wondered the same thing and had similar issues. And then found out how well it all worked.

The other main difference is the support on TP is some of the best I have seen out there! Just like when you posted, the guys get back to you nearly straight away with a helpful reply. It simply doesn't happen in most other places!!

All the best

6. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4835 posts) 8y

luzian: trying to track down that flash problem, could you do the following:

Go to http://www.travellerspoint.com/member_map.cfm?user=luzian , copy/paste the following line into the Firefox location bar, and then hit enter:
javascript:alert(flashTest(7));

That should give you an alert box, saying either true or false.

If it says false (it shouldn't, please tell us), could you then enter the following line (all one line), and hit enter:
javascript:flashTest = function(version) { return true; }; var el = document.getElementById("innerflash"); el.type="application/x-shockwave-flash"; el.data="map/map.swf"; inited=false; init();

If instead it says true, try entering the following line (and hitting enter):
javascript:inited=false; init();

Did the map appear after that?


Also, if you haven't yet, do try Firefox safe mode (close Firefox, and start it again through the safe mode option which can be found in the start menu). The weirdest unrelated Firefox extensions might affect things in the most unlikely manner, so running a test with _all_ of them disabled (not merely turned off, but completely taken out of the loop) often is helpful; and at the very least it'll confirm that this isn't an extension problem, so we don't need to spend more time having to worry about it.
(If safe mode does make the map show up, then you can go back to regular mode and disable extensions one by one until you find the responsible one.)

7. Posted by luzian (Full Member 36 posts) 8y

I don't know if this helps Luzian out a little.

...

Anyways, just thought I'd add in my 2 cents as someone who once wondered the same thing and had similar issues. And then found out how well it all worked.

Sure that's great to read how you got used to it after wondering about the same things. I also think a big advantage of this site is that it has everything in one place (that's actually why I was asking these questions about google maps and flickr, to see if it has REALLY everything i could ever dream of ;) )

Only point where I don't agree is the Microsoft map question.. but that's maybe because I've been anti Microsoft for a bit too long to change my mind because of their nice map

javascript:alert(flashTest(7));

says true

If it says false (it shouldn't, please tell us),

  • skip* it didn't

If instead it says true, try entering the following line (and hitting enter):
javascript:inited=false; init();

doesn't budge. actually with option #2 above it seems like it's reloading, whereas here it doesn't do anything.

I'll try the Addons thing later on, see if it works.. otherwise I'll upgrade to Flash 10.

Thanks for your help again!
Luzian

8. Posted by Peter (Admin 5809 posts) 8y

Quoting luzian

For Flickr.. that's great news! And thanks for the url link trick.

Hmm, think I might not have been clear. When I said "This will be resolved very soon", it was related to the bandwidth limits, not to Flickr integration ;)

All will be more clear very soon.

9. Posted by luzian (Full Member 36 posts) 8y

Quoting Sander

Also, if you haven't yet, do try Firefox safe mode (close Firefox, and start it again through the safe mode option which can be found in the start menu).

Ok, that was it... got the bad guy! :)

It's indeed Adblock.. my mistake sorry, I was only disabling adblock before (ie. change setting in adblock to disabled), not disabling the adblock plugin (ie. disable it in the add-ons management). Trying safe mode and enabling individual add-ons has showed that it is ONLY the adblock plugin causing the problem - if adblock is disabled and all others are enabled, it's working fine, but if all are disabled except are disabled then the map doens't work. Exactly the same after upgrading to Flash 10.

I would say as a summary, the map is not compatible with the Adblock plugin (at least, in my case) :( While this is a bit annoying, it's not a major problem.

Thanks everybody for the support to sort this out!

Btw now that I have the map, I have a few more questions:

  • Is there a way to have a trip overview map permanently somewhere at the top of the blog? Or at least a direct link in the right side navigation (with main page, table of contents, subscribe)? I don't see this as a setting, I assume it might be possible through the CSS (position some ap element), but I don't know enough CSS to do something like that. Anything like that done before?
    Of course, I could also include a map at the top of the blog entry.. but that would get pushed down by the next entry, so I would have to do it each time. Actually not too bad, this would allow to customize it each time to the current location...
  • Something else I'm still confused about. On the map, we have the concept of trips, I can select all trips, or an individual trip's overview, or a station of a trip. But on the blog I can't find it anything like this - something like "current trip overview", "previous trips", "all trips" would seem useful to me. Or is the concept of trips kept separate from the blogs on purpose?
  • One more idea, maybe as suggestion for a future option. When entering trip stops, I can always chose how I got there or left (plane, train, bus etc.). What would be interesting would be to show this information on the map by different colours of the segments... eg. plane red, boat blue, bike green etc. (or customised by the user). Of course then some caption/legend would be useful too.

As I try more things, I actually start realising that what I'm looking for is probably more like a travel map with some picture and blog functions, than a blog with some picture and map functions.... probably I should get used to the idea that I'm actually just going to write blog entries

Thanks again for the support
Luzian

10. Posted by luzian (Full Member 36 posts) 8y

Quoting Peter

Hmm, think I might not have been clear. When I said "This will be resolved very soon", it was related to the bandwidth limits, not to Flickr integration ;)

All will be more clear very soon.

Ah, got that wrong then...

Looking forward to finding out WHAT exactly will be clear soon

[ Edit: Edited on Oct 21, 2008, at 4:21 PM by luzian ]