Thursday, December 21, 2006

Another format of travelogue--GPS application

Except for keeping notes, there is now a better way to record your journeys in detail. With the help of software programs, a GPS receiver, a digital camera and google earth/map, you can now make your memories traceable.

Kodak, Ricoh, and Nikon manufacture built-in GPS support cameras, e.g. Nikon D200. With the help of programs such as RoboGeo(unregisted versions introduce 1km mismatch; Win only), GPSPhotoLinker(free; Mac only) and Jetphoto Studio(free geocoding for the first 100 photos; Win, Mac & Uni), it's possible to geocode digital photos that were taken with almost any model of digital cameras. By matching the date and time of the digital photos' EXIF and GPS logs, the software syncronizes latitude and longitude into digital photos' EXIF allowing photos to be displayed on Google earth/map or Flickr. Richard Akerman's geocoding photos lists all kinds of software for geocoding with different OS and other useful information.

I purchased a stand-alone track recording GPS WBT-100, NT2990 from Wintecronics Ltd., which can record 25360 points of date, time, latitude, longitude and altitude. The advantage of WBT-100 are: there are four log mode settings (set a certain time or distance log one time or auto log data referring to degree or speed) to make the data recording more flexible. The unit includes a G-Tool program which transfers point records into different formats such as google earth(kmz), GPX and OziExplorer etc. for downstream applications. With a build-in compass, WBT-100 has Compass/GPS inter-calibration feature that makes accurate NMEA-output for GPS. Bluetooth with USB socket enables WBT-100's multi application capacities such as navigation, track recording, and direction indicator(Specifications). However, 25360 points of storage capacity is only good for 3.5 days (10 hr/day) by default setting (5 sec. log per). More over, the data can only be retreived by CP210x USB to UART Bridge Controller and G-Tool installed PC which makes it almost impossible for travellers who travel more than 4 days to download data before the overwrite takes place; not to mention the G-Tool has no function to locate photos with GPS tracking. WBT-100 is an upgradable GPS receiver. I am hoping the storage capacity and the accuracy of GPS info will be upgraded.

Sony's newest GPS receiver Sony GPS-CS1 on the other hand, can record data up to one month (15sec. log one time for 10 hours per day). Softwares GPSImageTracker and Picture Motion Browser, allow users to geocode digital photos and show them on an online map. Even thought the software has no function to convert log data into other formats such as Google earth, the log files can still be converted by GPS Babel (free) then create maps and profiles from GPS data (tracks and waypoints), street addresses, or simple coordinates on Google earth/map via GPS Visualizer, a free, easy-to-use online utility. However,with a fixed logged mode setting, not being upgradable and having a single functional design(it can't be used as a GPS receiver for PPC/Notebook navigation etc.) makes the Sony GPS less desirable.

Richard has an essay about the Sony GPS-CS1 in which SIRF start III chiped GPS receivers were compared with Sony GPS-CS1.


Here are examples of GPS applications.
I took a train to Hualien for a vacation and visited Taroko National Park during my stay. My tracks were recorded with a WBT-100 and then converted to google earth via G-tool. Google maps were created via GPS Visualizer and photos were geocoded with Jetphoto Studio. You'll have to install Google Earth to open the kmz files.

Traveling by train : from Tainan to Hualien
Google Earth; Google Map

Traveling in Hualien: Photos and tracks
Google Earth; Google Map
(Due to the storage capacity, photos in Google map were removed and links to filckr on pics 5, 6, 8, 11, 14, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26 and 27 were added.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Holiday request

To be a desirable company, paid holidays is one of the criteria, but actually how many people can take their holiday without worrying of being given a bad score on the annual performance record which is critical for promotion or even worse being sacked. Basically, bosses in Taiwan are spoiled and they don't like employees taking holidays for three reasons. First, despite the representative system, no one can 100% cover the others' duties especially for those well organized big companies. Everyone is assigned to specific jobs and the overlap is small. Taking a long holiday might jeopardise the process of a project, so it's difficult for them to take a long vacation. Second, even works can be covered 100% by others, taking a holiday would shorten the manpower thus the production rate drops, that's not what big bosses like to see. Third, bosses simply don't like the idea of the paid holiday; why should I pay somebody even if he/she isn't at work? So making a holiday request is an art in Taiwan. I can't help wondering... was Taiwan's economical miracle built on such exploitation? and was the stereotype of Taiwanese as workaholics a factor in this vicious cycle?

The system of job responsibility is a blessing for those whose working hours are irregular, however in Taiwan this system is a punishment for those who do have responsibilities. Because of their sense of responsibility, workers wouldn't take holidays in the middle of a project and projects never stop coming! For those who follow the clock in and out system get compensation if over work is inevitable. Also, because of their regular working hours, they are considered as eligible laborers who are protected by the labors law. By law companies must transfer 6% of employee's salary to their account as retirement pension. However, this system doesn't apply to those whose working hours are irregular, despite the fact that they pay labor insurance every month. Of course, there is no labor day for them either.