GPS Phones and Real Time Location Based Social Networking

by Gong Liu June 21, 2009 08:16

Pharos Traveler 137 GPS Phone 

Recently I was on a hunt for apps and services that could best illustrate the power of Pharos' adward-winning Traveler 137 GPS phone (I work for Pharos as you may notice from my profile). The spec of the phone is as follow. You can get more info about it here.

ShoZu App and Services 

My hunt led me to ShoZu. According to their website, ShoZu is the leading provider of mobile social media services that connect mobile consumers with their online social networks, personal blogs, photo storage sites and other Web 2.0 properties from the handset. In other words, with ShoZu app and services, you can, from your cell phone, upload/publish photos, videos, and blogs to multiple social networking, photo sharing websites, such as Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. The GPS in your phone comes into play when you geotag your photos, videos, and RSS feeds before uploading. Geotagging is the process of adding geographical identification metadata to these media. Both Traveler 137 OS and ShoZu app are capable of geotagging. Geotag-aware websites (such as Flickr and Picasa) can then pick up the metadata in the media and display them on a map for your friends and followers to see. The following figure shows various components and players involved.

   

To use ShoZu, you need first to create a ShoZu account. Currently, ShoZu account and services are completely free of charge. The following screenshot shows my ShoZu account settings. 

 

A destination site is a website or an email account that accepts uploads. In my case, I set up 5 destination sites Flickr, PicasaWeb, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, and an email destination. When I take a photo using my Traveler 137, I can choose to upload it to any one of these destinations. The best part of ShoZu service is that it allows you to specify multiple CC sites so when you upload a photo to one destination, it goes to all your CC sites as well. ShoZu does the distribution using their own servers so you won't incur any additional costs in terms of bandwidth usage and upload time. As shown above, I set up 3 CC sites, Facebook (CC), MySpace (CC) and Picasaweb (CC).

For some destination sites, you need to specify an exact location for your uploads. For example, the following screenshot shows that if I upload a photo to MySpace account, it should end up in the album called "ShoZu", which I created in MySpace account beforehand.

 

Once you set up your ShoZu account, you can upload photos and videos to your destination sites via MMS or email without the need of installing any additional software. However, by installing a ShoZu client app, you take full advantages of ShoZu services. For example, you can post to blogs, queue up multiple uploads at the background, and upload bigger images or video clips than allowed by MMS.

To download and install ShoZu client app, please follow these steps:

1) Go to the app download page in ShoZu web portal and select your phone by manufacturer and model. In my case, Traveler 137 was not in the list. I just selected a phone with same OS and similar form factor (HTC's Max Quartz), and it turned out working just fine.  

 

2) Enter your cell phone number

 

3) Once you hit the Continue button above, in a short while you should receive a text message containing a download link, as shown below (left).  

  

4) Tap the link to start downloading. Once the download completes, Mobile OS starts the installation automatically. And once the installation completes, ShoZu app activates itself automatically. It then pulls out your destination sites from your account settings and displays them in a window as shown above (right).

To use ShoZu app to upload a geotagged photo (or video clip) is as easy as 1-2-3.

1) Start the camera app in your Traveler 137 (or other GPS phone)

2) Make sure the geotagging feature is on and the GPS is locking on a signal (changing from to  )

3) Aim and shoot. That's it!

Note: depending on your ShoZu app options, you may need an extra step to comfirm the photo or add description before sending it

On the Receiving End  

Once you upload a photo to ShoZu, usually in less than a minute ShoZu is able to distribute it to the destination site of your choice and to all your CC sites for your friends to see. Here comes the real fun part if the receiving sites support geotag, as the photo can be displayed on a map and your friends will know exactly where you took it. They can switch to satellite view or even 3D street view to get to know the surroundings of your location. Most photo sharing sites support geotag. For social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, you will need 3rd party apps to achieve this. 

The following screenshot from my Flickr account shows a biking trip I did in Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach. I took numerous geotagged photos with my Traveler 137 along the way and sent them out immediately via ShoZu. My friends on several networks were able to learn lots about my trip (when and where) before I even got back home! That's what I call some amazing technologies!

 

The following screenshot from my Picasa account shows the same set of photos. 

 

Click the View in Google Earth link (assuming you have Google Earth in your computer) and you can view the photos in Google Earth as shown below. With Google Earth you have more options. For example, you can do a slide show with the photos or you can save the trip as a KML or KMZ file and publish it on other websites.

 

The following screenshot from my Facebook account shows the same set of photos. They are simply less interesting without the maps. However, I'm sure there are some 3rd party Facebook apps that are capable of handling geotag.   

 

Conclusions

GPS phones, such as Pharos Traveler 137, bring the real-time location-based element to the mix of technologies that power the current social networking phenomenon. Whether you are a photo sharing enthusiast, a social networking lover, or a sexting addict, a GPS phone might just be the thing for you. 

IE Context Menu Extension

by Gong Liu January 31, 2009 05:11

Years ago I stumbled upon the concept of IE Context Menu Extension. I created a menu extension to help me to lookup an online dictionary for any highlighted word. Here is how I use it. Wheneve I encounter an unfamiliar word while browsing the web, I just highlight the word, right click on it, and select a custom context menu item "Dictionary Lookup". This will launch a new browser window and take me straight to the online dictionary with the word already looked up. Without the extension I would have to do all this menually - highlight the word, right click, copy it, launch a new browser window, type in the URL of the online dictionary, paste the word, and press a Lookup button. So by comparison my little extension came in really handy. I have been using it ever since.

Over the years I added a few more items that I thought were also very useful. These include:

  • Google highlighted word or words
  • Map highlighted address
  • Lookup highlighted word in Wikipedia
  • Translate highlighted word in a different language
  • Share a web page on Facebook, Digg, etc.   

Now let's take a look at how to implement these extensions.

Google Highlighted Word or Words

We first need to create a HTML page and save it as, say, C:\MyScripts\IE_MenuExt\goto_google.htm. The HTML page contains just this javscript:

<script language="javascript" defer>
    var doc = external.menuArguments.document;
    var text = doc.selection.createRange().text;
    var url = "http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=" + escape(text);
    var w = window.open(url, "newwin");
    w.focus();
</script>

This script simply gets the highlighted text, creates a Google search URL out of it, and opens the URL in a new browser window. Another version of the script is to quote the highlighted text, which instructs the Google search engine to search the exact phrase:

<script language="javascript" defer>
    var doc = external.menuArguments.document;
    var text = doc.selection.createRange().text;
    var url = "http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=\"" + escape(trim(text)) + "\"";
    var w = window.open(url, "newwin");
    w.focus();
</script>

<script language="javascript">
//source: http://blog.stevenlevithan.com/archives/faster-trim-javascript
function trim(str) {
    var str = str.replace(/^\s\s*/, ''),
    ws = /\s/,
    i = str.length;
    while (ws.test(str.charAt(--i)));
        return str.slice(0, i + 1);
}
</script>

The only difference in this script from the first one is that the highlighted text is trimmed and quoted. The trim function is taken from Flagrant Badassery's blog.

The second step is to create the following registry key and save it to a .reg file, such as C:\MyScripts\IE_MenuExt\install.reg:

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MenuExt\Google It]
@="file://C:\\MyScripts\\IE_MenuExt\\goto_google.htm"
"Contexts"=dword:00000010

The "Contexts" value 0x00000010 indicates that the context menu item "Google It" appears when you right click a highlighted (or selected) text in IE browser.

Map Highlighted Address

The script (C:\MyScripts\IE_MenuExt\goto_google_maps.htm):

<script language="javascript" defer>
    var doc = external.menuArguments.document;
    var text = doc.selection.createRange().text;
    text = trim(text).replace(/\n/, ", ");
    var url = "http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&q=" + escape(text);
    var w = window.open(url, "newwin");
    w.focus();
</script>

Since the highlighted address may be in multiple lines, the above script will replace any new line characters with commas to make it a single liner, and then feed it to Google Maps.

The registry key:

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MenuExt\Map It]
@="file://C:\\MyScripts\\IE_MenuExt\\goto_google_maps.htm"
"Contexts"=dword:00000010

Note: when you use the "Map It" menu extension, make sure you only highlight the address part, not anything more. Otherwise, you may confuse the Goggle Maps geocoder.

Lookup Highlighted Word in Wikipedia

The script (C:\MyScripts\IE_MenuExt\goto_wikipedia.htm):

<script language="javascript" defer>
    var doc = external.menuArguments.document;
    var text = doc.selection.createRange().text;
    text = trim(text).replace(/ /, "_");
    var url = "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/" + text;
    var w = window.open(url, "newwin");
    w.focus();
</script>

The key point here is that if multiple words are highlighted, they need to be concatenated with an underscore "_". On Wikipedia site if an article is not found with the extact words, you will be presented with a link to search the words. So you don't need a separate menu item to search Wikipedia.  

The registry key:

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MenuExt\Go Wikipedia]
@="file://C:\\MyScripts\\IE_MenuExt\\goto_wikipedia.htm"
"Contexts"=dword:00000010

Translate Highlighted Word in a Different Language

I have been teaching myself Spanish recently, and I find this Spanish online dictionary is very useful. It translates both ways, Spanish -> English and English -> Spanish. Now it becomes a permanent part of my menu extension collection.

The script (C:\MyScripts\IE_MenuExt\goto_spanish.htm):

<script language="javascript" defer>
    var doc = external.menuArguments.document;
    var theWord = doc.selection.createRange().text;
    var url = "http://www.spanishdict.com/translate/" + theWord;
    var w = window.open(url, "newwin");
    w.focus();
</script>

The registry key:

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MenuExt\Spanish Lookup]
@="file://C:\\MyScripts\\IE_MenuExt\\goto_spanish.htm"
"Contexts"=dword:00000010

Share a Web Page on Facebook

If you find a web page interesting and want to share it on Facebook, Digg, Reddit, or whatever online community you belong to, you only need to click an approprate sharing icon (similar to those found at the end of this post) - if the page offers one. However, if the page does not have a sharing icon, you can use the following menu extension to do the trick.  

The script (C:\MyScripts\IE_MenuExt\goto_facebook.htm):

<script language="javascript" defer>
    var doc = external.menuArguments.document;
    var u = doc.URL;
    var t = doc.title;
    var url= "http://www.facebook.com/sharer.php?u=" + escape(u) + "&amp;t=" + escape(t);
    var w = window.open(url, "newwin");
    w.focus();
</script>

Note: here I only use Facebook as an example. If you are into other online communities, simply change the URL in the script. 

The registry key:

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MenuExt\Share on Facebook]
@="file://C:\\MyScripts\\IE_MenuExt\\goto_facebook.htm"
"Contexts"=dword:00000001

The "Contexts" value 0x00000001 means the default context. I.e. the "Share on Facebook" context menu item appears when you right click anywhere on the page (except links, images, etc.). No highlighting text is necessary.

More Complex Example - Hook up a Sudoku Solver

The above menu extensions are really simple ones. In fact, we can hook up any program logic we like with a menu extension. For example, I like to go to my favorite Sudoku wbsite to get my brain teased. However, at times I got frustrated with some harder games and hoped to see them solved right away. So I hooked up a Sodoku solver I found here with a menu extension. Now whenever I have the urge to see the solution of a game, I just right click and select the solver (see screenshots below).

  

  

Install and Uninstall Menu Extensions

You can download all the javascript and registry key files discussed in this post below.

IE_MenuExt.zip (6.33 kb)

To install all the menu extensions, just copy the IE_MenuExt folder to C:\MyScripts\ and double click the install.reg file. Note: if you prefer a different installation location, you need to edit the install.reg file before running it.

To uninstall all the menu extensions, double click the uninstall.reg file. The uninstall.reg file looks like this:

REGEDIT4
[-HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MenuExt\Dictionary Lookup]
[-HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MenuExt\Thesaurus Lookup]
[-HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MenuExt\Spanish Lookup]
[-HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MenuExt\Google It]
[-HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MenuExt\Google It quoted]
[-HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MenuExt\Go Wikipedia]
[-HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MenuExt\Map It]
[-HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MenuExt\Search Images]
[-HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MenuExt\Share on Facebook]
[-HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MenuExt\Digg It]
[-HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MenuExt\Sudoku Solver]

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The content on this site represents my own personal opinions, and does not reflect those of my employer in any way.