Preview release of VeskuMaps

My hobby project, a simple Google Maps -client, called VeskuMaps is ready for its first public release.

VeskuMaps 0.1 Features:

  • Show map
  • Pan map
  • Pinch-to-zoom map
  • Show current location on Map
  • Find near by service
  • Show list of search results
  • Show details of search result
  • Show service on Nokia Maps
  • Open service contact card for dialing/saving
  • Open service details on browser
  • disable GPS while on background

    The app is for Nokia N9 and N950. I'm calling it 0.1 release. Most important stuff is there, but the functionality is quite minimal. There are few bugs and usability issues I already know of and there is plenty of improvements I'd like to make. Since the basic functionality is there, the app should be useful in some situations. That is why I decided to make the app now public.

    The app is not meant to replace the built in Nokia Maps as most of the time the built in app is great. The main point of the app is that it starts quickly and you are able to search local services with it easily. Once you find what you are looking for you can easily up the details in browser, make a call, or if you want to navigate to the place, you can open Nokia Maps for directions.

    Download the debian package for N9 from here.

    Currently my plan is to polish the app and push the next version to Nokia Store. This might take few months though. In the meanwhile, I hope you find the app useful.

  • 2012-02-11

    Next Steps

    It was a year ago when Nokia's Windows Phone strategy was announced. I remember being very curious about the new strategy. I didn't feel that MeeGo was under any threat, since just few days earlier Elop had said that he thinks that N9 is great. My guess at that point was that Nokia would take Windows Phone to make products for operators in USA since that was the market where Nokia had most troubles with customers and operators.

    I took the news pretty hard, I was very passionate about what we were doing. I had been working on Harmattan from its beginning and I was always confident that when it was finished it would be great OS. Developing Harmattan had been rocky ride with a lot big changes both in UI and technologies used. In february it was finally starting to look like we were on the final stretch. I was totally convinced that finally we had all the pieces (OS, HW, design) needed for challenging iPhone. My confidence on the OS made hearing the bad news even worse. I was not the only one who took the news pretty bad. That night there were plenty of drunk Nokia engineers in bars around Tampere. There was a lot of very committed and passionate people working on the N9.

    The great "Unfollow"-ad for N9 pretty well describes my feeling about N9 now.

    I've been now working on the open source MeeGo (MeeGo Community Edition first, and now Nemo Mobile) for almost a year. Unfortunately, after this month my current position ends, and I will have couple of months to look for new job within Nokia. I've been actively following internal job market, and HR has proposed few jobs for me, but unfortunately most interesting opportunities so far have not been in Tampere or the role's offered have not been what I'd want to do. Relocating further up north in Finland is not an option, since I hate winter already here. I do not think I want to relocate to capital area either unless I get a nice salary increase, and knowing Nokia HR I do not see getting one so likely. I've been eyeing on few positions abroad, but so far I have not yet found the perfect match. It is starting to look that I will not find interesting enough opportunity anymore in Nokia and I'll just take the resignation package and do something else.

    I would be sad to leave, the company has been good to me. I've worked with brilliant, fun, and interesting people in interesting projects at Nokia. If I'll leave I will wish the people remaining all the best.

    One of the options I've been pondering is to found a one man company that would develop mobile software to be sold at app stores. With the resignation package, my savings and if I could get funding from the company through the bridge program I would have quite good nest egg. According to my calculations I could comfortably live with the money for 1-2 years even if the apps I develop would not bring any income. The problem here is that I do not have any good ideas of apps to develop and I'd really prefer to develop my own apps instead of doing contract work.

    I'm also looking for good opportunities in big technology corporations. I could relocate to an European city like London, Berlin, or München for an interesting enough opportunity. So far I have not yet applied to anything, but I've seen few interesting job postings in London. However the positions were not detailed enough to know how interesting those positions really are. Too bad that nowadays mobile operating systems seem to be developed in the other side of the pond. I'd really love to develop iOS, Android, or Web OS.

    I've talked with couple of different startups that my former colleagues are founding. There are couple of really interesting ones even in Tampere. Some of these have been very tempting, but so far I haven't said yes to anything.

    I'm quite excited about taking next step in my career. I've been pondering my options almost too much, because I want to really be sure that I know what I want to do. I want to make sure that I'm stepping forward. I really want do something meaningful and I want it to be challenging. I want to find the next thing I will be passionate about.


    Work-in-progress: VeskuMaps

    I've been working on a simple Google Maps -client for N9 as a hobby project on my spare time. At the moment I'm calling it VeskuMaps, but I'm going to figure out better name hopefully soon.

    I originally got interested in writing my own Google Maps -client when I started using Nokia N900. Quite quickly I got frustrated on the built in Maps app. It was too slow, had strange UI, and worst of all it often failed to find what I was looking for. My previous phones before N900 had nice simple Google Maps -clients.

    I decided to write a simple Google Maps-client optimized for searching services. In my work I had gotten familiar with Qt and QtWebkit, so it wasn't a big effort to write a simple client using them. After I got basic functionality working, my role in work changed a bit and I got a lot more busy. I did not have enough time or motivation to really polish what I had done and publish it. In anycase, it already worked for my occasional needs. The screenshot shows what it was about.

    Nokia Maps in N9 is a lot better than the maps app N900 had. It's not quick to start, but otherwise I'm pretty happy with it, and I use it a lot. Still, sometimes I want to use Google Maps for finding services, since their database of services and points of interest covers couple of places that Nokia's doesn't. This is why I took my old N900 app's code and decided to port it to Harmattan.

    I did a first version before QML was chosen as the main UI framework, so I did it using MeeGo Touch Framework. I basically threw away all the QWidget code and replaced it with MTF. Not a big effort and worked quite nicely too. It was far from complete though and I had to use Scratchbox for development since QtSDK support for Harmattan was nowhere to be seen at that time. History repeated itself and again I got more busy at work so my motivation to work on the app on my spare time disappeared.

    Lately I've been working more and more with QML apps, like Helium-browser. I enjoyed working on making QtComponents version of Helium. This was because QtSDK finally supports QtComponents in Qt Simulator. This makes development really quick and easy. Last weekend I remembered my old Maps-client and picked up the MTF-based sources and started to port it to QtComponents.

    I threw away all the C++ code and just kept HTML/JavaScript/CSS and started adding QML around it. In the application HTML and JavaScript is used for accessing Google's APIs and for the map content. QML defines the user interface around the map content and provides the location information. Only C++ is only used for loading the QML and for setting configuration options for the WebView. After couple of long days and few evenings I'm starting to be quite happy about the result. There is plenty of things still to polish and few features I'd like to implement, but I think already now the app is usable. Probably after this weekend I'll make the .deb for N9 available and after some polising I may even publish it in the store. This time it very likely that I'm not going to be busy at work.

    The app also runs on Nemo Mobile, but I have not yet done the packaging since it is not as useful in Nemo, because GPS does not work in Nemo yet.