Weekend Distraction: Use Technology to Take a Language Survey

Screen shot 2013-08-30 at 9.57.54 PMPreviously I shared with you one of my all time favorite podcasts, A Way With Words. I find the talk about language fascinating, and the conversation between the hosts and their callers keeps me hooked for the entire show …. each and every time.

Because I enjoy A Way With Words so much, when I recently learned of a language survey online, I was immediately drawn to it.

Linguists often find themselves the center of attention at parties when they demonstrate how they can pinpoint the area a person lives just by listening to the way a variety of words are pronounced.

Now, here comes the fun: 🙂 This online survey will do the same for you! Just answer 25 questions, and a map will be generated to show you where the language spoken is most like yours.

I completed the survey, along with a few family members, and it was quite accurate for each and every one of us. I’ve pasted my “result map” here. Although I currently live in Pennsylvania, I grew up in New Jersey and so I’m not surprised to see the skewing toward the Garden State.

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The survey, a research project North Carolina State University, consists of 25 questions. Think about your answers, and try to answer as true to your speech as possible.

When you are done, you will be asked where where you live and where you grew up as a validity check for the researchers. You do not give your name or other identifiers. Just city and state. (apologies to readers outside the US for this US-only survey.)

So, this weekend, if you have a little time to kill, you might enjoy taking this survey, and learning how accurately they can pinpoint you.

To take the survey, just click here: Dialect Quiz and Survey

Have fun! and… please let us know how it worked for you!

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Running? Walking? RunKeeper Helps You Keep Track of your Treks

Screen shot 2013-08-26 at 8.21.18 PMI’m not a runner. Never was. Never will be. But I like to walk, and to my delight, this well-reviewed “Runner’s App” is also exceptionally wonderful for a casual walker like me.

Simply tap “start” to …yes… start the app. Put the iPhone in your pocket and walk on (or run, if you are so inclined).

5 minutes later, a robot voice will tell you that you have been walking (running) for 5 minutes, and let you know how far you have gone, and what your speed is.

(You can tinker with the settings and have this voice share your information at many other time intervals. 5 minutes is the default, and I find that to be just about perfect.)

When you are done walking/running, you stop the app and delight in all kinds of information. Your average speed, of course, and the total time, the date, etc… But the thing that I really love is the MAP that you generate with your walk/run, courtesy of the GPS in your phone.

Here is the map that this app generated for me as I ended a quick walk this morning. Notice that I was walking on park paths so you only see my walk against a background of blank space, but if I walked in the neighborhood, you would see each and every street that was strolled upon (or run on). I loved getting the one-mile notification on the map. 🙂

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Other features make this app even richer. For the average user, the free version is probably sufficient, but there are opportunities within the app to ramp up the features even further (freemium style). I will not be buying a thing. I’m happy just the way it is.

RunKeeper is free in the iTunes store

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The Google Maps Car was (maybe) Mapping my Street?

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As I left the house this afternoon to do an errand, what did I see driving past my house?

The Google Maps Car!

It drove right by, at regular speed. I wonder… was it mapping for street view? or just riding by?

I contained my impulse to follow the car, so the picture I am sharing was not taken by me,
but this is exactly what the car looked like.

First I noticed the tall round camera sticking up off the roof, and I actually thought the thought, “that looks like a google camera.” Then my eyes slid down and saw the awesomely-decorated car. 🙂

Anyone else ever see a google map-car in “real life”?

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How Does Google Know About the Traffic?

I am a huge fan of google maps, and after spending a good deal of time on the road these last few months, I’m a bigger fan than ever.

In particular, one feature has been enormously helpful …. and that is the TRAFFIC information that you can see on your travels. If you are going on a road trip, this is an extremely valuable feature.

Just pull out the side menu and tap on “traffic” to activate it.

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And then …. head out on the highway. If the road up ahead is green, you’re good to go. If you see yellow, expect some traffic build up. And red? Uh, oh. Heavy, heavy traffic is in your future. The deeper the red, the stuck-er you’ll be. 😦

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If you look ahead before you drive, you can often avoid the red spots, making your travel much more pleasant.

Now …. back to the question I posed in the title of this blog post: How (the heck) does Google know about the traffic? Even our local radio station fails to report the congested spots, so how on earth does Google know it?

Hint: They don’t have invisible helicopters or secret satellites. 😆

The simple answer is: Crowdsourcing. Our smart phones come with GPS. As we drive by cell phone towers, our phones are tracked. If a clump of smart phones get bunched up along the highway, google interprets that as a traffic jam….. and let’s you know about it.

For a comprehensive explanation of this, you can read about it here and here.

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Traveling? Offline? Find yourself with City Maps 2Go

Screen shot 2013-07-22 at 7.37.30 AMI recently did some traveling out of the country, and visited several large cities. I’m a do-it-yourself traveler, so I knew I’d be on my feet in these cities, wandering and exploring.

Here in the US, I use Google maps all the time on my iPhone, not only for navigating, but to locate myself in the midst of a new-to-me place. (Remembering the days of having to find a corner, and street signs, and pulling out an awkward folded paper map and then searching for that corner among the cross streets….. 😯 )

In contrast, today we just look at our phone and the infamous blue dot shows us exactly where we are. The thought of NOT being able to do that on my travels was an inconvenience I was prepared to deal with, but happily did not have to. More on that later…..

City Maps 2Go is a wonderful map app. Before I left, I downloaded a map for every city that I would be visiting. They offer over 6,700 maps from all over the world. Within the app, you simply select the country, the city, and tap “download”. Your maps are collected on a page where all you need to do is tap the one you want and there it is, on your phone … an OFFLINE map to use (like using a paper map)… no data, no cell connection necessary to view your maps. A perfect travel companion.

To add a new map, just tap the plus sign:

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Scroll through oodles of countries, tap on any to see a selection of cities to download.

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Traveling outside of your own country can be tricky business with your data plan, and this is something you have to monitor carefully (and plan for!) so that you don’t rack up ridiculous charges on your phone.

Therefore, I had my cellular data turned OFF, and so I was fully prepared to use my maps in the old fashioned way, looking for street signs to determine my location.

Imagine my surprise, when I pulled up an offline map in Greenwich, England, and I saw my location on the map, indicated by a blue dot! I was flummoxed …. how could this be?

I instantly wondered if my cellular data was back on, and I momentarily panicked until I checked my settings. Nope, cellular data was OFF…. no data allowed.

So, how was the blue dot finding me? Apparently, I have since learned that the GPS in your iPhone is actively working even without the cellular data.

Some google searching taught me more. Here is what Google says about their offline maps:

“As long as you have GPS activated, you’ll see your location as a blue dot on the map. Note that Wi-Fi and cell-based My Location will not work. Features which require data connection–such as directions and Navigation–aren’t available offline.”

I have not ever tried downloading Google maps for offline viewing since I have been so pleased with City Maps 2Go, however, the point is the same …. the blue dot works, even if you are offline. Yay!

City Maps 2Go is $2.99 in the iTunes store. (occasionally this app is offered for free for a limited time. Seldom, but sometimes)

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Google Maps Update, now supports iPad and adds new EXPLORE feature

Screen shot 2013-07-20 at 8.58.09 AMHurray! Google Maps has now arrived in its full glory for the iPad…. and it is feature-rich and wonderful.

Most people are now quite familiar with Google maps and the street view option. On the google map for iPad, just type in your address OR hold your finger on a spot.

Once you have the map on the screen, touch the address box, and it will bring you to another screen with more information and a street view box. By tapping on the street view box you will be given a full-screen street view page. The photos below take you through these easy steps:

First I tapped a spot near Central Park:

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Then I tapped the box with the full address, and it brought me here:

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Did you notice the street view rectangle on the (above) screen? Tap on that and you get a full page street view. Easy, breezy!

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If you look at a particular location, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you get a mountain of information. Note the street view, photos, reviews, directions, and link to the Museum’s website.

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There is SO MUCH MORE to love about Google Maps for iPad. Traffic view, transit directions, turn by turn navigation, biking maps, walking maps… all easy to use.

And with this new version comes a new feature: EXPLORE

To use EXPLORE, first take the map to the general location that you want to explore.

Then tap in the search bar, and the EXPLORE screen will drop down.

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Now that you see the “Explore” box, touch it, and a new world will open for you. 🙂

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This EXPLORE feature is now also available on Google Maps on your iPhone, so be sure to update your Google Maps app.

Google Maps now for the iPhone AND iPad, Free in the iTunes store

How to Use Your New Google Map App

Screen shot 2012-12-13 at 8.06.15 AMI am so happy to have Google Maps back again.

This app is wonderful. Basically intuitive and chock full of features.

However, since many of my readers are relatively new to their gadgets, and I don’t want them (you?) missing out on all of the Google-map-goodness, this blog post will show a newbie how to use some of these features.

Photo Skitch Document-3When you first launch the app, make sure you agree to let Google Maps use your location. This way you’ll be able to use it, fully. Then, whenever you tap the little location arrow, (shown here on the right), the map will show you your current location. This is amazingly helpful to orient yourself as you wander in a city, walk on a trail, or countless other situations. It also enables the app to be able to give you directions to wherever you are going from wherever you are.

Now let’s look at somewhere you plan to go. For an example, I typed “Columbus Circle” in the search box at the top, and you can see the map whooshed me right over to Columbus Circle in New York City. (Notice in the bottom right hand corner it is also telling me how long it will take me to drive there from my house.)

Of course you can zoom in and zoom out, but we are going to look at a few other features. Tap on the little tab of dots, over on the right side of the screen.

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When you tap on those little dots, a screen will pop out from the side, offering you several options: Traffic, Public Transit, Satellite and Google Earth.

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Just tap on Traffic for (wait for it…) Traffic :)! Simple but effective, red lines indicating a jam. This has been helpful for me more than once. I remember we almost got off a highway in an unfamiliar location, but by looking at the “traffic” part of the Google Maps, I was able to see that the jam-up stopped just another mile or so ahead, so we stayed on the highway.

Tap on Public Transit for public transportation information. This feature does not work in all areas, but the app will tell you when it doesn’t work, so you don’t waste time trying to look up what can’t be done. But for city commuters, this feature is golden.

Satellite will change your map to the satellite view, and Google Earth will take you out of this app and open Google Earth.

Many people are excited about the return of Google Street View. Here is how you find Street View:

Search and find the location of your choice.


Touch and hold a location on the map.

Now, at the bottom of the page, touch the address bar that appears there, and slide your finger UP.

There is it! Tap on the street view photo, and it will enlarge and you will be able to look around, and walk the streets.

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I tried Street View for a variety of locations, and I was usually successful. There were spots where I’ve seen Street View access before, and yet they didn’t show up for me, today. I don’t know why.

Other details will show up for businesses, such as reviews and links to websites.

A new feature is a voice turn-by-turn navigation. I have not had the opportunity to give this a test drive, but it certainly looks exciting.

To test it out, I typed in the name of our local mall, as if I wanted to go there.

Google Maps put a pin in it.

I tapped on the picture of the car (I want driving directions).

Several alternative routes popped up from the bottom of my screen, and I selected the road I’d like to use.

I was then presented with a map screen, with the word START in the bottom right hand corner. Giving START a tap, the voice directions began!

There are other things to explore in this app, as well, but this should be enough to get you started.

I’ve heard people say that they don’t need maps because they “know where they’re going.” Yes, but this is so much more than just a map, and it is really only through use that you will become familiar with all it has to offer. I suggest, if you are new to Google Maps, give it a try the next time you are a passenger in a car. Open the app, and tap the location arrow, and watch as the little blue dot (you) moves along on the map. Test out the traffic. This will begin to introduce you to all it can do. Don’t be afraid to tap around the app. It’s the best way to learn.