Maps APIs over SSL now available to all

As public WiFi becomes increasingly ubiquitous, we spend more and more of our time on shared networks. This can expose our personal data to third parties if the sites we access are not secure. Many sites use Google services to store and manage Google data. In response to this, Google is today announcing improved support for SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) across many APIs, and recommending that any application that manages user data switch to using SSL.

We want to ensure that applications using the Google Maps API are free to follow this recommendation. As such we are happy to offer free access to the Maps API v3, Static Maps API, and Maps API Web Services over HTTPS to all developers from today. To load the Maps API v3 over HTTPS, the API must be loaded from the hostname maps-api-ssl.google.com. For the Static Maps API and Web Services, please use maps.googleapis.com.

In addition to offering access over HTTPS, all of the Maps APIs (with the continuing exception of the Places API) will continue to be accessible over HTTP, and we recommend that sites that are using the API purely to display public data, such as store locations, continue to use HTTP for optimal performance.

Please also note that although SSL access is now available to all developers, the terms of the Maps API have not changed. If your site uses SSL because you charge for access to your application, or because your application is not publicly accessible to all users, you must still purchase a Maps API Premier license. For more information on Maps API Premier, please contact the Maps API Premier Sales team.

We hope this change assists in making your users feel safe and secure using your applications. If you have any questions or concerns about this change, please post to the Maps API v3, Static Maps API, or Web Services forum as appropriate for the service you are using.

Augmented Reality for SketchUp

The first time I saw Augmented Reality in action, I wondered if I’d accidentally fallen through a wormhole on the way to work; it’s the kind of thing you’d expect to see on Boba Fett’s BlackBerry. AR is downright futuristic.

In the 3D modeling sense, AR involves combining a live video stream with a 3D model to create the illusion that the model is a physical object in the real world. All you need is a webcam (the ones that are built in to many laptops work just fine), a 3D model (SketchUp takes care of that), a printed-out paper “target” and a piece of AR software that can put everything together. This video shows AR in action:

And here’s an illustration that shows the setup:

A simple Augmented Reality setup for SketchUp, using an external monitor to show the video output.

Thanks to an Italian outfit called Inglobe Technologies, SketchUp users have been able to ride the AR wave for a while now. They’ve just released version 2 of their AR-media Plugin for Google SketchUp. Three great things about this shiny, happy piece of tech:

  • It’s available for both Windows and Mac OSX.
  • It’s available in three flavors: Free (Personal Learning Edition), Professional Lite and Professional.
  • I was able to use it, which means that it can’t be that hard to figure out.

Start out by grabbing the Quick Start Guide; you’ll find the relevant links about halfway down the plugin’s webpage. Follow Steps 2 and 3 to download and install the software; the free Personal Learning Edition will let you see how everything works without spending any money. After that, achieve instant gratification (my favorite kind) by skipping ahead to Step 6 in the Quick Start Guide: “Creating your first Augmented Reality Scene”.

Where has Google shipped their Chrome notebooks?

Earlier this month, Google started giving away thousands of their “CR-48″ test notebooks loaded with an early version of Chrome OS, their lightweight operating system that will officially debut next summer.

The netbook can’t yet handle the Google Earth plugin, so we’ll have to look at that in the future if/when it becomes available. However, when free laptops are being sent out it tends to gain a lot of attention, and thousands of people have been keeping a close eye on this unofficial CR-48 tracker created by “A. Gamer” to see when some might be coming to their zip code. I’ve personally been referencing the tracker quite a bit to check on potential shipments for friends and family.

A Google Earth user named Jesse Belcher then worked with the folks behind the CR-48 tracker to visualize all of the laptop shipments in Google Earth and the result is pretty cool:

chrome-counts.jpg

You can view that data on his website using the Google Earth Plug-in, or download one of his KMZ files to view it in Google Earth.

The notebook has a few major shortcomings (the lack of the Google Earth Plugin being one of them), but it’s really a fairly impressive device. I wrote up some early thoughts about it on my personal blog a few weeks ago if you want to see more about what I think of it.

They’re still accepting applications and giving away more of the laptops, so sign up here to apply for one if you haven’t already.

For those of you that were lucky enough to receive one already, what do you think of it? Do you think Chrome OS will be a viable alternative in the future?