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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Qingdao Train Station

I'm reading An American Spy by Olen Steinhauer, a follow on to his previous novel The Nearest Exit. The first three pages of the prologue introduce, or re-introduce, 16 characters. Now some people might be able to absorb those names and have them at ready recall right away, but I am not one of them, so I write them down. I move on to Part I and now we're following Xin Zhu on an excursion from his home base in Beijing to a variety of cities and towns in northeast Red China. I don't know any of these places, so I decide to look them up on Google Maps. I start with Qingdao, possibly because I recognize the name, but more likely because I want to see if Google has a street view that will show the McDonald's and the Kentucky Fried Chicken stores that the novel says are near the Qingdao train station.
    I still haven't completely adjusted to the new Google Maps. They replaced the big bar along the left hand edge with a discrete little search box in the upper left corner, but now everytime you search for anything it blows up and shows you a big list of crap that I don't want. For some reason I find it very annoying. It takes up less space than the old sidebar, but it is infringing on the map, which is what I want to see. But that's kind of beside the point.
    I've located the train station on the map view, and now I switch to the satellite view and the entire map jumps two or three inches to the right. It's isn't obvious right off, we're looking at the downtown area of a big city which is full of roads and buildings, but go back and forth a couple of times and it becomes obvious.
    This strikes me as kind of a big screw up, so I post a note on the help forum and today I got a response from treebles:
This is a known issue that has been going on for years, Google never gave an explanation why they do not fix it.
You should use Ditu, the Chinese version that does not have this misalignment, or check one of the competitors, Bing Maps, Mapquest, to see if they have better satellite image alignments.
A Chinese version of Google Maps? Cool! But no. Following the link just takes me to the regular Google Maps. Now I'm wondering if Google has deliberately misaligned their China maps to suit their Chinese Overlords.

P.S. What is with the spelling of Chinese names? I would pronounce 'Xin Zhu' 'Zin Zoo' if I needed to say it. Maybe that doesn't look 'Chinese' enough. Likewise I would pronounce 'Qingdao' 'Kingdow', where dow is pronounced like it is in Dow Jones Industrial Average, not 'doe' like it is in 'window'.

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