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Beginning Google Maps Applications with Rails and Ajax: From Novice to Professional

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book for free through LRUG on the condition that I would write a review.

A book that advertises itself as a beginner's book and also promises to bring the user from novice to professional claims a lot. Beginning Google Maps, remarkably, delivers.

Beginning Google Maps starts by leading the reader through the simple task of drawing a map and plotting some points on it. Soon after, the book delves into geocoding — the process of turning a street address into latitude/longitude co-ordinates — and plotting those points on a map. The book discusses not only the Google and Yahoo! geocoders, but looks into advanced geocoding topics as well, including building your own. As points on the map increase, scalability issues arise, and Beginning Google Maps dedicates a substantial chapter to the topic. The breadth of solutions to the scalability problem seem to leave no stone unturned. Any developer with a large dataset of points should find a useful solution in the pages of this chapter. Toward the end of the book, the content becomes highly mathematical. The authors even address how to work with a variety of different map projections. In the appendix, the authors go so far as to propose solutions for mapping on the moon! Even more advanced techniques such as map overlays, and incorporating alternative satellite imagery are discussed thoroughly, yet in an engaging manner.

While an excellent book on the whole, it could have been improved by taking a more framework- and language-agnostic approach, rather than focusing on Rails, which would expand the book's appeal to a wider community of developers. Alternatively, the book's Rails focus could have been improved dramatically by including a chapter on testing. Still, the strengths of the book far outweigh these minor points. Throughout the book, the authors never speak down to, nor expect too much of the reader. The well-written prose make the book a pleasure to read and the examples are interesting and relevant to the kinds of problems a developer would face. Beginning Google Maps makes an excellent addition to any web developer's bookshelf.

Tagged google maps rails ajax mapping geocoding.
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