Thursday, June 28, 2018

House price data May 2018

The Land Registry data for May 2018 is now on my website. House prices continue to fail to do anything exciting, continuing their slow ascent upwards.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A reply to Google Maps

I received an email from Google Maps with a subject line of ‘Action needed: Contact Google Maps Platform for volume pricing’, as follows. I thought I’d translate it and reply since it came from a no-reply email address.


We are following up on our most recent announcement. This is a reminder that Google Maps Platform’s new terms and pricing will go into effect July 16.

Translation – we are massively increasing our prices on July 16

The 2 months of credit we extended to you will automatically apply to your billing account on that date.

Translation – this won’t cover the increase in prices

You are eligible for a significantly discounted price on your monthly bill, based on your usage over the last three months.

Translation – the discounted price is not that discounted and will still be more expensive than our competitors

If you have not yet contacted us, we strongly recommend that you contact us to learn more about our volume pricing and how it can benefit you.

Reply – I did contact you. Your support staff seem kind of stressed. They sent me off to one of your partners who was only able to offer me a deal that would mean all of my advertising revenue went to Google Maps

Thank you for using Google Maps Platform.

It was fun while it lasted but I’m busily moving all my maps to another provider with more sane pricing. I would really love to know the rationale behind this move because it makes zero sense to me.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Reducing Google Maps costs

I’m sure I’m not the only person who will be hit hard by the huge increase in the cost of Google Maps. I’ve been using Google Maps for years on my site and it’s been absolutely brilliant. But my monthly costs will increase from a couple of hundred pounds to several thousand pounds, which will wipe out any money generated through advertising. And since I was given very little notice of the increase in price, I’ve had to move quickly to try to keep my site useful but still economical. So here’s some suggestions if you’re in the same boat.

Use embedded maps – these are still free and if you’re showing a simple map with a marker then they might meet your needs. You lose Street View but as a quick temporary fix, this seems the most straightforward option.

Don’t load things immediately – I’ve been in the habit of loading maps and showing information from other Google Maps APIs as soon as the page loads, because it hardly cost anything. I’m now looking very closely at what is key information and what may only be useful to some users. If it’s only going to be useful to some users, I’m adding a button to display that data.

Turn things off – sometimes I’ve added stuff just because it looked like fun without considering whether it would be useful at all. Just removing it is generally easier than the previous option.

Other APIs – At the time of writing, my Google APIs console doesn’t even tell me the usage of some APIs that will soon cost a lot of money to use (Places and autocomplete for example). the only suggestion here is to keep an eye on that console because hopefully usage data will appear some time before we start getting charged

Move to a different map provider – If the prices of other map providers remains the same, then I’m not sure why anyone would choose Google Maps anymore. Their prices are completely out of whack with the rest of the world. But maybe they are just the first company to decide they need to charge more because actually it costs a lot to provide a mapping API. If that is the case, the other map providers will probably breathe a sigh of relief and up their prices to a similar level. And if that is the case, moving to another company could be a time-consuming and ultimately fruitless endeavour. That said, the way Google has handled this price rise has made me lose confidence in them so I’m looking at alternatives. I’ve converted one map to Here Maps fairly easily (I chose them mainly because they support KML) and will convert more as time permits

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Goodbye Google Maps – important notice

A while back I received an email from Google Maps telling me they were introducing new pricing, but the email included the line “Based on your project usage over the last 3 months and our new pricing plan, we estimate that your new cost will be less than $200 a month and will be covered by our $200 monthly free credit” so I was pretty chuffed since I currently spend about £100 a month on Google Maps. I then promptly forgot about it.

But I then received another email saying the changes were being postponed and I thought it was time to look at how much I’d be paying. After running a few numbers, I realised I’ll have to pay several thousand pounds a month to continue to use Google Maps. Since this will wipe out any advertising revenue I make (via Google of course…), it looks like I’ll have to start removing and replacing various parts of the site.

The Google API Console is fairly useless. Although it tells me my API usage, it doesn’t tell me which pages are causing the usage so I don’t have a clear insight into what I need to remove. But two pages that are likely to be affected are the batch geocoding and batch reverse geocoding pages since they certainly generate a lot of requests. Other pages likely to be affected are random addresses, route elevation and driving distance. Other pages may fail to load maps or fail in other ways after July 16th. Apologies in advance

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Land Registry house price data April 2018

I’ve uploaded the latest Land Registry house price data to my website. I’d read stories of annual house price falls but the Land Registry data is showing a 3% annual increase. The Land Registry numbers are a few months behind other house price indices so a fall may be on its way in a few months

Monday, May 28, 2018

One month later and TSB online banking is still a disaster

One month ago TSB tried to migrate their customers to a new online banking platform. Things didn’t go particularly well and although the media have lost interest in the problems, as a TSB customer and IT geek I’m still interested in what’s happening and thought I’d touch on a few of the issues.

The most glaring issue is that my mortgage account still doesn’t appear in my list of accounts. I assume I still have a mortgage since the payments are still being taken from my current account but there has been no sighting of it since the ‘upgrade’.

A few days ago, I tried to login, only to see an error message, <div>Sorry, we are currently experiencing technical issues. Please try again later.</div>. Not being able to login isn’t great but not totally unexpected given the recent troubles. Displaying HTML tags in your error messages is a fairly minor issue but suggests a lack of attention to detail that can lead to more serious issues down the road.

Now lets go under the hood by firing up Dev Tools in Chrome. The first error I saw was complaining about Symantec certificates which Chrome will stop supporting in a future release. Let’s hope someone at TSB renews that fairly soon before things break properly.

But the next set of errors are slightly more concerning, WebSocket connection to 'wss://' failed, something on the web page is trying to connect to a server on my local machine! I can only assume this is some kind of debugging code but should definitely not be getting pushed out to their production system.

Next we have a failure to load a locale file for US English, which is odd since I’m set up for UK English. Again, nothing serious but shows a lack of attention to detail.

Finally, let’s run the page through Lighthouse, the Chrome web page checker. The performance score is a mighty 18 out of 100. This seems mostly due to Javascript and CSS that isn’t bundled together and isn’t being loaded using async or defer, meaning everything has to load before the page can be displayed.

And that’s what I found spending a few minutes on the TSB website, who knows what could be found if I was an evil hacker wanting to steal some money