Saturday, July 21, 2018

The economics of the new Google Maps API pricing

The insane new pricing for the Google Maps API with a $200 per month credit leads to an odd situation. For anyone using less than $200 a month, Google Maps is probably the best option (although other map providers also generally have some kind of free tier). For anyone going over that limit, you’d have to be insane to use Google Maps since it now costs so much more than other map providers.

So if you’re in a similar situation to me and you have a bunch of pages using Google Maps, the sensible option is to convert them until you get to stage where your Google costs are approximately $6.67 per day. The Billings Report in the Google APIs console gives a fairly up to date picture of what’s going on (turn off the ‘Include credit in costs’ option). My current costs are about $20 per day so some work still to be done.

I’d much prefer to be improving the site, but since Google have decided to be dicks, I have to rewrite stuff until I’m no longer paying them a penny…

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.

Hi,

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://127.0.0.1:3389/' 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

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Converting KML file to shapefiles

For a long time I’ve been searching for some code that I can use on my website to convert the various KML postcode files that are available. Since many of these files are generated on the fly, I didn’t want to use a one off convertor. But I’ve always failed to find anything that will do the job. Since I don’t know the internals of shapefiles, it’s not something I wanted to write myself.

So I’ve kind of given up, but if you need to convert any of the KML files yourself, then this tool may be useful. From my admittedly not very thorough testing, it seems to do a good job of the conversion

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Land Registry house price data March 2018

I’ve uploaded the latest property data for England and Wales from the Land Registry to my website. Annual house price inflation has been slowly creeping up and now stands at 3%. Sales data is harder to get a handle on since it can take months for all the sales data to come through but it looks like sale may be dropping off a little.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Land Registry property sales data for February 2018

My server is still crunching through some of the numbers but most of the England and Wales house price data for February 2018 is up on my site. There’s very little to report, annual inflation remains at just short of 3%, number of transactions remains at a steady level

Thursday, March 08, 2018

My response to every anti-cycling article ever

If it’s not some Daily Mail article complaining about cyclists not using a cycle lane, it’s someone starting up a petition demanding cyclists should pay Road Tax (sorry no links but I don’t want to give them any encouragement). But one thing remains the same, the arguments put forward in the comments sections of these articles are always the same tired ill-thought out complaints. So rather than repeat myself on every article, here are my responses to the most common issues

Cyclists should pay road tax

The most common response to this is that road tax doesn’t exist, which is accurate, if a little pedantic. But we all presumably understand that Vehicle Excise Duty is charged based on the pollution caused by the vehicle, and I presume we can all agree the pollution generated by a bicycle is pretty much zero and hence the VED payable by the cyclist would be £0? OK, make us pay VED, I have no problem with that.

Beyond that, like most cyclists I own a car, for which I’m paying VED. I also pay Council Tax, Income Tax and VAT. I’ve just paid a big chunk of change in Stamp Duty to buy a house. Like most cyclists, I’m already contributing whilst helping to reduce congestion by using a bike instead of my car for every journey.

All cyclists jump red lights

Yes, some cyclists jump red lights, just like some drivers jump red lights. Just like some pedestrians do stupid things like crossing the road without looking. Cyclists are not an homogenous group. I suspect the problem here is that drivers feel that cyclists get away with jumping red lights. Here’s the thing, if a cyclist jumps a red light and causes an accident, the chances are he’ll come off worse or if he hits a pedestrian is unlikely to cause life changing injury. If someone in 2 tonnes of steel causes an accident, the chances of injury or death are much higher. So, with limited resources, the police are going to concentrate on the potentially more dangerous group of road users.

Cyclists should use the cycle lane when one is available

First up, there is no legal requirement for a cyclist to use a cycle lane if one is available. You can argue about whether that should be the case, but it is. But more importantly, a lot of cycle lanes are not fit for purpose. Take this example of road rage on Priory Lane in South West London. The driver gets insanely upset that the cyclist isn’t using the cycle lane (how stressful is driving BTW, get a bike, you’ll have much more fun…) but the cycle lane has a couple of problems. You have to give way at every junction along the road, of which there are quite a few. And when travelling South, it’s on the wrong side of the road. So if you are a confident cyclist, chances are you’ll use the road.

Or how about this 5 metre bit of cycle lane. Am I really expected to use that?

But these cycle lanes probably do work for some less confident cyclists and that is perhaps what drivers need to understand. Cycle lanes are not built for every cyclist, some are there to encourage more people to cycle, because that would be a good thing, right?

Cyclists should be required to have insurance

I’m almost in agreement with this. I’d have no problem getting insurance. But then what about the kid who has just got a shiny new bike for Christmas, they aren’t allowed to use it because their dad forgot to get insurance? Again, I am assuming encouraging cycling is the aim here

Cyclists should have number plates

Yeh, why not, if that floats your boat…

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Converting Strava segments to FIT files

Strava Premium users who own a Garmin can sync their favourite Strava segments with their Garmin device automatically. But that’s not an option available to free users. Apparently this site used to be able to generate the FIT files used by Garmins but Strava made some fairly radical changes to their API that broke that site (and many others).

So I’ve added a FIT file export to my Segment Explorer. Due to rather inclement weather I’ve not been able to test this out on the road yet, but downloading the FIT file and shoving it in my Garmin\NewFiles folder displays it in my Segments list so it seems to work. If you authorize my app then your PR time will also be included in the file.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Land Registry data for January 2018

I’ve uploaded the latest property data for England and Wales to my website. Like a broken record, I can report that house prices continue their gradual rise ever upwards. Sales volumes are holding steady.