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Minimap Maker


This essay does not describe an existing computer program, just one that should exist. This essay is about a suggested student project in Java programming. This essay gives a rough overview of how it might work. I have no source, object, specifications, file layouts or anything else useful to implementing this project. Everything I have prepared to help you is right here.

This project outline is not like the artificial, tidy little problems you are spoon-fed in school, when all the facts you need are included, nothing extraneous is mentioned, the answer is fully specified, along with hints to nudge you toward a single expected canonical solution. This project is much more like the real world of messy problems where it is up to you to fully the define the end point, or a series of ever more difficult versions of this project and research the information yourself to solve them.

Everything I have to say to help you with this project is written below. I am not prepared to help you implement it; or give you any additional materials. I have too many other projects of my own.

Though I am a programmer by profession, I don’t do people’s homework for them. That just robs them of an education.

You have my full permission to implement this project in any way you please and to keep all the profits from your endeavour.

Please do not email me about this project without reading the disclaimer above.

Consider these crude maps thet people draw by hand or with JASC Paint Shop Pro to show people how to get to their place for a party. You can create them by scanning a road map then going into JASC PaintShop Pro and free hand tracing and drawing my map. Then you can fiddle with the palette map to make the scanned background disappear.

What I want is a tool to create much more professional looking minimaps quickly. Why minimaps? Big maps are cluttered with too much detail. They are typically copyrighted, so you can’t publish them on the Internet. If you print them out, you can’t read them because there is so much fine print. Minimaps have wide uses, in advertising, in tourist bureaus, or just for helping Auntie Anne and Uncle Jack find your new place.

I can think of five approaches to the problem:

  1. Tidier

    : Create a crude hand drawn map in JASC PaintShop Pro, or on paper and scan it. The program smooths and straightens the lines and lets you place text labels.
  2. Bezier Drawing Tool

    : It is a drawing tool that smooths/straightens/aligns lines as you draw freehand on a possibly skewed grid. You control just how much smoothing you want as you draw. It can draw double parallel lines as if they were single lines, fixing up intersections.
  3. GUI (Graphic User Interface) Interactive

    : It has a real map database. You select elements from it to include in your minimap. If you select a street for example the whole street appears on your minimap, but you can erase irrelevant parts of it cleanly snapped to the block. With this approach, as a side effect, it could generate an English language description for a route.
    map for electronic map sources
  4. Text-only Batch

    : It has a real map database. You give a stilted English language description of your route, From that it, generates the minimap.
  5. Text-only Interactive

    : It has a real map database. You answer multiple choice questions about what to do at each intersection, e.g. left, right, ahead 4 blocks, ahead to 19th street. From that, it generates the minimap.
  6. Zoomable Map

    : You publish your map on the web and the readers of it can zoom to get whatever detail they like. Yahoo has such a service for Canada, USA, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.
An advanced version, mostly applicable to the last three approaches, might let you create a warped map so that, for example, a map with a lot of detail at the extreme left and right edges connected by a long road could be collapsed, making that long road a little shorter. You just point at the boring bits and the map sort of collapses around that point in either the x or y directions as if there were a black hole there.

Another idea would be to overlay your ext on a satellite photo to create a tourist map.

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