Thursday, June 4, 2009

Google Latitude: Late


Google Latitude is a service that allows to "see your friends' locations and status messages and share yours with them", according to their home page.

Well, let me see - people move pretty fast in this world. All right, I would be happy if there was about 30 minutes of delay - I understand that the infrastructure is complex, and Latitude is a loss leader, allowing Google to peddle location based services and gather massive statistics on us, mere mortals, in order to do that more efficiently.


But for Pete's sake, 20 hours is unacceptable. That's a good case. A bad case is a friend of mine that is being shown stuck in Nevada on May 10th, with no way out.


The worst part of it is that the worst behavior Latitude exhibits on the most touted mobile platform, the Android (Blackberries seem to be the most stable, WinMo just crash a lot). And even worse is that it seems to be a design feature.

Without being privy to implementation details, this is how it looks like from outside the black box upon a brief glance:
  • There is a entity that runs in background;
  • Whenever the memory gets tight, it gets booted out;
  • Bye-bye goes your Latitude presence;
  • Until the next time you run Maps.
Last time I checked, there was no way to make sure your class doesn't get evicted if there's a memory shortage.

Which means that Latitude users on Android are fundamentally <censored>.

As well as users on many other applications working as background services. Like I've said before, "almost working" seems to be the bane of the platform (which, by the way, makes me think that next Android phones will have significantly more memory than G1).

1.5 release didn't fix this. Let's see if 2.0 does.

For now, if your work depends on it, go with BlackBerry.

UPDATE (2009/06/14): There's been an update that is, among other things, supposed to fix this issue. Let's see how well it works.

UPDATE #2 (2009/06/14): Did I say "almost working" already? It is not clear yet how well the update timeliness is working. but one thing is absolutely certain: user pictures are randomly gone. First impression is that the only picture that stays on both receiving and sending end is the one the user has set for themselves, but if I have a picture assigned to the user, it will not show up. Guess another update is due soon.

UPDATE #3 (2009/09/18): Still nothing. Guess these problems are not on the "priority list", or are resolved in Android 1.6. Which is kind of moot, considering the fact that G1 may be unfit for new Android releases.

(Image credit: Mister Rad)

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