First, the Bad News
On May 19, 2013, Google Maps API Version 2 Will Cease to Operate (Note the big pink box at the top of the page).
What does this mean for you, as an implementor of the BMLT? Well, two things:
- The standard default BMLT satellite client (the one with the “BASIC” and “ADVANCED” search tabs on the top) will cease to display maps. The address lookup may also fail. What will be displayed instead of a map? Probably some notice, saying something to the effect of “We told you so.”. Hopefully, they won’t do something like this.
- The Root Server (the place you log in to administer the BMLT) will suffer a similar fate. The map search (which isn’t actually used much by administrators anyway) will no longer work, and the little window that you use to set the map location for each meeting will cease to work.
This is because these screens use Google Maps API Version 2. This version of their maps has been deprecated for over 2 years, and we knew this day was coming. At the time the BMLT was developed, API Version 2 was the current version, and I don’t like to change things too much, if at all possible, in infrastructure components like the BMLT, as that can have serious consequences in quality and general learned skills.
Next, the Good News
As I noted above, I have known that this day was coming. The last few times that I have implemented any Google Maps, they have been API Version 3 maps, which are current, well-supported and have a future.
The sticking point has been the default “” shortcode, which results in a screen that looks something like this:
If your display of the BMLT looks like that, then it is the one that will stop working.
However, there will soon be a new version of the satellite client that will completely replace this “classic” display with a very powerful and (I hope) far more usable display, based, of course on Google Maps API Version 3. It has been released, and you can see it in action here. If you upgrade your plugin (assuming that you are using a CMS Satellite plugin), it will display the new search.
You need to make sure that the root server that you use is AT LEAST version 1.10.3. This is a completely low-risk upgrade, but is necessary to make the new default “” shortcode work.
If you are the one that maintains the root server, then I recommend that you upgrade. If you are relying on someone else to provide the root server (often a Regional Webservant), then you should nag them to upgrade. It’s extremely easy to do, and is low risk.
You can test the root server version by hitting the “Test” button in the CMS plugin administration console. It will report the version. If it returns a red “X”, then you REALLY need to get your Regional Webservant to upgrade. You can also check the version by going to the actual root server screen (has a big grey background around the map), and looking down at the lower right corner. This image is of the current GNYR root server, which has been running 1.10.3 for a couple of weeks (We eat our own dog food).
THIS WILL NOT FIX THE ROOT SERVER FOR THE GOOGLE MAPS PROBLEM! The Regional Webservant will need to upgrade again, when the new root server version is available. What this upgrade will do, is allow you to upgrade your own satellite client to the new version (which will probably be released this weekend -January 26/27, 2013).
Once you have upgraded your client, you will be ready for GoogleGeddon. The root server will not.
Immediately after releasing this new client, I will start working on the root server.
The really great news is, that I will be doing a lot more than just tweaking the maps. I’ve had a couple of years to see how the system is being used (I also use it myself -I am the Greater New York Regional Webservant and Regional Meeting List Administrator), so I have seen where a lot of the “rough edges” are. I plan to greatly improve the usability and user experience of the root server administration system, while I have it up on cinder blocks.
Normally, I don’t like to do much work on the root server, as it is the most critical infrastructure component of the entire system, and it’s always a bad idea to keep changing the tires on the car while you are driving it. Making changes to it invariably results in bugs, which take a couple of quick post-releases to address.
Of course, that means that there WILL BE BUGS upon the first release of the new Version 2.0 root server. I will do my utmost to test it, and I will address bugs as soon as I encounter them (or you report them).
Also, even worse THINGS WILL BE DIFFERENT. As addicts, we never react well to change: good or bad. We tend to be…complacent. There’s a saying: “If an addict finds themselves in a rut; they furnish it.”
I will do my utmost to provide as much guidance, documentation and training videos as possible to help everyone with the transition.
But What About The Standalone Client?
Well, here, I have some REALLY good news. This weekend’s release of the new CMS plugins will include a new “Basic BMLT Satellite” that will implement the same powerful capabilities as exhibited by the CMS plugins, but in a standalone package that will be EVEN EASIER TO USE THAN THE CURRENT ONE. Here’s what I mean:
In the current (old) standalone client, the simplest page possible would look like this:
<?php include ( dirname ( __FILE__ ).'/BMLT_Satellite.class.php' ); $bmlt_instance = BMLT_Satellite::MakeBMLT(); echo ( $bmlt_instance->Execute ( 'doctype' ) ); ?> <head><?php echo ( $bmlt_instance->Execute ( 'head' ) ); ?></head> <body><?php echo ( $bmlt_instance->Execute ( ) ); ?></body> </html>
In the new version, it will look like this:
<?php require_once ( dirname ( __FILE__ ).'/bmlt-basic/bmlt_basic.class.php' ); ?> <head><?php $basic_bmlt_object->output_head(); ?></head> <body><?php $basic_bmlt_object->output_body(); ?></body>
What could be easier? Also, you will now have full access to the full range of shortcodes used by the CMS plugins. Any shortcode can be passed into the “output_head()” function (Leaving it empty gives you the default interactive, which was what you got with the old one). It is possible to get quite fancy, if you fancy.
Oh, yeah…one nice thing about the Google Maps API V. 3 maps: No more API keys. Kiss them goodbye.
In summary, I’d really like to thank you folks for your enthusiasm and trust in me and in the BMLT. I take my stewardship of this project extremely seriously, and this post should reflect that. I apologize in advance for any agita caused by this, but I think that everyone will actually be very happy, once the dust has settled.
MAGNAWS Head Beanie