Taiwan WWII Map Overlays

A while ago I came across the Formosa (Taiwan) City Plans, U.S. Army Map Service, 1944-1945 collection, in the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection of the University of Texas in Austin. I’m a sucker for maps, enjoy learning about history a lot, and I have a lot of interest in my current home, Taiwan – so you can call this a magic mix of cool stuff.

There are 26 maps in the collection, made by the US Army by flying over different parts of the island, and mostly I guess stitching together aerial photographs. The maps themselves were not that easy check in an image viewer, since there’s no context, zoom is clumsy, and have no idea where about half the places should be located. Instead, I thought it would be great to have them as an overlay on top of current maps and satellite imagery on Google Maps.

The result is Taiwan City Maps overlays, which does exactly that. Feel free to click the link and explore right now! In the rest of this post, I try to first show how that page was made, and also some history lessons I gained by making it.

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My IT travel pack

I’ve just recently travelled from Taiwan to Japan on a short trip to check out the cherry blossoms of Kyoto. While it was fun, I did realize that there are a lot of technological details I’m keeping track of, that take up significant mental bandwidth. Technology is helpful even if it takes effort to keep it running. This is a writeup of a non-exhaustive, arbitrarily ordered list of tech I used on the trip, and the way I used them.

Internet connectivity

One of the first concern is how do I get online on the go? There seem to be a bunch of companies providing mobile hotspot rental. The one I wanted to use originally is in Taiwan, and tried to arrange it too late (needs ~5 days in advance). Instead I found another company online called Japan Wireless. They can send a wireless hotspot or pre-paid 3G card to a hotel, or to an airport to be picked up. Since the hotspot I wanted to get was out of stock for the first half of the trip, I went with a 3G card and wanted to use an old Android phone to act like the hotspot.

3G SIM card pack
3G SIM card pack

Picking up the card at Kansai Airport was very straightforward. My Android phone worked much less. Might be getting “too old”, sometimes it couldn’t start the wireless sharing at all, though when it worked it was good for a while. It is also worth enabling “network traffic monitoring” and appropriate warning levels. The pre-paid card had 1G traffic included. Definitely does not recommend running a Play Store update while connected, apps can easily take up 30-50Mb, and 50% of your traffic allowance is gone before you can say “Ice Cream Sandwich”…

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