Bringing up a new database server for the Gateway Scenery Map

In the past, nearly since the Gateway Scenery Map was first created, we've used a combination of two distinct databases to run the site. One has been used only for searching and the other one has been provided by "Google Fusion Tables" and has been doing the actual rendering of various markers "on the server" and overlaying those images on the map.

The simple reason why it needed to be done this way was ... bandwidth. Returning all the results to the browser and placing the various markers on the map dynamically would take "ages". Literally every redraw of the map would take tens of seconds even if You, the end user, had the fastest imaginable connection (because - frankly - we don't:).

Because of this, from early on, it was decided that it'd be a great idea to offload the map overlay rendering to Google's own servers ... after all, the map's base imagery comes from Google Maps, so - why not? And - for years it worked absolutely great. Insanely well in fact! But... unfortunately, things rarely stay put.

Fusion Tables -layer API ... is being phased out

The Google-provided API for doing "exactly what we've been doing" was deprecated on December 3rd, 2018. It will continue to work until December 3rd 2019 ... but ... unfortunately Google has no (published) plans to offer a direct "drop-in" -replacement for the task we need it for. Sure - there are options for handling of all of the data; things like BigQuery or Cloud SQL or, for the small amount of data this actually needs, Sheets ... but none of these options really offer the same interoperability with the Google Maps as a layer of accessible and renderable data.

Because of this, we have built our own overlay-renderer ... just to draw the insane amount of various markers on the map in a somewhat timely fashion. Ultimately, the real-time rendering unfortunately is not as expedient as it used to be, but - the sheer amount of data we're rendering has exploded. Now at least we do have a system we know will not be yanked away from us on a whim of a huge corporation. Also - this allows us to have a bit more fine-grained control over how the markers are drawn on the map - not to mention that if something gets rendered incorrectly ... we immediately know who to blame :)

This change should not cause any issues for the site users, but ... we just wanted to inform the users about the change :)



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