Category Archives: bits

If ever there was a time

There has been a significant and welcome downward trend in the price of some handheld GPS units in the last couple of months.
For instance, you can now pick up a Garmin eTrex Legend HCx, which has the newer high sensitivity receiver chip and can display OpenStreetMap mapping (using mkgmap), for £139 in the UK, €185 in Germany and $197 in the US (prices compared at Amazon). What’s more you can include a 2GB micro SD card for a little over an extra £1 in the UK.
Garmin eTrex Legend HCx
These prices might still be twice those of a basic non-map logging setup and you may still be able to get cheaper prices outside your country, or by bidding for instance for non European models on ebay, but it’s still a big change in the market since Christmas.

If you were ever thinking of dipping your toe in the OSM mapping game then it’s probably never been a better time to do so.

Any volunteers?

As the OpenSteetMap project rolls on and continues to grow exponentially (32,500+ registered users now!) the number of administrative tasks that crop up for the Foundation to do each month grows and it becomes more and more difficult for the management team to get around to dealing with everything and to advance the project into new areas.

We would like to invite anyone who wishes to get involved on the administrative side of the project to get in contact. Even if you can only devote a small amount of time it can be put to good use. What is most important is that you can offer the time on a regularly basis. If it is just a couple of hours next week and nothing after that it’s difficult to get a task rolling and see it through.

Some of the areas that the Foundation is working on or are organising currently include:

    The State of the Map Conference
    The proposed change in OSM Licence
    Finances and fundraising for the project
    Managing the OSMF membership
    Local and targeted initiatives
    Dealing with offers of support and queries
    Supporting and promoting the community

There are however many other areas we wish to do more in, especially on things like OSM Merchandising and greater outreach around the world to name just two.

If you are interested or curious about getting involved on the administrative side of the project, then please get in touch with the secretary, Andy Robinson (blackadder) or one of the other board members. You will find us a warm and friendly group and you would be most welcome.

Google Nukes Wikipedia from Orbit

See coverage of knol here and here. It’s incredible they can’t even bring themselves to mention wikipedia in their own announcement. To be fair wikipedia has stagnated in that the mediawiki software hasn’t changed much in years, and the anti-advertising stance is pretty short sighted and just leads to big ‘save wikipedia, donate!’ banners every 3 weeks. But. Still. Why kill the puppy?

This is the real jumping the shark moment for that do no evil commandment. I wonder what freebase will do.

Update: Ok so it’s more competition, but Google engages with Firefox to the point of basically running it. So, why not contribute to either the wikimedia foundation or add features to mediawiki? And ok if they tried that and it didn’t work out… but there’s been no meniton of that.

OSM’s Steve Chilton in a Very Special Podcast

For those of you who don’t follow the excellent Very Spatial blog, they recently featured OSM’s very own Steve Chilton in a podcast (mp3). Steve talks about OSM and about the upcoming State of the Map conference. Well worth a listen.

If you haven’t got you tickets for the State of the Map yet, you can sign up here. Tickets are limited and are dissapearing fast, so sign up now to avoid disappointment.

Week 16 on OSM – From Essen to Blue Seas and Bicycles

Its been a little while… Holidays and all that, but at least a tiny bit of Portugal is now mapped, and I’ve found out conclusively that my kids don’t find it amusing anymore to drive twice round a roundabout!

The Essen developers Workshop has been and gone (it has been a while!). A great weekend by the sound of it – pick up the results here – and if you wondered what happened to the code in subversion, a big restructuring (for the better!) happened. The code’s still there, but more logically laid out. It will be interesting to see what will come out of the UK workshop in Oxford next weekend.

Its been a good week for the osmarender layer on coastlines, again brought up at the Essen workshop. The threads Blue sea tiles, speckled oceans, & too much blue give an indication. So, thanks to Frederick’s work on a pre-processor to handle colouring of coastline tiles the coast is looking rather spiffing. Its great that (I guess) everyone who lives near the coast or had an interest in a bit of coastline made sure the coastline ways were fixed for their area (I know I did!). In fact its been such a good week for osmarender that there was a suggestion to create a separate osmarender-dev mailing list for it!

With a nod to Shakespeare, the thread titled: Users, contributors and developers, (… I come to bury columns; not to praise them) is worth a read in that it covers some of the ethos of OSM and how the simple approach to mapping is working very well. It then goes on to discuss the idea of a ‘third column’ to give namespaces to attributes that was brought up at the Essen workshop.

Watch out for The Rails Port of the server/API coming to a machine near you real soon! Announced by Nick Black on dev. This is going to have a big impact on OSM pretty quickly as its going to make it much easier for the devvers to tinker quickly in a safe environment.

Everyone loves animations!?! Dave has been making snapshots of progress on London over the last 6 months. You’ll have to follow the link to go to the animation.

Placenames disappearing! Its been discussed for a while, but David Earl noticed as you zoom in the slippy map that different names appear and disappear. Its a general problem with what to render at different levels, but it is an interesting discussion on what should be rendered at what level, and what should be considered important for rendering.

Languages for streetnames… The thread on Bilingual street names is a useful discussion on how to tag streets where there are two languages spoken, particularly where in some regions one of the languages is rarely used (we are talking parts of Wales here). Surprised there were no comments about Canada….

If you are one of the out-on-the road mapping types its frustrating to have to stop/start to make notes of a road, the streetname or whatever, so if you have a PDA running windows mobile, you might want to look at the thread on Audio mapping with a PDA and the wiki page that came out of it here.

Maplint I guess is the first really specialised map, but dare I say it, rather geeky! But – hey – that’s what its all about – very specific maps for specific purposes. Now with better cycle-specific tagging being discussed at Cycle route planning using OSM we will soon be getting really personal maps for cyclists. This is what OSM is all about, really personal maps.

And finally, if you want to spread the word on OSM look no further than Andrew’s question on presentation materials – its all there, including a lovely map by Steve Chilton. So there are no excuses now – go forth and promote!

by Barry Crabtree.

The Pragmatic Mapper (part deaux)

My pragmatic mapper post brought some interesting responses so I thought I’d outline it a bit more.

First, the title is a riff on The Pragmatic Programmer, a neat book.

It’s also an explicit riff on Linus Torvalds explicit pragmatism and differences of opinion with the more political FSF. The FSF is freedom for freedoms sake, Linus is freedom because it’s just better. I like the latter.

On the points of does the OS matter, generally, for some value of matter. Of course they do. They’re much like Microsoft. They’re a monopoly, they have lots of money and giggly lawyers and everyone hates them. They also have maps of the whole country. But do they matter to me, personally, or many OSMers? No. The political side and bringing down The Man doesn’t really motivate me. We make OSM because it’s better and cooler.

I do find it interesting that the responders think that a national mapping monopoly is somehow a good thing. I fail to see how this is different from a national monopoly on tea bags or cars. It seems that the argument is that the OS is relevant because it has lots of data and we could use this (pulls rabbit out of hat) in a flood emergency. Bit of a poor use of a lot of money just for that. Anyway, to respond to points in turn;

…I want someone to organise data cross the entire country. I want to operate a business dependent upon that consistency.

Thats fine, but you don’t need a NMA to do that. You could have regional agencies with individual contracts where an overseer body puts it together. You could, god forbid, use OSM when we’re there. On an economic note, even if you want all that, and you want an NMA that’s fine, just please don’t force me and the 65 million other citizens to pay for it as we might not want it.

…I want to know that environmental policies in the north and south are based on similar data, its analysis and methodology and applied fairly.

Cool, but still don’t need an NMA for it. We have policies in the north and south are based on similar data, its analysis and methodology and applied fairly in schools, hospitals, roads, universities, water, gas, electricity…. most of these just need an overseer not an NMA.

…In the case of an emergency, I want to know someone can put together a river network and all its tributaries and work on solving a hydrological problem effectively, if there is a need.

Still don’t need an NMA for that. Being a bit hardcore, the emotive issues of ‘think of the children!’ or ‘what if we get flooded’… well the insurance market is very clear about that. Don’t live in a flood plain. If you want amazing disaster recovery maps of your area, then pay for it but please don’t force us all to. We might want to, of course, just don’t force us. And Katrina is not a good example, the federal government distorts the market by forcing flood insurance through FEMA. It’s the same argument as keeping rural post offices. If people in the countryside want them, then pay for them. There’s no god-given right to maps and post offices.

…I want someone to survey and record the entire country in case I want to visit other parts, know what is there and understand where I can go.

What do you do when you go to the united states then? The country isn’t falling apart because they have different mapping providers in different parts of the country. I can find my way around Orlando and San Francisco just fine, despite them being thousands of miles apart and one with a map from Hertz and the other from the county sheriff.

…I want an agency who supports governmental operations in a neutral manner with spatial information.

So do I. It need not be a country-wide monopoly. And the OS are far from neutral. By definition they stifle competition and progress, without even waving around OFT reports.

…I want someone responsible for ensuring the education system produces infrastruture and knowledge to people so the geography of the land is know, recorded and stimulated.

University Geography departments would not be impotent without the OS. 11 year olds can still learn about geography without a free map.

I wonder if Openstreetmap honestly feel that they are ready to provide disaster response mapping, or have the resources in place to ensure that their coverage of the entire country is current to within one year or less.

Not yet, but we or someone like us will. And anyway, you don’t need an NMA for disaster response mapping.

It’s perfectly fair for OpenGeoData to think that Openstreetmap suits his mapping needs, but to call it superior, and to say that the Ordnance Survey is irrelevant is a little short-sighted.

Navteq are letting you submit errors and so are teleatlas with map insight. Our way of making maps is most definitely superior and it’s the future.

If you can, listen to this podcast which excellently summarises The Wealth of Networks.

To come back to the original post for a second, really the pragmatic point was to say should we spend our time campaigning against the OS, or just building our own systems and maps? Campaigning for open data from the OS, or change to government policy is just sticky tar. Would we have got anywhere in the past two and a half years by just campaigning? It’s very doubtful. We’d have publicity no doubt and a few more high-placed friends and enemies… but this way we have that and a mapping system, and a community of 5,700 people, and maps of Baghdad, and vast sections of the UK mapped.

I have some idea of what I’m talking about here, as I’ve been involved to varying degree with fipr, no2id and stuff.

But one thing I think would be cool to do is make a map of map charges. The idea is that the OS basically don’t respond to awkward questions through the Freedom of Information Act as they’re commercially sensitive… but if we all write to our councils and ask them then they have to give us at least some idea. My council just sent me a letter with the new council tax bill breaking it down by police, schools and so on.. but not maps. So, we can figure out who’s paying the OS too much or little. It’ll be interesting. What you need to do is find your council website and information freedom officer and write them a letter asking for this stuff. There’s a wiki page with a sample letter to help you get started.

As far as I know this data doesn’t exist anywhere.