Posts Tagged ‘openstreetmap’

I Am Not At State Of The Map 2013 But There Is A Viral Map

Today is the 7th. of Maptember 2013 and that means I should be in Birmingham for the OpenStreetMap State Of The Map conference. But I’m not; I’m still at home in the suburbs of South West London. But I will still be appearing at SOTM. Virtually.

Due to the age old cliche of circumstances beyond my control, I can’t be in Birmingham this weekend, despite submitting How To Make A Map Go Viral (In 8 Easy Steps) as a talk for the SOTM conference. But thanks to the wonders of modern digital technology, in other words, a screencast, my talk is still on the conference schedule, even if I’m not.

The talk is an update to one of the same title that I gave at London’s GeoMob back in April of this year and was submitted to the SOTM committee with this abstract …

In February of 2013 I mashed up a geocoded list of global place names and made a map of them using nothing more than Stamen’s OSM based Toner tile-set and the Leaflet maps API. I then promptly forgot about it. But Twitter had other ideas and the Vaguely Rude Place Names map went viral resulting in a month’s worth of media madness. This is the story of how the map came to be and what happened when traditional media met social media … on a map. It’s also the story of how the combination of rude names, innuendo and maps briefly appealed to people the world over.

When I learned that I wouldn’t be able to go to Birmingham, the conference organisers kindly suggested that maybe I might want to pre-record my talk instead. Which is just what I’ve done. You’ll see it embedded below.

State Of The Map 2013 – How A Map Can Go Viral (In 8 Simple Steps) from Gary Gale on Vimeo.

Apart from a few cosmetic changes and updates, it’s the same talk as I gave in April and if you’re interested in my notes and slides, you’ll find them in my write up from April.

If you were lucky enough to have been at SOTM this year, I hope you enjoyed the conference and I hope you enjoyed my talk and that my disembodied voice wasn’t too off putting. This is the first screencast I’ve put together, so be gentle. See you all at SOTM next year. Hopefully.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Making PostgreSQL, PostGIS And A Mac Play Nicely Together

Most things in life are a journey and the destination of this particular journey was to try and create a custom map style that represented the unique features and challenges of Tandale.

Which meant I needed to download and install TileMill, an interactive map design tool.

Which meant I needed to learn Carto, the CSS-like language for map styling.

Which meant I looked for a template project so I didn’t have to start from scratch.

Which meant I found OSM Bright.

Which meant I needed to start small and find a map extract of Tanzania to work with.

Which meant I needed to install and configure PostgreSQL and PostGIS on my Mac.

Which brings me to the starting point of the journey and the reason for this post in the first place.

When I normally need to install UNIX-y command line and server tools I turn to Homebrew, the tool set that “installs the stuff you need that Apple didn’t”. Homebrew supports installing both PostgreSQL and PostGIS but a bit of background research showed that installing these on Lion and on Mountain Lion could be problematic. A bit of further research soon turned up Postgres.app, which claims to be “the easiest way to run PostgreSQL on the Mac”. Postgres.app is a single shot installer which wraps PostgreSQL and PostGIS into an easy to install and run self contained environment.

Postgres.app

I’m a big fan of this approach to a software development environment. All of the stuff I’ve put up on GitHub and on WordPress.org has been written using MAMP, the single shot installer which wraps up Apache, MySQL and PHP on the Mac so Postgres.app gave instant appeal to me. So, download, install, start.

Next I found an OSM map extract of Tanzania courtesy of GeoFabrik, which I also downloaded. Now to load the map into PostgreSQL. I made sure my shell’s PATH pointed to the command line tools provided by Postgres.app by prepending /Applications/Postgres.app/Contents/MacOS/bin to the PATH defined in my .bash_profile, ran psql and created a database called tanzania. So far so good.

$ psql
psql (9.2.2)
Type "help" for help.

gary=# CREATE DATABASE tanzania;
CREATE DATABASE
gary=# \q

To load the map into the database I had a choice of two command line tools; Imposm or osm2pgsql. The latter of the two seemed to work out of the box according to the documentation so I used Homebrew to install this tool.

$ brew install osm2pgsql

Now to load the map …

$ osm2pgsql -c -G -U gary -d tanzania ~/Projects/maps/data/tanzania.osm.pbf 
osm2pgsql SVN version 0.81.0 (64bit id space)

Using projection SRS 900913 (Spherical Mercator)
Setting up table: planet_osm_point
NOTICE:  table "planet_osm_point" does not exist, skipping
NOTICE:  table "planet_osm_point_tmp" does not exist, skipping
SELECT AddGeometryColumn('planet_osm_point', 'way', 900913, 'POINT', 2 );
 failed: ERROR:  function addgeometrycolumn(unknown, unknown, integer, unknown, integer) does not exist
LINE 1: SELECT AddGeometryColumn('planet_osm_point', 'way', 900913, ...
               ^
HINT:  No function matches the given name and argument types. You might need to add explicit type casts.

Error occurred, cleaning up

The lack of the AddGeometryColumn function was the clue here. Whilst Postgres.app may come with PostGIS, my custom database was lacking all the PostGIS functionality. So I deleted my initial database and tried to recreate it with the template_postgis template, which also failed.

$ psql
psql (9.2.2)
Type "help" for help.

gary=# DROP DATABASE tanzania;
DROP DATABASE
gary=# CREATE DATABASE tanzania TEMPLATE=template_postgis;
ERROR:  template database "template_postgis" does not exist
gary=# \q

Updated 24.12.12

As Regina correctly pointed out in the comments, I didn’t really need to go through the manual process of loading the PostGIS template, the create extension postgis command in psql would have done this for me much quicker and elegantly, reducing the commands to setup my database to just two statements …

$ psql
psql (9.2.2)
Type "help" for help.

gary=# CREATE DATABASE tanzania;
CREATE DATABASE
gary=# \connect tanzania;
You are now connected to database "tanzania" as user "gary".
tanzania=# CREATE EXTENSION postgis;
CREATE EXTENSION
gary=# \q

… simple when you know how.

So I needed to create the template_postgis database from scratch, loading in the postgis.sql and spatial_ref_sys.sql SQL files and then recreate my custom database, based on the template contained in the template_postgis database. The PostGIS SQL files are supplied as part of Postgres.app, if you know where to look for them; you’ll find them inside the app’s container in /Applications/Postgres.app/Contents/MacOS/share/contrib/postgis-2.0.

$ createdb template_postgis
$ createlang plpgsql template_postgis
createlang: language "plpgsql" is already installed in database "template_postgis"
$ psql -d template_postgis -f /Applications/Postgres.app/Contents/MacOS/share/contrib/postgis-2.0/postgis.sql 
SET
BEGIN
CREATE FUNCTION
CREATE FUNCTION
CREATE TYPE
...
COMMIT

$ psql -d template_postgis -f /Applications/Postgres.app/Contents/MacOS/share/contrib/postgis-2.0/spatial_ref_sys.sql 
BEGIN
INSERT 0 1
...
COMMIT
ANALYZE

$ psql
psql (9.2.2)
Type "help" for help.

gary=# CREATE DATABASE tanzania TEMPLATE=template_postgis;
CREATE DATABASE
gary=# \q

Now, at last, I was able to load my Tanzanian map.

$ osm2pgsql -c -G -U gary -d tanzania ~/Projects/maps/data/tanzania.osm.pbf
osm2pgsql SVN version 0.81.0 (64bit id space)

Using projection SRS 900913 (Spherical Mercator)
Setting up table: planet_osm_point
NOTICE:  table "planet_osm_point" does not exist, skipping
NOTICE:  table "planet_osm_point_tmp" does not exist, skipping
Setting up table: planet_osm_line
NOTICE:  table "planet_osm_line" does not exist, skipping
NOTICE:  table "planet_osm_line_tmp" does not exist, skipping
Setting up table: planet_osm_polygon
NOTICE:  table "planet_osm_polygon" does not exist, skipping
NOTICE:  table "planet_osm_polygon_tmp" does not exist, skipping
Setting up table: planet_osm_roads
NOTICE:  table "planet_osm_roads" does not exist, skipping
NOTICE:  table "planet_osm_roads_tmp" does not exist, skipping
Allocating memory for dense node cache
Allocating dense node cache in one big chunk
Allocating memory for sparse node cache
Sharing dense sparse
Node-cache: cache=800MB, maxblocks=102401*8192, allocation method=3
Mid: Ram, scale=100

Reading in file: /Users/gary/Projects/maps/data/tanzania.osm.pbf
Processing: Node(6820k 682.0k/s) Way(980k 16.90k/s) Relation(23580 1122.86/s)  parse time: 89s

Node stats: total(6820388), max(1910954191) in 10s
Way stats: total(980191), max(180648305) in 58s
Relation stats: total(23580), max(2409445) in 21s
Committing transaction for planet_osm_point
Committing transaction for planet_osm_line
Committing transaction for planet_osm_polygon
Committing transaction for planet_osm_roads

Writing way (980k)
Committing transaction for planet_osm_point
Committing transaction for planet_osm_line
Committing transaction for planet_osm_polygon
Committing transaction for planet_osm_roads

Writing relation (23569)
Sorting data and creating indexes for planet_osm_point
Sorting data and creating indexes for planet_osm_line
Sorting data and creating indexes for planet_osm_polygon
node cache: stored: 6820388(100.00%), storage efficiency: 50.68% (dense blocks: 637, sparse nodes: 6403164), hit rate: 99.45%
Sorting data and creating indexes for planet_osm_roads
Analyzing planet_osm_point finished
Analyzing planet_osm_polygon finished
Analyzing planet_osm_roads finished
Analyzing planet_osm_line finished
Copying planet_osm_point to cluster by geometry finished
Copying planet_osm_roads to cluster by geometry finished
Creating indexes on  planet_osm_roads finished
All indexes on  planet_osm_roads created  in 12s
Completed planet_osm_roads
Copying planet_osm_polygon to cluster by geometry finished
Copying planet_osm_line to cluster by geometry finished
Creating indexes on  planet_osm_point finished
All indexes on  planet_osm_point created  in 21s
Completed planet_osm_point
Creating indexes on  planet_osm_polygon finished
All indexes on  planet_osm_polygon created  in 28s
Completed planet_osm_polygon
Creating indexes on  planet_osm_line finished
All indexes on  planet_osm_line created  in 30s
Completed planet_osm_line

Osm2pgsql took 218s overall

One final gotcha awaited though. Restarting Postgres.app later that day made psql fail with an error.

$ psql
psql: could not connect to server: No such file or directory
	Is the server running locally and accepting
	connections on Unix domain socket "/tmp/.s.PGSQL.5432"?

Although Postgres.app was running, it looked like the server wasn’t. Checking the system error logs via Console.app showed me that my newly populated database was running out of shared memory.

22/12/2012 11:05:44.319 com.heroku.postgres-service: FATAL:  could not create shared memory segment: Cannot allocate memory
22/12/2012 11:05:44.319 com.heroku.postgres-service: DETAIL:  Failed system call was shmget(key=5432001, size=3809280, 03600).
22/12/2012 11:05:44.319 com.heroku.postgres-service: HINT:  This error usually means that PostgreSQL's request for a shared memory segment exceeded available memory or swap space, or exceeded your kernel's SHMALL parameter.  You can either reduce the request size or reconfigure the kernel with larger SHMALL.  To reduce the request size (currently 3809280 bytes), reduce PostgreSQL's shared memory usage, perhaps by reducing shared_buffers or max_connections.
22/12/2012 11:05:44.319 com.heroku.postgres-service: 	The PostgreSQL documentation contains more information about shared memory configuration.
22/12/2012 11:20:40.584 com.heroku.postgres-service: server starting

Thankfully this is a known problem; PostgreSQL is really a server application, not a laptop application. The default Mac configuration isn’t enough to support a medium sized PostgreSQL database, but adding the following configuration settings to /etc/sysctl.conf, creating it via sudo if it doesn’t already exist and rebooting solved that final problem.

kern.sysv.shmmax=1610612736
kern.sysv.shmall=393216
kern.sysv.shmmin=1
kern.sysv.shmmni=32
kern.sysv.shmseg=8
kern.maxprocperuid=512
kern.maxproc=2048

TileMill - Tanzania

I now have a working PostgreSQL and PostGIS install, with a map loaded, which TileMill can access. Now all I need to do is learn Carto and actually make the map I originally set out to do … another learning journey has started.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Making Maps Underground

Warning. This post contains a sweeping generalisation. Yes, I know that Places are not just part of today’s digital maps; see the James Fee and Tyler Bell hangout The One Where Tyler Bell Defines Big Data as a proof point. But for the sake of this post, just assume that Places and maps are synonymous.

It’s never been easier to make a map. Correction. It’s never been easier to contribute to a map. Today we seem to be makingcontributing to maps everywhere, even underground, or should I say Underground?

To makecontribute to a map, you used to have to be a professional map maker, with easy access to an arsenal of surveying or an industrial grade GPS.

Then came the notion of community mapping. Be it OpenStreetMap, Navteq’s and Nokia’s Map Creator or Google’s Map Maker, anyone armed with a GPS enabled smartphone, hell, anyone without a GPS, could help make a map.

And now it seems, all you need to do to help make a map is to be somewhere unmapped with some form of internet access, be it a 3G or 4G cellular data connection, or a wifi connection. As part of the London 2012 Olympic Games, some London Underground stations (finally) got wifi access and sure enough, where wifi goes, so does mapping, even platforms on the London Underground.

With apologies to Steve Karmeinsky for exposing part of his Foursquare check-in history.

Written and posted from the Arcotel Velvet, Oranienburger Straße, Berlin (52.52602, 13.38834)

Foursquare Checkins, Maps And WordPress; Now With MOAR Maps

If you’re an avid Foursquare user you can already display your last checkin, visualised on a map, in the sidebar of your WordPress powered site with the WP Quadratum plugin. Foursquare, checkins and maps … what more could you ask for? Maybe the answer is more maps.

Version 1.1 of the WP Quadratum plugin, which went live this morning, now has added maps. The previous versions of the plugin used Nokia’s maps, because I work for Nokia’s Location & Commerce group and I wanted to use the maps that I work on. But if Nokia’s maps aren’t the maps for you then how about Google’s, or maybe CloudMade’s OpenStreetMap maps or perhaps OpenLayers’ OpenStreetMap maps.

Thanks to the Mapstraction JavaScript mapping API, WP Quadratum now allows you to choose which mapping provider you’d like to see your checkins appear on. And if you don’t want a map on the sidebar of your site, you can embed the checkin map in any post or page with the plugin’s shortcode too.

As usual, the plugin is free to download and use, either from the official WordPress plugin repository or from GitHub.

As a fully paid up and self confessed map geek I may be somewhat biased but surely most things can be improved with the simple addition of more maps.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

You Are Here; Map Wallpaper For Your Laptop

I’ve recently been guilty of using the term map wallpaper as a mild form of pejorative; meaning maps that are great for showing geographical context but which don’t really show anything else. I’m also guilty of overusing the phrase eye candy; something which is eye catching but ultimately superficial.

Then along comes an eye candy map wallpaper app for my MacBook Pro and all pejoratives are instantly replaced with superlatives. Yes, this is eye candy. Yes, this is map wallpaper. But in this case the geographical context is spot on and it’s definitely eye catching without being superficial in any way.

The man behind this wonderful piece of geolocated satellite imagery is Tom Taylor, who has previously blown my mind with his Boundaries visualisation of how London’s neighbourhoods are perceived by way of Flickr’s Alpha shape files.

The app is Satellite Eyes which, once installed on your Mac (sorry Windows and Linux users, you can’t come to the party), hooks into the geolocation functionality built into the operating system and pulls down Bing’s satellite imagery and uses it for your wallpaper, centred around your current location, such as where I live in the wilds of South West London.

Move around a city with your laptop moving with you and the imagery updates itself. Yesterday morning I was in London’s Soho Square and sure enough, my laptop knew this and showed me, together with an overhead view of the construction sites for London’s CrossRail project.

Map wallpaper in the truest sense of the word. What isn’t there to like about this?

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

A Bipolar Attitude To Aerial And Satellite Imagery Plus Maps Fear, Uncertainty And Doubt

Maps and map imagery seem to be back in the news. Google’s recent map update and immense speculation about Apple’s “will they, won’t they” replacement for the current Google Maps app on iOS seems to be spilling over from the usual tech media into mainstream news.

Firstly, the UK’s Daily Telegraph, a “quality broadsheet” seems to have just discovered that today’s digital maps also have satellite imagery. It’s not entirely clear how this is news, let alone current news. Navteq has had satellite imagery as part of its’ maps since the mid 1980′s and Google has also included satellite imagery in Google Maps since the mid 2000′s. But linked to Apple’s recent acquisition of 3D imagery specialists C3, we’re told to anticipate a “private fleet of aeroplanes equipped with military standard cameras to produce 3D maps so accurate they could film people in their homes through skylights“. The middle market tabloid Daily Mail has also picked up on this story, running with the headline “Spies in the sky that no one will regulate“.

Yet only in January of this year, the Daily Mail published a series of extremely detailed aerial images under the headline “A nosey parker’s dream; Stunning aerial photographs show what’s going on in the world’s back gardens“. Apart from the slightly sensationalistic “nosey parker” reference, this six month old article seems to positively luxuriate in the high altitude photography. As Google’s Ed Parsons pithily points out, this is another case of “editorial integrity by the Daily Mail“.

Meanwhile, digital mapping provider TomTom, who acquired Tele Atlas in 2008 has produced what’s often described as a FUD piece (fear, uncertainty and doubt) on digital map data produced by OpenStreepMap. The article starts off well

“The concept of open source mapping is a very exciting one. As various technologies become more accessible, volunteer mappers can collect information and collaborate to produce shared maps. They’re cheap to make, licensing is often free or very low-cost, and users benefit from the knowledge of a large community of updaters.”

So far, so good. OSM has been gaining a lot of traction and attention over recent months as Nestoria, Apple (for iPhoto on the iPad), Wikipedia and Foursquare all adopted OSM maps to power their spatial visualisations. But not, it’s worth noting, to power turn-by-turn navigation applications. But according to TomTom, all is not well with this.

Despite the positives, recent studies have highlighted some major drawbacks of open source mapping, specifically with regard to safety, accuracy and reliability. In one particular instance, a leading open source map was compared against a professional TomTom map, and shown to have a third less residential road coverage and 16% less basic map attributes such as street names. Worse still, it blended pedestrian and car map geometry, and included ‘a high number of fields and forest trails’ classified as roads.

Interestingly, this view from TomTom clashes somewhat with a 2011 study comparing TomTom and OpenStreetMap in Germany which concluded that

“With a relative completeness comparison between the OSM database and TomTom’s commercial dataset, we proved that OSM provides 27% more data within Germany with regard to the total street network and route information for pedestrians.”

So why highlight the difference between OSM and TomTom data now? As TechDirt notes in its’ commentary on this topic

“The fact that TomTom has chosen to highlight this current deficiency in OpenStreetMap shows two things. First, that it is watching the open source alternative very closely, and secondly, that it is sufficiently worried by what it sees to start sowing some FUD in people’s minds. But as history has shown with both open source server software and open source encyclopaedias, once vendors of proprietary systems adopt such a tactic against up-and-coming free rivals, it’s a clear sign that it’s already too late to do anything about it, and that their days of undisputed dominance are numbered.”

Whether that’s a fair and accurate summary of this remains to be seen, but what this does prove it that just as I’ve been saying for the last two years that there is no one single authoriative source of Place data and there probably never will, so there is no one single authoriative map and likewise, there probably never will.

Without meaning to trivialise the adoption of OSM by Wikipedia, Foursquare et al, these maps are what might be termed map wallpaper; great for showing geographical and geospatial context for information. The high level of accuracy and internal data attributes needed to produce a turn-by-turn navigation system simply isn’t needed here. Which makes TomTom’s evaluation of OSM all the more puzzling.

Written and posted from the Click 6.0 Conference, Grand Millennium Hotel, Dubai (25.1010, 55.1777)

Is This Apple’s New Map? (It Doesn’t Look Like Google’s)

Updated 8/3/12 at 12.20 GMT

Judging by comments to this blog post, on Twitter and on Google Plus, the consensus seems to be that yes, Apple is using OSM data from 2010 outside of the US; inside of the US it’s (probably) TIGER data and no, there doesn’t seem to be attribution and Apple may well be getting a communiqué from OSM to that effect. Other sources of information on this include

… and now, back to the original post.

We live in a world dominated by and surrounded by brands. One of the hallmarks of a successful brand is whether it’s able to be immediately recognised as that brand, without necessarily looking too deeply for a brand label. Look at a car and you’ll probably be able to tell whether it’s a Ford or not. Look at a laptop and you’ll probably be able to tell whether it’s Apple’s or one of those faceless, grey, consumer models. Look at an espresso cup and you’ll probably be able to tell whether it’s got coffee from Illy in it.

As it is in the real, offline world, so it is in the digital, online world and nowhere is this more prevalent than in the world of digital maps. Each mapping provider has an immediately recognisable look, feel and style to it. You can tell whether the map is from Nokia or NAVTEQ, from Google, from Mapquest or from OpenStreetMap. Now granted, a digital map is the product of lots of data sources but the map’s style is unique; although OpenStreetMap’s style is almost the exception as there’s several styles you can use.

Ever since the launch of the original iPhone, for Apple that look and feel of their maps have been Google’s. Even before you look to the bottom right hand corner of the map and see the Google logo you’ll know it’s a Google map. There’s also been lots of rumours that with Apple’s acquisitions in the mapping space, C3 and Placebase to name but a few, it wouldn’t be too long before Apple had their own map.

Maybe that time has now come, for iPhoto on iOS at least. Take a look at the screen grabs above. These maps aren’t, at least at face value, Google’s. The map style isn’t Google’s and even more interestingly, there’s no immediately apparent copyright or brand notice anywhere on the map. Is this Apple’s new map or is it another map provider’s under a license that doesn’t need branding?

Thanks must go to follow Nokian Andrea Trasatti for spotting this on MacRumors; there’s also commentary on this over at 512 Pixels as well.

Photo Credits courtesy of MacRumors.
Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Foursquare Goes With OpenStreetMap; On The Web

In web and location circles, much has been made of Foursquare’s recent “little announcement” of the location based, check-in, company’s decision to oust Google Maps and instead to go with OpenStreetMap data, by way of MapBox.

From reading a lot of the coverage you’d be forgiven for thinking that Foursquare has completely severed ties with Google’s mapping APIs, but this isn’t quite the story. As ReadWriteWeb notes in the last paragraph of its coverage, “Foursquare’s iPhone and Android apps won’t be affected” as the move is for Foursquare’s home on the web, foursquare.com, only.

Indeed, the current set of Foursquare smartphone apps continue to use a variety of mapping platforms. On Android and on iOS, it’s still Google Maps, not unsurprisingly given Android is effectively a Google mobile OS, and Google is still Apple’s mapping platform of choice, for now at least.

On Blackberry it’s also business as usual for Google Maps, whilst on Symbian, it’s Nokia’s mapping platform and on Windows Phone 7 it’s (currently) the Bing mapping platform.

So while this move is great news for both the OpenStreetMap community and for MapBox and, as ReadWriteWeb notes, “when you use Foursquare Explore on the Web to search for places, you’ll be taking eyeballs away from Google“, this is a move that affects Foursquare’s web presence only, not their mobile apps. Given that in order to actually use Foursquare effectively, in other words, to check-in, you need to be on a smartphone, I wonder how many eyeballs will actually be taken away from Google. Furthermore, whilst those in the location industry are looking at this keenly, I have to wonder how many users of Foursquare will actually notice the change on the web.

For Foursquare on the web this is probably a smart move and for most users of the Foursquare website, OpenStreetMap data is, as Muki Haklay noted in a paper published in 20101, “good enough“.

But not good enough apparently for some Foursquare users, who are fairly outspoken about blank or incomplete maps on the comments to Foursquare’s announcement blog post.

It would be good to think that Foursquare’s use of OpenStreetMap data will encourage their users to contribute to the underlying open spatial data set that is OSM; after all, all you really need is a GPS device, which is what most smartphones are these days. The optimist in me hopes that this will be the case. The pessimist in me, or maybe it’s the realist in me, tempers that hope with the realisation that Foursquare still makes the address of a new Place optional, that a geocode from a GPS device probably isn’t enough and that most Foursquare users neither know or care about the underlying map, caring far more about getting to the top of the leaderboard, becoming Mayor and earning badges.

Time alone will tell whether my optimistic side is right.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

The Missing Manual For OpenStreetMap?

The first computer I used at work was powerful for its day (though pitifully underpowered compared to the phone that’s sitting in my pocket at the moment) but was somewhat unfriendly by today’s standards. You sat down at a terminal (not a PC, they hadn’t been invented) and were presented with a command line prompt that said “Username:“, pass that barrier to entry and it said “Password:“. Armed with the right combination of username and password you would be rewarded with a flashing cursor preceded by a dollar sign as a prompt … $. If you wanted help you couldn’t browse the web (it hadn’t been invented) nor ask in a mailing list (the Internet was in its early days and you probably didn’t have access). Instead you consulted the big, heavy, ring bound, bright orange documentation set; these were the heady days of DEC and VAX/VMS.

The computer I’m writing this on still needs a username and password but is easy to use, graphical, intuitive and comes with multiple web sites, discussion and documentation sites and mailing lists to ask questions in. But to get the most of today’s computers you still need a book sometimes, which is why David Pogue’s Mac OS X: The Missing Manual is still one of the most well thumbed books I have, 8 years and multiple editions later. There’s a version for Windows too.

So what does this have to do with OpenStreetMap? Bear with me … there are parallels to be drawn.

OpenStreetMap Book Cover

OpenStreetMap is easy to use, graphical (on the website), comes with multiple discussion and documentation sites and well supported mailing lists; you can always find the answer to your question. But sometimes you don’t know what the question is. Sometimes you just want to read a book.

OpenStreetMap: Using and Enhancing The Free Map Of The World is that book … consider it the Missing Manual if you will.

Originally written in German by mailing list stalwarts Frederik Ramm and Jochen Topf in 2008 (names which will be familiar to anyone who’s spent any time on the OSM mailing lists), the book was translated into English with Steve Chilton (chair of the UK’s Society of Cartographers) towards the end of 2010. A translation would be impressive enough but the English version also comes with expanded sections and all of the content, examples and illustrations have been revisited, revised and updated.

Whether you’re an OSM expert or you just want to see how one of the largest voluntary, crowd sourced projects on the face of the Internet works this is a worthy and valuable addition to your bookshelf. While no OSM expert I considered myself fairly well versed in how to use OpenStreetMap. Reading the book was a salient lesson on just how much I didn’t know; the section on GPS was an education in itself.

The book also provides a well written and easy to understand explanation of what you can and what you can’t do with OSM’s wealth of geographic data and answers so many of the questions on data licensing that crop up again and again in conversations around OSM and on the mailing lists.

As a written work, the OpenStreetMap book works on multiple levels. You can dip into it, select the parts that interest you, get distracted by reading about stuff you didn’t think you’d want to know or you can read it from cover to cover.

  • If you want to contribute data to OpenStreetMap … this is the book for you
  • If you want to use OpenStreetMap data to create maps … this is the book for you
  • If you want to integrate OpenStreetMap data into a web site … this is the book for you
  • If you consider yourself as a fully paid up geo nerd who lives and breathes open data … this is the book for you. No … really

One final thought; the old adage about the Internet being an information hose pipe holds true where OpenStreetMap is concerned. The volume of information and data is simply staggering. You can find your way through all of this information by yourself. Or you can just read a well written, well thought out book instead. Even in today’s online world there’s still a place for the feeling you get from holding a book in your hands and leafing back and forwards through the pages. My copy of this book is still reasonably pristine, despite being hauled on and off planes and read from cover to cover. I can’t guarantee it’ll stay that way for long.

Written and posted from theRadisson Blu hotel, Berlin (52.519648, 13.40258)

Crowd Sourcing The London Underground Tube Strike

From as early as 9.00 PM tonight, the London Underground network will be hit by a strike called by the RMT and TSSA unions. Again.

For Londoners this will probably come as no surprise, but this time around, the BBC are crowd-sourcing a map of station closures, services affected and the knock on impact to other forms of London public transport, using publicly submitted reports and media in addition to reporters on the street. It seems natural enough that this will be visualised on a map and in tonight’s BBC London News, it was plainly evident that the BBC are using OpenStreetMap as the underlying map tiles for the visualisation.

You can see a snapshot of how the map looks, taken a few minutes ago; head over to the London Tube Strike Map for more updates as the strike starts to affect London.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)