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Expedition GIS and OSM in Oman

Posted by Thom Starnes on 25 February 2017 in English (English)

Geographers - expeditions need you!

It was some time in October 2016, and my friend James asked me if I was up for an adventure. Without hesitating, I agreed. We had met at the Royal Geographical Society, at the annual 'Explore' weekend several years ago. We had stayed in touch, become good friends, and the previous year I had joined an expedition that he had led to Madagascar. There we studied the forest 'edge effect' i.e. the effect of proximity to forest edges, on amphibians and reptiles. On that expedition I had been appointed GIS and Data Specialist - a role not dissimilar to my then-day job with Amphibian and Reptile Conservation in the UK. I think it was somewhat to James' surprise when it turned out that I knew relatively little about herpetofauna, but my saving grace was that I did know about GIS. Evidently I had proved my worth because now - one year later - James was inviting me on another expedition. This time it was botanical. This time it was Oman. I had just enough leave left to take the three weeks that I needed to go. I began furiously downloading data and preparing maps for the next adventure...

How do you use GIS to prepare for an expedition?

I bought a laptop specifically for the expedition - a Lenovo ThinkPad X220 - which is still going strong having now survived the montane forests of Madagascar as well as the burning desert of Oman. On the previous expedition to Madagascar I had used Google Earth extensively, and I stand by it as a very reliable tool for expedition. Google Earth allows you to very easily cache (but not download) satellite imagery and elevation data for use offline - which lends itself to remote expeditions. It also consumes common files like GPX, KMZ and SHP. I used Google Earth to navigate to our chosen fieldwork location, make dynamic logistical decisions on the go, and to manage and visualise points of interest and all of our GPS data. Having a system capable of managing GPS data from many sources, I was able to maintain a centralised GIS or 'geographic information system'. Points of interested included the locations of our forest transects, navigational aids such as 'path through swamp' and the locations of important animal sightings. I was then able to distribute these locations back to all of the field GPS units every night, ensuring that every expedition team member had the latest spatial information necessary to manage the fieldwork effectively.

I also used the free and open source GIS software ‘QGIS’, which allowed us to visualise data from more diverse sources, and to analyse this data to tell us things about the environment. About one month before the expedition we met at James' house in London, and I was already able to show to the team the area that we were going to in great detail. On my little field laptop we pored over elevation models, satellite imagery and environmental data, all of which helped us to put our study site in context within the wider environment. I downloaded some OSM data showing roads and settlements, which I overlayed on top of the satellite imagery and the elevation model. These maps I also printed out to take into the field, and they proved invaluable for navigating to our remote field study site which lay beyond navigable roads, ox-cart tracks and mountain paths. I realised during that expedition that we could be doing much more with the OSM data - we could contribute to it, as well as benefit from it, and I resolved that on my next expedition I would aim to do just that.

What do expeditions stand to gain from OSM?

So it was that while preparing the maps and GIS for the recent expedition to Oman, I did a few things differently. First of all, I asked the other members of the expedition team to do some mapping in their spare time. I explained that by creating an OSM account they could map roads and settlements from the aerial imagery, and that I would download this data onto the laptop just before heading out into the field. This way, everyone on the team could actively contribute to our mapping resource before we’d even left home.

The night before departure, I downloaded the entire OSM vector dataset for Oman onto my laptop. This may sound like overkill, but last year in Madagascar we had had to change our study site at the last minute, and all of the map data that I’d downloaded was suddenly redundant. Two of the team had then been forced to make an arduous day’s hike across the savanna in order to get enough mobile signal to cache the Google Earth imagery for our new study site. This time I wasn’t taking any chances. This time I was using ArcGIS, and I set about symbolising some of the key features such as roads and cities. I believe there’s an ArcGIS style file for symbolising OSM data in ArcMap, but I wasn’t able to get this to work in time for the expedition, so that’s something I’ll work to resolve next time.

When we arrived in the field, I began updating our OSM data based on local knowledge. There was one day in particular when we were stranded in Al-Jazer awaiting the fuel tanker to come and replenish the petrol station. We were sitting outside a coffee shop across the road from the petrol station and I got talking to a local gentleman named Said. It wasn’t long before I had pulled out the laptop to show him where we were going and where we had been, with the aid of the OSM data and the satellite imagery which I had also downloaded in preparation for the trip. He pointed excitedly at the fishing settlements that punctuated the coastline, calling out their names one after another. He would spell them out while I typed them each into the map, and then make me say them repeatedly until I had perfected their pronunciation. It was evidently a source of great pleasure to him to see the map updated in real time with the place names that he was providing me. Sometimes I wasn’t quite sure of Said’s information, and I would verify the place names with the two young English-speaking coffee shop proprietors.

As well as mapping roads which don’t yet exist on the map, it can be just as useful to remove features which have been added erroneously, or to update information about existing features. One afternoon James didn’t meet us at our agreed rendezvous. We couldn’t know for sure which direction he would arrive from, and eventually we decided to set up camp at this location and await his arrival. Darrach, one of our collaborators from Oman Botanic Garden, went off in search of him and by a great stroke of luck was able to make contact. Later that evening, James arrived back at camp with a truckload of weary botanists. They had followed a road on the map which turned out to be unsuitable even for their 4x4 vehicle. After this realisation, they had been forced to make a great detour to get back around to our rendezvous location. We’ve now updated that road to prevent others from falling into the same trap.

How can expeditions contribute to OSM?

After returning home, we were able to sync our changes back to the OSM server. Anyone looking at this remote region of Oman will now have access to better map data, and as a consequence will be better informed about the region’s geography. On future expeditions, I’ll be using OSM again, and I’ve been advocating this to friends and contacts who are planning their own expeditions. Every day, expeditions are going to remote corners of the globe. What an incredibly powerful tool we have here; to be able to openly access the latest geographic information and to contribute back to it for others to benefit from. I’m convinced that OSM is the future of global cartography; get mapping!

Location: 41, Al Wusta, Oman

Local OpenTopoMap

Posted by Sibri on 25 February 2017 in Russian (Русский)

Status: not yet full description
Last updated: 25.02.2017 17:26 GMT+03:00
OS: Ubuntu 16.04 LTS

Install database and append data

1. Install osm2pgsql

full description

sudo apt-get install make cmake g++ libboost-dev libboost-system-dev \
libboost-filesystem-dev libexpat1-dev zlib1g-dev \
libbz2-dev libpq-dev libgeos-dev libgeos++-dev libproj-dev lua5.2 \

cd ~/src
git clone git://
cd osm2pgsql
mkdir build && cd build
cmake ..
sudo make install`

2. Drop old data

psql -d gis -c "DROP VIEW lowzoom_water, lowzoom_roads, lowzoom_landuse, lowzoom_borders, lowzoom_railways, lowzoom_cities;"

psql -d lowzoom -c "DROP TABLE water, landuse, roads, borders, railways, cities;"

3. Load data into database

mkdir data
cd data


osm2pgsql --create --slim -d gis -C 1000 --number-processes 10  \
--style /etc/mapnik/osm2pgsql/ ./data/RU-BU.osm.pbf


4. Run renderd

sudo renderd -f -c /etc/renderd.conf   #fixme sudo

To clear cache sudo rm -R /var/lib/mod_tile/default/ than press F5 in browser

Generate and append changeset

1. Install osmosis

mkdir osmosis
mv osmosis-latest.tgz osmosis
cd osmosis
tar xvfz osmosis-latest.tgz
rm osmosis-latest.tgz
chmod a+x bin/osmosis
sudo ln -s /home/developer/osm_database_update/src/osmosis/bin/osmosis /usr/local/bin/

2. Generate changeset

cd data
osmosis --read-pbf file="RU-BU-170224.osm.pbf" --read-pbf file="RU-BU.osm.pbf" --derive-change --write-xml-change file="RU-BU-changeset-170224.osc"

3. Append changeset

osm2pgsql --slim --append -d gis RU-BU-changeset-170224.osc

1st Time Tracking/Diary 25FEB2017

Posted by KenK425 on 25 February 2017 in English (English)

Note to self: Amber's Birthday today. Today she is 40 years old (1977). OMG, 40?

First sunny day in a while. Temp: Low 30s, highs: l Low to mid 40s. Taking the bike out for a 200 mile trip to.... Don't even know if I'm going North or South. I'll fill you in when I'm back

Location: 8th Street Northeast, Lake Stevens, Snohomish County, Washington, 98258, United States of America

Adding unknown roads using ImproveOSM

Posted by mvexel on 24 February 2017 in English (English)

When using ImproveOSM, the Telenav tool to find and add missing roads (and other missing things) in OSM, sometimes there is just no detailed aerial imagery to see exactly what road type it is.


While you could say, 'Well without being able to see, I won't add anything'. But because ImproveOSM uses actual GPS traces from drivers, you know that people have been driving there. From the image in the example you can see that a fair number of people must have taken this route, so there must be some sort of road there.

So what I suggest is to add the road as simply highway=road (generic road tag). Then you or someone else can improve it later, based on better imagery or local knowledge.

The example in the image is this new way.

Remember that you can select multiple tiles on ImproveOSM by holding Shift while selecting. That way you can more quickly mark multiple tiles as Solved.


Fixing broken riverbanks

Posted by PlaneMad on 24 February 2017 in English (English)

Stumbled upon a dried up Nile on the map, which seems to be a jumble of large multipolygons.

This might require the expertise of an expert with the JOSM relation editor which can be a time consuming process.

It would be great if someone could make a simple howto tutorial for fixing such scenarios to help fix so many other big rivers that are broken this way.

Location: Ed Dueim, an-Nil al-Abyad, Sudan


Posted by Fukumi822 on 24 February 2017 in Japanese (日本語)

近日春日部市内での道路開通工事等が頻繁に行われているので、 その辺り、航空写真が無い為、


Deep digital mapping

Posted by Alex-7 on 24 February 2017 in English (English)

Last weekend I went to map an archaeological site. I had read a couple of academic archeological papers on this excavation and knew the exact location of the site.

It is a Roman tiles, bricks and ceramic workshop near the town of Chancy which worked for eight hundred years, from 1st century BC till 7th century AD.

This archaeological site was excavated, and then it was covered with earth again for preservation. Still there are antique tiles everywhere around. At that epoch it was a hi-tech enterprise, a place where the Roman Empire was actually built. And it is not completely clear why it was closed after eight centuries of production (an interesting question for today's reality too).

As a result:

I convert video to the open WEBM format, which is accepted by Wikimedia, with the command line tool ffmpeg. Some quality is always lost in conversion, but so far it is the best variant:

ffmpeg -i source.mp4 -c:v libvpx -crf 4 -b:v 18M -c:a libvorbis destination.webm

I used a free music with Creative Commons license for the video. But it is also possible to play yourself and record any music of any composer who died more than 70 years ago. For example, for these two videos I asked my spouse to play and record the musical themes:

Battle of Morgarten

The town of Zug

The idea of deep digital mapping is that reaching a remote destination takes time and effort. So being physically at the location allows not only to map an object on the OSM map, but also to film it, to record first hand impressions, perhaps to do some investigative journalism for a Wikipedia article, and link all this to the OSM map.

I realize by now that recording and editing a video is even more difficult than making good photos. Recording a musical theme is a world in itself too. It turns out that a digital piano does not record a MP3 file, but MIDI file (musical instrument digital interface), which should be exported to a computer first and then converted to an audio file with a program like the Logic Pro X.

If you have ideas or information on developing deep digital mapping, please, let me know.

Location: Chemin de Fargout, Chancy, Geneva, 1284, Switzerland

Шри Ланка

Posted by Vazhnov Alexey on 24 February 2017 in Russian (Русский)

Были на Шри Ланке с 9 по 18 февраля. Жили в Хиккадуве, съездили на поезде в Канди и на машине в национальный парк Яла.

Фоточки можно посмотреть у жены:

Потихоньку выкладываю POI и gps-треки.

Location: Colombo-Galle Road, Thiranagama, ගාල්ල දිස්ත්‍රික්කය, Southern Province, 80250, Шри-Ланка

Necessidade de atualização das imagens de satélite

Posted by MiLorde on 23 February 2017 in Brazilian Portuguese (Português do Brasil)

Necessidade de atualização das imagens de satélite para a região de Araraquara (SP), Brasil.

Update of satellite images is needed from the region of Araraquara (SP), Brazil.

És necesario actualizar las imágenes de satélite para la región de Araraquara (SP), Brasil.

Location: Jardim Serra Azul, Araraquara, Microrregião de Araraquara, Mesorregião de Araraquara, São Paulo, Região Sudeste, Brasil

Від руки

Posted by darkonus on 23 February 2017 in Ukrainian (Українська)

Минулого року мапив територію Згурівської районної лікарні, а це знайшов серед паперів листок з нотатками від руки. Похвастаюсь в щоденничку ( ͡ᵔ ͜ʖ ͡ᵔ) Вихід в поле, як-не-як) Курка лапою Готова мапа З теґами наче все гаразд, але якщо є зауваження — буду радий щось підкоригувати.

Location: О-101001, Згурівка, Згурівський район, Київська область, 07600, Україна

Describing Wikidata items with OpenStreetMap tags

Posted by PlaneMad on 23 February 2017 in English (English)

For the curious, the crowdsourced open knowledge database - Wikidata has a property for OpenStreetMap tags that can be used to tag items that describe the same/similar object on the Wikidata database.

It took some time to understand how Wikidata items are described having been used to the more flat OSM tagging model, but we can use a simple example of the popular OSM tag of that is used for any human settlement as a start.

Finding a Wikidata item describing an OSM tag

Any notable topic that exists on Wikipedia will exist as a Wikidata item. Hence any widely used OSM tag should be easy to match to a Wikidata item. For example, cities are one of the most important features of maps, and from the OSM Wiki we know that this feature is described on the map using the Tag:place=city.

If we can find a Wikipedia page that describes the same concept as the OSM tag, we can get the associated Wikidata item from the sidebar links of the page. The Wikidata item for a city is Q515.

Improving Wikidata using OpenStreetMap tags

We can associate the city item Q515 on Wikidata to the OSM tag place=city by adding it as a new property to the item.

new3 Add Tag:place=city as a new OpenStreetMap tag or key property to the item

This will create a link on the Q515 item to the OSM Wiki Tag:place=city page.

Querying Wikidata using OpenStreetMap tags

By adding OSM tags to Wikidata, it is now possible to query Wikidata for all items that are linked to this property.

The query runs live on the Wikidata database using a language called SPARQL, similar to OverpassQL for OpenStreetMap.

Note The above queries only list items that are a direct instance of (P31) a city or town item in Wikidata. Unlike OSM, these items in Wikidata can have a fairly large structure of children items that more specifically describe a type of city. In the future I'm looking to further explore how we can use OSM and WIkidata together for data validation across both projects.

Update The total number of Wikidata items with an OSM tag is currently 964 items - Thanks to Ainali on #wikidata for the query

Uploaded three tracks , my first ever , please let me know what could have been done better

Posted by koninklijke on 23 February 2017 in English (English)

As it says in the Subject line : have looked at a number of points raised near where I live, found one blocked street (Berkenlaan Antwerpen / Wilrijk) was not blocked , and no signs of roadworks or similar. Have added comment.

Question 1 : can I, as a novice contributor, declare the item as resolved, or are there trained and trusted resolvers, please?

Proceeded to the re-routed bicycle path / access road at the eastern end of the Antwerp/ Deurne airport runway, uploaded three tracks showing the connection road between a/ the decommissionned Fort 3 and the Beirenslaan, b/ the U-turn road with separate adjacent bicycle path, and c/ the bit connectin these two to allow traffic from the east to reach Fort 3 etc.

Question 2 : those tags : are these relevant as entered, which ones would experienced OSmappers have added, which ones would they have left out?

Next, visited recent parkland 'Groot Schijn' at the end of the Veldweg : found some concrete walking/ bicycling paths were not on the map, made tracks and will upload once initial comments received on first uploads.

Along Ruggeveldlaan one 'doorsteek' / U-turn passage doesn't exist anymore ; track of new traffic light regulated pedestrian / cyclist crossing to be uploaded.

Further along Ruggeveldlaan : one building demolished (will add note on map), one access road moved.

Question 3 : how can upload the waypoint saved at the new entrance road, please? As a single point track?

Have taken photos w. Lumia smartphone, they're on OneDrive, need to find out how to publish map with only photos pertaining to OpenStreetMap, excluding private ones.

Finallt visited end of Parkweg, where there is a query about section of road removed, which is correct : there's a new parking area. Will add comment and/ or resolve once I know whether that's up to me to do.

Looking forward to comments,

#journey with josm

Posted by Wava Stella on 23 February 2017 in English (English)

To an editor user for osm edits , I would definitely find nothing more comfortable that it. However, with my recent exposure to josm and all its abilities, life has been greatly simplified. It is embedded with a number of tools, more to it very simplified shortcuts to making viable edits, more to it is the minimal internet consumption hence a multi million edits can be performed in a blink of an eye. The ability of it being installed without cracks makes it much ore suitable. Thanks to josm because editing is now becoming an addiction.


Posted by Stig-Olof Lybeck on 22 February 2017 in Finnish (Suomi)



Posted by deferes18 on 22 February 2017 in Spanish (Español)

añadir locales, restaurantes, heladerias, hoteles para facilitar la visita.

Location: Las Palmas, Esmeraldas, 080105, Ecuador

Incorrect Santa Fe location set

Posted by sinclarius on 22 February 2017 in English (English)

Found 127 incorrectly placed location points in downtown Santa Fe, NM (probably from a weirdly geocoded import). Some are duplicates, some misspelled, some no longer extant. Recorded in note #901862 so that I can begin process of replacement/correction.

Location: East San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, Santa Fe County, New Mexico, 87501, United States of America

+ de 4k de edições

Posted by ivaldonm on 22 February 2017 in Brazilian Portuguese (Português do Brasil)

Recentemente ultrapassei as 4000 edições. Como disse em outros posts, nunca liguei muito para isso, já que o mais divertido é editar e colaborar, mas o sistema contabiliza.

Ultimamente desacelerei um pouco pois estou dividindo o meu tempo com outras plataformas, como Waze, Here e Google maps local guides, por ser usuário delas também.

Tudo feito no ID Editor, que é bem menos produtivo. Muitos já me indagaram porque não usar o JOSM... a resposta é sempre a mesma: ele é incompatível co meu Chromebook, infelizmente.

Un-mapped inner roads in St. John Hospital & Medical Center Buildings

Posted by Haajee1934 on 22 February 2017 in English (English)

Parking lot and Buildings on road back of Hospital Buildings are not marked on Map This road joins to Kingsville-Ave on oneside and to Moross Road on the other side. Parking-lot on back is for Main Enterence of Building One. An office on back is where this Vehicle is Paked

Location: Dise Road, Town of Little Falls, Herkimer County, New York, 13365, United States of America

Toiletten Berlins

Posted by Franca31 on 21 February 2017 in German (Deutsch)

Hi :)

Im Auftrag der Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung und Umwelt, sind wir zurzeit mit der Kartierung der öffentlichen Toiletten Berlins beschäftigt. Als Quellen für die Kartierung benutzen wir sowohl die öffentliche Daten als auch Open Street Map und haben Schwierigkeiten beim Vergleich der beiden Quellen. Es wäre sehr behilflich einen direkten Kontakt mit den Leute die die Kartierung gemacht haben einstellen zu können .

Kann jemand uns helfen?

Danke Danke



Wenlock Arms January (+ Blue posts tonight!)

Posted by Harry Wood on 21 February 2017 in English (English)

We've got an OpenStreetMap London pub meet-up tonight!

We're managing them approximately monthly these days, so last month we had a pub meet-up to kick off 2017. We went to the Wenlock Arms. It's a nice little pub which almost got demolished but was saved after a campaign. Now with all the big new buildings around it reminds me of the very last scene of Batteries Not Included. But they have modernised a little. I remember their rather sparse pub website used to link to OpenStreetMap, but sadly their website was since rebuilt by some boring web designers with boring google maps.

I remember it used to be good for real_ale=yes, and that was certainly there still. Crazy strong stuff. Luckily I'd stuffed myself with fish n chips before arriving because food=no! But it does have real_fire=yes!

on the wiki

(Another photo for the real_fire=yes tag)

So with strong beers and a glowing fire we quickly got chatting about all things OpenStreetMap. I've lost my notes, but I remember meeting Scott Davies and talking about Australia and Walthamstow. And meeting two guys from Geolytix who I keep hearing about via Open Data Institute connections. They provide data on ratail outlet locations using OpenStreetMap among other sources.

Good to have some new folks along. If you fancy joining us for the next OpenStreetMap London pub meet-up... it's TONIGHT at the Blue Posts. All the details on the London wiki page. You can also sign up on if you fancy it. If you're not sure how to recognise us, the above photo will give you some idea, but it's a good idea to turn up a bit late (like 7:30 onwards) By then we should've assembled in our maptastic huddle. I've got my hi vis jacket with me to today, and I'm sporting my navy blue SOTM 2016 T-shirt in celebration of the fact that I've got my flights booked for SOTM 2017!

Location: Mildmay Park, Islington, London Borough of Islington, London, Greater London, England, N1, United Kingdom
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