OpenStreetMap

The Mapping Continues

Posted by dhrasmus on 15 November 2012 in English (English)

I reached another milestone today: for the first time since I started mapping, I got a funny look. Why today? I attribute this to my mapping location. When I do mapping in urban environments, I look like just another person using a phone, or maybe a crazy person who should be avoided. In rural environments, there is nobody around to receive a funny look from. Just me!

This time I was using OSMTracker-Android to capture a photograph that contained the essential details of the gas station: that it was 24 hours, a telephone number, the name of the place, etc. When I walked into the convenience store to see what their coffee, food, and beer offerings were -- they had coffee and a grill with hamburgers, and Blue Moon, not bad for such a small town -- is when I got the funny look. They said I'd appeared confused and asked if I was okay.

Driving across the country from Oregon to Iowa, one realizes something: OpenStreetMap has lots of room for improvement in its gas station coverage. As a driver, it's good to know how far away you are from the next gas station so you don't get stranded. I discovered the MapQuest app for Android works pretty nicely, showing nearby gas stations and sometimes even prices, but data coverage is pretty spotty in parts of I-80 and not something I like to depend on.

On the sitting-in-front-of-computers side of things, work has been progressing well on one of my map-based projects, pdxwifimap.com. It uses OpenLayers with default OpenStreetMap style for the slippy map, and MapQuest static images on individual pages for wifi hotspots. I like how the MapQuest rendering emphasizes parks nearby and de-emphasizes churches. Having prominent churches on a map makes some sense in Europe where their size and architecture cause them to stand out, but less in an environment where they simply blend in or worse, look like a warehouse. Being able to create my own custom-rendered map images might be useful for the purposes of the Portland wifi map, for instance to illustrate how far wifi coverage extends. I don't know if that's something practical and simple to get started, or if it'd be a massive time-suck. Hard to tell from looking at the wiki. Have any of you done it? What'd you think?

On the homepage of that site, I've made an initial attempt to explain to ordinary people what's exciting to me about OpenStreetMap. When I first discovered OSM several years ago, I didn't understand what the big deal was. The turning point was probably when I discovered MapDroyd on my first Android tablet, and OsmAnd after that. Being able to edit a map, and have my edits show up in a file that anybody can download and use offline: that's huge! Oh, and the Open Brewpub Map...

Comment from EdLoach on 15 November 2012 at 06:24

Congratulations on reaching your next milestone. The next target is being questioned about what you are doing by an officer of the law...

(Joking, partially; I was collecting house numbers in a village in the UK once when I was questioned by a local officer after residents must have seen me collecting house numbers and thought I was looking for somewhere to break into).

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Comment from Sanderd17 on 15 November 2012 at 22:58

I have got a lot of funny looks.

Anyway, regarding your question about rendering maps. You can look into tilemill. It's open source, so you can install it on your own computer.

You can import OSM data to a gis database (yes, setting this up takes a while), and tilemill will help you render it.

If you try it, try setting it up with a small file first. So you don't sit there importing the file, to notice that something went wrong.

http://mapbox.com/tilemill/

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