NicRoets's diary

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Android tracking app

Posted by NicRoets on 29 November 2013 in English (English)

From time to time I need to track "lost" devices used by employees. But I'm always disappointed that, AFAIK, no single app has all the features basic features:

  • Remotely activate GPS on the "lost" device. Androidlost and Airdroid does this well.

  • Frequent updates with heading and speed. (Low bandwidth protocol like UDP ??) And while the GPS is waiting for a lock, display the satellite reception strengths.

  • Support both phones and tablets.

  • Easy to use authentication, like Airdroid.

  • Easily allow groups to track each other. Just like adding people to a hangout.

  • Chase the "lost" device with another android. On reflection, the simpler the better. Distance and bearing is enough:

Where does this user get his data from?

Posted by NicRoets on 29 July 2013 in English (English)

Take a look at the edits of user chdr. He's adding street names in many different countries on 4 or 5 continents. Seems highly unlikely that he surveyed it himself.

He never uses source tags or changeset comments and he didn't respond to my PM on the subject. So where does he get his data from ?


Posted by NicRoets on 27 July 2012 in English (English)

Looking back at the last year

Posted by NicRoets on 29 April 2010 in English (English)

A year ago I learned of the SoTM scholarships. My old expired less than 3 months after the conference, which means that European Union countries will not issue a visa in it. So I immediately applied for a new passport, knowing that the delays at the department of Home Affairs increased after they upgrade the security features on the documents they issue.

After I received the scholarship, it was a couple of nervous weeks while I waited for the passport, but fortunately it all worked out. As I explained in a previous post, it turned out to be a big adventure :

The conference has confirmed (to me at least) that OpenStreetMap is vibrant and growing, and since then I've done a lot of work for the project: I've upgraded my Gosmore map viewer with 3D, improved lowzoom and rendering and improved user interface. Routing has also improved, but it still needs some work.

I also teamed up with slashme to map soccer stadiums ahead of the FIFA World Cup (Soccer city near Soweto and The Royal Bafokeng stadium near Rustenburg).

I mapped Hilbrow, Florida Lake and few of the older suburbs of Johannesburg on my own. The city was established a little more a century ago. Much of the growth was due to rich gold deposits and the resultant high demand for labour. But lately, vast numbers of economic refugees have arrived from all over the African continent.

Location: Maboneng Precinct, Johannesburg Ward 61, Johannesburg, City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality, Gauteng, 2001, RSA

My big SOTM adventure

Posted by NicRoets on 27 July 2009 in English (English)

High points :
* Cycling in the Netherlands and Belgium during the summer is awesome ! It's flat and cyclists often have right of way, so you almost never need to brake. And the views !
* Gosmore & Openstreetmap worked quite well.
* Meeting the other OSM addicts.
* Having so many friends who were willing to help.

Low points :
* Delayed luggage.
* Money stolen
* Finding so many youth hostels full. I guess all of the students are traveling because none of them can find vacation work.
* Puncturing 13km from the airport.
* Lufthansa wanting 130 euro to send my bicycle home. Hello ! To send a human works out at only 315 euro (which includes taxes), so how can they justify that ? Book it into first class or something ??

Location: Bergschenhoek, Lansingerland, South Holland, Netherlands, The Netherlands

Just when I thought OSM has enough Germans :

Posted by NicRoets on 12 June 2009 in English (English)

PoI's not showing

Posted by NicRoets on 15 September 2008 in English (English)

OSM Addiction

Posted by NicRoets on 22 August 2008 in English (English)

Something to scare the newbies with

Posted by NicRoets on 22 July 2008 in English (English)

When I tried to log in, I got

I suspected the WLAN dipped at the point where firefox looked up the address of The lookup failed and firefox did the /etc/resolv.conf "search" thing (myspecialdomain blanked out with GIMP).


Posted by NicRoets on 16 July 2008 in English (English)

According to this website we have 5 times more users in Tanzania than in South Africa ??

Well, at least we (South Africa) beat Australia and New Zeeland combined !

Location: Dodoma, Central, Tanzania

Editing the map from my GPS

Posted by NicRoets on 6 July 2008 in English (English)

I added very basic editing capabilities to my gosmore program yesterday and today I "took them for a spin".

During the 90 minute cycling trip I edited 6 ways and 65 nodes, most of them being either amenity=fuel or highway=traffic_signal. The former could all be uploaded without intervention, while the latter required to be merged with the existing node which was very easy with JOSM.

Location: Tshwane Ward 58, Pretoria, City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, Gauteng, RSA

Can't wait for proper history

Posted by NicRoets on 11 June 2008 in English (English)

While making a few minor improvements, I discovered that a number of nodes of a certain way has been shifted, causing 'spaghetti'. One of them is
I managed to get it more or less back into the same place.

A search with JOSM (string 'user:Justy') revealed this user also reversed the direction of a oneway :

I guess at some point I must grep the whole planet for this user name and then go through the tedious task to see if he made more mistakes. (I don't feel like messaging him...)

Getting proper history functionality will be difficult to implement. See

Location: Tshwane Ward 92, Pretoria, City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, Gauteng, RSA

Gosmore is running on my GPS !

Posted by NicRoets on 17 May 2008 in English (English)

I now have gosmore running on my TGPS 375 with a map of Pretoria and Johannesburg. It's already quite pretty and will look even better with rotated text. Then I'll be able to easily verify the map as I go.

The TPGS 375 is an entry level SatNav device running WinCE 4.2 that should cost no more than R1,000 = Euro 100, if you can still find it in the stores.

Planet lint

Posted by NicRoets on 14 May 2008 in English (English)

I'm testing the new version of gosmore with it's powerful search functionality. It tries to built an index of all the meaningful tags in the planet, like 'fuel'.

The problem is that there is so much stuff that it meaningless to the average user : The majority of it is TIGER ids which is easy to suppress. But there still a lot of nodes with class=node tags and time=... tags and ele=... tags and and and.

There are even a few ways that refer to nodes that no longer exist. (e.g. node 80169)

Refusing to be a puppet

Posted by NicRoets on 3 May 2008 in English (English)

The municipality of Potchefstroom recently decided to rename many of the streets. The old names where completely unremarkable : The name of a river here, a plant name there, perhaps a couple of historical figures dating back to the 17th, 18th or 19th century.

The new names belong without exception to past and current members of the ruling ANC party. The town councilors must feel confident that these freedom fighters turned office bearers will not fall from grace like Kenneth Kaunda and Robert Mugabe. Neither do they see any need for balance, like honoring those who fought the system from within.

Many residents complain. One fought back by erecting a signpost on his own property bearing the old name. I considered various ways to reduce the amount of propaganda that I will upload to OSM and still make a good map. I finally decided to upload the street names exactly as I observed them and to write this diary entry instead.

Location: Potchefstroom, Tlokwe Ward 25, Tlokwe Local Municipality, Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality, North West, RSA

note="Here be dragons"

Posted by NicRoets on 9 April 2008 in English (English)

On Monday we had the first OSM meet-up in the Johannesburg area

I decided to do some mapping on the way there, namely to fill in any residential roads missing in the Kyalami area. Turned out to be another 60km+ of cycling in hilly terrain.

Turns out that I should think twice before returning to fill in the tracks and footpaths :,,3-975_2302452,00.html

Location: Johannesburg Ward 112, Midrand, City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality, Gauteng, RSA

Connection timed out

Posted by NicRoets on 29 March 2008 in English (English)

Aka pushing the envelope

Yesterday I cycled 70km+ and given the start-stop nature of mapping, the hilly terrain and the fact that I had to lift my bicycle over numerous fences, it's definitely a new record for me. It's also the first time I filled my Etrex by cycling.

Now I'm uploading the new roads and JOSM frequently gives a "connection timed out" message. It's strange because post the Tiger import we should have lots of spare capacity on the server. I just hope no objects will be duplicated when I restart the upload...

Location: Johannesburg Ward 103, Sandton, City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality, Gauteng, 2031, RSA

Dinokeng mountain bike route

Posted by NicRoets on 26 January 2008 in English (English)

Tracks4Africa contains a route marked "Dinokeng Mtb" and today I grabbed the opportunity to ride it.

I started by riding through the Buffelsdrift nature reserve, where it was most likely that I would encounter locked gates, which turned out not to be the case. The complete route consists of around 40km of gravel roads and 15km of busy tar road.

Location: Tshwane Ward 73, Pretoria, City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, Gauteng, RSA

Pedestrian gates and MTBs

Posted by NicRoets on 8 January 2008 in English (English)

Many South African suburbs are combating crime by closing roads with 2m tall palisade fences. Where pedestrian gates are present, they are often designed to stop anything larger than a human being from passing through them.

So I had to abandon my mountain bike on a few occasions at one of these gates and map a little bit on foot. On other occasions I would find a spot where I can lift my bicycle over the fence (often scratching myself and / or the bicycle). If that failed, I would cycle a few extra kilometers to find the vehicular entrance.

On Sunday, when confronted with another of these gates, I discovered a really good technique for lifting the bike over the fence after I passed through it : Left hand on handlebars, get the bicycle vertical, right hand on the saddle, left hand over the top of the fence, let the bicycle rest in an inverted position with it's saddle on the crossbar of the fence (freeing the right hand), and voilĂ .

Page Rank

Posted by NicRoets on 16 December 2007 in English (English)

This week, I scanned wikipedia for Pretoria and Johannesburg related articles and added links to OSM where appropriate (i.e. when our map is better than the google map link provided).

The larger goal is to drive traffic to OSM (i.e. improve the Page Rank). Not only will we get more users this way, but they will be more eager to contribute, because their work will be more appreciated. There are still many avenues left to pursue :
* Get wikitravel to provide an OSM option to their mapstraction embedding.
* Export our data to html so that the search engines will index it. Brabys already does this, e.g.