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Why the World Needs OpenStreetMap

Soulskill posted about 3 months ago | from the because-hole-in-the-wall-restaurants-are-the-best dept.

Open Source 162

An anonymous reader writes "Over the past six months, we've all grown a bit more skeptical about who controls our data, and what they do with it. An article at The Guardian says it's time for people to start migrating en masse away from proprietary map providers to OpenStreetMap in order to both protect our collective location data and decide how it is displayed. From the article: 'Who decides what gets displayed on a Google Map? The answer is, of course, that Google does. I heard this concern in a meeting with a local government in 2009: they were concerned about using Google Maps on their website because Google makes choices about which businesses to display. The people in the meeting were right to be concerned about this issue, as a government needs to remain impartial; by outsourcing their maps, they would hand the control over to a third party. ... The second concern is about location. Who defines where a neighborhood is, or whether or not you should go? This issue was brought up by the American Civil Liberties Union when a map provider was providing routing (driving/biking/walking instructions) and used what it determined to be "safe" or "dangerous" neighborhoods as part of its algorithm.'"

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162 comments

Open Street (3, Funny)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 3 months ago | (#45960143)

Open Street
Can nae be beat
With proper ads
Every so many feet
Burma Shave

distinction w/o difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45962183)

they were concerned about using Google Maps on their website because Google makes choices about which businesses to display.

I'm hardly a fan of google (real name policy... [spits]) but the "open" spam lists make decisions about email addresses, often wrong, very difficult to deal with for the innocent person, nearly impossible for one who doesn't understand what happened. Email providers make decisions to use same. Anything with GPL rejects closed commercial use and improvement. Individual OS projects make many decisions without user input (hey, your Python / Perl upgrade is incompatible with your code... you DID want that, right?) The USG makes decisions about who to list on the no fly, no buy, felon, offender, terrorist lists... often wrong and/or wholly inappropriate, and virtually impossible to remediate when wrong. Bottom line is that there's no impartial source of data and/or decisions out there. You just have to pick the one that's most in line with your outlook and hope they remain that way.

Because it's fucking awesome, that's why. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45960191)

The level of detail is just fantastic, and I can carry the entire map on an sd card for offline use, including routing. It's plain awesome.

Re:Because it's fucking awesome, that's why. (3, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about 3 months ago | (#45960509)

The level of detail is just fantastic, and I can carry the entire map on an sd card for offline use, including routing. It's plain awesome.

Detail? Not so much.
Side by side comparison: Zoomed to my town. Entered search term: Starbucks

Google Maps: Showed every starbucks in my town
OpenStreetMaps: Showed nothing in my town, but listed some in Japan, an ocean away.

Zoomed to Seattle. Repeated same test.
Same results. Openstreetmaps can't find a Starbucks in Seattle.

Keyed in a random address: 521 N 1st st, new york, NY
Google: Bam, direct hit.
Openstreetmaps: Nothing. Not a single thing.

This is probably where 50 people jump on me and suggest I should fix the maps and contribute.
Yeah, that will work.

Re:Because it's fucking awesome, that's why. (5, Funny)

Guest316 (3014867) | about 3 months ago | (#45960573)

Openstreetmaps can't find a Starbucks in Seattle.

That's a feature. Seattlites know good coffeeshops from Starbucks.

Re:Because it's fucking awesome, that's why. (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about 3 months ago | (#45960739)

Openstreetmaps can't find a Starbucks in Seattle.

That's a feature. Seattlites know good coffeeshops from Starbucks.

Challenge accepted:

Zoom to Seattle down town: Search Coffee shops
Google: Map turns pink with hits
OSM: On shop in Singapore

Next?

Re:Because it's fucking awesome, that's why. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45960919)

That's certainly true as most coffee drinkers don't consider Star Bucks to qualify as Coffee

Re: Because it's fucking awesome, that's why. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45960581)

You need a map to find a Starbucks? Kidding aside, obviously the quality of the map depends on the people who make it. Around here, it is indeed fantastic. It even shows every single electrical tower. The bicycle routing in particular is much better than Google's.

Re: Because it's fucking awesome, that's why. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45960741)

So it that bicycle routing "safe", or don't you care about little details like that? I consider narrow roads unsafe for bicycles, AND for the car drivers who take chances trying to get around them, AND the travelers approaching them head-on...

Re: Because it's fucking awesome, that's why. (1)

doom (14564) | about 3 months ago | (#45961001)

So it that bicycle routing "safe", or don't you care about little details like that?

Are you under the impression that google only returns "safe" bike routes? I've had it give me directions from Oakland to Alameda going through the Posey tube... you would need to try that sometime to understand how funny that is. Yeah, you *can* get a bicycle through there... *if* you've got the Right Stuff.

Re:Because it's fucking awesome, that's why. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45960769)

openstreetmap.org is not set up as an end user portal. The search doesn't limit itself to "nearby".

One reason for this is that a more end user oriented system would probably require a lot more resources.

Good or bad, this is a different issue than detail. A lot of addresses are missing, as you have demonstrated.

Re:Because it's fucking awesome, that's why. (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 3 months ago | (#45960811)

Well, Google Maps has all sorts of garbage. Who at Google once placed Mt. Whitney in Yosemite NP? Defaced the name of a University (I won't say which one, but I got the distinct impression QC at Google isn't what it should be.)

Re:Because it's fucking awesome, that's why. (5, Informative)

websitebroke (996163) | about 3 months ago | (#45961061)

Try Starbucks Seattle [openstreetmap.org]. Turns out there are a bunch of them. Yeah, not even close to as nice as defaulting to finding things right nearby your location, but not completely useless, either.

Re:Because it's fucking awesome, that's why. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45961331)

tl;dr: Garbage In, Garbage Out.

The only question I have is... where is 521 N 1st St. in New York? In Manhattan, streets are more or less E-W and avenues are N-S. So perhaps 521 N 1st Ave. would make more sense. And lo and behold, that gets instantly found on OSM!

If you are looking for what Google gave you, you should be looking in Kings, or Brooklyn. Both of these also work on OSM. The fact that Google makes shit up in a fuzzy way is not a good thing, especially if you follow the route there and end up paying the bridge tolls.

"New York, NY" in addresses refers to the New York County, which is just Manhattan (and Roosevelt Island, of course, plus a few less populated islands in the East River). It's like saying "Washington, DC" while referring to an address in Alexandria, just because Washington is better known.

Re:Because it's fucking awesome, that's why. (2, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about 3 months ago | (#45962285)

Point is, Google found it without me knowing a thing abut some "traditional" mode of addressing in NYC.

Quick, what's the traditional mode of address presentation in La Paz Bolivia?
Q: Why should you have to know that?
A: Because your hatred of Google makes you use an inferior product.

Re:Because it's fucking awesome, that's why. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45961707)

Meh, it's not trying to solve that use case, but is able to anyway:

http://overpass-turbo.eu/map.html?Q=%2F*%0AThis%20is%20the%20drinking%20water%20example%20in%20OverpassQL.%0A*%2F%0A(%0A%20%20node%0A%20%20%20%20%5B%22name%22%3D%22Starbucks%22%5D%0A%20%20%20%20(38.395491532971896%2C-77.73101806640625%2C39.740986355883564%2C-75.97320556640625)%20%2F*%20this%20is%20auto-completed%20with%20the%0A%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20current%20map%20view%20coordinates.%20*%2F%0A)%3B%0Aout%3B

Re:Because it's fucking awesome, that's why. (2)

sberge (2725113) | about 3 months ago | (#45962633)

You seem to be confusing a map and a business directory. OpenStreetMap has a lot of map detail, i.e. street names and such, but no business listings. Google Maps is not only a map, but also a business directory. Certainly, these are useful services to combine, but I wouldn't fault OpenStreetMap for not being a business directory. That would be better handled as a separate project, and the two data sources could easily be combined to produce the service you're looking for.

Re:Because it's fucking awesome, that's why. (2)

metamarmoset (2728667) | about 3 months ago | (#45963199)

Firstly: your random address doesn't exist. 521 1st st, New York, NY does, however and OSM finds it straight away, even showing house numbers on the buildings!

521 N (as copy-pasted from your post into the search bar) returns two alternatives - in Nassau and in Cattaraugus, where there are North and South 1st streets.

Other counterexamples:

All the starbucks in my town are listed in OSM.

Looking for bus routes in Kent, England
Google Maps: Search, get the occasionall bus depot. Public transport layer, get not a thing.
OpenStreetMap: Search, get nothing. Transport layer: get detailed visualisation of bus route and train routes.

OSM also has an excellent layer for cycle routes. Google thinks it has one, but it's woefully incomplete and inaccurate.

Basically, I find OSMs local info to be more complete, but google has a better search parser and, of course, street view.
They are both utterly useable.

Re:Because it's fucking awesome, that's why. (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 3 months ago | (#45960803)

The level of detail is just fantastic, and I can carry the entire map on an sd card for offline use, including routing. It's plain awesome.

The only downside is some clowns have been placing poor data into the collection - trails which are way off, restrooms which are not along trails, etc.

Re:Because it's fucking awesome, that's why. (1)

plover (150551) | about 3 months ago | (#45960909)

The only downside is some clowns have been placing poor data into the collection - trails which are way off, restrooms which are not along trails, etc.

You think that's bad? Think about conflicting factions arguing over border lines, or competing businesses trying to steal each others' business. It'll make Wikipedia vandalism seem like children on the playground.

Re:Because it's fucking awesome, that's why. (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 3 months ago | (#45960999)

Same could be said for Google Maps as well.

I've seen many buildings/places in the wrong location on Google Maps.

Ghetto Tracker (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45960255)

Wish it would return.

Open Street is not outsourcing? (1)

turkeydance (1266624) | about 3 months ago | (#45960261)

even the oldie-goldie paper maps were outsourced except for the larger cities (not states or countries).

Routing around bad neighborhoods? Want! (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45960309)

ACLU can protest, but I'd far rather have a system that gets me around neighborhoods where I get a gun shoved in my face for my ride, then another with the trigger pulled in my face for being the wrong race in the wrong place.

In fact, I wouldn't mind a service that can make and keep current heat maps so I can glance at somewhere like Cleveland or LA and know what routes to take so I don't end up having my vehicle (and my cranium) perforated by .40 ammo so a gangbanger can "blood in" and show it off via a YouTube video.

There was a company that was doing heat maps of crime, but they have not done a single update in two years.

Re:Routing around bad neighborhoods? Want! (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45960495)

Sure, that would be really nice. But as we all know it's totally racist to admit that black people commit crimes. So we can't do that.

Re:Routing around bad neighborhoods? Want! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45960575)

hey asshole, i live and work in 'those' neghborhoods, and at most i jaywalk

Re: Routing around bad neighborhoods? Want! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45960599)

so you admit that you're a criminal. great, we're getting somewhere!

Re:Routing around bad neighborhoods? Want! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45960623)

...or assume that white people don't.

Re:Routing around bad neighborhoods? Want! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45960819)

Great. Could we also have maps showing where bankers, investment counselors and other white-collar criminals live? The only difference is when they steal they don't use a gun.

Re:Routing around bad neighborhoods? Want! (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45960995)

Great. Could we also have maps showing where bankers, investment counselors and other white-collar criminals live? The only difference is when they steal they don't use a gun.

You still don't get it, do you?

When they steal, they don't even commit a crime.

And you better believe they fucking wrote it that way.

Re:Routing around bad neighborhoods? Want! (1, Insightful)

doom (14564) | about 3 months ago | (#45960971)

There was a company that was doing heat maps of crime, but they have not done a single update in two years.

Let me see if I can put this delicately. If you care about this you're an idiot. (Oh well.).

If you're driving around what you really want is a "heat map" of traffic accidents. If you're walking around what you really want is a "heat map" of pedestrian deaths. And so on...

Stressing out about stray bullets, even in a "bad neighborhood" is only one step up from worrying about lightning strikes.

(Note: I live in West Oakland. Everyone is excited that they're were only 92 homicides in Oakland last year.)

Re:Routing around bad neighborhoods? Want! (1)

richlv (778496) | about 3 months ago | (#45961177)

when i was in south africa, i was told that in central johannesburg people sometimes get robbed of their cars. stop at the red light, two cars come. one stops in front of you, one behind you, a couple of guys with guns throw you out of your car.
"traffic accidents" would not be enough :)

The ACLU (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45960317)

Objected to the way ghetto POS neighborhoods full of "attractive and successful african americans" were labeled unsafe and thus avoided? Color me shocked.

Wikipedia of Maps? (5, Insightful)

rueger (210566) | about 3 months ago | (#45960333)

Somehow I envision a Wikipedia of maps, with boundaries and street names changing at random if two groups can't agree.

Sure it may not happen in downtown Topeka, but imagine to geo-edit wars that will happen in the Middle East or other disputed territory.

Re:Wikipedia of Maps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45960489)

What you seem to describe as something bad is actually what makes Wikipedia works. If information is subject to debate, edit wars with proper commentary are constructive.

Re:Wikipedia of Maps? (2)

icebike (68054) | about 3 months ago | (#45960551)

edit wars with proper commentary are constructive.

Constructive, No. Not by a long shot. About as constructive a a gun fight in a night club.

And the end result is the same. You can't go to nightclubs, and if you do, you better be packin heat.

Your dad said he only read playboy for the articles. You tell us you only use Wiki for the arguments.
I'm more likely to believe your dad.

Re:Wikipedia of Maps? (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 3 months ago | (#45960703)

Somehow I envision a Wikipedia of maps, with boundaries and street names changing at random if two groups can't agree. Sure it may not happen in downtown Topeka, but imagine to geo-edit wars that will happen in the Middle East or other disputed territory.

I don't know Topeka, but there are plenty of places in the US where there will be disputes, because it happens already. If a boundary is in dispute, and they often are for neighborhoods or unincorporated villages, people will fight to get their property included in the more prestigious area.

Re:Wikipedia of Maps? (2)

richlv (778496) | about 3 months ago | (#45961023)

nothing new there - obviously, such disputes do happen in osm.

a) territorial. think india/pakistan, china, russia... these tend to be settled by drawing both/all suggested borders in many cases
b) naming. usually, which language will be the default (main) for some feature. russian names in ukraine or belarus, french here or there. these either tend to be settled by making the 'main' name include all suggested ones (lang1/lang2), or just not having main at all (and only having language-specific names)

those are not the only disputes - there are discussions about level of detail to be mapped and so on.

interestingly, a rather large discussion happened in russia where people drew in known military sites, then somebody else threatened to delete those. i think those sites were not removed, but did not follow that much.

the main point - sure, disagreements do happen, but osm project seems to deal with them quite reasonably so far

Re:Wikipedia of Maps? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 3 months ago | (#45961989)

Sure it may not happen in downtown Topeka, but imagine to geo-edit wars that will happen in the Middle East or other disputed territory.

Apple and Google have this problem - over Taiwan. China considers it a territory, while Taiwan naturally considers themselves an independent nation.

Heck, remember Windows 95 had a time-zone setting that used a map? Handy, right? But border disputes between Peru and Ecuador and India put an end of that [msdn.com]..(And no, Microsoft used official UN-recognized maps for their borders).

And yeah, the middle east. Consider Palestine and Israel. That's going to be a real edit war.

Mapping, like dates and time, are hard. Heck, about the only good thing is you can fork OpenStreetMap to suit your political view of the world, I guess.

I can walk through any neighborhood I want to (1)

IgnorantMotherFucker (3394481) | about 3 months ago | (#45960405)

... any time of the day or night, carrying around my Retina Display MacBook Pro, chatting up the meanest, nastiest ugliest hoodlums. Because I look just like a Hell's Angel. In reality I'm a coder with a degree in Physics. You could knock me flat by looking at me funny. It's all about how you carry yourself.

Yeah... using is a pain in the ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45960431)

Okay, while I love the idea of Open Street Maps, if you have you have moderate traffic it becomes problematic because.... Nominatim. The backend DIY portion of Open Street Maps requires a 32GB server to run! That's insanity.

I support everything the author is talkin' about with moving away from proprietary providers, but this sort of puts up a large barrier to entry for most people needing a bit more than maps for a casual website.

You say, "$800 a month for a server is a drop in the hat compared to your bottom line... or should be!" and I agree with that, but unfortunately, setting up, administrating, configuring, updating, etc require someone with expertise in it-- who is probably MUCH more costly than the $800/month server. You then need to worry about availability, because it's on you... It's costly.

Again, I love all of this, I just wish there was more work towards making it more viable for small-medium sized users.

p.s. If I totally missed a key portion of the Open Street maps docs that solve all my woes, please let me know! I'd love to leave the Goog's iron grasp, but right now we're unable to hire an engineer just to deal with our mapping software when we can just pay Google $10-$20k per year. Or if anyone knows of any good providers of Open Steet map data please mention 'em!

Re:Yeah... using is a pain in the ass (0)

Teancum (67324) | about 3 months ago | (#45960553)

Or if anyone knows of any good providers of Open Steet map data please mention 'em!

It is the rendering of the maps that is the big deal, not the data provider. There are some open source map providers who take the Open Street Map data and offers it to the world under CC and related licenses, but it may not be sufficient for your needs. If your application is a bandwidth hog you should try to offer to host that data service for your users/clients anyway just in the spirit of paying for what you use instead of living off of the supposed charity of Google (where they instead sell your client's data for purposes like to the NSA for tracking purposes.... and you really want that?) If you take that data and re-render it as maps for your own purposes, you can sell those maps or give it away as a public service as you see fit... breaking the stranglehold from Google.

I'm also confused as to why a 32GB server must cost $800/month. You can easily buy a server for $800 (pay just for electricity), stick it in a closet, and then worry just about bandwidth costs. That isn't much data (at the moment) when TB hard drives are starting to be common. I guess upgrade as necessary for your application, and if you are paying Google $10k-$20k per year it must be a pretty hefty application. If you can't hire an intern or devote one of your developers part-time to this task to undercut the cost to Google, perhaps you need to stick with your current arrangement. I am saying that a hobbyist could certainly get a small scale operation or proof of concept for relatively cheap and certainly wouldn't cost what you are suggesting here.

Re:Yeah... using is a pain in the ass (1)

pmontra (738736) | about 3 months ago | (#45962397)

The problem is: you don't want to have to setup and maintain your own map server when the Google alternative is include some JavaScript for free. For all I like OSM I can't see me going to a customer and tell him to spend 1000 per year (possibly more, HW plus labour) on that. Chances are the project goes to somebody else. What OSM needs is somebody providing a high traffic map server for free. What commercial model could use?

You are confused as to what map provider provides (3, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 3 months ago | (#45960469)

"Who defines where a neighborhood is, or whether or not you should go? This issue was brought up by the American Civil Liberties Union when a map provider was providing routing (driving/biking/walking instructions) and used what it determined to be "safe" or "dangerous" neighborhoods as part of its algorithm.'"

That doesn't come from the map provider though. That data is from someone else, overlaid on ANY map providers map... using OpenStreetMap changes that not a whit.

Re:You are confused as to what map provider provid (2, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 months ago | (#45960567)

using crime stats to overlay and provide safer routing is a great feature. if that happens to show an ethnic neighborhood is like being in a Mad Max movie, so be it. I for one don't feel like I'm contributing to diversity and equal opportunity by letting a minority rob or maim or kill me.

Re:You are confused as to what map provider provid (2)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 3 months ago | (#45962335)

Crime maps are available for many cities. Unfortunately, there was a lot of noise made a while back about decreased property values and business losses when crime stats were going to be included in driving directions.

Google Maps and my Garmin can route my around traffic, but they sometimes insist I drive into bad neighborhoods. That's fine in the greater metro area that I live in, since I know how dangerous various areas are. It's not so good when I'm in a strange town.

I was out of town for work, and told the people at the site where the maps had me drive through. They asked how many times I was shot at. Apparently they weren't the safest neighborhoods. Fortunately, the locals, while dangerous, couldn't hit a moving vehicle.

Re:You are confused as to what map provider provid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45960595)

quit talking about facts, this is a lynch mob!!!

Screw all proprietary services (except for Slashdot and corporate companies)

Re:You are confused as to what map provider provid (1)

icebike (68054) | about 3 months ago | (#45960637)

Yup, crime statistics are public information.
The next thing you know the ACLU or some Cities will be anonymizing crime statistics to protect feelings.
Responses to 911 calls will be dispatched to random addresses so as not to cast aspersions.

Re:You are confused as to what map provider provid (1)

richlv (778496) | about 3 months ago | (#45961031)

note that it actually talks about "Who defines where a neighborhood is", as in neighbourhood borders

the worlds needs many things... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45960535)

One example of what the world needs is an Authentic Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that would protect anyone that wants to protect people by providing a map of dangerous neighborhoods!

Need to know. (2)

westlake (615356) | about 3 months ago | (#45960571)

I don't see how an open map solves the problem of the annotated street map that is "politically incorrect" but useful. Bike lanes marked which are dangerously exposed and poorly maintained, especially in winter. Streets and neighborhoods even the prostitutes avoid.

Free market control (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 3 months ago | (#45960625)

I hate to fall back onto freemarkets self regulating in these scenarios, but actually this is exactly what I see happening here and for search in general.

Maps are only as good as their accuracy and their results. Just look at the backlash against Apple maps, and the number of people who installed the Google Maps app when Apple maps went through it's hilariously bad teething phase.

People don't use maps that aren't accurate, so if I can't find something on one map, I go to another, and if I find one map to be more accurate then I stick with that map. Internally politicising results is suicide for a company that produces this kind of service.

The race is on (4, Informative)

ras (84108) | about 3 months ago | (#45960629)

If Google isn't careful, they will loose this race. Right now it is a bit of a toss up. It wasn't always so. A few years ago OSM was just toy, and the Android Google Maps app did a reasonable job of offline maps and searching the local area. My how things have changed.

On the one hand Google has been busily removing features from it's Maps app. I think they were trying to make it easier to use. Whether they achieved that is debatable, but what they done is make it less useful. You can't measure distances now, the search for local places of interest is all but useless, there is no way to find out what maps are available for offline use.

OsmAnd+ on the other hand has acquired one big missing feature - directions, navigation and voice. Amazingly its point of interest search works much better than Google, possibly because the locals enter the point of interest data. And it always had a number of features Google Maps doesn't:

  • Measure distances.
  • Add way points for navigation.
  • Directed Address Entry.
  • Display custom underlay / overlay maps.
  • Record / display GPS tracks.
  • Totally offline operation.
  • If something is wrong or missing, you can add it.

Normally I would not bet against Google. But collecting traffic and public transport out of the realms of possibility for Osm. If that happens, I can't think why anybody would choose to use Google Maps over OSM.

Re:The race is on (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 3 months ago | (#45960709)

If you want an offline map in the Android maps app, you select an area to download and it does just that. Any area. There are size limits though.

Measuring distance in a straight line isn't all that important. It's not going to be accurate, especially on a map. The roads aren't always exactly in the correct place, the satellite imaging is also approximate.

Getting a distance figure from driving directions is more useful, and a feature OSM doesn't have by lack of directions.

For driving, Google Maps, for tramping or something else, Something Else.

Re:The race is on (1)

pjtp (533932) | about 3 months ago | (#45961133)

If you want an offline map in the Android maps app, you select an area to download and it does just that. Any area. There are size limits though.

Yes, you can still do this with the "OK Maps" rubbish (WTF were they thinking?); however, it is much less functional than the old version where you just go into the menu and click "Make available off-line". This would then show you a convenient box so you know when you have hit the size limits (it goes red when the area is too large). You could then see a list of all the maps you had saved off-line, how much data they were using, when they were cached and you could also rename them.

Measuring distance in a straight line isn't all that important.

I disagree with you there. I often want to know the distance between two points. Also the old maps (with the measure lab) let you plot multiple lines and it did a sum for you. You could then get approximate distances between any points on the map (not just for driving). It would also give you a nice graph showing ascent changes.

Another thing that Google removed was the terrain maps.

Google's war on advanced users continues.

Re:The race is on (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45961361)

Yup, I downgraded to the old version and left it there.

Re:The race is on (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45961275)

Much more obfuscated to do so in Google Maps 7.x. then there are several features that got nuked, like the Terrain layer... and no using Maps 6.x on android 4.4...

Re:The race is on (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45961385)

I refused the "upgrade" to Android 4.4 precisely because I was afraid that might happen, so thanks for mentioning it.

A century of map-makers disagree (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 3 months ago | (#45961849)

Measuring distance in a straight line isn't all that important.

Really? Then why do you see a measurement scale on nearly EVERY printed map.

And that's in a realm where you have to further approximate by holding something against the scale, then against the map...

In a digital map scale is even more vital, because you can zoom in and out and quickly lose track of exactly how far distances are at your current zoom level.

Re:The race is on (1)

turkeydance (1266624) | about 3 months ago | (#45960737)

checked OSM for my area. 4 big problems and 2 minor ones: 1. road relocation in 1999 with OSM being one km off. 2. neighborhood located in a lake. actual is 220 meters west. 3. no new road updated since 1999. 4. street names and street signs don't match. (1) municipal boundaries unreliable. (2) rivers and waterways length inaccurate.

Re:The race is on (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45960927)

I'll see your anecdote, and raise you mine.
When I was first playing with OSM about 2-3 years ago, I checked every neighborhood I had ever been in, and only found 2 really minor inaccuracies in one, and it just seemed about a year out of date from new construction. I promptly registered an account and fixed the inaccuracies.

Now imagine if you have a route you often like to use navigation for to make sure you don't miss a turn but your provider keeps sending you off a ramp into a river and you can't fix it... or it always tells you to drive right through a mcdonalds that's been there for 5 years...

Re:The race is on (1)

mcfedr (1081629) | about 3 months ago | (#45962521)

You just proved the advantage of OSM, you can fix this! If you found the same problem on gmaps, you would be stuck with it until they decided to notice.

Re:The race is on (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45963075)

Several years ago, it was about that bad here.

A few months later, openstreetmap had a very detailed road map, AND I'd gotten some excercise.

Re:The race is on (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45960865)

Thanks for the tip. I just bought OsmAnd+. I'm trying to shed as much of the Google infestation as possible, and this is a positive step.

Re:The race is on (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45962293)

If you are logged in to Google when you visit Maps, you can measure distances (small icon of a ruler in the lower left). Not "defending" this practice, just informing.

Re:The race is on (1)

Mike Van Pelt (32582) | about 3 months ago | (#45962935)

Because you haven't "upgraded". The old Google Maps had this feature (I think you had to enable it from "Labs"), but they took it out of the new maps.

They also removed the "Select a rectangle and zoom to it" feature.

For both of those reasons, I downgraded back to the old one. I have no interest whatsoever in "upgrading" unless and until those features are put back.

Re:The race is on (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45962361)

If Google isn't careful, they will loose this race.

Yeah, they really need to tighten their racing...

Directions based on safe neighbourhoods? (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 3 months ago | (#45960683)

Bugger that, can I pay Google to have more people routed past my billboards?

Re:Directions based on safe neighbourhoods? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45962795)

Bugger that, can I pay Google to have more people routed past my billboards?

Now THAT is fscking genius.

Can the NSA order them to route terrorists wherever they want them?

Won't Work (0)

TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) | about 3 months ago | (#45960837)

This is destined to be an epic fail. It could certainly fulfill CURRENT expectations. But this is what is naive. What about expectations 3 years from now?

Google is a company with the desire and means to change the world.

And this idea is the 2013 idea of a database.

Google wants to do stuff involving speed limits and probably road signs (no turn on red in the USA as an example).

An obsolete by design and lack of planning 2013 idea of an open database is going to be thrashed hard, no matter the quality. But then there is the quality issue too!

Google has every financial motivation to invest many resources into a database and system to compete in the idea-space for the future. Meanwhile, Open Source has never been that good at databases. This database will be useful, but it will be obsolete and archaic and inadequate compared to what Google has even now.

Re:Won't Work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45961085)

OSM has tags for speed limits and dealing with intersections.

(but sure, the data is not complete)

Re:Won't Work (1)

PRMan (959735) | about 3 months ago | (#45962031)

no turn on red in the USA as an example

Did I miss something? We can turn right on red at almost every intersection.

Re:Won't Work (1)

stiggle (649614) | about 3 months ago | (#45962997)

Thats the point - you want it highlighted on those junctions where it's not permitted, so you don't get caught by the cop sitting in the gas station on the corner waiting for those that do turn.

This essay is getting around (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45961003)

It started on his blog, was reprinted in Gizmodo and now the Guardian.

I agree with most of the article, but having a mapping application that routes me around a known bad neighborhood when I'm in an unfamiliar city is a good thing, not a bad thing. In our own cities, we're generally decently aware of which areas are not a great place to drive at 9pm on a weekend but that sort of local knowledge is lost when visiting a new city.

I'm sure on some narrow philosophical grounds it can be considered "unfair" to route traffic away from a spot that's known for carjackings ("but the burger stand there is awesome - you're (literally) driving away potential customers!") but let's be real. I've had dumb GPS units on rental cars route me through some pretty sketchy areas - as well as "roads" that were cut for local moonshiners to reach their stills who didn't much care for the Yankee driving thru "their" holler.

I tried OpenStreetMaps on a Garmin Edge 705 (1)

rwyoder (759998) | about 3 months ago | (#45961445)

(This is a cycling computer.)

Good: It showed all the street detail, *plus* it showed the offroad trails not shown by the Garmin maps.

Bad: The navigation functionality no longer worked.

Re:I tried OpenStreetMaps on a Garmin Edge 705 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45963029)

That's a limitation of the device. You can route using OSM. Try OSMAnd (Android OSM app).

Re:I tried OpenStreetMaps on a Garmin Edge 705 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45963107)

mkgmap (the OSM to Garmin converter) gets better all the time. I'm using OSM maps on my GPSMap 60CSx, and routing works. Address search is still somewhat buggy, though.

However, the reason is that the Garmin format needs to be reverse engineered. If you have a smart phone, try an OSM app instead. That should get you better results.

The problem is not the data, as you've seen (even the trails are there), but getting proprietary closed software to read the data.

I do tons of GIS work and ... (1)

FlyingGuy (989135) | about 3 months ago | (#45961519)

I have found that Navteq -> Nokia -> Here have the best maps AND the best Link / Node sources.

Google just plain sucks because you have to feed from their API but they do have damn accurate maps, as to their routing engine well...

OSM is pretty good but the level of cruft is quite high and takes a LOT of work to make it usable so...

"safe" or "dangerous" neighborhoods (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 3 months ago | (#45961523)

The ACLU people should just use Garmin. I was driving with my SiL and her family a couple years back because they were unfamiliar with the area and she wanted to follow the Garmin. Its directions were becoming exceedingly sketchy, but whatever, until it wanted her to turn down a dark alley in a seedy part of a city with one of the worst crime rates on the East Coast.

At that point I said, "hell no, go straight, take the first left, a quick right, the next left, and take the entrance ramp to the highway." (I'd been watching the roads the Garmin should have put us on).

So, those concerned about offending somebody can just use Garmin. In the meantime, somebody tell me which map routing algorithms use crime data to adjust their routes so I can give them some money.

Re:"safe" or "dangerous" neighborhoods (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45962385)

Yess sah, niggers be scarrrrrry!

Re:"safe" or "dangerous" neighborhoods (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45963127)

Must have been in shortest route mode.

In fastest route mode, Garmin is known to be very motorway-happy, sometimes taking long detours where a much faster shortcut exists.

My Places (1)

Idetuxs (2456206) | about 3 months ago | (#45961607)

I agree, we should use OSM, so we make it bigger and better. But as I have to make a website were there're pinned points in a city map so everyone can see it, OSM is not useful for me. Sadly, it can't replace "Google My Places"..yet

This is currently inavailable: http://open.mapquest.com/ [mapquest.com]

Or may be I'm overlooking, I just need a map where I can mark places and probably attach photos to it (like to show the front of a starbucks store). But in a whole country. As far as I can know, can't do it with OSM, without serious work.

Re:My Places (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45962403)

MapQuest? I bet you still have a CompuServe email address to log in to your MySpace page. LAWL!

Nokia maps - http://here.com/ maps (3, Interesting)

dwater (72834) | about 3 months ago | (#45961789)

I always found Nokia maps to be better than Google maps on my phone, but I haven't used it since Nokia switch to Microsoft only.
I'm looking forward to trying 'here maps', which is what came out of it in the shake, once it is available for other platforms : http://here.com/ [here.com]

However, I guess it has similar issues to Google in this context.

just what I want (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45962135)

another inaccurate map do-hicky that feels the need to photograph my house, but this time I can vote in a committee of the entire world

la de da

Most miss the point (1)

tanveer1979 (530624) | about 3 months ago | (#45962247)

I have a lot of friends who proudly contribute to google maps. Whenever I try push them towards OSM, the response is. Its not good enough. roads are missing. POIs are less.
Its like a big whoosh.
OSM is user generated. More users will mean better maps. Looks at Europe. We did a trip in norway, and we could navigate perfectly just with OSM. Why? Because of local participation.
Secondly, we have lost a lot of battles. Today facebook decides what content to show. Want your status update to be seen? Well pay money. The corporations have one agenda. Gamify and monetize. We need to get out and reclaim whatever we can.
And OSM is just one of the pieces of the puzzle. If more and more people started contributing, there is no reason for OSM to be inferior. For example, the Indian city of Chennai is as well mapped as google.
More users means more developers come and develop better routing algorithms. Better POI searches. Better map features.
So if you don't like OSM in your area, Fix it. Its not too difficult. To get something, if you expect some corporation to come and do it for you, remember they will do it in a way it benefits them. To get what you want, you have to make an effort.

comparing tool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45962727)

Google for geofabrik comparing tool. Gives you instantly differences in splitted view.
But remember that osm di has much more beyond what's rendered online

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