Category Archives: work

My Talk at State of the Map Scotland 2012

This year at State of the Map Scotland 2012 I spoke about the ITO Map tool to highlight the more detailed OpenStreetMap data available, which generally isn’t shown on maps. I’ve mentioned a few other services that I find interesting that maybe aren’t so well known. This blog post is a summary of that talk. You can click the map images to see a bigger image.

State of the Map Scotland

First up, was the building classifications and building addressing ITO Map layers. It’s really useful to have address information on buildings as then you can find the specific address rather than just the street.

A lot of the buildings in OpenStreetMap at the moment are simply marked as building=yes, (94% of buildings don’t specify the building type), however if the buildings are marked with what they are used for then more interesting maps showing the building classification can be created, and you have information that can be useful for planning things.

Not many people have come across a speed limit map, as it’s very rare that this information has been readily available until people started adding it to OpenStreetMap. The ITO Map layer is great for showing the current data, and also highlighting where more data is needed, particularly residential streets and smaller roads. Most major roads in the UK already have speed limit data.

Next up I showed the Highway lanes map, which gives an idea of how busy or wide a road is. This data can be used by navigation devices to give advice on where to change lane on approach to a junction if it is required for example. I’ve also had someone suggest that it could be used by pedestrian and cycle campaigners to show how easy it is to cross a road, especially when used in combination with a map showing the pavements/sidewalks.

Having the barriers in an area mapped can be useful in some cases as it can for example explain that two roads don’t join due to a wall being in the way, thus someone who is looking at the data remotely thinking there is a connectivity error won’t try and fix it.

Barrier information is used by routing engines, for example CycleStreets will avoid  taking you across some types of barrier.

Many of the ITO Map layers are specifically aimed at helping OpenStreetMap Mappers to improve the tagging. For example the Building entrance fixup map layer highlights maps that are based on an older style of tagging building entrances. There was a change from simply say that there was an entrance to being able to specify the type of entrance. It’s also useful when people add other info like whether that particular entrance to the building is wheelchair accessible, which can then lead to wheelchair specific routing, and routing to a suitable building entrance, rather than the opposite side of the building which might mean a 5 minute walk.

How good are you at counting? Having the number of steps in a staircase can mean that routing engines can avoid long sets of steps for example. This could be useful for elderly  people who struggle walking up or down large flights of steps. I’m not sure OSM has come up with a consensus yet as to which direction is up or down, so that the routing engine could for example say go down 10 steps, walk 500 metres turn right and up 50 steps.

CycleStreets take the view that dismounting and walking your bike up or down a few steps may be preferable to huge diversion.

Another useful map for walking campaigners is the map showing where the pavements/sidewalks are. This more detailed information of roads is probably not so useful in towns and cities, but more so in more rural areas, where pedestrians will often be expected to walk along side motor vehicles travelling at 40 or more miles per hour, which can be a pretty daunting experience. There can be parts of towns and cities where there are urban motorways where there is no pavement, or only one on one side of the road.

The OpenCycleMap has shown cycle parking in OpenStreetMap for many years now, however it doesn’t highlight the data in OSM that is lacking the capacity of each cycle parking place so that you know how big the cycle park is. The ITO Map of cycle parking specifically highlights data that could be improved with a red dot or area. Gregory Williams from Spokes East Kent has created a heat map of cycle parking.

Do you know where your nearest cash machine is and does it charge a fee?

OpenStreetMap has some data for the ATMs, however I’m sure there are more out there.

 

 

Is your local school mapped with buildings, and the schools grounds? ITO have a map for the schools.

Next up I showed some of the Vector Map District comparison maps.

I started off with the main roads VMD comparison highlighting that it can help with showing where there may be some differences that need fixed. Sometimes the Ordnance Survey data sources can be out of date, thus shouldn’t be copied without thinking. The example above highlights the new M74 extension, which opened since the OS VMD data was released. The map highlights a lot of discrepancies in the tertiary roads (what used to be commonly C numbered).

Similarly for the railways, OpenStreetMap is more precise, having more railway types defined, and also having new rail lines, such as the Shotts Line between Edinburgh and Glasgow now open.

Recently at work I’ve been looking at what interesting things that I can do with ITO Maps. It turns out that having a random colour based on the road number works well at showing where there road numbers changing where I wouldn’t expect them, or thin black lines showing where there is a missing road number (or ref in terms of OSM tagging). Someone has gone and fixed up most of the references that were missing in Central Scotland since the talk.

Similarly for railways you can easily see where they change name. In many cases the rail line doesn’t have a name.

Or how about random waterway names? Do some of the names change unexpecedly?

Finally I covered various questions and highlighting other things from the floor. ITO’s OSM Analysis tool is useful for spotting differences between OpenStreetMap and the Ordnance Survey’s OS Locator dataset. OSM Mapper is great for showing what has happened recently in an area, or highlighting the types of data that has been mapped in the area.

ITO are able to create new map layers to support the validation of OpenStreetMap data. The best ways to get in touch are to either add a message to the ITO Map Ideas wiki page where it can be publicly discussed, or to email support@itoworld.com.

Some other OSM tools that you may be interested in:

Who did it? which highlights recent changes that have been happening, and whether you should take a closer look based on some heuristics.

OSMstats shows charts about the OSM data and how it’s changing over time with daily updates.

Richard Mann has come up with cycle map style that is distinctly different from the original OpenCycleMap. It highlights main roads that have residential roads along them as they are likely to be”nicer” for cycling along compared to more rural main roads.

And finally you may not have yet come across the Live OSM Edits site. It can be quite addictive to sit and watch where there are edits happening in the world.

WordPress London Meetup – 17 November 2011

On Thursday 17th there was the November WordPress London meetup in the Headshift | Dachis Group offices. I recorded the 3 presentations and have uploaded them to YouTube:

WordPress News by Chris Adams

Chris gave a roundup of the latest changes and releases in the WordPress community. [Updated video with typo in title fixed.]

 

WordPress Site Structure for SEO by David Bain

David gave an introduction to setting up WordPress for good SEO practice.

 

Using Custom Post Types by Keith Devon

A technical talk by Keith on how to create a new custom post types.

 

OpenStreetMap Job Search Alert

As part of my recent job search I setup a few job alerts. One of which was with the keyword OpenStreetMap on CWJobs. I wasn’t expecting there to be anything coming up.

Out of the blue a job alert did appear, and it sounds rather interesting, though I have just started a new job at Headshift.

It is for a three month contract, and is asking for some quite high requirements, such as requiring to be security cleared; experienced using Ordnance Survey data; OpenLayer; Python; and optionally Mapnik; OpenStreetMap and QGIS. Based on the job description, I’m speculating that it is a contract for some government job. I’ll let you readers to speculate about the details of the job in the comments.

See a PDF of the Job Advert: 20091214-OpenStreetMap GIS Developer – CWJobs.co.uk

On a side note, I found that putting my CV on CWJobs yielded quite a high number of recruiters phoning, however the recruiters seem to all be chasing for candidates for the same handful of jobs. My current job was found through the help of the wonderful people who use twitter and directly talking to the potential employer.

Installing ImageMagick on Snow Leopard (64-bit)

This blog post is only relevant if you are on Snow Leopard, have a 64-bit Intel Mac, and need to install ImageMagick.

There are many Ruby on Rails projects out there that have some form image manipulation, thus use ImageMagick for that. Up until recently it was a real pain to install, with some huge list of library dependancies that need to be downloaded, compiled and installed. The ImageMagick project is now supplying a Intel 64-bit binary, specifically for Snow Leopard user so that they don’t need to install from source.

Another nice little tips that I learned for installing gems that have native extentions, is that you can put the ARCHFLAGS environment variable into your ~/.profile so that you don’t have to manually set it (and then wonder why the gem doesn’t compile elsewhere). You need to add:

export ARCHFLAGS="-arch x86_64"

The past 2 months

It has been a couple of months now since I’ve properly written a blog post. So here is a longish catchup post.

I have been busy doing agency work mostly in staff restaurants as a Kitchen Porter. I’ve even bumped into the Lead of the Marketing Project in our home town, rather than having to go to some OpenOffice.org conference. I did spend 3 weeks commuting by train (a novelty for me), to Stirling to work as a caretaker. Unfortunately the work is rather dull, though there are bills to be paid. Hopefully I’ll get around to updating my CV and sending it off to relevant people to hopefully get a degree related job.
Now back to 2 months ago.
I managed to get up and do my Buildbot presentation at ooocon2007 without any breakfast. The presentation has been really useful, as I have received some very useful feedback from developers on what they want from the system.
Code writers are interested in seeing if their code breaks on some other platform as early as possible. They want this to be reliable, and ideally the same configuration as the officially released builds.
The QA project are looking for install sets for testing new code that is about to be introduced into the main code line. Again they ideally want to have the same configuration as the officially released builds.
At the moment the source code statistics aren’t interesting enough for developers to want them. Also the basics don’t currently work well enough.
I have finally got around to Geotagging my photos from this years OpenOffice.org conference in the past few days. As I have upgraded to Mac OS X 10.5, I found that my previous geotagging solution (GPSPhotoLinker) has stopped working as a library has stopped working due to a perl version mismatch. So I have headed to the command line with a perl script. gpsPhoto.pl seems to do the trick, though it is a pain to get the command line right as it isn’t as easy to just drag a load of photos from iPhoto. I’m not upgrading to iLife 08, as there is no GPS tagging support. Leopard’s Preview has a feature that allows you to go to a Google map of where the photo was taken. However, what I really want it to tell iPhoto: look in this folder for GPS traces, and geo tag all these photos automatically.
For future reference (as I was in mainland Europe with daylight saving the offset from UTC is minus 2 hours):
./gpsPhoto.pl –gpsdir 2007-09 –timeoffset -7200 –maxtimediff 7200 –overwrite-geotagged –dir /Users/shaunmcdonald/Pictures/iPhoto\ Library/Originals/2007/ooocon2007/
Photos from ooocon2007. I’ve also added the photos to Flickr with the ooocon2007 tag.
As many people have already seen. I am now the lead for the Mac Port of the OpenOffice.org. Eric Bachard made the announcement some time ago. I have posted my vision to the Mac porting mailing list. Due to time constraints as mentioned at the start of this blog post, I won’t be spending as much time as Eric Bachard on the project. I’m sure Eric will do a great job as the lead of the Education project, which tries to get more students involved in the OpenOffice.org project.
I am currently moving broadband provider from VirginMedia to Be*. For the same price I’m getting about 4 times the speed, with a slightly greater dropout for the same £18 per month.
When I was working out in Stirling I cycled home, or part of the way home. I have managed to map and tag most of the National Cycle Network route 76 from Stirling to Kincardine/Grangemouth. The south of the Kincardine Bridge is rather difficult to map and cycle just now as there is a lot of major road works and changes to the road network happening there.
About a fortnight ago I cycle 73 miles from Edinburgh to Ayr along the A70. I left quite late just before midday, and took about 6 hours. With the winter setting in, the last hour was pitch black. I lazily took the train back home for £8.80 with my Young Person Railcard. (Rather than cycling back home.) I have mapped and tagged the A70 with my GPS trace for the OpenStreetMap project. My ride on MapMyRide.com. I probably won’t cycle the A71 to Kilmarnock as it is a more dangerous road.
I have created a count down dashboard widget to State of the Map 2008. Download the SOTM countdown widget
Finally, I have partnered with Manager-Pro. To translate and distribute and English version of their software. All exported reports require the usage of OpenOffice.org. Either as the document reader as the exported documents are in the OpenOffice.org 1 format. If a user wants the reports in PDF, Word or Excel formats, OpenOffice.org requires to be installed for the file format translators within OpenOffice.org.

Dissertation Finally Complete

I’ve now completed my dissertation and handed it in. I completed the presentation this morning. So now that it’s over, I can get on with some real work and hopefully earn some money.

I found the presentation quite tough to write (though no where near as tough as the dissertation), as I didn’t think I would be able to stand up for 20 minutes to talk, with 10 minutes questions. I realised after I started the talk, I would run out of time.
If your interested you can take a read.
Just a few weeks now, and I’ll know what level of degree that I will have.

Scottish Graduate Fair

Yesterday I was away through in Glasgow for the Scottish Graduate Fair at the SECC. The event is aimed at final year student at university who are looking at what to be doing next. This generally come in anything from postgraduate education to graduate training, or volunteering to a plain ordinary job that utilises their skills. There were a variety of universities, companies and other training organisation there.

It was a case of finding the right booths with the people who are looking for what your current discipline is. The typical initial response was either, “sorry we don’t have any jobs in our business that you would be looking for”, or “great, your just the kind of person that we are looking for, here’s some more information”. You just have to keep hunting and you should find 4-12 different organisations with graduate schemes, or job opportunities that are suitable to you.

I’ll give a few examples of things that I found out:

  • According to recruiters, the careers service up here in Scotland is excellent, and you should make use of it!
  • Bloomberg take on Computer Science graduates who are strong in Java and (C or C++), for their programming departments. You need to have the C background so that you know about pointers and the way that memory works. Only 5-10% of their network is based on Java, the rest is some variation of C for speed.
  • You should tailor your CV for every company, just only give each company one CV. This is advice from several recruiters, and the careers service. You should target the CV/application for the specific skill set that the employer will be wanting.
  • If you want to go into an IT related business, participating voluntarily in an Open Source project such as OpenOffice.org can give you a large number of transferable skills and knowledge of project structures. Some organisations are already working to spread the word of Open Source software, and thus if you already know about that sort of stuff, will mean that you will be more likely to get a job through having greater experience.
  • Applying early could mean that you are more likely to get through.
  • It is better to do a good application for a few opportunities than a very poor job at hundreds of vacancies.
  • Be positive confident and give as much relevant information as possible.

Overall, I enjoyed the event, and would recommend any final year student to go along in the future.

Hopefully I will be able to remember to follow all the advice and get a job or graduate placement.

Glad I didn’t renew my bus pass

I’m Glad I didn’t bother renewing my Lothian Buses bus pass at the end of last week.
Why? Quite simple. Had I taken the bus today I would have missed the two connections because the 37A was running on time.
The shortest route by bus to Roslin for me, is to take the 18 to Kaimes cross roads. Fingers crossed the 18 was running on time. Then I have to hope that the 37A is running 2 minutes late, otherwise I miss it and the next connection, with the 15A from Bilston into Roslin.
The problem with taking the earlier 18 is that the 15A only runs every hour, if I have to wait more than 10 minutes on the 15A, I’m faster walking!
By the time I’m missing either the 15A or 37A on a regular basis, I’m as well cycling the whole route, it only takes around 10 minutes longer than the fastest time I have managed by bus!
Most importantly, it is considerably more reliable!