Archive for the ‘OpenStreetMap’ Category

Good times in Austria and Bulgaria

Mittwoch, Juni 17th, 2009

Sorry for not posting a long time, but I’ve been very busy in the last four weeks. After a weekend in the Rodopi-mountains on a trip with the Erasmus Network (nice mountains, gorges and caves but stomach problems and bad organisation) I went to Vienna by bus (~13 hours each way) for a spontaneous visit (to help with the elections at the university and to join some parties which were going on that time). I finally even stayed a day longer and went to my home town Graz, because a friend, Peter, celebrated his birthday. In the following week I tried to finish my projects for university, there was still a lot to do. And finally three friends came for visit, Babsi for two days and Sub and Argyll for more than ten days. We had a good time together, in Sofia, on the mountain Vitosha and also some more places in Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo and Plovdiv, were we stayed for two nights each and short visits to Stara Zagora and Asenovgrad. These days I’m finishing my studies here in Sofia, after this I will enjoy my last weeks in Bulgaria, e.g. on a CouchSurfing-meeting this weekend on a beach near Varna on the Blacksea Coast. Here you have some impressions from the last weeks:

I hope now I will find some time to concentrate on my project, the OpenStreetBrowser, the „State of the Map“-Conference in Amsterdam is coming close (9.-12. July in Amsterdam). Yes, I haven’t announced it yet on my Blog, I’m going there, I hope it will be very interesting! During the last weeks I even had time do some OpenStreetMap-mapping in Bulgaria.

Again OpenStreetBrowser

Dienstag, Mai 5th, 2009

As I told I’m gonna present some features of the OpenStreetBrowser from time to time. It’s also a good documentation for the project.

Routes of public transportation

Routes of public transportation are still not being displayed on the main Mapnik and OsmaRender renderings, although they are very important in my opinion. For me this was actually the start of the project, I had planned to make a nice map with public transportation routes. Now they are only an overlay, as they would clutter the main map too much.

There are two noteworthy features: The references of routes sharing the same way get collected and separated by ‚,‘, which looks much better, and stops with the same name get combined and get a box drawn around. Both of these features improve visibility.
Tram and Bus routes around Alser Strasse in Vienna, Austria

Link to Wikipedia

In the OpenStreetMap it’s possible to link to the Wikipedia. The key is „wikipedia:language“, e.g. „wikipedia:en“ or „wikipedia:de“. If such a link exists, the OpenStreetBrowser displays an abstract of the article and an image, when it finds one (it has to be before the first abstract … this is something still to improve).
Showing the Wikipedia-Entry of the “Altes Rathaus” (old town hall) in Potsdam, Germany

Stylesheet for the Overlays

The last feature for this time is the newest feature. The styles of the Overlays „Food & Drink“, „Shops“, „Culture & Tourism“ and „Services“ is generated from a page in the OSM-Wiki. So if you find something missing on these overlays, or you have better icons (many objects don’t have an icon or share icons with other features), feel free to upload them there (the new style sheet will be used after the next database reload, so typically after 1-3 weeks).
Showing the Culture-Layer over Paris, France

If you have suggestions for new feature, complaints or praise, feel free to leave me a comment :)

Some Features of the OpenStreetBrowser

Montag, April 13th, 2009

This time I want to show you some features of the OpenStreetBrowser. One of the goals of my project is to display as many information as possible in a simple and understandable way. Sounds like the quadratur of the circle? Maybe it is :)


The first feature I want to show you are house numbers. Sounds rather boring, isn’t it? The default Mapnik and Osmarenders styles don’t rotate the numbers, so it’s hard to say where they belong to. It’s also a problem of the software (I can only speak for Mapnik, because I’m using it too), there isn’t really a possibility to rotate texts and icons. So you have to use crude workarounds, which are a pain in the ass. But I think I’ve done a pretty good job … although ideas for improvements are always welcome! The house numbers are also being listed in the details of the street in the side pane.

Housenumbers in Vienna

More informations about entering house numbers to OSM.


I don’t know about you, my precious reader, but I like visiting cemeteries. Maybe it’s a Viennese thing, they were always crazy about their afterlife. On cemeteries you can visit all these graves of famous people. Even better if you can see them on the map, isn’t it? The important graves on a cemetery are also listed in the side information pane. Time to visit your local cemetery!

What is still missing is the background of the cemeteries, at the moment there are theses crosses, which is not really appropriate for graves of other religions.

Waldfriedhof Dahlem in Berlin

There is no approved method for tagging graves in OSM yet, the OpenStreetBrowser currently accepts cemetery=grave and historic=grave.


Places (Countries, Regions, Cities, Villages, …) are only entered as Point (Node) to the OSM right now. In many cases you also have borders, but it’s hard to see them and the information which border belongs to which node is missing. The OpenStreetBrowser combines the borders and the nodes and shows both of them if you see the places‘ details.

City border of L’Aquila

The border is a relation of the type boundary or multipolygon, the tag admin_level matches more or less to the place-tag. To help find the correct border add the node to the relation and give it the role ‚label‘ (which is a proposed feature).

These were just three of the features of the OpenStreetBrowser. I will show you more another time.  If you have some ideas or questions, you can post them as comment here or to this page.

*drumroll* The OpenStreetBrowser

Dienstag, März 24th, 2009

I’m very happy, that I finally can publicly announce the project I was working on the last months. I already told you about the OpenStreetMap, this astonishing project with the goal of creating a free map (as in free speech and in free beer) of the world. The great thing about it … you can take the data, use your imagination and think of better ways to visualize the data. And I used my imagination and creativity and created the OpenStreetBrowser.

On the webpage you have a „Slippy Map“, as you know it from the OpenStreetMap Homepage or commercial services like Google Maps. But on the left side you can investigate the current map view. Get a list of Pubs or the Public Transport routes or a list of street names. When appropriate a thematic overlay is displayed. Just play with it, you will see you can’t stop :) If you want to get more information about an object, then just click on it on the map.

Screenshot of OpenStreetBrowser
So. I don’t want to go into more detail here. Just give it a try. If you want more information there’s a page in the OpenStreetMap-Wiki for the project.

Disclaimer: The project is not finished yet, it’s still a big construction site. So, please be patient if it gets slow or if you find bugs (please report them here) or something is still missing.

I want to send special thanks to Manuela for talking and encouraging and for sure for the web design. I’m looking forward for further co-operation. And I also want to thank Monika for mental assistance :)

Teaser for my OpenStreetMap-Project

Dienstag, Februar 17th, 2009

As I got stuck in Bulgaria, looking for flat-mates, I continued my work on my OpenStreetMap-Project, I was mentioning earlier on my blog (in fact I was not talking about this project since beginning of November).

As I already said, the OpenStreetMap is the Wikipedia of geographical data. The data is collected by volunteers or imported from free data sources (e.g. gouvernmental data if available or free satellite images). In Austria a company – plan.atdonated their data, as mapping is not their main business anymore. This improved the Austrian part of the OpenStreetMap greatly, especially on the countryside (although the import is not finished yet).

My project consists mainly of two parts. The first – and main part – is an interface to browse the available information in the OpenStreetMap. E.g. if you are looking for a pub or the nearest fuel station. But this is not the part I want to talk about this time.

The second part is an improved rendering of the OpenStreetMap. I’m not very satisfied with the default rendering, it looks very pale. I decided to make it more flashy. Additional various overlays can be displayed, e.g. the routes of public transportation (which none of the default renderers of OpenStreetMap do yet).

Attention, technical details: I’m using Mapnik as render engine, the same as the default view of the OpenStreetMap uses. To make developing of the new style easier, I’m using Cascadenik, a kind of CSS for Mapnik.

As I don’t want to announce my project here (it’s still quite buggy and slow), but I want to talk about it, I will show you some example renderings:

In the first example you can see a part of Bulgaria. As you can see the country borders are clearer, and the names of the Cities are displayed in the country language and in the English translation (as available).
In the second example you can see the surroundings of Schottentor in Vienna. Buildings have different colours, depending on their function and a little border.
The last example shows the inner city of Graz with an overlay of the routes of public transportation.

I’m busy developing on my application, I hope to be able to show you more of it soon.

A lot of things …

Donnerstag, November 6th, 2008

I really have to excuse, now there was a really long time without an article on my Blog. It’s not that there’s nothing to talk about, for sure I’m not getting bored that easily.

As I already announced I’ve been to a CouchSurfing-Meeting in Borovets, a skiing-resort in the Rila-Mountains at the weekend of October 24th-26th.
The Meeting started on Saturday, but I wanted to go there on Friday and use the whole weekend, especially as I was told, that this place is very good for hiking. I finally found some fellows – two more Erasmus students from Germany and Latvia and a CouchSurfer from Bulgaria (who did Erasmus at Vienna University of Technology some years ago and was studying at the same university here in Sofia too). We started our trip with an evening hike. We met in Sofia shortly after 6pm and travelled to Боровец (Borovets) by bus and taxi and started hiking around 8:30pm. So it was already really dark and we had to use our head lamps. After about two hours we reached our place for the night … a mountain hut. We were welcomed with a burning oven and candle light. We had some dinner and spend the rest of the evening playing cards.
Most of the next day we spent hiking, we hiked to one of the next peaks, Шатар (Schatar), with about 2500m over sea level. Unfortunately the weather was not very nice, it was very foggy and it even had some rain.

In the days after I got a nasty diarrhea with stomach cramps and fever … not very funny, but after three or four days it finally got better. So I spent a lot of time at home, in my bed or in front of the TV.

On the weekend I joined my first Critical Mass in Sofia with a borrowed bicycle. You know, this is this an international movement of cyclists who meet and cycle through town to fight for more rights for cyclists and other alternative forms of transportation. Here in Sofia we are still a small group, we just were like a dozen people or so. Afterwards I was invited to the national radio for a concert – some psychedelic underground rock band was playing there, which was pretty got. I met the husband and a flat-mate of Rossi, the CouchSurfer where I spent my first two weeks. I had thought I might meet him there, because he is working at this radio.

On Sunday I went hiking again, this time on the Vitosha, the mountain close to Sofia, to it’s highest peak, the Черни Връх (Cherni Vrah). This time we took it easy and used a chair lift for a part of our tour. Unfortunately the weather was again not very good.

Most of the last days I spent with my computer, because I’m working on a new web application (I also should study, I will do it tomorrow, promise!). I told you about the OpenStreetMap (OSM) before, which is a free alternative to Google Maps (and similar applications) and consists mainly of user generated content. I’m not very satisfied with the default view, as the public transport routes are not being displayed (at least not if you enter them in the preferred way). I was thinking about generating an own map style for a long time, and now I decided to just do it. The project is progressing quite nicely, and I think the OSM community will be quite excited about it. But at the moment I can’t show you anything yet, I will write a special article on my blog when it’s ready to be announced.

I could actually need some help with this project. I’m not very good at drawing and I need little icons for train, tram, bus and some more things. So if you want to help the open source community, this is your chance. :)

So, thanks for patience. Have a nice weekend!

Compare Google Maps and OpenStreetMap

Freitag, September 12th, 2008

I’ve already told you about the OpenStreetMap Project before. To understand why OpenStreetMap is better or will be better as Google Maps soon, one Frank Sauter wrote a tool to compare these mapping services: Both services will be displayed as transparent layers and you can change the transparency with a slider. Here is an example:

I’ve also been mapping in Бургас (Burgas), most ways in the parks and of the district Лазур (Lazur) are my work (but not yet finished):

Also in Burgas the Google Map is way from perfect, even though it is more complete. It looks as if a large part of the town is flooded and the Lake Atanosvko is missing.
If you are not satisfied with the OpenStreetMap in your neighbourhood, than become active yourself … The community will be thankful. (I got a message this week from an OpenStreet-Mapper from Bulgaria who thanked me for mapping in Burgas).

The OpenStreetMap

Donnerstag, August 21st, 2008

This time I want to tell you something about a project where I’m participating lately. It’s called the OpenStreetMap. The idea behind OpenStreetMap is to build a free map of the world.

When Google introduced its Webservice Google Maps and and their software Google Earth everybody was excited what you can do with that. The most important thing: You can share geographic information with others. Like geotagging your pictures on Flickr and displaying them on a map, or describing all your favourite pubs and sites.

Now there are several drawbacks with Google Maps (and similar services like MSN Live): It’s copyrighted data, you can’t use it for everything because you have to sign a License Agreement. And you can’t change the data itself. Furthermore, Google Maps is not ideal for me, because it’s optimized for car users. There are even maps for all the underground parkings in Vienna but no Cycle Routes or Public Transport routes.

Now, there’s an alternative: The OpenStreetMap (short: OSM), a free editable map of the whole world. The availability of GPS receivers made it possible, because volunteers record their tracks and draw the map by tracing the tracks and adding additional information like street names, road types and amenities (like shops, post offices, pubs, cycle parkings, …). Additional to volunteer work some other information sources has been used, like governmental databases.

The result: A yet far from complete but usable map. And it looks nice. And you can access the raw data which is available under a Creative Commons Licence and even allows commercial usage. Here’s an example from Vienna’s city centre, you can see the the area around the Imperial Palace and the Museumsquarter. The first picture is taken from Google Maps, the second from MSN Live (how comes the name „2ER Linie“ is used – that’s a commonly used but unofficial name) and the third from the OSM (rendered with the preferred renderer Mapnik).

Which is really exciting about the OSM are the projects that emerge from it:
* The Cycle Map: A special view of OSM optimized for cyclists.
* OpenPisteMap: A project to track skiing pistes and all things that are important for skiiers like lifts, restaurants, shops and so on.
* OpenRouteService: A route planner using OSM data.
and there’s much more …

If you want to learn more about OSM than take a look at their Wiki. There are some howto’s how to contribute to OSM … you don’t even need a GPS receiver for this.