Uses of OpenStreetMap

I recently bloged about my discovery of OpenStreetMap, but the more I look at it, the more I like it. It offers lots of possibilities.

First, you can create your own maps, like I did. It might not be a great thing for some people, but for me it’s been a wonderful finding. It is very easy to do this, as explained in this page. You just need to choose an editor (JOSM in my case), and convert the GPS tracks into streets, roads, highways, tracks, etc.

The next thing, once you have the maps you want to use, is what to do with them. An obvious choice is that, thanks to OSM, we have a (still incomplete though) free world map. But not only that, because having free maps, and mixing them with other technologies, we have lots of great uses for this.

For instance, you can create an atlas, and lots of other neat stuff.

But apart from that, and being involved in desktop development, I have started to think about ideas on how to use this technology in the desktop, so here comes my ideas.

  • An obvious choice, a map application, like Google Earth. There are sites that, I think, offer free satellite images that could be used along with the OSM maps, so seems to be a not-so-difficult task. Mixing the maps and the information in them with Wikipedia, for instance, could give us a complete atlas application.
  • Also an obvious choice, and the reason I started looking at OSM, is to be able to use those maps in external GPS units (Garmin, TomTom, Magellan, etc) or other devices (like the PSP). Garmin users are lucky, because this is already possible. For TomTom (the one I own), it doesn’t look hard to do it, once you have a correct map and you calibrate it (that is, you specify which coordinates the map shows), so as soon as I do it on mine, I’ll let people know.
  • When on systems with a GPS unit attached to them, the number of choices grow. There exists a software (GPSD), that already provides the GPS unit interface, so we’d just need to build software around it: navigation systems (gpsdrive), georeferencing weblog posts/documents/photos/etc

I’m sure there are lots of other uses we could make of the OSM technologies in the desktop, so please let me know any idea you might think about.

30/May/2005

GUADEC

Kudos to Fluendo for the
GUADEC streaming.

European Constitution

Once more, the French came to our rescue, for us poor ignorant Spaniards, who voted
YES for the European Constitution. The French voted NO, which, from what a few
polititians have said, doesn’t matter at all. But, in my opinion, the French NO
should force polititians to review the constitution and change it to be more oriented
to the European people, not to European corporations, which is what it is right now.

27/May/2005

GUADECS

Although I decided on my own to not go to Stuttgart (because of all the travels I’ve
been doing recently), reading now about all the people that are packing for going,
I feel a bit jealous. It is indeed the first GUADEC I’ll miss, since I’ve been to all
of them, so I’m gonna miss you all :)

Apart from that, in the recent GUADEC-ES,
some people from the Spanish translation team raised their concerns about the need of good and
powerful translation tools, and the ones from Sun
were specifically mentioned, missing its open sourcing. But this is fixed now, since Sun just
announced them!
From what the translators said, these tools should help a lot in the translation of the
user documentation, which, more or less, needs to be re-translated for every release.

23/May/2005

GUADEC-ES

Came back yesterday from the II
GUADEC-ES in CoruÃ&plusmm;a
, so here’s a somewhat long summary of all we
did
.

I arrived on Thursday afternoon, so missed most of the talks of the first day. I
got in time to attend the end of the BOF about Free Software migrations that
Fernando
was conducting. Missed most of the context, but when I arrived there was some polemic
discussion about the corruption of hackers by hiring them for companies,
which I didn’t understand very well. Then, to the last talk of the day, How
to become a GNOME person: gnome-love
, by Fernando (Herrera).
After this last talk, we went to the Castro de ElviÃ&plusmm;a, for a guided
Conan & Belit
visit to this pre-romanic town, which was built (in around 900 BC to the Ist century AD)
by the people that lived in CoruÃ&plusmm;a at that time. It was a very nice visit indeed, with
a perfect guide: the director of the site excavation, who taught us a lot of things.
After that, we went to a folk concert, although a group of us didn’t watch it at all, since
as hungry as we were, we went to another place for some food. The dinner took a long time,
talking and having some beers, after which me and other people just went to the hotel to
sleep. Others stayed for a few hours more of crazy drinking and naked bathing in the sea.

On the second day, the talks started with Alex’s, from Igalia,
about ORBit2 and how they have used it in their Fisterra
ERP
. After that, I gave my talk about extending Evolution with E-D-S backends and
EPlugin’s. I wanted to make it more practical, and have people working on plugins after it,
but the short time I had made that almost impossible. I also explained Novell’s policy
on requiring Copyright assignment for contributions to Evolution, and seems
some people got upset
, I guess because they didn’t understand what I said.
Then Marcos Mazoni, polititian from Brazil famous for his involvement in the Telecentros
project in that country. Was pretty good overall, only one bad thing, which is that the
party that won the last elections in Paraná (different party than the one that made the
Telecentros) has closed all of the Telecentros, I guess because it’s hard for polititians
to recognize publicly that their rival party did the things correctly. After this talk,
Fernando
gave his talk about the PyGestor project and his experience in migrating a whole company
to GNOME. Then a Freedesktop talk from Alejandro, the KDE guy, and after that
Carlos Garnacho
gave his talk about the latest developments in the GNOME System Tools. Very nice indeed, since
he has created a C
library
that allow access to the GST’s backends from any application, which can
help a lot in many applications. Then, Diego Torres, from Argentina, gave a talk about
PXES, a tool for easily installing
and using thin clients with any OS. Very nice project indeed which, as Diego said, can
help a lot as an intermediate step in the migration from other evil OSes to GNOME
desktops.

When the talks ended, it was time for the first annual meeting of the GNOME Hispano association, which
is, since a few weeks ago, officially incorporated to the Ministry of Interior in
Spain. It is indeed very nice to see the ideas that flourished a year ago in the I GUADEC-ES
around many beers and other spirits become true one year later. Now, looking forward,
we have started a detailed plan of action. First of all, we needed to clean up the
financial situation (a deficit of 20 Euros), so we decided, with the support of most
of the attendees, to have a yearly fee by all associated people. Since we are
not going to be many, the money will be not much, but I guess enough to not have the
current board pay some things from their pockets. It was so decided to have a 30 Euros
fee per year, 15 for students, and we had the first members signing in (until then, only
the current board were members of the association). Also, it was decided to try to
get more universities involved in the organization of hackers meetings, like the 2
we did last year (in Pamplona and Madrid), and to try to get the necessary people
(like organizations for disabled people) together for some accessibility, translating
and hacking sessions. Once finished, people went to the official dinner of the event,
which I didn’t attend, as I went for dinner with Yolanda and our friend Conchi,
who lives in CoruÃ&plusmm;a, and who we always visit while in the region. We went us three
to the old part of the city, which at night is plenty of open bars and people,
so had lots of tapas and lots of beer, to end up going to sleep at 3 AM.

On the third day, I was a bit exhausted, so slept till 10, and showed up at the
conference at 12, enough to miss Fernando‘s talk
on accessibility, which we were all joking about the day before, saying that after
the crazy Friday night, almost nobody would show up. Unfortunately, it seems we
were right, and only a few people showed up early. I also missed Alvaro‘s talk on hardware
integration in the desktop. But had time to attend Lorenzo’s talk on Kiwi2 and
Gazpacho, which,
together, offer a very good framework for rapid development of management
applications. After that, Alvaro,
Alberto and
myself conducted a BOF on present and future of GNOME. We did a short introduction
on what GNOME 2.10 included and what 2.12 will include, apart from some other
parallel projects (like Beagle,
Luminocity and
Cairo) as
well as some ideas from the 3.0
planning page
. Then, we left people comment on how they think GNOME was
missing, and this is the list I wrote down:

  • Problems with the distribution of multimedia CODECS.
  • Remove the need for the terminal, maybe by writing lots of Nautilus plugins that
    give access to many operations that are still done in the terminal.
  • More applications: management, CAD, video/audio edition.
  • Better IDEs.
  • Improve already existing applications. This is obvious, but people gave some examples
    which I didn’t write down, and now can’t remember.
  • A frontend to xvidcap, which I just found out already exists: gvidcap.
  • Better support for graphic design, SVG, CMYK support in Gimp.
  • Better API documentation. Simplification of the tree view, for simple cases
    when you just want to show a list of strings. GTK# offers some simple ways
    to do so, so for those simple cases, people don’t need to deal with the model
    directly.
  • Database-bound widgets. This is already available in libgnomedb.
  • A decision on the IPC mechanism, either continue with CORBA or switch to
    D-BUS, needs to be made. This would allow, at last, to create a set of
    generic interfaces that applications can implement, as well as a way for those
    applications to install actions in the system that could be called from
    scripts and other applications. Something similar to AppleScript, that would
    provide us with a better integration of the applications, as well as a very
    powerful way for users to write their own high level scripts.
  • Better application integration, like connecting the network applet with the
    online/offline modes in Evolution and other applications.

After the BOF, we had the opportunity to see Miguel

videconference, which was possible after many tries. Miguel had to wake up pretty early
(as you can see in his face) to talk to us, so we really appreciated, even though we did
not have much time for the conference, since food was waiting for us and, after that,
the bus that took us to Santiago,
where, again, we had a guided tour to a museum, and a visit to the cathedral.

Then we went near Santiago for dinner, to a very nice place, very old and with typical
Galician food being served. Alcohol started running like crazy, and we ended up dancing some
Galician folk, as well as drinking a very nice queimada (a drink made of
almost pure alcohol, with coffee grains and some fruit, which is burnt for a while to reduce
the alcohol), accompanied by the typical conjuration, made by a local person, in Galician.

From then on, better not to talk about what we did, because that would make lots of users
switch to other desktops. I’m just going to talk about the good abilities of Jose and
Alvaro for singing folklore.

As soon as we came back to CoruÃ&plusmm;a, I went with Yolanda to the hotel to sleep, and woke up
on Sunday with a little hangover, that made the 7 hours trip to home a bit harder.

Overall, I’d call this II GUADEC-ES a complete success, something that the Spanish-speaking
GNOME community should be proud of, and something other local communities should copy. We
are indeed planning the III GUADEC-ES, to take place next year in Las Palmas, in the
Canary Islands. Also, to come more hacking meetings, like the two we had last year. Only
one bad thing, which is that even though the conference was in a university, there were
very few students, which is a pity, since getting the computing students interested in
Free Software in general and GNOME in particular would be a great thing. But well, let’s
hope at least a few of them got interested.

12/May/2005

SPAM

Spammers tools are awesome! Since my last
post
, where I talked about bacteria, I’ve been receiving spam about
reducing bacteria in your body.

10/May/2005

India

I made yesterday a week in India and although I really wanted to blog more about it,
lack of time has prevented me from doing it. But better comes late than ever, so here are
a few facts about my stay here, which will continue till next Friday. For photos, look
here.

  • The most funny way of transport in Bangalore are autorickshaws,

    a kind of mixture between a Vespa and a car, which you can find by thousands. They
    don’t get too much speed, but enough to get you scared the first time you get them.
    Once the initial surprise goes over, you start to like getting into them. Apart
    from that, going over the traffic in Bangalore is an experience in itself, specially
    when being a pedestrian and want to cross the street. At those times, before you
    get used to the way of crossing streets here, you really are afraid of your life. As
    with autorickshaws, once you get used, it’s as easy as any other thing you would do.
  • All food is spicey, which is great if you like it, which I do. You have to take care
    though of what you eat, since there are bacterias all over, specially in salads.
    Michael Zucchi can confirm it, since he just had some intestinal infection because
    of something he ate, and is staying sick at the hotel. Don’t worry though, today he
    was much better, and hopefully tomorrow will be able to come back to work.
  • All software companies (or at least the most important ones) have their own shuttle
    buses that pick employees up in many parts of the city to get them to their offices.
    This is, of course, the case for Novell, which has many different buses.

    It is indeed nice, not only because it feels good to go around the city on a bus
    with the Novell logo on it (and watching other companies’ around), but because it
    makes you avoid getting into the highly crowded buses of the city.
  • As part of my transition work from the Evolution team to the Desktop team, I’ve been
    writing a lot of documentation. First, some calendar
    architecture docs
    (yeah, at last!). Then, I’ve been documenting all the
    calendar API in Evolution Data Server, which should not only help the new Evolution
    calendar team, but anyone wanting to use E-D-S’s calendar APIs. Now, if I could get
    damn gtk-doc to build them correctly, they would have been published now for a few days.
    So, for the time being, they don’t get generated correctly, but really, believe me,
    the APIs are now documented, you can check that I’m saying the truth by looking at
    the source code.

22/April/2005

GUADEC-ES

The 2nd GUADEC-ES is
approaching. I saw yesterday a first version of the talks, and I was impressed by
all the good people that are giving talks in CoruÃ&plusmm;a. AFAIK, the final version will
be available soon.

The dates of this GUADEC-ES were selected to make it easier for people to attend it
before the big GUADEC, so if
you plan to hang around some time in Europe as part of your GUADEC trip, please
stop by. Even if you don’t want to attend the conferences, CoruÃ&plusmm;a is a very nice city,
in the northwest of Spain, where you’ll find lots of nice people and delicious food
and wine. There will be also a visit to Santiago, city very close to CoruÃ&plusmm;a, which
has been the destination of millions of people throughout the centuries, since it
is the end of the pilgrim’s road to Santiago de Compostela, and which
is one of the most beautifuls I’ve ever visited (with the permission of Granada).

Also, related to this, Igalia,
a company located in CoruÃ&plusmm;a that helps in the organization of the GUADEC-ES, have just
launched their Community
Portal
, where they host their Free Software projects, whose star is, IMO,
Fisterra
ERP
, an enterprise-ready (it’s being used, IIRC, in some medium sized companies
in CoruÃ&plusmm;a) ERP that uses GNOME technologies (libgda, ORBit, GTK+, …).

20/April/2005

Boston

Was last week, accompanied by Yolanda, in Boston for some meeting action with the NLD team. Was very nice to
come back to Boston after 3 years from my last
visit
, so managed to see for the first time the new office and see again
many of the Ximian/Novell hackers (who fortunately I see more often in conferences).
Also very nice to see again Gonzalo, of Mono and GNOME-DB hacking fame, who has moved
to the US to live the American dream.
Team dinner at Boston
Didn’t take many photos, since I didn’t visit the city too much, given that the hotel
was just 100 meters away from the office, but I got at least one from one of the team
dinners we had. That was on the first day, to some place whose name I don’t remember.
The second day we went to an Indian place, which I wanted to to start getting used
to the delicious Indian food for my upcoming trip there. The third day, we went,
per JP‘s request, we
went to Cuchi Cuchi, a so-called Spanish place, but which had food from lots of
places in the world, and a few typical Spanish dishes, but was pretty nice overall.

But the best thing was the chef Nat
had hired for the week, who cooked delicious crêpes every morning. He even cooked, after
seeing there was a Spanish guy in the crowd, some Spanish omelettes. Go Nat Go!

New York

On Thursday evening, we flew to New
York
to stay there for a couple of nights before coming back to Spain. On the
New York
plane to New York from Boston, tired as I was, I was not feeling very happy about the visit
to NY, but once I got there, I was so impressed by the city that I’ve come back home
loving it. I wouldn’t live there, since it is too huge and chaotic, but it is really impressive, with
all the huge buildings all over and all kinds of people from everywhere in the world.

India

Without even being recovered from this last trip, I’m preparing my next trip, in a couple of
weeks, to India, to see the Novell Bangalore guys. I am really excited about visiting India,
but not so much about getting on another plane (or couple of) for 10/12 hours. That is what
sucks about travelling (apart, of course, as Federico
said
, from missing your loved ones :), since, for me, getting for so many hours in
2 m2 is a torture, specially if flying alone, which
I’ll do when going to India. I just hope that with all the vaccinations I am getting for
going there would make me inmune to the plane suffering.

4/March/2005

Releases

Just released libgda/libgnomedb 1.2.1, which contain many bugfixes, specially libgda, and
gnome-nettool
1.2.0
, which is the final version to go with GNOME 2.10 (released that early
because I’ll be out next week on holidays). If I’ve got enough time, I’ll also do a
1.3.1 development release for libgda/libgnomedb, those not only with bugfixes, but with
a lot of new features, specially libgnomedb!

Talking about databases, after seeing that some time ago I said I was going to work on
better database integration for GNOME (see
the roadmap), I asked
in the the
gnome-db-list
about what we could do. Some ideas have came up, being writing a
Beagle backend for
searching databases the best one so far, but I’d really like to hear more ideas, so,
if you’ve got something interesting to say, write GNOME-DB list with anything
you want to add.

Also, since people keep asking the same thing: yeah, GNOME-DB
website
doesn’t refresh from CVS due to some technical problems that will be solved
as soon as possible. We’ll keep you informed, thank you.