Archive for February, 2008

Ludhiana Day 2

The next morning came way too soon, our closest host just stepping through my door with ‘Good morning sir’. I’m unwell, and getting some simple medicines seems to involve discussions among a dozen of our hosts. Patients in India don’t question their doctors, the experts, which makes for complication when an American patient expects to simply know what kind of pill he’s putting in his body. Eventually it’s sorted out, and the day can start.

We’re shown into an assembly room where 150 or so have gathered. Huge bouquets of flowers are presented to us to carry about 5 feet further and place on a table. And again applause as we enter. There are printed banners announcing our day of ‘Democratic Digital Mapping’. We’re sat facing the room along with the principal, H. S. Rai, and others from the computer engineering department. Everyone gets a chance to speak. Including an introduction of Schuyler and myself, featuring lengthy sections cribbed directly from our CVs. Schuyler gives another rousing speech of thanks. Overwhelmed, I have to start with “I’m from California, and we don’t really do ceremony very well there…”. Finally, we are presented with trophies commemorating our participation this day, and a couple mintues for photos, including photographers from the local media. Another round of applause as we move into the side room for tea.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m incredibly grateful for all the effort made on our behalf, and it truly was all one of the most unforgettable memories of my life (in a month of unforgettable memories). But only when I feel like there’s been large tangible results, like India fully mapped, would I even consider feeling worthy of such honors, and even then this month is only the smallest nudge towards getting it all started — the congratulations will be for all the contributors pounding Indian streets. This day, I feel like I’ve won the Nobel Prize, but really I just want to do some mapping.

After holding workshops in Mumbai, Trivandrum, and Bangalore, we’re in the groove and the day goes really well. The students are really sharp and interested, and we make great progress in just one day. The surveys are very very impressive, with many students sketching out maps of the entire campus, and finding new features to map despite H. S. Rai’s already thorough mapping of the campus. Because of issues in prior workshops with multiple people editing the same area, and since only some of the computers are set up with Java and JOSM, we decide to try something different and edit as a group. I invite people to the projected computer one at a time to add a new feature. This goes decently well. We also cover tracing Yahoo imagery, since Ludhiana is one of those rare locations where Yahoo’s coverage is better than Google. And of course the ever popular animated GPS traces and photo mapping.

There are always challenges. One is the pace of our speech and our accents. It’s often unclear to me whether the participants actually understand what I’m saying, and they’re way too polite to say otherwise. Another is the divide between men and women here. Women are well represented, but don’t always participate to the same degree, and even we make special effort to include them, they shy away from drawing attention to themselves. There are exceptions of course, but generally it’s frustrating since I know they are just as capable.

One of those exceptions was the up right female police officer who joined the college for the day. She presented herself with a series of rapid fire series of questions “How long are you in Ludhiana?”, “Who have contacted here?”, “What are you mapping, any industrial facilities?”. Baffling like an interrogation. At the end, I managed to squeeze in a question “What interest does the Ludhiana police have in OpenStreetMap?” and she answers “For traffic regulation.” Intriguing, but I fear a bluff. We had expected this kind of thing even earlier in the trip; the Survey of India is still a loose branch of the military, and using a GPS is “officially” against the law, and generally India is quite overtly security concious and militarialy proud.

One of the faculty spotted a link to my page on the Art and Geometry of Sri Yantra, and invited me to meet his guru at lunch. We convene in the glass windowed server room, where our boquets from the earlier ceremony have been laid, making for the sweetest smelling server room in the world. Guru is pleasant and peaceble, but doesn’t speak English, so I think I missed some subtleties of the conversation. I’m invited to ask any question I like, about anything, about life. Perhaps I had been overwhelmed by the questions earlier from the female police officer, and had no questions of my own. Or maybe I have no burning questions in my life. So I struggled to come up with something to ask, and only thought to ask about the Sri Yantra, and how to use it as a meditation device. Interestingly, he told me that each Yantra is designed for a specific part of the body, the Sri Yantra the mind, and that the Yantras should be visualized internally over the associated chakra.

Towards the end of the day we’re asked to sign certificates for each student in the course. This is the practice at every university we visit where the workshop is hosted within the academic program. We present these certificates to each student in turn, with photo, and at the end applause, appluase for us and especially I think for the students.

Yes, there are a few pictures.

Utterly exhausted, sleep comes easy, and the next day is quiet and connected to wifi. Except for three students who attended the interaction on the first day, where we extended an invitation to all the students to just come and chat, came into my room just to chat. Happy they took up the opportunity — good luck dudes. Next stop Delhi.



This weekend I’ll be in Girona for the OSM mapping party.

Next week, it’s ETech. Jesse Robbins and myself are presenting Disaster Tech: What is working and what is coming!

Then finally home to San Francisco.

Yes, if you’re following closely, this post comes out of order from FreeMapIndia2008. I’m still catching up writing from Ludhiana day 2, to Delhi and, to here in Kolkata. But as of a couple hours ago, the FreeMapIndia2008 tour is complete! More soon.

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Ludhiana, day 1

Words so far have failed me, to describe the experience in Punjab.

Ludhiana was surreal from the start. We arrived in the early morning on a sleeper train from Delhi, annoyed with broken sleep, and shuttled from the station in a white draped Ambassador to the campus of Guru Nanak Dev Engineering College. After quick breakfast refreshment, we’re brought to meet the principal of the college, and then into a conference room with all the senior faculty members of the college. In front of these esteemed professors, collectively possessed of hundreds of years of experience, we are generously introduced as “experts” in GIS and mapping and community, a notion Schuyler quickly dispells and ducks citing the constant learning we’ve both engaged in over the years, and especially during this trip. This theme of constant learning is quickly picked up the professor — “if we think we are experts, then we have grown stagnant”. Over tea and biscuits, deferentially delivered in front of all (and constantly available at our whim throughout the two days) we discuss open source, mapping, and the social function of software; not facebook but the immense societal benefit potential of software, and link that to the mission of the college, to aid rural development by accepting 70% of their students from rural districts where educational opportunities traditionally lack.

Ludhiana is the major industrial city in the state of Punjab, predominantly Sikh, a tolerant and forward thinking and modern 500 year old religion. The Sikh men wear turbans and have a different bearing from other parts of India. There’s incredible discipline, attention to detail, and explicit delegation of responsibility. And Ludhiana hasn’t caught the globalization fever yet. All of which combined to a feeling of really being in a foreign country again. Of course, if you eat “Indian” food anywhere in the west, it’s familiar and usually in the Punjabi style, thick curries and nan bread.

After our interaction with the professors, we’re brought to the computer engineering department. Finally we meet with H. S. Rai, the professor who’s independently pushed forward OpenStreetMap, and made an wonderful map of the college, and our prime reason for making the extra effort to visit Ludhiana. With barely a breath, we quickly dig into pretty advanced topics, like setting up Mapnik. H. S. Rai is keen to help distribute the load, and give good grounding to the OSM infrastructure locally.

We keep this up until exhaustion can’t be ignored any longer, when we’re informed that we will have an “interaction” with the students, and asked what will be the topic of our presentation. Exhaustion. We just want to talk about whatever the students want to talk about, informally, but our hosts insist we must have a topic — “we’ll call it Career Counselling”. Shudder. With no other choice, I quickly name our talk “Revolution”, which gets lengthened in “Revolution in Open Source”. We have a quick lunch back in our rooms (the professors usually eat at home) and then head over to the talk. We’re greated by a full room of students and some staff, who erupt into enthusiastic applause and hoots when we enter (this happens several more times during our visit), and we’re sat in front of eager and inscrutable faces. Schuyler quickly edits the projected slide with the title of the interaction back to simply “Revolution” and riffs on the notion of freedom in open source, and I incoherently try to link Facebook and Orkut and IM to the unfettered opportunities these students have with access to the web, people and knowledge around the world. With no agenda, we run out of topics and will to just talk at the students, so I turn the microphone around to face the audience, eliciting some shock. OpenStreetMap and open source is based in personal initiative, just do it and don’t ask for permission, and I want to see this in the students.There are some good questions, like how developers can earn a living with open source software. After a lengthy pause, we call it over, and head back to the rooms to collapse into sleep deprived unconciousness.

It seems like an instant later when we’re awoken. There’s not any notion of privacy here, and our hosts simply walk into the room unannounced any time there’s a need. It’s time for a cultural event. The moon is full. We walk next door to the high fenced girls hostel, and pushed ahead down a corridor, where we are showered with flower petals and beaming smiles by five girls, and continue into the front of an open central yard of the complex, facing several hundred of the female students. Applause, hollars, flash bulbs. We are seated at couches placed in front, with a small table apon which clipboards are laid out. We quickly gather that this is a dance competition, we are the guests of honor, and are expected to judge the dances of a dozen young women. Numb horror.

Someone had the good grace to recognize the shock on our faces, and we are relieved of judging duty. Still, imagine, we are sat in front of two hundred girls, watching young female students dance for us. Snacks and tea our laid out for our sole consumption. A dozen of the best dancers in the student body take turns on the stage, in their finest costumes, ranging from elaborate traditional Punjabi dance, to Bollywood numbers, to Bangra flavored hip hop, and all sorts of amazing hybrid styles. Some of these girls could easily wow any dancefloor in London or Berlin. It’s hard to imagine that these enthusiastic and expressive young women are normally the serious and shy students we’d met before. The shock stays.

After the last dancer, ourselves and some of the faculty are asked to stand before the crowd and give our views on the performance. My god. Schuyler gives a rousing statement of appreciation, and I manage to get out that this is one of the most memorable experiences of my life. It is. Then we are given the task of presenting the awards to the winning girls. My favorite dancer won.

We retire for tea at the nearby residence of Professor Rai, joined by the principal, where we discuss the practices and history of Sikhism, education and Punjab, and all sorts of topics, while the whoops and hollars continue at the girls hostel next door. Later over dinner at a hotel off campus, talks continue, and the teachers are especially interested in our views on education, and I especially stress the need to motivate students to work and think and act indepently. After a very full meal, it’s back to the rooms for more collapsing. And that’s just the end of day 1. Ok, more in another post.

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Bangalore, Result!

Writing this from Spice Jet from Bangalore to Delhi, a flight we rudely pushed and shoved our way through the jammed up city and overstretched airport terminal to catch. SpiceJet is one of a half dozen Indian budget airlines reconfiguring Indian transport, at the same prices found back home, which seems surprising and unsurprising at the same time. We took Kingfisher (ala the Beer — these Indian conglomerates spread horizontally without any apparent reason) from Kerala to Bangalore on Friday (geez, just three days ago!) and that was one of the nicest flights I’ve taken anywhere, India’s answer to Virgin. Of course, we owe all measure of gratitude to our hosts across India whom have sponsored our travel between venues, and especially recently Jace who has stoicly juggled our crazy itinerary. And our most gracious host Dinesh and housemates at the servelots house, the kind of place I could chill out at in any city.

Bangalore started to reveal itself more today. At first it’s an endless traffic jam of self replicating architecture and streets, a supremely computationally compressible city, a slight textured variation on a basic theme of concrete and shops and rickshaws and Coffee Day and signs advertising politicians and Linux training. There’s no apparent geography or variation, mostly flat with no significant water features, it sprawls in every direction; and while Mumbai is just as jammed up by economic dreams, Mumbai has this kind of totally out of comprehension pulse, and a readily apparent interesting topography and history and real neighborhood difference. The oasis of the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens finally gave a bit of the spaciousness and peace I suppose Bangalore had in the past. This morning we half heartedly mapped around the reservoirs and paths, soon dropping that altogether for climbs up into Bamboo groves ala Fighting Tiger Hidden Dragon (we watched Hero late last night on Jace’s Mac after X11 failed us) and sneaking up on numerous young couples desperately attempting privacy (love at the risk of death, for real) in grottoes and within the large root flying buttresses of a gigantic banyan tree.

Most people know Bangalore as the Indian Silicon Valley. And you can see it in the cityscape deritous and certainly in the participants in the workshop. Still, it’s a relatively un-mediated world, overlaid with mobile phone fabric sure, but no where near the invisible and visible sensors and echoes and trajectories of information rich London or San Francisco. And this lack of mediation is so refreshing and confounding — almost every step and action in India involves direct communication and interaction with people without reference to some hidden ruleset or embedded system. Yet maybe not for long, as part of our objective with OpenStreetMap is to make the invisible visible, and jump start the headmap Metaverse where it’s needed.

Saturday night we trekked to a mourning party for some local Yahoos, a few had been laid off. It’s been almost 7 years since I left Yahoo, and dipping back into the familiar Yahoo world years later, on the other side of the world, was more culture shock than anything else more foreign. Death metal, mobile phones, beers. Crazy to hear some of the same technology ticking along in the depths of Yahoo, and hang out with these YouTube tweaked minds. We were introduced to Benny Lava, the phonetic translation of the Tamil Michael Jackson into English, revealing the real meaning behind these Bollywood and Indian musical dance numbers. As we were informed, no one talks about sex in India, but there are over a billion of them anyway. We want to work Benny Lava into the animation section of our presentation, but it would really need some very proper framing to go over well.

Ok, so the workshops. We met for two days at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore and the participants were incredibly self motivated, technically competent, and familiar with the general field of mapping and GIS. There were folks building vehicle GPS+GPRS tracking devices, BarCamp Bangalore hackers, media artists from Shristi, students all the way from Chennai, an ecologist building collaborative and education focused ecoinformatics aggregators, and one chap equipping shepherds with GPS for therir 400 km seasonal trek through the back country of the Deccan plateau. The discussions and questions were excellent. And by the end of day two we had a great result with a detailed map of the expansive grounds of IIMB, based on GPS traces and now excellent Yahoo imagery over Bangalore (Yahoo must have updated recently, even Brighton has gone high def). And a nice movie of course.

There are some subtleties in OSM that people take time to get (or that we don’t explain adequately — I think we should update the survey tutorial presentation). One is that the GPS traces and the map data exist separately, and that the GPS traces are just a guideline. These measurements, and the tracing from imagery, and the other tools in the toolbox, all need to be understood for what they are in terms of quality and accuracy, and human judgement plays a big role. The well discussed suggestion of digitizing directly from GPS came up again, particularly from exposure to Tracks4Africa, where the usually off road wide open savannah tracks are amenable to automated processing (the other contrast of course is that you don’t get anything legally useful back from donations to Tracks4Africa, and maybe FOSS4G in Cape Town in September will be opportunity to recruit some converts). Wikimapia has made a big impression in India, some even think it’s a Wikipedia sponsored project, and explaining the subtleties here of derived works and potential for Google to claim ownership over derived vectors, in contrast with Yahoo’s permission to OSM to use aerial imagery, well it’s tricky.

The other difficult concept to really understand is that as a collaborative project, and that the work needs to be self coordinated and divided up in some way. We leave this largely up to participants to discover, as it’s an implicit experience based concept, when they discover multiple copies of the same street in the map. This particularly led to a lot of useful suggestions for improvements to JOSM and the API to manage conflicts, such as a simple indicator if anyone else is editing in the same region at the same time (this could even be done as a JOSM plugin with the current API calls) and when uploading JOSM should do the same sort of check on an area, not just on individual existing object conflicts, and if there is any overlapping activity ask the editor to examine them.

Other suggestions focused on management of GPX. There could be direct upload of GPX files from JOSM. OSM could accept waypoints as well. And GPX points could be edited in JOSM — to remove wildly erronous points for instance. This last point came up when we went through Photo Import in JOSM, which everyone was very excited about. It also revealed a bug, where GPX trackpoints without timestamps threw a fatal error, even if other trackpoints had useful information in them for photo mapping.

We also got to cover a variety of data exports. Converting from OSM to GML allowed us to easily produce Shapefiles with ogr2ogr for use in QGIS, and KML for basic Google Earth Overlay, and also covered osmarender to generate SVG, and mkgmap to make Garmin GPS maps. There was a brief tutorial on configuring OpenLayers to use OSM. And we got LiveGPS/gpsd plugin working in JOSM, reading from the NaviGPS and the eyeglass case GPS too. One of the nice surprises were a couple hackers who photographed a map of the campus in the dining hall (with no visible copyright), which they rectified with the MetaCarta labs rectifier, and displayed in JOSM with the wmsplugin. Nice work guys!

A very productive workshop which gave every indication of kickstarting an OSM community in Bangalore! Next stop Ludhiana.

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Kerala to Bangalore

We’re right in the groove of the workshops now. The presentation and technology and outlook are getting inline. We’ll have perfected the delivery of the FreeMap workshop by the end of the month — just in time to go home.

The second day in Kerala was smooth from the technology point of view, great relief, and generally people just jumped right in and started studying the OSM wiki and playing with the tools. We kept it loose, doing demos throughout the day and diving into topics when there was interest. This started with more advanced JOSM editing techniques, converting OSM into GML and then Shapefile for use in QGIS and ESRI, using osmarender and Inkscape to make a printable PDF, and photomapping with JOSM. It was particularly important to get OSM data into other forms — many of the applications developed in Kerala are agricultural (monitoring rainfall, collecting and disseminating data to forms, calculating land use) and make use of GIS or other systems. Export is one of the tasks we designed for IndicTrans back in Pune, and it’s needed.

The participants seemed happy with the two days. One even made a speech at the end! There was a third day too focusing on the applications developed at IIITMK, and everyone received certificates at the end. We feel it was a success, a great amount of progress was made, with a group of very wide technical backgrounds, even if there wasn’t too much progress on the map itself. And though we sometimes wonder if the conditions are right to take this forward, if the open source ethos and personal initiative and bottom up approaches can really take root here .. I’m optimistic. It starts with a few pioneers anywhere. In spots, people are already mapping on their own independent of the workshops — H.S.Rai in Ludhiana, who we’ve made new arrangements to meet due to his heavy involvement and someone random in Coimbatore, discovered by wireless hacker Rene on his motorcycle ride, halfway between Kerala and Bangalore.

The past two days we’ve taken it easy — or as much as possible with the responsibilities of work back home still calling. One kind participant from the workshops took us on a whirlwind tour of places in Kerala, and crucially the food in Kerala. And yesterday we escaped from the TechnoPark for the beach, where Schuyler made another attempt to check his email on his mobile card in the most unusual place. The beach and waves were so great, and I realized I hadn’t been in the sea for almost a year and a half, tragically too long. I’ll definitely be back to Kerala — the environment and attitude there was amazing.

So now we’re in Bangalore, staying with Dinesh at Servelots, most comfortable. I’m excited for today — with the tech heavy experience here, I think we’re going to progress very quickly.

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OSM Kerala, Day One

Greetings from Trivandrum! What a contrast this place is to Mumbai — I had forgotten the world can be quiet and green. We knew something was different when the classic and completely out of place American airline pilot, flying Deccan Air, announced “Have a pleasant stay in the Trivandrum area”. Trivandrum is the capital of Kerala, nearly in the very south of India, it’s tropical, has beaches and serves beautiful fish in its restaurants. Kerala is an interesting state — a democratically elected Communist government and home to the India’s very first IT park, TechnoPark, housing numerous very capitalist orientied technology companies and educational institutions. Their political and economic contradictions are resolved by a full embrace of open source software — we were picked up from the airport by a chap whose masters project utilizes Geoserver. We’re hosted here by IIITM-K, and again you couldn’t have asked for more generous or energetic organizing. Check out this amazing brochure produced for the workshop…

FreeMap India Brochure

We have about 50 people participating this time, and the specialties and studies of this group were really great — environmental science, agriculture, geology, the local airport manager, emergency response. These are people with such a need for mapping technology, and they had heard about GIS. We were at pains to make the distinction between OpenStreetMap & web native geo and traditional desktop GIS, fielding familiar questions over issues of accuracy, community, reliability, and we made the point our tools are really about collaboration, relative ease of entry, and simply getting the job done. Also emphasized that OSM and GIS are not incompatible, they can speak to each other. There was a lot of interest in 3D, building digital elevation models out of OSM GPS data, and using OSM data within a GIS when the application requires it — like calculating agricultural area on steep hillsides.

Nearly half of the participants are a group of young women studying for environmental science masters at a nearby college. I’m told that other parts of India don’t give women such opportunity, so it’s really great to see. Still, it’s quite a challenge, as workshop leader, to engage them in the activities — they are very very reluctant to ask for help (let’s just say they don’t) and really seem to want to be lead step by step by step through the learning process. OpenStreetMap by nature requires a great deal of personal initiative, there’s nothing top down about it, from the technology to the process to its goals and aims. So there’s also this feeling that we’re not just teaching about OpenStreetMap, but the entire culture and ethic of open source/open data and entreprenuership.

Looking at the progress yesterday, we did a great deal. Introduced the concept, got everyone out collecting data with a GPS receiver, got the data into JOSM, everyone signed up for an OSM account, and editing some data in JOSM. Getting through that process is another matter, particularly the technical hiccups which just seem like a part of life in OSM, and India. Yesterday was particularly painful because it turns out there are major incompatibilities with the crippled, non-proprietary version of Java that ships with Fedora and JOSM, and we had no other immediate choice but to reboot all the machines into Windows. Ouch, but sometimes you need to go with what works. Generally I’m adjusting my expectations to meet the expectations of the participants, which is hard when I’d love to see OSM work smoothly right out of the box. Such is life in software.

Off to start today’s proceedings. We’ll split up into different tracks — some people progressed quite quickly yesterday and are ready for the next level, and some are going to be set up with just the Yahoo imagery, which is actually quite detailed in Kerala.

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Post-Mumbai Workshop

Greetings from Mumbai! Hanging out with video hackers from

We had made plans to travel back to Pune today, to attend the Gnunify open source conference, have some meetings tomorrow, and work a bit more with IndicTrans and basically chill out from Mumbai. But somewhere on the eastern outskirts of the city, after an hour and a half on the bus already and the guy in front reclining extremely right into my knees, we decided to ditch that plan and stick to Mumbai until Monday when we fly to Trivandrum. Mumbai is actually pretty pleasant when you’re in one place, it’s the moving about which causes problems.

The workshop on Thursday and Friday went really well. Less attended than expected, but the dozen-plus participants were very enthusiastic and patient as we shook out the bugs in the agenda, the software and hardware. We went through the full process of acquiring data, uploading to OSM, and editing the map. Twice. Everyone was very keen to continue, and went away equipped to carry on mapping Mumbai in OSM on their own. The slides from the introduction of the workshop are here, and the Beginners’ Guide on the wiki was effective for the more in depth tutorial section.

The party render is proving very popular. Take a look at this video and you’ll see why. The area this covers is this park — some mistakes to clear up there, but it’s a start.

Finally had the pleasure to meet Nagarjuna and his assistant Alpesh Gajbe, who have been the primary organizers and herders for our trip. Without their incredible effort, it wouldn’t have happened. Nagarjuna is one of the most unusual thinkers I have met here, or anywhere — just to start he’s an India who loves beef. His main effort is gnowledge, and he’s quite busy developing free and open curriculums. We were interviewed by a Mumbai paper, and put through a slightly ridiculous photo shoot, like taking marketing shots for a band. And the guy who spotted my FooCamp t-shirt on the highway showed up with his brother, and made several business propositions — a total gold rush here.

Also met Terrence D’Souza, an open source hardware hacker, who has built this eyeglass case GPS logger.


He was kind enough to give me one. These are really cool devices, I love how easy they are to open. He’s going to start selling them soon, I’ll give details when that starts.

The AND import was a big topic of discussion. There is a resemblance to reality in that data, but the geographic positioning is inconsistently incorrect in odd ways, with many missing streets as well. We’ve pondered how the data could end up like this, and it looks like it may have been traced from an incorrect paper map? Would be interested to hear from AND. Still there’s something to salvage there, and after some deliberation, we’ve decided to leave it up to individual editors to correct areas as they survey, or by comparing against the excellent Yahoo imagery in Mumbai, or they can just delete the data in a local area if it has no value. In contrast, Pune is just wildly wrong, and we may just ditch that entirely.

There has been a lot of discussion of applications, involving so many people and organizations and connections that my head is swimming, on top of a deep pool of implicit knowledge of the working of India in general. There seems to be great opportunity in education, as part of training IT students. And in mapping urban change, empowering slum dwellers, and redevelopment — the remit of CRIT and PUKAR. (We had a post-workshop Thai dinner celebration with Suhit Kelkar from PUKAR, which was very enjoyable and even more notable since we got home by taxi without getting lost — I made sure to charge the Garmin GPS for this!) Also applications in data collection for rural development, and models for transitioning to open GIS data collection. Thinking about these applications, especially the development and redevelopment of Mumbai, I can not fathom how these problems could be solved without maps as a tool for public discourse. I mean, there are no proper maps you can even buy. The sad fact is that there are maps, but held very tightly by a few, and this is an issue of power. Along the way, I seemed to have been offered a professorship at an Indian university, to provide technical education and help boost the use of open geo data in these fields — an offer I don’t think I’d have time to properly fulfill, but wow.

Btw, did you know that in Indic writing systems, groups of letters might be contracted, switch places, or operated on in all sorts of other fashions. It gets quite complicated in ways I don’t understand, but the upshot is that Indic fonts require not just rendering for individual letters, but also rulesets. So now I fully understand the undertaking of IndicTrans in producing open source Indic localisation.

After the chilled weekend in Mumbai (as chilled as that can be) the next stop is Trivandrum. We’ve also decided to make a visit up to Ludhiana to visit Professor H. S. Rai, who is already actively contributing to OpenStreetMap. Check out the map of his university.


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From Pune to Mumbai

Hello from the Homi Bhabha Centre in Mumbai! Homi Bhabha is known as the father of India’s atomic energy program, that was developed right next door to here.

First catch up from Pune. Yesterday got data off the NaviGPS devices, making the IndicTrans guys very happy. Schuyler got party render working (and has some patches to submit) and we made this animation. Bought 10 SD Cards to replace the incompatible ones supplied by the GPS distributor (duh). Patched together presentations for the workshop today. And then rapidly hit the road for Mumbai.

The car hurtled down the ghats while we hacked on the presentations for the first real public workshops. The degree of car sickness this transmits is profound. Stopped for tea about halfway. A guy sitting nearby asks about my t-shirt .. “FooCamp? Is that anything like BarCamp?” .. what? just about the last thing I expected to hear in the middle of India. It was along the Mumbai-Pune corridor, sure, but! He turns out to be a Mumbai based web entrepreneur — it really is a gold rush here. A hour later we’re in Mumbai, driving through the most awful toxic air I’ve ever had the lack of choice to breath, sourced from something burning which definitely should not ever be burnt, ever, in a dark, torn up near apocalyptic landscape of diesel trucks, cement, and probably millions of people. The air cleared as we neared Powai Lake for the home of our host, Professor Shah. And we continued to near it for more than an hour, as our Pune based driver got completely and utterly lost, in a way only possible if the passengers are two cartographers. The cartographers curse. Taxi navigation in India is based on asking unlucky roadside pedestrians and fellow taxi drivers, who fate is to not ever say “I don’t know” but at the least give a shrug in a vague direction with no bearing to the destination. Somehow we found our destiation, which leads to speculative models on partial, or even negative, information in transit routing actually solving directions problems. Anyway, the misery was entirely relieved by the citing of a real city elephant .. elephant in Bombay! The home of Professor Shah was a comfortable contrast to this surreal journey, making it even more surreal. Sleep came easily.

Ok — taken a couple days to get this out and day two of the Mumbai Workshop starting soon, more later…

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Merano Open Data Imported

An interlude from India to Italy. Back in November, the municipality of Merano released _all_ of their GIS data, so that it could be imported into OpenStreetMap, or reused in any other manner. We’ve now completed the first round of import of that data, into OpenStreetMap and OpenAerialMap. Merano is liberated!

OSM Merano

OAM Merano

Thanks to Cristiano Giovando for importing the roads data and Christopher Schmidt for processing the aerial imagery.

There was some existing road data in Merano, so Cristiano manually solved those conflicts. Still this needs review by someone familiar with Merano, and highway classification, which was not present in the data, needs to be applied to roads.

The aerial imagery for the most part was processed fine, but there were a few anomalies which need to be debugged, and reprocessed at some point.

There’s a whole lot more data — this is just 2 of a dozen layers. I have an DVD from the city, which we discussed hosting at Telescience in San Diego. Get in touch if you want to take a look at this data.

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Pune, yesterday

The impressive first day of work was offset by some hiccups on day 2. Jetlag and hard work caught up with me, and I had to rest off a minor fever yesterday (everything is fine this morning!). Our plan for yesterday was to do a dry run of the OSM workshops with the crew from Indictrans, Schuyler took charge on this, and it’s good thing we did. The SD cards supplied with our NaviGPS units were not compatible, a known problem, but I had figured that the distributor would know enough to send the right cards, and I was wrong. There’s also a bit of tedious setup required for each unit, which needs double checking. So this morning we’re doing some shopping for SD cards, wherever they can be bought in India (no Best Buy).

On the positive note, the participants took very detailed useful notes as they surveyed, and we figure that even without the GPS traces, it should be possible to reconstruct their data. The Yahoo imagery over Pune is detailed enough for this. And it’s possible that the unit’s internal memory recorded the data, and we can salvage from there. So another task for today.

The AND India data was imported on Monday, and Mumbai looks good, but the roads over Pune are off by 200m in some points. We’re not sure what the cause is, perhaps the creation of this data was not done in the most methodical fashion. So we’ll do a bit of an investigation, and see if AND can provide any guidance.

Tonight we travel to Mumbai, and tomorrow we hold the workshop. So also going to polish off my OSM presentation and include new relevant developments for India.

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