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OpenStreetMap isn't a computer project, it's an outdoors activity.
Less of the bulk imports and wikifiddling please.
Go outside and map!

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upgrade to ODbL v 1.0


Hi, I'm Andy Robinson and I'm mapping in the West Midlands area of the UK centred on the north east Birmingham and specifically Sutton_Coldfield. You can contact me at blackadderajr at gmail dot com or you might well find me hanging out on the #osm IRC channel, as Blackadder.

My mapping focus is various areas of the West Midlands and south Staffordshire.

I am a past Secretary and Treasurer of the Foundation.

I've been an active contributor to OSM since September 2005 and therefore have seen the OSM project grow beyond all recognition from its early seeding days. Amongst other things I'm responsible for suggesting the name "ways" and am the originator of the Map Features tagging scheme. I'm principally active as an organiser within the community, assisting on such tasks as the SOTM conferences and organise mapping parties and other social events and working on a number of the Working Groups that the Foundation Board presides over. These include the Data working group which deals with severe cases of data vandalism and abuse as well as copyright violation issues and edit wars. I've presented about OpenStreetMap to a number of international conferences and local events and interested groups and will continue to do so to both spread the word about OSM and to help others get involved, whether as a data contributor or user. I've started to use OSM data for specific daya to day tasks, especially in my role as a volunteer with Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity.

I do the vast majority of my mapping by bike, switching to mapping on foot only in the winter when the weather is a little inclement for cycle mapping. Winter is when I catch up on all the unpaved rural footpaths.

In my professional life I am a civil engineer working in the underground environment, principally tunnelling and drilling.

My GPS to OSM platform

The etrex Legend (B&W version)
ETrexLegend onbike.png
ETrex back.png

I've owned a number of hand-held GPS receivers, the one I use most of the time is a Garmin Legend HCx with a 2GB micro SD card. The card holds OSM mapping created using Mkgmap which means I can see what is and is not mapped already, very handy when cycling about. These units also let you write the tracklog automatically to the SD card in GPX format. Because this is done automatically and because you can access the files on the SD card via USB its significantly quicker to get data to and from the unit than was the case with the 6 year old Garmin Legend (black and white screen version) I started out with.

Previoulsy I had mainly logged tracks using an older Garmin etrex Legend recreational hand held GPS receiver(the B&W version). I also had a GPS enabled PDA the Acer n35 which I used for logging in the car (it served as a satnav device as well).

On my Specialized Sirrus Sport road bicycle I have the GPS clipped to the handlebars.

Acer n35 PDA

All logging, regardless of GPS unit or mode of transport, is done with the GPS receiver set to track log at 1 second intervals. For the old B&W Garmin Legend this gives 2.75 hours of logging time (10,000 points), sufficient for most trips on the bike. For the new Legend HCx and its memory card there is no restriction on how long I am out, a new GPX file is written to the card automatically for each day.

The Acer was primarily a conventional relatively low spec Pocket PC PDA with built in GPS receiver and Destinator Maps (UK and Ireland maps provided in the price here in the UK). To turn it into a logging device while using the Navigation software I needed to duplicate the GPS COM port which was being achieved without problems using GPSGate from Franson in Sweden (US$29.95 when purchased for the Standard version). This software provided virtual COM ports for the GPS receiver so that more than one software package can access the GPS receiver at the same time. GPSGate will also log in NMEA format, however I have found it to be unreliable with ocassional bad data written to the log which is difficult to weed out, even with GPSBabel, hence I use a separate logger as below.

For logging on the Acer I used GPS Data Logger 2005 from geoaps (US$20), based in the UK. This software logs to a NMEA format .txt file on the Pocket PC. The software also allows you to manually add to a separate logging file features that you see along the way. You select the feature from the list and it is written to a separate file with the geo position data. The feature list is user editable so you can add all the features you plan to map. The only thing it will not do is allow you to add meta data to a feature name on the fly, for example adding a street name to a street name sign feature.

I do not log tracks until I have ensured the GPS receiver has acquired all the accuracy (satellites) it is going to for a given location. I also clear the track log before I start and generally leave track logging turned off on the Garmin until I get closer to the proposed target area or route. Doing this ensures that there is only relevant and useful data being collected for OSM. For the Acer I find it easier to delete the start and end of any track if required.

I use GPSBabel to transfer the Active Log from the old Garmin GPS receiver to the computer. You cannot use a saved log from the Garmin since a saved log only contains a filtered selection of track points from the Active Log from which it was made. The new Lagend HCx stores the tracklog on the SD card in GPX format so GPS babel is not needed unless the track needs filtering.

For a graphical user interface for GPSBabel I use GPSBabelWrapper available free from Quakemap.

Whether using the Acer, laptop or transferring the data to the computer from the Garmin using GPSBabel the end file type is GPX, which is an XML format. For the Acer I simply use GPSBabel to convert from the NMEA sentences to GPX.

Before uploading to OSM I check each file using JOSM to ensure that I have not included any erroneous data from the Active Log of the GPS receiver. In fact I'm using JOSM almost exclusively for the final creation and editing of nodes and segments over the GPS tracks and upload of same to OSM.

Problems: Garmin Etrex Legend (B&W): The etrex Legend, and I believe some other models in the etrex range, suffer badly from signal degradation under tree cover. This can lead to the lateral (and I do not necessarily mean latitude) accuracy of your track plummeting when under tree cover or when emerging out from under tree cover or partial tree cover. The recommendation is to stop after leaving tree cover and wait for the receiver to reacquire properly, this seems to be especially important if there are curves in the road being logged. If you do not stop it can take some time of continuing log before the track anywhere near approaches the correct position.

Acer n35: If I close the GPS Data Logger I have to do a soft reset to get it to load again. Leave it running all the time and it's fine. The 12V power lead for the car is a bit short for my power socket located near the handbrake. Need to find an extension as currently it gets in the way of the gear stick/shift. Occasionally the synchronisation with the desktop computer goes astray (possibly due to Exchange Server issues when syncing my mailbox). This sometimes results in the track log file being truncated on download from the PDA. When the resync occurs the truncated tracklog gets uploaded back to the PDA so your original full log is lost. I just have to remember to save a copy of the track file to the SD card before I sync in case this happens.

Some related links I'm watching

The National Street Gazetteer - an implementation of BS 7666-1:2000 (formerly Part 1) as part of the requirements for the New Roads and Street Works Act (NRASWA). This is effectively a platform that will permit the proper electronic registration of street works by Utilities (and other street works operators) and provide local authority input to the permitting and inspection of street works under the Act. The system is being set up by the Ordnance Survey under a concession and therefore all of the data is copyright and restricted to Statutory Undertakers and Local Authorities. However a large amount of data within the gazetteer (Associated Street Data (ASD) it's called) in my view should be in the public domain. See here for some useful details regarding the Data Entry Conventions and Best Practice for the National Street Gazetteer (NSG)


Megastar.png Nstar.png

  • Blackadder is awarded the Mega Star for uploading one million trackpoints
  • Blackadder is awarded the North Star for the completion of Sutton Coldfield