5x12 pentomino tiling
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New Map Software

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After a long struggle the first public release of our mapping application, rewritten to use the Ordnance Survey's OpenSpace server is now online at last. As before it lets you browse the country using Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 scale maps and both create routes to download for use on your GPS and upload tracks from your GPS to see where you've been.

Before I was using the MultiMap Open API. The difference now is that with Ordnance Survey (OS) you get a lot more zoom levels including the ability to zoom all the way out so that the whole of the UK is on the screen and all the way past 1:50,000 to 1:10,000 scale maps.

I've also added the ability to insert a waypoint between two other waypoints which is significance enhancement from a usability point of view.

Switching to using OS also means I can easily display the grid reference of waypoints, something users asked for previously but I found hard to do reliably with the available JavaScript libraries.

But missing from all of this is the OS "crown jewels" of 1:25,000 scale mapping, which is the level walkers really want. For that you have to pay and that's what started me down this road as although I originally wrote the application (in its Multimap incarnation) for fun I later sold it to a company to use on their web site.

Now they wanted to switch to using OS and that's been a voyage of discovery for both them and us. For a start, unlike MultiMap, OS expect commercial customers to run their own server so with Beth's help I set up a Tomcat server and put GeoServer on it and then we converted all the OS tiles to the right format and put them on our customer's server.

The part of this which caused some scratching of heads for a while was when we realised that we had about 30GB of tiles to put on their server. Eventually we decided the easiest way to do it was to use our nice fat 20Mbps VirginMedia cable modem "pipe" and send it overnight a 100km x 100km grid square at a time. Most nights we managed three or four grid squares so it didn't take that long to do, especially as many squares have a lot of sea in them.

The other big problem was with the JavaScript library OS gave us which wasn't as fully featured as the OpenSpace version but again Beth came to rescue and did some sterling work getting me over the hump for the last run to home.

There's still some work to do, mainly improving the "Go To" facility for which I've got a lovely OS gazetteer database to play with which, once I've set it up, will let you enter "Ben Nevis" or "Black Rock Cottage" and the map will re-centre to there. Of course for "Milton" it will get lots of results but I'll put in a popup to cope with that.

Anyway it's essentially now in beta at maps.the-hug.net before we go live on the customer's site so feel free to have a play, especially if you have a genuine use for it.

Alternatively you could look at this - it's the track of a walk we did up Dùn da Ghaoite, the only Corbett on Mull, in May 20081.

  1. I should admit this is actually Beth's track, I stopped at the trig point for a lie down while she walked across the saddle to the actual summit.

Tags: Beth, linux, maps, VirginMedia, walks, web design, work Written 08/07/10

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