Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why Google owns SketchUp (or, The Russians Are Coming)

So I have my occasional differences with 'Cagey' James Fee but it's no big deal. He's a nice guy and his blog is kinda like the Village Voice for paleotards. Also it reminds me of those heady days five years ago when we called everything "spatial" because we thought it sounded cooler than "geo".

The other day he posted "It Still Blows My Mind That Google Owns Sketchup". Basically Cagey subscribes to what I call the tequila theory. This says that Ol’ Ed Parsons went out one night in Kingston, got completely slammed on tequila, came home, logged onto eBay and in a drunken stupor clicked 'Buy it Now' for some overhyped geo startup at well above market value. Admit it, we've all done it. (Juha Christensen is regretting it to this day. Heh heh.)

But although Cagey is a wise old sage, kinda like the Donald Knuth of geo (sorry "spatial"), he is way off the mark on this one. I mean:
Sounds pretty awesome, I know many people who as a hobby recreate the world around them in Google SketchUp. It also makes a huge 3D library available to the world for free.
Hey, what? People actually still believe this altruistic shit about Google?

So at OpenStreetMap we figured lesson one is get people to give you the data for free. Lesson two is you have to own the data. Ok, it took us five years to work that second one out which is why we're changing the license.

G learned both of these pretty quick. So when people "recreate the world around them in Google SketchUp", well, whaddyaknow, that's more free data for Google.

The result? In two years' time Google will have the only 3D map of the world and it will cost them precisely $0 in licensing fees. Ok, much of it will have been done in rudimentary form by analyzing StreetView footage and the sensing from the super secret Google imaging satellites which can detect rooftops to a resolution of 50cm and know what your cat does all day. That bit will look blocky and shit, yes. But G already knows 'good enough' works for maps, because they unleashed their barely-better-than-TIGER geodata on the States and basically No One At All Cares except for Cagey and Mike Dobson and the poor guys who drove into a river and died because Google claimed there was still a bridge there.

But - the gosh-wow brigade will be swooning over the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, the Houses of Parliament in centimeter-perfect detail, all drawn on SketchUp by some kid with Aspergers who unwittingly has licensed it all to G. (Ok, so OSM leads Google here because our kids with Aspergers are German kids with Aspergers but still.)

You think I'm kidding? Think phones. Nav apps sell phones and they will all be immersive 3D in two years' time, like Google Goggles on LSD (Steve Jobs would have been proud). Apple knows that, that's why they bought C3. We at Microsoft know that, that's why we're doing ReadWriteWorld. Obviously both of us are handicapped by not being evil but Google has no such disadvantage.

So you might ask what OpenStreetMap is doing in this new Space Race.

I can't say too much but if phase one was Germans... phase two involves Russians. Russian OSMers all think they're cats, map in five dimensions and write renderers so advanced that the major browsers are having to implement bug fixes to keep up. I shit you not. Be very, very frightened.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Google Whatever

Slight correction to previous post.

Quantum GISGoogle Earth
Quantum GIS source codeavailable1 on signing partner agreement
PostGISGoogle Earth Pro
gvSIG MobileGoogle Earth for Android
gvSIG Mobile source codeavailable1 on signing partner agreement
WFS + WMS900913 tiles
OpenStreetMapGoogle Map Maker
GeoserverGoogle My Maps
OpenLayersGoogle Maps API

1 not available

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I have been told that a certain company is renaming its products as FailWhatever. Or ArcWhatever. Or something.

This made me realise that the open source community could use some boost in product placement. Being the marketing genius I am (Who do you think invented the whatever for maps?), I propose the following changes:

Quantum GISOSGeo for Desktop
Quantum GIS source codeOSGeo for Desktop Advanced
PostGISOSGeo for Server
gvSIG MobileOSGeo for Windows Mobile
gvSIG Mobile source codeOSGeo SDK for Windows Mobile
WFS + WMSData and Maps for OSGeo
OpenStreetMapStreetMap Premium for OSGeo
GeoserverData Appliance for OSGeo
OpenLayersOSGeo for the Interwebs

See? Now it's much more simple to identify each piece of software.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dr Elizabeth Dodd

Can somebody tell me what meadowdust means? I guess it must be some sort of weird Griffith dialect.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Honeytrap Worked

You can lock them out now.

Friday, April 1, 2011

OpenStreetMap to restrict future availability of planet.osm

(reprinted from BusinessWeek, with thanks)

In the great geodata wars, OpenStreetMap (OSM) has portrayed itself as the open-source crusader doing battle against the leaders in proprietary data - Tele Atlas, Navteq and Google.

Unlike its rivals, OSM makes the underlying data for its popular map publicly available, and anyone can access it and tailor it for use in mobile phones, tablets, Garmin GPS units, even automobiles.

So what happens when OSM decides to keep the latest version of its map data to itself? Its fans are about to find out.

OSM says it will delay the distribution of its newest map data, known as planet.osm, at least for the foreseeable future. The project says the data, which is designed specifically for a rendering known as the 'Mapnik' style, is not yet ready to be altered by outside programmers and customized for other uses.

"To make an attractive map, we made some design tradeoffs," says Fake Mikel Maron, convener of OSM's Fake Strategic Working Group. "We didn't want to think about what it would take for the same data to be useful elsewhere. People would have had to stop tagging for the renderer, the Americans would have actually had to spend 15 minutes thinking about dupe nodes, and we'd have had a huge additional support burden. It would have required a lot of additional resources and extended our schedule beyond what we thought was reasonable. So we took a shortcut."

Maron says that if OSM were to open-source the data now, as it has with other versions of planet.osm, it couldn't prevent developers from putting the data in routing applications "and creating a really bad user experience. We have no idea if people can even route with this shit."

He points to a project called "Osmarender" as an example of the pitfalls of unfettered access to the data. "OSMF is still having to deal with claims for retina damage even today."

Instead, users will be encouraged to use a new, tightly-controlled routing option on the OSM front page. Access will also be available to map tiles through high quality "scraping" applications, such as GMapCatcher and Tilewolf, that have received a seal of approval from the OSM sysadmin team.

"OSM is an open-source project," Maron adds. "We have not changed our strategy."

Even so, the new approach represents a significant volte face for a project whose founder once defined "openness" as "wget". To ascertain the impact of this latest move, our reporters asked well-known "services on OSM" company, CloudMade, how the withdrawal of planet.osm would affect their future business plans. 

But CEO Yahoo Smorgasbord told us that, as they were still crunching through a planet file from January 2009 with the aim of eventually refreshing their map tiles, maybe, they did not anticipate any serious problems.

Nevertheless, the open-ended delay will likely generate unease among device makers, application developers, and members of the open-source community, many of whom are financially and philosophically invested in OpenStreetMap. Some critics, principally based in Australia, have long questioned the OSM Foundation's commitment to openness, and this latest news will give them added ammunition. (That said, the same guys have also questioned the theory of evolution, the world being round, and gravity.)

It may also provide justification for critics of OSM, particularly from the traditional GIS world, who argued that it creates a Wild West of map data by allowing people to do what they pleased. Some of the early OSM routing applications, for example, looked silly when compared with professional products such as Google, mostly because OSM hadn't been built for this type of use, but also because they were trying to use Gosmore.

Still, programmers took the data and dished out subpar routing apps. This time around, the OSM Foundation appears to be reining in openness in favor of a highly controlled release of map data.

Sent from my Android phone

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Private jet trauma

So the good news about working at Bing is that I can afford a private jet, the bad news is that we haven't released OSM-based routing yet.

So to navigate the jet I have to use some app powered by my previous company. I don't need to tell you the rest.