3BT – snow day, elastic, killing is fun, same soup

1. Even without my glasses or raising my head from the pillows, I can tell the world’s gone white again. Our plans are abandoned and we give ourselves a snow day of relaxation.

2. The cheese stretches between my teeth and the toasted bread shell.

3. I rarely play PvP battlegrounds and forgot how much fun killing other people can be. Fighting NPCs is rarely as exhilarating – it’s often just a case of going through the motions – but my half-hour in Warsung Gulch is electrifying.

4. Katherine & I discover we’re having the same soup for dinner. Katherine types “smiling now” and I am too. For all our differences, we’re so alike.

Ukepedia – our fun! new! project

ukepedia logoBack in August, I had earache. Otitis Media to be specific.

After I got back from having it checked out by my doctor, I wrote a Twitter about it. John was playing on his ukelele and looking over my shoulder at the time so sang the Twitter as I wrote it.

Then I went over to Wikipedia to read all about Otitis Media, and as I read, John sang. As it turned out, the Otitis Media article worked beautifully as a song.

So we made it into a song. And we put the song on a website. And a fun new project was born.

Like with ELER, after an initial flurry of action, we’ve been a bit slow on it of late – but other members of the Church of the Ukelele have been stepping up and the collection of videos is slowly growing.

If you can play the uke – or any other instrument – and fancy joining the cool kids club, there are full instructions on the site.

There are only about 2,576,419 articles to go – so hurry!

Navigating the fictional but real world

In Liverpool in 1998, I bought a book from a publisher clearance style bookshop called ‘The Breeders Box‘.

It’s set, primarily, in New York, around Greenwich Village – where I have never been – and for the first four, five times I read it, I had to imagine what the area looked like, how the streets fitted together and where things were in relation to each other.

The last time I read it – a couple of years ago – I realised I could look up the area on Google Maps and I could navigate all around, looking at the positions of stuff and blurry satellite photos of the tops of buildings.

This time I read it, I went back onto Google Maps, looked up the area then clicked for the street view – I could see the shapes for all the buildings in the area then plonk my little guy down where, say, the fictional eponymous club was on Spring St and look at the street itself, both sides and moving back and forth along the road.

I wonder how I’ll be able to interact with the real version of the fictional world in another ten years time.

Open Street Map: micro-mapping party

Our new OSM additionsWe held our first WYLUG(ish) Open Street Map micro-mapping event on Sunday and it went well.

Six of us – me, John, Paul, Tim, Simon and Rob – went out mapping and then we went back to Dave’s afterwards to start turning the traces into maps.

It was the first OSM event I’ve organised but I had some advice from Tim (aka chippy) about timings etc and I think it worked out ok. We met for about half an hour to decide where we were all going and we decided on filling in some blank spots around East Leeds. I’d printed out maps and highlighted areas I thought needed attention, and once we’d double-checked no other speedy Leeds-er had filled in our selected spots between me printing the maps out in the early hours of Saturday and us meeting on Sunday afternoon, we headed out.

We headed out in pairs – John & I were in his car, the rest on foot – and traced for about two hours (including travelling there and back) before heading to Dave’s for the mapping part. As I mentioned the other day, the mapping software JOSM is rather hard to learn how to use so the hour-ish of mapping with experienced users Tim and Dave was really useful. I don’t think I’m an expert user now by any means but at least I can confidently do the most basic stuff like adding nodes and turning them into named, categorised ways without wanting to tear my hair out.

(The pics of the bits we’ve added from Sunday’s session so far, using the Osmarender view – click through for it on OSM.)

Lessons learned/Things to remember for next time

  • The printed maps worked really well. I did some area overview ones and some more zoomed ones around the particular area that needed mapping. I think next time I’ll do some hyper-zoomed in ones for scribbling all over too instead of just using blank bits of paper. (Clipboards would be helpful for doing this.)
  • Paul managed to lose his traces some how but could pretty much reconstruct them because he took waypoints (which didn’t delete) at every intersection. Our hacked TomTom is a pain for marking waypoints and so easy waypoint making is something I’ll definitely look out for if I buy a dedicated GPS unit.
  • It was useful to have internet access at the initial meet session for double-checking the printed map data and it was essential to have internet access at the post-tracing session to download map data from OSM and to be able to access the reference parts of the Wiki.
  • It was more time consuming to trace than I thought it would be – what with having to write down street names and everything – and the traces-to-maps is taking longer than I thought (although that’s because of JOSM problems and because I’ve been busy on other stuff since then, hello Oscars). Tim says we should allow about an hour for mapping time for every hour of tracing – and looking at the amount we did and the amount that’s already done of Leeds, I have to commend the people that have contributed before we got here. Thanks for doing so much already, lovely people :)
  • Simon came over from Manchester after reading about it on a blog of a blog of a WYLUGer or something which made me realise if we organise another event – particularly the summer seaside day trips I’ve mentioned – we should publicise it more widely as people may be willing to travel for a hour for a day-long event. (Incidentally Rob came from Dewsbury and Paul from outside Huddersfield so thanks to all three for coming to contribute to evil Leeds’ map ;) )
  • I should really have gone for a wee before I set off. Or not drunk a big glass of coke in the pub. Or taken some sort of receptacle.
  • And on other forgotten human functions, we were all pretty hungry and thirsty by the time we finished too.
  • We had a general WYLUG social afterwards (although it turned out to just be the mapping party plus people who had intended to map but couldn’t for whatever reason – Dave, Tom and Geoff) and we kept coming back to mapping issues amongst the general geeky talk – and I thought this review time was useful and interesting.

Open Street Mapping

OSM image for LeedsAfter an inspiring WYLUG talk about OpenStreetMap last Monday, John and I have decided to start mapping. John hacked our TomTom so it draws traces of our routes and we took a first test drive with it last night.

We drove around some of Armley’s main roads – most of it was already covered on OSM but we got a few new bits down and it was useful as a test exercise, seeing how our data linked up with the OSM data. Because we were driving, we had the trace thing to record a dot every second but it seems like it only did every 5-10seconds or so — which was a pain because we were moving comparatively fast. We also went over quite a wide area – from our estate in the middle of Armley, east to the near HMP Armley (about half a mile), then back along Tong Road and out towards New Farnley, then the outskirts on Pudsey and coming back through Bramley – so that made the size of our trace a bit too hard to handle for us newbs.

JOSM, the software we’re using to turn the traces into maps, was also a little harder to use than we would have liked. It is … quirky. Apparently it’s a very powerful tool once you get used to it and learn all the shortcuts but at the moment, to quote someone I just spoke to on #OSM, we’re alternating screaming and crying tears of joy.

Anyway, despite the hell that is JOSM, I drew up a couple of tiny residential roads near the prison last night and uploaded them to OSM – and they’re already visible on the Osmarender view. It’s not much of course but it’s a start. Today I traced my walk back from swimming (well, half of the walk because the TomTom was also being “quirky”) and I’ve added another three residential roads this evening. From small acorns do impressive free (as in freedom) mapping project grow.

I’ll walk different routes coming back from swimming until the whole of our bit of Armley is done but on a bigger scale, I want to help getting Bradford mapped and I’m planning mapping expeditions to Southport too since there is very, very little on there (just the railway line and that’s coincidentally very near my mum and dad’s house).

Am looking forward to being able to contribute – it reminds me of creating “much wanted” articles on random subjects (including Czech Airlines, suburbs of Leeds and Liverpool, and Eurovision) on Wikipedia in the early days. I very much hope that OSM will grow as hugely successful and popular as Wikipedia is today.

New WYLUG group on Flickr

20080114-wylug-04Went to WYLUG tonight and since everyone was fiddling with EeePCs (or however it’s capped), I thought I’d grab some photos of the group at play. There were five of the machines in total flying around so I labelled it an EeeeeeeeeeeeeeePC session.

If I wasn’t already looking at paying out for a new laptop (suitable for use a desktop) in the near future, I suspect I’d be tempted by one of the Asus machines – but as it is, we’ll probably wait until the next generation (or so) before “investing” — let everyone else be bug testers first and wait until the manufacturers have “shared” their good ideas a bit.

Anyway, my real reason for posting this message is that I’ve uploaded the photos from tonight to my Flickr account (including one of a rude but happy Potato Guy) and set up a WYLUG Flickr group for sharing WYLUG snaps in the future. Doing that also reminded me to upload some photos I took at the summer social last year. Hopefully I’ll add more in the future.