Free maps after all?

Ian Stirling openmoko at
Fri Feb 9 17:13:37 CET 2007

Florent THIERY wrote:
>> Just to mention, use of  Google maps is not free, it comes only with 
>> their software, or trough the browser interface
> Of course. But, do you really think that the open source community
> will be able to add every POIs (shops, cafes, etc...) ? The content to
> generate (tagging streets etc..) is so huge...
> Public Domain maps are great, but without metadata... OpenStreetmaps
> sure is an really great project, but certainly not "ready" yet.
> Why not using the browser interface then? There's an API open to
> mashups. I personally don't care if the content is not free, as soon
> as the browser is.

The problem with the browser UI is that you pretty much need to cache 
all of the area you may travel in, before setting out.
This is just fine for many trips - travel to bookmarked location, you 
just turn up the browser cache to a hundred meg or so, and scan over the 
This gets you at zoom level 2, about 0.5 pixels/m, which gives street 
names, on the order of a patch 70Km*70Km.

I have even got a separate firefox profile, with its own 100Mb of cache.
When I am about to go somewhere I'm not completely confident of, I 
simply cache it, and turn the profile off again.
If I get lost, start up the mapping profile, and it's all in cache, 
which works just fine, zooming, panning, until it runs out of cached area.
That, combined with a map of my country at .1 pixels/m, and a world map 
at 1px/Km pretty much works for me.

_Major_ downsides.
No easy GPS tie-in. (I've got a trivial script that takes the GPS 
position, and tells me how far off center of the current map I am).

No way to search the map at all. No way to calculate routes.
It's basically a paper map, without the problem of folding it,

Of course, the GPS and moving map aspects can be trivially done with an 
app that misuses the licensed google data, and searching is trivial if 
you have a net connection.

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