Since I’ve been back in the UK, although I’ve been pretty much tied to the house, with Amazon now back available to me, I’m able to spend money again. One of the items I bought was a GPS. Originally I was going to be borrowing one from someone in Addis to be able to do some mapping of Mekelle, but since I’m in the UK it seemed to make sense to get hold of my own whilst I was here. I eventually opted for the very basic Garmin eTrex H, thinking that it does everything I would want and I’m unlikely to spend money buying maps to download onto it – the main reason for buying it was to contribute to the OpenStreetMap project.
Once it had arrived my first challenge was getting it hooked up to my Asus EeePC (running Ubuntu) and installing the right bits of software.
For up & downloading to the GPS I installed QLandkarte, which only started recognising my device once I’d also installed the gpsbabel package.
Next I needed a desktop program for editing OpenStreetMap – using the online Potlatch application wouldn’t be a great option for me once back in Ethiopia with no decent internet connection.
I started off by installing Merkaartor but quickly ran into problems. When I tried connecting to the OpenStreetMap (OSM) server to download a map to edit, I kept getting “403: Forbidden” messages. The problem was that the particular version of Merkaartor the Ubuntu package manager installs doesn’t work with OSM Protocol v0.6. I think there may be a version of Merkaartor which works with v0.6, but I’m not generally very keen on installing software outside the Ubuntu Add/Remove Applications
I then tried Java OpenStreetMap (JOSM), again installing from the Add/Remove Apps and I was getting similar problems in being unable to connect to the OSM server. Again the problem was the protocol version.
Merkaartor and JOSM appeared to be the only programs available for editing OSM on Ubuntu (please let me know if there are others), so I had to resign myself to manually installing one of them. I opted for JOSM as it was quite easy to run manually and once installed all seems to be working relatively well.
I do however had a few gripes about the user interface, especially on the small screen of the Asus EeePC. For example some of the dialog boxes are fiddly to expand to get the OK/Cancel buttons to appear. Also, the drop down list of “presets” (the different map features, places of interest, amenities etc which can be added) is too long to appear on the screen, but there’s no way of navigating down to the bottom of the list to see which options are available.
Apart from that, I feel like I’ve got the hang of OSM editing (a little at least) and I’ve managed to add a few new roads. Hopefully once I get back to Mekelle, I’ll be much more productive, especially since I’ll be starting on a blank canvas.