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OSM Inspector Routing View Update

4.04.2013 | Frederik Ramm

The OSM Inspector’s “routing” view has always been the “odd one out” among the OSMI views. It higlights potential problems for routing, and was initially sponsored by Skobbler. At first it was available only for the EU; later we rolled it out world-wide but lacked the resources to actually update the world-wide view regularly, leaving us with a daily updated “Europe” view and a less frequently updated “non-Europe” view. We were hoping to attract someone to sponsor that section of OSMI but since nobody was forthcoming we’ve now put it on a more solid footing (read: better hardware) ourselves. The routing view should now update regularly for the whole world, and is also available as one single layer.

(If you should have bookmarked the old “routing-non-eu” view, drop the “non-eu” to use the unified routing view.)

This is also a good opportunity to thank OSM’s routing experts Pascal Neis (inventor of the original, and developer of the “unconnected” and “duplicate” layers in OSMI’s routing view) and Dennis Luxen (the man behind OSRM, and supplier of the “islands” layer in OSMI’s routing view).

The new hardware will allow us to add a couple more improvements to OSMI in the coming months.

Die Geofabrik ist umgezogen. Die neuen Räume haben wir schon im Januar angemietet, aber diverse Renovierungsarbeiten haben uns dann doch noch einen Monat aufgehalten.

Eine kleine Abstellkammer haben wir durch den Einbau einer Klimaanlage in einen Serverraum umfunktioniert. Neben den Servern, die für unsere täglichen Updates der OpenStreetMap-Daten verantwortlich, findet hier auch unser wichtiger Grossformat-Drucker Platz.

Im grossen Büro sah es zwischenzeitlich recht chaotisch aus, weil wir hier alles reingestopft haben, was in den anderen Räumen bei den Umbauarbeiten gestört hat. In einem seltenen Moment bot sich aber auch eine Gelegenheit, den Raum einmal leer zu fotografieren.

In der Küche haben wir alles herausgerissen. Die Verkleidung der Außenwand und das Küchenmobiliar haben wir neu gemacht.

Das, was hier noch eine Werkstatt ist, wird irgendwann mal ein Meetingraum.

Rechtzeitig zum Hack-Weekend dieses Wochenende musste alles fertig sein – und es hat auch gerade so alles geklappt.

Das Hack-Weekend

Plangemäß konnte das Februar-Hackweekend stattfinden. Die neuen Räumlichkeiten wurden standesgemäß eingeweiht.

New Map Styles

21.11.2012 | Frederik Ramm

We’re making two new map styles publicly available on our map web site, – one is the German style that we mentioned a while ago, and the other is our “topo style”:

The topo style is a relatively simple style that blends OSM data with hillshading and contour lines generated from enhanced SRTM data that we have licensed from CIAT. This style is preferred by clients who want to overlay other information (like hiking trails or cycle routes) on the map and have little use for a colourful style like the standard Mapnik map. On the topo style, all roads are grey and we only use two different shades of green for forests and meadows; buildings are added at higher zoom levels.

The topo style is available world-wide but due to the limitations of SRTM data, hillshading and contours are only visible between 60°S and 60°N.

Our map styles are freely viewable on, where tiles come under a CC-BY-SA license. If you want to use these maps in your own application, please contact us or see our web page on Tile Servers.

Trip to Japan

12.09.2012 | Frederik Ramm

If we were a little slow in responding to inquiries during the past two weeks, that’s because the majority of Geofabrik staff – read: Christine and myself – were in Japan, combining participation in this year’s State of the Map conference with a little bit of tourism.

Japan is a very interesting country with lots of attractions, and around this time of the year rather warmer and more humid than our home climate. We had been preparing for the trip for quite a while, taking lessons in Japanese and reading a lot about Japan’s culture (and cuisine).

The 'ootori' gate on Mijayima island.

The 'ootori' gate on Mijayima island.

The Golden Pavillion of Kinkakuji Temple in Kyoto.

The Golden Pavillion of Kinkakuji Temple in Kyoto.

The conference took place on the campus of Tokyo University. The facilities were excellent; someone mentioned that Tokyo University is not just any university but a rather elite affair where they only take the brightest (or best-connected) students. There were lots of students helping with the organisation on the local team, and they all did that without compensation.

A few of the many volunteer helpers at the conference.

A few of the many volunteer helpers at the conference.

The conference bag and T-Shirt were beautifully designed, with Kanji characters on them that reference historic land surveying in Japan. To make sure we would return our empty food and drink containers, everyone received two specially minted “way” coins which had to be deposited whenever you fetched something to eat or drink, and were returned in exchange for your garbage.

The 'way' coins and the design of the conference bag.

The 'way' coins and the design of the conference bag.

Food at the conference was plentiful, with a large selection of different “Bento Boxes” to select from for lunch.

A Bento Lunchbox.

A Bento Lunchbox.

Calpis, a popular Japanese refreshment drink.

Calpis, a popular Japanese refreshment drink.

On Thursday evening there was a sponsored welcome party with a mixture of Italian and Japanese food, and on Friday we had a sponsored boat cruise with a multi-course dinner of various Japanese specialties like sashimi and tempura.

Bjarne, Frederik, and Dennis on the Friday night boat cruise.

Bjarne, Frederik, and Dennis on the Friday night boat cruise.

Talks at the conference covered a wide range of topics; a recurring theme was the use of OSM in disaster response and the humanitarian context, but we also heard about technology and OSM’s social fabric.

The one thing that brought tears to everyone’s eyes was the shooting of the group photo which involved looking at a high-flying unmanned aerial vehicle for extended periods of time ;)

Shooting a group photo at noon on Friday.

Shooting a group photo at noon on Friday.

We greatly enjoyed our time in Japan and at this impeccably well-organised conference. Thank you to everyone who helped!

New Tile Servers

29.06.2012 | Frederik Ramm

Some time in the future I’d like to have a giant button on my desk and every time I press it, a new tile server is ordered, bootstrapped, configured, and seamlessly added to our infrastructure. And if you read the glitzy announcements from various “cloud computing” providers you might think that this is actually not very far away.

However at Geofabrik we’re still doing things like our grandparents did, oh well, maybe not, but we do things the old-fashioned way: We select and order physical hardware, individual machines that have a rack number and a physical location, and we configure them and grill them and test them and run them ourselves. We don’t even have a setup script that “does everything” because if we set up another batch of tile servers in half a year’s time then technology will have progressed again and we’ll be using different hardware or software…

The tile servers we set up are generally of the dynamic kind like the one OSM operates – we have a lot of tiles pre-rendered but we can render any tile, in any style, in any location, on demand if required. If you add a telephone booth on a rock in the Atlantic to OSM and load the respective tile on zoom level 18 from Geofabrik a few minutes later, the telephone booth will be there. (Please don’t do that though. Only if you have verified that the telephone booth really exists.) That means that our servers usually need a lot of SSD storage to keep a copy of OSM’s database. For the current generation, we’re using fairly standard Hetzner servers but equipped with 3x120GB of SSD, just enough to store a full OSM planet for the next year or so.

Today we’ve phased out the previous generation of machines, and also updated to the new Mapnik2 rendering engine. Other than that, our tile servers are running the classic OSM rendering stack – PostgreSQL/PostGIS (with hstore extension for access to seldom-used tags), osm2pgsql, and the Tirex queue manager.

We’ve also updated our map styles to reflect the latest OSM Mapnik style and its German variant, which we have slightly adapted to add German names to local names where they are present in OSM:

We’ll contribute that change to the site as well if people want to use it. We’re also working on a couple of new tile styles that our clients can use. Mapnik2 should also allow us to offer nice high-resolution tiles for “retina” displays or even print use in the future.

If you already are a user of Geofabrik tiles then you shouldn’t notice anything, apart from perhaps a minor style difference here or there. If you’re thinking of using our tiles then read more on our web site.