Free as in Speach Street Maps

map image

Last updated on July 4th, 2015 at 12:03 pm

OpenStreetMap is a project aimed squarely at creating and providing free geographic data such as street maps to anyone who wants them. The project was started because most maps you think of as free actually have legal or technical restrictions on their use, holding back people from using them in creative, productive or unexpected ways.

I?ve got a Logic Gear SL350F GPS capable of logging tracks so I?ve got it running on the drive to work and back and generally chasing after the kids. This little unit was a great deal late last year from Officeworks. To access the track log features you need to go into the Map > Menu > Quick > Manage Track Logs. I?ve set a 1 second update interval which should be dense enough for the project

The 2007 Toyota Aurion the company provides has a built-in sat nav, but I don?t think it allows me to save track logs.

I?ve also edited some of the information around my house. So the street names are accurate. Beware potlatch the online Flash based editor does not always have the most up to date information. So I?ve installed JOSM a Java editor that gets the latest data from the API. This has allowed me to easily update local streets and features.

BD Fugue Cafe Lille France

Last updated on July 4th, 2015 at 12:07 am

I?m in BD Fugue Cafe in Lille sipping cafe au Lait and fromage + jambon ?sandwich?.

BD Fugue Cafe is part manga euro comic store and part cafe. No Uncanny X-Men on the top floor (they?re downstairs in the comics section), but a wonderful range of hard and soft cover graphic novels, manga and collectables.

The walls of the cafe are covered with prints from some of the best European comic artists (or should that be artistes?). A wonderful vibe and good coffee. I believe there are stores scattered around France.

Ryanair Gatwick to Cologne

Last updated on July 3rd, 2015 at 11:26 pm

I was booked on a RyanAir flight from Gatwick to Cologne. That cost ?69.00 GBP including taxes, so it?s a great deal.

Unfortunately, Gatwick airport is run like a British train terminal. I asked the RyanAir passenger wrangler if this was normal and she said they were short staffed. However the basic logistics of the airport are doomed, the heightened security process makes it worse. Also I am sure the counter staff check-in the fewest people per hour of any airline I?ve travelled with.

The basic structure at London Gatwick is you check your flight on the departures board, and that tells you your check-in area, in my case Area C. Then you plus enough people to reenact the Omaha beach landing trek off to your designated area. Those who survive the migration eventually join queues for we hope the correct areas. It look an hour for me to progress 20m in the queue.

Anyway the standard approach seems to be we mill in the queue, without barriers or guidance until our anxiety about missing our flight forces us to cut to the front. Eventually crowd wranglers arrive and start calling out city names and begging those travellers to move to the two counters on the left. But if you jump the queue and attempt to use these too soon they tell you to rejoin the long queue. Such was the fate of the cute Spanish girl in the line ahead of me.

Eventually my bag is checked and I answered all the security questions at checkin. Now to clear security. No liquids allowed, I knew that but it seems the travelling British didn?t believe the reports. The security pre-check was pilled with bottles and tubes. It still took 20 minitues to clear that obstacle. I had to repack my carry-on to fit the size requirements. I keep my laptop power supply in an external pocket, and a jumper as extra padding around the laptop itself. That made thebag too fat. A quick repack to the side of the queue and I was ready to go. Unfortunately people insist of repacking their bags in situ, so I had to wait 3 minutes longer for a woman to repack before I could also prove to the guard my bag fit.

Then I queued to get through the x-ray machines. At 15 minutes before my flight I gave up being polite and started barging through, ?sorry my flight leaves in 15 minutes?. By the time I got to the x-ray machines I?d reached people on my flight and couldn?t push in anymore.

Again delays, the X-ray technicians were stopping the machine very regularly. Shoes and belts were ordered off, and I cleared X-ray with 8 minutes to go. I still didn?t know my gate number as the boarding pass does not reveal such sensitive information. I looked at the departure board and saw I was at gate 2. A sign noted I should allow 15 minutes to get there. How far can gate 2 be from the entrance? Well they had gate numbers up to 100 so I started jogging through the bowels of Gatwick airport.

When I arrived at the departure gate, I was the only passenger in sight. ?Oh-oh,? I though. The staff checked me through but I had to ask for directions. I wondered through a temporary looking structure, up some stairs and made some guesses on which way to turn. Luckily I found the airbridge and joined the end of that queue.

RyanAir do not allocate seats so I thought I?d be sitting in a middle seat. Luckily I got the last aisle seat in the second last row. 20 minutes later people are still boarding!

Anyway, we finally pulled away, the engines were started, sweet cool air started flowing from the air-conditioning and we left for Germany.

Gatwick Express

Last updated on July 3rd, 2015 at 11:21 pm

I?m flying out of London Gatwick to Cologne Germany. My UK friends tell me to avoid Heathrow at all costs at the moment, the security is a nightmare. We?ll see how Gatwick is.

The best way to get to the airport is the Gatwick Express from Victoria Station, so I caught a cab, I could have caught the underground but I don?t want to navigate the tube with a big wheelie bag and a sore foot.
The strangest thing about the experience is the deja vu of traversing Victoria Station. I arrived in London yesterday at London Euston station. I?m leaving at Victoria station. The shops are identical fast food chains and I?m almost sure they are laid out in the same order.

I?m drafting this on the train now. You can pay for the ticket on the train so getting on is very effortless. It was ?14.00 GBP one way, and the conductor is very helpful with alternatives. The Gatwick Express leaves every 15 minutes and the journey takes 30 minutes.

One night in London

Last updated on July 3rd, 2015 at 11:18 pm

I?m staying at the Grange City Hotelwhere I got a great deal, ?85.00 for a five star room. I?m right next to Trinity House and a block from the Tower of London. For Sim?s review of broadband internet in hotels, I was disappointed to find their wifi service was expensive. So I didn?t bother connecting. It was actually more expensive than T-Mobile UK service which is available in most train stations and airports.

I have a blister on my foot from wandering the streets of London for 3 hours last night. I went out to look for an interesting place to eat. It started very promising, there was a 007 party at the Billingsgate Fish Market building. I crossed the Thames at London Bridge and passed many drunken and smokey pubs filled with Friday night drinkers. However two hours later I had not found a place that interesting and inviting enough to dine alone in.

Finally I came across a Spanish billiard hall with San Miguel beer, nibbles and pool. There were even some cute girls playing so I watched them while I had a beer and avoided the nibbles. I figured I wasn?t in the ?interesting little cafe?s? part of London. But there were lots of great looking pubs.

VirginTrain Manchester to London

Last updated on July 3rd, 2015 at 11:13 pm


I caught a VirginTrain from Manchester to London. Technically it was from Stockport four miles out of Manchester. The trick for booking these fares online is you can?t book the day of your travel with any reliability. The phone support people said I could, but the ticket counter guy said I couldn?t.

Anyway I paid GBP 28.00 to travel first class from Manchester to London. The published fare is over 150.00. See Virgin Trains.

Beware that a ticket that heavily discounted has no refunds, so don?t miss the train. The guy selling me a coffee on the station was so chatty I almost missed the train.

Spyware hits Sydney International Airport Kiosks

Last updated on July 3rd, 2015 at 11:07 pm

I wrote before that Samsung provides free internet kiosks at Sydney International Airport. Unfortunately in a sign of the times, all the free kiosks are spyware infected tonight. So infected that none of them are operational.

Firstly it?s foolish to run an unattended public internet accessible kiosk on Windows XP. I don?t know how often these PC?s are rebuilt I?d hope overnight. I?ll check them on the way back in Sydney.

Secondly it again reminds me to be paranoid about the sites I access from a public computer. No password enabled sites, no banking, eBay, Paypal or any site that can be attractive to a bad guy. Even accessing webmail from one of these devices is risky if it?s your primary email address.

Dialling US toll free numbers from Overseas

Last updated on July 3rd, 2015 at 04:53 pm

Many people don?t realise that you can dial US Toll free numbers (800) from overseas. The calls aren?t toll free, but with calling cards at about 1 cent per minute it?s cheaper than most local calls.

In Australia, dial your calling card access code, enter your pin, then dial the international access code + US country code (1) + area code (800) + number

e.g. calling card access number + pin + 0011 + 1 + 800 + rest of number.

The same works throughout most of Asia and Europe (I?d guess Africa too where IDD is available). Unfortunately that doesn?t work for other countries which use 1-800 for toll free (like Australia). You can?t dial an Australian 1800 number from New Zealand. The good news is most of those countries know that and publish International Direct Dialling numbers.

Of course I could get my act together and finally install Skype. Then I?d have US dialling access via VOIP using their SkypeOut service at ? 0.017 per minute. I really should get a good headset for my laptop.

Samsung DigitAll Connect KL

Last updated on June 24th, 2015 at 01:26 am

In Kuala Lumpur the free internet kiosk is called the Samsung DigitAll Connect. It?s right outside the arrivals gate. Cool! I?ve already had a cute German backpacker ask me if the internet was free. One day we?ll take ubiquitous free internet access for granted.