Something I’ve been doing when I’ve had a little time over the past couple of weeks is playing around with GIS tools, specifically the fantastic open-source QGIS. It’s available as a package for Debian 8 – the version in Debian’s repo is a little out-of-date (2.4) so if you’re interested, I’d advise adding the QGIS repo to your sources.list as outlined here.
I’ve started off by using the instructions on Anita Graser‘s blog, which are super clear and easy-to-follow. I wouldn’t have been able to make a start with obtaining data from OpenStreetMap without this! I grabbed the data from Geofabrik, specifically the West Yorkshire shape files.
However, I’ve made a few changes. I’m interested in UK mapping and it’s been a bugbear of mine for a few years that Google no longer respects the proper UK colouring of roads, preferring everything to be imperceptibly different shades of orange, grey and white. I’ve made a bit of an attempt to alter Anita’s .qml styles to reflect actual UK road colours, and figured out how to add road labels. You can see the results of my first bit of playing around below, with a map of Wakefield, in Yorkshire (picked at random because it has a decent variety of map features). You can click the image to see it in full:
It’s not a bad start, but I’ve still got a few problems that I’ll be working on solving:
The roads are the same width regardless of zoom level, as you can see from this rather sparse zoomed-in shot of beautiful Junction 39 of the M1:
I’d like them to go thicker as you zoom in… as it were(!)
And I’ve not yet worked out how to add town names without also adding the name of every restaurant, bus stop, public toilet and office building in town (that’s the style I’d like for town names, rather than the names of random betting shops and car parks):
I’d also like to do something a little better with minor roads, which look a bit of a mess at different zoom levels. But apart from that, I’m pretty pleased with how things are going. I’ll upload my UK .qml styles here once I’ve played around a little more and got things how I went them. I’m aware I’m likely to be treading paths that others have long since travelled before me, but this is very much a learning curve for me and something I’ve wanted to try out for a while.
I’ll hopefully be doing a lot more with this over the next few weeks – it’s absolutely fascinating stuff and something that’s totally new to me, despite being an inveterate map geek! Now that I’ve started off able to make some simple maps, I’m hoping I can start doing something interesting with adding data to them.