Open Source Mapping

By on July 10, 2004

The one piece of software I’ve found no open source equivalent for is Microsoft Streets & Trips. It’s an invaluable tool for planning trips to places you’ve never been to. The main reason there’s no open-source version (as far as I know) is that the mapping data itself is proprietary. Firms have spent a lot of money digging through municipal records, driving roads, and keeping things up to date. That takes a lot of infrastructure, which means that the resulting data product isn’t something you’re going to give away for free. Most current applications that use GIS have to pay some sort of royalty for the data.

That’s why I was interested to hear that the first annual Open Source GIS Conference is being held in Ottawa this weekend.

In recent years, the GIS industry has witnessed dramatic growth in the development and adoption of open source technologies. The technical GIS community adopted open source technology relatively early, and now mainstream GIS and broader IT industries have come on board as open source products have matured. Organizations are realizing the value of incorporating open source software as a core part of their business.

From reading the proceedings, it even sounds like the University of Minnesota is providing an online map server. Perhaps some time next year I’ll be able to post about reclaiming my Windows install.



  1. Actually, the data’s not so proprietary.

    All of them derive their data files from the US Census Bureau TIGER Line database files. Simply put, there IS several moving map programs available for Linux right now: HUGO, qtGPS, Gnomad and others. You can download the raw datafiles that everybody and his dog uses from the US Census Bureau’s website. I just pulled the roughly 4 or so GB of ASCII text data just recently to see what I can do with it on some of my GIS projects.

  2. yes, but the images and schemeatics may be owned outright by someone which gives them the right to limit access or charge, I would imagine.

    It’s similar to a collection of free images which you can pay for because someone took the time to organize them by topics of interest to your business.

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