Isle of Man

Mapping the Isle of Man on Openstreetmap

Isle of Man roads mapped using OpenstreetmapBack at the end of last year I bought myself a relatively cheap GPS unit - the Garmin eTrex personal navigator. I had wanted one for a few years and frankly it felt strange having gone through two related degrees, being interested in the area, and yet still not owning one of my own. For a long time I had felt left out, not being able to take part in things like Geocaching, easily geotagging my photos or helping expand open source mapping databases.

For the first few weeks that I had the device, I spent some time working out what situations it would work under - from being in the open, to keeping it in my pocket, to being surrounded by trees, buildings and even inside trains - and what sort of accuracy it could achieve. Whilst doing that I was also building up my database of waypoints around Stuttgart.

Christmas time came, and it was time to head home for a short break. It was interesting holding the GPS up to the window on the plane, seeing the acceleration as we accelerated down the runway. This was all experimentation though, in the lead up to my main plan of action for when I got back to the Isle of Man.

I wanted to drive as many of the island's roads as possible, taking tracklogs as I went, to allow me to add them to Openstreetmap, the open source database of streets around the world. It has taken me quite some time in the weeks since, but I've finally mapped just about all of the roads I drove (or at least the ones where the GPS was tracking). You can see the result by zooming in to the Isle of Man on the site.

The mapping of the Island is nowhere near complete (it's mostly the southern end that I concentrated on), and now that I'm back in Stuttgart, I want to see if I can find people located in the Isle of Man with a similar interest in opening up this sort of level of mapping to the public. Anyone with a GPS (and computer connection) can help out by driving some of the remaining roads, or even fixing areas of the map that I've inevitably not mapped as correctly as I would have liked to have done.

Tynwald Day

Tynwald Day - by Dan KarranOn the 5th July each year the Isle of Man holds a public holiday for Tynwald Day. This is the one time each year when recent laws of the island must be promulgated - or read to the atendees - in both English and Manx Gaelic in order for them to continue to have effect.

You can read more about Tynwald Day in the Wikipedia or see my photos from last years proceedings in the photo gallery section of my site.

It was rather disappointing googling for Tynwald Day to find that the Isle of Man Government haven't updated their own page about the day since the Queen attended in 2003. As our only national day, I would have thought that it would be really important to have an up to date information page about it on their website.

Update: It is listed in the tourism events calendar, but that's about it, and very little detail is given.

Photos of my dogs

A personal blog wouldn't be a real blog if I didn't post some photos of my pets, so over the past few days I've been taking some photos whilst experimenting with my new Canon EOS 300D camera. I have three dogs who live with my family - Lucy, Willow and Buster. They're all lovely but ever so slightly hyperactive. All the time.

Here is a photo of each of them in turn:

Lucy Willow Buster

The cats may be next, if they'll pose for a photo. Like true cats they enjoy their sleep, and I rarely see them awake!

Towards a wireless Isle of Man

Towards a wireless Isle of ManA few weeks back I came across a wi-fi hotspot in the departure lounge of the Isle of Man Airport - useful too, as the flight I was supposed to be catching was cancelled due to technical problems. The hotspot was the first I'd heard of on the island and at the time I couldn't find out much about it, except for the fact that it was part of a trial, and as such would be running as a free service. It was only tonight that I discovered more about the wi-fi trials, with another public area hotspot already being in operation and others on the way this year. The scheme is part of the Isle of Man Government's e-business strategy to promote the island to the wider business community whilst also making services more accessible to Manx residents.

These public hotspots, which are running as a free service for a year, are currently located at the Airport (near Castletown) and the Villa Marina (Douglas) with further hotspots planned for the NSC sports complex, the Manx Museum and the Sea Terminal - all in Douglas, the home of about half of the island's population. Other wi-fi hotspots are being promoted in hotels such as the Ascot and also a new bar and grill called Cunninghams, based in Douglas. Almost certainly there will be others but these are just two of the private sector hotspots I've heard of lately.

It is great to see that the island is taking up the wireless revolution, but it would be even better to see them embracing more wireless broadband technologies which offered high speed data access to rural communities. Half of the island's population live in the main conurbation of Douglas and Onchan, and many of the rest live within a short distance of the other towns of the island (many of which house a telephone exchange) but there are a large number of people living in the countryside who have no access to broadband at all. The government has been good at offering grants for ISDN, ADSL, and more recently even wireless broadband links, but there are restrictions as to who can use them. To make it viable for the company offering the services, they have to target appartment blocks and small out-of-ADSL-reach communities but still can't really target lone households unless they happen to be in the path of those links planned already.

Manx Telecom, the sole provider of telecommunications on the island, has always been at the forefront of mobile phone technology, testing the first European 3G networks and also now high speed HSDPA links, which could feasibly bring broadband to everybody else. I am keen to see how that progresses but judging by the lack of services launched off the 3G tests, I won't hold my breath.

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