Injured at Glastonbury? Three little words will help medics find you

New app What3Words, also used by emergency teams in a cholera outbreak in Tanzania, can help medical services locate ill festivalgoers amid a sea of tents

What3Words, which provides addressing services that work in the most desolate corners of the earth where people live in the most basic conditions, also covers the Glastonbury Festival.
Continue reading “Injured at Glastonbury? Three little words will help medics find you”

Online mapping: Google, OpenStreetMap and Ordnance Survey

For ComputerWeekly.com, I have explored the options available for online mapping and how they are used by councils. Google Maps, OpenStreetMap and Ordnance Survey’s open services all have strengths and weaknesses.

Google Map Oxford
Google Map of central Oxford
OpenStreetMap Oxford
OpenStreetMap of same area

Google Maps are familiar to most people and good on roads, but weak on many other features. OpenStreetMap is in some places excellent – just look at how the two compare in central Oxford, and who knew the Weston Library, not even named on Google, was next to the Cumberbatch Building? (No, not named after Benedict Cumberbatch.)

OpenStreetMap includes details no-one else has such as cycle routes and private paths, but as a crowdsourced operation quality varies. Of course, anyone who wants to can help with improving it. If you just want a map image you can use as you wish, it’s the place to go; just click on the ‘share’ box and arrow logo on the top-right of the screen.

If what you’re mapping is within Great Britain, Ordnance Survey has the most consistent mapping at a uniformly high quality. Its OpenSpace web map builder looks good and is fairly easy to use, although you do need to get an API key and there are a few wrinkles. For example, the HTML code it produces can be used in WordPress, but you need to install a plug-in to make it work. I also cut out some header and footer data in what OS passed on; this could all be a bit easier. Continue reading “Online mapping: Google, OpenStreetMap and Ordnance Survey”

Life in GCHQ: form-filling, bulk interception and internal emails

The Edward Snowden files provided a lot of material on GCHQ. Some of it, such as the existence of a chess club, a social media service called SpySpace and in 2011 a sports day at the Civil Service Sports Club in London, was fairly innocuous. Some of it was explosive, and the detonations continue to this day with the disclosure that parliamentarians are not exempt from bulk surveillance.

What the Snowden material couldn’t provide was any kind of overview of life in GCHQ; that isn’t what you get from a dump of documents. Neither could it provide information on whether a practice had stopped, given the UK government’s neither confirm nor deny policy.

On The Register today, I have pieced together material that comes from the recent reviews of government surveillance, primarily drawing on the report by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation David Anderson QC (PDF). These got most attention for their recommendations, but they also provided quite a lot of insight into how GCHQ works. Continue reading “Life in GCHQ: form-filling, bulk interception and internal emails”