Free the maps

The Map Ransom project is trying to collect $1600 to make publicly available “56000 USGS maps.”

I was really excited when I first read about this, but then I discovered that the maps being “liberated” are USGS Digital Raster Graphics (DRG) files. This is not exciting for two reasons: a) these maps are already available online for free at the USGS Seamless Data Delivery website and b) DRG’s… kinda suck. I mean, come on. Who wants a poorly scanned tif image of a map from the 1980s?

What I want is easy access to two things:

* High resolution satellite imagery. Someone needs to convert all of NASA’s LANDSAT data into the visible spectrum and encode it into GeoJPGs. This can be done already (and for free), but I haven’t found any tools that make it easy. Someone needs to just do it and put it online for everyone. 🙂

* Good road data. TIGER/Line is online and it’s free.. but the data is outdated and sometimes downright innaccurate. USGS Digital Line Graphs are online and free.. but the problem there is the data is outdated and doesn’t always contain street names.

You can get this stuff already through Google Earth and NASA World Wind, but as far as I could find you can’t export the data into something usable from either of these programs. Actually in World Wind you might be able too, but they don’t have good road data.

When that data gets put online in an easy-to-access form then I’ll celebrate. I’ll even donate some bucks to make it happen. Lemme know when it’s going down!

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