First post on this blog for a while – not so much as a result of inactivity, but rather, because OpenStreetMap has just moved to API 0.6 and that’s meant a lot of work for Potlatch to keep up.
Most of this is behind the scenes and won’t make any visible difference to the user. In particular, the “version number” of each node and way is now communicated back and forth between Potlatch and the server, to make sure that changes can’t get out of sync if two people are editing the same thing at once. It might sound simple, but it’s been quite a lot of work to mash that into Potlatch.
Then there was the problem where the server started storing relation members as ‘Node’, ‘Way’ and ‘Relation’ – rather than ‘node’, ‘way’, and ‘relation’. It’s at times like this that you want to hit the computer round the head and say “look, you know what I mean, just get on with it”.
However, it’s not all boring internal stuff, so here are some of the changes in the most recent Potlatch – 0.11. There’ve been various improvements over the last week so if you didn’t see them to begin with, look again; and there’ll continue to be more tweaks over the days and weeks to come.
Here’s the really good news!
Redrawing the map is now a lot faster in areas with relations – which is a lot of the world. In brief, when Potlatch 0.10 (and earlier) drew a way, it would look through all the loaded relations to see which ones the way was in. And then it would do the same for every node on the way.
It doesn’t do that any more. Each way now has a list of the relation it’s in; so does each node. The difference this makes to the speed is immense.
There are a couple of other speed improvements, too. Of course, Potlatch is still dependent on the speed at which the server sends map data; the new server has improved this, but times when lots of people are editing are still best avoided if you can.
An improvement in OpenStreetMap’s new API is that your work is grouped into “changesets” – a grouping of all the editing you do in one session. You can add a comment to the changeset, so that others can see what you did easily. To add a comment using Potlatch, once you’ve finished your edits, press ‘C’. Type your comment and click Ok.
This feature could be (and will be) further refined but it’s a good start for now.
“You have unsaved changes”
Firefox and Safari users have long been prompted if they close Potlatch while changes are unsaved, but this now works for Internet Explorer users, too.
The history feature (‘H’) is smarter, and can now detect small changes – typically just moving a node or two – made in other editors.
In particular, it now looks at the history of all the nodes in a way, not just the way itself. As a related improvement, Potlatch no longer saves a new version of the way itself to the database if only the nodes have changed.
The options dialogue box has been improved for a clearer layout of background layers.
In addition, you can specify your own, custom layer if you have a set of ‘900913’ (spherical Mercator) tiles somewhere on the web. To do this, specify the full URL (including http://), replacing the z, y and x co-ordinates – in that order – with exclamation marks. For example, http://npe.openstreetmap.org/!/!/!.png – but don’t try to trace from Google, it won’t let you. (This was actually added in 0.10f.)
Error messages from the OSM server are now shown to the user, rather than just blinking the warning icon. So if there’s a problem, you get to know about it (and can e-mail me in case it indicates a bug in Potlatch!).