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Useful Web Sites Applicable to South Africa

Peter Scholtz
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I posted my original query because of all the references to maps on web pages - especially geocaching.com and the thought occurred to me: “Am I missing something?” From the replies received, it appears not. Firstly there is a whole ocean of strange names without product descriptions: Mapblast? Mapquest? MapTech? Mapopolis? TrackMaker? Softmap 8? Mapsource? EasyGPS? IMHO? Fugawi this and OziExplorer that?? I encounter “jargon” – always a problem for a newcomer. For example, what is a wire frame map? and a Shapefile?? Then, I learn that there are maps that can only download to Garmin while others are only compatible with Magellan. Now an entrepeneur has come up with so-called Third Party maps which apparently can download to both! There are constant references to the high costs and I fear reliance on digital maps will fall into the category of “Rich Boys Toys”. This is OK because, as far as I can gather, these maps concentrate mainly on famous golf courses, museums, popular fishing resorts and the local MacDonalds scattered all over the world. I think of our very excellent hiking maps by authors such as Jose Burman, Shirley Brossy, Mike Lundy, Colin Patterson-Jones, Tim Anderson, Jaynee Levy, even Helmke Hennig, TV Bulpin and the good old AA to name but a few with their accompanying route descriptions. I know, “meanwhile technology races ahead” but for the moment I wonder why anyone would want to even consider swopping the printed page for those tiny little squiggles on a GPS screen. Or, am I still missing something?

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I had a beautiful web site which showed all the satellites whizzing around the globe but, despite an intensive search, cannot seem to find it again. Never mind, here are a few more interesting ones:


Web Addresses GPS related:







Environmentally, there are:






Then, through Peter Scholtz, I also enjoyed the following:





Lastly, in view of the cache ‘raids’ we’ve been experiencing lately, the following seems to open up most interesting possibilities, especially for high-tech fundi’s like Peter:


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that was fun. the resolution is awesome, you can see ppl sunbathing in their backyards icon_razz.gif -- to orientate yourself try to find the sundome, its a distinctive white dot on the max zoom out on the border of the roodepoort/sandton blocks.

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that was fun. the resolution is awesome, you can see ppl sunbathing in their backyards icon_razz.gif -- to orientate yourself try to find the sundome, its a distinctive white dot on the max zoom out on the border of the roodepoort/sandton blocks.

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Here is a site that offers maps of South Africa. It looks like they are from the 1:50000 range. You can save the images as jpg files, which can then be imported into a package like OziExplorer. Although the maps are less than 5km across at a useful resolution (zoom), I guess you can patch a few jpg images together to produce a larger area.


South African Geographical Names System


Obtaining digital maps is very expensive (even though Mapping and Survey state that they are a "by-product" of the map making). I have scanned some paper maps (this is presumably a violation of copyright, even though I have bought the originals), but large scanners that can handle A0 sizes are few and far between, found either in an architect's firm, or at a university. And the scanning service will also set you back a few bob.

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Jors, you are absolutely right. It has been a while since I last checked with Mapping and Survey. The price of printed maps is also about half what it was last year.


I went to Mapping and Survey this afternoon and ordered a complete set of digital 1:50000 maps of SA. You can even take your own discs, so there is no cost (unless you take a spindle; in that case you have to pay for jewel cases because they include a licence agreement and copyright notice). The only downside at the moment is that they have quite a backlog, and they said the order would take about 3 months. Patience is a virtue, so I'll wait.

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Stefanoodle, thanks for confirming this, as I was not 100% sure.


Do you have any more info? To be a bit more specific, how big are the images, or, how many fit on a CD? I guess they are in tiff format. I am also interested in the Orthophoto range.

(Pardon my ignorance, but what is a spindle?)

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they were not too specific on the size of files, but mentioned that they varied between 6Mb and 12Mb. There are a variety of formats that you can choose. These were listed on the site, and there is no cost for that. If, however, you would like something like jpg, then they would probably charge for the conversion as it is not something they do on a regular basis. I was not sure whether I should go for tif or dxf. Either can be opened with PaintShop and converted to something else, if necessary.


Based on the scanning I tried in the past, I have managed to get a 1:50000 map down to between 8Mb and 15Mb, usually in png format. This is larger than they will be in jpg, but remember that jpg is compressed. As soon as you open a jpg with any application, it gets rather large and chews up resources on your PC. Then your applications slow down. So someone recommended using png (portable network graphic) which is not as resource-intensive.


From what they were telling me, the entire range of 1:50000 in tif would take up approximately 44 discs. The dxf format was smaller and would require between 20 and 30 discs. I just hope I didn't make the wrong decision going for dxf in order to save a few discs. Anybody have any suggestions what format would be best to start from?


Sorry, I don't know more about the orthophotos, but from the website it looks like they are also for free.


They have always been extremely helpful, so I'm sure they will be able to advise you accordingly.


Oh, and a spindle is just a way of buying discs in bulk. They come in something called a "cake box" 'cos it looks like a small cake tin, and the discs are stacked on a plastic rod or spindle. It does mean that you generally have to store the discs together, as they don't have the regular jewel case, but these can also be bought separately at about R2.50 each.

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