Blocks and more blocks

I keep on with my many small steps approach to Ohunkagan. I feel it becoming mythical in my mind and memory. I imagine the corners where scenes take place in unwritten novels, the streetcars characters ride to well-mapped destinations.
I’ve updated the “work-in-progress” gif.

picture

Here is the current snapshot, let’s call it 1907.

[Technical note: screenshot taken at this URL (for future screenshots to match).]

Here’s the wider area snapshot.

[Technical note: screenshot taken at this URL (for future screenshots to match).]

Music to map by: Arvo Pärt, “Tabula rasa.”

More Ohunk Than Evar

I keep doing small edits for Ohunkagan Metropolitan Area. I’m up to the year 1904 or so.

I made this cool gif of the progress so far:

picture

Here’s the transit network, on the same frame:

Here is a wider area view – I’m going to start a time series of screenshots for these, too, to show the growth of the metropolitan area.

I have been placing lots of industry and factories and such. I’m most proud of the rail-car factory, here.

Music to map by: HAUJOBB, “Dead Market.”

Round and round

I’m sorry I neglected this blog for the last two months. It wasn’t because I stopped geofiction activities – I just kind of forgot to update anything here. In fact, I’ve been staying busy with various geofiction projects.

I ran across a small, free website that someone made that transforms a flat map of an imaginary planet into a globe that you can rotate with the mouse or that can be used to generate a “spinning world” gif. It’s called maptoglobe.com.

I decided I wanted to make one for my planet, Arhet – just out of curiosity. This did have a few minor technical challenges. First, I had to “knit” together the tile images for Arhet. I found a nice utility that does this, an application called tile-stitch by Eric Fischer. It can be found on github. Except for one small problem, I just followed the documentation provided on the github README. That one problem: to get it to work in my machine, I needed to modify the code in the stitch.c file to include the full path to the geotiff utilities. So…

Original code:...

#include <geotiffio.h>
#include <xtiffio.h>
...

My version:...

#include </usr/include/geotiff/geotiffio.h>
#include </usr/include/geotiff/xtiffio.h>
...

Once that was set up, I simply extracted the tiles at zoom level 5 from the Arhet2-carto render using the tile-stitch utility, with this command
./stitch -o arhet5.png -- -85.05 -179.99 85.05 179.99 5 https://tiles01.rent-a-planet.com/arhet2-carto/{z}/{x}/{y}.png

That got the whole planet into a square .png file, which I called arhet5.png.

The next problem is that the maptoglobe website requires the map image to be in a equirectangular projection. But the tiles for Arhet are in the modified mercator projection used by almost all online “slippy maps,” classified as EPSG:3857.

So the arhet5.png file was in the wrong projection. I found out I could use another utility that I already had, the gdal library, to do this job. I ran the following commands.
/usr/bin/gdal_translate -of Gtiff -co "tfw=yes" -a_ullr -20037508.3427892 20036051.9193368 20037508.3427892 -20036051.9193368 -a_srs "EPSG:3857" "arhet5.png" "arhet5_tfw.tiff"

/usr/bin/gdalwarp -s_srs EPSG:3857 -t_srs EPSG:4326 -ts 6400 3200 "arhet5_tfw.tiff" "arhet5.tif"

These produced a .tif file in the right projection, 6400 x 3200 pixels. I then opened this file and resaved as .png again (because this is a more compact format that is therefore uploadable to maptoglobe.com – which has a maximum file size limit).

I then uploaded that .png file to the maptoglobe site, and it allowed me to save the resulting “globe” – it’s accessible here. Further, I was able to make this nice little spinning planet gif:

That’s the planet Arhet, as it currently stands – note that most of the mapping there is not my own, but the work of the various other Arhet members who have joined me in my experiment.

That worked out so well that I did the same thing for my own private planet, Rahet (note that the names Arhet and Rahet are obviously related; Rahet came first, and when I decided to change the project and invite other participants, I renamed the old Rahet as Arhet, and then resurrected the old Rahet later and as a separate project again).

Here is a the link for Rahet on the maptoglobe site, and here is the spinning planet gif:

So those are pretty cool. Remember that the original “slippy maps” (HRATEs) of these two projects are on the map portion of this website, here and here.

Music to make HRATEs to: 하선호 (Sandy), “Love Me More”

My Paper Geofiction #31

This is the “canonical” map of Tsiqeye (Ciiquia) – the oldest continent on the planet Rahet. I did this in 1980, and took it down to the photocopy shop and made 100 copies, and then drew a “historical” series showing the evolution of borders between nations, empires, tribes – over a 4000 or 5000 year span. I don’t think I preserved those sketches. At the time, I didn’t see them as needing preservation – they were just “work in progress” for the history I was developing. I think I had the idea I was going to produce a historical atlas for Rahet, but these were just preliminary drafts and experiments.

This canonical shape of Tsiqeye is somewhat preserved in recent sketches I’ve done of Rahet (e.g. the online map). The most significant change is in the way the continental landmass extends south to the South Pole. Now that I’ve found this old canonical map, I may try to merge it with the current online version (which was drawn from memory before I found all my old paper maps).

picture

My Paper Geofiction #30

This is rather impressionistic map of a continent that was clearly never finished. I can’t even guess a date, but would estimate middle school or high school. I don’t what name it might have had – or if it even had one at all.

picture

My Paper Geofiction #28

This is a quite early map. I’m guessing 1975 or 76, based on some of the place names – for “New Vancouver”, “Koroff”, and “San Oso” (Saint Bear! Hah…) I remember attempting city maps as well.

I have a vague memory of perhaps working on this map during a road trip. The paper on clipboard or something, on my lap, and markers at my side, letting the vibration of the road influence the coastlines.

picture

My Paper Geofiction #27

This is a very notable map, despite its poor quality. This is a historical map of Rahet. The story about Rahet is that it was colonized by refugees from Earth. When those refugees first landed, they found a lifeless, desert planet (like Mars) that needed to be terraformed. Most Rahet maps are set 10000 years in the future relative to initial colonization. This map is from the period during early terraforming. The names of places are still English-based (rather than the evolved languages that I imagined for the planet’s far future), but the geography is recognizably the “oldest” continent (earliest settled) on Rahet – Tsiqeye (also called Ciiquia).

I had this entire history worked out by the time I finished middle school. So I expect this map was drawn in maybe 1978.

Note the place called Nork. It’s deep in the desert here, but later incarnations have it on the coastline of the sea that Lake Nork evolves into. I would be interested to try an overlay series sometime – Rahet pre-Terraforming, through to the modern continent shapes.

picture

A brand new HRATE

I have been pretty busy with computer stuff over the last few days.

That is because something new happened. For at least three years, now, I have imagined there might be a path to turning my eccentric computer-based geofiction hobby into some kind of business. Well, I officially have a first customer. I won’t say anything about that person – they may wish to preserve anonymity. But the concept is that they want their own, private “imaginary planet map server” in the style of the real world’s OpenStreetMap or Google Maps. These already exist. OpenGeofiction (“OGF”) is the most popular imaginary one, where I have been an active participant since early 2014. And in 2018 I began my own project, Arhet.

I like to call these “imaginary slippy maps” HRATE‘s: “High Resolution Alternatives to Earth.”

It has seemed to me there might be demand for these things. Geofiction isn’t exactly a popular hobby, but there are several hundred users at OpenGeofiction, and there are websites and communities dedicated to it, including the active reddit r/imaginarymaps. Further, if Hollywood is willing to pay linguists big bucks to create imaginary languages for their stories (e.g. Klingon from Star Trek, Dothraki from Game of Thrones), there might also be creators of large, mass-market fantasy or sci-fi who are also willing to pay money for professional-grade “slippy maps” of imaginary places. The current extant efforts at such things are depressingly amateurish, e.g. this map of Westeros.

pictureA few months ago, I had put out to the OGF community, in a very low-key way, that I would be willing to do the technical work and provide ongoing server hosting and administration to anyone willing to pay a minimum monthly amount on my Patreon account. Patreon is a website used by “creators” (musical performers, programmers, writers, visual artists, etc.) to provide a kind of “pay what you think it’s worth” tool for their fans and customers. On my Patreon account user page, I’d made explicit the concept, as you can see at this link (screenshot at right).

On Monday, someone reached out to me and said they were interested. So I promptly “spun up” a new geofiction server and gave them a log on username for it.

This is not trivial work, however.

I’m using the OpenStreetMap software platform – because it’s free and open source.

But it requires an Ubuntu Linux server (I rent my servers from a company called Linode, since they specialize in Linux servers). My servers live on server farms in California and New Jersey. They are not that expensive – the $20/month rate I set up on Patreon will cover the rental fee for a small server.

Building and running a Linux server from scratch is pretty involved, if it’s to be for a specialized application like a GIS map server (GIS means “Geographic Information Systems”).

I have to install databases (plural!), Apache (the webpage controller), the so-called Rails Port (the website software behind OpenStreetMap, OpenGeofiction, or Arhet), a rendering engine (part of the OpenStreetMap architecture but not integrated to Rails Port). Several of these pieces need customized bits of programming code changes to accommodate a function not in their original design – i.e. hosting an imaginary, non-Earth planet map. Several aspects of the OpenStreetMap platform “hard code” real-world facts and data – because the designers simply never imagined the idea that someone would be using the platform to present non-real-world data. I have to remove code references and datafiles related to Earth’s coastlines, for example, and develop alternate ways to extract that information from the planet database and generate those same datafiles in the correct format. Etc., etc.

Anyway, I’ve got my customer’s planet up and running, including a nicely mapped chain of islands, that the customer asked me to import from their work on OGF. I’m feeling pleased with this. If I get 2 more such customers, I’ll be making enough margin (over and above server rental costs) to support my other tech requirements. I will not link to this new server I just built, however, since they deserve to have a say in how I publicize their work.

I doubt very much this would ever be a way to make an actual living. But it’s nice to imagine that this hobby could be turned into a supplemental source of income. So maybe it wouldn’t be a “living,” but it would be sufficient to pay for the geofiction hobby and for several other internet-based hobbies that involve money. For now, I bought some beer. We shall see.

Meanwhile, as I often say on the OpenGeofiction site: happy mapping.

Music to build servers by: Moderatto, “Si No Te Hubieras Ido.”