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OSS: Mapzen, Free Software History, and Snow

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  • GIS Company Mapzen to Shut Down, but Users Can Still Grab the Open-Source Code and Data

    Mapzen, a mapping platform company lauded among developers and civic hackers for its open-source approach, is shutting down.

    For fans of the company, there’s a bright spot: because its data and code is open and users will still be able to run the projects they built using Mapzen tools, as well as some of the company’s tools, on their own. They have until Feb. 1 — the day the company will shut down its APIs, services and support — to grab what they need.

  • Want to understand DevOps? Look to open source's history

    Shortly after Richard Stallman launched the GNU project in 1984, which marked the start of the free software movement, he wrote a manifesto explaining the project's goals.

    Stallman stated repeatedly that he intended to create "free" software, but did not define what "free" meant. It was easy for readers to assume Stallman was referring simply to price, rather than control over source code, but that is what actually mattered to him. This uncertainty engendered a lasting ambiguity that endures to the present, when some uninformed computer users continue to assume that "open source" simply refers to software that costs no money.

  • Open-source software improves snow research

    All over the world, snow researchers and snow scientists dig holes in the snow. They look at the snow crystals, feel for strong and weak layers, and take measurements in order to predict and better understand avalanches. But snow science recently took an about-face, thanks to the open-source software known as SnowPilot.

    Doug Chabot of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center launched the SnowPilot Project during the winter of 2003-2004 after software developer Mark Kahrl wrote the program, hoping to find a way for researchers to collaborate and share their data on snow.

    “Avalanche forecasters and snow researchers all over the world, they record snow pit data,” Chabot said. “We all dig holes in the snow and say what we see using a common language.”

    But what Chabot realized in the early 2000s was that a large portion of snow data was being put away in desk drawers, never to be used. So he asked the question, what if we create a platform where researchers can enter their data into a worldwide database? And what if that database is accessible to everyone?

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