back to article Fancy yourself as a bit of a Ramblin' Man or Woman? Maybe brush up on your cartography

All is not well in the corridors of respected Blighty institution the Ordnance Survey as a borked app update left users, in a very real sense, flailing in the wilderness. A Register reader got in touch after a flawed update to the organisation's Android app left things a tad squiffy. We had a look at the feedback and lordy – …

  1. Zog_but_not_the_first


    I've experienced this with a few apps recently. New "clean modern design" but important functions no longer work. Probably turned out by "agile" teams so pleased with the look that they forgot to check if the f*ck*ng thing still worked.

    Grumpy because a stupid "upgrade" to an app left me unable to pay using my phone and I didn't have enough cash on me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Huh!

      Agile, where the criterion for MVP was simply: can we upload it to the Play store?

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Huh!

        Ahhh... the 'ol "Compiles On My Machine" badge of quality.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Huh!

      I've not had much of this to be honest, but it's probably worth noting that Google Play Store at least allows developers to run open betas, which are really useful for major changes. Something the OSMand takes full advantage of.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Huh!

        What's the point of having open betas when you treat releases as a beta?

    3. BebopWeBop

      Re: Huh!

      Comes to mind with the BBC Sounds app - a sure-fire way to reduce my radio listening......

      1. Sgt_Oddball

        Re: Huh!

        This a thousand times this, the iPlayer app worked far better... By well... Just working. Amazing how you miss features like stopping playing when you receive a phone call... Continuing to be the primary sound app when connecting a Bluetooth device, or not scrambling the chronological order from one series to the next...

        You know basic stuff. Fine, it looks pretty, and the continuing of some other series that might be of interest is nice but really... Can I'd like to go back to the iPlayer app. It sucked less. All is forgiven.

    4. NoneSuch Silver badge

      Any Idiot...

      ...that goes into the wilds relying on a fecking phone app for survival deserves what they get.

      'Reg reader "Dobbs" told us that on his next stroll "in the Lakes", he'd be "taking good old paper maps and a compass rather than relying on the OS Maps app.'

      Good. Also, take some water, rations, a rugged knife, an emergency blanket, firesteel, dress in layers and be otherwise prepared to stay out there for 48 hours, regardless of how long you plan on going. Tell someone where you are going and when they can expect to hear from you.

      The survival kit I carried in the Canadian bush was used 95% of the time on people I found lost, dehydrated and bewildered on trails.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Any Idiot...

        I think I would just take my car, but not on my own.

      2. wurdsmiff

        Re: Any Idiot...

        While this is good advice, a lot of walks in Blighty are more than a bit different from a trudge through the Canadian bush. Civilisation and a warm fire in a pub are rarely too far away

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Any Idiot...

          "Civilisation and a warm fire in a pub are rarely too far away"

          It's the rare occasions you have to worry about. Actually publs, like high street bank branches, are getting rarer these days.

        2. martinusher Silver badge

          Re: Any Idiot...

          >Civilisation and a warm fire in a pub are rarely too far away

          The Peak District is almost suburban but its actually really dangerous to wander around unprepared for much of the year. The fact you can see streetlights in the distance is not that useful when you''ve got a peat bog between you and them (and its blowing a gale and sleeting into the bargain).

          The particular danger in the UK is that everything looks harmless. Where I live now is not as benign but it still catches people out -- you can be less than a mile from backyards and still die from exposure. It pays to know your limits and to be prepared at all times.

          1. GrahamRJ

            Re: Any Idiot...

            Exactly. I can only guess that Doctor Syntax has never been hillwalking. Or at least I hope he's never been hillwalking, because clearly it's only good luck that has stopped him being another statistic for Mountain Rescue.

            We have a favourite walk in the Peaks where we start at Hayfield, head up onto the north-west corner of Kinder Scout, drop off Kinder Scout at the south-west corner, and back down in plenty of time for a nice meal and a pint. Normally it's a beautiful walk. Except last year on August Bank Holiday, it was hailing sideways. I've been in the Peaks in some pretty unpleasant weather, including white-outs, but I've rarely seen it that bad in winter and never in summer. I made the call to turn back when it got too exposed. As we walked back, we warned people we passed that it was bad, and several of them overtook us on the way back having made the same call. (We were up there with my 8-year-old son, so not going as fast.) I strongly suspect that they felt more able to make the same decision after someone else had already done it. And we persuaded three groups who were ludicrously ill-equipped for the weather to turn round (two couples with no waterproofs, and a pair of guys wearing bin-bags as impromptu waterproofs, all in trainers).

            All those people came down safely. One slip in trainers on wet grass though, and exposure would have set in so quickly that they would have been in real trouble.

            We had done the same walk in June. It was so hot that people were sat having sandwiches on the dried-up bed of the Kinder Downfall waterfall, and the biggest risk was sunburn. Anyone who approaches the hills thinking that this is always the case though is a very real danger to themselves and those around them.

            1. MJI Silver badge

              Re: Any Idiot...

              I have done it many years ago and to be honest was tiring, tents on the hills overnight.

              These days if I could I would drive, but the rules include do it with at least one another vehicle. Walking distances is out with a damaged back.

              However I carry lots of OS maps and it is not windy inside.

              Oh and the sat nav is useless away from tarmac roads.

              1. Sir Runcible Spoon

                Re: Any Idiot...

                "Oh and the sat nav is useless away from tarmac roads."

                Not entirely - it can provide you with a grid reference for easy location on a paper map :P


                1. MJI Silver badge

                  Re: Any Idiot...

                  Not my sat nav.

                  It is rubbish, put in address, and it has an arrow.

                  I prefer my maps thanks.

            2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

              Re: Any Idiot...

              That particular walk was my only personal experience of exposure. I was 17, and fortunately with my hiking group. I'd got all the right equipment, but didn't heed warnings about adding a layer. The reason I've not had any other experience is that I felt so shit that day that I don't delay putting more layers on,

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Any Idiot...

            "The particular danger in the UK is that everything looks harmless. "

            Not to mention how each generation seems to be growing up more and more protected from risk such that they have little concept of what is a risk and what isn't. eg, "it can't be dangerous otherwise it would be fenced off" is something I once heard.

        3. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: Any Idiot...

          @wurdsmiff: Where we currently live has one of the hospitals that serves airlifted walkers and climbers from the Cairngorms. A disproportionate number of the casualties are from countries with "real" wilderness, and "real" mountains. The ones who can still give reports afterwards all say variations on "I didn't know the weather could change so much so quickly", along with "I was only 1000 metres altitude" or "I could see streetlights not far away".

      3. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Any Idiot...

        Relying on the phone? Stupid. Expecting a convenient aid to work right? Reasonable.

        You could take a GPS device with you, like a Garmin. Good or bad advice?

        Don't rely on just a map alone. That's your backup if you like. If you're teaching map craft then the phone's your backup.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Any Idiot...

          So the phone app shouldn't be used for this information? The paper map isn't necessarily any better. It could be inaccurate or out of date, and you wouldn't know until it became a real problem. While I get that the phone could run out of power or the app could get broken, lots of coulds apply to a paper map as well.

          It's also probably worth keeping in mind that many of those people probably didn't use this app for areas they had a high chance of dying in. If people like going to a perfectly safe area containing nature, they're probably using the map to help identify and locate things, rather than get to safety. I am reasonably sure this applies to most users, and therefore the consequences for the app being useless were a ruined excursion rather than a brush with death. As such, your calling them idiots seems quite a bit harsher than they deserve.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Any Idiot...

            I've just checked that Coniston is still where my 1954 map thinks it is.

            Yep, still there.

            1. katrinab Silver badge

              Re: Any Idiot...

              The 1954 map would show my house as open fields and in a different county.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Any Idiot...

            Having been caught by a sudden fog in the bowl shaped dip near the top of a mountain, with no bars, I can vouch for the usefulness of carrying food, water, shelter, fuel, clothing, maps, ropes, spare batteries and emergency signals.

            Had to spend the night sleeping with the sheep.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Any Idiot...

              "Had to spend the night sleeping with the sheep."

              Ah, so we just have to assume that your long list of emergency supplies included wellies then?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Any Idiot...

                I came prepared.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Any Idiot...

                Sheep are a lot more intelligent than most people give them credit for, and also choosier.

                1. MJI Silver badge

                  Re: Any Idiot...

                  >> Sheep

                  I have seen the documentries.

                  They are about a very bright sheep in his 20s called Shaun.

                  1. MJI Silver badge

                    Re: Any Idiot...

                    And yes I did try to work out his age.

                    Farmer was in 20s with a puppy and a new born lamb.

                    Now late 40s with dog and grown but small sheep.

                    Shaun & Bitzer are in their 20s!

      4. jcpw

        Re: Any Idiot...

        well basically yeah but the UK is a bit smaller and wetter than Canada, esp places people like to walk like the Scottish Highlands or Lake District. So Water? optional, quite likely to find some but a flask of tea ...; Fire steel? only useful if you take a gas stove too. You also might get arrested carrying a "rugged knife"

        otherwise, absolutely!


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Any Idiot...

          Take a lightweight, waterproof tarp. You can set it up to catch rainwater.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Any Idiot...

          Why would you get arrested for a rugged knife? Based on everything else you are wearing and carrying it would be a perfectly good reason to be carrying it.

          Same if I go out in my dive gear and have a knife strapped to my leg, although I haven't see too many plod 10m under water.

  2. Zog_but_not_the_first

    On a more positive comment...

    If you want OS maps and a tag to show you where you are I can recommend the Rambler's Pathwatch app. Designed to let you report problems with rights of way, it's a lovely little piece of work.

  3. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    "taking good old paper maps and a compass rather than relying on the OS Maps app."

    Something which anyone who ventures out into the green and muddy bits of the country should do as standard practice.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Not that it helps if you can't read the map. I saw a group with their map holders dangling round their necks wandering down the road towards the sign-posted start of a foot path just further along the bend. They gave up looking bfefore they cam in sight and turned back to head up the clearly marked Private Road to some cottages.

      1. Nick Kew

        This time of year is when you find yourself unable to read the map at some unexpectedly early hour as darkness falls on you. Not to mention a season when wind frequently makes paper maps hard to use!

        When I lived in Sheffield I'd get caught out every autumn somewhere up in the Peaks, and find myself running some way (I was 30-ish and in good health) just to get onto the Pennine Way and an easily-navigable-in-the-dark route down, usually to one of the Hope Valley stations such as Edale.

        On an unrelated note, I particularly enjoyed Kinder and Bleaklow in the swirling mists without map or compass. It could conjure a fleeting illusion of some kind of remoteness from mankind.

        1. tfc

          I usually see groups of kids doing their bronze DoE training and completely lost. My favourite was a group near the Nags Head, the old start of the Pennine Way in Edale, it was mid afternoon and they asked where the Pennine Way was, they were on it, a person they had asked before pointed it out to them and they were just checking . They said they were heading for the Youth Hostel, it is a serious days walk over Bleaklow, even in summer they would not have made it in daylight. After more questions they wanted the alternate Pennine Way and were staying at the Edale Youth hostel, they did seem a happy bunch though

        2. Richard Cranium

          "... wind frequently makes paper maps hard to use!..."

          The big OS sheets are unmanageable in "weather", worse still if your route involves two sheets. And the plastic laminated versions although waterproof, are rather bulky.

          I use desktop OS mapping (not the OS app but the vastly more versatile Mapyx Quo) to plan my route then print the relevant area (usually 1 or 2 A4 sheets) and take in a plastic A4 envelope. That's easier to use than mobile as a primary navigation aid, the mobile can be helpful where the path isn't obvious or you need reassurance about exact current location. Printing also means you can enlarge from original paper map-scale making it easier to read.

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Years ago when looking for pubs to meet friends at we just used OS map references,

  4. Imhotep

    And I'll get to Scotland afore ye

    Was rolling back to the old functional app while corrections to the new were made not an option?

  5. wiggers

    Undocumented feature

    You used to access the paper maps from the main menu and switch between types of map there. After weeks of uninstalling and reinstalling I suddenly discovered you now enable them in a completely different way, by tapping on the part where you download them. Thanks for telling us OS!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Undocumented feature

      You used to access the paper maps from the main menu and switch between types of map there. After weeks of uninstalling and reinstalling I suddenly discovered you now enable them in a completely different way, by tapping on the part where you download them. Thanks for telling us OS!

      Ah, so that's how it's done. Thanks for telling us wiggers!

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Undocumented feature

        Unfortunately if you, like me, swap between Aerial view and downloaded explorer map*, then by going back to the offline maps through that menu screen resets the scaling and centring of the map.

        The premise behind this new app is that the device will have an always on connection, which is utterly idiotic given the likely use case. If you have always on, there are dozens of far better, far cheaper apps and maps to use. If you buy a paper map, they give you a download map code included now. It's very handy. But as you zoom in and out, they don't cache all the other scales of map within that downloaded map's coverage area, so you get a 5" view of a very detailed map indeed, and if you are in the mountains with no signal, you can't zoom out, pan, then zoom in. The zoomed out view is ultra lo-res and useless for placing an orienteering flag on base camp which is about 50" of screen size away. The system doesn't even give you a bearing from where you are to a dropped orienteering pin so you can put the phone away in the pouring rain and use a simple compass to get closer to where you're going.

        It's utterly useless in the current form. Might as well use Google Maps. Or even Apple Maps. at least that take you to new and surprising places.

        I've asked them if they'll make the old version available whilst they sort out this new one.

        *very useful for checking if the farm a mile away you can see nestling in the trees with a blue tarp over the barn and the pink walls is the same as the now you think it is on the map.

        1. Colin Bull 1
          Thumb Up

          Re: Undocumented feature

          'Might as well use Google Maps. Or even Apple Maps.'

          I have always found Locus maps with OSMand data to be excellent for walking anywhere in the world.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    In my experience, every time the app updates it wipes the downloaded maps off the device and they have to be downloaded again. I only have two maps (and I won't be buying any more), but if you've got dozens of maps this would be a real pain, especially if you only discovered that you didn't have the maps when on the hill or if the app auto-updated on 4g and then you had to knacker your bandwidth to get the maps. When I emailed OS about this and pointed out that most other apps manage to update without losing data they said that this wasn't a problem because WiFi's free.

    I've only got Premium OS membership cos it came free with a magazine subscription. They can F**k off at renewal time.

    1. Martin 66

      Re: Updates


      What magazine, Maps weekly ?

      If they were a private company, they would have folded.

      I'll get my coat.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Updates

        Yep. They would have headed south a long time ago.

        1. Ian 55

          Re: Updates

          And ended up somewhere in the west.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Updates

            OS maps. What a legend!

  7. 0laf

    I appear to be under the impression that quoting 'DevOps' or 'Agile' is simply a way for many people and organisations to produce shit and without having to apologise for it.

    I assume that done properly these process can work?

    1. Imhotep

      "I assume that done properly these process can work?"

      That's the theory, but there is no experimental data to support it at this time.

      There are anecdotes that begin with the words: "I heard that..", "A friend of a friend..", etc - but the wording for those sightings is eerily similar to Bigfoot sightings.

    2. JohnFen

      "I assume that done properly these process can work?"

      They can -- I've seen it happen. However, it's pretty rare. Making these processes actually work is really, really hard.

    3. TheMeerkat

      No. Agile is for making money out of certification and consulting, nothing to do with development working properly.

  8. JohnFen

    The state of software development

    Things like this have become increasingly common over the years. The quality of software the industry produces overall has been noticeably falling and this trend shows no sign of changing.

    This is a big part of the reason why I do not allow any software I use to get updated until the update has been in use elsewhere for long enough to have some degree of confidence that the update both works and doesn't eliminate functionality that I depend on.

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. Alex Read

    cost cutting

    Nothing inherantly wrong with agile, devops or any of these modern styles... to me this reeks of poor business/demand analysis (always connected, really??) and a piss-poor view of said process budgeting on 1 tester per 20 devs when testing should (1) have a near equal amount of people (2) have a near equal amount of time anf (3) have similarly trained knowledgeable staff + processes as any other development effort (CI, version control, code reviews etc.). IMO, they're getting the feedback they deserved due to these. MS take note!

  11. Muscleguy

    Please Note

    If you plan on rambling in the Scottish Highlands Mountain Rescue would very much rather you took and relied on a paper map. This is not just because mobile coverage is often absent but battery life and its harder to weatherproof a phone than a map (zip top map covers are cheaply available. Us locals often just print them from online of the area being visited and laminate them.

    But going into the hills without a paper map and a compass and knowing how to use them in conjunction is dangerous. Oh and a light source that is not your phone as well. The clouds can descend. Having a good idea where you are at all times is useful in not walking off a precipice in the whiteout.

    1. JohnFen

      Re: Please Note

      "its harder to weatherproof a phone than a map"

      I find it trivially easy to weatherproof a phone. I just roll an unlubricated condom over it (seriously). It makes it totally waterproof and doesn't interfere with using the touch screen.

    2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: Please Note

      I use OsmAnd+ with offline maps on a waterproof phone. If I'm in a foreign country, there's another one of those (my previous phone) in my backpack. It's far more reliable than paper maps, especially since the electronic map is more likely to be up to date with detours. No cell signal is ever needed, though it makes GPS locks faster.

      This is why I don't settle for phones with no microSD card. These maps are huge.

  12. TWB

    Other options....

    ...I use Viewranger and have got used to it and IMHO it works quite well - you have to buy maps seperately but they stick on the device. When I bought some paper landrangers recently I got the free OS downloads and liked the look of it but stuck with what I was used to.

    1. Old Tom

      Re: Other options....

      I did use Viewranger with 1:50000 OS maps in conjunction with paper 1:25000 OS map, but since the map codes I now have the 1:25000 in the OS app - so now I find that I don't look at Viewranger so much, although I still record trails with that as the OS trail recording was not fit for purpose last time I tried it.

  13. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "we recently made necessary changes to the app"

    If breaking the app is called a necessary change I wonder what an unnecessary change would be like.

  14. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    "It seems the curse of the current industry obsession with DevOps and CI/CD has struck even such venerable institutions as the Ordnance Survey."

    Industry obsession?

    Step right this way..

  15. ma1010
    Paris Hilton


    What is this "TESTING" of which you speak?


  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A genuinely inept learning experience ?

  17. Mike 137 Silver badge

    A fundamental flaw

    Quite apart from bugs in apps, flat batteries and signal loss, the whole idea of trying to navigate on a 3"x6" screen is intrinsically daft. You can see either a wide area in negligible detail or a close-up with zero context, so the intuitive feel for the landscape that aids survival is almost impossible to achieve. A paper map at a suitable scale for the purpose in hand plus a compass and the skill to use it can keep you alive where a smartphone and GPS will strand you without a clue.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: A fundamental flaw

      Which is why the OS map app needs the ability to drop a destination pin, waypoint pins and produce orienteering details from your current location including straight line gradient and obstacle warnings between waypoints.

      There are plenty of apps for big screen computers that let you set up routes before hand and display them on os maps but the os app still needs to handle those better.

  18. andy gibson

    Maverick app

    If you want a great free Android App that includes OS maps, give Maverick a try. There's a paid version too.

  19. TRT Silver badge

    One can also...

    Zoom in so close that the scale bar reads 0 yards to the centimetre.

    Shoddy. Shoddy, shoddy, shoddy, Ted.

  20. Graculus

    App "Upgrades" actuall a downgrade

    This is why I always disable automatic updating of apps on my devices. Every so often, I will manually look through available updates, and ONLY update if the recent reviews for the latest version are favourable. Needless to say, the OS app on my phone is older, and predates the recent, much fanfared "improved" versions.

    The OS isn't the only culprit, though. Too many times I read reviews declaring that the latest version has become unstable, has had useful features removed, etc. The age of Agile Development has much to learn, still, as they often get the balance between exciting new functionality and stability/retaining the basic, core functionality so very wrong.

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