Feeds

Apple updates maps to remove Australia’s ghost-city in the desert

Register hack locates a source for the error

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

As Apple pushes out an update to iOS 6 maps to remove the now-notorious “desert Mildura”, I’m going to sound an unusual note of fairness to Cupertino for the mistake.

It wasn’t actually Apple’s fault. It looked bad compared to Google Maps, because the Chocolate Factory has spent an awful lot of money, time and petrol on StreetView and other ways to improve the “ground truth” of its maps – but Apple hasn’t yet had the chance to correct the data it uses as inputs, to any great extent.

To be blunt, there is a place called Mildura whose location is given as exactly where Apple put it – at least, there is in an authoritative source for such a location.

The question that didn’t get asked in the midst of the game of laughing-and-pointing at Apple is “what was the data source”? It is not, after all, Apple, since it takes time to build one’s own maps, and even Google’s improvements to incoming map data are still only part of the story. Google Maps credits the local data sources it uses, down in the right-hand bottom corner, underneath a couple of dialogues that obscure the credits.

In this case, the Australian Gazetteer – the authoritative list of 300,000-plus placenames, complete with coordinates – includes two Milduras. One is the “real” town, the other is an entry for “Mildura Rural City”, coordinates -34.79724 141.76108. It’s this second entry that points to the middle of the Murray-Sunset National Park, just near a spot called Rocket Lake.

Mildura ghost city

In this Google Maps screen-grab, Map pin A shows the "real" Mildura. Map pin B shows

the location given for "Mildura Regional City" in the Gazetteer of Australia.

What does Mildura Rural City signify? Vulture South has no idea*. Like a South Pacific Island, a record was created and, in among the hundreds of thousands, it remained, unchecked until now. It will have been viewed by lots of people on the way to Apple, including map data suppliers – and someone, de-duplicating the data, decided that “Mildura Rural City” sounded more authoritative than mere “Mildura”.

I can’t even blame the custodian of the Gazetteer, Geosciences Australia, for the error, since the data comes from the state of Victoria and the status is given as “authorised”. Until someone – pity them – is moved to sift through the history of inputs to the Gazetteer, we won’t know. ®

Update: *Vulture South thanks the commentards who have pointed out that the relevant point is the centre of the local government area carrying the Mildura Regional City tag. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
TEEN RAMPAGE: Kids in iPhone 6 'Will it bend' YouTube 'prank'
iPhones bent in Norwich? As if the place wasn't weird enough
Consumers agree to give up first-born child for free Wi-Fi – survey
This Herod network's ace – but crap reception in bullrushes
Crouching tiger, FAST ASLEEP dragon: Smugglers can't shift iPhone 6s
China's grey market reports 'sluggish' sales of Apple mobe
Sea-Me-We 5 construction starts
New sub cable to go live 2016
New EU digi-commish struggles with concepts of net neutrality
Oettinger all about the infrastructure – but not big on substance
PEAK IPV4? Global IPv6 traffic is growing, DDoS dying, says Akamai
First time the cache network has seen drop in use of 32-bit-wide IP addresses
EE coughs to BROKEN data usage metrics BLUNDER that short-changes customers
Carrier apologises for 'inflated' measurements cockup
Comcast: Help, help, FCC. Netflix and pals are EXTORTIONISTS
The others guys are being mean so therefore ... monopoly all good, yeah?
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.