Do you like my new desktop background?
If you have 2 minutes to spare, you can create such a background, too. From Stamen Design, a San Francisco-based design and technology studio, comes Map-->Image. It's a free Web utility that lets you create an image from an area on a map.
Plug in a city and state or zip code in the Find a Place box, choose a map style, set the image size, and click the Make button. Once you have found a place, you can use the "+" and "-" buttons on the left to zoom in and out, and you can drag the map to get it positioned in the frame the way you want it. There are three main styles of maps -- terrain, toner, and watercolor -- with the first two offering a number of variants. (For its hometown of San Francisco, Stamen offers a Trees-Cabs-Crime map that colorfully plots those three data points.) Lastly, you can select the image size to match the resolution of your display (up to 2,000 x 2,000 pixels).
When you click Make, a panel slides out from the right edge showing you that your image is being processed. When it's done, click on its thumbnail to view it. Below the full image is a download link, which you can then use to set as your desktop background or print or what have you. From the slide-out panel is a link to view maps from other users, which are also available to download.
I found that not every style of map is available for every location; sometimes a place-map style combination will return a blank result. Also, it appears that the toner and watercolor maps are available for locations around the globe, but the terrain maps are available only for spots in the U.S. Lastly, using a Mac, I found that the utility worked with Chrome and Safari but not Firefox.
(Via One Thing Well)