Open Access UK Unit Postcodes

The Ordnance Survey released their Code-Point Open product a few years ago that has the OSGB centroids of the unit postcodes. It’s very useful but is only points - if you want the postcodes areas as polygons then you need to license Code-Point with Polygons (snappily titled!). A number of people have derived unit postcode areas using Voronoi polygons including more recently Mike Spencer with some intro at his Scottish Snow site. It’s worth noting that Voronoi diagrams equally partition space between points and nothing more - they are not equivalent to unit postcodes (which can be arbitrary) but are a reasonable first guess. One dataset worth having for your arsenal of spatial data!

Waldo Tobler

I was sad to see that Waldo Tobler passed away last month - a lifetime geoscientist he contributed huge amounts to computational cartography but will be best remember for the First Law of Geography. Some more details at GeoLounge and in the original paper.

However I love the CSISS Classic which was a tongue-in-cheek experiment with Peter Gould on geocoding. Read it because its wonderfully powerful way of showing students about geocoding. Hopefully we’ll see an anthology of his work in the not too distant future.

QGIS 3 features

QGIS 3 is well and truly out now - download your copy here. And the good folks over at GIS Geography have put together a list of QGIS features that are in the new version. Some of the highlights include 3D (1), coordinate reference bounds (5), geopackage (7), background processing (8), new print composer (13), refined graphical modeler (25), but they are all worth taking a look at as it might just be a solution to the problem you have!

Pursuit by Mike Oblinkski

The only words to describe this are awe inspiring, spectacular, mesmerising - this is a visual tour de force that is matched by wonderful evocative music. Just the basic stats behind it say it all… completed over three months, 27 days of filming, traveling across 10 states, with 28,000 miles of driving and over 90,000 time-lapse frames. Produced to 4k this movie is simply begging to be viewed on a MASSIVE screen. Now if only my local cinema would show it as a short.

Utterly brilliant. Watch it.

Pursuit (4K) from Mike Olbinski on Vimeo.

You’re Waiting For a bus… and a SenseFly Comes Along

I commented late last year about DJI becoming a camera manufacturer… this is an interesting and exciting move simply because the quality of imagery from drones has lagged significantly behind the rest of the camera industry. So whilst there are clearly regulatory challenges that need to be overcome through hardware and software engineering, the end-user is interested in the best visual imagery possible and drone manufacturers are starting to wake up to this fact.

So I was surprised to see that SeneseFly had announced back in 2016 its (then new) eBee Plus offered an hour of flight time within a ~1kg airframe that can incorporate RTK/PPK positioning (forget those ground control points!) and multi-spectral/thermal. But… they have also introduced their own homegrown air camera dubbed SODA (Sensor Optimised for Drone Applications). It is extremely light on specification however their website notes its a 20MP 1” fixed lens camera. This that likely utilises Sony’s standard 1” sensor, although it would be useful to clarify the exact size. Is it genuinely 13.2x8.8mm? Taking their GSD example figures, that breaks down to a 10mm focal length lens, equivalent 27mm on a full-frame camera. Interesting there is a single global electronic shutter which is a good thing for a fixed-wing aircraft: it should stop the problem of a rolling-shutter.

Fascinating to see the drone-camera market develop and it’d be great to see some results from this baby.

Earth-i Launches Vivid-i

Earth-i has just launched a new SSTL built satellite which is claimed to be the first to provide full colour UHD video - UHD is 3840x2160 pixels (8MP), shooting at 50 fps (compared to Landsat 9’s ~12,000x12,000). That’s a lot of downstream data, although it would appear it’s not the video they’re interested in, but the multi-temporal data. Think super resolution to give them an effective ~70cm pixel size, but also stereo (and so 3D). This is the first of a planned 15 satellite constellation which could provide global coverage and much more agile mapping capabilities. Video is clearly the new high resolution!

QGIS3 Beta

QGIS 3.0 is well and truly on its way with lots of updates, modifications and new features. Here is a great 24 days of Christmas list. Don’t forget to download the beta, play and report bugs back.

Video file sort order on my Pico projector

A (long) time back I wrote about the Acer C112 Pico Projector I was using. I’ve since upgraded to the Pico Genie P200 which gives a great 200 lumens of light and has microSD, USB and HDMI ports to allow all sorts of connectivity along with a built in battery. It’s not perfect - but its very good (and I still follow the same routine for transcoding with DVDDecryptor and TEncoder).

One minor irritant was that the sort order of the files on the memory stick appeared to be shown by date on the projector - I used Nico’s useful BulkFileChanger and… it made no difference. Obviously the embedded Linux system wasn’t using file dates. In fact on my (FAT32) USB stick it’s using the order of the files in the FAT - what was successful was using DriveSort. Problem solved - I suspect this affects a small number of embedded systems (mp3 players, projectors etc) that have had some lazy coding and don’t sort the files on portable drives.

How to be a journal editor

The Times Education published some top tips on How to be a great journal editor: advice from eight top academic editors… see my contribution at the end and ruminate on what it takes to keep the oils of academia oiled!

FREE EPRINT: Summary of activities 2017, Journal of Maps

Mike J. Smith (2018)
Journal of Maps

As a journal we notionally have two overlapping sets of “customers” - readers and authors. Authors provide the content whilst readers consume it. In a subscription funding model, readers pay for journal production, whilst in an open access (OA) model, authors pay. Somewhat uniquely in publishing, advertising plays a very limited part. And akin to commercial publishing, we have an overall journal editor (or Editor-in-Chief) and section editors (or Associate Editors).

Time lapse to a beat

Utterly stunning timelapse from Julian Tryba of the New York skyline - just when you thought you had seen it all, this takes a giant leap into the future. This makes the landscape a pallette which you can draw upon and integrate into a piece of music. It is wonderful. Sit back, watch, marvel (and then go and read how he did it).

NYC Layer-Lapse from Julian Tryba on Vimeo.

Zenmuse X7 DxOMark Tests

DPReview report report on DxOMark’s tests of the Zenmuse X7 and it makes for some impressive reading… it’s a quality sensor that has nearly 14 stops of dynamic range with good low-light performance. This line from the review pretty much sums things up:

it delivers results that compete closely with those from a high-scoring APS-C format DSLR, despite being housed in a camera that’s mounted in a stabilized gimbal and specifically designed for aerial photography.

Space in the news…

A couple of nice space links…. first a celebration of the Russian Soyuz system. An engineering marvel that is reliable and low cost - a feat for any product but the fact that this is over 50 years old and just keeps working is remarable.

Second, GIS-Geography have a list of 50 satellites in 30 words or less. Vital reading for any researcher… of undergraduate geographer!

DJI is a camera company

Two years ago I blogged about the introduction of a micro four thirds camera by DJI, followed last year by the Phantom 4 which allowed RAW capture. These are giant strides by a drone company trying to get better image capture - but the capabilities of the cameras still lagged significantly behind COTS (commercial off the shelf) systems.

One of the big drives for DJI has been the film industry and so there has been some buzz on the wires with the announcement of the Zenmuse X7, a camera built by DJI rather than using a partner’s system that has some interesting specs (see DP Review). This is primarily aimed at cinematographers, but as DP Review note this is actually a highly disruptive move by the company. It marks their entry into camera manufacture and introduces an APS-C sensor (24 MP), with a new lens mount and suite of lenses. So a larger sensor size but at a dramatically lower weight and smaller dimensions - the flange distance is a tiny 16.84mm with a minimum weight (including lens) of 630g.

So, let’s say it, this is a camera (and integrated into a system) that is destined for photogrammetry. Watch this space, disruption is coming!

Roger Tomlinson’s PhD Thesis

UCL’s Department of Geography have digitised Roger Tomlinson’s PhD thesis from 1974 and placed it online (see James Cheshire’s blog post). As the grandfather of GIS it makes compulsive reading - although disappointing UCL haven’t placed it on EThOS.

!Get Banging!

That would be DuckDuckGo Bangs by the way! A fantastic way to quickly redirect your search/query to another service - I use !w (wikipedia), !g (Google) and !yt youtube lots. Last year I requested one for my favourite mapping engine Streetmap and lo-and-behold they have release it.

Just search !smap

Want to be a successful academic? It’s all about getting published

Hot on the heels of PhD thesis: writing it up (and the art of procrastination), The Times Education published Want to be a successful academic? It’s all about getting published - in this opinion piece Im covering some of the more practical elements about progressing from your PhD to publishing in journals and what you need to do to achieve this. These thoughts have been gathered from colleagues, students and the scars of publishing!!

Wake on LAN

Wake on LAN (WoL) is one of those incredibly useful features that I had forgotten about having used in the dim distant past. As the name suggests, it wakes up a PC by sending it a “magic packet” across a network. To get it all to work you need several things in place:

1. a network card that supports WoL - all should now
2. the network card with WoL enabled. Do this in Device Manager, and in your card properties check all the settings under “Power Management” and then also under “Advanced” make sure “Wake on Magic Packet” is enabled.
3. it’s easier if you PC has a fixed IP on your (home) network - do this in “Control Panel” then Network and Sharing Center->View network status and tasks->Change adapter settings then right-click on “Ethernet” (or what your network card is called) and Properties. Under “Internet Protocol Version 4”, use Properties to set the IP address.
4. the PC can only wake for “Sleep” or “Hibernation” so make sure your PC is in one of these two states. By default Hibernation (which is the lowest power mode) is off in Windows 10. To make this accessible goto “Control Panel” then Power Options->Change what the power buttons do. If Hibernate is unticked, click on “Change settings that are currently unavailable”, tick it then “Save Changes”
5. I wanted my machine to resume to the main screen and bypass login - to enable this goto “Settings” then Accounts->Sign-in Options and change “Require sign-in” to Never.
5. YOU’RE THERE!! Now you only need a way to wake your machine - I installed the aptly named “Wake on Lan” Play store app which just works.

In terms of application, for me it allows me to remotely start my desktop and then remote desktop in. I can’t help but think that this should be one of those things that “just works” rather than having to jump through so many hoops!

RSPSoc 2017:

RSPSoc 2017 looked to have a fine set of talks this year hosted by the marvelous people at the Royal School of Mines, Imperial College. Check out the abstracts. SfM had it’s only session (naturally!), preceded by a plenary from Mike James (Lancaster). This session also included talks from myself/James O’Connor on our work reviewing camera settings for UAVs and the impact of image quality on SfM photogrammetry. The first set of slides are below and the second set on this page.


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PhD thesis: writing it up (and the art of procrastination)

I recently had an opinion piece published in Times Higher Education - this is advice on the process of writing up, how we all procrastinate on finishing it and what to do about it! It evolved out of discussions with PhD students over the years and advice to them, as well as fighting my own procrastination monkey at times. These things have worked for me and for some students, so if you struggle with getting those words down on paper… give them a try!