Creative Commons for the Ordnance Survey?? We can but hope . . . .

Friday, 16 December, 2005

The Journal of Maps has hit many problems when trying to publish maps containing Ordnance Survey data. So much so that we recommend that authors donot submit maps containing OS data licensed through JISC (distributed from Digimap). At the Journal of Maps I have also listed papers I have had published related to the work we do and one of the “common threads” is the problem in publishing third-party data. One partial solution to this problem is the “relaxing” of license conditions for the non-commercial use of copyright data (through a creative commons style license). This has been adopted by the forward thinking Creative Archive Group, which includes the BBC. This allows limited free access for non-commercial use of their data.

Can the OS adopt a simlar “style” license?? We can but hope, however its gratifying to note that people within the OS clearly think this is a good idea (see Ed Parson’s blog).

Buncefield Air Pollution Monitoring

Thursday, 15 December, 2005

Nobody can have missed the massive explosion (supposedly the largest peacetime fire in Europe) that rocked the Buncefield oil depot in Hemel Hempstead, UK, this week. I actually live within 10 miles of the depot and felt the blast wave early on Sunday morning. The depot is sited close to a motorway within an industrial estate. And although there is residential housing close by, the area is primarily light industry. Safety concerns rapidly moved from those close by, to the effects of smoke as they rapidly covered London and the south-east. Sunday was an unusually windless day and, due to a winter temperature inversion, the effects of both the sound of the blast and the pollution, were concentrated at lower altitudes and not dissipated.

Satellite imagery has played a key role in monitoring the spread of smoke and two key sensors have been employed:

  1. MERIS - mounted on board the European Space Agencies ENVISAT, MERIS is a hyperspectral system with a 300m spatial resolution. With a rapid 3-day revisit capacity it is very good at monitoring a variety of environmental phenomena.
  2. MODIS - mounted on board NASA’s TERRA and AQUA satellites, MODIS offers daily revisits at 250m spatial resolution and, because there are two satellites, two images per day are available (AM for TERRA and PM for AQUA). One of the key sites for environmental monitoring is the Rapid Fire system. Near-real time imagery is delivered to the site for download and use. If you look through the archives for Sunday (11th) and Monday (12th) there are images of the fire available.

Bluetooth Folding Keyboard

Sunday, 4 December, 2005

A while back I purchased I purchased a Freedom Keyboard. This is a very neat bluetooth folding keyboard that is compatible with a wide variety of PDAs and Smartphones. An ideal companion for work on the move and exceptionally well designed. I got mine from Proporta who sell (and manufacture) a whole host of PDA accessories (including the excellent aluminium case). They also have one of the best no-nonense guarantees I have come across.

Remote Control

Saturday, 3 December, 2005

I regularly need to log back in to my broadband (1Mbit) system at home and have used a variety of different bits of software to do this. I’ve brought together a quick summary of the more useful ones:

  • UltraVNC (open source) - a very good development of the VNC product that allows you to “remote control” your system by viewing the remote desktop screen. Typical configuration involves the use of a server (on the remote machine) and client that you use to connect to it (although there are a variety of variations on this theme). Of all the VNC developments this is one of the fastest and has added extra developments including file transfer. Simple to set up as well.
  • Barracuda Drive (freeware) - a web based (both http and https) server that allows you to log in to your file system and upload, download or delete files. Very handy for quick access to files; it’s to simple install the server and then simply use a web browser to access it.
  • OpenVPN (open source) - VPNs are the most grown up solution to remote access. They require both a client and a server to allow you actually become part of the computer network on the remote machine, meaning you can access resources as if you were physically on the network. As a result they tend to be more expensive and require more knowledge to setup. OpenVPN is a robust open source VPN that works very well. Only really suited to combining disparate machines together (e.g. home and office) rather than access your home machine on the hoof.

It’s worth noting that if you have a “home” broadband connection you need to know the IP address of your connection and this is often prone to changing. A very good solution is to use a free service like DynDNS which can monitor changes in your IP address and dynamically map those changes to a fixed URL (e.g.

Coffee Grinders

Friday, 2 December, 2005

As a footnote to the earlier blog on good places to buy fresh coffe, it goes without saying that coffee beans remain fresh far longer than ground coffee. Good coffee means coffee beans, which means a coffee grinder.

There are quite alot of grinders (or add-ons for blenders) available around the 20 mark, however they are all based around blades that chop the beans up. Although it works, it generally produces a poor ground coffee for two reasons. Firstly, it generates quite a lot of heat which starts to “cook” the beans releasing essential oils (you might notice the beans becoming oily). Secondly, it is actually quite difficult to get a consistant (and fine) grind. The (recommended) alternative is to get a burr-type grind which crushes the beans. These are (naturally!) more expensive but produce a reliable grind. I personally use a Dualit Grinder which has been faithful.

By the way, for a good laymans guide to all things coffee I highly recommend The Joy of Coffee by Corby Kummer.