Plummeting winter temperatures mapped

Nice example of environmental monitoring over at NASA, this time using MODIS Land Surface Temperature to compared temperatures in Europe this winter (11-18 December) with the 2000-2008 average. The UK is a little cooler than “normal”; the real problem areas are Russia, Scandinavia and Poland, with parts up to 20C colder than previous years.

Consultation on release of OS data

As reported by FoD and Mapperz, DCLG have begun the consultation concerning the release of OS data. There is an accompanying impact assessment. Well worth leafing through both.

Happy Birthday NASA Terra

NASAs Terra is now 10!! Launched to much fanfare in 1999, of interest to Earth scientists it carries MODIS (wide swath, medium resolution, super spectral) and ASTER. The latter also being super spectral, but high resolution (upto 15m) and also stereoscopic. Note the earlier post on the recently released global DEM product. An extremely successful mission and the celebration pages show some fantastic examples of environmental change.

Patched FireFox RSS Editor

RSS Editor is a great extension for Firefox that adds functionality to allow you to edit (doh!) RSS files. It supports both local and remote file editing (although not over SSL) and is brilliant for simple RSS tasks. At both the Centre for GIS and CEESR I have implemented a simple news aggregator on the front page that formats news feeds from RSS. This is one of the easiest ways of getting a news feed on a website.

Unfortunately RSS Editor was only updated to early alpha versions of version 3.x and currently doesn’t work. If you read the feedback on the extension’s page you’ll see someone has fixed the code (in rssio.js) to get it working; this is in the form of a patch file which I couldn’t get to work on Windows. However I have fixed the bug manually and made it available here. Enjoy!

Open Topography Portal Expanded

As reported by lidar news, the Open Topography Portal is to be expanded following a grant from the NSF. The OTP provide a valuable service, albeit somewhat small at the moment. However growing interest in point clouds and DEMs are driving interest and so its excellent to see further investment like this.

Low Cost LiDAR

Lidar news have a nice article on low cost 2D LiDAR. Well worth looking at the OXTS webpage and related videos. This clearly demonstrates how young the mobile LiDAR (and for that matter static LiDAR) area is so expect to see big strides to making it more cost effective.

ERDAS goes where ESRI fears to tread

Slashdot reported earlier this year on the FOSS4G web server benchmarking. The big news was that ESRI were taking part, but then pulled out. The hope was to get both ESRI and MapGuide in to the frame to see how they did. With the recently announced ERDAS 2010 released, Chris Tweedie over at ERDAS took it upon himself to run some benchmarks (also reported in Slashdot). The results certainly look impressive (up to twice as fast as Mapserver) which I guess is why they were happy to put the product forward. ESRIs silence is deafening….

DMC 22m Multiispectral Data Available

Slashgeo report on the availability of 22m multispectral data from DMC via the UK-DMC2 and Deimos-1 satellites. Good to see this constellation is proving successful and improving; a great advert for the new British Space Agency!


I recently came across LeoWorks an educational remote sensing package that is free for use in teaching. Developed by ESA and the Romanian Space Agency (yes they have one and obviously for a considerably longer time than the UK!) its not going to win any cutting edge awards but it is a very capable piece of software. It surprises me that there are no reasonable open source remote sensing packages (unlike GIS), but there you go….. anyway, it appears to be developed in IDL (which would make sense) and offers the following features (amongst many):

-image information/historgram
-split, combine, rotate, mirror, raster math
-stretching, histogram equalization
-convolution filtering
-supervised/unsupervised classification
-scatter plots

As you can see, surprisingly capable and certainly pretty much everything you would want to cover in an introductory module. And, to boot, it appears to run fine from a USB stick.

Christmas Every Year?

I’m sure this is a result of “middle age grouch” syndrome hitting me, but the whole “Christmas thing” seems to get bigger, earlier and glitzier each year. How refreshing to see this petition to number 10. Shame its lapsed as I would have voted!!!!

Open Source Graphics

I regularly end up doign all sorts of quick graphics edits. I have been a long time fan of Pain Shop Pro and still run v8. Its since been acquired by Corel and newer versions are considerably bloated. v8 is powerful and exceptionally capable which is great. But when I’m on the move I want to use other packages to do the grunt for me. GIMP is a long time, and powerful, favourite of many users. I personally don’t get on with it so rarely end up using. My pick are the following:

1. Fotografix - extremely lightweight but very powerful. Layers, masking, levels, fills, gradients etc etc, Very good for touching up all sorts of graphics and photos.
2. XnView - fantastic general toolbox. Thumbnail image viewer, converter and manipulator. Lightning fast to boot.
3. IrfanView - grand daddy of open source image software. Real Swiss Army knife and well worth having knocking about.
4. Inkscape - Illustrator-esque open source product. Still at alpha/beta stage but it is very promising. Well worth keeping an eye on.
5. Dia - short for Diagrammer, this is great for things like flow charts, network diagrams etc.

A Practical Guide to Geostatistical Mapping

Tomislav Hengl has just published an open-access book on geostatistical mapping. The PDF is freely available with the printed version very modestly priced. The website links to datasets with the analysis performed in R, ILWIS and SAGA, whilst the book itself comes out of the courses he teaches at ITC. Well worth a look.

UK Space Agency

Great news this week with the announcement that the UK is set to have a space agency and hopefully begin to capitalise on its rapidly increasing expertise in this area. Spaceman has a good blog entry on this and the BNSC’s linked Space Exploration Review is well worth downloading and leafing through.

USB3 is here

PCPro have published some results of the first USB3 devices to hit the market. Motherboards with USB3 ports are yet to arrive so you have to make do with PCI Express cards, but they’re cheap at under 30. Clearly this will be a boon to external HDDs, portable media, external monitors etc etc and data transfer rates appear to be 2-4 times faster. As previous posts show, I use a portable HDD wherever possible for storing data and running apps, so USB3 is a big deal. I’ll be on the look out for a USB3 drive caddy ASAP!

Postcode data release proposal

The BBC reports today that the government is planning to release postcode data early next year. This is good news as postcodes underpin so much dynamic geospatial datasets. Their commercialisation has been wrong from the outset when you have public services such as the Royal Mail and OS trying to make as much money out of data ostensibly provided by local government (but with value added). It would appear that a short consultation process across all organisations due to release data will be begin. Early next year will prove an interesting time as we see what is released and then how it is made use of.

Education under Labour

Mike Baker again has a nice reflective piece on the ONS report of education under Labour over the last 12 years (I can’t find the right ONS report though). And, as ever, it depends what measure you use to define “success”. In this instance its “productivity”, that is comparing the increase in inputs to the increase in outputs. In this instance the ratio has remained static meaning there has been no gain in productivity, but there have been overall increases in both inputs and outputs. And it is the latter that is most important with it being increasingly likely that as standards improve each incremental increase in outputs requires more substantial inputs. Or, to put it another way, once you have a reasonable education system it becomes increasingly more expensive to gain marginal improvements.8

For Sale board up at Ordnance Survey

I suspect this is one of many rumours doing the rounds at the moment, but what with the government announcing that (much) OS data will be given away gratis and the recent murmurs about slashing public spending in the next budget as a result of Gordon’s massive spending spree (including Robert Peston’s rather humorous, if alarming, warning of an impending “stubble”), it should come as no surprise that there will be some slimming down ion government. Last week The Guardian reported on moves to reduce the number of Quangos and sell off various agencies, with OS included in the list. Who knows what will happen and will an election in the off-ing how this will change. You’ve also got to ask yourself how attractive OS will be after the announcement that they are now giving data away. It gives the wags plenty to speculate on though!

Google Sketch Up extended to support point clouds

Yes, Laser Scanning Europe has developed a plugin for Google Sketchup that enables it to support point-clouds. In Sketchup you have a fantastically easy way to develop 3D models that is intuitive and powerful. And its free to boot. It was really only a matter of time before more survey type plugins were developed and Laser Scanning Europe have done. Point cloud support is a natural extension and allows you to take advantage of the 3D tools available. I’m yet to play with the trial version, but the example is certainly interesting and worth a look. OK, you are not expecting survey level modeling here, but software vendors (such as Leica with Cyclone) should be worried. For 95% of applications you have a development environment that does everything you might want. And you can then deliver it as a model for viewing in Google Earth. A compelling work flow.

GMES Sentinel Data Policy

ESA recently announced the data policy for the GMES Sentinels. And as they say:

“The Sentinels comprise five new missions being developed by ESA specifically for the operational needs of the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security programme (GMES).”

For geomorphologists, perhaps of most interest is Sentinel 2 which is a tandem mission of satellites with a repeat pass of 5-days (constellations are the thing at the moment!) encompassing sensors: a Multi-Spectral Imager (MSI). This is slated to have a 290 km swath width and 13 bands (VNIR and SWIR). These should be 4 bands at 10m, 6 bands at 20m and 3 bands at 60m spatial resolution.

The exciting part of the data policy announcement is the following:

“The new data policy ensures free-of-charge access to all Sentinel data as well as the products generated via the Internet to anyone interested in using them, mainly for GMES data use but also for scientific and commercial use. Other access modes and the delivery of additional products will be tailored to specific user requests, but not necessarily within ESA’s remit.”

Location now in Twitter API

Location has finally been incorporated in to the Twitter API. Have a look at the news item, but basically not from the main interface as yet. You need to use a third party app. Will be interesting to see the applications of this over the next few weeks.