Infrared Photography

There’s a nice summary article covering infrared photography over at the BBC. It’s part of the celebrations of 100 years of infrared photography. If you read the article you’ll see that infrared has been known about for at least a further 100 years, but getting photographic film/plates that were sensitive to these wavelengths was difficult. That occurred around 1910, with commercial film from 1930.

Zoomable Map

Check out the Zoomable Map which uses a clever set of folds to give the effect of zooming in from an overview map to a streetmap. I can see this taking off for alot of city maps, so thought I would order the London one. Its not cheap but a really nice idea. I hope it takes off.

Trouble and strife with OS data

I recently had a map submitted to the Journal of Maps that made good use of Mastermap data. Although not an extensive amount was used, it is primarily based upon it so I suggested he check out the JISC-OS license with particular reference to my post on what this means for PDF based maps. He has described his experiences:

Trouble and strife with OS data

My map was created using terrain analysis of a Digital Elevation Model generated from airborne LiDAR data. In order to provide some context to the main feature of my map I used Ordnance Survey Mastermap data for features such as roads, railways, rivers and general land use. On reviewing my map the editor at the Journal of Maps suggested I should check whether the use of this data falls within the current OS licensing agreement. I discovered that my map was in breach of this agreement on a number of levels. Not only did my map include prohibited vector data, but the total number of pixels per image was over double that of the maximum set by OS at 1,048,576. I went through the pain staking process of trying to reduce the overall size of the images in my map so that they fell within the agreement terms, but the effect of rasterising the vector data resulted in a severe impact on the overall quality of the layers. It was at this point I decided it would be best not to use any OS data in my map.

Instead, I created my own layers by digitising the most important features (major road and rail routes, urban areas, and rivers) from airborne imagery collected for the study site. In this instance I was fortunate to have this data available, as other sources of imagery, such as Google Earth, are liable to have poor spatial accuracy. One vector layer which I could not digitise using the airborne imagery was an outline of the UK, used to identify the location of the study site. To overcome this I downloaded a UK coastline line shapefile from Open Street Map (available at Cloudmade). In fact the data available here also includes road and administrative boundary features that may be useful to other users.

The lessons learnt here are that the restrictions imposed by OS effectively make their data unusable in map making for publication.

Australia is BIG

For antipodean colleagues, yes Australia is BIG. A map always puts it in to perspective!

Big boys UAVs: RQ-4 Global Hawk

A nice article over at Wired on the diversion of US military UAVs to Haiti to provide reconnaissance imagery for the relief effort. Demonstrates how the miltary are trying to get some good PR whilst also making a genuinely useful contribution. If you haven’t come across military UAVs then take a look at the RQ-4 Global Hawk; makes somewhat of a mockery of the kites I use and even some of the more security centric products. Just take a look at some of the specs:

Length: 13.54 m
Wingspan: 35.41 m
Height: 4.62 m
Gross weight: 10,387 kg
Cruise speed: 650 km/h
Endurance: 36 hours
Service ceiling: 19,812 m

It can survey up to 100,000 square kilometer of terrain a day and carries SAR VNIR instruments on board. A serious bit of kit, but then they cost $35M each. Not sure a NERC grant would stretch to one of these!

Gentle Introduction to GIS

GIS Lounge have a good summary of a Gentle Introduction to GIS, a PDF manual and accompanying datasets for use with QGIS. Sponsored by the Department of Land Affairs, Eastern Cape, South Africa, it covers the main introductory conceptual areas and provides examples. Its not going to win any writing awards, but it is nice and succinct. In that sense it complements the book from MapAction which covers somewhat similar ground for MapWindow.

With my educational hat back on, it will be interesting to see how schools around the world start picking up on these resources. Certainly in the UK the market is wide open with schools starting to look at software. Both QGIS and MapWindow could fill this introductory niche very nicely.

Students have 10 minute attention span

Students only have ‘10-minute attention span’ - it’s a great headline from the BBC and the first part of the copy reads: “University students have average attention spans of just 10 minutes and many miss lectures because of the need for part-time jobs, research suggests.” Actually, the 10-minute attention span is a pretty well known phenomena; John Medina outlines this in Brain Rules (amongst other things) and discusses how he structures 1 hour lectures in to 15 minutes blocks to leverage attention spans. So not so much a real headline as a storm in a teacup.

Very small world map

A world map with a difference - this one is only 40 microns (that’s about the same as the wavelength of thermal infra-red light) in in size! This one is done using CMOS fabrication tools and put on a chip. Nice :)

Importance of Geography

Nice article over at The Economist espousing the importance of Geography (with a big “g”) and it’s centrality to everything important that is going on in the world. Of course, I would at to that that GIS underpins a very large part of the data collection, analysis and presentation of much of what goes on in geography.

Snow covered UK

It’s already been flagged up on the BBC, but a Terra MODIS image captured a nearly cloud free, almost totally snow covered, UK yesterday. It’s quite simply stunning and is available from the MODIS Rapid Response System which provides near real-time access to MODIS imagery on Aqua and Terra. This particular image is the highest resolution (250m pixels) version and is available with a worldfile meaning it can be loaded straight in to a GIS.

Surface Roughness of Topography: A Multi-Scale Analysis of Landform Elements in Midland Valley, Scotland

C.H. Grohman, M.J. Smith and C. Riccomini
Proceedings of Geomorphometry, 140-148
In this paper we briefly review a selection of measures of surface roughness, with specific application to grid based digital elevation models (DEMs). A selection were assessed for the behaviour of roughness at different spatial scales and dataset resolutions using moving-window and raster algebra steps to a test area in the Midland Valley, Scotland.

Map-OSM-atic

Great automated service for creating a town plan and index over at MapOSMatic using OpenStreetMap data. The site developed out of Hackfest2009 and is based upon the entire worldwide OSM data using the default OSM stylesheet. A really useful service. If your map doesn’t already exist (and there currently doesn’t appear to be a search engine for existing plans) then you can define a bounding box around your town of interest and queue it for processing. The queue is currently around 200 maps which seems to take about 24 hours to process, but of course it depends upon the complexity of the jobs. Outputs are PNG, PDF and SVG.

99 Netbook

Yes it looks to be true, a netbook that costs 99. The specs are fairly minimal, but at this price who cares!! Interestingly it comes loaded with Windows CE 6.0. The specs have more in common with a mobile phone than a netbook, which is probably why CE has been used. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone gets Linux working on it, particularly as the 7” screen and keyboard make it a very usable specification.

ResearcherID Labs

In a recent editorial at the Journal of Maps I touched upon citation listing of journals and the importance to authors in terms of citation metrics. Thomson-Reuters provide some interesting info on citation analysis, whilst citation services such as Web of Knowledge and Scopus provide journal level information to assess journal performance including the often quoted impact factor.

Thomson-Reuters have “flipped” this idea on it’s head to provide author level information through ResearcherID. This free service provides a “virtual CV” of published articles showing the number of citations each has received. It also displays citation metrics including the h-index.

More recently they have add (in a similar vein to Google) a “labs” area showcasing newer developments. Given that they want “you” to purchase access to Web of Knowledge, there is only so much information they want to present. That said they have generated data on two primary areas: the Citing Network and the Collaboration Network. This makes sense and is actually quite interesting. You can view the authors network of collaboration and then the networks created by those that cite them.

USB Modes

I’m the proud owner of a new Sandisk Sansa View, an mp4 player in the style of an Apple Nano, but without the Apple baggage that goes with it (and some might say, without the style). The specs target most of the things I was after: mp3 playback, mp4 playback, long battery life (~35 hours), microSD expansion, FM radio and audio recording. There are a range of memory sizes up to 32Gb, but with microSD expansion its more flexible; I plumped for the 16Gb version. The firmware hasn’t been updated for over a year now and the player is being discounted, so it looks like it’s being replaced.

Overall the View is a good player, albeit with a few minor niggles the primary one being that it is quite picky about the mp4s it plays. It supposedly supports mp4, h264, xvid, wmv9 etc etc. None of my xvids would play and none of the trancoding I did with either ffmpeg or mencoder worked. After much digging Any Video Converter worked flawlessly out of the box. It is actually only a front-end for ffmpeg and mencoder, however it does some extra muxing which I can only assume generates a more “compliant” mp4. Anyway, the result is good and the playback excellent.

The other “quirk” is really a feature. The View can operate in either MTP or MSC modes. The former is dedicated for transferring media files, but requires at least WMP10 to be installed on Windows. The latter shows the device as a ordinary hard disk drive and allows storage of any files. Both can be used with Windows Explorer to manually transfer files. With the View, using MTP automatically updates the internal media files database which speeds start-up considerably particularly with large numbers of files. When there is a microSD card installed this is automatically scanned at startup-to check for any changes.

A couple of nice final points: the View can record from FM radio and (with the appropriate cable) can output to a TV. The latter means it can operate as a simple media player which could be useful.