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.

<

iframe id=”viewer” src = “/Viewer.js/#../blosxom/documents/Smith_RSPSoc_2017.pdf” width=’556’ height=’400’ allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen>

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!

FREE EPRINT: Hybrid Spectral Unmixing: Using Artificial Neural Networks for Linear/ Non-Linear Switching

Asmau M Ahmed, Olga Duran, Yahya Zweiri and Mike Smith
Remote Sensing


Spectral unmixing is a key process in identifying spectral signature of materials and quantifying their spatial distribution over an image. The linear model is expected to provide acceptable results when two assumptions are satisfied: (1) The mixing process should occur at macroscopic level and (2) Photons must interact with single material before reaching the sensor. However, these assumptions do not always hold and more complex nonlinear models are required. This study proposes a new hybrid method for switching between linear and nonlinear spectral unmixing of hyperspectral data based on artificial neural networks. The neural networks was trained with parameters within a window of the pixel under consideration. These parameters are computed to represent the diversity of the neighboring pixels and are based on the Spectral Angular Distance, Covariance and a non linearity parameter. The endmembers were extracted using Vertex Component Analysis while the abundances were estimated using the method identified by the neural networks (Vertex Component Analysis, Fully Constraint Least Square Method, Polynomial Post Nonlinear Mixing Model or Generalized Bilinear Model). Results show that the hybrid method performs better than each of the individual techniques with high overall accuracy, while the abundance estimation error is significantly lower than that obtained using the individual methods. Experiments on both synthetic dataset and real hyperspectral images demonstrated that the proposed hybrid switch method is efficient for solving spectral unmixing of hyperspectral images as compared to individual algorithms.

Amazon Echo in Teaching

How can we use XXX in teaching? Replace XXX with your favourite peace of technology - you see it all the time and it’s a good excuse to buy a shiny bit of kit and play with it in class. So no surprise to see the use of the Amazon Echo crop up at some point. In this case it’s Donald Clark who has supplied the goods (although more related to business). And there are some good things on the list. My picks are:

1. Use it as a countdown timer: great for tests, group work, discussion, staged practicals etc.

2. To Do Lists: I can see this being used by the instructor and students to keep multiple lists of things theyve found hard, topics to cover again, answers to post etc etc. Have multiple lists, that could include voting-up (likes) for topics etc

3. Calculator: easier and quicker than a phone

4. Queries/Questions: ask populations, capitals, parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, names of sensors, expiration dates satellites. The list is endless, useful and fast.

5. Training: text-to-speech, audio briefings. The power of voice is tremendous and this can be a great way to bring further personalisation to learning.

There are some great thoughts in there, although don’t underestimate the complexities of running in a room of people.

Photogrammetry Round Up

With being fresh back from EGU, it seemed an appropriate moment to provide a few brief links to things relevant:

1. UAV PICO: I was the lead convener for the “Unmanned Aerial Systems: Platforms, Sensors and Applications in Soil, Agriculture and Geosciences” which was again hugely successful. There were 14 presentations, everyone turned up and delivered sharp and punchy talks in the 2 minute madness. All were excellent, so its well worth taking a look at he abstracts.

2. Cameras and settings for optimal image capture from UAVs: my own talk went down well with plenty of questions in the interactive session afterwards. This is material that has recently been published in our Progress in Physical Geography paper, so take a look at that for a more detailed exposition.

3. James presented on his PhD work looking at the impact of image quality on 3D reconstruction using SfM. This went down well, generated much discussion and drove some more people to the (full) PICO. Take a look at his synopsis of EGU and read the poster (take a look at the full High Resolution Topography in the Geosciences: Methods and Applications session).

4. As a result of all this work, James has produced a nice summary of Photogrammetry rules of thumb which can be read in conjunction with the PiPG paper noted above.

Canon is droning on….

Industrial drones are it… whilst the media spotlight has been firmly on cheap and cheerful like the DJI Phantoms delivering drugs to prisons or involved in near misses with commercial aircraft, the heavy lifting (literally) is being done by commercial drones in the industrial sector. You only have to visit something like the Commercial UAV Show to get a real sense of the breadth of application from behemoths produced by Lockheed-Martin, to the full range of DJI products and then a massive influx of products from China, including the impressive range from Yuneec.

The commercial sector is vibrant and it’s notable that drone manufacturers realise they need suitable cameras to hook up to their systems which means increasingly close ties between the sectors. We’ve seen Hasselblad tie up with DJI (flying on their industrial Matrice range), whilst Phase One have a range of cameras dedicated to commercial use. And this is invading a space traditionally held by aerial cameras (e.g. Vexcel).

So it’s no surprise to see Canon looking to move into this space and the (just rolling off the tongue) PD6E2000-AW-CJ1 is just that, as reported by DPReview. The drone itself is produced by Prodrone, a company Canon has invested in, and is not too dissimilar to the DJI Matrice 600, but kitted out with Canon’s ME20F-SH. This is firmly targeted at the disaster relief sector - the camera has an ISO of 4 million (yes, you read that right!) which will allow it to capture video in near-darkness.

The drone space continues to accelerate in terms of innovation, so expect to see an interesting and exciting roadmap of products appearing at breakneck speed!

Links Thursday

A couple of recent links that are worth a punt…

20 FREE Satellite Imagery Data Sources: once you’ve waded through the ads, a really useful list of free satellite imagery sources

London Cycle Lane Map: following the London underground map meme, one in that vein but very pleasing.

Excel: deleting blank rows

One of those great tips that just makes life easier… you have 100,000 records in an Excel spreadsheet that you’ve just pulled from a live database and it’s ended up with some blank rows in it, scattered throughout. How do you delete them easily?? With this tip using (believe it or not) the “Go To” dialog in Excel! And, copied verbatim:

1) Select the cells in one column from the top of your list to the bottom;

2) Make sure that all the blank cells in this selected range are the rows you want to delete;

3) Press the F5 key on your keyboard;

4) On the Go To dialog, click the Special… button;

5) Choose the Blanks option and click OK. This will select all blank cells in the range you had previously selected;

6) Right click on one of the selected cells, select Delete, Entire Row and click OK.

Voila!