VirtualBox Update

Friday, November 27, 2015 at 09:39:54

Just a reminder that VirtualBox remains a great option for virtualisation and running a range of operating systems. In addition to being able to spin up various Linux OSes on my Windows box, it also allows me to run a Windows VM for testing purposes (and for those in HE Microsoft’s DreamSpark provides a no cost way to use a range of software, including the OSes). I run all my ERDAS Imagine and Esri ArcGIS work through here. I had been on the venerable v4 of VirtualBox but have since upgraded to 5 and speed boost is very noticeable.

And, of course, those who know me know my penchant for portable apps. And yes there is Portable VirtualBox. Run it, get it to download the install files and then youre away. A base install of Win7 is about 5Gb, but with Imagine and ArcGIS runs at about 25Gb. But it’s nicely sandboxed and anything that goes wrong can simply be vaped.

AGI Open Source Presentation

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 at 22:47:44

Great to be back at the AGI Annual Conference today and speaking about open source and giving a live demo. As ever things didn’t quite work to plan - I ran the risk of demonstrating on the venue PC and the Microsoft C++ dependencies werent installed for QGIS to run happily. So no QGIS demo. GIMP worked well and my XAMPP demo worked great (bar the time pressure!) until I had brain freeze and forgot the URL for localhost when loading my freshly made leaflet webmap pulling in lat/long from a local MySQL database. That’s life!! For those that want the slides, they are below. Enjoy!

Footnote: The Army win the prize for the best give-aways on the stall. One great Army Spork in my collection. Hotly followed by OS with their great benchmark tin mug. Back to the trenches!


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Turning Point Clickers Orphaned by Windows 10 @turningtech

Wednesday, November 18, 2015 at 14:45:52

I was just doing some testing of a remote polling session for a class this week so took my Turning Point RF Receiver and plugged it in to a Windows 10 desktop - yes its marketed as driver free (and hassle free) installation. Just plug and play. And indeed it would have done if I wasn’t on a Windows 10 machine.

Yes Turning Point DONOT support Windows 10 for their software and, for my receiver model at least, it appears to been have orphaned. It remains to be seen whether their new receivers support Windows 10 (they don’t actually state that) or whether they will release a driver for Windows 10. Support were, of course, ambiguous in terms of promising any future compatibility.

Poor effort and I can only say that its definitely more reliable using an online service such as PollEverywhere.


Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 10:24:20

Just a reminder that the AGI’s GeoCom15 is coming up 23-25 November 2015 at the rather swish Chesford Grange Hotel just outside Kenilworth. Remember that its both the conference and exhibition, the latter of which is free to wander around, so no excuse not to register and come along to see myself and Prof Nigel Walford from the Centre for GIS speak.

Digital preservation

Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 18:25:06

What do you do when an artifact you have is in danger of loss or destruction?? Preserve it of course! And that’s the role of archivists in terms of valuable items. Preference is given for physical preservation (we want to keep to “original”) but digital preservation (not withstanding the problem of maintaining access to data) is often sought after as it allows universal access and preservation of the data used to record the “presence” of the object (sound, radiation etc). This whole topic came to fore with ISIS’s destruction of buildings in Palmyra. Whilst there has been some effort to smuggle smaller artifacts out of Syria, it’s not easy to do this for whole buildings! Which makes digital preservation paramount. Obviously there are many photos of Palmyra itself, but archivists (and archaeologists) want to take this one step further and generate 3D models and collate detailed imagery of buildings before they are destroyed.

And this is of course where photogrammetry (and more specifically Structure from Motion) comes in - by deploying a range of low cost cameras the expectation is that a large number of images can be used to create a virtual model of current buildings before they suffer destruction. The Million Image Database has probably had more publicity but New Palmyra (and backstory) is also working with similar aims and has current models hosted on Github for download. Both are light on methods so it’ll be interesting to see, technically, how these develop.

SkyTech Event (and Commercial UAV Show Report)

Friday, November 13, 2015 at 10:17:42

I attended the Commcerical UAV Show last month at the Excel Centre, sharing a slice of the vast area with the Robotics Show. Last year the show was upstairs at Olympia and whilst relatively small there was quite a buzz with mixing between the seminars, the conference and the trade floor. There was also a very wide range of exhibitors with some really big UAV manufacturers and smaller players, as well as software and services. Its an exciting sector and you couldnt fail to walk away not feeling the palpable excitement.

This year my overall takeaway was one of disappointment. The show seemed smaller and there were certainly fewer major operators there. That said they had a live demo area which was impressive and the stands were generally bigger with more space between them. Yuneec continued the impressive showing from the Chinese manufacturer whilst there were an innumerable number of insurance services… we can see where that one is headed! This year also saw DJI - its consumer drones becoming good enough for a range of commercial applications outside photography. There was also a surprising number of empty stalls and those which were unmanned which made for a poor impression.

Perhaps the one stand that sticks in my mind was the French manufacturer Delair-Tech. This is the first (and I believe only manufacturer) to have government approval (in France) for “beyond line of sight” (BLOS) operations. This is something that brings palpitations to any FAA executive but that Amazon (amongst others) is really pushing for. For regulated airspace this is really moving the potential for UAVs in geoscience much further.

An upcoming rival to the Commercial UAV Show is the SkyTech Event at the Business Design Centre 27-28 January 2016. This is a great space for a show so it’ll be really interesting to see what this is like. Tickets are free so no excuse not to book up!

**EGU 2016** Unmanned Aerial Systems: Platforms, Sensors and Applications in the Geosciences (SS12.18)

Monday, November 2, 2015 at 15:09:14

EGU 2016 General Assembly Session (search for SS12.18)
Conveners: Mike J Smith (Kingston), Mike James (Lancaster), DamiÓ Vericat (Lleida), Saskia Keesstra (Wageningen)
Abstract Deadline: 13 Jan 2016


The aim of this session is to bring together scientists who are working with UAS in soil science, geohazards, geomorphology, vegetation and agronomy and share experiences with a focus upon platforms, sensors, data processing, and applications. The session will provide an overview of the current state of research and challenges that need to be tackled.


We encourage any scientist working with small aerial platforms to submit an abstract. Possible topics can include, but are not limited to:

Platform development
Light-weight sensor development
Methods of data processing
Multispectral and hyperspectral data analysis
Pre-processing and time-series analysis
Applications in soil science, geohazards, geomorphology, cryosphere, ecology, agriculture, forestry, vegetation mapping and monitoring, etc.


Recent enhancements in the performance and endurance of autonomous flying platforms, such as multi-copters and fixed wing aircraft, coupled with lighter and better performing sensors, has led to a dramatic increase in the deployment of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for scientific applications. The pace of development has been breath-taking and this is no better realised than in the low-cost consumer market where products are viable for scientific deployment. Yet we also see the development of aerial platforms for laser scanning, medium format visible cameras and multispectral scanners. These now approach the capability of traditional manned airborne systems. Within the geosciences the increasing use of photogrammetry, and particularly Structure from Motion (SfM), has led to a range of exciting applications.

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