Happy Thanksgiving

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!


Data isn’t a Map or is it Vice Versa

Update 3: It appears this is a total FS effort to sell PDFs using Avenza.  I talked with Avenza  and they said that the FS is just a client of theirs using the marketplace.

Update 2: There is a free method here:

You’ll need to scroll to the bottom of that raster page because the retro image map doesn’t work with touch devices. The links are at the bottom.

Update: Well this is interesting, read this statement on the PDF marketplace.

A current printed copy of the Forest MVUM is available FREE from local Forest Service offices, and the current downloadable copy is available FREE from

So the only thing here is the FS is promoting a 3rd party marketplace (well besides not bothering to create hyperlinks).  The whole thing is completely weird.  Why would the FS put out a press release promoting awesome PDF mobile mapping when it’s a 3rd party effort?  Why not just point to the data for free online and be done with it?  I’m completely confused here as to why the FS would even bother.  Clue me in folks!

Interesting thoughts in the comments about PDF mobile maps being less than awesome:

I think there is some confusion here about the difference between data and maps. …… The maps built from this data (and other data) are a different product; maps are designed with a certain audience in mind and serve a specific purpose.

I don’t give a SHIT about the open data! We’ve got $500 million in the case, and 20 tonnes of mobile PDF pure IN THE TANKERS!

I’ve been chewing on this for a while since that comment was posted.   Ignoring that I feel charging for digital data is (despite quoting some USDA regulation) offensive to me, I can’t really disagree with this statement.  Does providing the data for free absolve any of the implications of charging citizens for data they have already paid for?

If I put my old data marketplace hat on, the other part of this all that bothers me is the federal government is picking Avenza (or whatever they are called) to sell their maps for them.  Quote whatever regulation you want, this stinks.  You can have our maps as long as you pay some 3rd party for them?  Tell me how that isn’t bad for the consumer?


Like You Need Any Proof Python Is It

It seems like just yesterday I was talking about manipulating rasters with Python.  No matter, if you’re still not convinced to embrace Python, here is some great holiday time reading for you:

How Python became the language of choice for data science

Nowadays Python is probably the programming language of choice (besides R) for data scientists for prototyping, visualization, and running data analyses on small and medium sized data sets. And rightly so, I think, given the large number of available tools (just look at the list at the top of this article).

R you say?

Python Displacing R As The Programming Language For Data Science

While R has traditionally been the programming language of choice for data scientists, it is quickly ceding ground to Python.

While there are several reasons for the shift, perhaps the biggest one is that Python is general purpose and comparatively easy to learn whereas R remains a somewhat complex programming environment to master.

Common theme huh?  Python is easy to learn.  If you ever find yourself reminiscing the days when you used ARC/INFO at the command line to do all your processing and are tired of GUI tools constricting your creativity and productivity, embrace Python.

One language to rule them all…


Sean Gillies Makes “Fiona for Rasters”

I’m a vector guy, I love nodes and even lines that connect nodes.  Don’t even get me started on polygons!  But rasters are still very much part of my life.  I’ve used FME quite a bit to manipulate them because of it’s speed and lack of “legacy” COM madness.  But even it has overhead that I don’t want all the time.  I’ve written quite a bit about Fiona and how it really simplifies vector workflows so you better believe I sat up when I saw Sean’s announcement of Rasterio.

Ever since I wrote Fiona, I’ve been asked if I have plans to do something similar for geospatial raster data. Having been out of the raster business for a few years, I always said “no serious plans, just blue-sky ideas.” Today, I’m back in satellite image processing and very much want and need something like Fiona-for-rasters. Rasterio is my attempt to write such a Python package.

You’ll remember that Sean joined MapBox a couple months ago and clearly he’s been working on their cloudless satellite efforts.  I’m sure the first thing he needed was better tools for manipulating raster images.  If you use GDAL you’ll be really excited about Rasterio.  Like OGR is to Fiona, GDAL is to Rasterio.  Plus if your a NumPy user (if you aren’t, you should be) you can read rasters right into your NumPy arrays.  Let that sink in for a moment.  I’m so looking forward to the 4 day holiday weekend to start playing with Rasterio.


F.C.C. Uses Android App to Map Speed of Mobile Networks

FCC LogoEver since I picked up my iPad Air LTE (AT&T) earlier this month I’ve been testing the AT&T network to see how much faster it is than Verizon (my work iPhone is Verizon LTE).  In my neighborhood AT&T LTE blows Verizon away to the point I attach my iPhone to my iPad hotspot to get faster speeds.  But of course what happens in Tempe, AZ doesn’t translate across the country.  We’re mostly left with commercials reminding us who the faster network everywhere else.  And heaven forbid you ask the question on Twitter.

I’ve used 3rd party tools for this testing but you have to wonder how consistent they are across the network.  Well now we’ve got the F.C.C. releasing an Android app to trying answer the question as to real networks speeds across the country.

The Federal Communications Commission has released a mobile speed test app for Android to help the agency crowdsource data about wireless performance across the country. The app, simply named the FCC Speed Test, doesn’t have the best looking design out there, but it doesn’t necessarily need to: once installed, it’ll automatically check a phone’s connection speed in the background when the device is not in use. While that’ll allow individual users to clearly see how well their own data provider is performing, it’ll more importantly allow the FCC to gather a wide amount of data on cellular carriers nationwide — that is, if its app gets enough users.

Now the kicker…

Early next year, the commission intends to release an interactive map online that’ll detail, in general, how well each data provider does in different locations. As the year goes on and it gathers more data, the FCC intends to make the map more and more detailed, adding in more local results, speed variations, and packet loss reports. It’s also promising infographics.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the F.C.C. won’t be releasing PDF maps.  I’m totally looking forward to the results.  Now being iOS only I’ll have to wait until January to take part and it appears Windows Phone and Blackberry (I guess for all those Fed users) apps will be released  as well.


2013 is still the year of the PDF – U.S. Forest Service brags about PDF on mobile

Consider this title: “U.S. Forest Service offers new digital maps for mobile devices

You’d think, “Awesome!” and then quickly read on:

“This mobile app makes it easier than ever to plan your visit to a national forest or grassland,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “By putting important forest information right at your fingertips, it will encourage more Americans to get outside and explore their forests.”

The digital maps are part of USDA’s work toward reaching President Obama’s initiative to create a paperless government that also provides the American public with better, more accessible information. Online customer surveys also indicated a desire for more online products and information, such as maps. The Forest Service is currently working on the first phase of a website redesign, expected to debut early in 2014, which centers on a map-based tool for planning trips onto our nation’s forests, grasslands and other special places.

Paperless, that’s the first sign things are not good.  Paperless usually means one thing….

Doesn’t look awkward at all does it?

The PDF Maps Mobile App, developed by Avenza Systems Inc., is available as a free download from iTunes and the Android Play Store. The app provides access to Forest Service maps, such as motor-vehicle-use maps, which are free while pages from national forest atlases are 99 cents and forest visitor maps are $4.99. Prices are pending for other agency maps.

The maps are geo-referenced with the user’s location appearing as a blue dot. The app works on iPhones (3GS or newer) and iPads with WiFi+3G. It also works with Android 4 or newer operating systems on devices with at least 1 gigabyte of memory.

Oh my, not only are we talking about PDF here but we’re talking about charging for free data.  But maybe it’s a stopgap measure:

In geographic areas with Internet availability users will be able to use the products with live data. The interactive map is expected to be available on a limited basis starting in March 2014.

Read that sentence a couple of times and try and figure out their plans.  National forests with “internet availability” (how’s that for a small subset?) will be able to use “the products” (we talking about PDF Maps Mobile?) with “live data” (which means what?).  I guess we’ll just have to wait until next year to see if 2014 will continue PDF maps on mobile.  But don’t fear:

Paper maps are still available for purchase online at the National Forest Store.



Today’s Hangout:: PostGIS Day Extravaganza Panel

Thanks to Paul Ramsey, Bborie Park, Stephen Mather

, and Josh Berkus for joining me to talk about our favorite spatial database in depth. The video is below and you can read the IRC transcript here.


PostGIS Day Special Hangout This Week

We’ve got a special hangout this week: PostGIS Day Extravaganza Panel. Paul Ramsey, Bborie Park, Stephen Mather and Josh Berkus join me to talk about the most important tool since the sextant. We’ll have a IRC discussion going and we’ll be giving out free copies of PostGIS 2.1 to some very lucky people. We go live at 10am PST right here so don’t be late!!!! Mmm, PostGIS…..

Homer eats PostGIS


Boundless Releases OpenGeo Suite 4.0

Boundless (ex OpenGeo) released OpenGeo Suite 4.0 this week:

Boundless is proud to announce the release of OpenGeo Suite 4.0. This version reflects deep changes that have occurred in the platform, while still supporting the functionality that our customers rely on. This release brings many new features and improvements, including the following component upgrades: PostGIS 2.1, GeoServer 2.4, GeoWebCache 1.5, support for OpenLayers 3 and the inclusion of the OpenGeo Suite QGIS plugin.

Of course upgrades to the standard server components but now with desktop (QGIS) integration. Get a load of this:

Our new plugin for QGIS allows for seamless management and publishing of geographic information from this popular desktop tool to OpenGeo Suite — connect to PostGIS, GeoServer, and GeoWebCache right from your familiar desktop environment to manage your geospatial deployments.

Don’t care for the command line? Just fire up QGIS and work with the server data in everyone’s favorite desktop GIS client. Rip and replace was never easier and QGIS and OpenGeo Suite go together like chocolate and peanut butter (still a Halloween candy hangover around here)!

Chocolate and Peanut Butter


Does Ideas4OGC Fix Problems with OGC Standards?

Remember the OGC REST API standard blowup earlier this year? Yea, great times. It reinforced the notion that the OGC is run by those who donate the most to the organization. Smartly it was withdrawn and we can all go about our business without some crazy new standard being rushed through. Cameron Shorter highlighted a new initiative at the OGC to try and address these issues brought up by the REST debacle.

You may remember the contentious proposal for the GeoServices REST API to become an OGC standard? After strong community concerns, largely focused on duplication of existing standards, the motion to approve the proposed standard was withdrawn. The fact that the proposal progressed as far as it did, to the point where it was almost ratified as a standard before being blocked, was a primary driver leading the OGC to initiate an “Ideas for OGC” (Ideas4OGC) review, aimed at re-baselining OGC priorities and processes.

The OGC has the Ideas4OGC initial recommendations on their wiki page:

Formally kicked off on June 20th, 2013, the Ideas for OGC (Ideas4OGC) process has collected a broad set of comments, recommendations and constructive criticism from across the membership, the public and OGC staff.

Yea they heard us. Head over to that wiki page and read up and input your comments. Sounds like they are totally rethinking how they operate on this kind of stuff. Hopefully this means that any new standards proposed will have to go through a process that is open and meaningful, rather than a rush job so one company can prove their software is OGC compliant. This gets a thumbs up from me!

Best Picture Ever