The Geography of LOST

A fun website to explore on a Friday (not that you need my help on being distracted) is this project put together by Jonah M. Adkins, GISP of Newport News, Virginia. Geography of LOST: Retrospective is a project by Jonah where he mapped the island from the TV show LOST using ArcGIS Desktop. The maps are quite impressive cartographical and the style just catches your eye. What is even more impressive is his work has been featured in io9, the New York Post and Entertainment Weekly.

The blueprint is particularly eye catching! Great job Jonah!

Ready to Head to the 2010 ESRI International UC

I’ll be bugging out this weekend to San Diego for the annual ESRI love fest. If all this Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, Backchannel stuff has you screaming “no more”, don’t worry. I’ll be live blogging the show as usual starting Monday morning at the plenary. The UC can’t be placed in 140 characters so I don’t bother.

If you are going as well, feel free to stop by the WeoGeo booth where I’ll be most of the week or beers at night (heck do both).

MapQuest goes OpenStreetMap – At Least in UK

MapQuest, in that ever battle to stay relevant, has chosen to move toward OpenStreetMap. Says the Wall Street Journal:

The company [MapQuest], a subsidiary of AOL, plans to announce Friday morning that it is launching a site in the U.K. based on a project called OpenStreetMap, which is dedicated to user-created mapping. The OpenStreetMap project has caught on most quickly in Europe, which is why MapQuest is starting there, but AOL also will devote $1 million to support the growth of open-source mapping in the U.S. The site has a U.K. address http://open.mapquest.co.uk but users can navigate to user-created maps from any country.

While we’ve all worked really hard here in the good old USA to improve the maps, clearly there is still a ton of work to get done (especially with building the networks), but $1,000,000 (doesn’t it look bigger when you use those zeros?) should help get this moving. CloudMade tried to fund this through their Ambassador program, but pulled the plug when progress was slow in coming. AOL is clearly committed to the program and probably happy to spend their dollars on funding OSM than shipping them off to Navteq (er Nokia) and their competition. How long before Microsoft decides that they are done funding Nokia’s Ovi Maps effort through licensing and joins OSM or moves to Tele Atlas?

Now if AOL gave me that million dollars and asked me to figure out how to build out the USA, I’d go ahead and hire the top 10 German OSM contributes and set them loose on America. It would be done in two weeks. Seriously though, the USA map needs a ton of work and the quality of the map compared to Europe is probably the only thing holding back OSM.

MapQuest has more details on their blog.

Here comes AOL!

Test Drive on the Wacom DTU-2231

I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to test out the Wacom DTU-2231 for the past couple weeks. I’ve been seeing quite a bit of Wacom at the ESRI UC and other conferences and it would appear they are making a big push in the professional GIS world. With ArcGIS 10, I couldn’t pass up the offer to give the Wacom DTU-2231 a try.

While the Wacom can be stood up like a monitor, it is best experienced laying flat (like a workspace). This gives you an opportunity to lean on the device and work better with whatever apps you are using at the time. I wasn’t sure at first about putting my hands on the monitor/tablet, but it feels so natural and it mimics how we used to work with cartography before GIS came along (yea, all that pen and paper stuff is coming back to me now).

The Wacom DTU-2231 on my desk

Now the monitor itself is crisp as anything I’ve seen and it runs at a native 1920×1080 giving it full HD resolution. The maps just leap off of the page because they are so crisp. The pen was something I wasn’t used to as previous tablets I’ve used had heavy pens that required to be put in a recharger when not in use. This one has a battery-free pen which means the pen is lighter and you never have to worry about it not being available for use. Once you get used to using a pen directly on a monitor, you never pick up the mouse again. The pen is pressure sensitive, but I couldn’t tell if ArcGIS could tell (I’m sure it didn’t). Other apps of course do take advantage of the pressure making it fun to work with.

Using the Wacom with ArcGIS 10 was my main goal. ESRI’s new editing tools seem like they are meant to be used with tablets. The freehand drawing capability really changes how you sketch out maps in ArcMap. Since I came up through the “Planning” side of GIS, I’ve made more site plans than I care to recall. Usually they are a result of someone drawing something on a map that you printed out and then you attempt to either scan that map back into ArcGIS or you draw it in unnaturally with your mouse. The old adage, you can never have too many nodes usually means your arm feels like it will fall off making those curves.

But with this Wacom tablet, I was able to sketch directly on top of an aerial image, as well as let others sketch what they wanted to see on the map. This meant that we worked directly inside my geodatabase speeding up my work. Plus with the new template tools in ArcGIS 10, we were able to pick exactly the right kinds of symbology as we edited.

ArcMap is ready to go out of the box for use with the Wacom DTU-2231

ArcMap is ready to go out of the box for use with the Wacom DTU-2231

The planner was able to put points down where she wanted them which in turn went directly into my geodatabase

Putting grassy areas down was as easy as drawing them on paper, but in this case they take on the properties of the geodatabase.

As I said above, the whole experience working with geospatial features with the tablet was liberating. I’ve been frustrated for years by planners who ask from broad, smooth curves that by no fault of my right arm, cannot be drawn using a mouse. The pen speeds up any editing of geodatabases and in turn gives results back to the planners quicker than we were able previously. Not scanning in tracing paper or vellum into ArcGIS on its own probably pays for the unit itself.

Also the new editing functions of ArcGIS 10 are a huge change from how people have edited GIS data in any platform before. I’ve also said symbology was as important as the data itself for presenting and the template tools, the storage of these tools inside the geodatabase, all epic.

I’m looking forward to working with this Wacom tablet some more. Its funny in that when I’m working on a computer that doesn’t have it attached, I get very frustrated now having to use a mouse. If you are going to the ESRI UC next week, make sure to stop by the Wacom booth (Booth 2713)?to see it in action and play around with it yourself. I’ve heard ESRI will have a bunch of them around the exhibit hall and in sessions so I’m sure you’ll see it just about everywhere.

Ladies, do you want your GIS Analyst working with the Wacom DTU-2231? Of course you do! Swan Dive!

Note: Wacom provided the DTU-2231 to me for evaluation purposes.

ArcGIS for iOS Release

Over the holiday weekend, ESRI’s new ArcGIS for iOS went live on the Apple iTunes Store.

ArcGIS for iOS (iPhone) Splash Screen

ESRI lists the following as “features”:

  • Navigate map galleries in just a few taps
  • Use maps authored in ArcGIS.com
  • Access your own GIS data
  • Display and zoom to current location
  • Perform linear and area measurements based on your current location or by interacting with the map.
  • Retrieve detailed map metadata
  • View feature attribute information
  • Perform keyword search and get access to relevant information
  • Execute predefined searches
  • Change the visibility of layers
  • Access popular maps faster by adding them to your favorites list
  • Share maps with other iPhone/iPad users

Now the app is quite impressive. The functionality and the ease of use stand out to me on my quick look this morning. The UI is simple and puts both the map and search functionality front and center. There is also a “Find Maps” button that takes you to what is essentially ArcGIS Online, where you can view many maps that are available in that service as well as add your own web mapping service. The only issue I have with this is that currently you can only add ArcGIS Server web services, not any OGC services. In an ESRI centric environment, that might not be an issue, but it does limit its use outside of an “ESRI shop”. You also can’t consume CSW services to discover web content, you can only use ArcGIS.com.

The simple UI for ArcGIS for iOS on the iPhone

ArcGIS for iOS Find Maps Screen

ArcGIS for iOS Browse Maps Screen

The ArcGIS for iOS OpenStreetMap Service

ArcGIS for iOS uses ESRI Web Services Only

The search works well in that you can find not only places, but companies and other useful points of interest.

Isn’t it nice how the search for ESRI puts you right at the front door of the Q Building?

The Map Tools are accessible via the wrench in the upper right Map screen and give you Identify and Measure (Area and Distance). The Identify has a reverse geocoder to give you the address of a location as well as its coordinate and any features available.

The map tools available for ArcGIS for iOS

The identify function of ArcGIS for iOS

ArcGIS for iOS is a very impressive mobile mapping app. It really shows the attention to detail ESRI has put into their new ArcGIS Mobile apps. Compared to the old Windows CE and Windows Mobile crap they used to put out, this was easily used by my son without any direction. Having all those ESRI web services (from the wonderful Topological Map, to the Bing Maps) at your finger tips is great (plus adding in OSM is just icing on the cake).

ArcGIS Golf Oil Spill Forecast Map

As I said above, my biggest disappointment is lack of OGC standards support. WMS and CSW support is really needed to make this application valuable outside of ESRI centric workflows. That said, watching my 7 year old son move around the application with ease gives me new hope what we GIS folks can actually make usable GIS apps for public consumption. We’ll just have to see how open they can get.