See you in Denver, Sept 2011

For the past 6+ years that I’ve been involved, it’s been awesome to watch the FOSS4G conference grow, along with the (still relatively young) OSGeo mission. As with the past several years, this year the FOSS4G conference promises to be a little different yet very similar on the key points that make it a great place to meet likeminded friends, businesses, researchers and other users.

Our sponsorship program has been officially kicked off today, so for those who were waiting for more info: here it is. Our website is just starting to take form at

Note that there is a low (lower than last year at least) level for sponsors who just want to get their logo out there, with higher levels for those seeking even more great benefits.

Hope to see you there!

p.s. This year I can finally promise to have several copies of my book available for giveaways!

Quick graticule in QGIS

It’s been a long time since I tried QGIS Map Composer, but thought I’d give it a try since I needed a graticule/measured grid graphic. I was surprised at how well the grid feature worked, along with labels and including several label placement options. The scalebar tool is also very nifty. I had my map, grid, etc. all laid out in a couple minutes.

Bonus feature: exported to SVG and (despite warnings from QGIS) had perfectly usable SVG to play with in Inkscape. Nice work folks!

Convert CSV text into a shapefile

This is a brief video I made the other night to show someone how to take basic lat/lon text data and load it into QGIS. As a bonus feature I show how to automate creating a simple line feature as well. Basic stuff, but when asked for the simplest way, I froze 🙂 What’s your simplest way for a new user?

p.s. sorry, it’s flash

OpenStreetMap book out – Be Your Own Cartographer

I had the pleasure of thumbing (virtually) through Jonathan Bennett’s book on OpenStreetMap recently. The paperback edition must be nice and hefty at over 230 pages, but it was thoroughly readable.

He does a good job introducing background material needed for understanding what OSM is all about, but also gently eases you into the tools and services you’ll need to know. Here are a few of my observations while reviewing it.
I particularly appreciated the chapter on Gathering Data Using GPS. This would have helped me the first time I ever used GPS. It’s a good primer in general GPS use along with a few tips – the remainder of the chapter focused on GPS’ing with OSM tools in mind.

Many of us GIS folks might still be asking “What’s a way” anyway? He breaks down the internal structure of OSM XML features as well, so you can get your hands as dirty as you’d like.

Naturally the various editors and renderer options are described well – Potlach, JOSM, Merkaartor, etc. Super in-depth data cleaning and troubleshooting is discussed.

The only thing I felt that was missing from the discussion were other non-OSM apps that provide support for OSM in some way (thinking here of OSM plugins for QGIS for example). But that’s balanced by a brief introduction to using PostGIS as part of the toolchain, so I won’t complain 🙂

I wish I had this when I first started OpenStreetMapping! It’s great that another open source mapping title is now available and that it’s well written is a nice bonus! Thanks Jonathan and Packt Publishing.

Discount on O’Reilly books

Get my book [ Web Mapping Illustrated] through O’Reilly’s Deal of the Day – 50% off ALL ebooks and videos. Use code DDF2H: see for other great deals.

Offline copy of GIS project data files!

I was glad to read about this “Offline Editing Plugin for QGIS”. For many working in enterprise environments, the idea of handling a disk full of separate files is a nightmare (or a nightmare waiting to manifest if it hasn’t already), particularly in a mobile collection scenario. So being able to have an app download data from database sources and sync them back online later has the potential to really help manage spatial data.


“For data collection, it is a common situation to work with a laptop or a phone offline in the field. Upon returning to the network, the changes need to be synchronized with the master data source, e.g. a PostGIS database. If several persons are working simultaneously on the same datasets, it is difficult to merge the edits by hand, even if people don’t change the same features.

Therefore, Mathias Walker implemented an offline plugin for QGIS. This plugin automates the synchronisation by copying the content of a datasource (usually PostGIS or WFS-T) to a spatialite database and storing the offline edits to dedicated tables. After being connected to the network again, it is possible to apply the offline edits to the master dataset.”

Links and instructions from the full article page. Guess I’ll have to get back to building QGIS from sources to try it out, at least until it’s rolled into a repository or core feature set.


QGIS and Spatialite – it just works

I gave SQLite, or is that spatialite, support in QGIS a try tonight. Surprise – it just works out of the box it seems. I know it may have worked in previous version too, but only now I just got around to testing it.

I downloaded a sample spatialite db, downloaded the latest QGIS (1.5.0-2 for Snow Leopard) from Kyngchaos. Unzipped the spatialite db, added it as a layer datasource, choose the three layers that appeared in the list. Voila.

Then I edited the file, added a point and saved it. Just to be sure I removed the layer and re-added it and my new point was still there. Lots more fun ahead for this great little “single file” datasource. Bye bye shapefiles… someday.

Installing Maemo 5 SDK

I’m looking into understanding the Maemo 5 platform with the hopes of building some OSGeo applications for it in my spare time. So, yes, that likely means I won’t get far!

Here is my first hour’s progress getting this started on install the SDK on my Sidux Debian box.
These SDK install notes from are leading me.

  • Ensure the xserver-xephyr (debian) package is installed on my workstation.
  • Download installation application (python script), chmod a+x, then launch it via sudo. (screenshot)
  • Go through wizard, select standard installation, accept license… (screenshot,screenshot)
  • Not sure what this VDSO settings for scratchbox are all about, so will simply continue and check I Accept (screenshot)
  • Choosing defaults for installing Nokia apps, etc. Scroll down license agreement and enter the number code shown. Click Accept. (screenshot) Shows summary of installation, press install.
  • Several downloads begin.

Installer ran fine for about 15 minutes then stopped with message “Failed: 4/9 Installing SDK Targets” (screenshot) the log says to run sb-menu once before continuing. Not sure if the installer did that without me seeing, but I tried to run it manually. (sudo sb-menu) that failed the same way though. The wizard forces you to finish which really means give up 🙂

Rooting around in searches online I found someone with same trouble ran this: sudo sysctl abi.vsyscall32=0. Gee, hope that doesn’t break anything else on my system 🙂

  • Restarting installation picks up with “upgrading scratchbox” and continues well! (screenshot)
  • Noticed a few mime related error flying by a couple times.
  • After about 20 minutes it finished up successfully (screenshot), giving a few notes for what to do next. (screenshot)

Autodesk’s Revit, Butterfly and Google Maps

Usually I’m 100% focused on open source software, but couldn’t resist talking about this side project. A couple months ago Geoff pointed out the new Autodesk Butterfly project, allowing you to share and collaborate on drawings using only a web browser. They have some geospatial examples on there too. Here are couple notes about my tests on it lately.

More recently, in my spare time I’ve been learning the Autodesk Revit Architecture software, so was keen to try it out along with the latest Butterfly geospatial features – georeferencing to a Google Map background. It worked well for me and a tutorial drawing I worked on last night. Their latest blog post even mentions support for GDAL data formats used as backgrounds in the drawings (go GDAL!).

Why am I interested in any of this? The past several months I’ve been trying out various packages for doing architectural design. I’ve taken time to try out several general packages and a couple more building specific ones. Most notably, Blender 3D (open source), Sketchup (free) and most recently Revit (cost).

Albeit the most expensive of the three, in only a couple days, Revit’s 30 day trial had me up and running with some really cool features and ease of use. I’ve barely scratched the surface but I’m able to build pretty smart models, way more than just drawing lines and doing pretty rendering. So, when I learned about Butterfly and now had some DWG files to try out on it, I couldn’t resist.

I hope to dig into converting some DEM data into Revit’s topography format at some point as well. I also hope to see Butterfly supporting loading large rasters directly – at the moment they have to be include inside your drawing files.

What book do you need?

(ED: Enabling comments might help.. sorry about that, should work now. TM)

I talk a fair bit with various folks about book ideas they or I have. I’m curious on your thoughts for potential new books that might be popular – what’s the next big “geo” book that you think you, your colleagues, the world at large needs?

Where do these books leave off? Or what new waters need to be charted?