Tuesday, April 29, 2008

“Trust in Allah, but tie your camel”

I was doing some AJAX today, trying to dynamically load markers from points stored in a geodatabase. Basically, just an XML response formatted specifically for my data, and parsed using Javascript. It works, surprisingly given my programming skills :). Anyway, probably wouldn't have gotten finished if it weren't for FireBug. A handy little Javascript debugger that lets me know when I have errors in my code. I use Visual Web Developer express for ASP.NET programming, and the 2005 version doesn't really have anything like this for Javascript (I think I read version 2008 does). FireBug works with Mozilla Firefox, but I think there is an alternative version for Internet Explorer. Be sure to disable FireBug when not debugging because it will report errors on any website, and slows down Gmail...

So I've started work on another project. I am a little unsure of confidentiality, so I won't list all that are involved. I'm sure the project will be made public, or at least the publication will be. It probably wouldn't be too difficult to guess who this work is for if you are in Australia. I'll be modeling camel management plans...while it is tempting (and easier) to just turn in a set of photographs of myself shooting camels, I'm of course referring to GIS-based models. Since the turn around time on this is pretty quick (2 months!), the model is a fairly simple Multi-Criteria Evaluation. I'm planning on using IDRISI (Andes?) to do this, but in the back of my head I'm thinking of writing a plug in for MapWindow. Two months isn't long, and IDRISI has a number of built-in tools for performing a Multi-Criteria Evaluation, as well processing rasters (distance surfaces, friction surfaces, etc...). The reason I want an open source solution is to create a user interface that could be used by anybody. That way a land manager could come in, and given a set of criteria (most-likely predefined), they could spit out a map showing potential locations for different camel management plans.

As idyllic as camels look in the Australian desert, they aren't native species. They were brought in as pack animals, and in many cases the train routes and road routes actually follow the same route as the old camel trains. Now their population is approaching one million, and they can be quite destructive to infrastructure, and biodiversity (or vice versa). Probably the unique part of this model is it is trying to identify locations for management plans based on a perspective, and also including perspectives in the model. Obviously, when a question is asked it comes from a certain perspective, and to answer that question certain criteria will be relevant. On top of that, there will be a layer that explicitly shows where certain management plans cannot be implemented based on the community, land owner, etc... This will most like be a constraint factor...but also could be a distance surface I suppose...Have to think about that one.

I'll keep you up-to-date on it.

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