Monday, June 30, 2008

MapInfo 9.5 Update

Downloaded and installed the evaluation version. I also downloaded and installed MapCad. Workspaces are still there, so that alone is enough to turn me off. There is some handy right-click context menu functionality in the map browser. Especially for editing. The interface looks essentially the same, and I can't see if they changed anything. On the one hand this is nice, because everything looks the same and makes it easy to learn from one version to the next (can't say this about Autodesk).

I tried to use the MapCad tools but, honestly, couldn't find how to load them. I ran the installer, twice, but nothing happened. I looked in the helpfile for MapCad and it said to go to the Help dropdown and go to MapCad Help. This, of course, did not exist. So again I ask the question, why spend over a 1000$ when you can get the same functionality out of Manifold (plus both the extensions for that amount)? It will supposedly also work with MSSQL 2008 spatial as well.

I didn't bother playing with the .NET features...

Friday, June 27, 2008

MapInfo 9.5

The geoblogosphere seems to be all a twitter (no relation to twitter) with the release of ArcGIS 9.3. I made the mistake of getting my knickers in a twist when 9.2 came out. I installed it wanting to try the new features, but unfortunately I used it to work on some project work when the rest of the office hadn't upgraded from 9.1 (or 9.0 in some cases). That was dumb on my part, so now if I happen to receive a copy, I don't think I'll upgrade till SP1 comes out. Though, sometimes service packs can lead to more headaches as I found with 9.2 sp3 and the loss of some of my python tools in the toolbox...weeeeee!

Anyway, all the talk around 9.3 has overshadowed the pending release of MapInfo 9.5. Its fairly obvious from my posts that I am primarily an ESRI user, and have given a fair share of MapInfo criticism. They must have heard the call (I'm certain I wield such influence), because it sounds like they have made some substantial changes. They are a little behind the times on some things, like the .NET MapBasic features. ESRI has had that for over a year now. I'm not too impressed by having support for MSSQL, because it sounds like everyone will. Although, I bet MapInfo won't require any extra extension to handle it. I am hopeful but very much doubt that there will be direct support in ArcGIS 9.3 without the need for ArcSDE. MapInfo should also add PostGIS support in my opinion. It seems to be gaining some commercial acceptance through Manifold, ArcSDE, zigGIS (also ArcGIS), etc...

I'm downloading an evaluation copy of 9.5. I can't test everything, but I read that they designed the interface with .NET, so I'm hoping it doesn't look like crayon on sandpaper anymore. I also hope they replaced workspaces with something more functional. I'll post my findings here.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Geography of Teeth

Was reading the recent National Geographic Article about stonehenge. They discovered a burial site of a rich neolithic man in the Salisbury plain near Stonehenge. Turns out he was originally from the Southern Alps of Europe, and apparently had migrated to that I'm not sure. But they discovered this information by doing an Isotopic Tooth Analysis. I just thought that was pretty cool that they can determine geography via your teeth. Here are a few articles that might be of interets: here and here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I was watching the English Patient the other night. I have to admit, I think it is one of the best movies made...Anyway, you don't search for GIS blogs to here about the writer's favorite movies. I guess I had not seen it since finishing at university, because it never struck me how geographical that movie was. Not in that it was shot in several countries, but in geographical concepts. One of the major themes of the movie is place and identity. Another related theme was with borders, country borders to be specific. I don't think that movie could have been made at any other time than the 90's. Sort of that reshuffling of the deck period between the fall of the Berlin wall and September 11th. The internet and global communication was create a borderless world. The idea of a one world government seemed to have gained momentum. So here you have this movie where the characters defy borders and create their own sense of place, only to have that destroyed by the invasion of ownership of place.

One other part struck me too, was when Juliette Binoche's character is asked if she knows anyone from a dying soldier's hometown. I think it is later in the movie that she questions this action. The desire to see someone from where you come from. This probably interested me more than normal, as I am now living abroad. We just went to a party of Americans living abroad. The only reason for the party was that we were Americans, or spouses and children of Americans. So that was the one connection - you're American. There was even a hierarchical scale to the connection - America --> State --> Close to the same town....It's just funny, because without the concept of place, it's not like we would have ever met or been friends with any of these people, especially in the states. We only had one thing in common. This happened when I traveled too. It's such an easy introduction - WHERE are you from? As if Where defines who you are. I would probably make the argument it does partly define you.

I noticed that Harm de Blij has a new book coming out this winter/summer (july), and I think it will be about this topic. From the product description:

"In recent years a spate of books and articles have argued that the world today is so mobile, so interconnected and so integrated that it is, in one prominent assessment, flat. But as Harm de Blij contends in The Power of Place, geography continues to hold billions of people in an unrelenting grip. We are all born into natural and cultural environments that shape what we become, individually and collectively. From our "mother tongue" to our father's faith, from medical risks to natural hazards, where we start our journey has much to do with our destiny, and thus with our chances of overcoming the obstacles in our way."

I find it to be interesting, but I can only offer anecdotal experience as my view. I also find Geography in the movies to be interesting. A recent AAG newsletter had a short article about this. I think it was just before the Boston Conference, because all the movies were about/took place in Boston.

Forgot the book came out shortly before the movie, but still in the early 90's. Although similar themes between the book and movie exist, I think the movie had a few of its own. Anyway, here are some articles on the book here and here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


There are so many great new cool projects on the web it is hard to keep up. They probably aren't even new, but I just found out about them. Here is an example. But why, with all the new innovations and ideas do people still create these maps using latitude and longitude? The Social Explorer presents this distorted lat and long thematic map, when they should really be using a projection that preserves area. I know technology like Mapserver, and Sharpmap possess the capability to project into a multitude of projections (I believe using PROJ4).

I see with Google Maps why it is necessary to use Lat and Long, because it just makes it easier for Google if people conform to a standard Latitude and Longitude. Projections or the lack there of can greatly influence people's perceptions of the world. Look at the Mercator projection and Greenland. I think this is related to Dr. Parks' talk as well. She says people don't have an understanding of satellites, but they also don't have any understanding of projections.

I can't tell if Google Earth is a culprit of this as well, because I'm not sure if it uses a Geoid or some other "true" representation of the Earth.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Why am I always the last to know?

Apparently the term GIS died...How come I'm always the last to know these things...


And when did GIS just become data and mapping?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

ArcGIS QuickTip #2

This isn't a quicktip. I've posted a short example on how to use ModelBuilder in ArcGIS to build a more robust tool by adding options to manipulate the Environmental Settings.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Camel's 'R' Us

I am working on creating scripts to create weighted linear combination. Basically duplicating different features in Idrisi so that I can have two models, one in ArcGIS and Idrisi. This is for the "Camel Project." I have a script now that calculates the weights for a pairwise matrix. Once I found a little information on this topic it was fairly easy to create. It is mostly just multiplying the matrix until the differences between the weights calculated from each iteration equals zero. Unfortunately, the python script is dependent on NumPy (Numerical Python), so it isn't as self-contained as I would like. I didn't feel like writing a function to multiply matrices, although I did this in VB.NET. I also am able to calculate the consistency ratio. I would share the script, but I because I am getting paid to do it, it is up to the client.

I also have managed to use Raster Calculator to duplicate the Fuzzy tool in IDRISI. It is a duplicate of the Linear function, and there are two ways to calculate it. One for monotonically increasing, and the other for monotonically decreasing. The formula is for 0 to 255.
Con is a map algebra function that means conditional. Con(test, true, false).

Here is how it works for monotonically decreasing:

INT((Con([RasterToBeScaled] <> 900, 0,( ((900 - [RasterToBeScaled]) * 255) / 900) + 0))) + .5)

Con([RasterToBeScaled] <> 900, 0 if the cell value is greater than 900 give this cell a value of 0. If it is false then calculate the value
( ((900 - [RasterToBeScaled]) * 255) / 900) + 0)))

INT and +.5 rounds the values properly and removes the decimal places.
The range of this example is from 0 to 900, so you need to change those values depending on what your "maximum and minimum" values are going to be. You really divide 900 - [RasterToBeScaled] by the range (max - min raster values). Since my range was 0 to 900 I skipped this and put 900.

If you need this to increase then you have to change some of it around.
INT((Con([RasterToBeScaled] <> 900, 255,( (([RasterToBeScaled] - 0) * 255) / 900) + 0))) + .5)

Now, whatever is less than zero is zero and greater than 900 is 255. Everything in between is calculated using the formula:
( (([RasterToBeScaled] - 0) * 255) / 900) + 0))
So now we subtract the cell value by the lowest value in your range and everything else is the same.

This is similar, but not quite what I was looking for.

Hope that helps...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Python QuickTip

I'm not much of a Python user. I don't care for the syntax (probably because I don't use it enough). It took me forever to find where I could read the input list from a toolbox in ArcGIS...i.e. a multivalue parameter.

Here is the help file that I found. Look under the Using a multivalue input in a script section.

Another problem I have with Python mostly comes from ArcGIS, which is the only time I ever use Python. Well, most of programming revolves around Spatial Software in some way. Everytime I try and do something with the geoprocessing scripts, I seem to run into a bug. I wrote a script once that exported coverages from all the featureclasses in a workspace. This script stopped to function from the toolbox with service pack 3 (9.2). I think this is working again with service pack 4. Also, apparently the reset method on a lot of the cursors do not work, so forget about reusing a cursor. Seems like every time I need to write a little geoprocessing script I need to try and figure out a workaround because I find another problem. Granted though, I've had some success too.

On a completely different note:

I was also updating my Antivirus and saw that one way to help them was add a link to their site. I use the ClamWin open source antivirus program. I've probably used it for maybe a year, and have been happy with it. It isn't the beast of a software that Norton is. I can only vouch for it on a personal computer, so I don't know how it would work at an "enterprise" level. I haven't had any viruses, but then again, I didn't have any before I installed it either...knock on cyber wood.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

New Media

I've noticed this topic in a few blogs recently, sparked by a presentation given at Where 2.0 this year by Dr. Lisa Parks. I did not attend this conference or see the presentation, so all my information is second hand. I think this is an interesting topic, repositioning GIS as not a tool but as media, or a form of communication. Her topic revolved much more around Satellites and the lack of public knowledge or information about satellites (metadata). Here is a transcript and notes on the presentation. There has been varied reactions, some quite critical. Personally, I think the criticisms are coming from the pragmatic or post-positivist stance so commonly found in the GIS as tool perspective. I don't want to put words in her mouth, but my interpretation of her presentation is that the GIS (Geospatial, neogeography, etc...) community needs to recognize that satellites are not impersonal objective eyes in the world. They serve a purpose, their lens' are not focused arbitrarily on the world, but pointed at places, for profit in most cases. I think this is a perfectly ok stance to take. I think that it is good to leave aside the notion that GIS is an objective tool and recognize it as a communication devise that serves a purpose. Not only that, but that the information stored in a database is inherently unobjective as well. We have the notion that raw data is objective, but regardless that data is stored in a format that was "invented" and the structure of the data "invented." Right off the bat, there is a western bias to the structure of the data, because it revolves around western thinking. The primitive geometric structures of a GIS are western biased and evolved from the western cartographic tradition. I'm not criticizing the formats, just recognizing the problem.

Obviously, communication can be twisted (see How to Lie with Maps). I think it is even easier to lie with satellite imagery. If a satellite image is shown in a presentation and you are told it is of a certain location at a certain time, you just have to accept or not accept that as the truth.

The link above was mostly critical of her critique of the Darfur project. Again, following my explanation, then the point is that the unbiased imagery begins to serve a biased purpose (or second biased purpose if you count the original acquisition), that of stopping the Darfur crisis. I'm not arguing against or criticizing the Darfur project, but recognizing that there is a goal behind showing the geographic information...

Anyway, when it comes to working in GIS, I use it as a tool, and I'm very much a pragmatic post-positivist (if I may mix epistemologies). I wouldn't be surprised if we start to see more conversations like this popping up, especially with more and more geographic information becoming readily available, and programs like Google Earth gaining in popularity...


This has been blogged by several people already (Spatially Adjusted and Fantom Planet to name a few). It sounds like it will be pretty cool in theory. A spatial pdf direct from ArcGIS 9.3. Maybe now I'll stop getting those stupid GeoPDF spam mails.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Programming Tutorials Update

I've managed to do 7 lessons so far, and am working on the 8th. I used to be pretty good at taking ideas and writing it in plain English, but I realized that the more you learn about a topic the harder it becomes not to use the custom terminology. I'm trying to do my best to keep the lessons in plain English. We'll see how that goes.

I hope to do a lesson every couple of days. Starting with lesson 8, there will probably be a total of 2 or 3 lessons that build a little project.

Hope you enjoy.