Dragons8mycat welcome!

Nicholas Duggan and Elliot Hartley post Threeharescafe
Nick and Elliot post Threehares cafe

NEWS : GARSDALE DESIGN WELCOMES NICHOLAS DUGGAN TO THE TEAM AS OUR PRINCIPAL GEOSPATIAL SPECIALIST

My company Garsdale Design Limited just hired Nicholas Duggan (known as dragons8mycat in the social media world) he starts on Monday the 11th of January as our Principal Geospatial Analyst.  I’ve known him for a while and have even bumped into him on occasion at conferences (we are based in Cumbria and I don’t get out much).

Importantly we needed someone who was not afraid to experiment.  

His CV is impressive and we know he is technically very competent, it’s in part why we hired him.   To be honest though, it was his helpful nature on social media and his interests that are clearly in more than just the job in front of him, that really interested us.  What we needed was someone used to working on a variety of differing projects and able to use different software as appropriate.  Importantly we needed someone who was not afraid to experiment.  

consultancy you see is a wonderfully messy business

Consultancy you see is a wonderfully messy business, today I’m working on a major CityEngine 3D project (yes we do more than just training!), tomorrow I could be helping with some domestic architecture and next week I’m probably helping acquire satellite imagery and GIS data for a potential resort development in the Middle East.  We need more than just a focused specialist to help us.  

CityEngine tower analysis
Analysis of CityEngine models is important.

Nick has stated on twitter on a number of occasions that he has ‘room in his heart’ (okay he didn’t say that exactly) for opensource and proprietary software. Yes Garsdale Design is an Esri Silver Partner (and very proud of it too!) but our clients are varied and their requirements and budgets differ wildly so we have to be flexible.

here is a growing sense of urgency to prove that their investment in 3D is more than just a bunch of pretty pictures

Being able to create 3D urban models is one thing, to actual analyse what you’ve created is quite another.  Whilst our CityEngine clients love 3D and have focused on visualisation there is a growing sense of urgency to prove that their investment in 3D is more than just a bunch of pretty pictures.  3D isn’t trivial it has real-world uses beyond the gimmicky.

This year my focus, or should I say, our focus is twofold in the 3D space:

  • Developing more useful 3D analysis workflows
  • Testing out 3D hosting platforms for our CityEngine created models.

As you can see Nick will play an important role for us this year.   What next for this blog GeoPlanIT?  Well Nick will contribute to it but that doesn’t mean he will abandon xyHt or his own blog ‘The Spatial Blog‘.

Welcome to the team Nick, 2016 is going to be interesting.

Review: Cartographers Toolkit – Colors, Typography, Patterns

I don’t often write reviews but I’m thinking of doing it more often, that way at least there’s a break from CityEngine and ArcGIS talk!

Increasingly I am finding myself struggling to make maps, there are so many options and so many tools out there it’s difficult to know where to start.   I realised I needed the basics, I needed a reference book with workable examples and things like fonts and hex colour codes, then I saw this book…

Do you make maps? Do you use a GIS package and spend too much time creating symbology for your maps? If the answer is yes then this book is for you! It’s a great reference for making good looking and legible maps. Need a colour scheme that works? The author has included hex, rgb an cmyk codes with her large sample of coordinated palettes.

Need inspiration for choosing the right font? This book gives example maps and text in a variety of fonts (free and fee fonts). The last section is a good selection of inspirational maps under the heading ‘composition patterns’. Each mapping style has a good set of example maps as well as guidance text on usage and how to achieve these styles.

This is not like her first book “GIS Cartography” which was far more in-depth and quite a heavy read. Cartographers Toolkit is one you want to have on or near your desk whilst setting up mapping styles.

One last thing to note, this book does not rely on knowledge of a specific piece of software (ArcGIS, MapInfo etc..).

You can follow the author Gretchen on Twitter (http://twitter.com/PetersonGIS) or read her blog at http://www.gretchenpeterson.com

I have posted this review in part on Amazon UK as well.

You purchase the book here : Cartographer’s Toolkit

Summary: It’s a toolkit for people who make maps, didn’t you read the title?!
Why? Stuck for insipration? Need a code set of hexcodes for your symbology?
Rating: 4/5 whilst most of the guidance is universal it is a bit american centric (in terms of advice on styles etc..)

Where is The Royal Burgh of Tain? Google Maps vs Bing

Update : the title was changed to remove the word fight as web mapping is not worth fighting about… 
A little post on the dangers of relying on your favourite web mapping sites too much.  I’ve just come from a nice holiday in the Highlands of Scotland and we were staying near a place called The Royal Burgh of Tain.   As you can see Google Maps (my web mapping of choice) doesn’t have it…. Bing does though.

Tain is only here according to Google 
The town of Tain is here on Bing but not labelled on Google…. uh oh

Not really much to say other than the residents of Tain might be a bit annoyed … at least tourists can find Glenmorangie Distillery, phew!

ESRI UK Conference – Day 1

UPDATED: Various errors (spelling, grammar etc..) have been changed since the original was posted


Julie Pearce presented an interesting piece on GIS use at the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (it trips off the tongue doesn’t it?).   It is good to see how people are overcoming inconsistent and disparate data sets from a variety of sources/agencies.   The over-riding impression I got was that although complicated in implementation the concept is very simple.   I too wasn’t surprised by the level of farmer involvement and enthusiasm for the technology.  After all farmers are businessmen and women first and foremost!   They want, like all of us, systems that are simple, easy-to-use and cost effective.   I would have thought the main ‘fly-in-ointment’ here is a lack of provision of true (not just silly 1meg) rural broadband.   Another agency that should be lobbying government to properly fund a national fibre optic broadband network (forget urban vs rural it is a national issue!)?

Rowan Douglas from Willis Research Network tried to convince us that the insurance industry wasn’t evil!  After listening to him I’m almost inclined to agree.   It’s all about managing risk and then how society as a whole and through the wonders of insurance companies pays for things, when nature or other events interrupt our lives.   When it’s put like that you realise at the same time, that he’s correct and that somehow it doesn’t quite tie in with why our insurance companies put up our premiums without explanation.   Is their industry in need of an image makeover, I wonder?  Probably.

However his presentation did include a lot about analysis, modelling and trying to predict the impacts of disasters on people and the economy.   Some great stuff going on which I’m sure adds to the sum of human knowledge about how to cope better with ‘events’.

After that there was some really good thinking going on in the Army with a presentation from Major Andrew Williams of the Joint Aeronautical and Geospatial Organisation (JAGO).   Joined up thinking and connecting people to easy-to-use and interpret systems.  So all tiers of the Army and partners can be working from the same page.   Again it is a simple idea but difficult to implement in detail.  Portable and ruggedized servers for in the field use, using limited bandwidths.   I wondered if is there something the rural broadband campaigners can learn from here?

The ESRI UK people did what they do best with working presentations on the Crown Estate, GIS for a Low Carbon Economy (I’ll come back to this on day 2) and ArcGIS.com with the RSPB and map sharing.    Good demos I especially enjoyed the Low Carbon one as I can see this type of analysis being ever more important.

The Capability Track after lunch was a bit blurry for me as this was when I had my 10 minute presentation.  I would like to have gone to the technology track as well and learned about ArcGIS 10.1.   But listening to my fellow presenters I learned a lot and was most impressed with their presentations.  Anyway here is what I remembered please leave comments if you have anything to add or point out where I have missed something or got it wrong:

  • South Yorkshire Police – DI Gary Williams presented how they were “delivering more for less”.   Obviously, nearly everything that the police does can be located spatially.   Making it easy-to-use was imperative for them and hence the web based interface that was developed.   Now officers are able to have more information about where they are and why there are there.   Some detailed calculations of cost savings were also done as well.   It is odd to see how much a crime actually costs across the board including victim costs, but there you are.   Personally, I just want the Police to get on with it and not worry all the time about cost.   I want them to spend time doing their job correctly and not rushing through to save money, but maybe I’m in a minority…
  • Birmingham City Council – Presented by Stu Lester “Corporate Data reuse and Benefits”, okay I’m sure he doesn’t just want me to remember the Terry Gilliam stills from Monty Python right?  Fortunately I remember other things to about how bringing various data silos together can have tremendous benefits.   It’s important in a council the size of Birmingham too.   I talked to him more at the event as well and he’s got a lot of good ideas I just hope he can maintain that level of drive and enthusiasm!
  • Garsdale Design Limited (my presentation) – “The 10 Minute City” (video available here) about the potential of tools like CityEngine from Procedural to help us with master planning. I hope the video went down well click here to the article about my presentations.
  • RBSI – “Scene and Not Word”, another presentation from the insurance industry, surprisingly a lot of what they do to assess risk, claims etc may not have required a GIS system!   Fortunately they did choose GIS, and wow, do they have an awful lot of information about where we live and work!   Again most of us might not like the insurance industry until you need to claim from them (hopefully successfully).   Their GIS seems to hold lots of information and helps quickly and efficiently assess risk.   The automation of some of the processes of insuring properties can only make the job easier.   Although now all I can think of is “the computer says no” lady from Little Britain…
  • Wales and West Utilities – Talked about how from a standing start they managed to get up and running within timescales a GIS management system for their new company and network purchased off of the National Grid.  Honestly, wow! To start with no offices and rented IT, I think their achievements are pretty amazing.   Especially considering the legacy systems they will have inherited (pipes and systems).   What was encouraging was seeing how they weren’t just doing the bare minimum but looking at using the knowledge of where all their repair teams were to properly and effectively allocate them to the right place if an emergency came in.    The passing of data seemed very important to them too.   

Following on from the Capability and Technology Track we all came back to see Michael Palin who was late (I hope he wasn’t lost) so Walking with Wounded presentation came first.   I like that ESRI does this by getting someone in that is not to GIS industry focused for some inspirational presentations.   A very good and moving presentation you can find out more by visiting there site.   Next year its Everest!

Walking with the Wounded –

Then the star of the show Michael Palin came on for an ‘informal chat‘ with Richard Waite (ESRI UK Managing Director) this was good and everything you expect from Mr Palin who is now the President of the Royal Geographical Society.    However I wish he had come on first as Walking with the Wounded was a really tough act to follow.

Proof that he did make it: 

Michael Palin – silly walk = a little disappointed

There was an evening meal and awards ceremony, it was nice to talk to people informally and our table was pretty lively, I think we finished the wine….

Before the wine…

Attending the ESRI UK Conference

Okay why a post about some weird acronym type company?  Well in the world of GIS (Geographic Information Systems/Science), ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) a software/consultancy company is a big player.

Yes they are a big corporate entity but in some ways they feel more like a movement, so when their yearly conference comes round I get excited.   Not content with just advertising their products to their customers it feels as if you’re at an event for the GIS industry as a whole.   Whatever issue you might have with ESRI’s software ArcGIS etc… you can’t fault the staff’s enthusiasm and professionalism (well that’s my experience anyway) especially at events like this.

Why the blog post this year? Well because I submitted a paper about using some software in our workflow called CityEngine and was asked to do a presentation on both days.   You can find out more about ESRI here and ESRI UK here, I would also recommend some Wikipedia research on GIS.
You may have come to this post because I mentioned you somewhere, if you want to add something more (links, information etc…) or correct something contact me or add a comment to the relevant post.

  1. ESRI UK Conference – Day 1
  2. ESRI UK Conference – Day 2
  3. ESRI UK Conference – My Presentations
  4. ESRI UK Conference – People I met
  5. ESRI UK Conference – Thoughts for the Future, suggestions for ESRI UK
  6. Back in London – not really related to the conference more musings of visiting our nation’s capital.

 

Mapping Cumbria – Designation Datasets

Listed Buildings Near Sedbergh

So in my travels to find GIS data for Cumbria I’ve been looking at national data sets.  One interesting site I’ve found is from English Heritage who allow the download of ‘designation datasets’.

The following datasets can be downloaded in zipped folders containing ESRI shapefile format files:

  • Listed Buildings
  • Scheduled Monuments
  • Registered Parks and Gardens
  • Registered Battlefields
  • World Heritage Sites
  • Protected Wreck Sites

Ignoring the ESRI centric nature of the data for the moment this is a surprising lot of data to release, being a map man though I’m very happy!

As you can see from the screen captures (above and below) I’ve managed to extract the dataset and make it into something usable in Google Earth as a KML file.  Of course you can equally use ArcGIS Explorer.

I’ve used this point shapefile data, excel and my knowledge of Images of England website to create clickable points map that brings up the building listing and if available the photograph.   It’s really using the Listed Buildings ID and combining it with a search term to link through to the appropriate page on Images of England.

I’m slowly building up quite a dataset of Cumbrian related material, and combine that with the Portable Antiquities Scheme live datasets you can make some quite useful maps.

That’s a lot of listed buildings in Cumbria!

Creating #ArcGIS #Maps for the #Kindle 3

A6 seems good…

Well just out of curiosity I thought I’d see if I could create some maps using ArcGIS’ PDF export ability to make maps for use on my Kindle.  

The ‘ease of use’ of the Kindle combined with the method of updating content (email to device) and availability of Kindle software on many devices might make it a good method of getting information to people…
I certainly think e-readers in general are a good method for distributing policy documents from governments (see previous post).   I would have loved to have my authority’s local plan on one of these…. (but then I am a geek)
  1. Step one was to figure out a reasonable template size for viewing as a PDF on the Kindle without having to zoom in.   Papersize A6 seems reasonable…
  2. Next step is to come up with a proper grey-scale palette…
You can Zoom in as its a standard PDF

It turns out its relatively easy to do, perhaps people could make suggestions as to the method of choosing a greyscale palette? (I’m looking at you @PetersonGIS)

Updated 26th October 2010: 

The Kindle 3s reported screen specification is as follows:

“Amazon’s 6″ diagonal electronic paper display, optimised with proprietary waveform and font technology, 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 16-level grey scale.” Source: Amazon UK