Trivialising Digitising and Analysis : Gamification of GIS?

Just so you are forewarned, this is a bit of a ramble….

angryArcGIS
You know you want it....

It came to me in day dream whilst using ArcGIS to digitise my second city for the day, for use in a master planning project. I really quite enjoy the process of plotting roads from a base of satellite imagery. Maybe its just me but there really is something supremely satisfying watching a clean satellite image fill up with little road centre lines. It’s like helping my 2 and ½ year old daughter with her colouring book (or dot-to-dot)… (ok so she’s watching TV and I’m colouring)

Yes! 5000 points for snapping!

Then it struck me what if little clicks and noises (perhaps even a rumbling mouse) would happen every time I laid a vertex or snapped to a feature? You could even have a score table each vertex and snapping got you a point. Every time you came to move an existing vertex a point was deducted! Wow, you could even get a bonus for using complicated analysis

“Congratulations you’ve just earned the Geostatisical Analyst Interpolation badge”

Would it annoy me or spur me on? I had to look in to this….

So apparently this concept is called ‘Gamification’ (I know I looked it up on Wikipedia so it must be true… ) a stupid sounding word that covers the idea of using the psychology of rewards to encourage the adoption of technology.

Yay! Let us treat people like idiots & encourage them to work by rewarding them with arbitrary numbers non-existent prizes….

erm…

… except I might quite like aspects about that, of course I absolutely rule out sharing my scores on facebook or twitter with other geo-professionals… I know I would be last and I’m pretty sure @cageyjames would win…

Come on ESRI (or QGIS I don’t mind) gamify my work … and integrate it with Facebook and Twitter I DARE you …. just don’t share my scores with Klout (hey OpenStreetMap sort of does it)

Windows 7 : “Other User” account on login – FlipHD problem? Solved!

naughty flip software!

So today I booted up my Windows 7 laptop only to find that instead of the two login options (My account and Guest) there is now a “other user” account.   Now I’ve been here before with other issues and the obvious response is to think virus or malware.   But I’m pretty careful about the stuff I put on my PC and the websites I visit, so I logged in and raced to Google for a search for people with the same issue.

I couldn’t think of any recent software I’d installed plenty of Windows updates nothing else really…. anyway I found this very useful post

“Windows 7 login screen only showing last logged-on user and “Other user””

Now before you follow all the instructions here (beware you will be using registry edit!) just to let you know I only deleted the .DEFAULT directory in  “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList”.   Before you do this I recommend that you export the directory you’re about to delete in the registry just in case you need to reinstall it.

Reading the comments below this very useful post you can see the common thread seems to be the install of FlipHD software….ah now I understand I didn’t install any new software recently I just update flipshare…

Well thank you to Jon Gjengset on his Tech That! blog…. and thank you search engine for finding the solution for me so quickly.

Moral of this story? There isn’t one silly!  This is a technical Windows 7 problem not a moral dilemma.   I would say however not every problem is virus related…  in fact a lot of problems/issues are caused by updates or software you just installed.

Android Applications I like…

It may not have escaped people’s notice that I am an Android phone user. I like its ‘geek’ appeal and by that I mean that I can customize it and add applications that I want and not have to connect it to a computer (I really don’t like iTunes that much).

It’s email integration (especially gmail) works really well, which means I don’t have to do as much typing any more or any silly syncing with my PC.

I have owned several mobile phones prior to this I can honestly say that the HTC Magic and then the one I have now the HTC Desire HD have been the easiest to use as well as the most functional.

With my latest phone I have settled on a small number of applications (integrated or otherwise) that I use on regular basis (i.e. at least a couple of times a month). I know the first three in this list aren’t really applications but they are there because, well, they’re pretty much essential.

Internet – That little world icon entices me to use it way too much…. watching TV and don’t know who that actor is IMDB (yes I know there is an app but the web means I can look at wiki, imdb and other sources!). Yes there alterantives Opera and Firefox.. but I honestly don’t need them.

Gmail (and Contacts I guess) – My personal account is accessed via this but the ease in which I can check email here and on a PC mean I’m hooked in. Combine that with contacts synchronisation, I never want a simple phone again and am willing to overlook battery life for it.

Mail – Work email is kept separate, no composing of email just early notifcation of things I might need to once at work are displayed here. This works very well with my work email host.

  1. KeePassDroid – A surprise one near the top for some I bet, but if you like me have a multitude of passwords and secret information this application is a godsend. Use it with the desktop version (portable or otherwise) and you only ever need to remember one password….
  2. Hootsuite – Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook? This integrates very well into my ‘social media life’ and well, just works. I use the web version as well so this means I can maintain continuity!
  3. Barcode Scanner – A relative new one to my list but have you ever been in a record store (unlikely nowadays) and thought you could get it cheaper on the web? Well you can confirm this right away. I went Christmas shopping with this application in an HMV store and came out with nothing (just a reminder to go online and purchase them from Amazon (or another online store ahem)!).
  4. Adobe Flash – Its on the list because it means I can watch BBC video but honestly I don’t really use my phone for video viewing that much….
  5. SpeedTest – Wondering how fast that wifi network you’ve connected to is? Well this very simple app can tell you and email you an csv file too!
  6. LogMeIn – If you’re the ‘resident tech geek’ in your family or circle of friends then LogMeIn may well be one of your weapons. But what if you’ve not brought your laptop with you and need to help fix something on a family members PC?
  7. Sky+ – I don’t like Rupert Murdock, but lets face it Sky+ is incredibly easy to use at home. This little application lets you view programme listings and set your Sky+ box to record. Make sure you give it at least 30 minutes notice though!
  8. CoPilot Live – SatNav’s are great just use some common sense when following their directions! None are perfect but CoPilot is reasonably priced and has caused me few problems personally.
  9. Amazon Kindle – Working in conjunction with my Kindle 3G I can pick up where I left off and keep reading. Excellent for when I don’t want to take another gadget with me.
  10. Documents To Go – Word, Excel, editor and viewer as well as a PDF viewer. Excellent for when I am accessing my work email on the go.
  11. Google Earth – Not really a work thing but great for looking up places whilst on the sofa, oh and for impressing people.
  12. Wifi Analyzer – for working out those network issues (if like me you provide IT support to family as well!)
  13. Google Goggles – A bit of fun but has great potential.
  14. Google Sky Map – Ever wondered what that twinkling object in the sky was? With this you won’t need to wonder…
  15. TuneIn Radio – A fantastic little app for listening to most radio stations you can think of (I use it for BBC as well as Virgin999 in Toronto, Canada)

Only two games do I actually play with any regularity if I want real gaming I’ll use my PC thanks…

  1. Jewels –Addictive fun and easy to put down when you’ve got more important things to do.
  2. Robo Defence – A bit more of a challenge and but great and simple game play

So that’s all for now I hope you find it a useful starting point for choosing applications to install on your Android phone. If you have any questions or further suggestions just add a comment down below…

ESRI UK Conference – People I met

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

It’s the brief encounters and interesting discussions that make all the difference at these types of events.  Often I learn more and come away more enthused from the people I meet rather than the presentations, I think this year was no exception.

I didn’t meet everyone at the dinner bash….

Below in no particular order are some of the people I met (apologies if you are not on the list, use the comments section to point it out!):

  • Nick Chappallaz ESRI UK – Nice guy obviously quite busy at the conference, and I apologise for using video that didn’t work on ESRI’s laptops!
  • Angela BakerESRI UK – She made me feel very welcome, and was very encouraging.   She expressed a love for Inverness (I up on holiday soon near there).   I just hope I gave her a presentation that works!
  • Andrew BloggKorec – As a well as a colleague whose name escapes me (I didn’t get his business card).   They are, as I understand it, the UK distributor for this neat bit of surveying kit GPS + Camera + Rugged looking Tablet PC + REMOTE CONTROL PLANE = Geek heaven? From SenseFly, check out the video here.
  • Lisa ThomasThe Coal Authority – She did a presentation on the Geo-Futures track after me, which I talk about here.    We had a very interesting chat at lunch on Day 2 (it’s always difficult standing up, eating and talking to a fellow professional who can tell when you’re making it up!), she told me of the interesting stuff that happens at the AGI meetings (I should probably go to one, one of these days).  We also discussed presentation techniques and how to cope with nerves…. thank you.
  • Richard GreaneyRusmoor Borough Council – It’s a shame I missed his session, but I did meet his colleague (sorry I didn’t get her name), and heard good things about his presentation.  He was also excellent company at the evening dinner/awards.
  • Richard Betts , Scottish Natural Heritage – Nice to meet him and hear that his bosses seem to give him the freedom to explore new and innovative ways of working.   Again he was good company at the awards dinner.
  • Steven Feldman Knowhere Consulting – Interesting gentleman with a lot of knowledge and enthusiasm, likes to be a bit controversial. I spoke with him about derived data (interesting discussion still going on here) and Rights of Way (RoW) as well as opendata – His suggestion/advice still ringing in my ears “JFDI”!
  • Stuart LesterBirmingham City Council – From a very big authority and doing great things, we talked about how to motivate people into perhaps working differently, joined up thinking etc…   I think the Planners of Birmingham could get some interesting stuff done with his help!
  • Elavvenil KarthikeyanBLOM – Came and found me at the end of the conference, he was interested in my presentation and was doing some interesting modelling of cities, mainly for TomTom and was very interested in CityEngine.  I think there is an interesting project here.  Perhaps he’d like to come back and chat with me and the people at Procedural.

A big thank you to everyone I met and spoke with, I really enjoyed it.

Continue to thoughts for the Future, suggestions for ESRI UK

Game changers? Any suggestions?

Does this do anything for you? Source: Wikipedia

Warning a more than slightly geeky post is about to happen! This list is not in any particular order… (warning most of the list below is linking to wiki)

  1. Commodre 64
  2. PC 1512
  3. Microsoft Windows 3.1
  4. Microsoft Word for Windows
  5. AutoCAD
  6. InkJet printers
  7. iPod 
  8. SketchUP
  9. Freedom of Information/OpenData
  10. GIS
  11. PlanningPortal and Planning Delivery Grant
  12. Kindle
  13. Twitter
The items on the list above all have something in common, yes they are technology related but that’s not necessarily it.   It is an incomplete list in many respects and depending on who you are and your interests you may wish to add and subtract from the list.

So what do they have in common?  As the title of this post suggests they are technologies, software and ideas that I consider to be ‘Game Changers‘ and by that I mean that these have changed how we do things or think about things completely.   I must stress this is a personal list and is based on my bias towards technology, but I think you’ll get the point.

The idea for this post really started with me thinking about how best to produce drawings and display boards in the office where I work.  In the past AutoCAD has been more than adequate, but now I have more choices than I know what to do with and I don’t necessarily have to choose AutoCAD!  The trouble is a lot of people’s mindsets are stuck a few years behind and if its always been done a particular way it’s difficult to change that mindset.  For example I could produce a display board entirely in AutoCAD or SketchUp or combine it with Photoshop and InDesign to get something really special.

So there you have it, a silly little idea for a blog post but one that I hope makes us re-evaluate the jobs we do now and look at things different;y.

Below is my reasonings for each item on the list, would you like to comment on any of them?  I would appreciate it!

Commodre 64 – Okay my family had the Commodore Pet and Vic20 before it, but this was what made computer ownership an integral part of the family environment.   Not just good at games it could Word Process as well!   (some might add ataris, amigas and bbc micro here too).
PC 1512 –  The first computer that looked like something we might have today in our household, with a pre windows DOS (I think MS not DR, but I could be wrong), it was mainly for business.   Working at home using a computer became a reality for us.  I first experienced Elite and pinball on this beauty as well as weird things
Microsoft Windows 3.1 – What can I say a graphical pseudo OS running that made using a PC easier for more people.  Gone was most of complexity of command line DOS and hello to world of icons, windows and desktops!  Game changing because Windows basically hasn’t changed an awful lot since then.  (I am aware of other graphical OS out there, but windows I have used throughout)
Microsoft Word for Windows – (more specifically 2.0)  Up until my first contact with Word I really had no use of anything else for I was to young.  But I’ve only ever used Word in Windows, I have been known to dabble in WordPerfect and OpenOffice but these have never come even close to the familiarity and ease of use I get from Word and all its incarnations.  Word processors allowed people to be free from typewriters and correct errors before they were printed.  Once you could do that the nature of how people worked changed, drafts could be perfected and seen by many more people for instance!
AutoCAD – My first dabble in the world of work was at an architects office where my mother worked, drawing boards and the smell of ammonia for the copier are what give me very vivid memories. Combine that with the ‘salty’ language of the resident architects and the smell of cigarettes and pipes (not from my mother on either account)!!  Here a computer was purchased and after school I got to play on it, it had AutoCAD (release 11 I think) and digitizer, there was also a plotter which used real pens to plot drawings!  Some didn’t see the writing on the wall, but the days of using razor to get rid of mistakes on your drawing were long gone as the result of AutoCAD.  My first job outside of university was using AutoCAD and every subsequent office I’ve been to has basically been at least 2 or 3 versions behind the latest release, which shows how useful AutoCAD can be.

InkJet printers – Printing at home anyone, and cheaply?  Enough said.
iPod – Not so much the device but the whole ecosystem.  The shockwaves of this product are still to this day upsetting the music industry who until Spotify came along were playing catchup to a technology and product which changed the business model entirely.   I see the iPod as having basically reduced recorded music to next to valueless in monetary terms.   Real money can be made by artists but this is from live performances, and advertising (tv/radio or to sell a newspaper).   With an electronic format why are artists not looking more at getting away from the traditional album format?  
SketchUP – 3D modelling software that is the easy to use, if you are even remotely CAD/computer literate this product is amazing and for most people free!   With its layout tool and easy export to many formats this is the way forward.   Forget AutoCAD, it is too expensive, difficult to train someone in and for the most part far too powerful for most uses.  SketchUp means anyone can make a 3D model that looks professional.

Freedom of Information/OpenData – The concept of being able to access government held information freely sounds so reasonable one wonders what we did before to discover what our elected officials and government got up to…   Forget the naysayers that dislike the amount of time which is wasted chasing up ‘stupid’ questions from the public, this has made people think about government differently.  As to OpenData well, as soon as someone figures out how to make use of the flood of data from government and make it usable things will be different.  Which brings us neatly to :
GIS – Geographic Information Systems, before this it was called a map.  Nowadays you can’t escape GIS, its everywhere and that’s why you don’t notice it.  Google/Yahoo Maps? = GIS, SatNav? = GIS, postman/courier? = GIS, rubbish/trash collection? = GIS, Planning Applications? = GIS.   Had enough yet?
PlanningPortal and Planning Delivery Grant –  A bit different this as it relates more to my profession.  The planning delivery grant in the England and Wales forced and encouraged Planning departments to get more efficient and go online by offering financial incentives to meet various Pendleton Point criteria.   Before this came in very few councils made it easy for the public to find the planning departments section of their website.   Pendleton made it a key requirement.  
Is that important to have a link on a council’s frontpage I hear you all ask?! Well yes considering that residents often need the planning department and are consulted by them as well.  Hiding your consultation documents and planning applications is hardly open and transparent is it?   Yes a paper register is kept that you can see if you visit the council offices, but who can take time off from work to do that?  Suffice to say I think the Planning delivery grant was one of the few government schemes that has increased participation of residents in the democratic process.  As to the Planning Portal, heaven forbid that us professionals are forced to stop spending money on printing and delivery of planning application documents!   
Kindle –  Yes, yes my blog post and radio debut due to a kindle blah blah…  Hang on a minute though, the Kindle like the iPod has challenged a long established industry of paper, bricks/mortar and publishers.  Yes other eReaders are available, but Amazon’s delivery method and their Kindle (hardware and software) is amazingly simple.  

Publishers must get a grip on this and innovate with the technology and not just sit there like the music industry did until it’s too late suing ‘John Smith’ for allowing his children to download music that they can listen to for free on radio…  

Oh sure there are deep meaningful conversations to be had about the nature of book reading, and the relationship between publisher, authors and the consumer.  But just remember technology and in particular the consumer adapts.   For instance I didn’t know this until recently but you can’t purchase legally any Harry Potter book for an ereader.  Why? Because of the fear of piracy?  Sorry but that ship has sailed if I want a copy of any Harry Potter book electronically I can get it now with the help of a search engine… result one lost sale for publisher and author.  I’m not advocating stealing (that’s what piracy is often) but there are ways to get good profits out of digital sales of books (not just film rights!).

Twitter – I’m not going to be a typical twitter advocate here,  after my initial scepticism and resistance I came late to Twitter.  Perhaps it was the constant twitter this, and twitter that from radio DJs (I’m looking at you BBC) but I hated the idea.  Why on earth would you share with the world your life’s smallest details??!  Who the hell cares if celebrity A is drinking with celebrity B.  

Oh and an endorsement from Stephen Fry a person I respect and admire greatly didn’t do it for me either, as far as I was concerned Twitter was for patting famous people on the back.

Then for some unknown reason I caved completely, I think I had searched for something to do with GIS and then realised a whole community for GIS users were on twitter. Damn it!  I joined up and have slowly realised that twitter is populated almost without exception with polite helpful people.  Of course this is a product of who I follow and what I’m interested in.   

The fact is that now news and information I would not have found otherwise comes to me.  Yes I still use Google and my main sites but for the most part I sit in front of Hootsuite (a twitter client) soaking it all up.  As to it being a game changer think of it this way:  

If you are in a small business advertising is a bloody nightmare and expensive too.  What if by being yourself you could talk to your potential customer base directly.   For the most part you only follow people who interest you, so my contacts are mostly GIS and planning related (as well as localgov).   This works in reverse so people will follow you and look at your links because they are interested in what you have to say.   This brings me to state the bleeding obvious “content is important” give people interesting articles or weblinks and they will trust you further and look more closely out for your ‘tweets’.

All I can say is try it out and get involved, you will see pretty quickly that twitter, far from being a social tool is a simple and potentially effective tool for communicating with prospective clients as well as gaining knowledge.

So that’s my list apologies for its length, but now I would really like your comments, anything I’ve missed out or that you agree/disagree with?  I won’t be offended, but I will be interested!


Installing Adobe CS2 on Windows 7 64bit

Well we’ve had a bit of trouble at the office when one of PCs decided to pack up a leave this earthly plain.   Naturally we had to buy a new PC which came with Windows 7 64bit.    Now I like Windows 7 it’s a lot less chatty than Vista and seems to ‘just work’, basically it seems people don’t notice that they’re using a new operating system which is very good for me as I also provide IT support for our small office!

Anyway the task to reinstall everything we had on the old machine falls to me, which has gone quite smoothly really, except for the installation of Adobe CS2 which is not supported for Windows 7.  Apparently we should keep on the upgrade treadmill, but it’s difficult and expensive so we hold out for ‘must have’ features in new releases rather than upgrading for the sake of it… How many in our line of work for instance are still runnnig AutoCAD R14?!

Anyway back to Adobe CS2, when you install it with the default settings inWindows 7 64bit the software won’t accept for some reason your Serial number.   I did some searching and found this thread that gave us the solution we were looking for: http://bit.ly/dklqfc

Please read the forum as well for additional information (not everyone’s problems are the same), and I shall also quote directly from the forum user Cinti, the only thing I would say about this solution is that for us the “/” should have been “\”: (this post was dated 13th February 2010)

Are you using Windows 7 64 (probably will have the same problem in any Windows 64 OS)?

If so, you must uninstall CS2 completely (not just PhotoShop) and specify that the preferences are to be removed as well. When you re-install, the installer will give the default install location as something like “C:/Program File (x86)/Adobe” but, when you click “OK” install will respond that the location is not valid.  DO NOT RESPECIFY AS  “C:/Program File/Adobe”, that’s the location for 64-bit apps and CS2 is 32-bit and needs to be in the (x86) folder to work properly.  Replace “C:/Program File (x86)/Adobe” with “C:/Program~2/Adobe”.  The installer may not “light” the OK button.  If so, click the browse button then the cancel button and “OK” should activate.  That’s it, CS2 will install.  If, after the install completes, you get the message that the app may not have installed properly, you probably did something wrong (i.e., when it’s in the 32-bit program folder you won’t get this message).

Remember, this fix ONLY APPLIES TO Windows 64-BIT OSs. There are other causes for the message “Your adobe photoshop user name, organization, or serial number is missing or invalid.  The application cannot continue and must now exit.”. 

I spent an hour and fifteen minutes waiting on hold for a Adobe technician for help only to be advised that CS2 is no longer supported by Adobe.  Don’t waste your time trying to get help from Adobe or getting upset with them for not being helpful (what’s the point, they’re holding all the cards and want you to drop another bundle for their latest release).

So what’s the lesson from this?  Always check the internet for solutions to your software problems!

AutoCAD Annotation to ArcGIS

A very long numbered list related to ArcGIS
The trouble with displaying or importing annotation from CAD to ArcGIS is that my carefully placed text in autocad moves when I place it in ArcGIS.
After a bit of searching I have found some solutions like this one here: http://forums.esri.com/Thread.asp?c=93&f=1728&t=131939 (ESRI Support pages)
I thought I’d elaborate and do a step by step process, mainly so I don’t forget!

  1. First open ArcCatalog
  2. Open the ArcToolBox
  3. Find under “Conversion Tools” the “Import from CAD” tool
  4. Double Click on this “Import from CAD tool”
  5. Select your AutoCad file (the whole file not just parts)
  6. Then choose where you want the new Geodatabase file you are creating will go.
  7. Click Ok
  8. Now open up ArcMap
  9. Add the point layer under the “CAD Staging” Feature Dataset
  10. Notice that the points you have added are in the location you want your text to be in, (there are also points from other parts of your CAD drawing here as well, we’ll clean this up in a bit)
  11. Right Click on your newly added point layer and select Joins and Relates  Join.
  12. The field we will be linking is the EntID field.
  13. Now select the File Geodatabase Table called “Entity”, this is located with your newly exported CAD file in the Geodatabase.
  14. You will also be using the “EntID” field, Keep all records and click OK.
  15. Now for clarity I tend to switch off from view those fields I don’t need, right click on your point layer and select Properties.  Select the Fields tab and then go through the list switching off all the fields, except for : Point.OBJECTID, Entity.Layer and Entity.RefName.  Click Apply and then OK.
  16. Now right click on your point layer again and Open the Attribute Table, voila!  You should have your text matched to your point data (if you notice funny code around your text, relating to font and size, don’t worry I will deal with this, so keep reading).   It’s up to you how you clear up the data now, however I shall continue this so you get an idea of what can be done.
  17. I want a nice clean layer so, right click your point layer and select export data.  Now I would select only the items I want to label (remember the point layer is a consolidated file of ALL your point data from AutoCAD not just text!)
  18. Choose a location to save this new file and select okay, and click ‘yes’ to add this new data.
  19. When looking at my text stored in the RefName field I can see that it has brought through some extra information like this: “{\fVerdana|b1|i0|c0|p34;QUARTER 1}”.
  20. Start an edit session.
  21. Open the point file’s attribute table.
  22. We want to get rid of first the front part of this code, so select one of the fields and select the first part of the code like this “{\fVerdana|b1|i0|c0|p34;” once selected either right click and copy, or press “Control+C” on the keyboard.
  23. Select the RefName Column so the whole column is selected
  24. Now click on options and then Find and Replace.
  25. In find place the copied text “{\fVerdana|b1|i0|c0|p34;” (or whatever text you have)
  26. And leave the Replace with blank.
  27. Now click “Replace All”
  28. You should now be left with something like this in your fields: “QUARTER 1}”.
  29. Now select and copy (or just type) the last bit of this data and repeat the process (“}”).
  30. So now stop editing (making sure you have saved it).
  31. Now right click on your point layer and select properties, now click on the labels tab.
  32. Check the label features in this layer box.
  33. Now click on the Placement Properties button, here I tend to choose “Place Label on top of the Point”, click OK.
  34. I would also effectively switch off the point symbol by making it 1pt transparent with no outline.

Phew, I hope that made some sense if I can clarify something please let me know!