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Month: August 2012

ArcGIS Toolbox – CityEngine Raster and Vector Clipper

ArcGIS Toolbox – CityEngine Raster and Vector Clipper

The blog post on the ESRI site “Easily clip an entire workspace for a specific study area” alerted me to the toolbox “Clip Workspace“, which I thought would be useful for ArcGIS to CityEngine exports.   What I’ve done is tidy up the original rule tool and added a raster clipper tool as well.

It’s a beta release (is there any other release nowadays?!) so use at your own risk, modify if you like and perhaps you can share it back?

Anyway here is the download:

CityEngine Toolbox
CityEngine Toolbox
221.5 KiB
CityEngine model videos – Middle East City Part 1&2

CityEngine model videos – Middle East City Part 1&2

I’ve been working away on SketchUp and needed to do some test urban/residential areas in a fictional Middle East city… For some reason the videos are better quality on my PC to what has been uploaded and processed by YouTube. YouTube seems to have squashed them…   I’ll try and fix it when I get time (my upload speeds aren’t great so I don’t really want to do it again just yet…)

So they are two different models using the same road layout but different rule files.   Both use CityEngine to place or build the city model and Lumion3D to render and make the video (with a little edit from Windows Live Movie Maker).   SketchUp has been used for a few of the elements (a villa, cars, sign posts and the tram!).

Middle East City Part 1 : 

Middle East City Part 2:

Review: DropMyEmail, backup for those without adequate broadband?

Review: DropMyEmail, backup for those without adequate broadband?

First up full disclosure: One of my old friends from secondary school has recently started working here. He did not ask me to write this review but I did start using it because I know and trust him.

You probably should backup your stuff somewhere….

Backups, I think everyone reading this will agree are essential if you want to ensure your stuff isn’t lost or damaged by some event, virus or sheer stupidity….   At work we have a system for backing up our data, emails are important but being in control of our data word documents, ArcGIS maps etc.. is essential.  At home it’s a different story it’s not word documents that are important it’s photos and emails.

So I have a solution for photo backups, basically a combination of external hard drive, main PC and Dropbox.   My broadband although not quick can cope with the odd photo or two that I want to share and keep.   It also feels natural to go somewhere take pictures and when home back them up.

Emails are another story, I get a lot, not all are important but it is my life blood at the moment all my life, from receiving that first email from a lady who ended up being my wife to photos of friends, announcements of births, deaths as well as work related emails with important attachments.   Then there are all those online purchases, receipts, serial codes etc!!    Now I really should have a backup of these, Gmail is good but it isn’t perfect and you do hear stories of people who have lost all their emails.

So I have been using an old version of outlook to periodically download all my emails and attachments off gmail and others… trouble is  I less and less use this PC and whole months go by without me using it.   That’s down to me using a work PC during the day and an iPad at home nowadays.

A while back I noticed that one of my old friends had jumped from his then employer Google to a startup called DropMyEmail.  Wow, I thought what the hell is dropmyemail?

Basically is a service that allows you to backup multiple email accounts in one place from a single dashboard. It’s really easy to use and despite a Web Of Trust rating issue (someone seems to have rated it as untrustworthy but is talking about another site), I can assure you it is safe.

It’s quick and easy to setup and can be logged into using twitter, facebook or google accounts, once in you get a free amount of space that you can boost with referrals and the like but 5GB starts at $10 a year which ain’t too bad at all in my book.   You can manage the backups in one place which is great and if you do have multiple accounts the backups can all be searched from here.   Attachments to emails also get their own attachment manager which is very useful and can be used to share them on a number of services.

So why use this service over other methods?   Well for starters if you live in a rural location in the UK and your broadband is poor this could be very useful reassurance. Since it doesn’t rely on you downloading emails to your PC all you have to worry about backing up is your photos, you did do that right? 🙂

Not for everyone I admit, esecpially if you have good broadband speeds.    Also if you don’t trust companies to keep your data safe well I’m not going to convince you!   If you’re interested head over to their site and take a look, it’s free for a set amount of data and if you’ve got multiple email accounts like me you’ll be wanting to upgrade pretty soon.

Summary: Email backup service for multiple accounts
Why? If you’ve got poor internet connections but still need backups of your webmail this is for you.
Rating: For me personally I give it a 4/5 it looses points because their sister site for backing up websites (dropmysite) is not integrated with dropmyemail

Review: Cartographers Toolkit – Colors, Typography, Patterns

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 ( or read her blog at

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..)

CityEngine to Lumion some more example renders Part 2

CityEngine to Lumion some more example renders Part 2

Following on from my previous post  I thought I’d post a few more example renders I’m working on.  I’m using the latest free Lumion version (2.5) testing out how big a model I can get away with from CityEngine.  As you can see it seems it can be quite big!

Modelling Utility Networks in CityEngine

Modelling Utility Networks in CityEngine

Updated 08/08/2012 : New image added this time with large Pylons and 4 cables

Just a quick note, I’ll post an example rule file later… basically you can model utility networks like electricity cables and pylons by using a graph network and instead of modelling a street with trees and lamps you model cables and pylons.

Large Pylons modelled using a Graph Network (added to post 08/08/2012)

In this example I’ve made sure the graph/street segment ‘y’ vertices are at a height of 12m (or whatever you like).  Then I’ve placed a pylon every 20 metres, which are offset down by 10m (so they sit on the ground and the cable rests on their arms).   Then at the same time drawn a simple black box down the centre line of the graph.   It’s crude I know but the results look quite good I think.

You could use this technique for anything, for example pipes/ducting underground.   Has anyone tried a road tunnel I wonder?

CityEngine Area Test Rule using Excel (free download)

CityEngine Area Test Rule using Excel (free download)

Further to my recent post on using Excel to create rules for CityEngine (CityEngine rule creation using Excel):

Attached for download below is a zipped up macro enabled Excel2007 file, hopefully it’s self explanatory but if not leave a comment below and I’ll try and help.   The basic premise is that you should be able to easily add and modify this file by using excel’s ability to drag and copy.   Have a play with it and if you like it can you let me know? Please Note: Every effort on my part has been made to ensure this has no virus or malware associated with it (I use Microsoft Security Essentials and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware), however please ensure that you do your part to and use an appropriate security scanner too. 

Cityengine Area Test Xlsm
Cityengine Area Test Xlsm
Version: 1
19.1 KiB
CityEngine to Lumion some more example renders

CityEngine to Lumion some more example renders

Okay you already know I’m a big fan of these two software packages, it’s just so quick to get final models from them.   Anyway  I thought I’d share a couple of CityEngine/Lumion renders with you.

I’m still using Lumion Free in my spare time, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be purchasing this software to produce imagery for some of our projects.   It’s just so easy to make good looking scenes with these two packages, and quickly too!

Oddly I’m really proud of the satellite dishes, not their placement but the rotation which in CityEngine I can do globally so every dish can point in the right direction.   This method can be used for other objects such as TV aerials or even whole buildings such as Mosques.