Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Quantum GIS v1.8 Released

This post is out-of-date. Please read: http://opensourcegisblog.blogspot.com/2014/07/qgis-24-chugiak-released.html

Quantum GIS, commonly referred to as QGIS, has a new updated release: version 1.8 Lisboa.  Recent releases have been named after a different city.  QGIS is a bit more user friendly than GRASS.  Plus, it also has GRASS functionality along with other tools that GIS users frequently use, such as Python.

So, I put the newest version through a few quick tests.  The map below is of Wifi locations in New York City.  Via an Open Layers plugin, QGIS allows you to add layers for Google Earth, for example.  The WiFi locations were taken from Open Data NYC and symbolized with a custom marker by finding a .svg file of a wifi signal and placing it in the appropriate folder.  Next, I wanted to test the progress on a old buggy feature--kernel density. 

Unfortunately, based on attempts today and searching Issues in the forum, it appears any updates to the v.kernel did not make it into this release.  Why I am sad?  Well, kernel density is a basic part of exploratory spatial data analysis.  However, fortunately, many already existing spatial tools continue to work great and many general improvements have been made and are listed here.

Lastly, I checked out the attribute data for one wifi spot--turns out the coordinates are correct but the street is wrong (Centre not Center street)!  A 60 Center Street is northeast of 60 Centre Street.  So again, always be careful with open source data.  Clicking on the map below, will open a larger version.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

OSGeo.org -- Your Open Source Compass

Today, I want to talk a little about OSGeo.org's website.  OSGeo stands for Open Source Geospatial Foundation--in other words the website is much more than just your average site!  It is more of a gateway to people, software, conferences, and other open source goodness.

The first thing you will see is a list of current open source GIS news, including updates on open source software releases, conferences, meetings and other tidbits of information.  To its right you will see a list of aggregated GIS blogs which is extremely helpful so you don't have to go hunt down each blog individually.

Somewhat hidden in the lower right hand side/corner is a list of of open source GIS software, both new and old.  If you are unfamiliar with the names, simply click a link a short description provides any user with a basic description of what the software does, the project's status/incubation, and what type of files it can use.  The page is also available in multiple languages in the opposite left hand corner.

Another cool feature is downloading a bundle of open source GIS software (OSGeo Live) without having to install it!  The download can be loaded onto a USB or DVD and lets you sample the software.  There's also a video of the best of open source GIS software.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Online GIS Webinars

Too busy to attend a talk or conference?  Stuck in the office or at home?  Fortunately, Directions Magazine Online brings GIS webinars to your desktop for free.  These webinars are about timely topics in GIS by solid speakers, many are well-known in GIS or its related fields.

Over the past several months, I have watched numerous webinars and have been impressed by the speakers and topics covered.  Most importantly, I have learned from them as well.  The "audience" for these webinars is also impressive.  The most recent one had ~ 500 viewers from across the globe.

One could argue that the webinars sometimes over-advertise or try to sell a service or degree program a bit too much.  However, I have found that a tasteful balance is achieved between GIS content and giving the speaker(s) a few minutes to talk about their company, product, or school.

The most recent webinar topic was remote sensing and sponsored by Penn State's Department of Geography.  Other topics in the near future include: Open Sensor Webs and the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), upcoming changes to ArcGIS Online and Online for Organizations, and geocoding.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Weather, GIS Viewers, and Data

With hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, and hot weather upon us, weather and GIS are now as important as ever.  Fortunately, there are a number of online sources of open source meterological data and GIS viewers.  In addition, there are servers and databases that can be tapped into for continously updated of information.

NowCoast is a free real-time web mapping portal to information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  The web mapping application is good and there are plenty of layers to choose from.  There are even WMS servers to tap into here: http://nowcoast.noaa.gov/help/mapservices.shtml?name=mapservices.  The National Weather Service (NWS), whose parent agency is NOAA, also has a page separated by filetype: shapefiles, KML/KMZs, and web services. A screenshot of nowCOAST appears below.

It is also worth mentioning that the NWS is in the process of upgrading its website which you can check out here: http://preview.weather.gov/

The Weather Underground's WunderMap, also free, provides a number of features and layers.

Intellicast also has an interactive weather map. Many weather websites also offer low cost subscription plans that upgrade the amount of features, data, and maps you can visualize.  Some sites are fee-based, but also provide free trials.

If you are more interested in climate and long-term trends be sure to check out the National Climate Data Centers (NCDC) Interactive Data Online Page.  Other resources are your local or state meterologist office, often affiliated with a university.

In addition, a number of very low cost and free mobile weather and radar apps are also available for Android and iOS devices.  Lastly, if you are not satisfied with your current weather website, check out this listing of 150 weather sites for North America.

Update #1: Be sure to check out this recent blog post on the NWS Enhanced data viewer: