Monday, July 28, 2014

Version 2.0 of 3D FugroViewer Released

Version 2.0 of Fugro's free 3D viewer FugroViewer has been released and includes a few improvements. Head over to their website to download it.  The release includes support for compressed LIDAR files or *.laz, created by the open source compression program LASzip.  In addition, there are greater export capabilities and the ability to view 3D shapefiles.  A few months ago, I blogged about using the previous version of FugroViewer to examine LIDAR data of the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas.

After completing a brief form on Fugro's website, you will immediately receive an e-mail with links to download the program and sample data.  The program is small, and sample data sets, which can downloaded individually, range from 30 to 155 MB.

One sample data set is LIDAR data from Baltimore City and includes Baltimore's baseball stadium: Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the Inner Harbor. Reference imagery can be added by going to the "File menu" and selecting "Open Reference File."

Left: LIDAR points overlaying imagery.  Right: 3D view of Camden Yards Stadium

A picture I took at a recent Orioles / O's game.

Another data set is a digital elevation model or DEM from Fugro's GeoSAR/IFSAR/Radar.

A DEM displayed in FugroViewer
Note: Because of its recent release, antivirus programs, such as Norton, may not yet recognize this program and display a warning about a "potential threat."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

QGIS 2.4 Chugiak Released

The latest version of QGIS, QGIS 2.4 Chugiak, has been released.  Interestingly, the release is named after a location in the United States: Chugiak, Alaska. New features are listed on the change log and include:
  •  Cartography
    • An inverted polygon renderer - allowing everything outside of a polygon to be styled
    • Shapeburst fill style - create a gradient from the polygon line edge to the interior
    • Long lines can be labeled at regular intervals
    • Better print composer - analogous to layout view in ArcGIS
    • Grayscale and colorblindness previews
  • Table attribute data
    • Quick field calculator bar
    • Easier to incorporate tables into maps in print composer
  • Layer style-related
    • Saving and recovering styles from Spatialite layers
    • Added support for QLR files -- analogous to layer file or*.lyr in ArcGIS
    • Shifting marker line placement - allowing the user to specify an offset
  • Metadata-related improvements
    • Applying scale and offset to raster data
    • Generating band names
    • MetaSearch Catalog Client Plugin
  • Performance
    • Multi-threaded rendering - splitting the workload between the cores in your CPU
In the near future, I will post about a few of these improvements and show examples.  Also, if you use QGIS a lot, or just like the idea of a free and open source GIS, then head over to their donation page. I know I did!

Loading screen for QGIS's latest release

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Summary File 1 DVDs: Quick Access to Detailed Census Data

The U.S. Census Bureau has done a better job of getting data online in consumable formats, most notably adding shapefiles and geodatabases containing demographic, social, and economic data.  Room for improvement remains.  One additional source is a free set of DVDs that contain data at various geographies and levels of detail for variables in Summary File 1.  No Access tables need to be created or linked or statistical code run.
"Summary File 1 (SF 1) contains the data compiled from the questions asked of all people and about every housing unit."
The two DVDs are split into a US Summary and National File (for larger geographies).  Installing both requires 20 GB of free space. A quick overview can be found on the Census website.

Most importantly, the DVDs include a 'data engine' that makes selecting data easier by a variety of criteria including geographic unit, variables of interest, and output format (i.e. *.csv, *.shp, etc.).  There are numerous file types for exporting data.  Summary information can also be displayed in a report format.  The information contained in the DVDs is far more detailed than can be easily found elsewhere.

  • For example, the DVDs contain counts of people for single-year age groups.  
After installing the data engine at data from at least one of the DVDs, you click an icon and get prompted to create a workspace/folder.  You then proceed to pick a geography, output (file type or report), variables, and custom/derived variables that are of interest. A workspace can also be saved for future use.

A screenshot from the Census website showing the data engine
and tabs that you will work through to get your data.
Arrows show how to get started, basic navigation, and the help button.
I have used the DVDs at my work and it is a much more efficient way to navigate through census data, especially if you are near a deadline.  Unfortunately, accessing other census data, such as Summary File 2, remains more challenging.  Be sure to check with your local or state planning agency to see if they have census data posted on their website in shapefiles or spreadsheets for easy use.

Lastly, if you are interested in data from the American Community Survey, be sure to check out the TIGER Products website and the Summary Data Retrieval Tool (direct download link).