Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Video: Free and Open Source GIS Reference Data

After last week's post looking at the landscape of free and open source GIS software, the next logical step is looking at open GIS data. This video looks at reference data. I am still deciding on what to do the next video on...the choices are a) Open data portals, b) novel data types, social media (TwitteR and Instagram), or c) remote sensing.  Let me know what you would like to see in the comments below.

Topics covered in the video include:
Summary File 1 DVD:
Natural Earth:
US Board on Geographic Names:
Maryland Department of Planning/ACS:

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Video: A Quick Introduction to Free and Open Source GIS

My first video has been posted to YouTube.  It briefly covers the landscape of free and open source GIS (FOSS GIS), remote sensing and processing, a few related tools, and JavaScript libraries for creating online interactive webmaps.  It does not cover every program out there but gives new and returning users a place to see all of the options available.  You can check it out here: or subscribe to the channel by clicking here.

I hope to bring out more videos in the near future including delving into each of the programs and step-by-step tutorials.  So stay tuned!  As always feel free to leave comments, questions, or feedback below.  Be sure to like the video and subscribe if you would like to see more.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Tips for Using LIDAR and LAStools in QGIS

LIDAR is an important technology that is undergoing continuous and expansive growth and predicted to reach $1 billion by 2020.  A recent report also describes ongoing developments in LIDAR in Europe. NOAA has a great one-hour Introduction to LIDAR that I recommend checking out:

Source: Allied Market Research,
LAStools is the popular LIDAR processing tool created by the developer of *.las and compressed *.laz formats.  There is a standalone program as well as toolboxes for a variety of programs including QGIS. We will cover a few tips and wrap up with a look at Wizard Island, Crater Lake, Oregon.

Linking LAStools with QGIS
Linking the two has gotten much simpler since QGIS 2.4.  Simply download the *.zip file from:  Unzip the file, and copy and past the LAStools folder into a simple directory like "c:/" If you have QGIS running, close it before proceeding.

Tip #1: Users often copy the folder to a folder pathway that is complex and includes spaces like c:/Program Files/ or c:/My Documents. It will not work. Again, use simple path names, no spaces!

Tip #2: This also applies for any files you import with LAStools or export during processing in QGIS.

After doing this, start QGIS, go to the Processing Toolbar, click "Tools for LiDAR Data"->Activate-> and enter or browse to the folder pathway. I've been using LAStools with the most recent version of QGIS (2.10) and have not had any problems yet.

Linking LAStools and QGIS has gotten much easier!
Click "Ok", then head over to the Processing Toolbox side-panel, and you will see the tools ready-to-use!

Expand and see a wide range of tools at your disposal!
Note: The LAStools Production or PRO tools are for batch processing.

Tip #3: If you run a tool and nothing happens, be sure that NONE of the folder pathways, for importing data and exporting results, are complex and/or contain spaces.

Tip #4: Be sure to read the "Log" for important information and troubleshooting.

Tip #5:  When using lasview in QGIS, pressing Space bar changes your ability to navigate from zoom, tilt,pan, and translate.  In the upper-left of the window, you will see the navigation type change as you press it.

Furthermore, right-clicking the mouse, brings up a menu for changing the view of LIDAR, from selecting returns, how to symbolize/color data.

The right click menu in LAStools

Tip #6: To get a 3D view, press Space bar until Pan is displayed, if is not already.  Click and hold your mouse, then move it up to the top of the screen and voila!

Wizard Island, Crater Lake, Oregon, Data from: Open Topography. lasnoise was also used.
See also:
Digital Coast
3D Elevation Program
Google search for "County lidar" and State LIDAR