Portable Apps

Monday, 30 January, 2006

With vast memory sticks now available, it is easy (and common) to carry your entire “working data” with you. OK, maybe not everyone; my working directory is about 12Gb, so I tend to use a notebook hard drive connected via USB2.0 (useful because it’s bus powered as well). However what do you do about the software to actually “work” with?? Well a variety of vendors now produce software specifically designed to work off memory sticks/removable hard drives. An excellent first port of call is naturally enough http://portableapps.com/. You can find here a nice array of open source products “tweaked” for portable use. This includes the immensely useful Thunderbird, Firefox and OpenOffice amongst others. Other useful bits of software in my “armory” include Trillian Anywhere, SmartFTP and Ritlabs Voyager. There really is no excuse not to be able to be totally portable.

ArcExplorer

Saturday, 28 January, 2006

Well the beta version of ESRI’s ArcWeb Explorer is finally here. After a somewhat quiet development (most of the news bites have been based around the up coming ArcExplorer), the beta version has been released. This perhaps not too soon for ESRI (and lets hope ArcExplorer follows shortly), given Google’s near year lead of “internet mapping for the masses”. And the most surprising thing? Well its a web application built around Flash 8; I just wasn’t quite expecting this!! Part of the functionality includes the ability to pull in web services to add extra functionality. In this instance the “free” services includes simple searching, geocoding and route finding. It’s certainly quite stylish, as well as pretty fast (although it is only pulling in vector data). So a thumbs up for the moment but still a long way to go!

USB Direct Copy

Monday, 23 January, 2006

Ever needed to copy files from one USB memory stick to another? Or copy data from one type of media to another? Well normally you need a PC to act as an intermediary, interfacing between two USB devices. This is unnecessary and, responding to a market developing interesting USB hardware, Belkin have produced the USB Anywhere. This removes the need for a PC and allows the direct copying of files from one USB connected device to another. It takes a couple of AAA batteries and, for low power devices, can power them directly (e.g. USB memory sticks). You can plug media card readers or external hard drives in to the device, but they will need their own power supply. You have options to copy files in the root directory or all files. It lets you know if the copy is successful, although obviously there is no other way to check (unless you have a PC!). All in all a very handy piece of kit, especially if you are out in the field.

University Fees and Living Expenses

Friday, 20 January, 2006

We have regular open days at Kingston University and one of the topics that is often at the forefront of students (and parents) minds is that of the total cost of completing a degree. In particular, from September 2006, UK universities will be able to levy tuition fees (”topup fees”). There are, of course, also living expenses to think about. In terms of a no-nonsense review of each of these areas I would highly recommend reading Mike Baker’s (BBC Education Correspondent) views on these topics:

ESRI Podcasts

Thursday, 19 January, 2006

Following up my last post on podcasts, a colleague forwarded me details of podcasts that ESRI make available. There are two selections; Speakers (currently most available from the ESRI 2005 show in San Diego) and Instructional. There are only a handful available at the moment, but expect a growing selection. The lists of available podcasts are also provided via RSS feeds which makes monitoring any new ones easy.

SoC Publication

Sunday, 15 January, 2006

I’ve just had a paper published in the Bulletin of the Society of Cartographers following my presentation at their conference last summer. In the paper I outline the scope of open access journal publication, focusing on the Journal of Maps within the cartographic domain. The latter part of the paper provides further insight in to the use of Creative Commons licensing at JoM, as well as third-party copyright issues pertaining to the incorporation of data in maps published by JoM. Please see here for further details.

Downloading audio streams

Wednesday, 11 January, 2006

Quite often I find audio streams that I want to download and listen to on my MP3 player at a later date. Many providers only stream audio files and don’t allow this. However after a little digging I have found that the generic downloading tool NetTransport also allows you to directly download Real audio streams (RTSP files). These can be saved directly on your PC. I then use the free WavePad audio processor to convert to MP3 and stick on my PDA. Very useful!!

Math ML Hits the Mainstream

Sunday, 8 January, 2006

You can’t go farther than three websites before you come across an ML-ism. In GIS we have GML, in web design HTML and data exchange XML. The presentation of mathematics within webpages has always been problematic; within publishing this has typically been performed through the use of LaTex, however online it usually means PDFs or graphical images. Neither solution being entirely satisfactory. Well, since the early development of XML, MathML has always been on the horizon and, for quite a while, demonstrable with a variety of add-ons. Well the good news is that Firefox 1.5 supports MathML out of the box (almost). The only addition you need are some TrueType fonts to present all the typeset equations; everything else is recognised and rendered by Firefox. So pop on over and install the fonts and then test the output.

The Journal of Maps: rationale for its establishment and review of initial operations

Sunday, 8 January, 2006

M.J. Smith
The Cartographic Journal, 43(1), 90-96

Maps have been central to the research goals of spatial disciplines for over 150 years; to store, analyse and present geographical information. This paper outlines the importance of mapping as a fundamental tool of geographical enquiry yet highlights the subsequent decline in their published form. The Journal of Maps (JoM) is an attempt to redress the balance and provide an outlet for publication of maps of all types; an antidote to the malaise in map publication. This paper goes on to provide a review of the development and launch of the journal from its initial inception through to the novel approach of the e-only publication model. After a brief synopsis of papers in the first issue, the difficult question of geospatial data copyright is addressed. Taken within the context of the United Kingdom, the severe restrictions imposed by the Ordnance Survey (OS) mean that map publication, based upon OS data, is at best unlikely. Indeed a paper accepted for publication by JoM was ultimately rejected for infringement of OS licensing. With a wealth of spatial data now available to researchers and cartographers, and an open-access publication channel through JoM, maps are rapidly becoming central to many academic subjects. However issues of licensing and copyright remain central to the future development of the discipline.

ArcMap PDF Export

Tuesday, 3 January, 2006

It’s nice when you find a simple solution to a straight forward problem. And often the answer has been staring you in the face. Well I had recently been advising a colleague on using ESRI’s ArcMap to produce a map for the Journal of Maps and I was asked how to output a PDF. Having been generating PDF’s for many years from both Actobat and, more recently, the very good PDF Factory I naturally suggested he install a PDF printer driver and “export” it that way. Half-an-hour later I had an email saying that all you actually had to do was go to “File” and “Export Map” in ArcMap and select PDF. Simple!