BT Openzone

Wednesday, 28 June, 2006

The folks over at PCPro gave a good tip off in this months magazine concerning wifi access through BT Openzone. BT are the largest provider of wifi access points through their own network and agreements with TMobile and The Cloud, both in the UK and abroad. This makes them very useful for roaming around with a laptop/PDA. Their advertised contract rate is 10 per month for 250 mins. However is a BT Broadband subscriber rate of 5 per month for 500 mins which is an excellent deal. Well if you read the small print you actually only need to only a piece of BT networking equipment. That means a BT ADSL modem or router. So a quick bid on EBay got me a Voyager 100 USB modem for 1 + P&P allowing me to qualify for the contract. Great rate!

KAP: Loch Lomond

Tuesday, 27 June, 2006

I’ve just returned from two days field work in the small village of Duncryne, just south of Loch Lomond. This was a two-fold trip designed to further test our kite-based remote sensing platform as well as acquire some imagery of an esker deposited during the Younger Dryas. As you can see from the photo the system was working well and managed to combine my second interest, that of Land Rovers. This one is a rather luxurious Discovery TD5; much more comfortable than the old Series 3.

This trip involved some more surveying and we took with us an aged, but faithful and reliable, Kern theodolite/EDM. So some 600 photos and many control points later we had finished the job.

Perception of Google Earth

Wednesday, 21 June, 2006

I was down at my local 4×4 garage this week and happened to mention that I had generated a Google Earth KML file of the off-roading tracks in the area. I have downloaded parts of a national database showing offroad rights of way; whilst I could get pen, paper and OS map out and plot the starts and ends of the tracks, it seemed eminently more sensible (!) to load them in to Google Earth. After a bit of tooing and froing I’ve loaded the data in and am very pleased with it. Google Earth has some Cities Revealed data for the UK (amongst others I believe) and the 15cm imagery is really very good at depicting where tracks start and end. Anyway, I mentioned this to two of the mechanics and one got the response that one actively used Google Earth whilst the other hadn’t heard of it. This demonstrates the “appeal” and “market weight” of Google. This was then followed up with the comment that whilst it was OK, it was a bit old and wasn’t really up to date. I still find it strange that those of us “in” the industry find free access to such high resolution imagery remarkable, while those outside take it for granted GI really is still small fry….

Initial review of cadcorp SIS

Friday, 16 June, 2006

I had a training session on cadcorp (SIS) this week from one of their technical analysts (thanks Campbell!). I have briefly flirted with cadcorp in the past, but with so many products on the market it is often difficult to keep up with the industry. Anyway, I was interested to see what the product had to offer as it has been gaining increased usage in the UK (a notable recent contract being the London Fire and Planning Authority). Having started its life in the CAD business, it is very firmly a mature GIS product. Another reason for exploring SIS further was a conversatin with their Technical Director (Martin Daly) at a recent AGI meeting.

OK so SIS can pretty much do all your data loading, editing, creation and analysis. At a functional level it is very capable (note the “fun” and useful keyhole function!). My initial use has seen two areas where it is particularly strong (and other products, naming no names, lie behind). The first is support for importing a variety of different data types. Besides the usual suspects (shapefiles etc), it also supports the import of things like GPS tracklogs in the form of GPX files (see earlier blog). It is also very strong in online datasets being one of the few products I know that will load WMS, WFS and WCS data. One of the latest developments is support for GeoRSS; an increasingly popular web publication format that we use at the Journal of Maps. From my initial review, perhaps the feature which looks like it has “killer” potential is that of layered PDFs. The PDF format has supported layers for a few years now (since verion 6??), yet I am not aware of many products that take advantage of them (Illustrator for one). Well cadcorp can export its data window as a layered PDF; this (to be honest, wonderful!) feature allows you to distribute a PDF of your data and, taking the GIS paradigm, allow users to turn layers on and off. Whilst the current final release (I believe) doesn’t support this within finished map ouputs, I gather this is something being closely looked at. I should note that techincal suggestions are all reviewed and response time is very good.

I’ll be playing with cadcorp more over the summer, but my first impressions are very favourable, with some unique features which clearly identifies it within the GIS marketplace.

Ravens Ait - a haven on the Thames?

Saturday, 10 June, 2006

I had a day at Ravens Ait this week which is located on an island in the Thames between Hampton Court Palace and Kingston upon Thames. A potentially delightful and peaceful location and the owners hope that the function rooms and corporate hospitality will get a large draw of customers. It is also quite quaint in that you (obviously!) need to get a boat across to the island. However things start to go downhill once you get there. The building is 1960/70s and starting to show its age. There is nothing instrinsically wrong but it feels dated and needing a little cash spending on it. Everyone was very polite and welcoming and the facilities were satisfactory; it really was quite pleasant watching boats go by, wildlife etc. Lunch was satisfactory again, but aiming for a market which I don’t think they were quite reaching. For example, the cold starters appeared to have been defrosted, except not all of them had…. Heaven knows what Gordon Ramsey would think!!

So whilst it genuinely was relaxing I can’t quite wholly recommend the venue. 5/10.

Virgin Mother

Sunday, 4 June, 2006

I irregularly have meetings at the Geological Society in Picadilly (London). Burlington House also contains the Royal Academy of Arts and whilst I’ve never actually been in, there is usually something interesting to look at in the courtyard. Last week I was confronted with the accompanying image. A strangely disturbing sculpture that is quite fixating (and somewhat reminds me of old school biology books!). Not surprising then, that I have subsequently discovered it was produced by Damien Hurst. By the way, the accompanying image was taken by LondonRubbish over at Flickr.