Personal Geospatial Workflows

I’ve had a couple of people ask me recently about the geospatial tools I use. Year-over-year, that answer changes but here’s how I answer that right now:

As a Federal contractor, I spend a lot of time working with the Esri stack during my work day. A few years ago, I added a few open-source geospatial tools into my tool set and, since then, have also done a respectable amount to consulting work them as well. The balance between the two varies over time, depending on the requirements of individual customers and projects. Lately, commercial customers have seemed much more interested in open-source tools while my government customers are sticking with Esri. Since those observations are based on the the extremely heavy filter of my own recent experience, I’d be hesitant to draw any larger conclusions from them.

I’ve always believed that proficiency with a wide range of tools makes me a better consultant and integrator, so I am always exploring and trying new things. With those commercial customers, and in my own personal side projects, my recent workflows have gelled around a core set of tools, both commercial and open-source:

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ToGeoJson and ToWKT for the Esri FGDB API

In support of some of our ongoing PIM work, we’ve been integrating the Esri File Geodatabase (FGDB) API into some tools. Without going into a level of detail that would hijack this post, one of the many functions performed by some of the tools is to validate physical spatial databases against established data models to analyze compliance and identify differences. These databases may be in Esri or non-Esri formats and we have traditionally handled Esri geodatabases through ArcObjects since it provides a relatively uniform interface across the various flavors of geodatabase.

Of course, ArcObjects requires an ArcGIS license of some sort and we are finding out that this is not always available to users in the field under many situations so the FGDB API gets past that for file geodatabases, at least.

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Favorite QGIS Resources of the Moment

I’ve been dabbling more with Quantum GIS (QGIS) lately. I’m not doing anything particularly sophisticated but it’s a great viewer for some data types (SpatiaLite, GeoJSON) that aren’t supported by my commercial desktop GIS so it’s helping me validate outputs of some applications I’m writing.

While I’ll never be a real cartographer, I am interested in doing a little more. Here are the resources that have been helping me the most lately…

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CartoDB/Leaflet Sample Update

A while back, I posted about some experimentation I did with Leaflet and CartoDB in the wake of FOSS4G in Denver. I recently had the chance to go back and update that sample with some spatial queries. At the time of the original post, CartoDB was still in beta and spatial queries didn’t seem to work, despite the fact that the back-end was driven by PostGIS.

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Planet PostGIS Online

Planet PostGIS, an aggregation of PostGIS-related blog content is now online. As the name suggests, it is built using the same technology as James Fee’s Planet Geospatial but is focused on content related to PostGIS.

If you are working with PostGIS, whether as part of an open-source stack or in conjunction with proprietary tools such as ArcGIS, you may want to check out Planet PostGIS.

Thanks to Regina Obe and everyone involved in setting this up.

QGIS 1.8.0 Released

I caught a tweet by my friend Paolo Corti this morning that QGIS 1.8.0 has been released.

Upon checking out the full list of new features here, a few caught my eye:

– QGIS Browser – a stand alone app and a new panel in QGIS. The
browser lets you easily navigate your file system and connection based
(PostGIS, WFS etc.) datasets, preview them and drag and drop items
into the canvas.

– DB Manager – the DB manager is now officially part of QGIS core. You
can drag layers from the QGIS Browser into DB Manager and it will
import your layer into your spatial database. Drag and drop tables
between spatial databases and they will get imported. You can use the
DB Manager to execute SQL queries against your spatial database and
then view the spatial output for queries by adding the results to QGIS
as a query layer.

– MSSQL Spatial Support – you can now connect to your Microsoft SQL
Server spatial databases using QGIS.

– Support for PostGIS TopoGeometry datatype

– Terrain Analysis Plugin – a new core plugin was added for doing
terrain analysis – and it can make really good looking coloured relief
maps.

– Heatmap tool – a new core plugin has been added for generating
raster heatmaps from point data. You may need to activate this plugin
using the plugin manager.

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Breaking Radio Silence

Things have been kind of quiet on the blog lately due to things being busy at work. I call that a good problem to have. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve written a a lot of proposals for a mixture of potential customers. Interestingly, I’m seeing a lot more call for “GIS Analyst” work. One trend I’ve noticed, at least in the Federal sector, is that the time between proposal due dates and award announcements seems to be lengthening. That may be an indication of the ongoing flux in funding and organizations try to figure out how to fund their requirements. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out. Of course, it’s good that the opportunities are there in the first place.

One the technical side of things, I’ve been involved in a smattering of things that’s made it hard to roll up one good post. I’m pretty heavily involved in the PIM efforts that my colleague, Barry Schimpf, has been blogging about over on the Zekiah blog.

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