QGIS and a Small Passion Project

When he was in the Air Force, my father served on Air Force One under four presidents – Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. He was on the engine crew and got to see a lot of the world over the course of those administrations. I grew up with Presidential memorabilia all through our home: signed photos of the presidential plane, commemorative holiday pictures from the White House, and Christmas ornaments, for example. Occasionally, I’d run across fun things like his old passport with stamps from countries who have not been friendly with the US in decades – hints of a bygone geopolitical era. One time, I found four sets of gold-rimmed Ray-Ban aviator glasses that had been standard issue for a few years – especially for those who spent long days on tarmacs.

Recently, he pulled out a memento I had never seen, pictured at the top of this post. It was box that was given to personnel who accompanied Eisenhower on a trip through Europe, Asia, and Africa in 1959. The box was full of other mementos, including a deck of cards from the Columbine, the propellor-driven predecessor to the Boeing jets that have been flown for several decades now. Also a Zippo lighter still polished to a high sheen. But what fascinated me was the map on the cover. I took a picture of it and came home intent on recreating it with GIS.

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A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to a Calendar

The call for maps for the 2017 GeoHipster calendar has closed and review is underway. I haven’t begun collating the responses yet, so I have no idea how it will turn out, but I can say that, for me, the process so far has been personally rewarding.

2016_geohipster_calendar_cover

I was not involved in the making of the 2015 calendar. When it came time to considering doing one for 2016, I volunteered to coordinate¬†the process; with no idea what to expect. We had quite a response and I was impressed with the quality of the work received. Because it was my first time through, I was pretty consumed by the process and probably didn’t get to give as much consideration to the art that was before me.

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Cutting Tiles for ArcGIS Server Using TileMill

There’s been a lot of talk about TileMill and CartoCSS lately, with good cause. TileMill makes it very easy generate beautiful map tiles using the Mapnik engine and CartoCSS provides a familiar method to author the cartographic representation of spatial data. As Brian Timoney points out, CartoCSS has the added bonus of making best practices shareable via copy-and-paste.

Naturally, the best way to take advantage of TileMill is to export your tiles to MBTiles and use MapBox hosting. If that’s not an option, you can pretty easily self-host with TileStream. That said, there are some organizations that, due to larger GIS workflows, IT policies, and a host of other legitimate reasons, need or choose to use ArcGIS Server to do map hosting. For those organizations, TileMill is still an option to create attractive basemaps, within certain constraints.

So I set out to see if I could bridge the gap between the two. Two blog posts pointed the way. A while back, Dan Dye blogged about how he had forked mb-util and added support for exporting WeoGeo tilepacks from MBTiles. Also, a co-worker of mine, Eric Mahaffey, had blogged some time ago about how to use Arc2Earth to manage tile caches across air-gapped networks. Using these posts for guidance, I was pretty sure I had all the pieces I needed.

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