I spent the day yesterday at Towson University attending the TUGIS 2013 conference. The new one-day format was a firehose that showcased the diversity of geospatial work occurring across the State of Maryland. The keynote by Learon Dalby was well-received and the content of the conference was generally substantive. While the day was a sprint, there was one workshop that really caught my attention more so than I would have thought from its title.
Tomorrow, I’ll be heading up to the Towson University GIS (TUGIS) conference with 500 or so of my closest Maryland geo-friends. It has been restructured into a one-day event and the program seems to be very content-rich as a result. I am particularly happy to see more open-source content this year. There’s an intro session featuring PostgreSQL, PostGIS, QGIS, and GeoServerpresented by Salisbury State University. Salisbury was once known as a bastion of Manifold so they’ve got a long history of thinking outside the Arc. Additionally, there is a session (by Towson University) discussing the use of GDAL, OGR, and Shapely in the development of a spatial service.
A while back, I blogged the availability of a GDAL/OGR plug-in for ArcGIS desktop by Ragi Burhum at AmigoCloud. At the time, I was hoping to dig into it fairly quickly but that didn’t happen and I’m finally getting to it. Anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows that I have had more than a passing interest in integrating new data sources with ArcGIS over the years. This comes from the fact that, as a technology geek, I am fascinated by all forms of technology and enjoy the process of integration and, as a consultant providing services to the Federal Government, most of my customers have standardized on Esri tools. Integrations such as GeoRSS, PostGIS, GeoCommons and GeoJSON have directly benefitted my customers for real-world applications so I continue look for ways to remove the barriers between them and the data they seek.
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.