Building a Simple Geodata Service With Node, PostGIS, and Amazon RDS


This post describes the construction of a simple, lightweight geospatial data service using Node.JS, PostGIS and Amazon RDS. It is somewhat lengthy and includes a number of code snippets. The post is primarily targeted at users who may be interested in alternative strategies for publishing geospatial data but may not be familiar with the tools discussed here. This effort is ongoing and follow-up posts can be expected.

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Consider the ‘Alternative’

When I was in college, I had a psychology professor who posited that you could train a cat (a dodgy proposition at best) to take a circuitous route to its food bowl by only rewarding that behavior. He was clearly a behaviorist and was convinced that you could completely condition the instinct to go straight to the food bowl out of the cat. To my knowledge, this professor did not own a cat and never attempted to test his assertion.

I was reminded of this after reading my friend Atanas Entchev’s post in reaction to the PostGISDay hangout panel discussion. In his post, Atanas describes difficulty in convincing customers to consider open-source geospatial tools. These customers and prospects are comfortable with their proprietary tools and associated workflows and are reluctant to consider switching. I have encountered this attitude many times myself so I take no issue with the observation. Barriers to exit are real considerations, regardless of the new technology being considered. Organizations align themselves around their tools to achieve maximum efficiency with them. I discussed these issues at a talk I gave last year to the New Jersey Geospatial Forum about how organizations can extend their existing geospatial technology investments with open-source technologies. These issues are very real for any organization with a mature, extended investment in a particular technology stack.

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Maryland Department of Planning Bundles Property Data With QGIS

This past week, I got an e-mail from Jim Cannistra, Director of Data Planning Services and the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP), alerting me to a new product available from MDP called FINDER Quantum. This product bundles Maryland property data and related products with QGIS software to provide users with a fully-functional, free-standing system for interacting with the data. It is designed to replace an older, custom software product, capitalizing on an industry-standard open-source system.

From the MDP site, the bundled data includes:

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SpatiaLite and ArcGIS 10.2

With the release of ArcGIS 10.2, Esri quietly added support for SQLite as a geodatabase container. This is big news as the community has been looking for such support for some time. An open-source RDBMS originally designed for embedded systems, SQLite has a very small footprint and is arguably the most widely deployed RDBMS in the world. (Thanks, in part, to the fact that it is embedded into Adobe Reader and other commonly used software.) Over the years numerous strategies for storing spatial data in SQLite have been developed, ranging from simply storing WKT or WKB geometries in a column up to full extensions like SpatiaLite, which adds OGC-compliant data types and methods. SQLite is also the engine that drives the popular MBTiles implementation used by TileMill and MapBox.

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SharpMap 1.0 RC1 Released

Over on Google+, Diego Guidi let me know that the SharpMap 1.0 Release Candidate has been released. There was a time when I worked with, and wrote about, SharpMap a lot. During that entire time, the stable version of SharpMap sat at some version number that started with “0.9”. The release of a 1.0 candidate is a signal that the project is moving forward.

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Early Bird Registration for FOSS4G-NA Closes Soon

David Bitner sent out a reminder that Early Bird reagistration for the FOSS4G North Americaconference closes on 1 April 2013. After that, the price goes up by $50 US. You can register online at EventBrite. The preliminary program (PDF) for this year’s event looks exceptional, building upon and potentially exceeding the outstanding quality of FOSS4G-NA … Read more

The Best Thing I Saw at TUGIS 2013

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.

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Off to TUGIS

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.

Brian Timoney's favorite state flag

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Checking Out the GDAL/OGR Plugin for ArcGIS

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.

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