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.
So GitHubannounced that you can now automatically view any GeoJSON files that may be in a repository inside an interactive map driven by MapBox technology. This simple enhancement to GitHub is probably one of the most significant developments in the geospatial industry in years. I’ll explain a little later in this post. It’s also important to view this new capability as a great, but limited, first step. I’ll discuss that a little later as well.
While it’s cool to click on a link and just see a map, it doesn’t take long to wonder about how you can use this capability beyond viewing data in GitHub. What follows are three ways to capitalize on GeoJSON in GitHub. Not all are directly related to the new mapping capability, and two have been possible for a long time. That said, the GitHub announcement may draw interest from users who have not previously considered either GitHub or GeoJSON, so I hope these approaches will be useful.
Thanks to LinkedIn, I saw that Dr. Art Lembo of Salisbury (Maryland) University is leading an “Open Source/Enterprise GIS Summer Bootcamp” at the university from June 3 – 7, 2013. All of the salient details, including contact information, can be found here (PDF).
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.
A while back, I blogged the availability of a GDAL/OGRplug-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 passinginterest in integrating new datasourceswithArcGIS 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.
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:
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…
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
– 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.