Posts Tagged ‘california’

Directional Signage and Maps in San Francisco

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Here are several pictures taken at the new California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and at SFO airport last week. The museum’s exhibits and aquarium make extensive use of maps and directional signage. They even feature an lenticular foil showing before and after glacier loss. The California Beef Council map was seen at the Fry’s parking lot in San Jose. The bathroom signage is from the SFO airport where they have both an in and an out for the restrooms :)

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sfomensrestroomdirectionalsignage

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calacademycalmap

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Interview with MarineMAP Mashup Developers (Kelso)

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

marinemapsupporttool

[Editor's note: MarineMAP is a cutting edge mashup built using PostGIS, GeoDjango, Ajax, Flash, OpenLayers, GeoServer and MapServer with Google base map tiles. It assists stakeholders in the design of MPAs (Marine Protected Areas) in mapping oceanographic, biological geological, chemical and human dimensions of the ocean and coastal areas. I talk with Will McClintock and Chad Burt of the Marine Science Institute at University of California at Santa Barbara about the technical underpinnings and development philosophy behind the project. One key to the project's success (rolled out Dec. 2008) has been the hiring of dedicated programmers to implement design ideas and new technology to extend an earlier version's usability and reach. Thanks Melissa and Sebastian!]

Interact with the MarineMAP at marinemap.org/marinemap.

Interactive Map Tool Objective: MarineMap is an internet-based decision support tool that provides the capacity for the SCRSG (South Coast Regional Stakeholder Group) to view data layers, create individual MPA concepts, assemble collections of individual MPA concepts into MPA arrays, receive basic feedback on how well MPA concepts and arrays meet guidelines for MPA design, and submit MPA arrays to staff as MPA proposals. This tool will be the primary way in which MLPA Initiative staff and SCRSG members capture and store information regarding MPA proposals.

marinemapsupporttool2

(Above) Screenshot above showing Marine mammal and Nearshore habitat layers on base map with area Measurement Tool enabled.

(Question) Kelso’s Corner: What technologies are leveraged in MarineMAP?

(Anwer) MarineMAP: We’re not using ArcGIS at all, save for cutting map tiles (using ArcGIS Desktop and Arc2Earth) and, as a non-critical component of the system, ArcSDE / SQL Server. We’re mainly using PostGIS, GeoDjango, Ajax, Flash, OpenLayers, GeoServer and MapServer and will soon switch to the Google Earth API.

We are using OpenLayers, rather than the Google Maps API for our “slippy map”. OpenLayers is pure javascript, as is most of the client application. We are using Flex, but only for the charting component. [Editor's note: OpenLayers is using the Google Maps tiles.]

(Q) Kelso’s Corner: How many programmers do you have on staff to deal with all the software components?

(A) MarineMAP: Currently, two of our developers work full-time on MarineMap, while our other two developers work half time. We also have several GIS analysts and a cartographer to deal with the data end of things. We are now looking for a full-time, in-house Assistant Web Developer to continue working on MarineMap. As we extend MarineMap to different geographies and planning processes, we anticipate that we’ll be looking for one or two more programmers as well.

(Q) Kelso’s Corner: What was the rational for doing this substantial map development in house? Did you evalutate other routes, consultants, off the shelf software before going this route, why was this option preferable? Did you have a good cheat sheet for how to develop / implement this technology? Did you have to hire new staff to do the programming or did you have existing expertise to draw on?

(Anwer) MarineMAP: We did not have a cheat sheet for how to develop / implement this technology. This was a brand new application using some new technologies, and some that we were familiar with. Of course, we had experience developing other applications and some of these technologies overlapped. But, there was a significant amount of learning happening for all of our developers.

The MLPAI is an on-going process that will terminate sometime around 2011. Until then, we need to have a highly functional and stable application that can be adapted to the changing needs of the process. It turned out to be much more cost-effective and time efficient to hire in-house developers to work on the application year-round. Before we built our team, we spent a significant amount of time considering a host of alternatives, including trying to maintain and tweak Doris, contracting out all of the work, etc.  Initially, we felt we did not have enough in-house expertise. Although we already had Chad Burt (UCSB), Jared Kibele (UCSB), Tim Welch (Ecotrust) and, now, Ken Vollmer (Ecotrust) as our in-house crew, we eventually contracted two developers from Farallon Geographics (Dennis Wuthrich and Alexei Peters) for a limited period to  help with developing the database schema. This was particularly nice given that we had only 6 months to get the first version of MarineMap out the door. Dennis and Alexei are no longer working on the project but I am very grateful that we had access to their time and expertise during the initial phases.

(Q) Kelso’s Corner: What was Doris?

(Anwer) MarineMAP: At the beginning of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPAI), staff chose to hire consultants to build an application (eventually called “Doris”) that was built on ArcGIS Server 9.1 technologies. It shared some of the features of MarineMap, including drawing MPAs and arrays, and generating reports on what was being captured inside those MPAs. Doris had a poorly designed interface and, perhaps more significantly, it was dreadfully slow. Consequently, few stakeholders used it. Furthermore, because the application was built using technologies with which we had no particular in-house expertise, and because these technologies were proprietary, we had a difficulty updating the application or tweaking it on the fly. (I had been running ArcSDE / ArcIMS and ArcGIS Server applications for a couple years but had no real development expertise in, say, ArcObjects, or VB .Net.)

(Q) Kelso’s Corner: It seems there are many more RubyOnRails developers than Django. Have you found this a hindrance for hiring staff or when looking for trouble shooting advice?

(Anwer) MarineMAP: It does seem to be a bit of a challenge finding Django developers, particularly those that can / will work locally. I have not tried to hire a RubyOnRails expert so I have no direct means comparison.

(Q) Kelso’s Corner: Why will you be switching to the Google Earth API? Is this only for the front end? Have you been happy with GeoDjango?

(Anwer) MarineMAP: GeoDjango has been fantastic. Using the Google Earth API does not mean ditching GeoDjango. Rather, using the Google Earth API represents a shift away from the OpenLayers API. We’ll still be using GeoDjango extensively.

[Our lead developer] was a big proponent of RubyOnRails for quite some time, but Django has taken many of its best ideas to Python. While Ruby is aesthetically a beautiful language, Python is usually much faster and has a more mature set of modules to build on. The only thing I miss after switching over to Django is the database migrations Rails offers. Most open source GIS packages also have bindings for Python, where as there a few similar tools for Ruby.

Switching to the Google Earth API will just mean replacing OpenLayers. OpenLayers is a very good library, but the Earth API is much faster due to the fact that it is a compiled plugin rather than being written in javascript. This allows it to display thousands of placemarks on screen at once, which is one of the primary reasons for switching. Google Earth can also display temporal and 3d data.

(Q) Kelso’s Corner: Besides the change to Google Earth API, what other changes, updates do you plan for this online map?

(Anwer) MarineMAP: Besides switching to the Google Earth API, there is one major upcoming update to MarineMap. Specifically, we will be implementing a map-based (i.e., location based) discussion forum. Users will be able to zoom into a location on a map and tag objects (MPAs, data, places) with a comment. Other users will see these comments (if they have comments “turned on”) as they zoom in to a location or if they load an MPA. Users can then participate in a dialog via a traditional discussion forum that is linked to the map. Furthermore, users will be able to define a geographic region and subscribe to RSS feeds (using GeoRSS) for any activity within that region. One might choose to do this, for example, if they want to be notified by email any time somebody draws a new MPA in, or makes a comment about a data layer in a specific region that he / she cares most about. I believe the map-based discussion forum will go a long way in facilitating discussion about MPAs, particularly outside the in-person monthly stakeholder meetings.

Conclusion: Thanks so much for the informative Q&A session. Please check out the MarineMap project at MarineMap.org/marinemap.

Interview: 1st Custom Map App Developer for the iPhone (Kelso)

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

[Editor's note: An exciting development as Chris Leger @ Earthrover Software has partnered with Tom Harrison to release several of Tom's California-focused recreation maps the iPhone and iPod Touch, the first such for the platform. Other efforts have wrapped poor functionality around terrible maps and in a couple cases decent gov't National Park Service maps, not original custom cartography. Chris was kind enough to give me an email interview about the product.

As hand held GPS units, mobile platforms like the Apple iPhone and Amazon Kindle all converge, delivering custom maps to these devices will become a more important business opportunity for cartography shops. I see two classes of mobile map applications: (a) raw map with GPS and (b) enhanced map with GPS. Earthrover's maps are a good example of the former while PacMaps's Acadia National Park map app shows how a flat map can be enchanced with a placename index to search locations on the map and possibly even routing information.

So far examples of both solutions use just one map scale. It would be nice to see developers work with cartographers to offer additional custom maps at the zoomed out scales since the raw map isn't legible when zoomed out.

An app that satisfies one or more of these seems destined to do well: (1) pre-trip planning and routing, (2) on-trail location, waypoints, and tracking, and (3) post-trip display show and tell.]

Q: Kelso’s Corner
Who contacted who about developing this app oriented around the recreation maps? I first saw your Mt. Tam Trail Map app ($5 each) and was entranced. Additional titles include: Angeles Front Country Trail Map, Mamoth High Country Trail Map, Point Reyes Trail Map, and San Diego Backcountry Trail Map.

A: Earthrover Software
I contacted Tom [Harrison] about it, and he was willing to give it a try.  I’ve used his maps in the past for trips in California, and my main interest in writing iPhone apps is for field guides and reference information to take into the field.  Having Tom’s maps available was one of the first things to come to mind–his maps are great and are well known, so they’re the obvious choice to have on a mobile device.

Q: Kelso’s Corner
I assume you did the development of the app? How much design review went into the app and it’s functionality?

A: Earthrover Software
Right; I wrote and designed the app.  I spent some time thinking about which features would be worth the complexity of implementing them, did some research to figure out what format to use for the data (PDF versus SVG versus PNG versus …), made a prototype to focus on smooth scrolling and zooming, then kept refining it until there wasn’t anything left on my to-do list.  Since Tom’s underlying map data is of such high quality, I could focus on keeping the user interface fast and tight–there’s not much screen real estate to play with, so every button counts.

Q: Kelso’s Corner
What have your initial sales been like?

A: Earthrover Software
With a few titles out and no advertising apart from our websites, I’d guess we’re averaging about 3-5 sales a day.  This will go up as we add more titles, and hopefully there will be a broader audience for some of the upcoming maps of National Parks.  While it would be nice to have a blockbuster project and pay off the mortgage, I don’t see that in the cards for the types of apps I enjoy writing–which is important since I’m doing this in my spare time, rather than on someone else’s dime.  I’m more interested in expanding sales by taking the underlying engines I now have for maps and field guides, and applying them to more products to appeal to a broader audience.  This has worked well for field guides.  The second one, Wildflowers of the Western Plains, was released today, and five more are in the works.

Q: Kelso’s Corner
Do you anticipate future titles (you must be experiencing some success to keep coming out with titles)?

A: Earthrover Software
Yes, we have more coming.  I submitted the Yosemite Valley Trail Map to Apple today, and Sequoia/Kings Canyon, Yosmite National Park, Death Valley, and Tom’s complete John Muir Trail map set are in the works.

Q: Kelso’s Corner
How long did it take to develop the app?

A: Earthrover Software
It was about a month of calendar time, I think, between me contacting Tom and getting the first app released.  That doesn’t sound like much, but I’m a pretty efficient programmer and put in  a lot of hours that month.

Q: Kelso’s Corner
What kind of testing have you done with it out in the field?

A: Earthrover Software
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I haven’t done any field testing with the apps yet.  I don’t have an iPhone (just an iPod touch), so I can’t really check out the GPS functionality except via IP localization.  Tom does field checks of his maps, so the underlying map data is known to be good, and I use Google Earth to fine-tune the map coordinates in the app.

Q: Kelso’s Corner
How do you see the iPhone 3.0 firmware making it easier to develop this type of product?

A: Earthrover Software
Easier integration with Google Maps will be interesting for many apps, and an obvious update to our apps is to allow the user to switch back and forth with a Google Maps view.  But Google Maps requires a network connection–ruling out use in the field on an iPod touch–and isn’t as fast in zooming and scrolling as our apps.

Conclusion: Kelso’s Corner
Thanks, Chris for sharing your development experience with us and good luck on future titles and projects! I’m sure the new iPhone 3.0 firmware will make it easier to sell a complete line of maps from within a single app instead of forcing users back to the iTunes store. Lots of potential :)

Shockwave Player for Mac (Adobe)

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

[Editor's note: Back in 2000 I received 1st place in the interactive division, NACIS Student Web Mapping contest with my Annual Precipitation in California. This project was completed in my Advanced Cartography class at Humboldt State using Macromedia Director, the raster predecessor to Flash. Adobe has just released an update for their player web plugin that allows me to walk down memory lane on my Intel Mac.]

Republished from Adobe (1 | 2).

Download Shockwave Player 11 for Mac 10.4 and Windows.

Over 480 million Internet-enabled desktops have installed Adobe Shockwave Player in mature markets around the world. These people now have access to some of the best the Web has to offer – including dazzling 3D games and entertainment, interactive product demonstrations, and online learning applications. Shockwave Player displays Web content that has been created by Adobe (Macromedia) Director.

Going West (Comic from XKCD)

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

Girl: I’m Sorry. The Google Maps team hired me.

Boy: But I can’t move to California!

Girl: Then I guess this is the end.

Boy: It can’t be! Listen… When I look deep into your eyes, I see a future for us.

Girl: Look deeper.

Boy: “We’re sorry but we don’t have imagery at this zoom level”? They… they have you already.

Republished from XKCD. A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language. Thanks Jo!

California’s Proposed High-Speed Train System

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

cal train logoThe official site of California’s proposed 800-mile high-speed train system has posted a Flash-based interactive map with videos visualizations and Trip Stats indicating the total distance between legs and how much the trip would take, cost, and how much greenhouse gas (CO2) would be saved (see screenshot below, interact with the Flash map here and the Google Maps version here).

Travel on the high-speed rail link would be significantly faster than by car from southern California to northern (3 hour trip at speeds up to 220 miles per hour) and reduce crowding in the states airports.

This November’s ballot will include a $9.9 billion bond for the initial construction phase ($40 billion total). Building out freeways and airport capacity would cost up to $82 billion. The rail system is expected to run at a profit and not require operating subsidies. It is also expected to jump-start smart urban growth around each of the new rail stations.

Thanks to David Alpert at GreaterGreaterWashington.org.

Continue reading at the Cal Rail site . . .

cal train map