Posts Tagged ‘tom’

Greenland Gains Self-Government from the Kingdom of Denmark, Kinda (Economist)

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

2609ww2[Editor's note: What is a country? A nation? A nation-state? By some counts, there are about 195 "countries" or 194 (US State Department) in the world, but by others like the ISO and United Nations, about 245 which includes extra "regions" for statistical reasons or FIPS code assignments. The World Bank (2) says 186 or 210. How can there be such a wide spectrum of valid answers? The issue is complicated by historic colonial relationships with overseas dependencies and affiliated political administrative units, and by the non-uniform way different "countries" sub-divide themselves.

For instance, France considers all it's "dependencies" unitary parts of France, while the U.S. does not view it's own territories equal to states vis-a-vis constitutional rights. But some unitary parts of France outside mainland Europe get treated differently from Metropolitan France by the European Union (they don't necessarily get an E.U. passport).

This week, Greenland steps closer to becoming one of the club of 195 "countries" in the world, but really it's just getting more quasi-self-government (sticking in the 245 bracket) within the Kingdom of Denmark's administrative umbrella (which is and is not the same as the "country" of Denmark) for defense and foreign policy.

The higher number doesn't even address sub-national semi-autonomous entities like the United Kingdom's England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland which fall somewhere between what we in the U.S. think of as "states" and "provinces" (1st order admin units) and those top level countries and nations. Nor does it address disputed or break away regions like Abkhazia.

For Natural Earth Vector, we will include groupings at both "top-level" views (about 195 and 245), and at the 1st order admin (state, province, over 3,000). We will also include a sample of sub-national areas and disputed, breakaway areas.]

Republished from the Economist.

Two tonnes of rare whale meat were distributed in Greenland as part of celebrations to mark the start of an era of self-government. After nearly three centuries of rule by Denmark, Greenland’s 56,000 people will gradually take control of most domestic affairs, although defence and foreign policy remain in Danish hands. Greenlandic is now the official language. Photo by: Adam Roberts.

Continue reading related story, “Greenland’s future: Divorce up north?” from Nov. 27, 2008 . . .

Placename conventions: Wales (Cymru) @ 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.

Monday, June 29th, 2009

img_1008_2 img_1011_2 img_1012_2

[Editor's note: Visiting the Wales section of this year's Smithsonian Folklife Festival (continues thru July 5),  I am reminded of how each language has a different name for the same set of geographic features. This is mostly true on the world scale for countries, oceans, continents and so on. Sometimes it continues down to major cities within a certain country, especially with names like "New York". Each language has a "conventional" name for foreign placenames that may or may not bear an obvious resemblance to the name used by the local language used by those in that place. Some cities even have historic (no longer used) conventional names: Istanbul (not Constantanopal). Mumbai took a good 15 years to replace the US-English conventional for Bombay in India.

The technical terms for this, definitions courtesy Wikipedia, are Exonym (a name for a place that is not used within that place by the local inhabitants), endonym, autonym (the name used by the people or locals themselves). Exonyms may derive from distinct roots as in the case of Deutschland, Germany. They can also be cognates which sound similar (and are spelled similar, using the local script), and final they may be fully or partially translated from the native language (like New York and Neuvo York). Transliteration is the practice of converting a text from one writing system into another in a systematic way. Some places, like New Zealand, have multiple local language names for the same geographic features, further clouding the issue.

The US-English conventional romanized script for the country in Europe that borders France and Poland is "Germany" yet in Welsh it is "yr Almaen", which is similar to the usage in French and several other European languages. These types of naming styles are important when attributing a world base map (see Natural Earth Vector blog post). For an audience that is mono-lingual, it makes sense to use conventional names for foreign place names. But what happens for a product that enjoys multi-lingual users? On one hand we want to be "localized" to the appropriate name in each language, but we need to provide enough "conventional" placenames for the user to orient themselves, especially when the foreign names use a completely different writing script (not roman ABCs). Google Maps-US takes an hyprid approach where names in each country are labeled in the local script using the local name, with a few labels also in conventional US-English. When one searches for Tokyo, the map shows Japan in mostly Kanji script with some romanized, conventional US-English versions of those names.

For Natural Earth Vector, we follow a hybrid approach that will allow for localization into other languages besides the compilation language, US-English. Tom Patterson used the following guidelines for his original Physical Map fo the World project, which this project uses as it's primary source:

• Endonyms (Appennino) were favored over exonyms (Apennines) for place names based on Romance and Germanic languages, which are often cognates of familiar English names and easy to identify.
• For other languages, transliterated names of major features (mountain ranges, plateaus, deserts, etc.) received English place name descriptors. For example, Verkhoyansk Khrebet in Russia is labeled on the map as Verkhoyansk Range. Smaller physical features, such as mountains within ranges, have entirely local names.
• Transnational features named in more than one language, for example, the Donau/Duna/Danube River, received conventional English names.
• When two or more countries claim ownership of the same physical feature and use different names for it, the preference was for the country currently in possession of the feature regardless of the circumstances. For example, the southern Kuril Islands that Japan and Russia both claim, and which Russia has occupied since 1945, have Russian names.
• A few notable places have English translations in parentheses, for example, Rub al Khali (Empty Quarter).
• All river names dispense with the word "River" or the abbreviation "R."
• Island names within compact island groups drop the word "Island" or the abbreviation "I."
• Non-English place names have accents and diacritical marks. However, the font used on the map (Adobe Frutiger) lacked a few exotic accents for consonants, which consequently do not appear on the map.

And now for the Welsh Smithsonian Festival information:]


Republished from the Smithsonian.

Wales (Cymru in Welsh) is a dynamic and resilient nation. The industrious and resourceful nature of its people provides a firm platform from which to present its rich culture and heritage. Wales Smithsonian Cymru will celebrate language, literature, and the spoken word, present crafts and occupational skills, share music and cooking, and evoke the spirit that powered the industrial revolution and is now championing sustainable solutions. The program will explore how age-old knowledge, skills, and materials continue to be refashioned, recycled, and reinvented to meet modern demands and to continue to connect Wales to the world.

With much of its border being coastline, Wales’ maritime influences remain vital to the nation’s evolution. The mountain ranges and National Parks sustain the rural communities and outdoor life that are Wales’ touchstones. The essence and inspiration of the landscape will be shared by those who live off and nurture Wales’ beguiling natural environment. Cooking demonstrations will explore the qualities of fresh, local ingredients sourced from farmers markets and savored across the country, from seafood platters to hearty Welsh lamb dishes. Performances and workshops will illustrate the diversity of the Welsh music scene, from the ancient sounds of the crwth and pibgorn, to evocative vocal and harp renditions, and to lively folk bands playing a range of familiar and experimental repertoires. Craftspeople and building arts experts will share their experiences and skills working with native Welsh woods, slate, wool, metal, and stone.

Immigration and an international perspective have enriched Welsh culture for generations, while the strength of the Welsh language, which stems from the sixth century, continues to underpin the nation’s identity. Visitors will be able to practice Welsh phrases and learn about the history of the language. In addition to the Festival, Wales’ presence will be extended through ancillary programs that will begin in March 2009, presented in collaboration with partner organizations in Washington, D.C. These activities and events will include a wide range of contemporary arts and a focus on sustainable living and climate change.

Continue reading at the Smithsonian . . .

Ocean Dots: The Island Encyclopedia

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009


[Editor's note: I've enjoyed using this photo-based encyclopedia the last couple weeks working on the Natural Earth Vector island features, which includes many small specs of land out in the deep blue. Natural Earth Vector will be released at the 2009 NACIS map conference in Sacramento, Calif. Related posts: 1, 2, 3, and 4)] is an image-based encyclopedia of the world’s islands and reefs, using a mix of satellite imagery and user-contributed images.

You can now upload you own island photographs to share with other visitors to the site. If you’d like to upload images, visit the image upload page.

Continue exploring at OceanDots . . .

Cartographica 1.0 – “GIS” for the Mac

Thursday, May 14th, 2009


[Editor's note: At $500 a seat ($395 limited time offer) this Macintosh-compatible GIS solution is cheaper than Avenza's MaPublisher but lacks some advanced features like customizable projections. Requires 10.5.3.  They have a survey asking which new features they should add. Thanks Tom!]

Republished from (ClueTrust).

Flexible File Import

File Import

Cartographica has a wide range of data import capabilities, nearly assuring that you can turn your data into maps. Bring in your georeferenced raster data (like orthophotos and satellite imagery), your vector data from almost any source, or even CSV text files. A more complete list of imported and exported formats is available.

Rapid Filtering
Rapid Filtering

This is a Macintosh, and you’d expect fast filtering of data. With Cartographica, you get just what you’d expect. Using the search box, you can filter on any field. If you like, you can use expressions like > and < to filter numeric data arithmetically.

Sophisticated Layout
Sophisticated Layout
Cartographica now provides sophisticated print layouts, including the ability to put multiple maps on the same page, overlay scale and legends, or keep them aside, and add text notations. Even have multiple copies of the same map on a page with different zoom levels and extents.
Flexible Styles
Flexible Styles
Styles define what layers should look like in a map. Easily put together a simple style based on fill and stroke colors, or create a sophisticated style set for a layer allowing easy identification of features with different attributes.
Direct Editing
Direct Editing
Need to define geometry for your map without exact coordinates? Cartographica lets you create a new feature, or edit an existing one with ease. Just double-click and move the control points. Styles and related information follow right along.
Undo Support
Undo Support
We believe that exploring geospatial data should be risk-free. Why should you have to live with every change you make? Cartographica’s ubiquitous undo capabilities means whatever changes you’ve just made… you can undo them… and then put them back.
Layer Transparency
Layer Transparency
Take advantage of the sophisticated graphics you love on the Macintosh by using transparency to see through one level of data to the next. It is, of course, adjustable on a per-layer (or per-feature basis when you are using complex styles). You can even make a raster layer transparent (or any part of it), in order to enhance visibility of your crucial data.
Simultaneous Data/Map Browsing
Map And Data
Look at your data and map at the same time. Zoom in and filter the map and the data view follows. Scroll around and select features in the data set and they are hilighted on the map. Visualize your data your way. Don’t want to give up screen space for the data view? That’s fine, just drag it shut, and then open it when you need it again.

Got addresses? Load up a reference file (such as those available free in the US from the US Census Bureau) and you’ll be mapping the addresses of your data in minutes. Cartographica will take addresses from lists in text files, tables in databases, or even your Macintosh Address Book.

GPS Support
GPS Support
If you need to load up field data from a variety of GPS devices, go no further than the File menu. Using the GPS import modules tested over the last three years in our free LoadMyTracks software, we can import waypoints, routes, and tracks directly from hundreds of devices, including those from: Garmin®, Magellan®, Lowrance®, Sony®, and others. And, if your device isn’t directly supported, it can import the data using GPX files (the standard for GPS information).
Direct Database Access
Direct Database Access
Is your source data stored in a database? Cartographica can load data directly using ODBC (the standard for database exchange) and geocode it, join it to existing table data based on keys, or just import it as points with X and Y or latitude and longitude. No more multi-step processes and complex multi-program importing.
Web Map Server Support
Web Map Server
There’s lots of good data available on the Internet. Getting data from a Web Map Server into your map document is a snap. Just load up the area you’re looking to cover and select the Map Server. Cartographica will do the rest, from matching the coordinate system to testing the boundaries, to warping the graphics if necessary to meet your current CRS.
Intelligent Projection Management
Intelligent Projection Management
There’s a lot of data available out there, but often each layer is coded with a coordinate reference system that is specific to its producer’s own needs. Cartographica understands that, but doesn’t let that get in the way of making the data easy to use. Although you can change coordinate systems in existing layers, we’ll be just as happy to do the conversions behind the scenes (for raster as well as vector data) in order to make sure your layers match up.

 Read more at . . .

The Importance of Building Geospatial Infrastructures (ESRI)

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

[Editor's note: Having a consistent set of quality geospatial databases enables cartographers and GIS professionals to focus on moving projects forward, avoiding costly database re-creation. Sharing the same base data across multiple projects and multiple organizations allows interoperability effeciencies and synergized results. Tom Patterson, Dick Furno, and I are working together to build a vector complement for Tom's Natural Earth world raster landcover data at 1:15,000,000; 1:50m; and 1:110m scales. We hope these new shapefiles will play an important role in the community to create a small-scale (world, continental, and regional) geospatial infrastructure.]

Republished from ESRI’s ArcUser.
March 2009 article also available in PDF format.

Like no other time in recent history, our world is challenged. Disease, environmental deterioration, disasters, and now the widespread disruption of financial markets test the resourcefulness of society.

Over the past 40 years, GIS has evolved from a tool for managing projects to a framework for understanding and responding to problems on scales ranging from the local to the global. The geographic approach has become an important methodology for integrating data and information and enabling better decision making. The availability of quality geospatial data, together with improvements in software and hardware performance, has made these advances possible.

click to enlarge
The Solar Boston Web site uses geospatial data and high-performance, application-focused Web mapping to encourage the adoption of solar energy in the city of Boston, Massachusetts. Visitors can use tools at the site to calculate the solar potential of building rooftops and the annual cost savings that could be realized from installing solar panels.

With the move to an object-oriented platform, ArcGIS is better able to abstract and model the world, representing and integrating information about complex systems and modeling their behaviors. This is true whether the subject under study is as broad as an ocean or limited to a neighborhood.

The development of spatial data infrastructures (SDIs) represents the next logical step in the expansion of GIS use for data management and decision support. SDIs use accepted data and metadata standards in the creation of well-documented foundation datasets. Used with constantly updated operational data, SDIs make data more accessible and useful for specific tasks and analyses and save time while sharing costs. SDIs, together with GIS software, unlock the information contained in the terabytes of measurements, images, transactions, and other data stored in digital form by placing it in a geographic context.

The phenomenal growth of the Internet has multiplied the value of SDIs by enhancing the dissemination of data and information products. The newest release of ESRI software, ArcGIS 9.3.1, is focused on making information more consumable using the Internet. It supplies tools for configuring and deploying responsive and informative Web maps that help users accomplish specific tasks.

In February 2009, the Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat) awarded a contract for the development of the technical components of a Web-based GIS. The contract went to a consortium that based its solution on ESRI technology.

These components will comply with the provisions of the Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe (INSPIRE). In establishing INSPIRE, the European Commission recognized the importance of quality georeferenced information to the understanding of the complex interactions between human activities and environmental pressures and impacts.

Two articles in the Focus section of this issue of ArcUser magazine provide additional examples of the value of building geospatial infrastructures to address complex problems and provide tangible benefits.

Maintaining water quality is essential to the health of the environment. Although water quality monitoring has been ongoing for decades, this abundance of measurement data cannot be translated into effective regulation and remediation action if it is not accessible, placed in geographic context, and amenable to analysis.

With new tools in ArcGIS, such as the regression analysis tools, vast data inventories can be placed in a geographic context and analyzed. This scatterplot matrix diagram is used for exploring data on foreclosures to discover if there is any relationship between variables preparatory to effectively modeling it.

The staff of Region 4 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency developed a geodatabase that manages current and historical water quality data and allows for rapid and flexible inquiry, analysis, and dissemination of this data and the information derived from it. This geodatabase, loaded into an ArcSDE server, uses feature classes, reformatted tables, and relationship classes. Information can be viewed as layer files generated from query definitions or queried by feature. This information is available from the desktop or distributed as ArcReader projects.

The benefits accrued from a geospatial infrastructure are greatly multiplied at larger scales as demonstrated by the marine SDI developed by the Portuguese Instituto Hidrografico. The SDI created by this naval organization integrates an abundance of sea monitoring data, prediction data, navigation charts, and base data using international data format standards and data models. A fully stipulated data policy and metadata for all geospatial data ensure data quality and promote data reuse. A wide range of information products generated for public, private, and military use are widely disseminated through Web portals. In addition, the SDI provides ad hoc decision support for the navy.

As these articles show, GIS professionals will play a more important role than ever in helping understand complex systems. With the development of SDIs, GIS professionals will be better able to apply GIS to transform data into knowledge. Aided by increasingly powerful tools in GIS, they can gain a better understanding of the world’s complex systems and help develop a more sustainable future.

Related ESRI article:

A Geospatial Foundation: Public, private, and military applications flow from SDI

ISO global road, rail shapefile (Kelso)

Monday, March 30th, 2009

I’m in search of a super generalized but comprehensive global coverage dataset or datasets that shows major highways and rail lines, even sea lanes. You can see an example of this on Plate 21 of the National Geographic 8th Edition Atlas of the World. Do you know of one? Please shoot me a note to or comment here if you have a tip.

Why do I want such? I am working with Tom Patterson (of Natural Earth fame) and Dick Furno (retired from The Washington Post) to release a comprehensive, attributed GIS base map dataset derived in part from the Natural Earth physical wall map at around 1:15,000,000 scale and two other consistent and self referential datasets at approx. scales of 1:50m and 1:110m. These datasets will provide coverage that perfectly registers with the modern satellite remote sensing imagery and SRTM derived topography. Yes there is 1:1m coverage around the world but it is often out of date and too detailed for doing global, continental, and regional mapping.

We hope these open source datasets will allow everyone in the cartographic community to focus on telling the best “why” and “how” visual story about their thematic data instead of spending 50 to 70% of project time looking for or creating the vector geometry that captures the basic “where” of their thematic data.

Release is expected Fall 2009 at the NACIS map conference in Sacramento. Please check back in this space for more details as they develop.

INTERACTIVE: Selma to Montgomery (Nat. Parks Service)

Friday, February 6th, 2009

[Editor's note: The National Parks Service has started contracting out nifty interpretive Interactives from their Harper's Ferry Center office. This one features the civil rights National Historic Trail. Photos, videos, and an interactive map guide the visitor along the trail. Thanks Liliane!]

Republished from the National Parks Service.

Screenshots below. View interactive version. 508 non-Flash version available.

iPhone + National Park = Request for Proposals (Kelso)

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Attention iPhone software developers! The National Park Service is soliciting proposals to create a National Mall mobile wayfinding protoype, otherwise known as an iPhone app!

It is a rather ambitious, forward-looking  project that will depend on the contractor to propose technological and design solutions. The product would serve as a template for creating similar products of other urban park sites.

The request originates out of the Harpers Ferry, WV office of the Park Service. Check out the full solicitation with contact information.

Excerpts from the Solicitation and Scope of Work documents:

Independently, and not as an agent of the government, the contractor shall provide all labor, equipment, materials and services necessary to conceptualize, design, produce, test, and install a fully functional mobile wayfinding prototype of the National Mall in accordance with the attached Scope of Work consisting of 15 pages.

The NPS recognizes that creating a mobile map prototype is a new, complex, and highly specialized undertaking that requires expertise in numerous disciplines, including cartography, database development, interface design, interactive programming, 3-D modeling, wireless networking, mobile phone application development, etc. The mobile map prototype envisioned for the National Mall is perhaps the first of its kind.

The National Mall is the heart of the Nation’s Capital and of the entire United States of America. Here, the nation celebrates, honors, and demonstrates its commitment to democracy.

The Mall stretches 2.2 miles from the grounds of the United States (U.S.) Capitol west to the Potomac River, and from the Tidal Basin north to Constitution Avenue. It is home to the great symbols of our country—national icons such as the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. It also includes memorials to the veterans of Vietnam, the Korean War, and World War II, as well as lesser-known memorials to American heroes, such as the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, George Mason, and John Paul Jones. The National Mall also boasts beautiful open spaces such as the Tidal Basin, where the blossoming of thousands of cherry trees heralds spring.

Over 25 million people visit the Mall each year with 60% arriving by public transport and traversing the park on foot.

Site navigation by pedestrians in urban national parks in general is a long-standing problem. For example, at the National Mall, visitors emerging from a Washington Metro subway station into bright sunlight first must orient themselves before setting off to their destination. Finding lesser-known sites scattered throughout the Mall, such as the John Ericsson Memorial, is a challenge despite the availability of paper maps, wayside exhibits, signs, and other traditional media. The growing popularity of smart mobile devices – devices with GPS, Internet connectivity, touch-screen interfaces, and powerful graphics capabilities – promises a solution to this problem.

Applications are due by 02/12/2009. Looks like the Park Service would like to roll out a final app (free in the iTunes story? they don’t say) by next year in January (2010). Fixed Price contact to the software developer. Get coding!