geoLibro

2006.August.25

Search for Things in Buildings

Filed under: Uncategorized — geoLibro @ 2:31 pm

AllPoints mentions a new search mechanism for retailers. This is more or less what I intend to build (that’s right: in my spare time), but for libraries. And in 3d. Right down to the shelf (z=8 ft.).

I’ll let  you know when I’m finished.

2006.August.22

Global Search and Viewer Day, I Guess

Filed under: Apple Computer, Geographic Exploration Systems, GES, Mac OS X — geoLibro @ 11:27 pm

Beginning with The Earth is Square’s post about Geody, a different kind of search engine (that just so happens to be geographic, with results available as WorldWind, Google Earth, Celestia, and Stellarium, I’m collecting a couple of like items into this one post. Next up is a new[?] (WW2D beta 0.99.88). I’m ashamed to say I lost track of this one, thought it was dead. Apparently it’s not, however, and if you’re willing to install your own JOGL libraries you’ll have a new, improved WorldWind-ish GES on your hands. Even if you have a Mac.

And I guess the only other thing was Celestia, another project I hadn’t kept up with. (Wanna know why? Because anything without an RSS feed is dead to me.) Anyway, it’s also available on Macs (not sure about the Intel issue), if you’re interested.

P.S. If anybody want to subscribe to Purdue’s academic calendar as an .ics file, you can do so here, as announced here.

2006.August.21

Revisited: Introduction to GIS for Librarians workshop

Filed under: GIS in Libraries, Open Source GIS — geoLibro @ 4:07 am

Roughly two weeks ago, I mentioned a workshop on GIS for librarians. Well, I went after all, with the slightly hidden agenda of seeing who in the state was interested in GIS for a library, why they were interested, and possibly hearing about ongoing or planned projects. First of all, it wasn’t taught by an architect after all. The instructor had almost 30 years of GIS under his belt and who happened to work for a firm whose several services include architecture.

Anyway, what was most useful was hearing the questions existing librarians had about why GIS should even be in a library, what would it cost, etc. Also interesting was witnessing confusion about that murky place between these datasets everybody talks about and the map products themselves. In other words, for most attendees it was easy to see conceptually how geographic information can be useful and how it might even belong in a library, but very difficult for them to imagine how that information gets put onto a computer screen in any useful, intuitive format.

Our instructor didn’t help out much in that respect, as his was pretty clearly a general “What-is-GIS?” presentation he just happened to be showing to a roomful of librarians. In other words, very little was said about how librarians might play a part in metadata creation, storage, or development and very little was said about how a library might go about employing and applying GIS for themselves or for patrons. And almost nothing was done to illustrate the real, physical connection between something called “data” and that rich, graphical, colorful visualized version thereof.

And one more thing. If you were talking up GIS to a bunch of nonprofit types and they almost literally gasped at the price of the ESRI products, wouldn’t you also mention that there are several easy to use, free (open source, most likely) software titles that might do what they  need? Not everybody would.

2006.August.12

Asking Google’s Permission to See Your House

Filed under: Uncategorized — geoLibro @ 5:50 pm

Last Monday (2006.08.07) CarbonCloud revisited an earlier post about democratic access to geospatial data in light of a recent development on Geowanking.

"As we all know," he writes, "Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have all started providing different kinds of location content to consumers and technical folks alike through mapping services, allowing a bit more ‘democratic’ access to location-based content."

And it’s true. But the development that warranted a revisit involves Google’s exclusive license to imagery data such that a nonprofit agent looking to get a little piece of a picture of the earth is refused and given this:

"As you are a non-profit, you might be able to convince Google to allow for
this application."

My guess is this doesn’t make me as fearful as other people. It sucks, for sure. But in the same way it sucks that I can’t get a Pepsi on any college campus I’ve been on in the last 5 years, that it’s Coke or nothing. My point is that it’s just not surprising in the least. But what about this democratic access issue? If the surge in social networking is destroyed by a rush to license and own the highest-resolution data, I’m not going to get all that busted-up over it. Social networking is very, very interesting, and really a delight of this age. But it’s not vital except in its ability to democratize a social network into a movement. In other words, if an emo kid’s MySpace goes away the country isn’t necessarily worse off (argument appreciated). But if a watchdog blog gets shut down? More appropos still: if a civic agency, nonprofit, or even just a politically-minded individual becomes unable to do GIS should they want to; if their access to the same geospatial data and tools and applications that their governors have gets closed off, probably by those governors; if they are made less unable than before to draw, model, test, analyze, represent, and write their own spaces (be they neighborhoods or gerrymandered political districts), then a true failure of democracy will have occurred. The only variable in that equation is whether Google is a governor as such.

And what of libraries, erstwhile protectors of information and data (probably more often than not protectors from governors) and professed bastions of academic freedom and democracy? Very few of us are collecting and archiving geospatial data, except that which perhaps comes through the GPO. And none of us can compete with a commercial powerhouse of any kind, least of all Google (should they go evil as people fear). Maybe if we team with Coca-Cola?

MetaCarta’s GTS

We first saw MetaCarta’s Geographic Text Search back in 2005. There must be some new functionality or something (document density map, maybe?), because the All Points Blog and others are covering it again. I’m jealous of MetaCarta’s effort more than its existence. It’s the sort of business that a library-based GIS might attend to (especially as more and more library faculty are ushered toward doing interdisciplinary research [with, say, computer scientists]) and it is the sort of project I would really like to develop as a module or other functional component of Purdue’s Institutional Repository project, wherein GIS isn’t analytical but rather an information application almost in and of itself. MetaCarta is using a map interface for non-map, non-GIS document clusters and we should all be interested (but librarians especially) in how these documents are ingested and indexed. If they can do automated geographic indexing of 10,000 documents per day, why don’t more libraries have map interfaces or at least some other geographic utility for locating materials?

2006.August.6

Tables, the App

Filed under: Mac OS X — geoLibro @ 5:07 am

Mac users, if you still find OpenOffice to be a little Windows-y and NeoOffice to be a heavy, lumbering oaf, you might be interested in Tables. (I’m too lazy to look it up, but wasn’t there a rumor of an Apple-made spreadsheet program of this name a year ago or more?) Anyway, it opens Excel files, so your business jerk friends won’t get mad at you for requesting a different format, but it feels like a Mac app. I haven’t done much with it yet, but it launches in two seconds, so I don’t doubt it will be my default spreadsheet app for the next 30 days (it’s in public beta as a 30-day trial).

2006.August.4

Okay, Listen: About Dapple…

Filed under: Geographic Exploration Systems, GES, GISUI (GIS User Interfaces) — geoLibro @ 1:21 pm

Near the end of July Bull’s rambles mentioned a WorldWind spin-off called Dapple. I didn’t have a way to test it out (I was Mac-only, driving across the country), but James Fee posted a quick review of it. I got a little snide about some user interface stuff (the more Windows I use, the more I become an Apple fanboy), but today let me say that Dapple has some good things going. I recommend everybody try out its WMS implementation at least, and be sure to try out the keyword search function in the table of contents. Ideally, this "lookup" function would be tied to a more standardized, taxonomized vocabulary or catalog (something an enterprising GIS Librarian might want to look into), but it’s still about the only attempt I’ve seen at being able to search for data layers from within the display app (yes, yes, the Mapdex toolbar could be considered). I’d be happy to be corrected on that, by the way.

2006.August.3

Introduction to GIS for Librarians workshop

Filed under: GIS in Libraries — geoLibro @ 3:27 pm

A colleague at Purdue’s  M.G. Mellon Library of Chemistry alerted me to a workshop hosted by the Indiana State Library called "Introduction to GIS for Librarians," August 17 from 1:30 to 4:00 pm in the History Reference Room (State Library of Indiana, downtown Indianapolis). From a forwarded email announcement:

"Geographic Information Systems is a powerfull tool that can be used by anyone. But what exactly is it, and what advantages can it provide librarians?…Jim Sparks of Paul I. Cripe, the Indianapolis architecture and engineering firm, will guide participants through the basics. Tailored for librarians, this seminar can open up a world of possibilities for anyone working with maps or spatial data."

How about that? It’s a little odd that it’s being taught by an architect, but perhaps in the future there will be similar sessions taught by a GIS Librarian. Indiana is swell.

2006.August.2

Me to Myself: “Welcome to Purdue.”

Filed under: GIS Labs, Mac OS X — geoLibro @ 2:39 am

Today was my first day as the GIS Librarian at Purdue University and I’m thrilled to have finally begun. The lab machines aren’t here yet (one is, but there are still some map cabinets in the way of where we’ll place it: a debatably apt allegory, I suppose), but I’ve got plenty to do even in advance of setting up the lab machines.Those of you who said you were interested in the mechanics of a library-based lab may find this interesting: Purdue makes ArcGIS available via a Citrix server, so the software runs on a server and gets "piped" (via tubes, like Senator Stevens said) to your machine via the use of client software. It works…alright. On my pimped-out XP box, on campus, it worked very well, but with noticeable lag. On my PowerBook G4 it worked almost as well via campus wireless but to be honest it would drive me crazy over time. I’m guessing Parallels is better, and BootCamp almost certainly is. (There was no noticeable difference over VPN from home, and that was on the PowerBook connected wirelessly to home network on a cable line).

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