Geo Data

VerySpatial makes the case for Interactive Maps

There's a great article from VerySpatial making the case that the use of "analog" maps in cases where differential information is being compared might night be the best way to display data online. We've been looking into this space recently and already have excellent KML Export in Cartographica, which can be easily paired with online tools like Google Layers and Leaflet.

The original article from The Washington Post is an interesting piece about use of time across the US.

National Atlas and National Map changes

The USGS has announced that the National Atlas will be taken out of service as of September 30, 2014. According to the detailed product availability information, much of the data will be available via the to-be-enhanced National Map system, or as data downloads "at no cost from Earth Explorer".

This transition appears to be mostly a resource realignment (basically reducing the number of sources and web sites they need to maintain.

In addition, the USGS has also announced that "[L]ater this year we will deliver these new framework datasets at one million-scale: networked hydrography, updated streams and waterbodies, streamflow gaging stations, cities and towns, Federal lands, Indian lands, wilderness areas, and urban areas."

For those of you who are using USGS WFS and WMS services, based on the National Atlas, be warned that the services will be taken away September 30, 2014, but that the USGS is " currently evaluating options for continuing small-scale Web services beyond September 30, 2014, and will provide updates here."

Growing use of OpenStreetMap in Government

We at ClueTrust integrated support for OpenStreetMap into both Cartographica and CartoMobile some time ago because it provides an avenue for public updating and curation that is unequaled and also provides data licensing that allows liberal reuse.

We are happy to see the wide range of OpenStreetMap in Government outlined on the OpenStreetMap.US blog.

There are lots of opportunities to improve the data set and make your mark on open data, while improving available map data for everyone.

For those with little background with the organization, it didn't start in the US, but in Europe, where most Geospatial data was (at the time) locked up behind huge licensing restrictions. To combat this, founders and an army of interested people fanned out over the continent and later the globe to create map data which was free of those restrictions and open to the public.

Using MapQuest satellite imagery

MapQuest has recently made available, through information on their developer website, access to their tile servers for OpenStreetMap-style tiles of satellite imagery (mostly from government sources) and their street databases.   Because both CartoMobile and Cartographica support customized OpenStreetMap-style tile sources, you can now add these to your maps.

Cartographica Desktop

  1. Within an existing mapset, add a new live layer by choosing File > Add Live Map…
  2. Choose Other OpenStreet Map Server:  from the list of sources
  3. Type the following into the URL box:
  4. Click Add

A new layer named OpenStreetMap Live will appear in the layer stack, and you're ready to go.


  1. Create a new map or edit an existing map using Change Map in the gear menu
  2. Tap Add Custom OSM Server to add the new Base Map
  3. Type a label in the Layer Label box
  4. Type the following into the URL box:
  5. Tap Done

Once you have re-entered the map in CartoMobile, you can use the Base Map by choosing it from the Base Maps list in the Gear menu.

Credit where it is due

MapQuest provides these tiles from a few different sources, mostly the US government and some from the Japanese space agency.

Tiles Courtesy of MapQuest

Where are those FAA-approved Unmanned Drones?

In an article released last week it was reported that the Federal Aviation Administration has released the names and locations of Organizations approved for flying drones within the U.S. Drones have become infamous over the past several years due to their use for military purposes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and many other places. The use of the military technology for domestic purposes should not be unexpected as we have seen many military technologies cross-over for domestic purposes. Many argue that the use of such Military technology in local police agencies may be problematic and seen as an increase in domestic law enforcement power. Many argue that the use of these types of technology against the citizenry represents an unnecessary use of military strength.  However, it can also be argued that use of military technology in civilian life has been beneficial. One glaring example is the use of GPS. Did you know that GPS was originally a military development? 

In the article liked above a map is shown that can be quickly and easily reproduced in Cartographica. If you click on the map in the article it will take you to Google Maps which then allows you to explore the data. However, we can also download the data and import it into Cartographica. To download the data click on the KML link on the left side of the Google Maps window. This will automatically download the data. I provide an image below of the Google Maps page and highlight where the KML link is located. 


Next, open Cartographica and then import the KML file by choosing File > Import Vector Data. This will automatically import the KML file into Cartographica. You can also add a base map for context by choosing File > Add Live Map. I provide an image below of the data. 


Next, we can use Cartographica for more than just viewing the points. We can also create interesting additions to the map. To create a Kernel Density Map use the identify tool to select only the locations in the lower 48 states (notice there is one location in Alaska, we will ignore that location for now). Next, hold down the option button and choose Tools > Make Kernel Density for Selection... Next, you can select the type of Kernel you would like to use. For the map below I used the Negative Exponential kernel. To make the map more transparent you can double click on the KDM layer in the layer stack and change the opacity. Also you can change the color palette by choosing Window > Show Color Palettes. Choose the color palette and then drag it to the KDM layer in the layer stack. The color palette I used was downloaded from Color Brewer. For more information on how to use Color Brewer with Cartographica see this previous blog post.  My KDM map is shown below. 


Mapping U.S. Naval Bases and Ports

Recently a friend of mine received information in the mail about becoming a Naval Officer. In the packet of information was a brochure that included information about locations of U.S. Naval bases and ports throughout the world. The location information was simply a list of cities around the world where the bases and ports are located. I thought it would be both interesting and informative to talk about how to turn a list of cities into a map.

Home town makes good (data)

Some of you may already know that ClueTrust (the folks who run this site) has been located in the National Capital Area since 1989 (over 20 years now), and during that time, DC has gone through a lot of changes. The District's new mayor is nothing if not high tech, and to that end announced an amazing level of data openness through the CityDW (City Data Warehouse) program this over the last couple of years. Not surprisingly, this includes a lot of geospatial data. And this continued with a large release of data about the transit system in the last month.

Zillow Labs makes neighborhood shapes available

Real estate web site Zillow has announced that they are making the shape files that they use to indicate neighborhoods across the US available under the Creative Commons license. That's right, a commercial data provider who is willing to make data available for free. As they'd say in New Zealand, "Good on you!" The license requires attribution only, and that you make future versions available under the same license if you change the data.

Ed Parsons speaks out on the future of OS

Ed Parsons (CTO of Ordnance Survey in the UK) has the first of a series of articles on his personal site entitled "Building Ordnance Survey 2.0" that goes into his ideas about serving up OS data as more of a service model instead of a data sales (licensing) model. It could get interesting if the organization follows-through on his ideas, especially the idea of a try-before-you-buy model.

Maps that Lye

When browsing the OpenStreetMap Wiki, I ran across a page called Maps That Lye, which contains information about anti-copying provisions in maps. In particular, there are a number of locations on many maps that are intentionally wrong or misleading in an attempt to make it obvious (to the copyright holder) when maps or map data are copied. (Of course, if all map data were accurate, it would be almost impossible to tell that you had copied the map).