Online mapping

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.

Cartographica 1.4.2 Available

Cartographica 1.4.2 is now available, and it's got a little bit of everything to it: new features, performance enhancements, and bug fixes.

This release ended up taking a bit longer than we expected as we have been working hard to fix the bugs reported in 1.4 and 1.4.1.    But, we haven't just been working on fixing bugs, we've also been enhancing the capabilities and performance of the existing capabilities of Cartographica, with improvements in everything from WFS compatibility to execution speed and progress information for many of our analysis tools.

I won't take up the space here to enumerate all of the changes, as they are covered almost exhaustively in the release notes, however I will point out a few of the areas we have been working on.

Analysis Tools

We introduced a lot of new tools in version 1.4, and we have been making improvements to the performance and interface for these.   In particular, almost all of the analysis tools provide more progress information now and may be cancelled.   For those who work in more than one window at a time, Cartographica no longer makes you wait in all windows while analysis is performed for one window.   This means you can continue to work on another map while performing more complex analysis on a map in the background.   All search and overlay operations are substantially improved and we are continuing to follow additional optimization paths (while maintaining accuracy).

Geocoding

Because of the Bing geocoder service that we also support, many folks don't use the built-in geocoder.  However, for tasks involving historical data, or large amounts of data being proccessed in a small area, it's often a faster mechanism (and it doesn't require a network connection).  In this release, we've significantly improved the handling of whitespace, negative address ranges in the streets files, additional abbreviations, and support for streets whose names begin with "Ste".

File Import/Export

Most of the changes to file import involved upgrading to the most recent libraries for external file formats, such as MrSID®.  These should improve compatibility and performance.

For export, we've fixed a bug involving line style export to Illustrator and enhanced the Save window to include file extensions that appropriately default for the selecte file type.

ESRI File Geodatabases can now receive the entire map instead of being broken into a set of GDB files per layer.

Live Maps

The big change for live maps is that Custom OSM layers can now point at basically any tile source that uses a similar format to OpenStreetMap but isn't actually an OpenStreetMap server.   For those of you with access to tiled services from an ESRI ArcServer map, this means that you can access those tiles from Cartographica as well. For an OpenStreetMap server, you can just use the URL of the service in the box.   For other services, you'll need to use a more complete URL with {zoom}, {x}, and {y}, representing the zoom level, x tile id, and y tile id.   Here are some examples:

For ESRI ArcServer maps, end the URL with {zoom}/{y}/{x}, so if the base URL of the map is

http://myserver/ArcGIS/rest/services/MyMapLayerName/MapServer

the URL you would use is:

http://myserver/ArcGIS/rest/services/MyMapLayerName/MapServer/tile/{zoom}/{y}/{x}

For Google-style maps, the URL is more complicated, so if the base URL of the map is

https://mymapserver.com/foo/x=9&y=23&z=6&scale=2&s=Ga

the URL you would use is:

https://mymapserver.com/foo/x={x}&y={y}&z={zoom}&scale=2&s=Ga

At the moment, all of the key services are using the same CRS, which is the Web Pseudo-Mercator and thus Cartographica will automatically determine the right information and display it correctly.

WFS Layers

We continue our improvement of support for WFS layers.    This release includes better handling of WFS 2.0.0 servers (such as most recent versions of GeoServer) as well as backwards compatibility with older 1.1 and 1.0 services.   We also fixed a bug in handling single polygon layers in GMLv3 layers (multipolygon layers were fine).   

The Web Feature Layer Attributes window (available from Layer > Web Feature Layer Attributes... and when you add a new web feature layer using File > Add Web Feature Layer...) has been enhanced to allow limiting of requests to the server (necessary for some servers that don't know their own limitations) and the introduction of manual filters.    We hope to make filters easier in future versions, but for now if you know the XML filter language (or can have somebody work up a filter for you), then you can paste that directly into the Filter box and it will be applied to layer requests.

The Future

We have many plans going forward, including improvements to our existing features and additional features for analysis, presentation and exploration.   We sincerely appreciate your support.

State of the Map goes to Limerick in July

The folks who keep Open Street Map thriving are having a conference in Limerick, Ireland in July to discuss the State of the Map. If you aren't familiar with Open Street Map, I'd encourage you to check it out, and then to get out your GPS and digital camera and get some data on the map! Most of the current US data is from the TIGER/Lines data set, and in my area of DC is pretty out of date.

Review of online mapping sites

Fellow all-things-spatial obsessed blog Cartography has a review of all the major web mapping applications (Google Maps, Map24, Maporama, Mapquest, MSN Maps, Rand McNally, and Yahoo Maps). Categories reviewed in this 9 part series include: types of searches, map display, data layers, directions and overall use. Overall this is quite a nice review including tables to help make it all that much easier to get the high points.