Monday, February 26, 2007

Argh, Who's Being Bad

Corrupt JPEG data: bad Huffman code

Bad. Bad! Is there a simple newline or something needing to be stripped or what?

Same parameterized URL renders nicely in browsers (of course).

Friday, February 23, 2007

I'm Psyched

A great feature of Quantum GIS is the ability to create .map files for MapServer. That's very nice. On WD0ze, just be sure to install Python 2.5, and the "Export to Mapserver Map..." menu option will work like a champ!

What a great tool!

The screenshot above shows just how well our folks here have described our Campus features, and the quality of our aerial photog features.

And the green symbols are bus stops. We also have the route files, and can likely deal with the Town's GPS-powered tracking provider to do cool things.

Now I should sleep.

When Evil Service Providers Attack!

Hah, a bunch of us went to hear Cory Doctorow speak yesterday, and just a few hours later I realized that I'd wasted more than a few hours of my spare time dealing with some of the very issues he "is all about."

Turns out that my cell service provider was not allowing access to JSR-82 functionality by midlet .jars not signed by them. After debranding the phone, I am a happy camper. Gee, now I can do what I want without purchasing service from my provider!

BTW, there was yet another "Willi moment" when my esteemed colleague Jim M. pointed out that that I was pressing the wrong key during the wipe. Doh! Thanks, Jim.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


While I've only been using GIS tools for a few months, and I'm pretty much a n00b, I must say that the University of Minnesota's MapServer is an excellent product to begin with.

If you want to get from 0-to-60 in a day, give it a whirl. The Windows port, especially, is a great way to get going.

Coming Soon (Even to the US?)

My brother's in Taipei again, so I was thinking about NFC. Casually, at a dinner conversation, I mentioned NFC-type services. My Taipei-born sister-in-law was anecdotally aware of that stuff.

Have I mentioned that the US is really falling behind in many areas?

Check this out. They're also doing some of this in Dallas and Orlando.

Rock on.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bluetooth GPS

Just for humor, here's a screen capture of Google Earth Plus.

In version 4+, it handles NMEA tracking in realtime. Can't remember when I bought a subscription, but in 3.x it handled only the common proprietary data formats. This shot's just from placing a GlobalSat BT-359 on my windowsill and enabling tracking. Of course, that meant that I wasn't moving. But the BT-359 seems to acquire a good fix more quickly than the other BT GPS units we have, even though they all have the ubiquitous SiRF Star III. Just my anecdotal experience.

So I like the BT-359, but I'm not especially impressed with my local cell provider. I imagine most of the employees there would do well as used car salespersons. Mentioning the words "programmatically access" likely caused a buffer overflow, and I couldn't help but think of Death of a Salesman.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

GIS Today

Today I finished an installation of a PostgreSQL/PostGIS instance on one of our Red Hat development servers. It's populated with geo-spatial data from our campus, and is set up (as of now) so we can query it from our apps to determine three region levels: building, campus region, and lastly, the entire campus. With that we should be able to get much more meaningful description of a user's location. This first version really just has regions arbitrarily defined by me, but we can certainly refine those later.

What this means is that we can now report a user's location and receive in return a container name (that is, x,y is within this described polygon), as well as a URL that is linked to meta-data about that place (an RDF). The client must then do something appropriate. An intelligent client ideally should handle the RDF and extract the low-level details fully describing the place and acquire available services.

For visualization of location, I'm setting up a MapServer instance to provide relevant images of the place. At first these will be available through WMS.

So what we want near-term is the ability to know where one is (text), and and a visual representation of same (.png, etc.).

Related: tonight I was playing with OpenJUMP, and took this screenshot:

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Making Due with What You've Got

My cell phone doesn't have GPS, but since my work involves LBS, I am trying to adapt some JSR-82 example applications to work with a Bluetooth GPS unit we have. At work, we've long had code that works with that unit through a serial port, because that's how we normally get GPS data, but I wanted to see what I could do with a "dumb" phone that just knows Bluetooth.

Well, a few hours after playing at home things were looking like this:

I'd really like to get one of these.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

North Carolina Pwned by Google?

The last few days, I've been catching those hints in our papers about Google opening some server farms here. It sounds like the State's cut (or will cut) them a sweet deal, which is understandable when North Carolina is scrambling to identify itself in the brave new world of so-called "free trade" in the era of American post-industrialization.

A cynic might say that it's the economic equivalent of "Web 2.0" or something: we taxpayers state-wide contribute tax dollars (our content contribution), and all the world benefits by faster query result times ;)

There's nothing wrong with gaining a Google server farm, as theoretically that alone is a good thing for us, but we should keep things in perspective.

Recently "forest products" surpassed textiles as the State's leading industry, in terms of dollars and employment. While I am no economist, that seems to me a step in the wrong direction.

Friday, February 9, 2007

UNC's Second Life Presence Merged w/Campus Presence

UNC Chapel Hill has a "physical" presence at Second Life. I signed up there again tonight, and poked around a bit. Luckily, some UNC folks were there, notably from SILS. They and Teaching and Learning, from ITS, have established presences there (there are likely others I don't yet know about; I'm not excluding anyone on purpose).

While at the RENCI-sponsored presentation by
Irving Wladawsky-Berger yesterday, there were some quick conversations about mapping the real world to the virtual. Now, this is not necessarily a new idea, because the implied benefits are pretty obvious, and there has already been quite a bit a DoD-sponsored research related to this for many years, for obvious reasons -- but since SL is seeing such wide adoption these days, especially in the fields realated to what used to loosely be called distance education, why not explore the mapping of virtual worlds to our work in real-world location determination?

Multiple departments at UN-CH have long been involved with GIS, and with the current slew of location determination projects underway here, it is theoretically a simple step to

* Make the UNC SL presence locations conform to the real-world Campus dimensions
* Transform real-world Campus coordinates of users to the virtual (and the reverse)
* Hack out some mash-ups that synthesize the above into useful applications

So these are just ideas, not yet vetted against the sharp rocks of reality, but there is at the very least a mapping API at SL that will generate browser-accessible maps of SL geography.

All of this stuff is inevitable. To me, the real questions will involve who the providers will be.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

What We Were Doing Saturday

Hmm, why is this man smiling? He's delirious from trying to get a demo ready, that's why. That's Conway last Saturday afternoon, when we were trying to get everything together for John's Sun presentation.

This is a closer look at some of the ultra-mobiles we had rigged with RFID readers, in order to do some near-field communications/services stuff.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Change of Address

I'll be moving my old blog here, but don't quite have time to finish tonight.