Surveying, Mapping and GIS

Exploring all aspects of mapping and geography, from field data collection, to mapping and analysis, to integration, applications development and enterprise architecture...

  • Geospatial Technology, End to End...

    Exploring all aspects of mapping and geography, from field data collection, to mapping and analysis, to integration, applications development, enterprise architecture and policy

Best Wishes for the New Year

Posted by Dave Smith On 12/31/2007 04:11:00 PM 0 comments

Happy New Year!

Old gives birth to new...

A lot of good things going on, many irons in the fire, and many interesting prospects on the horizon... I am looking forward to 2008...

Wishing a good year to everyone!

Phone Phun

Posted by Dave Smith On 12/30/2007 05:01:00 PM 0 comments

Seems there's a lot of buzz about cellphones, mobile geospatial and LBS this week in the GeoBlogosphere as we get ready to head into the new year:

Great info from Glenn Letham on Nokia's beta program and AT&T's devCentral newsletter and program (via SymbianOne).

Peter Batty on Google's "Locate Me" capability (location finding via cell towers), along with hybrid mode maps in an upcoming iPhone firmware 1.1.3 release - The Digital Earth Blog and others mention this as well - more on the new firmware here:

Personally, I'm not thrilled at how Apple still has the platform locked down, with restricted capability for users to upgrade and develop for the iPhone platform...

If the faux-GPS cellphone-resection approach doesn't make you happy, add GPS on to your iPhone - "LocoGPS":

Finally, Glenn Letham also reports on a special release of the popular Nokia N95 as an 8GB 3G version specifically for the US market that's coming - more here:

As for me, I still have my own bias for my AT&T Tilt, which, while perhaps not as stylish or elegant, nonetheless already has all of the functionality that these iPhone, N95 and other imminent releases are still striving for - and it's proven to be a good, reliable and versatile workhorse for me already.

Does your phone do it all?

3 New GLONASS Birds Launched

Posted by Dave Smith On 12/26/2007 07:37:00 PM 1 comments

In echoes of Christmas Past, ITAR-TASS and others are announcing the launch of three new GLONASS space vehicles. They were launched from Baikonur atop a Proton-M at 22:32 Moscow time on Tuesday.

Refer to the GLONASS site for current SV status:

At present, it does not yet show the three new SVs active. Of a total 24 slots, 18 are presently occupied, with two temporarily switched off, and 3 undergoing decommissioning.

This brings GLONASS close, but still short of its current goal of 18 SVs. Six more GLONASS satellites are scheduled for launch in 2008, and the first two improved GLONASS-K satellites are scheduled for launch the following year, hopefully rounding out the full complement of 24.

On a related note, former spymaster Vladimir Putin has stated an intent to use GLONASS to spy on his dog, Connie.

Happy Holidays...

Posted by Dave Smith On 12/24/2007 10:04:00 AM 0 comments

Happy Holidays

Lakota to reshape the US map?

Posted by Dave Smith On 12/24/2007 09:33:00 AM 1 comments

As reported by some news outlets, Lakota activists have sent a letter to the US State Department announcing their intention to secede from the United States.

To provide context, there were several treaties between the US and the Lakota, such as the 1855 Fort Laramie treaty which granted the Lakota sovereignty, but allowed passage along the Oregon Trail - however unease between the Lakota and whites continued, following with the 1868 Fort Laramie treaty - but once gold was discovered in the Black Hills (sacred to the Lakota), all bets were off, leading to the infamous battles of Little Big Horn, where General Custer's forces were defeated, and the killing of Sitting Bull (shown on the right) at Standing Rock, and the Massacre at Wounded Knee, where 150 Lakota and 25 US soldiers were killed. The Lakota were ultimately forced to sign a treaty in 1877, ceding the Black Hills to the US, but there has been longstanding discontent over the disenfranchisement of the Lakota and loss of their sacred Black Hills.

In 1980, a proposed settlement of $122 million was offered to the Lakota by the US government, however as this did not include a return of lands, it was refused.

The potential extent of the Lakota nation is shown in the map below (current reservations shown dark red, 1868 Treaty boundary in yellow):

Instant GPS-enabled Camera

Posted by Dave Smith On 12/10/2007 09:00:00 PM 2 comments

Came across this interesting hack for the HTC TyTn II / AT&T Tilt:

With a registry editor, open HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\HTC\Camera\ - and in folder called P9, change the value "enabled"from 0 to 1.

And, voila:

You now have an additional option button to select GPS Camera, and now your lat/long will be grabbed automagically from the integrated GPS to be embedded in the photo's EXIF tag.

Now if only I can find a hack for the camera's lag...

Cadastral or not?

Posted by Dave Smith On 12/10/2007 11:23:00 AM 7 comments

After hearing some recent trials and tribulations of a surveyor arguing a legal lot line adjustment with the county GIS department (same story repeated again and again all across the nation), it again underscores the issue of what is or isn't cadastral GIS.

In Pennsylvania, our State Law says,

“Practice of Land Surveying” means the practice of that branch of the profession of engineering which involves the location, relocation, establishment, reestablishment or retracement of any property line or boundary of any parcel of land or any road right-ofway, easement or alignment; the use of principles of land surveying, determination of the position of any monument or reference point which marks a property line boundary, or corner setting, resetting or replacing any such monument or individual point including the writing of deed descriptions; procuring or offering to procure land surveying work for himself or others; managing or conducting as managers, proprietors or agent any place of business from which land surveying work is solicited, performed, or practiced; the performance of the foregoing acts and services being prohibited to persons who are not granted certificates of registration under this act as a professional land surveyor unless exempt under other provisions of this act.
As such, what exactly does a tax map represent? It seems that many GIS departments hop back and forth between boxes, either arguing that it is not surveying, and only deals with a schematic showing taxation, but at the same time, argue issues of deeds and possession, enter their parcel boundaries using COGO, and so on.

Either it is, or it isn't. If it is indeed a representation of the cadastre - and after all, taxation is uniquely tied back to the parcels and their possession - then it needs to be properly treated as such.

If, on the other hand, it's not a representation of the cadastre, then perhaps it's in fact something which perhaps has no real meaning, merit or legal standing whatsoever.

If the former is the case, then it likely needs to be getting developed and maintained under the purview of a licensed professional land surveyor, per state law - if the latter is the case, then I believe the whole process needs to be re-evaluated.

I'll put this out there for debate, with the caveat that I did intend to stir the pot - I'm interested in getting others' earnest perspectives.

NeoGeo Wars...

Posted by Dave Smith On 12/05/2007 05:23:00 PM 0 comments

Seems a post on All Points Blog regarding NeoGeography has unleashed a flurry of posts relating to "paleo" versus neo and a whole lot of other issues.

I think I have a slightly different of a take on it... I view the two as sort of a Venn diagram, with each representing expanding spheres, with an equally expanding area of overlap and merging between them.

Note, my little 5-minute Visio diagram is not by any means intended to be comprehensive... But the fuzziness and overlap is fully intended.

I do not view them as "in competition" - each has its own stakeholders and requirements, and between the two there is a considerable area of commonality. The exciting thing about neogeography, however, is that it's about empowerment and putting tools and capabilities into the hands of the public, which previously would have been inaccessible. Additionally, it's about fusion and collaboration - which benefits both communities.

And along the whole NeoGeo theme, I will leave with this:

Looking for a GIS Architect

Posted by Dave Smith On 12/05/2007 09:42:00 AM 2 comments

We're looking for a senior GIS architect to help head up GIS applications development and enterprise architecture efforts on a federal program:

GIS Project Manager - (US-VA-Arlington)

Min Education: Bachelors
Job Type: Full Time Employee

Industry Job Title: Geographic/Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) Project Manager

Required Skills:
1. Strong people skills.
2. Excellent writing and briefing skills including good command of grammar and business communications style before groups or one-on-one, i.e., the ability to convey ideas clearly and concisely in non-technical terms.
3. A solid record of accomplishment in the planning, design, and management of integrated and open enterprise GIS operations on a national scope, employing Oracle Spatial and ESRI environments.
4. Must be able to define the scope, direction and advancement of GIS operations on the behalf of the customer.
5. Must have expert knowledge in geospatial data creation best practices.
6. Have familiarity with land surveying principles and practices.
7. Must be able to manage and cultivation a team of GIS professionals, specialists and technicians, within a heavily integrated data service and GIS application environment.
8. Must be able to oversee the development of GIS applications to improve efficiency and effectiveness in applicable areas of GIS operations related to customer needs.
9. Requires familiarity with developing web applications in Java and Oracle Application Server that operate in an ESRI environment within the services oriented architecture.
10. Must demonstrate an ability to conceptualize and develop enterprise GIS systems, and lead multi-disciplinary teams and personnel in implementing geospatial systems.
11. Must have in-depth knowledge of enterprise and application life cycles and current awareness of trends and practices in GIS technology.

Desired skills:
1. Knowledge and understanding of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mission and/or actual work experience in supporting the EPA in GIS technology.
2. Working Knowledge in the following software and technology concepts:
• GIS database design
• GIS application design
• Oracle RDBMS environments.
• Oracle Spatial 9i and 10g.
• ArcGIS 9.x desktop clients
• Microsoft Virtual Earth/API
• ArcWeb Services
• ArcIMS 9.x
• ArcObjects
• Fusion Middleware
• GPS/mobile GIS computing
• GeoRSS
• ArcSDE/ArcGIS Server 9.x,
• GIS system architecture design strategies.
• OGC and open GIS data architecture standards

Specific Job Description:
Directs all phases of GIS programs from inception through completion. Responsible for coordinating subordinate employee recruitment, selection and training, performance assessment, work assignments, salary, and recognition/disciplinary actions. Responsible for the cost, schedule and technical performance of GIS programs. Coordinates the preparation of proposals, business plans, proposal work statements and specifications and operating budgets for GIS activities. Acts as primary customer contact for GIS program activities, leading GIS program review sessions with customer to discuss cost, schedule, and technical performance. Establishes GIS design concepts, criteria and engineering efforts for product research, development, integration and test. Develops new GIS business or expands the product line with the customer. Establishes milestones and monitors adherence to master plans and schedules. Identifies GIS program problems and obtains solutions.

Security Clearance: Applicant must be able to pass SF-85P Public Trust

Typical Minimums:
Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college in geographic information systems or a related field such as engineering, geography, computer science, planning, mathematics or applied science, or equivalent experience/combined education, with 10 years of professional experience; or 8 years of professional experience with a related Masters degree. Considered an emerging authority.

Place of Performance: On-site, Arlington VA

Applicant must be a US Citizen or have US Permanent Resident Status

Interested applicants should respond with a current curriculum vitae and salary requirements to dsmith[@]

Synergist Technology Group, Inc. is a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, specializing in GIS, Environmental Science, Intelligent Transportation Systems and Systems Engineering.

We are also currently looking for an authority on Documentum as well.

Virtual Earth and KML

Posted by Dave Smith On 12/04/2007 10:04:00 PM 0 comments

I recently learned that the Virtual Earth vector generalization issue that I discovered earlier to has at least been partly remedied in a fix that Microsoft recently rolled out, by allowing developers to turn it off:

From this (note the significant gaps and overlaps):

To this:
Gaps and overlaps no longer occur, and polygons are now true to the source KML.

This just came out as a fix issued November 16, and is implemented via a VEMap method: map.EnableShapeDisplayThreshold(false); However, I noted that the VE team still needs to fix the generalization algorithm that’s still being implemented by default or when map.EnableShapeDisplayThreshold is set to true.

One of my colleagues has however reported that he's still seeing some generalization issues in GeoRSS at some zoom levels despite the display threshold setting.

Per a forum post by the VE developer team (note that it also includes some other recently announced enhancements as well):

The Virtual Earth v6 API has been updated. The below list is not comprehensive. However, it talks about the bugs that has been dicussed on the forums.

Bug Fixes:

  • Collection import is now working on V6.

  • VEShapes appearing in wrong position when switching mapstyle has been fixed.

  • Clicking on a pushpin/icon causes the infobox to appear at the top left corner of the page has been fixed.

  • VEShape’s icons not updated with correct z-index after a VEShape.SetZIndex has been fixed.

  • Setting font size on the body might mess up the navcontrol has been fixed.

  • 3D showswitch parameter in LoadMap not working has been fixed.

New Features/Functionality:

  • KML support for v6. This is similar to More information at

    You can try it out using the following example(please enter your own kml url). Please note that source parameter in VEShapeSourceSpecification needs to be a URL. Local files are not supported.
Code Block
var spec = new VEShapeSourceSpecification(VEDataType.ImportXML, http://enteryourkmlurlhere.htm");

  • Localization for VEMap.Find(where only search) & VEMap.GetDirections();
    This is not in the documentation yet, but the following needs to be set for the GetDirections to return localized results:

Code Block
var options = new VERouteOptions();
options.UseMWS = true;
//The UseMWS flag uses the MapPoint Web Service routing engine which provides localized
results. However, the generated route might be slightly different from the default routing engine’s route.
  • Added new method VEMap.EnableShapeDisplayThreshold(boolean). Setting it to false will make prevent the mapcontrol from trying to merge points together and not draw polygons/polylines when they are too small.

    If you’re seeing polygons/polylines being drawn incorrectly, do the following.
Code Block

  • Added Time property to the VERoute, VERouteLeg & VERouteItinerary returned by VEMap.GetDirections. This property is a integer, in seconds. Not a string like the GetRoute call. More information in the SDK when it gets updated.

  • The callback function in VEMap.Find, where only queries will now return all results, instead of only results of the highest confidence level found. The default disambiguation box will continues to display results of the highest confidence level found.
  • The callback function in VEMap.Find will return all geocoded values for VEPlace. i.e It will return both the interpolated and rooftop result (if available) in VEPlace. More information can be found in the SDK when it gets updated.
  • Birdseye in 3D is working now.

To Be Fixed/Updated:

  • Mouse button missing from 3D mouse events. Will be fix when the 3D control gets updated. Coming soon.

Not Fixed:

  • Multiple maps on the same page might cause the zoom buttons to be missing from 1 of the maps.
    Workaround: Changing the order of how you load the map might solve the problem. i.e. Loading the second map before the first map will prevent this from happening.
    If you order of the map div on the page look like this:
    Div 1 (id='myMap1')
    Div 2 (id='myMap2')

    In you script do this instead:
Code Block
map2 = new VEMap('myMap2');
map1 = new

  • Invalid latlong in v5 mouse events when using the newest 3D control. Workaround: Only use the following code in v5 and only in the 3D mouse events.
Code Block
//This code is only nessecary for v5 mapcontrol when in 3D mode
//However, This will not work for when -3.142 < lat < -3.142 = 180 e.latLong.Longitude <= -180 e.latLong.Longitude >= 180))
//Convert latlong to a valid latlong
var r2d = 180.0 / Math.PI;
e.latLong = new
VELatLong(e.latLong.Latitude / r2d, e.latLong.Longitude / r2d);

Tabula Peutingeriana

Posted by Dave Smith On 12/04/2007 12:59:00 PM 1 comments

Along the historic maps vein, another ancient map receiving a lot of press of late is the Tabula Peutingeriana - this one I find tremendously fascinating, being a view of the Roman world of nearly 2000 years ago. As a kid, I grew up in Germany, near Roman ruins of the Limes Germanicus and other features, and as such, I have always been fascinated with all things ancient.

Presently, the Tabula Peutingeriana is being added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register as an important artifact, and, given its extreme fragility, was recently placed on public display for one day in Vienna on November 26th.

The Tabula Peutingeriana is a copy of a Roman cursus publicus, which was a schematic roadmap of roads, cities and other features as developed and used in the Roman Empire. There are no longer any known copies of the original Roman cursus publicus charts, however the Tabula Peutingeriana is believed to have been transcribed from an original one by a thirteenth-century monk in Colmar, and consists of a number of sheets with schematic diagrams showing stops along routes, very similar to a modern-day subway map.

As such, it displaces many features to fit the route rather than attempting to be cartographically correct, and as such, it does not represent latitude and longitude in a conventional sense - instead accomodating the routes and features along them first and foremost, resulting in a very long, skinny map generally oriented west to east.

The geographic extent of the map is staggering, spanning the British Isles to India and Sri Lanka, showing what would have been trade and military routes, the infrastructure and cultural exchange that would have gone on in Roman times.

One of the things that I was playing around with over the weekend is trying to match up features as shown on the Tabula Peutingeriana to modern features - one of the tools I was playing around with is Microsoft Research's MapCruncher for Virtual Earth:

While I wouldn't expect MapCruncher to be able to rubbersheet a schematic map such as the Tabula Peutingeriana to a conventional map, it has nonetheless given me many insights just in being able to match up ancient designations and routes to their modern counterparts in a managed fashion, and it has made for a fun rainy (or snowy, as the case may be) day project.

Remaining Mysteries of the Waldseemüller Map

Posted by Dave Smith On 12/04/2007 12:37:00 PM 1 comments

Reuters is carrying a story about the preservation of the 1507 Martin Waldseemüller World map, the first known to refer to the New World as America.

Some of the individuals cited in the article express their puzzlement at how Waldseemüller was able to portray as much detail and accuracy as he did, given the extremely limited amound of knowledge that is generally believed to have been extant regarding the New World at this time - for example, Vasco Núñez De Balboa had not crossed the Isthmus of Panama to reach the Pacific until 1513, and likewise, Magellan had not rounded the southern tip of South America until 1520, yet these are shown.

Interestingly, many features in this map are reversed in subsequent maps by Waldseemüller.

The map is cited in the article as a 'keystone map', showing a fundamental shift in how Europe viewed the New World. It also raises many questions about how much we really understand geographic awareness and the availability of cartographic information in ancient times.

My own notion is that we sometimes do not give our predecessors enough credit for their knowledge of the world around them.