Tuesday, December 8, 2009

PostGIS Workshop

This has been too long coming, but I've finally sent my PostGIS workshop material out into the wild. This was presented at the FOSS4G conference in Sydney and has had minimal changes since then. Feel free to send me any comments or errata.

I would like to thank Mike and Paul from OpenGeo for their help, both with the material and during the workshop. It is always a pleasure to work with people that are professional, enthusiastic and willing to go the extra mile to make sure everyone leaves relatively happy.

Friday, October 23, 2009

FOSS4G 2009 - Day 4

The final day of the conference was a welcome relief for me. The only real trauma was Jody's GeoTools tutorial. At the beginning of the break as he was running off to the demo theater to get things going, he looked around the booth for his box of dvd's and print material and couldn't find it. After a quick pass over the booth myself, I ran to the tutorial room to make sure it hadn't migrated there and then tracked down Michael Bedward, Jody's partner in crime for the tutorial, to make sure he hadn't moved it. Of course he hadn't. So back to the booth to dig through every box in the place. It turned out it was in plain sight, but had been moved under the table and had some spare propaganda and a program dropped on the top to hide its true contents.

I managed to attend Andrea Antonello's presentation on jGRASS, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but had to flee before Silvia Franceschi's related presentation. Instead I attended Ben Caradoc-Davies talk on Application Schemas in GeoServer, which was a good talk in and of itself, but more review for me than I had hoped. Andrea Aime's talk on GeoServer in Production follow Ben and gave heaps of valuable information; much more that I had been able to scrounge up from the lists on my own.

The late-afternoon sessions were started with the WMS Shootout, which was presented in a lively and engaging manner by Andrea Aime and Jeff McKenna. The results are already posted and the whole shootout is in svn, reproducible by all and a great basis for ongoing performance comparisons. I wonder if this could be ported to DuckHawk.

The CCIP discussion was frankly a poor reflection on the good work that the CCIP actually did. I can't comment in much more detail, as I wasn't awake for all of it. The Sol Katz award was presented to the very deserving Daniel Morissette, who I was finally able to meet on Tuesday, and a passionate closing by Cameron Shorter to cap of the day.

The end of the conference was a strange feeling. So much work has been poured into it by so many people over the last year, most of it seemingly in the last month. With everything finished, and everything successful, I suddenly didn't know what to do with myself. I met some people for some meat and wine and the Meat and Wine Company. We deferred our plans to make a serious investment in wine for a day, since Jody and I were both in pretty poor shape. I went to sleep before 11pm for the first time in a month. Bloody hell that was nice.

But... what happened to day 3?

Day three was a long day for me. I was assisting Jody with a uDig-based tour of the Live DVD in the morning and so we both had to blow off Ignite Spatial on Wednesday to go back to the office and get it finished. I made it through the three out of the four available workbooks and got some slides put together for an overview of PostGIS. It was a late night and it made for a rough morning. The tutorial was fairly successful. Because it was completely hands-on and required a laptop, or a neighbor with a laptop, we had around 40% of the prospective attendees walk out at the start. It actually worked well, and those that stayed behind got a good tour of a number of services, though we didn't get through all the material. I only made Simon Greener's presentation, PostGIS and Oracle Spatial, and enjoyed that, though the slides were too complicated to fully ingest at the rate of delivery. Simon was a very entertaining presenter which more than made up for it.

Thursday night was also the dinner cruise and Bird of a Feathers. I rolled into the PostGIS BoF with no particular plan to be awake, let alone useful, but found myself called upon to provide some direction. I didn't, but the call itself was enough to get people talking. There was some great discussion of how people are hacking up raster-ish support, the hacks and use-cases of real users and even some excitement about Paul's work on the geography datatype. I had to flee earlier than I had hoped to make the dinner cruise.

The cruise was plenty good. They handled my special dietary needs quite well, but the food was overcooked. The wine was not. I only sampled the sparkling and the red and both were very nice bottles. Between exhaustion and free bar, it was a fun night. We didn't really get much value from the cruise aspect of the dinner cruise. We left Darling Harbour and sailed under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Most people were on the viewing deck with their cameras blazing, but then the drinks and food was eminent were drained so we returned below deck. The views out the windows were nice enough, but I was left feeling that we could have made better use of the whole I'm on a boat phenomena. Bow jumping for example, or water skiing.

The result of the whole day three experience was that I didn't have a blog post in me. Not that there wasn't bloggable material, clearly, but consciousness and coherence was not in the cards by the time my day was done. I beg your forgiveness.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

FOSS4G 2009 - Day 2

The first real day of FOSS4G began today with a spectacular keynote session by Paul Ramsey. I made it's way onto YouTube by lunch and has been all the talk on Twitter. If you haven't seen it yet, you should do so. I'll wait.

Due to my committments to both organisation and boothery, I only managed to make one session during the day. Volker Mische presented his work on GeoCouch, the spatial extension for CouchDB, to a large, but widely dispersed crowd in the Auditorium. The presentation was much better than his ad-hoc explanations over beer; likely due to the reduced heckling that large spaces and microphones bring. I was able to catch the set-up of the first of Jim Groffen's tutorials with Andrea Aime, and the set-up and take-down of the second with Arne Kepp. With back-to-back sets, I held no envy for Jim's afternoon. Even still, the rooms were packed and attendees were leaving happy. At least, those that got a seat were leaving happy.

Tomorrow is another day, and my morning includes assisting Jody Garnett with a tutorial session. As such, we've absconded the venue and hidden ourselves away to complete and rehearse our material.

Until tomorrow then.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

FOSS4G 2009 - Day 1

Day one of the FOSS4G conference has come to a close, and by all reports has been a resounding success. I would like to mention a few names: Jeff McKenna (the wisdom of the ages), Daniel Branik (our system and network manager from Arinex) and Julia Vernon (conference manager from Arinex). Without these people things would have fallen apart weeks ago. My thanks to you.

As for the workshops themselves, I didn't have the pleasure of actually attending one, other than my own, but everyone I've spoken to has had nothing but good things to say. The effort all of the workshop presenters have put in to their material both today and in the weeks and months leading up to today have served them well and it's because of these efforts that so many people have finished today with a smile on their faces. Well done to all of you.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Beyond FOSS4G

The FOSS4G conference has been consuming the majority of my waking hours for the last few months, but with the conference in sight I'm beginning to see a little light shining back at me from around the edges. So this begs the question, what to do when FOSS4G is over?

The obvious answer is to code. The code sprint is running all day Saturday and is not strictly constrained to programming. Efforts such as the Live DVD and OSGeo Marketing and Education will be represented as well. Anybody with an interest in an project, subcommittee or endeavour is free to organise a group, or join those already signed up.

While some keeners will be sprinting all weekend, my plan is for a more leisurely walk on Sunday. The Seven Bridges Walk is a 25km stroll around Sydney Harbour, crossing three of the cities picturesque bridges (and four that are more on the functional side). For those not up for the distance, shuttle buses will be running around the course throughout the day to take you back to your point of origin. Having taken part in the walk last year, and having to run the final leg due to a late start, this year I'm heading out bright and early this year. Drop me a line if you're keen to join.

All of this is nice, but it neglects some of Sydney's greatest assets. Where are the beaches? Well, in keeping with tradition, they are found on the coast. No trip to Sydney would be complete without a stop at the worlds most famous beach, Bondi Beach. Public transport to the beach is readily available near the conference center and will deliver you in under an hour to one of the highest density tanning locations in the country. If you're not a fan of the crowds, Manley Beach is another tourist-owned-and-operated destination that is easy to get to, but far enough from the city to ease the congestion on the sand.

And if I'm still not tickling your fancy, there Taronga Zoo, the Sydney Opera House, the markets at Paddys or The Rocks, the Sydney Fish Markets, the Sydney Theatre and Dance Companies and even our very own Starbucks. And that's not even touching restaurants, pubs, clubs and proper cafes.

There are no excuses for being bored in this city.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Speaking Notes

With the conference looming and my own workshop shaping up, I've found myself thinking more about my presentations skills. Fortuitous timing indeed to have this tidbit drift through my LinkedIn notices. While I've made significant progress in the last few years, I'm still a chronic sufferer of 'Aack, people' syndrome. I've found the enunciation trick in the past is very helpful for maintaining pace, especially with some thoughtful pauses strategically placed to allow me to gather my wits before proceeding. With proper pacing comes a certain degree of calm.

There's also the 'Ummm' phenomena that I've seen take down some presenters hard; which Paul has thoughtfully provided some advice on. What else do people run up against when in front of crowds, and what solutions are available?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Have Your Say, the FOSS4G Way

The fact that the submission of abstracts for FOSS4G 2009 closed over a week ago without my noticing betrays that I've been under the pump lately, but I've finally had the chance to hit the voting site and have a look at the results. The line-up is more impressive than I'd hoped. With much of the knowledge and experience of our industry distilled into bite-size chunks, it's hard to know where to start. My recommendation: start by letting us know (before Sunday, June 28th) what you want to see or you may be sorely disappointed. Of the 170 or so submissions, my personal highlights reel includes:
  • PostGIS and Oracle Spatial (Greener)

  • Geoprocessing in the Clouds (Schaeffer)

  • Geodata and CouchDB (Mische)

  • Web Mapping Performance Shoot-out (Ramsey)

  • Visualising animal movements in 'near' real time (Madin)

Monday, March 30, 2009

FOSS4G Workshops and Tutorials

Months ago when I volunteered to chair the workshop committee for FOSS4G 2009 I was convinced it wouldn't be too much work. There are only ten workshops after all. For the most part I was right, but not for the reasons I expected. There was some writing involved; producing calls for submissions and templates for prospective instructors to fill in, but there were examples for me to draw from.. There was some thinking and research to put into the rating system I used to select workshops, but others were free with their advice and experience.

Where things started to bog down was once the ratings came in. We went through two iterations of ratings before arriving at our final selection. I made the decision early on to involve as many people in the selection as possible, in part because I had submitted a workshop of my own and wanted enough transparency to avoid awkward questions. I got more of a response than I had expected considering how far off the conference is, and the fact that I insisted on people justifying their opinions made for an interesting conversation indeed. In the end my role was mostly an administrative one. I collected the ranking and comments and spat out results so we could go through it all again. With the final recommendations approved by the local organising committee, I sat down tonight and churned out 33 emails to 40 potential instructors sharing the excitement and the disappointment with each.

I've discovered that being the unpleasantness of being the chair of the committee is not the work involved. It's watching your favourite fail. I did manage to get my workshop in, but it should come as no surprise that it's not my favourite. I already know most of the material, so it will be largely review for me anyway. But there were a few submissions that I was eyeing, wondering if I could slip away from my responsibilities to do the unthinkable and crash a workshop.

But enough of my ramblings. The interesting bit here is who was selected!


A Friendly Hands-on Survey of Popular Geospaital Services
-- Jody Garnett, Mark Leslie, and Andrea Antonello

Delivering data using published application schemas
-- Rob Atkinson, Ben Caradoc-Davies

Getting Started with MapWindow: An easy-to-install, easy-to-use free GIS for Windows
-- Dan Ames and Ted Dunsford

How to Cope with GeoSpatial - Intro to GeoTools for the Java Developer
-- Jody Garnett and Michael Bedward

Introduction to deegree iGeoDesktop
-- Hanko Rubach

Leveraging OGC Services with GeoExt
-- Andreas Hocevar

Making Maps Fast - Performance tuning and Tile Caching
-- Arne Kepp and Jim Groffen

Making Maps Pretty with Style Layer Descriptor
-- Andrea Aime and Jim Groffen

Protecting OGC Web Services with the 52°North Security System
-- Jan Drewnak

Sensor Web Enablement - Bringing Sensors into SDIs
-- Arne Broering, Simon Jirka, Christoph Stasch, and Thomas Everding

Using ILWIS with its PostGIS plug-in for raster-vector applications
-- Rob Lemmens

Working with GRASS-GIS Vectors and Databases
-- Richard Chirgwin


Getting Started with MapServer
-- Jeff McKenna, Tyler Mitchell, and Pericles Nacionales

Geospatial BI with FOSS: an introduction to GeoMondrian and Spatialytics
-- Thierry Badard and Etienne Dubé

Introduction to PostGIS
-- Mark Leslie and Paul Ramsey

Introduction to the Open Geo-Stack: PostGIS, GeoServer, GeoWebCache, and OpenLayers
-- Justin Deoliveira, Andrea Aime, Paul Ramsey, and Tim Schaub

Making Maps Fast - Performance tuning and Tile Caching
-- Arne Kepp and Jim Groffen

OpenLayers - Your Foundation for Browser Based Mapping
-- Tim Schaub and Roald de Wit

Organising your geospatial data and services using GeoNetwork opensource
-- Jeroen Ticheler and François Prunayre

Practical Introduction to GRASS and related software for beginners
-- Paolo Zatelli, Marco Ciolli, and Clara Tattoni

Practical introduction to MapFish, the web 2.0 mapping application
-- Claude Philipona, Cédric Moullet, Frédéric Junod, and Eric Lemoine

Working with GeoServer
-- Justin Deoliveira and Andrea Aime

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Toronto Code Sprint in absentia

While I was prevented from attending the recent code sprint in Toronto due to a large rock, Jody and I decided to use the excuse to sprint along in our time zone.

I had spent some time working on issues with PostGIS' support for curved geometries and was able to commit the fixes prior to the sprint. I had focused on the well known text (wkt) representations and parsing, simply because it's easier to fake up some data in a text format. This meant that the SQL-MM defined well known binary (wkb) was still unsupported. I spent much of my time sorting this out. It is in need of further test cases, but most of the heavy lifting is now done.

Jody took on a much more satisfying challenge, which was to connect uDig to my development PostGIS instance and actually render out a curved geometry. With time short, we took the approach of parsing the wkt and converting it into a linear approximation of the geometry using the segmentisation code I wrote for PostGIS back in the day. We had a great time porting the C code into Java, with Jody taking every opportunity to expound on the virtues of garbage collection and slagging C. For my part, I was happy to have another set of eyes on my code and once again rediscovered the virtues of clear comments, if only they would be read.

The end result, after two evenings work, is the following image. On the left is the geometry I drew using OpenJump to provide sensible points from which to derive a curved geometry. On the right is the uDig representation. It's curvy!

While this is not the end of the work required, it's a good start and paints a pretty picture.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Moving Target

It seems that no sooner have I finished blogging than the world shifts around me. At the time I was not sowing lies, but due to a slow response from presenters the deadline for submissions of workshops and tutorials for FOSS4G has been extended by one week to March 9th. So finally, score one for the procrastinators.
procrastinating kitteh

Thursday, February 26, 2009

FOSS4G 2009 - Workshops and Tutorial

After much procrastination, some humming and even a little hawing I've finally put in my submission to run a workshop this October at FOSS4G in Sydney. The process is quite painless, requiring only an abstract, description and some details about your presentation experience. Tutorials are also welcome, but act fast as the call for submissions closes on Monday.

Monday, February 23, 2009

PUGs in Paradise

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to present an Introduction to PostGIS talk at the local PostgreSQL Users Group meeting. Having attended all of one meeting previously I knew the technical expertise that attendees were likely to have and was a little apprehensive about the presentation. On the bright side, I also had no expectation that I would be allowed to stick to my slides and was able to save some time in their production as a result.

I wasn't disappointed by the crowd. It more than filled the boardroom at Fujitsu in North Sydney; maybe fifteen people all told. I managed to make it to my third slide before I was sidetracked, leaping half way through the presentation for an example and not getting back on track for ten minutes or so. The group was much more up to speed in the intricacies of spatial data than I had feared and I was able to spend my time in interesting discussions instead of harping on about the basics. I did manage to work through all my slides, but I did so by taking twice the time I was alloted. The discussion continued across the street at the pub, as all such discussions do, though my inability to eat pub fare kept my evening short and somewhat giddy near the end.

I posted the slides on SlideShare and much to my surprise discover I had reached 128 views this morning. It's a small number by any standard, but in the absence of any particular linking (I haven't even blogged about it until today), or any effort at all spent in making it a pleasant read (not a single picture of a cat) it surprised me. I had honestly expected up to fifteen views. It has impressed upon me the need for presentations like this to be available. And now it is. It's a fairly poor presentation when not accompanied by dialogue, but I'm hoping to clean it up in my abundant spare time and turn it into something a little more stand-alone. Until then, comments are always welcome.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Beauty and the Beast

A link came across my desk this morning, with a note citing "another sooo sweet openlayers [sic] application." I expect I'm behind the curve on this, as I don't sit on the open layers lists, but I wanted to bring this to the attention of anyone who, like me, is tired of the overly cluttered and obfuscated applications that tend to bury beautiful functionality under a steaming pile of "it can also...". I really can't say much about the app. Everything I know is in that link, but I'm impressed by the cleanliness of the interface, the clarity of the map and the simplicity of the application as a whole. My only question is, why do I need to add a note to see the legend?

For some contrast, this is an example is another version of what seems to be the same application (no version details were obvious). The latter provides the same interface, but includes far more variety of markers, higher volume and a smaller minscale. Throw in the raster background and you end up with a fairly ugly map that personally find useless until the fifth highest scale level and unpleasant until the second. There seems to be no map at the first. While I certainly appreciate the value a raster can add at high scales, I much prefer the clean and clear effect of the NYC map.