Historical Map Plugin for QGIS Helps You Unlock Historical Data

Occasionally, I like to go through the QGIS plugins and see what’s new. There are all sorts of handy tools in there, but one in particular caught my eye this time. The Historical Map plugin, by Nicolas Karasiak & Antoine Lomellini, takes on a specific challenge: extracting data from old maps. Of course, you can always digitize this data, but it can be quite time consuming. The plugin leverages image classification techniques to speed up the process. The nice thing about historical maps (such as USGS topos) is that there are usually fairly discrete color codings. Discrete colors takes a lot of the guesswork out of the image classification process, but the techniques can be pretty intimidating if you haven’t done them before.

1956 USGS topo map for Manhattan, KS

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Awesome Airline Flight Visualization

Ever been stuck at the airport and wondered just where your flight was anyway?  Or maybe you wanted to know just how many planes were overhead?  A friend shared this awesome site with me that displays live radar info on airline flights, showing you where they are in the world.  It’s incredible to see just how many flights are in the air!

Look at them all!

In addition to being an informative visualization, if you click on a flight, a sidebar appears with details on the airline, the origin and destination, and position in three dimensions.  Clicking on a flight also displays the flight track it has followed to this point.  All this is great, but the real icing on the cake is the cockpit view.  The website leverages Google Earth to simulate what the view from the cockpit might look like.  It’s a bit silly, but how cool is that! Click and enjoy!!

MAPCITE Addin Update: Excellent Customer Service

As you may recall from my review of MAPCITE’s Excel Addin, I was having trouble with the polyline and poly shape features.  Originally, I was going to just update the original post with the response from customer service, but their amazing turnaround time merits a full-fledged followup post.  I had emailed customer service about my problem, and they responded the same day that they would forward it to the development team.  The next morning, their was an email in my inbox informing me that they had fixed the bug with the software and tested it.  I downloaded the new version and installed it, and I was able to make polygons and lines!

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MAPCITE Excel Addin: Quick and Dirty Review and How-To

This week, I’ve taken MAPCITE’s Excel plugin for a quick test drive to see what it can do.  I’m not getting any money, endorsements, or other compensation for this, so these are my own thoughts on the product.  The software is easy to install and easy to use, and provides valuable added functionality to Excel. There were some limitations and a few stumbling blocks, but overall this is a useful product.  Read on for the full report.

Looks like it’s always been there!

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Spreadsheet Mapping Tools: the Next Big Thing?

So, let’s say you need a map. And let’s say you don’t know much about this whole GIS thing. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just take your spreadsheet of addresses or lat/long points and make a map, just like you would make a chart or graph? Well, the folks at ESRI, MAPCITE, and the LibreOffice Community all thought so, and have developed spreadsheet extensions to help you do just that. This has huge potential for spatially empowering the spreadsheet-enabled public, as well as reserving valuable GIS analyst time for more complex projects.

The future?
Complete dramatization.

These extensions have a huge range in terms of number of capabilities and end-user cost (free to as much as you care to pay).  Over the next few weeks, my mission is to compare these mapping extensions and see how they stack up.  Which one is the “best”?  What do you get for your money?  Just how good of a map can you make with a spreadsheet, anyway?  I’ll be exploring these questions, one extension at a time, and summarizing the results in a final post at the end.  Stay tuned for review #1: MAPCITE’s Excel®™ Add-In.