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the blllog.

WhereCampEU 2012 Amsterdam

2012-04-28 22:27

It's still early on the first day of the WhereCampEU 2012, but as my first session (MapQuery and other web mapping clients) took already place, it's time to put up the slides.

It was interesting to see, that most people in the audience have already used OpenLayers, but very few of them Leaflet or other mapping libraries. What made me especially happy was, that after my session many people want to have a closer look at MapQuery.

So here they are the slides from my quick introduction into MapQuery.

Categories: en, OpenLayers, MapQuery, conference, geo

FOSS4G 2011: Report

2011-09-20 22:27

The FOSS4G 2011 is over now. Time for a small report. The crowd was amazing and it was again the ultimate gathering of the Free and Open Source for Geospatial developer tribe. Solid presentations and great evenings.

My talk: The State of GeoCouch

I'm really happy how my talk went, I really enjoyed it. The were lots of people (although there was a talk from Frank Warmerdam at the same time) asking interesting questions at the end.

The talk is not only about GeoCouch but also gives you an overview of some of the features it leverages from Apache CouchDB. In the end you should have an overview why you might want to use GeoCouch for your next project.

You can get the slides right here.

Other talks

I was happy to see that there was another talk about GeoCouch. Other talks I really enjoyed were:

And of course there were also great talks from in the plenary sessions from Paul Ramsey about Why do you do that? An exploration of open source business models and Schuyler Erle's so funny lightning talk about Pivoting to Monetize Mobile Hyperlocal Social Gamification by Going Viral

Code Sprint

At the code sprint I was working on MapQuery together with Steven Ottens and Justin Penka. Steven was working on TMS support, Justin on a 6 minutes tutorial and I on making manual adding of features possible.

The OpenLayers developers did the migration from Subversion to Git for their development. OpenLayers is now available on Github.

And luckily there was a fire alarm in between to take a group photograph.

Future of the FOSS4G

I really hope there won't be a yearly FOSS4G conference for the whole of the US. There should be regional events, as I think one big one would draw the attention away from the international conference. Why should you fly to Beijing for the FOSS4G 2012 if you can meet the majority of the developers in the US as well?

Final words

The FOSS4G was great. It was organized well and people were always out in the evenings. The only minor nitpick is that many people working remote had the city of their company in the name badge and not the one they live in. It seems that the original for you had to fill was confusing. So for next year it should perhaps say “Location where you live”. Hence I still don't believe that there were more Dutch than German people at the conference (Tik hem aan, ouwe! ;)

Categories: en, CouchDB, GeoCouch, MapQuery, Erlang, JavaScript, geo

WhereCampEU 2011 Berlin

2011-05-29 22:27

The WhereCampEU 2011 is just over now, so it's time to get my impression and notes from the sessions written down. But first I'd like to thank all the organizers and attendees for this great event and the geobeers in the evenings.

Geo Databases

The WhereCamp is also a chance to meet people you haven't seen for a long time. Exactly this was the case with Shoaib Burq. We know each other from being a member of the FOSS4G 2009 organizing committee.

As there were still a few free slots, we decided to make session that is simply called "Geo Databases". I didn't expect many people to show up, as there were other sessions with way catchier names.

I ran late as I didn't find the room where my session was supposed to be. But luckily Shoaib was already presenting a rough outline on what will be talked about (we haven't talked about what we want to do upfront). So I happily joined the crowd and started to moderate things a bit. And it was just amazing, the room was packed with people even sitting on the floor. A rough guess would b,e that it was half of the attendees.

We discussed a bit about one of my favourite topics, the question of how much should be done within a geospatial database and what should be done outside of it. It then led to the problem that doing a lot within the database is easy (and fast) on a single instance, but as soon as you want to distribute your database, you might get into trouble.

To conclude, the atmosphere was good and people seemed to have enjoyed it (at least some were telling me so :) I'm happy that it went this well. Shoaib has kindly taken some notes and put on Github.

Web Mapping Libraries

On the second day the program wasn't as packed as on the first day, so I decided to make another session called "Web Mapping Libraries". The Again I didn't expect too many people to show up and this time I was right. It was a good crowd nonetheless.

What I wanted to find out was why people create new web mapping libraries instead of just improving existing ones like OpenLayers. This was also triggered by Slide 54 from Peter Batty's talk, where he compares OpenLayers to Google Maps. The two things that were catching my attention were "lightweight" and "extra mobile features". Those two can be solved. Eric Lemoine demonstrated a 29KB (gzipped) version of OpenLayers including the mobile features that were added at the Lausanne Code Sprint.

In the session it was just great to hear the impressions for what I call "web neogeo people" (people are web developers, designers and general people that like to visualize data) as opposed to "old school GIS people" (that know all kinds of OGC standards and dream about the axis confusion at night).

Things we've identified were (photo version):

  • Documentation
  • Default Look
  • Usability
  • Examples are not good
  • No explanation of the general architecture

Documentation

The main source of documentation are the API docs. They describe every function of the library. One problem is that it isn't really clear what exactly you can pass in when one parameter is an options object (Example.

The lack of documentation with a nice introduction was also mentioned. Though I don't fully agree, there is some really nice documentation in prose, but it seems that people easily miss it (I especially like e.g. the page about Spherical Mercator).

Default look

I agree that the default look of OpenLayers looks a bit out dated. The main buttons look like from the early 2000's and the layer switcher isn't nice either.

On the one hand, you can change the look if you want to (example (scroll down)), or code the controls with any UI library you'd like to use (this is what GeoExt/MapQuery does).

Usability

I'm not really sure what this one was about, but I think it was about the complexity of OpenLayers. You need to have quite a bit GIS knowledge before you can get started. Don't get me wrong, I love OpenLayers for what it does and it's huge amount of features, though it comes to a price for newbies.

Again this is where I think GeoExt/MapQuery can help. They can build an easy to use API around the most common functionality like: display a GeoJSON file on a Google base map that shows a popup when I click on the geometry.

Examples are not good

It's nice to have a whole bunch of examples, though in the case of OpenLayers they are a bit misleading. I use them a lot to see how things work. Though they are not always well drafted idiomatic OpenLayers examples, but rather some source showing how a specific feature works. And this is exactly what they are. If you implement a new feature, you create API documentation and a working example.

For me they are more like acceptance tests, rather than good howtos for newbies.

No explanation of the general architecture

This one was mostly about "how do things work". One point was about vector layers. They are really powerful and you can compose them out of several parts with things like strategies and formats. It's not easy to understand how they fit together.

I think there was also another point, but I don't recall it. Let me know if you were at the session and remember it :)

Conclusion

I had a great time at the WhereCampEU 2011 and it was definitely worth going there. If you have anything to add to the notes about the session, please do so.

Categories: en, GeoCouch, OpenLayers, MapQuery, conference, geo

FOSSGIS, GeoCouch and MapQuery

2011-04-19 22:27

Two weeks ago I had the chance to give a talk about GeoCouch and MapQuery at the FOSSGIS 2011. Most of the people who read this Blog are probably aware of GeoCouch, but not so much of MapQuery. For me these two projects are tightly connected and therefore deserve a quick introduction/update.

GeoCouch

GeoCouch, a spatial index for CouchDB gains, more and more attention. One of the reason is that the installation recently got way easier for developers as well as for normal users. You now can install GeoCouch as an extension right next to your already existing CouchDB instance. You may also download a binary of Couchbase-Server, which already includes GeoCouch. And finally there's the brand new Iris Couch hosting as well (previously known as the CouchOne hosting). So getting started with GeoCouch is easier than ever before.

Some people might have wondered about the state/future of GeoCouch, especially after the merger of CouchOne with Membase to Couchbase. I will keep on developing GeoCouch at Couchbase and it is (as it always was) fully open source licensed under the Apache 2.0 License.

The new home for the latest source is the Couchbase Github repository.

OpenStreetMap

The FOSSGIS was also about OpenStreetMap. The idea to put OpenStreetMap data into GeoCouch is very sensible, but wasn't really done (AFAIK) in a big fashion. Luckily Jochen Topf from Geofabrik told me about his Projekt Osmium, which makes it possible to process OSM data with JavaScript. There is already a script to output a Shapefile, so it should be really easy to output GeoJSON, which could be consumed by GeoCouch. So if you (who are currently reading this) have some spare time, please give it a go :)

MapQuery

MapQuery is a web mapping framework that builds on OpenLayers and jQuery. The goal is a framework that is just as easy to use as jQuery combined with the power of OpenLayers. It's meant for people that just want to get started with web mapping, but also for those who have already knowledge about OpenLayers and want to have easy integration into their jQuery application.

I was able to show a quick demo of the MapQuery API at the FOSSGIS. I won't publish it here, as things are about to move fast. After over one year of discussions about MapQuery and only little code contributions, it seems that we are finally getting somewhere. That feels so good :)

The wonderful EduGIS is build on an early version of MapQuery (source code), but will be merged with the most recent version of my fork.

Other big news is that the WhereGroup hired Christian Wygoda, who is a committer of the MapQuery project. This also means that Mapbender 3 will use MapQuery.

And finally I've also met a developer of a another company that was building a big mapping application based on OpenLayers and jQuery. I don't want disclose it here, as the code isn't open source yet, but the developer told me that it should be easily possible. I will keep in touch with them and hope they will contribute their code to MapQuery.

To get to a conclusion about MapQuery. If you want to stay in touch with the project, please subscribe to the official mailing list, this is where things are happening (there's also the little attended IRC channel #mapquery on freenode). If you want to be a user of MapQuery, you should be patient and wait a bit. If you plan to contribute, you can start now. The currently biggest item is moving the EduGIS MapQuery code base over to the MapQuery version of my fork. The "documententation" are the demos.

FOSSGIS

As people started to asked about the slides from my presentaion at FOSSGIS, here they are.

FOSSGIS was a really awesome event, where I met a lot of new people, but also a lot of friends I haven't seen in a while. I'm really looking forward to next year's conference, but also hope that I might see many of the people at this year's FOSS4g in Denver.

Categories: en, CouchDB, GeoCouch, MapQuery, geo

By Volker Mische

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