Open Source Computing and GIS in the UK

Travels in a digital world

Minor Triumphs, Major Hassles

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In my spare time/lunch times I’m in the middle of a major project at the moment, to update our site database. Without going into the gory details of how it ended up in three separate, totally unlinked databases, it is supposed to document the archaeological sites we’ve worked on since the 1970’s, and to help with the administration of project archives, the location of finds within our finds store and so on.

For a long time I’ve wanted to sort this out, pull everything into one place, display the site locations on a web-based GIS and so on. This is not rocket science, but the data had ended up in such a bad state that I couldn’t see past fixing that before getting to the good and fun stuff. Attempts a few years ago to use Mapserver as a mapping interface were abandoned because the positional data for the sites was wildly inaccurate (we seemed to do a lot of work in the Scilly Isles, which are as close to 0, 0 on the British National Grid as you can get), and connecting to Microsoft Access was quite difficult and unstable. If anyone using a Windows XP machine tried to open the database, my map would not display. None of those problems are Mapserver’s fault of course, but you can’t roll out a map that has inaccurate data on it, and might not alwats work.

So, after a few years of muttering about this, I have finally bitten the bullet. I am working, in stages, towards an integrated database for all of our finds and archive information, in a PostgreSQL database, with both an Open Office base front-end for querying, and a web-based map interface. I’ll blog about each stage in this process, starting with integrating and data-cleansing in Microsoft Access.

The title of this post refers to the incredible feeling of achievement that I had when I got all this data together, followed by the difficulty I’m having moving that data into PostgreSQL. More later…

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