Open Source Computing and GIS in the UK

Travels in a digital world

Oxford Archaeology WFS Server

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Well, at last it’s OK for me to tell people that Oxford Archaeology now has a WFS server that is accessible from the outside world. The address is:

http://mapdata.thehumanjourney.net/cgi-bin/mapservwfs.cgi

It’s a standard MapServer setup, and at the moment contains static data about the sites we have worked on over the last thirty years. This is still a work in progress and there are a whole bunch of things I would like to improve (but at least it’s up and out there):

1: As I said, it’s static data. The aim is to get our main databases into PostgreSQL (I’ve talked about this before, and it’s not an easy process to convert messy, historic, access databases into PostgreSQL). In some circles there is a question as to whether we should actually use live data. There are sometimes issues with people looting archaeological excavations, and we don’t want to make that any easier… 2: You may have noticed that I said databaseS (plural rather than singular). Oxford Archaeology only took over the Lancaster Office a few years ago and we are still working towards merging our core systems (along with upgrading them all to sensible, robust OpenSource platforms where possible). The problem with having two databases is that in many cases the fields are not directly compatible, so to get the data out in the shortest possible time I simply included the elements that were common to both, and I will work towards getting more information out.

3: At the moment, there is no fancy front-end to this. I have two candidates in mind for frontends, and I’ve talked about them both a fair bit. They will serve two different purposes, in other words for internal and external use. Externally I’m working towards using OpenLayers, although this might mean that I have to convert or re-project all of our data that is in British National Grid format into WGS84 so I can use something like Google Maps as a backend. Not a problem, I just haven’t done it yet. OpenLayers will give me a fairly basic, but nice looking interface that works in a way that people are familiar with from Google Maps and other sites. It is easy to install and can be built into any web page, so it can be embedded in our corporate site and not look out of place. Internally I want to use MapGuide OpenSource, as it has advanced functionality and a fairly slick style built in (I could use Mapserver and build a front-end myself but this seems like the best approach). However, as my last few posts have explained, I am having quite a lot of trouble compiling this on our platform of choice, so we’ll see.

4: There is only one layer so far. We’ll work on this, but often have licensing issues with our data, so we’ll have to check that out first.

Anyhow, enjoy.

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