Open Source Computing and GIS in the UK

Travels in a digital world

This Week Has Been Mostly About Web-mapping

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I started off this week with the intention of resurrecting and upgrading a demo openlayers map of all our sites, that had been stuck in a sorry corner of our corporate website being neglected. This tied in with moving the map to a different server, upgrading all the components, and generally giving it a shave and a haircut (it is male, that’s for certain). For those people interested in our wms and wfs data- these will be online again soon, I promise.

While I now have a site up again, pretty much ready to go bar the shouting, I’ve had an interesting time playing with some new toys in the process, so here’s a quick run-down:

  • Mapfish and GeoadminSuite: A funky framework for widgetising openlayers. Geoadminsuite connects mapserver, openlayers and mapfish to manage data and create really nice mapfish applications. Way cool. Progress so far- it’s all up and running, though GeoadminSuite had teething troubles that have hopefully been sorted in the latest svn release.

  • Openlayers: OK, so I’m just catching up with the latest release after ducking out for a while to do “real work”, but I have to say I like the new(er) features. It was nice to be able to do popups without needing to re-write the code for every version of every flavour of browser. That’s not openlayers’ fault of course, just issues with “standards” for things like DOM, which I don’t claim to understand.

  • Openstreetmap WMS data from Wheregroup: Comes in free and paid-for flavours though details on pricing and terms of service for the commercial version were sketchy on a first skim of the website. This could be really handy to use as background mapping data for web maps, although there are issues of completeness (as always) and it probably needs running through our own mapserver to sort out the styling. This is definitely a goer- I just need to figure out which of the 50 or so layers they publish are really necessary and at what scale. And some kind of completeness metric, so we know how reliable the data is for a given area…

  • Openstreetmap shapefiles from Cloudmade: A reduced dataset for the UK, with less layers. This might be a better option for us to use as we can control the styling better at the source. As a cheat, I’m going to load it all up in Quantum GIS, style it there, and use the mapserver export plugin to quickly build my map file.

  • Mapnik: One of my colleagues would very much like us to create our own openstreetmap wms server, and use mapnik. I’d love to, as the cartography is really good, but after diving into it today, I have to say I think I need some hand holding before I can actually make it serve maps. We’ll see…

Also rans:

  • Ordnance Survey have changed the licensing for their OpenSpace product: You still need a license to use their data, but you can download the development kit from sourceforge. The license has also been changed to have more “clarity” in terms of the ownership of derived data. It would be churlish to suggest that this has anything to do with the “Show Us a Better Way” mess up, wouldn’t it? The problem is, you still need to pay for the background data, so we’re back up to points 2 and 3 above…

  • Amazon launches public datasets: This, in my limited experience, seems to be a duplication of ideas that are already out there. That’s fine when it’s software, and you want to stomp all over your rivals, but wouldn’t it have been nice for them to give their support to an existing data repository?

Things to play with next:

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