What File Compression Is The Curiosity Rover Using?

It’s fair to say we over at VerySpatial are big space nerds. And it’s fair to say we’re also pretty big remote sensing nerds. When the guys over at BoingBoing got to ask any question they wanted, they asked a pretty cool one about file compression (scroll down to see the answer). Sending images from Mars and back takes a bit of work and time, which means file compression has to be used. But we all know that we want as loss less file compression as possible, so what’s NASA to do? They turned to a custom implementation that uses a wavelet approach similar to Jpeg 2000. The difference in their compression is that it’s less computationally intensive, which means lower powered CPUs (both in computing and energy needs) can be used to create the compressed images. Pretty cool, huh?

Lost in the Virtual Fog – Just a Swipe to the Left

It’s been quite a while since my last column in this series, and a lot has happened in the geospatial world and the world of computing in general. I hope to give my thoughts on some of these trends over the next few months as I catch up to the world around me after finally finishing my PhD. One of the trends that I have been following with a lot of interest is definitely the move toward new ways of interacting with our computers.

To kick things off, I wanted to talk a little bit about what’s been going on with the growing presence of touch interfaces. While the keyboard and mouse still reign supreme in desktop computing, the success of the iPad and other tablets, as well as smartphones, has definitely broadened the reach of touch as a user interface. And that is filtering its way back into the desktop computing space, with the rise in popularity of all-in-one computers with touch-enabled monitors. In fact, I am writing this post on one of those new touch all-in-ones, the Lenovo A720.

I am finding my own computing behavior changing as well. For my day-to-day work and web surfing, I rely on my Windows slate tablet (ASUS Eee Slate EP121), which is touch-enabled as well. Most of the devices I interact with on a daily basis are touch interfaces and I’ve become so used to it that I often find myself touching a laptop or desktop monitor now, and wondering why nothing is happening.

So why is touch such a big deal? Because more and more of the devices that we either use now or are going to use in the near future (think smartphones and tablets) rely on a touch interface, and that means that software applications, even expert software like GIS or 3D virtual landscapes, will need to be touch-compatible if they are going to make the transition to new hardware platforms. Even more importantly, software users who haven’t worked with touch are probably going to have to come to grips with this new interface style. Some people take to touch quite quickly and intuitively, while others are going to struggle a bit.

On the developer side, writing applications with touch capabilities presents challenges, such as precision with finger movements and touch pressure and creating meaningful gestures for complex commands. When you’re talking about a complex series of tasks like working with map layers in a GIS, for instance, it can get a bit tricky. Still, we’ve already got the example of ArcGIS for iOS which is available on the small iPhone screen and the larger iPad and works quite well with a number of touch gestures. However, it’s quite a leap from the streamlined lightweight mobile apps to a full-fledged desktop GIS software package, which might require a real rethinking of how users interact with the various modules, viewers and tools to get a satisfying touch interface working.

So, even if you’re not a user of a touch device now, you may find that changing in the near future. Computing platforms and interfaces are changing whether everyone likes it or not and, while I don’t think keyboards and mice are going away anytime soon, in the world of technology they’ve been around for ages and may find themselves going the way of the punch card.

The top 10 fictional organizations that need to use ArcGIS online

After the ESRI User’s Conference Plenary, I began to think about the many fictional organizations that would benefit from using ArcGIS online and other GIS technologies. So I began compiling a top 10 list by asking other attendees, ESRI employees, and organizations at booths on the conference center floor. Which fictional organization do you think is in the most dire need of using ArcGIS online or GIS in general.

Top Ten Organizations that need to use ArcGIS online

1. Eureka!/Warehouse 13

The overwhelmingly number 1 suggestion, which is also the first one I thought of, is the parent organization that runs the town of Eureka and Warehouse 13.  They are both awesome tv shows which showcase the power of science and technology, but they are desperately missing any form of GIS.  Most of the problems they face fall into two categories: 1) Scientists didn’t realize that projects they were working on individually, usually within proximity of each other, would interact in a way that would spell DOOM., 2) Scientists didn’t realize that projects they have been working on individually could have been integrated and collaborated together to prevent The End of the World, until the very last minutes of the show.  They could be a case study in why a large organization spread out over the world needs ArcGIS online.

2 – 4. The number 2 suggestions all fell into the realm of, all ethics aside…, because these organizations are not working towards the good of mankind, like all the organizations showcased in the ESRI plenary. Instead, they are organizations that could use ArcGIS online to make their nefarious organizations more effective.

2. District 9

3.  The Hunger Games/ Panem Districts

4. Lost/ Dharma Initiative

5-6. These organizations and some not listed (Like the IMF from Mission Impossible) are intelligence related agencies that have a habit of losing people or things that lead to big problems. Cloud mapping or on-line mapping would be very useful to them to keep track of all of their differenct cells, groups, and projects.

5. The Bourne Legacy/  Operation Outcome

6. Phineas & Ferb

7. & 8.  Daily Planet (Superman) /Daily Bugle (Spiderman).   For internationally recognized newspapers of record, the Daily Planet and the Daily Bugle operate like old gumshoe type newspapers instead of the technology driven newsrooms of today’s modern media – news is location driven. They need to use ArcGIS online just to collaborate on stories about Superman and Spiderman alone. Speaking of which, wouldn’t the Justice League operate more effectively using it as well?

9. The Day After Tomorrow. There is a special place in the heart of scientists for the disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow because on one hand it is an enjoyable movie, but on the other hand, they got so much of the science wrong. They could have used ArcGIS online and ArcPad several times throughout the movie, especially when they would hold up a handheld device, look at a sky map, and declare  – “I know where I’m going. The library is that way!”

10. Caddy Shack/ Bushwood Country Club . The top 10 fictional organization that needs ArcGIS Online is the Bushwood Country Club from Caddy Shack.  There wouldn’t have been so many extra holes on the golf course, if they had used cloud computing to report any unusual gopher activity.

Honorable mentions: I would like to mention another two organizations that people mentioned could benefit from ArcGIS online or other product.

11. The Big Bang Theory/Harold Walowitz. It has been pointed out that Harold Walowitz spends a lot of time developing technology for space. It makes sense that he would be working with remote sensing.

12. Diablo III.  Would there be a Diablo III video game if Cain was able to hold onto his knapsack that contained important information or if people could report finding Cain’s knapsack and uploading the location and his research. They could have analyzed it all via ArcGIS online and solved the game in half the time. Or maybe that is just my own frustration at being stuck on Level 11.

Do you have any suggestions for companies that could have benefited from using ArcGIS online or other GIS products?

 

A VerySpatial Evening – a prelude

Last night we had a few folks over to the VerySpatial (rental) condo for a get together. Frank and Barb did most of the cooking (BBQ Chicken, brats, burgers, veggies, corn, deviled eggs, etc…) with Sue as hostess and I was sue chef and dishwasher. We had folks from Esri, Esri Australia, the newly anointed Esri Melbourne R&D (aka Maptel) office, Chatham County Georgia, WVU, and others (apologies I forgot some). We are really happy with the turn out and had a blast meeting and talking with everyone. Again, we want to thank everyone for taking time out of a crazy UC week to celebrate our 7th anniversary with us!

For our Like4Trees campaign, we didn’t make the 250 likes we had hoped for, but we made a good go with 75. We will add in the number of folks who came last night to push up the amount of our donation to the Greenbelt Movement.

URISA looks to build management initiative

Apparently, while at the Esri UC, URISA has announced their new Geospatial Management Initiative (GMI). You may recall that we have heard about the Geospatial Management Competency Model (GMCM) that is being developed to join the GTCM to lay out the roles of geospatial professionals. URISA sees the GMI as a way to build a Geospatial Management Body of Knowledge in order to act as a straw-man document for the GMCM (much as the previous GIS&T Body of Knowledge acted for the GTCM).

We will be sure to head over to the URISA booth tomorrow and see if we can get more details from Wendy and the gang.

Head over to the URISA website to read the press release.