GIS and multi-core computers

I saw the posts by Rob and James a couple of weeks ago about multicore and 64 bit but was too sick to kick in at the time. Now that the coughing has stopped, I want in. Before I left my day job to go back to try to finish that school thing, I had the joy of using a dual 3.6 Ghz processor Dell and it was a joy. While most software still is not written as multithreaded, the ability to have a processor or a core that is dedicated to ArcGIS, or any other processor hog, while leaving a processor for the OS and other low overhead software led to much less crashing and huge speed improvements. While you can set the processor affinity for any process in the Process Manager most of the time it isn’t necessary as Windows will balance processes between cores/CPUs. While this isn’t an issue if you are using ArcMap for cartography, it is great for analyses where your raster calculation, or other, gets its very own core.

dualcoreJust as an example, we (ok mostly Sue) are working on a project in ArcScene that contains a high-res elevation model and a large style gallery of 3D symbols and we consistently crashed ArcScene on our single processor machines, but we bought a fairly cheap dual-core AMD and it works like a charm. ArcScene’s graphics engine still seems to have the issue that it doesn’t push enough off to the GPU leaving the CPU to pick up the slack.

The upshot is that I definitely suggest spending your money on a dualcore machine over a single processor machine if you do any kind of heavy computing, even if the dualcore is rated at a lower clock speed the process balancing between the cores will usually help you shave time off of processes. As for me, as soon as Apple releases a Core 2 Duo laptop I will be standing in line.

ESRI multi-core and 64-bit processors at James Fee GIS Blog

Surveyors to get long lunch in 2011 or 2012

Engadget has a post on some research that suggests that there will be an almost 90 percent loss of GPS signals for a number of hours at the height of the next solar flare cycle in 2011-2012. While surveyors may be looking forward to a long lunch or afternoon off, you may want to avoid traveling by sea or plane that day just in case :-).

Solar flares to disrupt GPS for several hours in 2011 or 2012 – Engadget – What is the point

When Sue first mentioned Weblo to me last week it seemed kind of cool. Weblo is a site that lets you buy virtual property, but unlike most games, Weblo is selling properties that exist in the real-world (and real-world celebrities, which I find creepy). The problem for me is that there isn’t a user interface that I can find outside of the webpage itseld. I set up an account I went merrily around the site looking for a link to images of places or a map interface, but nothing. I looked into buying a property and saw that YOU have to provide an image of your properties. With the amount of money they had to have put into this thing there are so many things they could have done to go beyond the underwhelming project it appears to be.

Hopefully I will figure it out and it will make sense since the concept itself is great, the implementation seems to be lacking in its first few days at least.

Loki updates and new features

While I await the royalties from the Chumby LBS based on Loki’s WiFi location capabilities I wanted to point out, belated as it may be, that there is a new version of Loki available that has some interesting new features, my favorite of which may be the automatic time zone changer for when you travel. I don’t expect to leave EST until next spring (probably about the same time the first Chumbies ship). Anyway, check out the new version of Loki and be sure to add Platial as a channel…well, just cause.


Blue Planet Globe – for the geographer who has everything

Blue Planet GlobeI admit I am an HGTV junkie, especially the show called “I Want That!”. This past weekend’s episode included the Blue Planet Globe, from The Science Source

Here is the compelling description from the HGTV website:

The Blue Planet Globe is a dramatic rotating, illuminated globe that accurately depicts the seasons as they unfold around the world. Slowly spinning inside its sleek tinted case, it creates a mesmerizing view of Earth as seen from outer space. The mechanism design is based on an astronomically true formula and lets you see in 6-minute intervals the changing pattern of sunlight falling over each hemisphere during the year.

Now, as I watched the demo of the Blue Planet Globe in the lovely make-believe living room, I thought to myself that clearly I must have one of these, until I saw the $850 price tag! Now, for those of us with a more limited budget, The Science Source does have a much less expensive ($75) Season Modelling Globe which does the same thing but without the full smokey acrylic case.

What cures traffic jams? Supply and demand!

At least that’s what researchers at the University of Texas at Austin are claiming. Their idea is to use some combination of GPS or RFID to track then cars enter into a congestion area. If vehicles enter during peak times, they would have to pay more in tolls than if they go through off-peak times. So drive into work at 8:00am? Pay $.25 per mile. Drive into work at 2:00am? It’s only $.10 per mile.

It’s an interesting idea, but I personally worry about a couple of things. Ultimately, what happens to all the data people collect about where I’m going when? What would keep outside parties from having access to that data? Finally, I’m not sure driving times are really responsive to market forces. I can’t easily choose an entry time more economical to my budget because, well, my employer says I have to be into work by 9:00am or get fired. If you triple the toll during that natural travel time, I’ll just have to pay triple. Unless my employer allows for complete hours flexibility, I’m not sure this is going to have much of a real impact (other than better roads from increased toll incomes).

Location Based Chumby

chumbyPlease don’t let this way cool gadget/alarm clock be ‘vapor-ware’. The Chumby is a small computer that appears to be infinitely customizable through Flash widgets and some good old fashion hacking. Toss in a GPS chip and some code you could have an always on cuddly LBS system. If Loki isn’t giving away a few hacked Chumby’s at next year’s Where 2.0 that link their service through Yahoo’s Flash maps, then I will be sad. Maybe a contest…I think a Loki-based virtual treasure hunt through San Jose…Just a thought 🙂

Chumby Industries

Spy Plane on the cheap

Saw this one on HGTV’s I Want That: Tech Toys. The XB-39 Eagleye is a R/C plane with a built in digital camera allowing you to capture those high resolution obliques all on your own. Actually, I am just guessing it captures obliques based on the picture I saw…you may be able to capture nadir images. If you have one of these, or have played with one, let us know what you think.