OK, first off, I am not a fan of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, but they have a cool online game as a companion piece that combines virtual online gaming with real-world, real-time data. In Sharkrunners, you are a marine biologists, and your goal is to track down sharks and collect data about them. Based on the data you collect, you can earn more “funding,” which will of course allow you to get more equipment and get better data.
I only had a few minutes to play around with the game, but it’s a pretty neat way to illustrate how real and virtual data can be combined into a game application, where you can see just how much fun science can be!
Apparently Autodesk pushed out an update to Maya PLE for the Mac this weekend which made me think we haven’t really talked too much about how we can make 3D Models for our GIS as we begin moving more closely to a 3D GIS. We tend to use Sketch-Up quite a bit since it is great for making structures and has an amazingly quick learning curve. 3DS Max is probably still the package of choice for many since it is so robust and has a significant install base since it was culled from Autodesk’s early 3D products. Lightwave is a product I have never had a chance to use unfortunately and I have only spent about an hour with an older version of Blender (but it is OpenSource/free so check it out). That brings me to the last major player in my eyes which is Maya. The best thing about Maya is that even after it was bought by Autodesk a couple of years ago, they still offer up a free Personal Learning Edition which is great to use to learn how to create 3D models with a plethora of training modules and loads of examples online. I definitely recommend spending a little bit of time in a 3D modeling environment just so you know what goes into building models whether you have a license for a package or if you use the free versions of Google SketchUp, Blender, or Maya PLE. Watching someone else do it makes it look amazingly simple…it isn’t. Not to discriminate, if you are looking to create photo realistic 3D landscapes, skip any of the above mentioned (unless you want a car or house in your landscape) and find products like VNS or WCS from 3D Nature.
Autodesk – Autodesk Maya
We have mentioned MapMemo before, but I thought it was missing that little something (geographic coordinates). Caffeinated Cocoa has rolled out a great little desktop app for the Mac called Magrathea that uses web services to pull in Yahoo! Map data and geocoding services to allow to geotag desktop data, web information, and the ability to geotag and upload photos to Flickr. So as with its name sake you can make your own world with this fancy little app.
Magrathea – Caffeinated Cocoa Software
The gvsig project has announced the official release of the SEXTANTE project that provides a wide range of vector and raster. SEXTANTE is still in development and apparently have some issues with raster, but it is definitely worth a look.
Steve points out an interesting little open source app for Windows that allows you open programs using the keyboard by typing in the name of your application of choice. This is a far cry from what I have been hoping for which is someone to replicate QuickSilver (currently Mac only) for Windows so that you can create full sentences that allow you combine objects and actions. 90% of the time I use Quicksilver to simply open applications, so Launchy will do for now, and since it is an open source project I am sure it will continue to evolve.
Launchy: The Open Source Keystroke Launcher for Windows
In light of the poll results over at SlashGeo I will continue on with my day of Mac posts. So the folks building the Loki wifi positioning system rolled out a Mac version of their toolbar this week along with one for mobile devices. I enjoyed playing with it when I was running Windows and I will definitely be using it on our upcoming trips to places with a high enough wifi density for it to have been mapped…not really a possibility in our little town.
Loki – You Can Get There From Here
For those of you who have been switching over to the Mac, but are tired of booting into Windows whenever you want to run anything graphics ‘heavy’ from Windows Live 3D to the latest first person shooter, a solution is on the horizon. Parallels, the virtualization software, has announced their 3.0 upgrade which may hit the streets as early as next week. Included in the upgrade is better 3D support, though I am not sure if it will be general 3D including DirectX or just OpenGL…I have to think that it will not be DirectX 10 compliant…or at least if you are running a DirectX 10 game, you probable aren’t going to want to run it in a virtual machine unless you have one of the 4 or 8 core systems.
Parallels Desktop 3.0 for Mac
If you head over to the MapInfo.com homepage you will be greeted by a splash screen stating that the MapInfo acquisition by Pitney Bowes is complete and that the new name will be PB MapInfo, and if you continue on, you can find info on the upcoming June release of MapInfo 9.0, which WILL be Vista compatible, and offer a few upgrades. I saw this on a mailer that arrived today, but the website hasn’t been updated just yet, but they say check back soon. I am excited that there is a software release so quickly after the acquisition (that it didn’t get held up for no real reason), I just hope that the software support continues into the future.
MapInfo ProfessionalÃ¯Â¿Â½ – Overview
Summer is here, grades are turned in, time to play with the toys. As some of you know we have been waiting anxiously for ArcGIS Engine 9.2 to upgrade some projects for the day jobs and try out some of the new bells and whistles. Since they pushed Engine into a new EDN package for university site licenses (which got held up various reasons) we have been chomping at the bit until today, when it finally arrived. We will be playing with it for a few weeks and then we will be talking a bit about it on a future episode (the only thing Sue has been looking forward to more is the arrival of her OQO model 2, which if it isn’t here soon she may do something drastic).
Our viz lab also just got in a few copies of CarbonTools Pro after Sue pointed them towards it and if we can pry a copy away to play with it, we will share some thoughts on it as well. Keep tuned for further developments.
My recent return to the Mac after about a decade of using only Windows, thanks to work, was based on several reasons from quality of hardware (and the switch to intel) to moving back to an interface I am happy with. One of those reasons in the middle was the great set of specific tools that answer a need as opposed to giving you a swiss army feature set. Once I switched though I have begun to find great Windows apps that are beginning to meet this ‘call to usefulness’ as well. Today (thanks to a pingback) I found Thoughtex.net which is a free mind mapping application for Windows XP and Vista. Based on the .NET Framework 3.0 the software allows you to capture ideas graphically and link ideas together, provides rich editing, and a contextual search. The software is currently in its first beta and is free…yup free. Head over and check it out to help you outline your next project or article.
Thoughtex – Software for Ideas