School is starting up again and my time will be split between school, my family and work. As if my posts could get any more sporadic. However, besides what I am being exposed to in school, my days with GIS have been consumed with hand placing annotation. The only thing more boring is digitizing streets from imagery, though I have heard performing COGO is equally mind numbing.
I have just spent the last week preparing and teaching a three day course on GIS. The question has always been, what do I teach the students? The answer is relatively simple, the most they can absorb, and keep it simple. The problem is that I am teaching to a certain population of students that are being told to attend the training, who usually do not know what the training is about until they show up in the classroom. About 1/4 of those taught will be given the opportunity to actually use a GIS once they go back to their locations. The people telling them to attend the training have no idea what GIS can do besides making street maps.
Do I take the basic approach and teach them all that their bosses expect out of the program or do I give them a wide overview of GIS so they understand the capabilities of GIS? I have opted for the second option with follow up training via ESRI’s virtual campus courses. Additionally, I give the students all the material used to teach the course, PowerPoint’s, data, exercises and plenty of supplemental reading. This way I am giving the students enough training to make basic maps but educating all the students on what the GIS is capable of besides just street maps.
Difficulties I have found with taking this approach is that the preparation time for these courses is long. Some students are able to understand the concepts and move through the exercises without too much help but others flounder and quickly become overwhelmed without frequent help. The retention of all the data is low however the students usually latch onto the basics are able to create basic maps for their bosses, granted that they actually get to use the software when they get back to their locations. In end of class surveys the students all praise the course and how well it relates to their jobs but lament how it seems like there is too much information being taught too quickly.
Today I was able to spend some more time exploring Geosquan’s panoramas. I mostly explored what he has already done, so that I could get a feel for what is capable with existing free solutions. I used Casa’s Photo Overlay Creator to see if I could get the 360 degree view that Geosquan has on his website and was successful. I also manually placed Geosquan’s pictures in Google, and used Sketchup to create some basic models to represent the houses on the beach.
The Photo Overlay Creator does not allow the user to change the orientation of the picture. So when I flew into both of the pictures they were shifted off the correct orientation. Also the field of vision is too big, as shown in the second picture. Since the software is not open source we will need to examine how adjusting the picture will effect the orientation and FOV.
By manually placing the photos in Google I was able to create content similar to Google’s HD content. Floating pictures that you can zoom into. They are not as immersive as Casa’s tool, but at least the orientation is correct.
The transitions from view to view still needs to be worked on. I was trying to use Sketchup to create models to act as a transition tool, I’m not sure how well it worked. I have not been using Google’s Sketchup for very long and I will have to continue playing with it to get the correct textures on the buildings. Maybe if the models look more like the building and not white and gray blocks it would engage the viewer more.
When I first started out working in a GIS environment I had a very simplistic filing schema.
Subject Folder –> Date and Description Folder –> Files
However, after a few years this has grown into a giant mess. The top layer of subject folders has been modified multiple times to allow for more subjects. Because many of the projects I have worked could belong to multiple subjects hyper-links have been created to point from possible subject areas to the project folder. The resulting mess is not very pretty to look at and it is very difficult for anyone to find anything.
Without doing a complete reorganization of the files I have augmented the file structure by using a tagging tool, Tag2Find. This has really worked great because it tags the files using NTFS’s ability to store data in the alternate data stream. This allows me to rename and move the files without losing the tags. However, if a file is moved to a non NTFS file system the tags are lost. The tags can be exported as a XML file so it really would not be that much trouble to transfer the tags to the new location, but still a hassle. Also the program does not work with shared folders, you have to remote into the source machine to view and update the tags.
The current machine that I keep my GIS projects on will be moving to a more restrictive environment in the near future. When that happens, Tag2Find will have to be uninstalled, because of future licensing issues, and other IT related concerns.
I have been trying to find a new schema and a way to track the files. The Tagg tool came to mind but alas, the same concerns are present with this software. I am planning to create a simple MS Access database that will store the location of the files, the tags created with Tag2Find and any future tagging information. I wish there was a way to store location information in the way of bounding coordinates, but I am unfamiliar with how to do this with PDF, JPGs and other non-GIS files. After reading through quite a few forums on how to organize business files I am leaning towards the following structure:
Year Folder –> Subject Folder –> Client Folder –> UID_Description Folder –> Files
The UID (unique identification number) will be created by the Access database. The user will have to create the project in Access and then create it on the computer and then go back later to add any tags. I think the hardest part will be to enforce the new schema and make sure the Access database is updated to reflect any new projects. I will also be locked into the name of the files and their location, unless I update all that information in the database as well. Also I doubt I will be updating the database with every file created just the finished projects and any new data created.
Whatever decision is reached I need to do something before anybody else inherits my tangled mess.
Place is all important, there are so many written documents about people, places and things that it is hard to get a handle on anything. Enter the GIS, that allows us to visualize what is happening around us into a spatial picture. If we want to learn about an area we can open Google Earth, Flickr, Panoramio or other mapping tool. Besides these public sites and tools most people and most organizations have a plethora of other images and experiences that are tied to locations. If these images and sounds are placed in an environment that allows the users to interact with them, a form of virtual reality is created. We can gain a situational awareness of an area without actually going to the location.
I have been playing around with how to leverage the power of place in regard to hundreds of pictures of different locales. Especially interesting is how can we create the “immersive hotdog” experience that is postulated on Greetings from Manasquan’s blog. More particular for me, how can I create this immersing experience with free / non server software, which can preferably be used without having to install it on the computer.
Panoramas have always been a fascinating to play with. In the past I have explored panoramas using AutoStitch, from Matthew Brown, University of British Columbia. Now I am looking at several pictures that were taken with a fisheye lens for use with the iPix software. However, I do not have a copy of the software but would still like to use the pictures.
AutoStitch does not have the capabilities to convert fisheye pictures to traditional rectangular pictures. I have been exploring several different options, however I have not yet figured out how to do this. During my research I came across a website which promises to defishify a picture, however the downloaded program is a .sit file. I believe this is the main compression type for Macs, I use Windows. The website does say that Windows 98 and NT are supported but I have had little success in finding a program that I can use to uncompress the files.
I have found, Panorama Tools, which seems like it can help. However I am still trying to understand how to use the software. Lately I have been playing around with hugin which is a manual panorama creator. It promises that it can take a fisheye picture and turn it into a rectangular picture. I can then stitch the pictures together. However my results have been less than spectacular. The software has issues with perspective, and I’m not sure the “immersive hotdog” experience is going to be possible using fisheye pictures.