Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Leica Titan and FaceBook Networking

I finally signed up to Facebook. I seem to be doing all my networking lately on the net. It must be the winter effect, don't feel like going out much. It evened hailed today, small rain drop sized hailed. The temperatures fell rapidly too.

Going along with the networking theme( I feel like a TV news caster doing a bridge), Leica has released its 3D globe application - Titan allowing users to network and share data and views, a very similar concept Nigel is trying in the World Wind white boarding plugin, with perhaps a deeper implementation since it comes from a commercial software house. All existing Leica customers may take it on board. Though terrain detail seems to be missing.

Leica might also be taking on board new customers from the acquisition of Australian based ER Mapper. ER Mapper is well known for the very popular and now Open Sourced ECW format and their Image Web Sever is one of the best for serving ECW's and supporting true streaming(a bit like progressive jpeg seen on websites) - the image can be viewed as it is being transmitted using the ECWP protocol. Time for JPEG2000 might really be here.

Open Source Satellite OS

Open Source is finally making it big into space. Not only in delivering data over the internet, helping in processing imagery but powering the core OS of satellites themselves. Terrasar-X, which should be launched today from Baikanur(Star City), is powered by SCOS-2000. An Open OS for satellites developed by ESA. The source is of course not classical open source and is in limited circulation, it still makes news.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Imagery Cross Pollination

It is official now via a press release. Google is replacing the 15 metre Landsat mosaic from EarthSat with 2.5 metre pan-sharpened product from Spot Image. On the other hand Digital Globe's newly acquired subsidiary GlobeExplorer is bringing the Quick Bird archive to Microsoft Virtual Earth. With all these distribution platforms imagery temporal and spectral resolution can play a part as well as spatial resolution. Satellite imaging is slowly becoming ubiquitous.

Cooking Stir-fry, Area Measurement and Qgis-0.9

Analytics indicate a lots of hits originating from the keyword cooking. So just as a publicity ploy I will include some of my cuisine which have recently included Kangaroo steak marinated in yoghurt and Chicken Stir fry today.

I also did a few test-builds of Qgis 0.9 using mingw with Postgres and Grass support. Both seem to work fine. I would like to see this release named Ganymede(just a suggestion for insert moon here).

Also inline with adding more simple GIS functionalities in World Wind. I started doing an Area Measurement Tool. Just need to add ellipsoid and terrain based area calculations so that no farmers come after my blood for making their plot smaller.

Friday, May 11, 2007

WorldWind Java SDK

World Wind Java as Patrick always points out is API centric and wrapper applications are a matter of the developer's imagination.

This is very true and it insulates the average user from taking full advantage of the current World Wind Java release. Though some exciting applications such as an F-16 Flight Sim and Car Tracker have already appeared showcasing the flexibility of the SDK.

The source release is a breeze to import,build,test and run in Eclipse. Hopefully some Eclipse RCP applications will be making appearance soon. May be it can become the 3D tab in UDig.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

World Wind Java is out

Well finally World Wind Java has had the big splash release at the Java One conference. So now the Java programmers have a 3D Globe "Bean" to play with, set properties and fly around. Any of the multiple Java Windowing Kits (AWT, SWT or Swing) can be used to obtain Multi Platform functionality out of this. Some of the performance junkies may want to do an FPS count of using JOGL versus using Google Earth in native mode(often GE does not pick up hardware acceleration, especially on Linux) or ossimPlanet. I will do one once I have time.

Meanwhile enjoy the video. Access to the code will soon be here.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Perfect Poles, Borrowed WMS Dialogs and Merging Icons

I will take a break from vaguely philosophical posts and write something useful. In a perfect example of Open Source cross pollination, ossimPlanetQt has borrowed the look and feel of the WMS Import funtionality from QGIS.

There is also another very desirable functionality of ossimPlanet I would like to transfer to World Wind, perfect poles using cube segmentation. Due to the use of triangle fins, World Wind (and Google Earth) end up with singularities at the poles, this is not the case in ossimPlanet. But I believe it will require a substantial overhaul of planet rendering to duplicate. Various alternate planet rendering techniques were tried by Chris at one point, but none was as simple as the UV sphere in use now.

Due to various behaviours expected from icons, World Wind had ended up with 3 distinct icons classes. Now they are happily merged together into one concrete class with all the functionality. Hope we did not miss anything.

Valuation and Human Exchanges

This starts from the premise: How likely is code I write today to keep me fed in a year?

Human psyche is tuned to 4 types of exchanges (Quoted from The Blank Slate):
1: Communal Sharing - Where members of a community give and receive without keeping track of things.
2: Authority Ranking - Where things are given unquestioningly to members of a higher class or people in power, presumably in return for security and livelihood.
3: Equality Matching - Exchange of goods and favours at an equal level. More like barter and I will scratch your back if you scratch mine. Low level trades fall here.
4: Market Pricing - The firmament of modern economy, a complex global system of perceived value. The individual psyche is at loss to grasp the full breadth of it. Strange and asymmetric pricing may develop due to information bottlenecks, profit maximization strategies, government protection or artificially generated scarcity/abundance where there are only very few global producers.

I am very much at ease with Communal Sharing (working on Open Source projects) , but Market Pricing is the most interesting in its dynamics. How does the world value the efforts put into the shared pot by a community and how are they willing to pay for it ? How do individuals in the community benefit from it ? A value cannot be assigned to each man-hour or thousands lines of code. Instead value is in the perception of utility, primarily created by wide-spread application and bolstered with marketing glitz.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Microsoft and Open Source

Writing software is ultimately an artistic and creative activity. It requires imagination, analysis and creative insight to produce elegant code. Not much creativity can come out of a group bogged down in commercial maintenance and patching, or under tight deadlines to deliver a product. Such people engage more in just hacking code together to fill the holes in the leaky OS made at Redmond or adding glitter to the long delayed Vista, rather than producing true leaps in technology.

Most creative and ground-breaking work is done in start-ups which eventually get acquired by larger corporations which are in what I would call maintenance mode with their existing code-base. SeaDragon the maker of PhotoSynth , now part of Microsoft labs is one of favourite illustrations for this argument.

Other than a start-up exciting new work may be done by individuals working on various Open Source projects. Microsoft has been trying to foster this with Codeplex and Shared Source. It has already borne fruit, IronPython is being adopted my Microsoft as an extension scripting language. I believe Microsoft also uses Codeplex as a recruiting ground.

Though not very accurate Ohloh offers some very insightful metrics on Open Source projects. The valuations are quite revealing. Worldwind is valued at 6.9million, GDAL is valued at 8.1million and the Linux Kernel is valued at a whooping 87million. Some companies may have this kind of money off-hand but it will save them a lot of time to exploit or bolster an existing solid codebase than make their own from scratch.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Blogging Guidelines

I was researching corporate blogging policies and came across this post on Official Yahoo Guidelines.

There is also a simple summary in one of the comments:

Okay, if don't be stupid is too short and simple, how about "When you blog, think about reading the text out loud to your parents, your current and future bosses and colleagues, your friends, and your significant other."

Most of the tech heavy companies encourage their employees to blog, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft leading the way. Some Northrop Grumman employees from the shadows are also secret bloggers. A lot of start-ups maintain development blogs. In some cases it is free low-cost publicity and in other cases it might hinder the philosophy of security through obscurity.

Information is currency and needs to be carefully controlled, I paraphrase again from the Yahoo policy blog:

"....And realize that once a cat is out of the bag, you can never get the damned thing back in. The blog world is incredibly efficient at spreading rumors, secrets, rants, hyperbole, and your mistakes.

You'll make mistakes. We all do. Just try to be smart about it."

I need to keep this in mind when making every post.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

OssimPlanet strikes back

Want multi-platform Open Source Earth Viewer, backed up by a powerful image processing library, coded in C++ with a QT Gui, then ossimPlanetQt is your product.

I did a fresh build on windows today with mingw. It now supports World Wind imagery layers via a plugin (WMS is supported as well) and allows drag and drop import GDAL supported raster( a functionality I added to World Wind recently). It also does blend, swipe and other image operations on the GPU and uses an accurate ellipsoid model of the earth. The only hitch is streaming terrain but that is being worked on. Who cares about filling up a harddrive with SRTM tiles when you can run this on 20+ screens?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Flickr Plugin Pop-Ups

I have not touched it in a while but it does have good potential. It is like the Google Earth Panoramio layer with Tag based search options for the area you are looking at.

I worked some of the KMLImporter code into it while merging World Wind Icons and Icons that behave like icons in Google Earth. Here is a sample Camel, obtained using Flickr and a search based on the keyword "Camel".