GeoGeek

1,874 Mile Road Trip Tools

1,874 Mile Road Trip Tools

Last Week, I (Micah) drove Paul's Ford Focus out to Carson City, Nevada while he drove his Ranger truck and Smoky the Cat. This was an easy drive, directionally speaking. Interstate 80 goes all the way to Reno Nevada just 15 miles north of Carson City. It's 1,874 miles from Peoria to Carson City.  (Aside from audio books, podcasts & windshield mounts) There are several maps apps & websites I used to help plan and document our 3-day journey

Mapping of a runner.

Mapping of a runner.

Earlier in my life, I never ran. I mean from bears, sure, probably I would have. I occasionally played a round-ball-type sport that required moving arms or legs quickly. If I had to actually run, I hated every second and  would never consider running for health. Well, circumstances change and different things matter as you approach mid-life. Two years ago I found...

Mapping the Best Places to Work.

Mapping the Best Places to Work.

Sometime ago I read an article on the Forbes Magazine website about a yearly index they create that was screaming for a map. Every year demographers at Forbes comb through US Bureau of Labor Statistics data and the rate 'Best' small, medium and large US cities for job growth.  As I read the article I kept wondering, "Where are these in relation to one another?" and "Is there a certain concentration geographically as a whole?" So I got my hands on the dataset...

Top 5 Geospatial Tips For your next vacation

Top 5 Geospatial Tips For your next vacation

This is a great website for planning your route and your stops.  It has an excellent interactive map that allows the user to turn on and off layers including, hotels, restaurants, campgrounds, points of interest, natural wonders, parks, gardens, and more.  It tallies your total mileage, travel time and includes an estimate for fuel expenses that updates as you alter your route.  Depending on what your interests are, just turn on the layers and you'll be sure not to miss anything along the way.

All of Illinois Geocaches in One Map*

All of Illinois Geocaches in One Map*

I work for a living, but in the off times I still play with this technology, so I have a Premium Geocaching subscription. This allows me to query their data in circular buffers and return a GPX file. After about 27 of these queries, I was confident that I had all of the cache locations I wanted. Running a few geoprocessing functions, I dropped any duplicates and union-ed these points to county polygons to get the number within each county. This data are reflected in the Classified inset map. What am I talking about? Geocaching of course. If you're reading this tech blog there's a pretty good chance you already know what geocaching is... 

Is your GPS taking you the wrong way?

One day as I was working in my county engineer's office at Stark County, IL, a delivery driver stopped in and said "Why are these roads labeled incorrectly on my GPS map?"  At first I blew it off thinking that's something beyond my control and I had more important things like ongoing construction projects.  After all, we as the local agency were the knowledge experts on local names and places and if these big companies wanted our data they could "come and find us" with their "incorrect" GPS navigation devices.  But then I realized what a tremendous benefit this would be to not only the local deliver driver but also emergency response, tourism, and many others.

 So how do we get these basemaps updated?  First of all, these basemap companies are BIG and there are only a few key players.  By basemaps I mean the foundation for GPS navigation on consumer-grade electronics.  

There's not exactly a 1-800 hotline that you can call as a one-stop-shop to update everyone in the universe (although that would be nice).  There are however, tools that allow you to edit or update the information on your own.  This is called crowd-sourcing, where anyone / anywhere can contribute to updating basemap information to benefit the traveling public.  Here are some ways to do this for some of the bigger basemap providers out there:

A sample of an Esri basemap

A sample of an Esri basemap


  • Open Street Map is a crowd-sourced application that allows to edit and update street map information used by consumers around the world.  All you need is to create a login and learn their simple editing tools.


  • HERE, A Nokia Company, who recently purchased acquired Navteq is also a major provider of basemaps.  With HERE you can go to their site: 

https://mapcreator.here.com/mapcreator/  Map editing tool sign up for an account

https://content.ext.here.com/    Data upload portal (Upload GIS data here)


  • Google Maps has a Base Map Partner Program that allows agencies to submit their data in vector format with specific instructions regarding format.  In addition to vector data, Google also allows users to contribute to their collection of Cities in 3D, Imagery, and parcel data.


Remember, sometimes it takes some time for it to become active.  Yes, real people typically look at the information you submit and actually take time to verify its accuracy.  


If you have more ideas, thoughts, etc. please leave them in the comments below.

All Moved In (Guest Writer)

Below you'll find an article in our local paper from Journalist Cheryl Wolfe of the Pantagraph papers in Bloomington, Illinois. She did a fantastic job and we wanted to include her article in our blog as a "Thanks!". 

(Reprinted with Permission)

ALL MOVED IN--Employees at Cloudpoint Geographic, Inc. are: (left to right) Jodi Hoffman, Paul Stephenson, Micah Williamson, Joe Christian, Matt Junker, Tyler Severson, and Jonathan Hodel

ALL MOVED IN--Employees at Cloudpoint Geographic, Inc. are: (left to right) Jodi Hoffman, Paul Stephenson, Micah Williamson, Joe Christian, Matt Junker, Tyler Severson, and Jonathan Hodel

 

 Cloudpoint Geographics moves to new office


Hodel plans open house
CHERYL WOLFE

cwolfe@mtco.com

 ROANOKE—These days, Jon Hodel often has his head in the clouds and is always thinking higher.

When office space for his growing business, Cloudpoint Geographics, Inc. got too small, Hodel started looking for something bigger. He found it, just a block away in the building that formerly housed Dr. Michael Meier’s dental office.

A building with several smaller rooms might not fit the needs of most businesses, but for Hodel and his employees, it was literally a godsend.

“This office has been a perfect fit for us,” Hodel said of the building. “The Lord provided for us; we couldn’t have asked for a better fit.”

Hodel said it was getting crowded in his old office on Main Street, but now all employees have their own space, in addition to a conference room and a kitchenette. And, the move kept Hodel’s business in his hometown, just where he wants it to be. There was a time when Hodel was thinking of re-locating to another town because he could not get enough high speed Internet service in Roanoke, a service that is vital to his business. But he recently found a way to get by with the service in place.

 “We don’t have fiber yet due to the cost, but we’re using the Amazon cloud, and we’re getting by for now,” Hodel said. “We have seen increased efficiency, and cost savings came into play.”

Most people don’t really understand the kind of work Hodel does unless they are very technologically savvy. Hodel is a licensed professional engineer and certified Geographic Information System (GIS) professional. His business started with him, by himself in an office with a laptop, and grew to where it is today with one part-time and five full-time employees. Their work includes GIS mapping for government utilities and public works and asset management, among other projects. Simply put, they make maps, Hodel said. But the maps are not simple.

GIS maps are detailed and made using satellite technology. They allow clients to visualize, question, analyze and interpret data to better understand patterns and trends, as well as what is happening in geographic space. They are also valuable in creating and maintaining more accurate records.

There is a growing interest and awareness of the economic value of GIS. It can be used to manage assets, such as the life expectancy of streetlights or to schedule garbage truck routes to maximize efficiency in fuel and labor. Cloudpoint performs both small jobs and big ones, like a utility mapping job in Mendota that has taken all summer.

These descriptions are only a fraction of the work that Cloudpoint is capable of doing, and they barely scratch the surface of what will be available in the future. Hodel said drones will be used as a powerful commercial tool in the future pinpointing a number of things, from agriculture applications to other commercial uses. He plans to be a part of that technology as it is implemented.

”We’re really excited about the new technology drones will bring,” Hodel said. “It’s fascinating. I really enjoy new things. It’s the engineer coming out in me.”

Hodel said he hopes to hire a licensed pilot to work with drones in the future to create another arm of his business.

The work of Cloudpoint Geographics is far above most of the public’s head, so getting his name out and helping others learn about the services he provides to gain new business is sometimes challenging.

“We find we do a lot of door knocking, and use our web presence,” Hodel said. “Most of our business comes from referrals or face-to-face marketing.”

Hodel wants to do a little face-to-face marketing with the people of Roanoke where he has lived most of his life. He has invited them to come see his new office during an Open House, on Friday, Oct. 2, from 4-6 p.m. He will be glad to explain some of the fascinating aspects of his work to anyone who is interested. And, he wants everyone to know how much he enjoys his new office in Roanoke.

“We’re really happy to be here,” Hodel said.

DC by Map.

Two weeks ago we loaded up the family truckster and headed out on a 10 day 9 night camping vacation. No worries: we're campers, it's not a big deal to myself, my wife or my four kids to plan and enjoy 7 days sleeping in a tent. 

What's different about this trip was the "urban-ness" of the campground. Greenbelt Park is a nice enough campground. The sites were fairly level, bathrooms tolerable, (see my Yelp review) water was cold and accessible. That's all an aside, what is important now is what I used to navigate from Greenbelt Park to downtown Washington DC and back and getting around while we were down there. Yes we planned on driving downtown, taking the Metro downtown from Greenbelt roundtrip for 6 people was $48.

For a few days I banged my head against the marble walls using Apple Maps and BestParking apps. too frustrating.

This was not a 'no tech' vacation. A flatlander in Washington DC trying to keep track of 4 younglings while searching for the best parking space or photogenic angle of any one of a dozen different memorials NEEDS a smartphone. 

Navigation:

My Daughter figured out the interactive map in about 4 seconds. (pretty sure it's operations dashboard)

My Daughter figured out the interactive map in about 4 seconds. (pretty sure it's operations dashboard)

My first premonition should have been the LTE. Verizon LTE was spotty, Oh I had coverage, it just seemed to be bogged down. Lots of apps wouldn't work without LTE. Apple maps was one of them. Google Maps? Flawless on 3G. I should have switched then. Also Apple maps insisted that I make a U-turn about every other block, (without missing a turn). Their options are so limited it make me wish for my Garmin eTrex. You don't notice it when you are cruising around highways of Illinois or I-80, but in downtown DC in the height of bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic, I cannot make a u-turn. Eventually for general navigation I chose Google maps over Apple maps & Waze. The 3-D view of Washington in Apple Maps was cool, but I still say 3D is not practical. 

Parking:

The BestParking app never actually pointed me in the right direction,  it puts a pin on the general side of the block. want directions? That's an in-app purchase. Also they seemed to advertise specials, or prices for hybrids or some such thing not daily or hourly prices. After a few stressful searches, I ended up using 'ParkMobile', an app advertised on DC's own parking meters. I could even "feed the meter" from the app*. Also just biting the bullet and paying for a parking garage helped too. To find the garage again, I usually marked the location with a star on my Google map app. Simplicity. Did I mention how bad traffic was? 

Overall Needed DC apps

The Metro transfer station under the Archives.  

The National Park Service has a GREAT app that's a simple map with pins on it It's called 'National Mall'. I used that map several times each day, it was a life saver and a must-have for tourists. It has locations of main attractions as well as public bathrooms. Note: the National Aquarium has not been around for several years, but it's still on the map. Also on the one day that we took the Metro downtown the best app was the simplest. 'Metro Map' showed your location and the locations of the trains. That's all it did. No planner, no purchase of tickets just a simple map. Done. After that use logic and common sense. Of course when we did splurge and eat out, I used Yelp to find appropriately priced eateries for a family of 6. I also purchased the National Zoo app for $1.99 but that was mostly for Family Share so that my daughters could see the webcam of the Giant Panda cubs. 

 

Lessons Learned. 

The simpler the app the better. The Time & Navigation Exhibit in the Air & Space Museum was the best, but the t-shirt is $38. Parking on the street changes at rush hour. It's 2 miles from Lincoln to the Capital. The Potomac is kinda smelly. You can get soft-serve ice cream and $1 bottle waters from street vendors. The Archives charges twice as much for their copies of the Constitution as the Smithsonians. Parking tickets in DC are $100. Security guards in the Capital do not smile. Aaron Shock's office is still red. View from the steps of Lincoln is awesome. Meet Larry the volunteer at the National Zoo. 

Panoramic view of the Capital under renovation for 2017 inauguration. 

5 Christmas Gift ideas for the Geogeek in your life.

I admit, this is quite the "Wish List" from your rich Uncle Montague. But they're neat to dream about and hope for someday. 

In no particular order. 

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1. Land Carpet.
Who doesn't want to stretch out on a map? Because paper is not really inviting, how about a map made out of genuine New Zealand wool? (did you know there are 7x more sheep in New Zealand than people?) Awesome. However at $2100 for a 6'x8' area rug, it's not for the typical GIS Technician's budget. Something a little more reasonable is the I Am Here Custom play-mat

 

2. Map Wheel
I know where I am, most of the time. The Map Wheel is a distinct custom made reminder of where that other place is in reference to wherever I call home, or whatever location you choose to be in the center. Kind of like the Direction Pole in the TV show MASH. A custom Map Wheel is about $100 US with about $10 shipping, but it's made in Australia.... soooo, it might have to be a Valentines Day present. 

 

3. World Map iPhone Case
Easy. $30. Wood. Looks nice. Made in Indiana by a guy named John, how American is that? Boom. Get it. Only for 4/4s & 5/5s. No iPhone 6 or 6+ yet. 

 
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4. Fitbit Surge
I like GPS & I am a watch wearer, but I'm not holding out for a Apple Watch. They look cool, but I don't have that kind of cash. Plus there are literally dozens of other smart/fitness/GPS/bluetooth watches on the market. I like a rectangle design and the Surge price tag of $250.

 
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5. Hand Made Globe
uh. I've tweeted about these before, and actually gotten a response from the folks at Bellerby & Co. These are amazing - beautiful - works of art made with care, precision and an obvious personal touch. My wife would grab her Scrapbooks running out the door in case of a home fire, I would grab this globe. Especially since the desktop version is about $1700 US. Save your pennies kids! Someday. Someday.

 

There you go. 5  rather unrealistic and completely unnecessary first-world presents to get for your resident geographer to celebrate Christmas.  
Got any other Ideas? Put them in the comments.