A simple GPS tool for the phone

If you visit this site often, you likely have a favorite map app on your phone. I certainly do and I have installed dozens of apps over the years. Most focus on placing your location as a dot on the map.

The dot

Any map app that shows your location as a dot on the map fosters a dependence on your exact location. We end up saying, "I am here" instead of asking "Where am I?"

To build strong spatial awareness, we should look at the dot after studying the plain map and doing an exercise in terrain association. Can we orient the map (best done with a paper map, folks) so that map north aligns with observed north? Can we then identify features on the map and estimate their distance from us?

These are questions in topograhic map reading. If you carefully observe your environment and compare its representation on the map, you will not need the dot.

When there was no dot

Let’s say the early 1990s. Before that time, we used paper maps. Soon after, handheld GPS units became popular and only showed coordinates for your position and maybe some other location statistics like speed, elevation, distance & bearing to next waypoint. They were often used with a paper map that had a grid (with linear units on a flat space) or a graticule (angular units on a curved space) that helped a user measure their location.

Using coordinates, we looked at the paper map’s margin for marks that pointed you to a general location. To find the exact location, we looked up and asked, "Where am I?" and compared the map with what we saw. We built a mental map of our surroundings. There was no dot.

An app without a dot?

So, we thought we would kick it back to the 90s and make a browser app that mimics these early devices. Because our maps have detailed graticules and mile markers for the Sheltowee Trace, this app should compliment your journey into topography and map reading. This app is designed for mobile devices and below is a screen capture of a use on an iPhone.

Screen Capture of control panel

GPS app can be loaded here: https://outrageGIS.com/gps

This app is free, open source, doesn’t need to be installed, and won’t collect any information from you.

Happy adventures!

Experimenting with Geolocation API

We have a lot of great raster base map services available in Kentucky and I wanted to access them for my current location when I use my mobile device in the field. While there are many ways to make a mobile map, I wanted use Leaflet JS and build a custom geolocation service using the Geolocation API. Some desired features for the web page:

  • The interface should be just the map, with a single button to access the controls
  • Location services should record a track of previous locations with distance covered
  • Location coordinates should be averaged over a sample period to help with accuracy
  • Other information for the current location should be offered on the page, e.g., hourly weather forecasts.

Map cound found here: https://outrageGIS.com/location

The below screen capture shows the control panel for selecting base map and enabling the the location services. It also gratuitously adds content from the last three posts to this forum. (Practicing with Tailwind CSS for potential site redesign.)

Screen Capture of control panel

Please feel to add your comments and tell how it works on your mobile device. It has tested on Chrome and Safari mobile browsers.

Some caveats.

  • The tracking feature is tuned to walking. If you drive or bike, the track will more generalized the faster you travel.
  • Of course, you’ll need to enable location for the page :). I promise that nothing is used or saved from your session. This is a completely client-side app.
  • If you refresh your browser, the page is reset and your track is lost. Working on a local database option to save the track.
  • This page requires an online connection. Working on an offline version, too.

Screen Capture of control panel Above is an screen capture of the Kentucky Topo map for the state. Other base maps include, lidar-derived surface models and current GOES-16 imagery.

Screen capture of mobile device Screen capture of track mapping on a mobile device

Weather archive updates

We collect imagery from national park webcams in the Great Smokies and Mammoth Cave parks and then make animated gifs of those webcam images. In 2011, I penciled this quick note:

110629 Nice time-lapse photography for all cameras and satellite. Make movie?

Beginning in 2012, we started archiving these animations.

New webcam added to animation archive

Turns out, we had Mammoth Cave working for the entire 2021 year, but didn’t have them accessible via a web page. With a little grep and sed action, the gifs were added to the default page for the Great Smokies archive. Visit the interface here.

Weather and animation archive

We plan on having at least the last year covered in the archive. At 60 GB a year now with HD cameras, it can get expensive hosting multiple years. I do have the years back to 2012 stored offline.

New Red River Gorge map

Over the past spring, we’ve been revamping our popular map for the Red River Gorge. The map should be available in early June. One of the additions is a new Bird’s Eye View map that user lidar elevation data and Blender 3d modeling software. You can view a zoomable image with this link

New map in our printed series for the Red River Gorge
New map in our printed series for the Red River Gorge

2020 Census data

Time to explore the data on a map. The experiment is show block group data for select demographic data, which was used for redistricting. This interactive presentation is a test of concept to show population density. Eventually, an UI element will be added to symbolize block groups by precent population in self-identified racial group – as defined in Census categories.

Kentucky Population density, 2020 Census with selected racial demographics by Block Group
uky-gis.github.io/ky-2020-block-groups/

Custom shaded relief maps

After a few weeks fiddling with the Blender 3D application to make smooth shaded reliefs, I decided to create raster tilesets that could be used with web mapping applications for a unique look. While the shading is not as accurate as multidirectional shading techniques used in GDAL and ArcGIS Pro, it makes a more artistic rendering.

To view a web page with samples, check out boydx.github.io/hugo-maps and also learn about the New Maps Plus program at the University of Kentucky).

Examples

Open ground features (click for high-resolution 13k version)
Kentucky bare-earth hillshade (click for hi-res 23k image)

An archive of message boards

phpBB

Back in the early 2000s, this popular messaging board (and others like it) was where online interaction happened. Many were focused on local groups and activities. Then, Facebook, spambots, and more dangerous hacking emerged. These boards couldn’t keep up and users eventually found more immediately gratifying social media platforms.

I have taken two popular boards and retired most of their functionality. One can view posts, but cannot add new ones or search (sorry).

Mapping the Sheltowee Trace from SheltoweeTrace.com
Lexrides from BikeLex.com

Eating a PB&J by oak tree

Point cloud of kid eating lunch by a tree
Lidar point cloud from a handheld sensor

Having fun with lidar

Lexington has a awesome fall event called, Paint by Nature, which encourages folks to create artwork around notable trees in the city. These trees aren’t necessarily the largest or showiest in their area, but are highly suitable plantings for their ecological settings.

While I didn’t make a submission, I did map the trees and used various lidar sources to visualize them. Visit this 3D visualization powered with Potree point cloud renderer. A growing list of similar visualizations can be found here.

Map of trees

Visit the trees in the Paint by Nature program on this page.

Web site of maps

Toward a scenic trail index

Sheltowee Trace, Daniel Boone National Forest, and Big South Fork scenic trail index
Visit the web page

Over the years we’ve pursued some measure that reveals the character of 900+ miles of trail here. Often we talk about a trail’s length or steepness with other dimensions gleaned from the base map. In this experiment, we are creating zones at discreet locations along trails and estimating the character of that location.

Over 14,000 polygons are shown on this 3D Mapbox map. The color indicates the type of scenery and height shows how much relief is the area. Future additions to this map include adding a searching tool and summary statistics for each trail.

Time-lapse animation

Downtown Lexington, Kentucky in July evening

Red River Gorge t-shirt

T-shirt front

Looking for a new fashion statement?

We’ve printed a map of the Red River Gorge on a 100%-cotton, heavy-weight t-shirt.

This double-sided t-shirt will be first available at the Kentucky Art Market, which is adjacent to the Woodland Arts Fair. This August 2019.

T-shirt back

West Sixth Farm trail map

Took an afternoon to GPS map the trail network at the West Sixth farm outside of Frankfort, Kentucky. You can download the map here https://www.westsixth.com/farmtrailmap.

West Sixth Farm trail map
Preview of the map

The farm maintains a mountain bike trail with technical features and one-way trails. Enjoy a ride and then a brew.

lidar point cloud render
View an interactive 3D map of the area

As an experiment, we added a 3D map from a lidar point cloud viewable here: https://outragegis.com/pointclouds/w6.

OSM highways

OpenStreetMap highway lines
Using QGIS layer blending mode to imply population density

Selected attributes symbolized from the North American extract: download.geofabrik.de/north-america.html

New Maps Plus projects

Visit the full-screen map.

I began teaching at New Maps Plus in October 2015. Students have made many awesome maps since then. This ‘map of maps’ shows projects going back to early 2017. Many of the early projects utilized CartoDB (now CARTO), which has evolved considerably over the years. While technology and visualization techniques change, a map is also an artistic pursuit and perhaps can withstand the ebb and flow of tech design styles.

New images and data from GOES-16

Visit the page to view and download imagery

Over Christmas break, it was time to automate collecting and displaying the incredibly detailed imagery from the GOES-16 Advanced Baseline Imager. A problem that plagued previous efforts was not accessing the raw data, a netCDF formatted file for the contiguous U.S. which can be downloaded freely from a variety of cloud data hosts. With the raw data, one can project, modify and use it in web mapping libraries like Leaflet.

This page offers a slippy map of grayscale and color imagery and is updated every 15 minutes. You can download GeoTIFFs of rendered layers that can be used in GIS applications.

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