Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Virtual walking in Scotland

A few weeks ago I was pondering to myself why nobody had done anything clever yet in terms of getting many of Scotland's hill walking routes up on the web. There were plenty of amateur sites giving route descriptions and photos, or with snippets of OS maps included, or showing the rough location of the hill the walk focussed on - but none that went the whole hog.

For me the biggest bug bear is always figuring out from where a route starts, which is especially an issue if, like me, you are too tight to buy a walking guide, OS map etc. A motoring map or atlas just doesn't cut it when it comes to finding out where to park, what route to take etc.

OS mapping is now of course fairly freely available via OS's GetaMap, Multimap or various other mapping services - but it doesn't resolve the problem of where routes start, finish and roughly go on your now freely obtained OS printout.

Then Stefan at Ogle Earth posted about an email he received from the author, Paul Webster, of Walk Highlands - an online site of hill walking knowledge, with some great route descriptions (hundreds!), photos and for me, best of all, some awesome KML displaying these routes. I think it's a fantastic tool - my only qualm - I'm based in Edinburgh, and the areas he's left out for now are the ones nearest me! But not too worry!

The site is marvelously simple to navigate too, and packed full of information, from where to stay, what to do with your GPS device, what to make of the weather reports(!) and what else to see and do. There's a forum for general community stuff too. It's a little bit Isle of Skye focussed, but I'm sure it will expand if the demand is there. And if he manages to sell a few Amazon books out of it in the process (through the built-in Amazon shop/affiliate shceme), then fair enough for paying for the hosting costs.

But for me, the best bit is the KML. Below is a sample of one of my favourite routes on Royal Deeside - Lochnagar - a route I've taken a few times myself (see route description and photos). The routes are coloured according to their grade, from easy to hard, there is the odd photo included plus a few other bits of information including a 'boggyness' scale.

kml lochnagar KML sample

So no more excuses about not making it to the hills more often. This weekend I'm going. Honest!

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Saturday, 12 January 2008

Ski resorts in virtual globes and maps

Got ski fever today.. and since I can't afford or have time to jet off in search of snow, I thought I'd do some (web) surfing instead. Below, a bunch of links to some ski resources in Europe, mainly the Alps.

I started looking mainly at the KML out there. One of my favourites is one of the Swiss Alps resort of Zermatt posted by GE Earth Community member TommyAfrika. It shows the location of the various resorts around the region, many of the trails and pistes and best of all, it's in glorious high resolution imagery. Click the thumbnail below for a better view.

Then there's a great KML by SkiBumRick showing resorts in
the Tyrolean Alps. Not so many trails, but certainly a great list of resorts over in Austria.

Eastern Europe is catered for by KML's for both Slovakia and the Czech republic by GEC member maco.

Further afield, in Argentina, Gerardo64 GEC member, has done a trail map overlay of the Cerro Catedral ski centre, Bariloche. It's a nice little KML of a part of the world I haven't done much exploring in. His post is also nicely annotated with photos of the resort, and winter fun!

In terms of a single KML for a huge list of resorts all over the globe, you could do worse than GEC member 1will's placemarks and links to snow reports. Not the most descriptive of placemarks, but there are an awful lot of them!

Finally, the GE blog has some interesting posts on mapping your ski trails in Google Earth using Geovisualiser. His KML is really interesting, and is colourised either by altitude or speed. So take your GPS with you next time you go skiing!

There is of course much more ski related KML out there, and this is just a selection from a few hours I've spent browsing. Sadly, quite a few of the older bigger KML's from a few years ago now have broken links and so have not been included. Couldn't find one for Scotland maybe I should start work on that myself!

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Sunday, 6 January 2008

New router

I've always been a belkin person when it comes to network adaptors and routers, but I've never been happy since I first bought the Wireless G Router ver 4000uk some 18 months ago now. Unlike the previous the ADSL wireless routers I've had in the past this one had just a single aerial, and despite living in a small flat, I found it hard to get a decent signal even in the room next door. My Imp internet radio in the kitchen would frequently buffer mid-stream, and the final icing on the cake was the frequent random disconnects I was getting, whereby the entire router just seemed to drop off-line. I'm sure it's something to do with interference, but after trying to endure it for several months I'd had enough.

In the sales I bought a Buffalo Airstation Wireless-G 125* High Speed Broadband router (WHR-KG54S). It's a typical cable modem router, with the all the general kind of things you'd expect - DCHP server, supporting WPA-PSK (both TKIP and AES, which is useful as I still need TKIP for my internet radio), as well as the older WEP security mode. I haven't really been able to test the High Speed as claimed, mainly because the adaptor included needs USB 2.0 of which I have none! So I'm stuck at 54mbps just like before. Actually the inclusion of 54 in the version number is a bit confusing - perhaps this isn't a 125mbps model at all?!

buffalo wireless g

The Buffalo on the left and the old belkin on the right

Install of the router was a doddle, it detected everything itself. Just a change of security to WPA-PSK at TKIP with my desired password, tweak my original adaptor to the new network name, and done. The default network name of the Buffalo is it's MAC address, which is a bit bizarre, but this can be fairly easily changed using the browser administration utility.

Apparently the router is Nintendo DS compatible (I've not got a multiplayer DS game yet though so I can't test), through AOSS setup button - so I'll see how that works in the future.

I've started using the included network adaptor (Buffalo Turbo-G 125* Wireless USB 2.0 Keychain Adapter), but it behaves no better or worse than my old internal wireless adaptor. The software utility is a bit more user-friendly, but that's it really.

So I'm really quite pleased. It looks good, is very nice narrow and discrete. Easy to set up and great value for money. Router and adaptor for £40.00. And so far it's behaving in terms of the network staying up, remaining on the set channel, interference wise, etc. I guess the only thing I'm wondering is about the rated speed - and how much faster it really is.

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Saturday, 5 January 2008

New Year and a quick summary of 2007

I still can't believe it's 2008 - the past year has gone unbelievably fast. I really haven't had much time to blog, or even keep up on geospatial goings on over the past few months - but I'm going to try and find some more time for that this year!(New Years Resolution)

So since the early months of 2007 I had been working on my masters dissertation which culminated in a submission around the middle of August. I'm playing to put a summary of what I did on this blog (another to do in 2008). In the end while the ultimate aim was to make practical improvements to an online gazetteer service, and bring interoperability to the data structure, it turned out to be a vastly larger task than expected, with a range of issues that XML could either not deal (well) with, or current limitations of the stylesheets (both XSLT and CSS) in reproducing what was required. As such the dissertation became a much more theoretical discussions of the practicalities and implications of converting to an XML basis, without that work having ever been undertaken on the kind of scale that was needed for it to appear in the Gazetteer for Scotland.

In the meantime I was also applying for various jobs locally here in Edinburgh, knowing that after 12 months of student living I really needed some cash fast. I was lucky to be offered an interview the day after my submission (still a bit red-eyed, but luckily not hungover!), and was offered the job shortly after. This meant that the week after I had submitted my final piece of work, I was starting my new job for a small GIS company here in Edinburgh - not a bad turnaround I guess.

I'm really enjoying my job, having been working for the company for some four months now. My role covers a range of areas, from customer support to software installation and setup, software testing and other jobs here and there in between. The diverse nature of what I do, is really what is the best thing about it.

In November I had my graduation (and finally that year long effort was over), which was a lovely day out with parents, girlfriend, fellow students and tutors. I'll post some pictures in due course on my personal blog. Christmas and New year very quiet, but nice - and my little Reciva powered Imp internet radio is still going (!).

Need to catch up with all the other blogs I read soon! Wishing all a happy New Year,