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Transit: The GPS Forefather.

One of the great questions faced by man kind -- but only recently answered conveniently and accurately -- is where am I? From precision agriculture to ship navigation to bus systems to navigation systems in cars, the answer to this question has solved many problems for mankind.

It wasn't all that long ago -- maybe 5 or 10 years ago -- when the average person couldn't just pull a cellphone out of their pocket, and find out their exact location down to 10 feet from their cellphone. Now such technology is common place.

The Transit Satellites, the first successfully launched today in 1960, started to answer that question. The transit satellites were primitive technology compared to the modern GPS satellites, but a necessary first step in man answering the question -- where am I?


Michael Minn's QGIS plugin adds a lot of great features to QGIS like export of KML files with the color table and attributes attached -- among other features.

The plugin is good but not perfect for KML exports, but it's remarkably helpful.

I'm honestly thinking about hacking the KML export options to make better KML exports (like transparency by default). I'm not a PyQGIS or KML expert but I think I could make it better -- and that's the spirit of open source software. We will see.

Earlier this week, I posted several maps of the 2015 Albany County Executive Primary race. After giving it some consideration, I decided last night to re-render the maps because they were not up to my quality standards. 

I often like to experiment with new features, and while the shadow feature of QGIS can greatly enhance a map, it can also be a bit too much and actually detract from the readability of maps. I took off the shadow and re-adjusted the colors, which seemed to previously be too biased towards Egan over McCoy (the Egan colors were darker on a vote-basis on then McCoy).

I will post the enhanced maps over the next few days. I might experiment with other races. I don’t have a 2014 shapefile, but it looks like I can convert the numbers over relatively easily in Excel to match the EDs, possibly creating Super EDs as neccessary. We will see how nasty the weather is on Saturday, but that’s something I may with further over the weekend if the weather is bad.

After the map is displayed on screen, a composer must be set up with adjusted grids and proper centering

After the map is displayed on screen, a composer must be set up with adjusted grids and proper centering

Every map requires that the composer to be set up prior to being set into a PDF file. The map has to be focused on the desired location and the scale has to be set. Additionally, many maps require the grid to be adjusted from 45 seconds, to an appropriate grid based on the scale. Occasionally elements must be changed to allow the map to fit. I have a vertical and horizontal template set, which can assist in this process. FInally, the map title has to be set.

Making Maps Is Not an Automated Process

Making Maps Is Not an Automated Process

Each map requires creating the topographic lines and hillshades, which uses a script and software like ogr2ogr and gdal_contour. The process is somewhat automated, although I still have to manually invoke the script, then appropiately style the contour lines and hillshade (background that makes the mountains pop out). The brightness and contrast of each hillshade must be manually adjusted, to ensure it does not appear blocky or overly dramatic. Each map requires a separate set of contour lines, based on what topographic map they are originally derived from.