Last week I made my first 2010 trip to the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University for a workshop with researchers and programmers from the University of Heidelberg's Epigraphische Datenbank Heidelberg. The stuff I work on daily is only a fraction of ISAW's digital projects, which are in turn only a fraction of ISAW's business. I had a day before the workshop to catch up with what's going on in the ISAW library and exhibition groups.
But first I had to fly across the Atlantic in this A380, which flies as smoothly and quietly as advertised.
I shared a row with a retiree from Avignon. His US-based kids were flying him to NYC and then Aspen for his 60th birthday. We talked about the food and geography of France and the Southwest US – Mexican cuisine in particular, which I've been craving and he'd discovered on a previous trip to Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. I heard French on the street in New York, and among visiting scholars at ISAW, but that would be the last French I'd speak for a week.
Next is a crappy mobile phone photo of one of the fine banners ISAW put up on the Museum Mile (ISAW is just half a block east of 5th Ave on 84th Street) to advertise the Old Europe exhibit.
In this context, "Old Europe" refers to a largely forgotten Neolithic and Copper Age culture established along the Danube River during a wave of emigration from Anatolia that also settled the Aegean islands and what are now Macedonia and Greece (see also Cucuteni-Trypillian culture). The objects in the exhibition are from museums in Bulgaria, Moldova, and Bulgaria, and are being shown in the US for the first time. Here's a nice Flickr photo set made by an exhibit visitor:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has nothing from this culture, but does have a collection of almost contemporary Early Cycladic objects.
The exhibit is very well done, widely reported and well reviewed in the local media, and well attended. Chapeau to Jennifer Chi and the exhibition team. There's a nice catalog book edited by David W. Anthony with chapters that dive deeper into the archaeology and history of the culture. The exhibits and digital projects groups have a bunch of ideas of how to improve the integration of physical, print, and web materials for upcoming exhibits as we roll out the new ISAW website. The catalog has some great maps by Brian Turner from UNC's Ancient World Mapping Center (where I worked previously) but I think a KML application could take the geography to another level. The exhibit runs through April 26 after which you'll have to travel to Southeastern Europe to see these objects.
I met ISAW's newest technical people, Michael Edgcumbe (who keeps the wheels on office computing) and Christopher Warner (lead on the new website), in person for the first time. The workshop went well, too. More about that later after I push new code up to our site.
While packing for the return trip, I heard that I'd be coming back to snow. Indeed: when we descended below the clouds I saw Montpellier and much of the Hérault department covered with snow. We got about 10 cm in the neighborhood, some of which remains to be seen in the photo below:
Normally, turkey vultures inform me of Spring's arrival; I'm looking around for other signs here in Montpellier. Returning yesterday from a week in the snowy Alpes, I saw trees in full bloom along the A9 near Nîmes. Perhaps we had slightly cooler weather here last week, because the almond trees in the neighborhood green space are just getting started:
Here's an interview with Sanjiv Singh (TurboGears, GeoAlchemy) in The Bitsource:
Sanjiv Singh is a Python developer from New Delhi, India who contributes to the TurboGears and Toscawidgets projects. Singh recently gave a talk on “TurboGears2 Geopspatial Framework at PyCon 2010, which is a framework for developing Geographic Information System Applications, such as the Blind Audio Tactile System.
I only found two PyCon talks related to GIS: Sanjiv's TurboGears Geospatial Framework and Roy Hyunjin Han's How Python is guiding infrastructure construction in Africa.
Here's a comment that more properly belongs on Saving bandwidth using Python. The requirement to register was (to me) a blocker for leaving it there. Anne writes:
When Internet connection is a limited resource, a well-designed website doesn’t perform multiple times the same request. This little adjustment can significantly reduce the time required to load and refresh a page. First-world programmers should keep this in mind, or better come to South Africa and experience it in person ...
The solution involves a wrapper around urllib.urlretrieve that partially implements HTTP caching. A more robust solution might instead use the almost transparent Last-Modified or ETag validated caching that is built into httplib2. See also Mark Pilgrim's notes on httplib2 in Dive Into Python 3 (httplib2 works fine with Python 2.3+). Saves bandwidth, development time, and bug chasing.
My earlier blog post on caching requires some follow up. In fact, the utility of httplib2 or any other HTTP cache hinges on whether or not the server hosting the wanted resources provides validating (ETag or Last-Modified) or freshness (Expires or Cache-Control) headers. In other words: the organization running the server has to want to help you save bandwidth. The original blog post says "That function caches the result of WMS requests for layer legends in a dedicated directory, assuming that the images are not changing over time."
If I read the Linfinti blog post right, this is the kind of image they'd like to avoid fetching unnecessarily. If you look closely at a HTTP request for the legend image (passing the -v option to curl, with  standing in for the request in the code below), you see:
krusty-2:~ seang$ curl -v  > /tmp/legend.png * About to connect() to frameworkwfs.usgs.gov port 80 (#0) * Trying 22.214.171.124... connected * Connected to frameworkwfs.usgs.gov (126.96.36.199) port 80 (#0) > GET /framework/wms/wms.cgi?SERVICE=WMS&VERSION=1.3.2... HTTP/1.1 > User-Agent: curl/7.19.5 (i386-apple-darwin9.8.0) libcurl/7.19.5 OpenSSL/0.9.8k zlib/1.2.3 > Host: frameworkwfs.usgs.gov > Accept: */* > < HTTP/1.1 200 OK < Date: Thu, 18 Feb 2010 21:26:03 GMT < Server: Apache/2.0.46 (Red Hat) < Connection: close < Transfer-Encoding: chunked < Content-Type: image/png
No validator headers. No freshness headers. Neither httplib2 nor a HTTP caching proxy is going to be useful here. You're on your own. Hurrah for standards. Let a thousand ad-hoc caching schemes bloom.
Update (2010-02-28): 1.2b3 is out. URLs are changed below.
Update (2010-02-19): 1.2b2 is out. URLs are changed below.
This is the first 1.2 release uploaded to PyPI: http://pypi.python.org/pypi/Shapely/. I hope the new README introduces the package more clearly. The manual lags: it will be the last thing before a 1.2 final.
A consequence for downstream developers is that a package that depends on Shapely in the setuptools sense without specifying a specific version will now begin to pull in 1.2b* releases instead of 1.0.14. 1.2b1 seems to be working with GEOS 3.0 and we didn't intentionally break backwards compatibility, but you should be cautious about this. If you're depending on GEOS 2.2.3 and haven't already pinned your package to Shapely==1.0.14 (updating as you go), you should.
To install and try it out (in a virtualenv):
>>> from geoserver import Catalog >>> cat = Catalog('topp') >>> print cat.stores()  >>> st = cat['states_shapefile'] >>> print st.layers()  >>> l = st['states'] >>> print l.count() 49 print l.bounds() ...
A little bit of its Java-ness leaks through, but at least one is spared the getters and setters. Cool, but then what's this smell at the end?
The following is the wish list based on feedback from teh community:
- add a new output format
- add a transaction listener
- add a dispatcher callback
- add a WPS process
- add a datastore
- a restful endpoint
Restful endpoint? Oh, for crying out loud. Head. Desk.
Fuzzy, the blogger with the not-Flash banner animation, writes:
Every time I hear about devs (some of my co-workers included) choosing the Flex API for AGS I have to bite my lip. With the life span of web mapping sites they’re probably more than safe going with Flash – it’s slide will likely be long and slow. But I think that slide is becoming inevitable.
Last week I commented that one upside of the Apple-Adobe Flash brouhaha was that it reduces all the necessarily complicated, technical, wonky arguments against Flash (which clients know, somehow, that they "need") to: "it won't work on your iPad". But I'm resisting because I'm almost certain that Apple will eventually win this game of chicken, extract whatever concessions or guarantees or fees or pounds of flesh from Adobe, and relent. I'd like to be wrong.