Archive for March, 2013

Overnights in the Everglades

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

I’ve never been to the Everglades, but I have been on the water and I’ve been to a great many national parks.  I see a few variables that could throw my trip.  Windy days and the waves they create could keep me away from the coastal waters.  Interior rivers and creeks could be too low to traverse.  Lastly, I might not be able to get a permit for the camp sites I want.

So what’s a cartographer to do?  Plan several itineraries and make maps of course.  This map series uses NOAA Raster Charts as a base.  I overlayed the planned route, camp sites, and a 1k UTM grid for easier navigation.  Finally I exported the map as a PFD.  If you have the Terrago plugin for Acrobat, it will display the coordinates of your mouse in Lat/Lon and MGRS.

The routes and text for these two trips are courtesy of  I just placed them on the map.
ChokoloskeeTurnerLopez EverGlade-PicnicKey
Between the storms, alligators, and mosquitoes I figure I have an 80% chance of surviving this trip.

Building a System

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013


My first map as an independent took a while.  That is because I’m not just the cartographer.  I’m the IT guy and the researcher.

From an IT perspective GIS is hard.  The software options are complicated and expensive.  Visualization places heavy demands on the video card.  Large data sets require sufficient space and organization.  Terrain processing can run for hours.  For the home GIS solution it has to be cheap too.

One software package sets the stage for everything.  ArcGIS.  As a pro you need it and it only runs on Windows.  I solved that with a gaming quality laptop.  The video, memory, and hard drive are nearly as good as a workstation laptop and it’s a lot cheaper.  Since I can’t afford a full ESRI license I run Quantum GIS for some processing tasks.  I manage my files on a recycled Linux laptop.  This low budget filer server supports every machine in the house and has it’s own battery backup.  The performance isn’t bad either.

For under $3,000 I’ve got a complete system that’s backed up, mobile, and ready to work.  Most of my compromises are on software.  The open source offerings aren’t as smooth as the commercial products but they are getting the job done.  Let’s make some maps.