Topic ask

QGIS versus ArcMap

in ask on (#3QD)
story imageThe QGIS Project released the latest 2.4 version of their free and open source QGIS geospatial information system software a week or so ago (codename Chugiak). The 2.4 changelog lists a number of new features that indicate the QGIS software is increasing in data analysis and map composing sophistication, i.e., moving beyond its traditional strength as a geospatial data management interface. One new feature that seems especially exciting is the multi-threaded rendering which allows users to continue to interact with the map views while re-rendering of the map is ongoing.

Anyway, I've been using QGIS almost exclusively in my own research for the past five years or more -- although I have been preparing final figures and maps using Generic Mapping Tools scripts because of perceived limitations with previous iterations of the Map Compositor functionality in QGIS. However, my place of work and many of my colleagues continue to use the commericial ArcGIS suite of software for GIS and Map preparation tasks and so, out of necessity, I am constantly switching back and forth between the two.

I remain convinced that for many people's workflows, QGIS is a hugely competitive product because it is free and supports a wide range of GIS activities. QGIS functions are only getting more numerous and sophisticated with time.

I thought I would take the 2.4 release of QGIS as an opportunity to ask the Pipedot community if they had any ongoing experience switching from ArcGIS to QGIS or supporting both platforms concurrently? As well, what points of comparison would Pipedot contributors emphasize in considering the QGIS versus ArcMap question? Thanks!

New poll: where to invest our scientific effort?

in ask on (#3Q3)
Seems like 80% of the world's scientists are working diligently on designing the newest smart-watch or cellphone. Boring! This poll asks: where should we be investing our time and energy? Understanding that to a degree, there is overlap in disciplines (better waste disposal could easily lead to progress in energy production, for example), where should we be investing our time and energy for maximum human impact?

This is a borda poll, so give "1" to your first preference and "6" to the field you prefer the least, etc., and we'll see which fields float to the top.

The state of social media reporting

in ask on (#3PX)
The New York Times has just published a blistering review of BuzzFeed. Yes, BuzzFeed is maddening and crazy and frenetic and vaguely unnerving, but the NYT nails it:
The site knows that successful diversion depends on continually toggling its joystick between micronostalgia for the past (“55 Things Only ’90s Teenage Girls Can Understand”) and microexaminations of the latest microtrend (“The ‘Gingers Have Souls’ Kid Just Released a Hip-Hop Music Video”). BuzzFeed will simultaneously pretend that joy is an ever-renewable resource (“13 Cute Kid Vines You’ll Watch Over and Over Again”) while also hinting that our stores of happiness are dangerously low and dwindling (“13 Holidays You’ve Been Celebrating Totally Wrong”). ...

In fact, the more time you spend on BuzzFeed, the more the boundaries between “win” and “fail” seem to blur. After a while, it’s impossible not to slip into a disassociative trance, in which you surrender to the allure of some perpetual, trivial nowhereland, nestled somewhere between “15 Cats That You Don’t Want to Mess With” and the “44 Hong Kong Movie Subtitles Gone Wrong.”
Have a look at the Onion parody they reference, too: it's awesome. But that brings up an interesting question: we've got Facebook's Timeline (which we now know is manipulated), Reddit, various sites like this one, and dozens of big and small sites trying to be the first and fastest to spot or create trends, broach news subjects, or get people talking (and viewing advertisements). Is this as far as we're going to go? What's the next step? Are sites like Slashdot old news? Is the BuzzFeed frenzy ultimately unsustainable? Is it "32 news sites you should be reading daily"?

What is your backup/archive solution?

in ask on (#3PM)
Well, World Backup Day came and went on March 31. If you hadn't already spent some time and energy in a solution for backing up and archiving your personal digital resources, you've hopefully been inspired by this now annual event and cobbled together a solution that fits your needs. So, what is it?

There are now many competing solutions for local backup, no matter which operating system is your preference. Throw in the periodic burning of optical media, a dedication to offsite media and it gets more complicated. Add a NAS or SAN to the system and it gets thornier, since your typical NAS can now help you amass far more digital "stuff" than you can possibly archive without a second NAS.

No matter what you design, dedication, organization, and anticipation remain an important part of the mix.

How do you do it? Share your thoughts on our new, Monday poll.

Elon Musk + Stephen Hawking + CBC = robot revolution

in ask on (#3P9)
story imageCBC News is looking out for your health and safety, by combining unrelated quotes by Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, adding a Terminator image, and making sure you are well warned of the impending robot revolution. Here it is:
Two leading voices in the world of science and technology warn that robots equipped with artificial intelligence could be leading humanity down a dangerous path.

Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX and Tesla motors, told a pair of CNBC reporters that he thought robots were “dangerous.”

“There have been movies about this, you know, like Terminator.”

Despite his reservations, Musk himself has recently invested in an artificial intelligence company.
The first strike by the robots would be, naturally, to cripple humanity by operating on human unborn in the womb. That's a bad thing, no a good thing, no wait, now I'm confused.

The future of opensource security

in ask on (#3P3)
story imageThe question arose out of the urgency of the heartbleed OpenSSL bug and the hurried round of patching that ensued: what is the future of opensource security management, and what can we learn from this crisis?

Shrikanth RP, executive editor for Times India writes:
A recent report by Coverity found out that the quality of open source surpassed proprietary projects with a defect density of 0.59 per thousand lines of code for open source compared to 0.72 for proprietary code scanned. Defect density (defects per 1,000 lines of software code) is a commonly used measurement for software quality. The report mentions that nearly 50,000 defects were fixed in 2013 alone — the largest single number of defects fixed in a single year. More than 11,000 of these defects were fixed by the four largest projects in the service: NetBSD, FreeBSD, LibreOffice and Linux. So, what do these statistics mean for open source security, and how must organizations look at open source security post Heartbleed?
Better peer review, more atomic code commits and checks, periodic, 3rd party audits: what should we be doing to improve the quality of our code?

New poll: what topics would you like to see?

in ask on (#3NM)
Greetings - I'm one of the volunteer editors, and thought I'd take the liberty*** to poll readers on what kind of articles we all find interesting . It's an "approval method" poll, so tick the box on any of the multiple subjects that interest you, and leave blank the ones you dislike. We'll see which topics rise to the surface (and which ones sink!)

The more I use the Pipedot interface the more I love it, especially given the competition. But a site like this is most interesting if it posts articles readers are interested in and that generate interesting and useful conversation (otherwise, what's the point?).

If you don't see a topic you'd like to discuss, just add it in the comments. Let's make Pipedot the first site you read in the morning. Having a better sense of what's interesting will help volunteer editors prioritize the best articles for submission. Thanks!

***"Take the liberty" means "didn't bother to ask Bryan." :)

The Evolution of the Design of the Pocket Protector

Anonymous Coward
in ask on (#3MB)
Henry Petroski writes about the pocket protector in his latest article on the history of industrial design, following an earlier web article from Jeanette Medea . While inventors had tackled the vexing problems of ink-stained shirts and misplaced pencils going back to the nineteenth century, an engineer named Hurley Smith patented what could be considered the modern article in 1947, describing a lightweight strip of plastic folded twice to fit into a shirt pocket : one at the bottom of the pocket, to hold the pens or tools, and one at the top front of the pocket, to form a flap that writing instruments could be clipped onto. The strip was extended above the pocket in the back to provide extra protection for the shirt. Curiously, Smith's main drawing did not illustrate an enclosed pocket-within-a-pocket, but rather a folded-over strip open at the sides. Realizing the potential demand for side seam protection, however, Smith included a drawing for an alternative implementation that is recognizably the pocket protector that became a badge of professional engineers over the next several decades, roughly corresponding to the era of the mainframe computer.

Competition sprung up almost immediately, from so many small manufacturers dispersed around the country that Smith decided against suing to enforce his patent. Gerson Strassberg marketed a pocket protector of his own design for a half century, although he later exaggerated his role in its invention , as Petroski points out. Strassberg didn't patent his design; "the best patent in the world is to make a million of them and sell them quickly", he explained. While pocket protectors are still being sold , most of today's engineers have moved on... perhaps, to clip-on security badges.

[Ed. note: In the 21st century, the pocket protector has become iconified as an object of ridicule, a signal for permitted scorn. In 2014, what's the equivalent? What object does everyone agree justifies merciless ridicule of the wearer?]

Where do you get your desktop artwork?

in ask on (#3M9)
Assuming everyone here is glued to the business end of a computer for most of the working day, you probably spend more time looking at your desktop than you do your kids :( So, where do you get your artwork? I was a big fan of Digital Blasphemy for many years, and actually I still do like Ryan's stuff. But there are so many good artists out there, and so many great sources of interesting images, from the abstract to the futuristic to the mundane. Where do you go to get interesting artwork?

[Ed note: Don't say 4chan. Please don't say 4chan.]

What Is Your Offsite Storage Solution?

in ask on (#3KZ)
We're talking data here, not your funky old couch and cassette collection. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is reviewing six solutions for stuffing all your data in the cloud [1]. He reviews Amazon CloudDrive, Box, Dropbox, GoogleDrive, OneDrive, and SpiderOak. He then concludes, lamely , "I can't tell you what the perfect cloud storage is because there's no such thing. It all depends on your needs."

OK, so the article was clickbait, and I'll stick with my current back-up solution: burning lots of DVDs, labelling, and then mailing them offsite in case my house burns down. I'm guessing the Pipedot community can do better: what offsite services do you use and recommend? Any providers you'd avoid? What's the best option for a small business hoping to maintain access to docs from different locations and systems? What's the best option for a homebody nerd making sure his carefully curated collection of .. um .. downloaded images stays backed up in case of catastrophic hardware failures at home?

[1]Footnote: Interesting article, but also a test of whether you have successfully installed this browser plug-in .