Thursday, December 18, 2014

FOSDEM geospatial devroom: schedule announced!

I'm excited to announce that the schedule for the first edition of the geospatial devroom at FOSDEM is ready! I was very surprised by the number of people who submitted proposals for presentations and the quality of the proposals. All speakers have now confirmed, so I'm really happy I can share the schedule with all of you.

Head over to:
to have a look.

For those who don't know it, FOSDEM is one of Europe's largest open source developer gatherings. Access is free and no registration is required. It takes place on Saterday 31 january and Sunday 1 february (when we will have the geospatial devroom).

If you can not come to Brussels (or if the room is full): we will stream/record everything, so you can still enjoy the great talks.

Hope to see many of you in Brussels!

(image source)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Why you should present/be present at FOSDEM

Last month we published a call for participation for the Geospatial devroom at FOSDEM .

But with many other conferences around one may wonder why they want to be present at geospatial@FOSDEM? Well, one of the main goals of the organisers is to bring geospatial and non-geo developers together. Are you interested in building your own GPS device or drone? Check out some of the talks in the embedded room. Are you using java, python, php, perl? All those languages have dedicated rooms where you can get an update. Interested in routing or using postgresql? Yep, there is a graph devroom and a postgresql room. Want to get your software in linux distributions? The distribution devroom. The same is true the other way around, people from those communities can come to see your talk as well.

Anyway, already a number of interesting talks has been submitted, and I just want to remind everyone of the deadline of **1 december**. So if you are interested in presenting something - go ahead and submit your proposal! Don't postpone - if you have just a title - submit that already :-)

Some practical announcements: if you are interested in the devroom, consider joining the devroom mailinglist. We will be using that mailinglist to send updates on the devroom and a social event. FOSDEM itself is free of charge and requires no registration, so no obligations here: you can just show up as well.

A last note: we want to stream the tracks and provide videos. If you intent to come and have experience with video (or would like to get some), please get in touch, we could still use volunteers.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Please help test SAGA 2.1.3 RC1

 SAGA GIS is planning to have another release this week (SAGA 2.1.3).

Please help testing! Windows users may find a snapshot build here (attention, 64 bit only).

Users on ubuntu can also test by using the builds provided on my launchpad ppa:

Those using debian can actually download the source packages from
those daily builds as well (eg dget
) and build from source. All others can of course also build from source as well.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Call For papers Geospatial devroom @FOSDEM

Please forward!

FOSDEM is a free open source event bringing together about 5000 developers in Brussels, Belgium. The goal is to provide open source software developers and communities a place to meet at. The next edition will take place the weekend 31/1 -> 1/2/2015. This year for the first time there will be a geospatial devroom on Sunday 1/2/2015!

Geospatial technology becomes more and more part of mainstream IT. The idea is to bring together people with different backgrounds to better explain and understand the opportunities Geospatial can offer. This devroom will host topics explaining the state of the art of geospatial technology, and how it can be used amongst other projects.

The geospatial devroom is the place to talk about open, geo-related data and software and their ecosystem. This includes standards and tools, e.g. for spatial databases, and online mapping, geospatial services, used for collecting, storing, delivering, analysing, and visualizing puposes. Typical topics that will be covered are:

  • Web and desktop GIS applications
  • Interoperable geospatial web services and specifications
  • Collection of data using sensors/drones/satellites
  • Open hardware for geospatial applications
  • Geo-analytic algorithms/libraries
  • Geospatial extensions for classical databases (indexes, operations)
  • Dedicated databases

Are you thrilled to present your work to other open source developers? Would you like to run a discussion? Any other ideas? Please submit your proposal at the Pentabarf event planning tool at:

When submitting your talk in Pentabarf, make sure to select the 'Geospatial devroom' as  'Track'. Please specify in the notes if you prefer for your presentation a short timeslot (lightning talks ~10 minutes) or a long timeslot (20 minutes presentation + discussion).

The DEADLINE for submissions is **1st December 2014**

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the organisers of the devroom at!

Johan Van de Wauw
Margherita Di Leo
Astrid Emde
Anne Ghisla
Julien Fastré
Martin Hammitzsch
Andy Petrella 
Dirk Frigne
Gael Musquet

A final note for everyone still hesitating to come: have a look at the accepted devrooms and other tracks for this year, I'm sure you will find other interesting topics that will make your trip to FOSDEM worthwile!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Turning an android device into a GIS workstation or server

Baseline: By installing Debian GIS on your phone/tablet/... next to Android, you can turn the device into a powerful GIS workstation or server without loosing any of the original functionality.

My experiments started earlier this week. I was informed of a bug in debian: saga gis failed to build on an arm processor (a type of low power chips often found in mobile devices). Rather than turning to some server provided by debian to fix the build I thought of doing something else: I knew my phone also has an arm processor. And since android is based on linux, I thought it should be possible to run debian on it in a seperate "chroot" environment.

After doing some research I found "debkit". This is actually an app you can install right through google play. This app will give some very simple instructions on how to install debian on your device (the device needs to be rooted. Otherwise it will not work). The actual instructions were very straightforward and I had a running debian installation with desktop support installed in less than one hour.

What you get is actually a full debian distribution, and in fact that means that you can also install a lot of GIS related packages.

Installing gdal through the command line

Since I was doing all of this on a smartphone, typing gets tedious very fast, so I used an external keyboard. And yes:  that looks really silly (check picture below). Even better is installing ssh, then you can connect from a pc or laptop to continue the installation.

attaching a keyboard makes typing easier :-)

You can even go one step further and install a graphical desktop environment, this means you can in fact run packages like qgis and saga on your phone. Though I agree that this is not very useful using a phone as a desktop replacement, it may be a powerful way to check some data or perhaps run a simple analysis in the field. Apart from that, plenty of tablets, cheap laptops and TV sets based on android or chrome os exist. Ones that you may prefer taking to the field rather than your real workstation. The screenshot below was taken from a desktop environment running on my phone. I should add that this works relatively smooth and was not stressing the device.
Hard to distinguish from a real desktop, but this is an actual screenshot taken on my smartphone (lenovo p780)

But perhaps even more useful is that you can actually run servers on the device as well. If you have a webapplication that usually runs on a debian server you may actually be able to take it with you on the device, and use the standard android browser to use it. Not something you would like as a proper solution, but could be worth it for proof or concepts, ...

Mapserver running locally and serving as a wms

It also shows nicely how you actually use debian next to android: you don't replace any existing things. It can lead to special situations as well. While I had just started compiling some software, I got a phonecall and just picked up the phone ...

All of this would not have been possible if all debian contributors would not have been so eager in supporting so many ports, and the debian gis team in bringing a lot of GIS software to the distribution! 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Review: OpenLayers Cookbook

I recently got my hands on a copy of the OpenLayers Cookbook by Antonio Santiago Perez published by Packt Publishing.

The baseline of the book is "60 recipes to create GIS web applications with the open source JavaScript library". This means that the book is based on 60 examples which can be viewed online . The code is also available on github.
I like this style: the way I search for specific OpenLayers features is usually by studying example programs such as the ones on the OpenLayers website. It gives a quick feel of whether a certain feature is feasible or not and how much work it would take to implement.
There is always a danger with this type of approach and that is that you start copy/pasting code which you don't understand. This is where this book shows it's advantage over the examples on the OpenLayers website: apart from the code, which is well readable and formatted, every example is accompanied by a section "how it works" and usually also links to related examples. Every chapter also starts with an introduction which covers the basic classes and concepts used.

The book contains content for both beginners  and advanced users. I skipped quickly through the first three chapters: Web mapping basics, adding raster layers and working with vector layers. I should add that topics are discussed in detail: clustering of vector features, filtering of WFS requests.

A GIS application often is only as good as it looks, and two chapters discuss the theming of the openlayers interface and the styling of map features. The examples go all the way down to creating a new custom theme.

As a more advanced OpenLayers users I liked these chapters and the three remaining ( working with events, adding controls, beyond the basics) the most. Some non-obvious extensions to openlayers are discussed: interacting with services, creating custom controls and renderers, ...
Almost evrery application of OpenLayers can benefit from some of the recipes in these chapters.


I can recommend this book to anyone who wants to build applications with OpenLayers. The structure with recipes allows one to quickly find out how a feature can be implemented, moreover there is always a complete explanation of of how things work in the book (and where things can go wrong, such as cross domain requests).

If I have to talk about one disadvantage of the book? Development of OpenLayers 3 (which is incompatible with OpenLayers 2) is ongoing and beta 2 has been released recently. Since this book is from 2012 it predates most of these recent developments. I would have loved a chapter highlighting what best-practices one should follow to make a switch to a future version of OpenLayers as easy as possible.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Put your data on a map!

This blogpost is a transcript of presentation I gave in 26 october during the T-dose conference in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. I wanted to give a talk about how open source software, open data and open standards enable almost everyone to easily create maps and add a geocomponent to other application.
One of the things that struck me was how by just showing where one can find data about Belgium and the Netherlands I could give demonstrations of almost all important web-based GIS applications. Since all these applications are freely available and often beautiful examples of what can be done with FOSS GIS software I think they are also useful for a broader audience than just Belgium/The Netherlands.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

SAGA 2.1.1 released

Olaf posted this message two days ago on the SAGA web
Dear SAGA friends, users, and all others interested in SAGA, we like to announce the release of SAGA version 2.1.1. In this version you will find a number of minor enhancements and additions, which in their sum make it the best SAGA ever. So, don't hesitate to download it right now! This version depends now on the lately released wxWidgets v3.0. Have a look at the change log for more details. And now enjoy the world of SAGA, your SAGA Development Team Download SAGA 2.1.1 from
As you can read from the changelog: mostly bug fixes so definitely worth an update! I just want to add that I finished packaging for debian and ubuntu and the new release is now also available on my ppa and on ubuntugis unstable, and will be on the next osgeo live dvd.