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Mapping Hacks: Tips & Tools for Electronic Cartography [Paperback]

Schuyler Erle , Rich Gibson , Jo Walsh
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

19 Jun 2005 0596007035 978-0596007034 1

Since the dawn of creation, man has designed maps to help identify the space that we occupy. From Lewis and Clark's pencil-sketched maps of mountain trails to Jacques Cousteau's sophisticated charts of the ocean floor, creating maps of the utmost precision has been a constant pursuit. So why should things change now?Well, they shouldn't. The reality is that map creation, or "cartography," has only improved in its ease-of-use over time. In fact, with the recent explosion of inexpensive computing and the growing availability of public mapping data, mapmaking today extends all the way to the ordinary PC user.Mapping Hacks, the latest page-turner from O'Reilly Press, tackles this notion head on. It's a collection of one hundred simple--and mostly free--techniques available to developers and power users who want draw digital maps or otherwise visualize geographic data. Authors Schuyler Erle, Rich Gibson, and Jo Walsh do more than just illuminate the basic concepts of location and cartography, they walk you through the process one step at a time.Mapping Hacks shows you where to find the best sources of geographic data, and then how to integrate that data into your own map. But that's just an appetizer. This comprehensive resource also shows you how to interpret and manipulate unwieldy cartography data, as well as how to incorporate personal photo galleries into your maps. It even provides practical uses for GPS (Global Positioning System) devices--those touch-of-a-button street maps integrated into cars and mobile phones. Just imagine: If Captain Kidd had this technology, we'd all know where to find his buried treasure!With all of these industrial-strength tips and tools, Mapping Hacks effectively takes the sting out of the digital mapmaking and navigational process. Now you can create your own maps for business, pleasure, or entertainment--without ever having to sharpen a single pencil.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 568 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (19 Jun 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596007035
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596007034
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 14.5 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,057,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

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Product Description

From the Publisher

Mapping Hacks is a collection of one hundred simple techniques available to developers and power users who want to draw digital maps. You'll learn where to find the best sources of geographic data and then how to integrate that data into your own creations. With so many industrial-strength tips and tools, Mapping Hacks effectively takes the sting out of digital mapmaking.

About the Author

Schuyler Erle was born in a small paper bag in Philadelphia, and then again five days later in Baltimore. As a youth, he had to get up every morning two hours before he went to bed in order to walk fifteen miles uphill to school, and then another seventeen miles uphill to get home in the evening. After many years of some nonsense involving Karnaugh maps, a botched attempt at a Red Cross sailing certificate, and the early works of Chomsky, Schuyler was finally and at long last sent packing with something his mentors found at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box. Later, after a tragic accident that left him nearly completely lacking in common sense, he served brief stints on Phobos and Ganymede with the Space Patrol, before returning to study n-dimensional unicycle frisbee golf at a yak herding collective in Miami. Somewhere along the line he made the grave error of attempting to implement a full-scale multi-user web application using a combination of tcsh, awk, and sed, which lead him straight into the arms of O'Reilly & Associates, first as a reader, and then as an author and humble developer. Four years & fifty thousand miles later, we present him in his full and unabridged form, where he hacks Perl behind the scenes at the O'Reilly Network, does on-site technical support for ORA's fine conferences team, is involved in a variety of database and production development projects across the company, and still manages to write and give conference talks for ORA from time to time.

Rich Gibson is a Perl/Database programmer in Santa Rosa. He has worked professionally with computers since 1982 when he created Public Utility Rate Case Models in SuperCalc on an Osborne II. His current fascination is creating tools to aid in the acquisition, management, and presentation of information with a geographic component. He is currently converting an old golf cart into a mobile geo annotation platform.Rich is active with the NoCat Community Network in Sebastopol, California, and is the primary developer of NoCat Maps (http://maps.nocat.net/).

Jo Walsh is a freelance hacker and software artist who started out building web systems for the Guardian, the ICA and state51 in London. She now works with the semantic web, spatial annotation and bots.


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I bought this as a gift for my niece - I can only assume that she liked it, as I haven't had any complaint!
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
64 of 75 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A major disappointment 15 Jan 2006
By Leszek M. Pawlowicz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I really wanted to like this book, especially after all the glowing reviews it received. But the book has fundamental flaws in structure, topics, and approach:

- As someone else mentions, the book is heavily, albeit not exclusively, skewed towards Unix applications. Given that only 3% of desktops currently run Unix (6% if you're generous and include MacOS X), this immediately raises an accessibility barrier for those unfamiliar with the intricacies of Unix, and an unfamiliarity with Perl, Python, and shells. There are many Windows mapping applications that do much of what is described in this book far more easily and accessibly than the Unix-oriented solutions presented.

- Critical topics are defined incompletely and haphazardly. For example, while shapefiles are mentioned in several places early on, the first even barely-adequate definition comes several hundred pages into the text. Datums are covered very poorly, and given their importance in real-life applications, that's simply not acceptable.

- A significant fraction of the book is handed over to a discussion of different kinds of projections, and programs that will display them. While interesting, the fact is that most of the useful information about projections can be gotten from the text, or from a website that discusses projections; the "hacks" are essentially superfluous. I'm also disturbed by the amount of space given to projections vs. datums. In my experience, more people run into mapping issues with datums (e.g. using GPS units in WGS84, and wondering why they don't match up with topo maps in NAD27) than they do with projections.

- A huge chunk of the book is taken up GRASS. GRASS is very powerful, and as much fun to learn and use as sticking red-hot knitting needles into your eyes. Most of the problems that GRASS is used to solve in the book could far more easily be solved either with other freeware programs, or with Manifold GIS if you've got the money. For that matter, other difficult-to-use programs are employed to solve tasks that could be done more easily with other programs (e.g. SPLAT! is cited instead of the superior MicroDEM or RadioMobile for broadcast coverage; POV-Ray for 3-D models instead of 3DEM/Landserf/MicroDEM/Wissenbach3D; GRASS for map texturing instead of 3DEM or MicroDEM; PERL for spatial data analysis instead of GeoDA/STARS/PASSAGE; and so on). You could spend huge amounts of time becoming a "GRASS Ninja", as the book suggests, or you could spend less time and get more done using other software that's far easier to use.

- Sloppy terminology. For example, "Georeferencing" is used to refer to both linking digital photos to the location they were taken (should be "geotagging"), as well as its normal use in cartography, associating geographic coordinates with raster or vector features. And a GeoTIFF is not a Tiff with a world file, it's a Tiff with the georeferencing information embedded in it.

- A book of "hacks" should contain complete, self-contained hacks, and any number of hacks in this book don't fulfill this requirement. For example, the hacks on WMS/WFS, PostGIS, and building your own car computer/navigation system are either incomplete or hopelessly inadequate in giving you the information you need to implement them.

- Many of the hacks have been superseded by recent developments, like Google Maps/Earth, and the APIs from Yahoo and MSNLocal. This clearly isn't the authors' fault, but it does lessen the overall value of the book.

I could go on, but you get the idea. I have no idea of who the authors and publisher believe is the intended audience for the book, but unless you've got both a strong cartographic background and a strong Unix background, most of these hacks will be beyond you. And if you are strong in cartography and Unix, few of these hacks are even worth bothering with, since you'll most likely either know them, or know a better way to get them done. There are a few nuggets of useful information, primarily in the GPS section, but for most people, this book simply isn't worth the money.

Addendum (7/3/2011): The book is also now hopelessly out of date.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Value for beginners and experienced mappers alike... 23 July 2005
By Thomas Duff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I found another book that's excellent if you're into maps and software that creates them... Mapping Hacks - Tips & Tools for Electronic Cartography by Schuyler Erle, Rich Gibson, and Jo Walsh (O'Reilly). You can have a lot of fun with this one...

Contents: Mapping Your Life; Mapping Your Neighborhood; Mapping Your World; Mapping (on) the Web; Mapping with Gadgets; Mapping on Your Desktop; Names and Places; Building the Geospatial Web; Mapping with Other People; Index

What's nice about this book is that it's not all about installing some large mapping software package and then learning how to use it. Mapping Hacks covers a wide array of mapping techniques, tricks, and hacks that can be used by anyone willing to sit down and try things out. For instance, the first hack (#1 - Put a Map on It) shows you how to use the online mapping services and how to hack together a URL to add mapping to your website. Ever wondered how those driving direction sites work? Hack #2 - Route Planning Online - sheds light on that one. They even go so far as to cater to the ultra-geek and explain how to build a car navigation system that "will consume all your time and money, but make you the envy of all your nerd friends". Gotta love it...

Like O'Reilly's other mapping book, this is printed in color, so you get a lot of information from the context of the figures and graphics. Nicely done. The book is also larger than a normal Hacks title. There's the standard 100 entries, but there's around 525 pages to it. You get a lot of detail on some of the more complex hacks, which in my opinion adds a lot of value to the book.

A perfect book for those looking to get their feet wet on the subject, as well as for those who are more experienced but want to learn a few new tricks. Very nicely done...
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Far Cry from the Texaco Gas Station Maps! 7 July 2005
By Robert L. Stinnett - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Nowadays it isn't about simply getting information about a place or location, thanks to the recent explosion of personal-GPS units, online mapping and free and low-cost satellite imagery the latest trend is to transform information into a map to present the information in a more dynamic and sometimes more usable way.

Mapping Hacks is a unique book in that it will take you far beyond simply bringing up a map of Grandma's house. It will show you how to take data that you collect and use it to present maps and cartographic data about everything from mapping the wi-fi hotspots in your area, to tracking a package as it moves across the globe to creating 3-D maps of your neighborhood, your city and even the entire planet. This book is for those who aren't simply satisfied with the basic information MapQuest or Google Maps provide, but want to take that information and use it in ways that were unheard of just a few months ago.

Though having a GPS unit to collect data is a great way to get the most out of this book, there are also plenty of hacks devoted to simply mapping out or building on top of existing data. Perhaps you want to setup a web site that shows all the local eateries in your neighborhood along with their latest health report -- no problem, there is a hack that will walk you right through it! This book helps open your mind to the possibilities of what all you can do with the data you already have. You may implement the hack for the health code violations and then build from that to start mapping out housing prices, or crime statistics -- the possibilities are endless.

Unfortunately, the book does not cover the latest API into Google Maps -- one of the recent, and more popular resources for mappers. However, the book does cover a lot of the more traditional ways of accessing sites like MapQuest and Yahoo Maps. It was written so that you don't have to be a programmer or computer guru to get the most out of the book.

It's a unique book (and in full color too I might add) that really will open your eyes and mind to the new ways of using services and information that once was only accessible to map makers and businesses.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Mapping Tips Inside... 7 Sep 2005
By Ian Barr - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As another selection from the "Hacks" series, this book is useful for anyone, whether they have the time to read the whole book, or merely select and use a single hack. The authors have put forth 100 useful hints and tricks to introduce the reader to the world of electronic cartography. Within 1 hour of picking the book up, and choosing a hack at (nearly) random, I had accomplished something that could have taken me 2-3 days to find the tool for the job, figure out how, and then use it.

From pointers on using simple web-based mapping services, such as MapQuest ([...] to using GRASS ([...]) for advanced GIS mapping, to deploying your own basic web-based mapping, this book has all you need to get started, and even finished with whatever you want or need to do with maps.

A few of the hacks could use a bit more explanation, for my tastes, as to be more understandable to tweak, but overall it was an excellent selection, that I would recommend to anyone interested in electronic cartography.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tons of mapping tips and ideas 14 Aug 2005
By ueberhund - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I really like to look at maps. Perhaps that makes me kind of a geek. Maps can help people understand experiences (like vacations), cultures, and can even help in decision making. Maps are just neat. This book (at over 500 pages!) contained tips and ideas on everything I ever thought about doing with maps, and then some!

This book covers so many mapping topics, it's amazing. From tools and techniques for determining the shortest route between two points, to labeling your photographs with GPS information, to building a "neverlost" for your car, to building maps to help in decision making. The book really contains a little for everyone: from basic information to understand cartography, to using your GPS device to show where on the planet you've been.

O'Reilly did a really nice job with the printing of this book, as the whole thing is in color. For mapping applications, that's a necessity, and made this book stand above some of the others in this category. Additionally, the author does a really good job appealing to a wide audience and making many of the hacks interesting to as many types of people as possible. I have read some complaints that this book was printed before the Google Maps API became available, but that's certainly something that can be covered in the second edition.

This is a great book for the mapping hobbyist. The book contains a lot of great ideas, tips, and information on tools to really make the most of creating and using maps in your life.
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