June 20, 2005
"Web Mapping Illustrated": Map the World You Live In
Sebastopol, CA--Mankind's fascination with maps transcends all cultures.
More than useful tools for navigating from point A to point B, maps allow
us to represent the world in meaningful ways. In everyday life, people
collect information from a variety of maps: road, topographic, climate,
economic, political, and more. Not so long ago, cartographers drew and
colored their maps by hand, but digital maps have opened up a whole new
range of possibilities, as author Tyler Mitchell observes. In the next
five to ten years, he asserts, mapping tools will be as ubiquitous as word
processors, web browsers, and database applications. Mapping technology
will bring additional dimensions into the information/knowledge management
Maps are powerful; having the tools and the ability to map the world you
live in is even more powerful. In his book, Web Mapping Illustrated (O'Reilly, US $39.95), Mitchell shows readers how to create maps,
including interactive maps, using free tools such as MapServer, OpenEV,
GDAL/OGR, and PostGIS. He also explains how to find, collect, understand,
use, and share mapping data over the Web and through other services.
Mitchell's own fascination with maps and exploration, combined with his
interest in computers, led him to the field of computerized mapping and
geographic information systems (GIS). He began his investigation of open
source GIS and mapping alternatives when he wanted to do digital mapping
at home but lacked the proprietary tools he had access to at work. He
says, "I dove in, head-first, and have never looked back. I've been
bringing these tools into the corporate enterprise and am replacing
proprietary tools or filling capability gaps. It is rather ironic that the
proprietary licensing pushed me to find alternatives which are, in turn,
supplanting the proprietary."
The tools he introduces in Web Mapping Illustrated are a critical set
from Mitchell's professional data management toolbox. Because they are
open source, they're free for readers to use and adopt as they see fit.
And, as Mitchell points out, many of the tools are pushing the envelope of
what commercial mapping products can do. "When I started to explore the
open source tools and get a taste for the possibilities, I got really
excited," Mitchell recalls. "It had been a long time since I felt so
excited about GIS and mapping technologies. As I introduce these tools to
others, I see them get inspired as well.
"The proprietary tools offer very little to be inspired about," Mitchell
continues. "They're not about possibilities, but about limitations. After
years of using the standard proprietary tools, most professionals are
ready for something more liberating. Hoping to encourage this liberation
is part of the reason why I wrote this book."
Web Mapping Illustrated is not an academic exercise, but an entirely
practical guide designed to get readers up and running quickly. Readers
will learn to do everything shown in the book, using free tools. From
planning a mapping project to converting data and publishing a web mapping
application, there are projects for everyone. Because it's rare that a
person can both manage geospatial data and develop web-mapping
applications, Mitchell introduces topics using language that both groups
can understand, providing content geared for each. But the audience is not
limited to GIS professionals and web developers. As mapping and
location-based technologies (LBS) surge ahead, the demand for education
and tools for handling geospatial data becomes greater.
"Readers should know that geospatial data is going to become a part of
their lives, if it isn't already," says Mitchell. "Traditional data
management tools are not going to be enough for them to understand or
interact with his data. Database managers will need to learn to handle
geographic coordinate data types. Software developers will need to know
how to efficiently render maps. Mapping professionals will need to know
how to access remote data sources in real-time. To be effective, any
corporate team will require a much broader knowledge in these areas. My
book helps to bridge the gaps between these groups."
Web Mapping Illustrated
ISBN: 0-596-00865-1, 368 pages, $39.95 US, $55.95 CA
O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.
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