Thursday, December 27, 2007

Online SQL Formatter

I'm sure there are dozens of these around but turning ugly SQL statements into pretty ones is something that should be done every time for maintenance/upkeep purposes, so I don't care if I am repeating information for some people. My only worry is this will breed lazy formatting/convention use into me. Instant SQL FormatterM.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Pydev and Python

I am not a software developer and I have no wish to be. However, I am young and being able to customize stuff in GIS is a very marketable skill. Python is an excellent language for this. It's been adopted as the primary scripting language of the industry leader (ESRI), it's popular, easy to learn, easy to maintain, and open source. The only downside is it can't access everything ESRI has implemented in their API - for instance, I am having to basically rewrite the Utility Network tracing tools so I can do some analysis on SRP's water system - but ESRI may not be the industry leader forever. In terms of simple viewers/online mapping it is getting mighty competition from NASA's WorldWind, Google's offering, and an increasingly good package of independently created but easily interoperable open source solutions. Any way it goes however, Python seems like it would help for scripting (unlike the alternative in VBA). JavaScript would be useful too, but I learned Python first and thus I've been spoiled rotten by a language that isn't jam-packed with issues (it is also two big scoops of ugly). Getting to the point, PyDev is an addon for Eclipse that gives you a superb platform for writing stuff in Python. I've been messing with it for barely an hour and it by all appearances is sleek, organized, and fast. It is probably overkill for my one-off scripting needs, but I'm loving the tabbed views, on-the-fly error checks (that are not the annoying crap you get in VBA), and the Outline view. It also does a bunch of other languages as well.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Open Government Act Revitalizes FOIA

Good news for fans of a more transparent government (AP). For once the legislative branch of the United States does something right. Highlights: 1. "Presumption of disclosure" restored. Agencies should release information by default unless there is a reason not to. 2. It passed unanimously and with a large number of sponsors from both sides of the aisle (more likely to be veto-proof). 3. Twenty day deadline or the agency has to pay for the search and duplication fees - likely to lead to much faster turnaround time. 4. As mentioned in the AP story, this also works for government records held by third party contractors. I am proud but moderately surprised to see John Kyl (AZ) as one of the sponsors. I was pretty sure there would never be anything I would agree with him on. For once I can send him a note of actual support:
I'd like to express how happy I am with the Senator's support of the new Freedom of Information Act legislation he is sponsoring. A great republic such as ours requires accountability in its people and its government, and it sounds as if this will make it easier to assure such for the latter. Thank you.
What needs to happen now is the enforcement of current laws limiting the power of the executive specifically, rather than passing laws that justify the lawbreaking done by that branch. This is a good, though small, step away from the direction the country has been headed for six years.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Arctic may be ice free in four years.

At least, in the summer (BBC):
Scientists in the US have presented one of the most dramatic forecasts yet for the disappearance of Arctic sea ice. Their latest modelling studies indicate northern polar waters could be ice-free in summers within just 5-6 years.
Once again, damn people with their "science" forcing my thesis into obsolescence before it is even finished. Sure, I could revise my methods section. Again. But by the time I am finished, there will be a new study which proves it actually happened 20 minutes ago. Think I am exaggerating? From the same article:
"Our projection of 2013 for the removal of ice in summer is not accounting for the last two minima, in 2005 and 2007," the researcher from the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, explained to the BBC. "So given that fact, you can argue that may be our projection of 2013 is already too conservative."
My methods are premised around a timeframe of about 50 years, as arctic ice was not expected to disappear until then (and thus free up Churchill for shipping year-round, or as close as matters for the economic impact). Now that could be compressed by more than 40 years and there is the additional possibility of a rapid collapse of the polar bear population followed closely by the ecotourism business it supports.