2017 Retrospective

Sat 30 December 2017 | tags: Open Source, FOSS4G, OSGeo, PDAL, -- (permalink)

Seeing Randal and Bill's year-end posts inspired me to follow along, even though I haven't posted much content in this medium in years. Seeing Sean go back to it is also inspiring, although I'm a much different writer than 10-15 years ago when I was blogging with the other the geo bloggers. Most of that is influenced by the birdie website and adapting my writing to it, and the fact that my life choices (eight and nine and growing up so incredibly fast) limit the quiet reflective moments necessary for me to write very well.

The birdie website is now an angst-ridden black hole of a pretty hate machine, and most of the neighborhood bar feel of the #gistribe and other communities is gone -- simply drowned out by all of the algorithmically weighted insanity. I doubt this post is a precursor of a bunch more, but it should have a little bit of content for you if you're interested in happenings in open source point cloud land.

Hobu, Inc. +1's

Hobu, Inc. has been a three person shop for almost four years, but this past month we added our first intern. We've been properly hazing her by having her work through the PDAL workshop and write up tickets for bugs she finds. After that, she'll be workflowing the tickets, committing her fixes to repositories, and making pull requests to get her fixes merged. Universities don't really do a good job of preparing graduates to learn the crafting aspect of professional software development. Our newbie has had no trouble jumping right in, and we look forward to her making PDAL + Python do fantastic things together in the new year.


I presented a bunch in the past year. Build up to presentations help clarify things for me, and I enjoy the feedback. I'm usually a "few bullets and a slide deck" kind of presenter, but for two of my talks this year I wrote them out long form, just like tenth grade speech class. A nice benefit of writing them out is they are nice artifacts.

ASPRS GeoBytes -- "Open Source Statewide Lidar Visualization In Web Browsers"

I presented at the ASPRS GeoBytes webinar in Janurary about using Entwine and Greyhound to construct point cloud web services for states. Reportedly it was the largest ever live attendance count for the series, which is a cap feather I'll happily take for a lunch seminar program that isn't widely advertised. If you want a gentle introduction to Hobu, Inc.'s open source point cloud software tech stack, you can hear me drone on for an hour+ on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRgabDmTji0

JS.Geo -- "Hello from the 90s"

Brian Timoney asked me to present at JS.Geo, but I don't know if he knew that I would start out my talk with the phrase "I hate JavaScript" and talk about ArcView 3.x and Microsoft TerraServer. Or maybe he did. Anyway, the point of my talk as a native C/C++ developer is WebAssembly, ASM.js, and LLVM transpilation of native libraries is ready for prime time. We need to quit making dirty half-ports of library functionality we need in JavaScript and instead focus on transpiling the real thing into JavaScript land and writing idiomatic APIs over them. Just like we did for Python, Ruby, and node.js.

I can't find my slides, but my verbage is readable here.

FOSS4G -- "A history, status report, and outlook of Proj.4"

I found disappointing that Gerry Evenden didn't get his due for the contribution of PROJ to the open source geospatial ecosystem. I took it upon myself to attempt to collect some of the history and educate the FOSS4G audience about how the library evolved, how Frank Warmerdam influenced its direction, and highlight its bright future of ongoing development that has recently been taking place. Catch my talk on Vimeo from the FOSS4G feed https://vimeo.com/246727324 and my PDF with full text at https://www.dropbox.com/s/lk7v7jbxrta2dfh/history-of-proj4-foss4g2017-howard-butler.pdf?dl=0

Point Clouds

The LiDAR and point cloud thing continues on. Some interesting highlights of the work Hobu, Inc.'s done in the past year:

  • Connor Manning showed off trillions of points in a browser at FOSS4G https://vimeo.com/245073446 Connor's talk effectively shows what the open source point cloud software stack from Hobu is capable of achieving and where we are heading with the software in the near future.

  • We organized a 3.7 trillion point interstate highway mobile LiDAR collection with Entwine and Greyhound. Come see me at ILMF in Denver Feb 5-7, 2018 to hear more about the project and the tech we used to achieve it.

    A lot of points
  • Andrew Bell coordinated two big PDAL releases in 2017:

    • 1.5 brought Greyhound support and streamable operations.
    • 1.6 included triangulation, proper Windows support via OSGeo4W, and LAZ 1.4.
  • Entwine and Greyhound got proper websites.


Some exciting upcoming events in 2018 include:

  • Presenting at ILMF in February to talk about Entwine and Greyhound and how we use them for managing point cloud web services at scale.
  • Presenting at ASPRS in February to talk about PDAL and how people can use it.
  • Attending the OSGeo Bonn Code Sprint in March to work with the worlds's best point cloud hackers.
  • Giving the PDAL workshop at FOSS4GNA in St. Louis in May.
  • Attending the UMGEOCON in May in La Crosse, MN and talking about how to leverage LiDAR content for landscape management.
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