birdsearch.org rewrite

Posted on Apr 15, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

In what little spare time I’ve had of late, I’ve been reworking my old website, birdsearch.org. It’s a tool for searching bird sightings around the world which I’ve found staggeringly useful these last 3 years. I was originally just going to add a few new features (search filtering especially), but decided what the heck, let’s catch up on the latest React ecosystem, so it’s all being re-written in redux, react-router, react-i18n and other fun stuff.

No idea about a release date yet, but I’ll post when I get a beta out the door. Oh, and you can see how things are progressing on the github repo here.

Here’s a couple of screenshots of the spiffy new interface (behold: colours!)

birdsearch1

birdsearch2

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Geospatial indexing

Posted on Apr 11, 2016 in Blog, Training / Conferences | 0 comments

Generally I’m not much given to posting day-job-related work here on my personal site, but this was such a fun project I thought I’d draw a little attention to it.
https://cloudant.com/product/cloudant-features/geospatial/

My portion of the project was to add geospatial index support to the IBM Cloudant dashboard where people can query and view geojson data visually via a map (courtesy of Mapbox). It’s a very cool feature. Slogging away trying to interpret raw lat/lngs is a bit of a fool’s errand: but stick it on a map and the data comes instantly to life. A large portion of my time was spent updating the underlying Apache Fauxton code for a consistent handling of index types (search indexes, views, geospatial indexes). Well worth it from a UX point of view.

Blog post here:
https://developer.ibm.com/clouddataservices/2016/04/11/geojson-database-cloudant-mapbox/

Went live today.

I’m going to be heading out to North Carolina in 3 weeks to stand in a booth at the FOSS4G conference. Should give me a change to show off some of this. :)

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Extended hiatus

Posted on Jan 30, 2016 in Blog | 4 comments

Sorry if I haven’t responded to requests for help on my various scripts over the last couple of weeks – I’ve been back in the hospital with the wife again. Looks like we may be in for a longer haul, unfortunately, so it may be a few weeks before life returns to normal again.

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2015 birding sum-up

Posted on Jan 3, 2016 in Birding | 0 comments

And so ends 2015: time for the old birding sum-up. More so than previous years, last year I decided to take my birding a bit more seriously and set myself some concrete goals:

  1. Buy a damn scope already!
  2. Shoot for 300 species of bird in BC (I saw 262 last year, 245 the year before),
  3. Shoot for getting into the top 10 in BC, top 50 in Canada on the eBird list,
  4. Above all: broaden my horizons and bird some new areas of BC.

Despite a few setbacks, the year was an unqualified success:

  1. Scope: tick! I picked up a Swarokvski ATX with a 85mm objective lens in early January. Having a scope makes the absolute world of difference to birding. Suddenly, scanning the shoreline or sea is a pleasant occupation rather than a deeply frustrating one. It also makes some difficult IDs easy [on New Year's Day this year, a quick scan of a 207-strong flock of trumpeter swans yielded 4 tundras. That would have been a hit-and-miss affair without a scope].
  2. Saw 316 BC species (yeah! I know!),
  3. Ended up 2nd in BC, 15th in Canada.
  4. Visited Merritt, Lillooet, Peace River region, all over the Okanagan, Prince George, various spots on Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii.

Highlights

  • Seeing a Canada warbler with my dad up in Fort St. John. That bird is an absolutely stunner, and for me a long-awaited tick (I mean, it’s a Canada warbler, for heaven’s sake). Some people self-identify as dog people or cat people: I’m definitely a warbler kind of guy, so this sighting meant a lot.
  • Freezing my butt off on the ferry back from Haida Gwaii seeing literally no birds for 30 minutes on a dead-calm sea, then having a leach’s storm petrel flutter by within a few feet of me. What a moment.
  • Same trip, a few days earlier: taking the ferry from Digby island over to Prince Rupert and seeing a yellow-billed loon, still in alternate plumage pop up within a few feet of the boat.
  • Finding a Ross’s goose at Brunswick Point, Ladner. This felt like karma. When I first started birding back in 2011-12, I missed the fact that Ross’s geese weren’t actually found around here, so I spent a shameful amount of time scanning snow geese flocks looking for them. At some point I must have consulted my bird book and smacked myself on the forehead, but the habit of scanning geese flocks stuck with me and that one day in Ladner it paid off.
  • Visiting Whistler mountain hoping to find a gray-crowned rosy-finch and finding 450.
  • Having the great pleasure of now owning my own house on Bowen Island and my own local eBird “hotspot” to monitor. Current total: 97 species. Let’s see how many we can get it up to by the end of the year.

Birds that got away

I could easily list twenty birds that really rankle, but let me limit it to my top five. These should be read to the sound of gnashing of teeth.

  1. Veery. In the late summer it dawned on me I hadn’t seen one and did a couple of frantic day-twitches to find one. Never did.
  2. Clark’s grebe. I’ve had a lot of luck with this bird in the past, so the thought of missing it didn’t really cross my mind. Shows my inexperience, I suppose. Despite a very promising candidate at White Rock in the late Fall, I couldn’t in all decency tick it.
  3. American bittern. That damn bird! I’ve lost count of the hours I’ve spent this year standing around at Reifel’s in the freezing cold looking for one. My wife knows how many times I’ve been out for this bird, so any time its name comes up she laughs endlessly (nothing like a supportive spouse).
  4. White-tailed ptarmigan. Insert expletive here.
  5. Ruffed grouse. This bird is probably the most frustrating because my dad sees them all the time and sends me “gosh I almost ran over a half dozen in my car today” emails which I’m pretty sure causes him endless mirth.

On to 2016…

This year’s going to be very different. 2015 was enormous fun, but holy cow I need to tone it down. I devoted a huge amount of my time to birding and let my other pursuits (software, art in particular) suffer. And suffer they have; time to reintroduce a degree of moderation. My new house needs work and my various software projects are in dire need of maintenance and updates. Sadly, all of this will mean less time in the field.

Instead, I’m going to ramp up my reading. I have a row of bird-related literature gathering dust on my shelves and it’s high time to work through them. For a long time now I’ve felt that the number of birds I see far exceeds my knowledge; I’d like to bring the two more in par.

Third, I want to get my life list up over 1,000 species. No, this doesn’t conflict with the above: overall I’ll do less birding but I’ll do some intensive (self-led) birding trips to get my numbers up. Current plan: Mexico early in the year, Iceland for May-June, Brazil/Peru in the fall, and possibly one more if I can raise the funds (Panama? Hawaii? Philippines? Not sure). I may have to take up prostitution or sell some of my body parts to fund all this, but what the heck. It’s worth it.

Lastly, I want to crank up my local birding, i.e. Bowen Island local. I’ve learned a few of the spots here on Bowen but I’d like to explore more.

Bring on 2016.

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Update complete

Posted on Dec 11, 2015 in generatedata.com, Open Source Projects | 0 comments

Alrighty! generatedata.com has been update to 3.2.4. This was a pretty big update – the site hadn’t been updated in over a year (!). It includes lots of database changes, features and more. Please send me an email if you find any bugs.

Breaking Changes

This is the first time an upgrade has deliberately introduced a breaking change. I hated to do it, but it had to be done. The old Credit Card Data Type has been dropped. Please use the PAN Data Type in the “Credit Card Data” group.

New Features

Please note, the free downloadable version of generatedata.com also has this feature and everything else discussed here. Not that I don’t love people donating (sure helps paying the hosting bills!) but just so you know. :)

  • Data Set backups. For anyone with an account on the site, whenever you save a data set, it’ll automatically make a backup of it. It retains the last 200 edits you make to a data set. So, in case you accidentally mess something up, you can just browse the old saved versions to get it back.
  • Configurable Plugins. Over time, the plugin list have grown, and some aren’t going to be as useful to some people as others. So now, when you log into the site you’ll see a new Settings tab. There, you can uncheck whatever Data Types, Export Types and Country-specific plugins you don’t want.
  • New Plugins & more country data. Chile and Sweden have been added to the country list, and there are few more plugins, most country-specific.
  • Bug fixes. Lots!

Anyway, enjoy. As mentioned, send me an email if you spot anything wonky.

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