The CalTopo blog has been quiet since spring, but that doesn’t mean a lack of progress, much less a lack of work. Time to take a quick look back at the second half of 2016.
First, the personal front. CalTopo has been my full-time job since May, and although it’s averaged more than 40 hours per week, I did manage to mix a bit of vacation in. Some of it traditionally enjoyable:
|W Ridge of Pigeon Spire, Bugaboos|
And some of it just grueling:
|Leading the morning briefing on a campaign search after a full week of 18-20hr days.|
However the universal theme for the summer, and the reason for the lack of blog updates, was that I was simply trying to stay afloat. In between email deluges, that meant tracking down some scaling and performance issues that would always seem to trigger a crash and site outage at the most inconvenient times.
By fall, I had the performance issues sorted out, and decreasing seasonal usage lessened my customer support workload. So it was time to get cranking on improvements.
|Two lines simultaneously open for editing.|
The largest of those was a major UI overhaul, moving most editing from modal, bottom-of-screen dialogs to modeless ones that stack up on the side of the screen. This brought with it a number of improvements, including massive performance increases for large datasets, per-object visibility toggling, simultaneous editing of multiple objects (such as neighboring polygons), instant syncing of line/marker style to the map, and single-step drawing (the old UI required you to choose a style, hit OK, and then start drawing).
|Per-object visibility makes it easier to clean up a cluttered map.|
The other changes were much smaller but still much-needed. Auto-drawing now has the option for larger lines (I need to make this the default), which helps prevent the oft-recurring problem of accidentally clicking next to the stream or trail rather than on it.
|Auto-drawing with larger line widths.|
DEM (digital elevation model) shading allowed the creation of custom shaded layers based on slope angle, elevation and aspect, but required understanding a cryptic syntax (such as s30-60e4000-6000f FF0000). This has been replaced with a friendlier dialog that allows you to select values from dropdowns and colors from a color picker:
Preferences, such as a user’s preferred datum and coordinate system, used to be stored as a browser cookie. By storing just an ID cookie and tracking preferences in a server-side database, I can store more information without risking exceeding the cookie size limit. This allowed me to expand to the print page, remembering a user’s last selected page size, scale, and other features.
WMS and WMTS layers have been supported for a while, but reverse engineering the WMS request syntax was tricky for casual users. The Add Custom Layer dialog now has an auto-probe option that will talk to a WMS or WMTS endpoint and try to configure the URL template automatically, making it easier to pull more third-party sources into CalTopo, particularly government run servers with a wealth of public domain (but limited geographic coverage) data.
As well as lots of smaller changes not worth listing. That brings us to about November, when I switched gears and began working on map data instead of features. Those are for a subsequent post, but suffice to say some exciting changes have recently gone live.