Our 25th Summer: Blue Marble Clothing Tips

Welcome to summer! The heat is here and so is the Blue Marble Emporium. We are celebrating our 25th summer as a company and we have some merchandise for our fans! From hitting the beach to hitting the streets we have the t- shirts for you. Our new top five shirts will provide you with fashion tips that will Hundo P* improve your summer!

Are you off to the lake? Well we have the look for you!

Mind the Gap Between World and Map T-Shirt

Simply add a fedora, dark glasses, and compass to complete the look!

Compass tattoo, shades, and fedora

 

Did you forget the sunscreen? Cover up in style!

Notorious BMG T-shirt

A scarf and your phone or tablet put a twist on this classic look.

Tablet with Global Mapper Mobile installed, and a scarf

Hitting the links this summer?

Later Mercator polo

I have no suggestions for this, but this handy golf style article does!

Are you basically 30? So are we! Here is the perfect outfit to stay home in!

We’re Mappy and We Know It (25th Anniversary) T-shirt

Just pair it with:

Netflix and cozy sweats

Need a little California style?

GIS is Not a Four Letter Word shirt

Make this look your own, but be on the lookout for these two sporting similar t-shirts on the streets of San Diego!

Blue Marble employees Kat and Danielle at the EsriUC in San Diego in 2017.

Disclaimer: Wearing a shirt from the Blue Marble Emporium may not actually make you look like the models in this article.

*Hundo P – One hundred percent sure of something

*This article was written by a millennial.


Rachael Landry

Rachael Landry is one of Blue Marble’s license gurus on the official Sales Support team. She is one of the people you are most likely to work with when you call or email our office, and she is always ready to answer your questions.
Please send all your fan mail to orders@bluemarblegeo.com.

Blue Marble Traveled the World in April 2018

David McKittrick | Projections
Blue Marble’s Senior Applications Specialist David McKittrick traveled to Malta for training in April.

Between attending geospatial conferences and conducting Global Mapper training, the Blue Marble team does a fair amount of traveling around the world throughout the year. April was an especially busy month with eight members of our staff out of the office on business trips. When a team members returns, they usually write a report on the business aspects of their trip: which customers they connected with; the success of a training class; or what new potential sales leads they uncovered. What the report usually doesn’t include is what they did for fun during their down time.

In this blog entry, we hear from team members who traveled to Australia, New Zealand, Amsterdam, Malta, and New Orleans, and learn a little bit about what goes on after hours on a Blue Marble business trip.


Jeff Hatzel
Jeff explored Piha Beach in New Zealand.

Jeff & Myles go to Australia:

Applications Specialist, Jeff Hatzel and Reseller Account Manager, Myles Labonte traveled to Australia and New Zealand for the GeoSmart Asia’18 & Locate 18 Geospatial Conference, and to conduct two Global Mapper training courses.

“After nearly 25 hours of travel, Myles and I hit the ground running with a three day conference and a public Global Mapper training class in Adelaide. Adelaide was a great city to visit and is walkable and very accessible. I ate all sorts of great food and sampled some local beers and wines. We visited a local conservation park to see and feed some local wildlife, and even went for a swim at the beach. The unseasonably warm heatwave left us a bit surprised at the chilly ocean temperatures!

Jeff Hatzel
A kangaroo in Cleland Conservation Park in Australia

Once our time in Adelaide came to an end, I had a relatively short flight over to Auckland, New Zealand for a training course with the New Zealand Department of Defense. Auckland is another wonderful city to visit. Situated right on the ocean, it is full of restaurants, shops, and offers many activities. Everyone I met said I had to go tramping!?!

It turns out tramping is a term used for hiking, which is much more in line with my interests! I visited two small islands just off the coast which, were almost visible from my hotel. Rangitoto is a relatively young volcanic island covered in thick forest, whereas Motutapu is an older island; grassy and open to agriculture. The two sitting side-by-side are a great contrast and make for a beautiful tramp …or hike! Before my evening flight home, I spent the day exploring Piha Beach, which is covered in black sand, large rocks, and forested cliffs!

This trip allowed us to meet one of our largest user bases; getting to know our users and their local industry first hand. We were fortunate to have a moment of free time to explore a bit of what the cities and regions had to offer too!”

-Jeff Hatzel


Katrina Schweikert
Katrina and Danielle took walks along the river during their stay in New Orleans.

Kat & Danielle go to New Orleans:

Applications Specialist, Katrina Schweikert and Operations Manager, Danielle Caron flew to New Orleans, Louisiana, for the American Association of Geographers’ Annual Meeting.

“It was great fun to see 7,000 geographers stumbling into a jazz festival. But we didn’t need to go too far away from the hotel to see the heart of New Orleans — from bustling streets to a quiet garden patio oasis. I think my favorite part was exploring the iconic and historic verandas on the quieter residential streets just outside of the main thoroughfare. We also had some excellent food, especially seafood. We were a bit surprised at the amount of advertising for Maine lobster.

Katrina Schweikert
A jazz performance near the hotel Kat and Danielle stayed at in New Orleans

We also got to catch part of a jazz festival that was going on nearby. We saw some impressive boats in the river where the decks appeared to be at waist level as we looked out.

Then, of course, we got to do a bit of shopping for some masquerade masks and beignet mix to bring a bit of New Orleans back home.”

-Katrina Schweikert


Patrick Cunningham
Patrick and Sam stayed in the Hilton Amsterdam when they attended the Commercial UAV Europe Conference.

Patrick & Sam go to Amsterdam:

Blue Marble President, Patrick Cunningham and Product Manager, Sam Knight traveled to Amsterdam for the Commercial UAV Europe Conference.

“Amsterdam ranks high on the list of the worlds iconic cities and there is no better time to visit than in spring. The weather is mild, the summer crowds have not yet arrived and the flowers are blooming. We were in town for the Commercial UAV Conference and to visit some of our key clients in the area. The conference was a resounding success with Global Mapper’s new Pixels-to-Points tool receiving a lot of accolades from the conference delegates.

 

Patrick Cunningham
Blue Marble Product Manager Sam Knight (far left) and Blue Marble President Patrick Cunningham (second from left) and the company’s Japanese partners at the Commercial UAV Conference in Amsterdam

Our hotel was the Hilton Amsterdam, which is famous for being the location of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Bed-Ins for Peace demonstration. Most mornings began with a run in in Vondelpark, in the heart of Amsterdam near the museum district. A great way to start the day.

Patrick Cunningham
Vondelpark in the heart of Amsterdam near the museum district

Amsterdam is a walkable city and Sam and I decided to forgo motorized transport and travel the mile or so to and from the conference venue on foot. This gave us an opportunity to see the city up close and personal, with its unique architecture, weird road signs, proliferation of bicycles, and, of course, expansive flower beds.”

-Patrick Cunningham

 

 


David McKittrick | Projections
A view in the historic walled city of Valletta in Malta where David lead a LiDAR training class.

David goes to Malta:

Senior Applications Specialist, David McKittrick flew solo to Malta for a Global Mapper training class.

“Of all of the far-flung locations in which we have conducted Global Mapper training classes, Malta is arguably the most alluring. This tiny cluster of limestone islands situated in the central Mediterranean between Italy and Tunisia, has a long and colorful history, with the legacy of each successive occupying force woven into the cultural fabric of the archipelago.

David McKittrick | Projections
David and the trainees of a LiDAR Module class in Malta

The five-day training class was delivered at the request of the Maltese Government Planning Authority in the capital city of Valletta. Covering all aspects of Global Mapper and the LiDAR module, the course provided hands-on instruction focusing on the Authority’s specific needs and requirements. Being a small country, the Maltese GIS data administration has been able to collect and process high quality data for the entire nation and we were able to integrate some of their local datasets into the class.

David McKittrick | Projections
Republic Street in Valletta, Malta

After hours, there was plenty of time to explore the environs of Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Covering less than one square kilometer, this historic walled city is rich with cultural landmarks, medieval architecture, quiet parks, and stunning vistas. At dinner time, the cultural melting pot became even more evident with Middle Eastern, North African, and Southern European influences creating unique dining options. Because the British were the last occupying power to leave the island before its independence in 1964, it is even possible to eat fish and chips with a pint of real ale while sitting next to a gleaming red telephone box. Just like London. Except for the weather, of course!”

-David McKittrick


Blue Marble is Hiring!

Do you want to join the Blue Marble team and potentially travel for work? Blue Marble has a few job openings on their website.

Tees Please! – Blue Marble T-Shirt Line

In the fall of 2017, Blue Marble took the fashion world by storm, with the release of GIS themed T shirts. To our surprise we were not invited to New York’s Fashion Week … (but to be fair we didn’t know it was Fashion Week until 10 minutes ago). Nonetheless we are offended, in response we are going full buzzfeed by releasing a top five list of our best tee shirts.

1. Hipster Geographer

The “Later Mercator” shirt

2. The lesser known Fox series

“The X and Y Files: The Transformation is Out There” shirt

3. #humble

“The Notorious B.M.G” shirt

4. For those days when you can’t even

The “Shift Happens” shirt

5. For when you just want to Flatten the world

The “Flattening the world one projection at a time” shirt

Obviously the fashion elite are missing out on the wonder that is the Blue Marble Tee shirt line. You don’t have to be like them, because all of these and more are available right now!

Head to https://www.zazzle.com/bluemarblegeo and let us know your top five.

The Process of Creating 3D Models like “Snowy” for Global Mapper’s Library

Snowy the snowperson in Global Mapper
“Snowy” the snowperson was added to Global Mapper’s 3D model collection in late 2017.

Global Mapper’s 3D functionality has been on the rise over the last couple of years. One of the more creative improvements was the addition of 3D point styles. They allow users to pick from a library of 3D models, and place them as points for better visual representation of their data. The 3D point styles can be placed individually, assigned to an existing feature type, or extracted from LiDAR. The point style options range from trees to push pins, and more are being added as updates roll out. The creation of the 3D models used in the library is a multi-step process, with plenty of scope for creativity.

Technical Considerations When Designing 3D Models in Global Mapper

Global Mapper is a Geographic Information Systems program that is embracing the new 3D age, but its first concern is always the accurate representation of large quantities of data. The unique context of its 3D engine raises some considerations that need to be addressed when creating each 3D asset. The most pertinent issue is the amount of models that need to be displayed on screen at once. In order to mitigate lag, all models made for Global Mapper are limited to five hundred polygons or less, and they are unable to take advantage of Alpha mapping or Normal mapping. This creates a challenge for the artist to produce a model that is both within the guidelines of the program, and also universally readable as the object it represents. In the future, Global Mapper’s 3D model rendering capabilities will be improved as we continue to add more and more 3D functionality.

3D Model Creation Process in Global Mapper

The first step to making any 3D point style is finding a need to fulfill. Many of the models are based on existing 2D styles — some were requested, while others were added to enhance our fun factor. Examples of the process are shown below using the newest model, Snowy the snowperson.

The creative process begins on paper, the model is sketched out. This allows the artist to plan the design, and get a rough estimate of the polygon count. The actual 3D work is done in a program called 3ds Max, a 3D modeling application from Autodesk.

First the model is created with the polygon count carefully considered. Each individual piece is modeled separately and aligned to fit together. Then the mesh is unified, creating one object. After the model is finished, the mesh needs to be unwrapped, which is done directly in 3ds Max.

UVW — process of creating a flat representation of the 3D model on a 2D plain
The 3D model is broken up into sections for easy texturing, minimal stretching, and to hide the seam where the texture edges meet.

Unwrapping is the process of creating a flat representation of the 3D model on a 2D plane, called a UVW map. The model is broken up into sections for easy texturing, minimal stretching, and to hide the seam where the texture edges meet. The snowperson in this example was broken down into nine UV shells. The orange nose is four identical shells perfectly overlapped, sharing the same material image.

Flattened 3D model of snowman
The nine UV shells of Snowy share a single 1024×1024 PNG image created in Adobe Photoshop.

When unwrapping a model, a checkered pattern is applied to properly display the texture mapping, allowing the artist to manipulate the shells and reduce distortion. The nine UV shells of Snowy share a single 1024×1024 PNG image created in Adobe Photoshop.

Adding texture to 3D model in 3ds Max
After the texture is created, it is applied to the model in 3ds Max using the material editor.

After the texture is created, it is applied to the model in 3ds Max using the material editor. The first application is often not perfect, so the material is created using the PSD file directly from Photoshop. Using the PSD makes adjusting the texture easier, because saving the Photoshop file automatically updates the material in 3ds Max. When the texture image is completed, it’s added to the material editor as a PNG, and the model is exported as an OBJ file. In the accompanying image you can see two identical materials, one is the PSD for editing, and the other is the final PNG.

When the model is exported as an OBJ, it then can be imported into Global Mapper and exported as a Global Mapper Package file to be added to the shipped 3D point style list.


Stephanie Martini is a Quality Assurance Technician and 3D artist at Blue Marble Geographics. She is lead QA for the Global Mapper 3D Viewer, and creates all 3D assets used in Global Mapper.  Prior to joining Blue Marble in 2014, Martini spent four years training for game art and design, and got her BA from Alfred University in New York. She aspires to live long enough to have her consciousness downloaded to a computer, and join her mind with the AI that will inevitably control our world. 

Net Neutrality and Equality in GIS

U.S. weather conditions in December 2017Katrina Schweikert
Mid-December weather conditions shown in NOAA radar and GOES imagery accessed through Global Mapper’s online data service.

If you are a fan of Global Mapper and Blue Marble Geographics you are a fan of affordable technology. Our products are well-known for providing reliable and powerful tools for GIS and geodetics data processing and analysis. You might not consider access to the internet to be an important issue when it comes to accessing or even using our products, but it is essential.

If you think about it, most of our customers use the web to research our products, watch video tutorials, download the software, activate a license, or even simply follow our social media channels to keep up-to-date on the latest news.  Unequivocally, the main way our customers interact with us is online. From emailing us to web-based meetings, from researching our products to purchasing them, from downloading to participating in training, a large part of the customer experience is over the Internet. We benefit from the fact that, along with our customers, we have fair and equal access to consistent internet speed without having to pay a premium price. The availability of fast and reliable internet access is not only essential for our business processes, it is also a critical requirement of much of the GIS technology embedded in our applications.

One of the most popular features of Global Mapper is the online data access tool.  Global Mapper offers streaming access to a vast library of maps and data layers of all types, many with full global coverage. This list is continually being expanded and updated and recently we added online data services from all 50 states in the U.S. and several Canadian provinces. If net neutrality in the U.S. is not protected, access to these datasets will almost definitely suffer from slower bandwidth in the future. Even if Blue Marble could afford to provide fast internet for our consumption of these services, we cannot possibly cover the cost of our customers’ access or that of the hosts of these data services.

Global Mapper Online Data access
The Online Data access in Global Mapper provides streaming access to over 100 built-in sources of imagery and terrain data as well as topographic, geological, and land cover maps.

In the past couple of years, Blue Marble has proudly introduced some new cloud-based software offerings. We now host the GeoCalc coordinate system library on Amazon as a “geodetic registry” service. This past year we added read and write access to Amazon cloud data stores in the Global Mapper desktop. And recently we announced the release of Global Mapper SDK on Amazon as well. We have plans for expanding our cloud-based offerings but what will the future look like for these services under a pay per use bandwidth model?

Certainly companies like Amazon have the ability to negotiate deals with internet service providers, but that will not account for all aspects of the cloud transaction process. There is no way a state or public entity that is hosting spatial data, including Blue Marble’s home state of Maine, can afford to pay for fair and equal bandwidth. There are many, many government-hosted mapping data sources that will suffer under the new model but most important to those fans of Blue Marble is the fact that a small company like ours will most definitely be disproportionately impacted by increased bandwidth costs.

The dominant software company in the GIS industry makes a billion dollars a year in revenue and they will certainly be able to afford increased bandwidth costs, however the GIS sector is full of small companies like Blue Marble. Loyal and dedicated GIS professionals who support the “little guy” and who do not want a GIS software industry that is dominated by just one offering, should be very concerned. And what about users of open source GIS technology? Without any financial clout, developers and users of open source tools will likely see a significant impediment to the use of their technology. This is where a lack of net neutrality will most likely have its biggest impact. Established, well-financed companies will more likely be able to maintain optimal access to their products and services but new players and new technology offerings will not. The Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will ensure that their paying customers have good access to Twitter and Facebook as they know that there is a demand for it. But what about innovation? What about new technologies? Those entities are likely to suffer by only being able to afford the “slow lane” in the bandwidth marketplace that will develop.

Finally, it is worth considering what other countries have done about this issue.  Canada, Europe, most of South America, India and Japan have all taken steps to protect net neutrality. The recent ruling by the FCC to eliminate Net Neutrality protections in the U.S. is not only unfair to small business but is out of step with the rest of the world.

So what can we collectively do about this? I appeal to all U.S.-based customers of Blue Marble and all members of the GIS community to take a moment to email your elected representatives and explain to them why they need to work to reverse the decision of the FCC. Even if you are not in the U.S., let your voice be heard. This is not about political affiliation. This is about technology and innovation. The danger is that much of the public does not fully appreciate the widespread impact of this ruling. You do. Your voice must be heard. The message should be clear, reverse the FCC ruling immediately and protect fair and equal access to the Internet. I will be sending this to my representatives, I hope you do too. Thank you for taking action today. And I wish you all a happy and safe holiday season.

Sincerely,

Patrick Cunningham
President  |  Blue Marble Geographics

The Foils and Follies of Drone Data Collection

Drone collects imageryChelsea E | Projections
A drone flies over the Blue Marble Geographics headquarters in Hallowell, Maine collecting imagery to be used in software testing.

Over the past few months, the Blue Marble team has taken on the challenge of collecting drone imagery of our property for testing exciting new features coming soon to Global Mapper. As we began to step into the fairly new commercial UAV field, we realized that there are few assumptions we can make. First of all, there is a learning curve that comes with simply flying a drone to take pictures or collect imagery. There are also a number of legal hurdles, safety concerns, and practical challenges to consider. We needed guidance as we began this initiative, from which we learned a few important lessons.

Drone Flight Concerns and Considerations

Though it appears to be a relatively simple technical challenge, flying a drone has legal and safety considerations that were readily apparent to us but may not be common knowledge. Our first concern was that the Blue Marble headquarters are only about a mile and half, as the crow (or should I say UAV) flies, from the Augusta State Airport. Small planes fly overhead frequently and quite low at times. We were not sure if our building was located near banned airspace. Our second concern was that our property abuts the Hall-Dale elementary school playground. A location that is full of children three or four times a day during business hours. What if we crashed in the school yard while children were at recess? What a PR nightmare.

These concerns about the airport and school property were enough to stall us from simply buying or building a drone, and prompted us to seek guidance. Fortunately for us, the University of Maine at Augusta offers an unmanned aerial vehicle training course taught by certified pilots. A quick call to one of the faculty members for more information resulted in the gentlemen visiting our offices to conduct some test flights and to share a bit of their knowledge with us. We learned a great deal even from our first test.

Programming drone flight pathChelsea E | Projections
Certified UAV pilot Dan Leclair uses his laptop to set up a flight path for a drone to fly over the Blue Marble Geographics headquarters in Hallowell, Maine.

Setting Up the Drone for Flight

Certified pilots Dan Leclair and Greg Gilda joined us at our office on a beautiful, clear and wind-free day in early October. They confirmed that we could fly over our property with some stipulations, despite our location near a commercial airport. As a precaution, the gentlemen brought with them a hand-held radio to monitor pilot communication in the area as we set up our flight path. They also reassured us that there was little chance of the drone flying off of our property during school recess, since the drone would be programmed and flown on autopilot. Dan and Greg shared a litany of information about how the drones now have homing devices, automatically avoid collisions with structures, and fly on a pre-programmed flight pattern. If, for some reason, it did fly over school property, we could manually fly it back. We also learned that the drone must stay within our view to remain in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulation, which was no problem. We weren’t flying a large area anyway.

As we chose and programmed the drone flight path with a laptop, the pilots focused on a very common issue for us GIS folks — proper elevation above ground. Since we are located in the descent path of planes landing at the airport, we needed to keep the drone relatively low to avoid any potential, and of course unwanted, collisions with an aircraft. We decided that we would fly at 100 feet above ground on a path that was 1,793 feet long and would take about 3 minutes.

Drone cameraChelsea E | Projections
We also set up the drone camera for the light conditions, and programmed it to capture an image every two seconds during the flight.

The software the pilots used had some short comings in that the user had to manually select points for the back-and-forth flight path we wanted. As a software guy, this seemed tedious. I would rather draw a quick polygon or box around my area of interest and have that converted to a flight pattern. Perhaps that could be a new feature for Global Mapper Mobile in the future? In this case, our area of interest was our building, so it did not take long to manually designate the flight pattern by selecting waypoints for the drone to fly back and forth. We also set up the drone camera for the light conditions, and programmed it to capture an image every two seconds during the flight. One practical lesson we learned was that a good staging area for the laptop is preferable on a sunny day. We used the back of an SUV for the shade, so we could see the laptop screen and comfortably program the software.

After a bit of work we were ready to fly.

Rotors are attached to droneChelsea E | Projections
Certified UAV pilot Greg Gilda puts the rotors on the drone before it’s sent on a flight path over the Blue Marble headquarters.

Flying the Drone and Collecting Data

We set the drone on a circular landing pad made of nylon near the back of our property. Greg attached the rotor blades, very carefully I might add. The blades attach rather easily to the quad copter by snapping into place. Dan explained that this step was done before turning the drone on, saying something to the effect of “you don’t want to lose a finger”.

Once the UAV was ready to fly we all stepped back. Dan launched it into the air with the touch of a button or two, and the drone began its pre-programmed flight path. For those experienced pilots, you might notice that we did not discuss ground control. More on that in a later blog entry, I suppose, but these early tests were not including that. The flight went seamlessly and Dan only took over manual control as he brought the drone in for a landing — a personal preference of his.

Everything seemed to progress well but we quickly learned that the drone ended up capturing only video (see below) and not still photography. A few more attempts later, we sadly learned that we would not be able to collect still imagery that day. Apparently there was some incompatibility with the flight planning software and the drone. Not to fear, they agreed to return another day after a software update to collect the imagery. So perhaps the most important lesson of the day was that, despite the best laid plans of mice and men, things do not always go as planned with drone data collection. If you’re interested in learning some more about the foils and follies of drone data collection visit this handy resource:  http://knowbeforeyoufly.org/

We’ll have more to share with you on this process and, of course, what we are doing with the data soon.

 


Patrick Cunningham


Patrick Cunningham is the President of Blue Marble Geographics. He has two decades of experience in software development, marketing, sales, consulting, and project management.  Under his leadership, Blue Marble has become the world leader in coordinate conversion software (the Geographic Calculator) and low cost GIS software with the 2011 acquisition of Global Mapper. Cunningham is Chair of the Maine GIS Users Group, a state appointed member of the Maine Geolibrary Board, a member of the NEURISA board, a GISP and holds a masters in sociology from the University of New Hampshire.

What is BMUC? | An Embodiment of Blue Marble Values

Sam Knight speaks at BMUCChelsea E | Projections
Blue Marble Geographics’ Product Manager Sam Knight presents the latest features in Geographic Calculator 2017 to Blue Marble User Conference attendees in South Portland, Maine.

In my first couple of weeks as graphic designer at Blue Marble Geographics in 2016, I heard my coworkers use an unfamiliar term in our marketing meetings. They said things like: “do we have bee-muck speakers yet?”; or “when is the bee-muck e-mail going out?”; or “the bee-muck numbers are looking good so far.”

What the heck is a “bee-muck”?!

BMUC Amsterdam
Blue Marble Geographics took the BMUC experience to Amsterdam in spring of 2017.

I figured it was one of dozens of conferences that Blue Marble attends each year, like AUVSI or InterGeo, and not a term used to describe mud on a yellow and black insect pollinator. “Bee-muck” is actually how the Blue Marble team pronounces the acronym BMUC for Blue Marble User Conference, and BMUC is not just another event the company attends. It’s a series of conferences organized by Blue Marble in cities around North America (and sometimes the world) to show appreciation for the users of Blue Marble software. The one-day conferences offer users a chance to chat face-to-face with Blue Marble team members, to hear success stories from GIS peers, and to share a meal with everyone. I admit, I was skeptical when I heard the “share a meal” part. But when Blue Marble hosted a BMUC in Maine, I had the opportunity to take part in the rich experience the conferences actually have to offer.

Product News that Fosters a Collaborative Culture

At every BMUC, Blue Marble software specialists give talks on the latest product news. During the presentations at the Maine conference, I noticed one phrase that prefaced most of the announcements about new software developments — “We received requests for this feature.”

Patrick Cunningham speaks at BMUCChelsea E | Projections
Blue Marble Geographics President Patrick Cunningham welcomes attendees to the Blue Marble User Conference in Maine.

Global Mapper and Geographic Calculator have evolved into the cutting edge software they are today because of user feedback. Whether a user emails, calls, sends a Facebook message, or speaks to a staff member at a BMUC or other conference, the team at Blue Marble hears and considers what that user has to say. A couple of examples of user-requested features that were highlighted at the Maine BMUC were Global Mapper’s advanced attribute editor, which allows for streamlined editing of data assigned to map features; and the real-time hillshading feature, which allows for dynamic positioning of a light source by clicking and dragging a sun icon.

When asked about what new features of Global Mapper v19 came from user requests, Product Manager Sam Knight began listing them off:

  • The new attribute editor function
  • Playing multiple videos attached to a feature
  • The dynamic hillshading control
  • All the new raster band math formulae, which include Normalized Difference Snow Index (NDSI) and Advanced Vegetation Index (AVI)
  • Drag and drop docking for the 3D viewer and path profile
  • Exporting/importing flythrough paths

After giving this handful of examples, he stopped himself and said, “Actually, literally every significant new feature is a user request.”

The point I’m trying to make is that the product news shared at BMUCs not only keeps users in the loop, but it also fosters the collaborative culture that makes Blue Marble software great. It lets users know that they have a hand in improving these already powerful tools.

Alex Gray speaks at BMUCChelsea E | Projections
GIS Specialist Alex Gray of GEI Consultants Inc. presents on a hydrology analysis for which he used Global Mapper to create digital terrain models.

Peer-to-Peer Learning in the GIS Community

There are at least two guest speakers at every BMUC, who share their real-life experiences using Blue Marble products. These professionals come from a variety of GIS backgrounds — from oil and gas to filmmaking; from city planning to conservation. While members of the Blue Marble team bring their software expertise to the BMUC agenda, the stories from others in the GIS community add valuable outside perspectives.

Thea Youngs speaks at BMUCChelsea E | Projections
GIS Specialist Thea Youngs presents on how she uses Global Mapper for LiDAR processing in city projects for Portland, Maine.

At the Maine BMUC, attendees heard from GIS Specialist Thea Youngs, who uses Global Mapper for Portland city projects. She explained how the software fits in her workflow, and how fast it is to view and select an area of interest from a large point cloud. “Global Mapper helps with making LiDAR data play better with drafting software.” She also commended Global Mapper for its extensive list of supported file formats, since her work sometimes deals with older and less common formats.

Attendees also heard from GIS Specialist Alex Gray of GEI Consultants Inc., whose presentation focused on a hydrology analysis for which he created digital terrain models from a combination of LiDAR and sonar data in Global Mapper.

While both speakers use Global Mapper and the LiDAR Module for their powerful point cloud processing functionality, both work with very different workflows and could provide unique ideas on how to use the software. The presentations, as well as the variety of occupations in the BMUC audience, exemplified how versatile Global Mapper is and how BMUCs are a great place to share tips on how to use the software.

Let’s Call it Lunch, not “Networking”

It’s probably safe to say that the word “lunch” elicits a positive reaction from more people than the word “networking”. I mean, who can’t bond over a good sandwich?

BMUC lunchChelsea E | Projections
Attendees line up for lunch at the Maine Blue Marble User Conference.

During lunch at the Maine BMUC, attendees had the opportunity to share their own stories, ask more questions, discuss projects with their peers, and to make connections in their local GIS community. I was able to hear from attendees about what developments they’d like to see from Blue Marble in the near future, like the ability to create point clouds from drone imagery, which is actually something that Blue Marble is currently testing.

Other than providing lunch, Blue Marble also offers opportunities to win prizes such as T-shirts and a license of the latest version of Global Mapper. At the Maine BMUC, this opportunity came in the form of a “Name That Country” game, in which attendees had to identify countries from a series of slides.

An Affordable and Rich GIS Experience

After the conference, two thoughts struck me as I drank a beer with my co-workers and BMUC attendees who were able to join us for happy hour. My first thought: How cool is it that this small company can serve customers all over the world and still have intimate events like BMUCs? Second: BMUCs truly embody the user-focused mission of Blue Marble.

They are an affordable opportunity (only $25 to register) to gain insights from company experts and other GIS professionals; to meet new people in the GIS community; to win a copy of the latest version of Global Mapper; to have an opinion about a Blue Marble software and to have it heard; and did I mention lunch?

As I write this entry, the Blue Marble team is planning its BMUC 2018 schedule. Drop us a line at bmuc@bluemarblegeo.com if you’d like to see this experience come to your neck of the woods, and keep an eye on the BMUC page to find out where we will be next.

There’s an abundance of knowledge to be shared in the GIS and Blue Marble community, and BMUC is a tap on the barrel. Cheers!


Chelsea Ellis


Chelsea Ellis is a graphic designer and social media manager at Blue Marble Geographics. Her responsibilities range from creating the new button graphics for the redesigned interface of Global Mapper 18 to editing promotional videos; from designing print marketing material to scheduling social media posts. Prior to joining the Blue Marble team, Ellis worked in page layout and graphic design at Maine newspapers, and as a freelance designer and photographer.

Blue Marble Supports Scientific Research on Climate Change

Sun rising over EarthPixabay
Blue Marble supports the scientific research on climate change that has helped in the development of international climate treaties such as the Paris Accord.

Blue Marble Geographics is a geospatial software company with customers throughout the world in all types of industries. Our customers are typically, though not always, geoscientists across all disciplines who analyze the world and create products for their companies and organizations based on the results of their scientific work. Surveyors, software developers, soil scientists, academics, biologists, environmental scientists, engineers, geophysicists, geologists, hydrologists, cartographers and of course geographers are all using Blue Marble products to help us gain a better understanding of the natural mechanisms of the planet and the impact of human activity on these natural processes. Many are focused on measuring change in our world, specifically in the area of climate change. We stand with these scientists and support the research they have done, both directly and indirectly, to assist with the development and hopefully fulfillment of international climate treaties such as the Paris Climate Accord. Blue Marble accepts the findings of the vast majority of the global scientific community that unanimously concludes that climate change is exacerbated by increased concentrations of greenhouse gases that are the result of human activity.  This, we believe, is a proven fact as supported by the peer reviewed scientific community.

United States Politics and Climate Change

How Americans Think about Climate ChangeNew York Times
New York Times story: How Americans Think About Climate Change, in Six Maps

Unfortunately, there is a political constituency in the United States that has swayed some of the public into believing that this reality is not true. Recently, this issue came to the forefront when the current Administration decided to have the U.S. join Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations in the world that are not bound by the findings of the Paris Accord, despite overwhelming international and domestic public opinion.

The ongoing conflict between politics and science is one that many of our customers deal with on a daily basis and in the current political climate, these conflicts are becoming much more divisive.

Global Mapper COAST Measures Cost of Climate Change

Many users are familiar with the Global Mapper COAST extension, a free add-on to the software for measuring the financial impact of both severe coastal storms and sea level rise, both of which have been scientifically attributed to climate change. This tool is used to model impact from storms and sea level rise based on historical data and to create an adaption technology, such as a sea wall or a dam, to mitigate the effects of flooding. The costs of damage based on flooding and the costs of adaption are factored in to develop a return on investment or total cost of ownership calculation along with a GIS mapping model. Coastal communities are using this tool to make decisions about how to protect their assets or property of concern.

COAST software tool
The above output shows the results from a COAST analysis as displayed in Google Earth. The COAST (COastal Adaptation to Sea level rise Tool) software tool, built on the Global Mapper software developer toolkit, helps users answer questions in regards to the costs and benefits of actions and strategies to avoid damages from sea level rise and/or coastal flooding.

Historic data can be analyzed to gauge the most likely outcome with a given set of circumstances or, alternatively, it can be modeled to the subject’s belief in what will happen. The consultants for whom this extension was originally developed, found this to be a very useful feature when dealing with clients who wanted to argue that sea level rise is not occurring. It is a true statement of the times we live in when coastal communities aren’t prepared to acknowledge that flooding can be directly attributable to human-induced climate change, even after being presented with compelling evidence of an increased likelihood of future catastrophic flooding events. It is a strange contradiction.

Blue Marble Stands with Scientists

Today in the U.S. in particular we are faced with a government that not only refutes the findings and recommendations of the Paris Climate Accord, but that is actively attempting to silence and/or remove climate scientists from government along with restricting the work of the Environmental Protection Agency and other similar institutions. We see the effects of these efforts resulting in alt-Twitter accounts, whistle blower YouTube videos and unfortunately the potential for some scientists leaving their government jobs to pursue careers in the private sector where they can continue their work. Blue Marble supports these agencies and wants all of our customers to know that we value the Paris Climate Accord and the necessary and good work of all scientists. We thank you for your work and we’ve got your back!


Patrick Cunningham

Patrick Cunningham is the President of Blue Marble Geographics. He has two decades of experience in software development, marketing, sales, consulting, and project management.  Under his leadership, Blue Marble has become the world leader in coordinate conversion software (the Geographic Calculator) and low cost GIS software with the 2011 acquisition of Global Mapper. Cunningham is Chair of the Maine GIS Users Group, a state appointed member of the Maine Geolibrary Board, a member of the NEURISA board, a GISP and holds a masters in sociology from the University of New Hampshire.

Tone-Deaf Customer Service and How to Avoid It

The Blue Marble team
The Blue Marble team outside of the Blue Marble Geographics office in Hallowell, Maine in spring of 2016. The corporate culture at Blue Marble is one that is defined by a sense of day-to-day pride in wanting its customers to succeed.

If you were following the news recently, you probably heard some of the customer horror stories coming from United Airlines. First, there were the two young female passengers who were not allowed to board a flight because they were wearing leggings. Second, there was the doctor who was physically removed from a flight and bloodied in the process. Apparently, the removal of the doctor happened because the airline needed to bump four passengers in order to fly some crew members to Louisville. Both of these stories have some nuances to them I am sure, but there is no avoiding the issue that bothers me most about United as a company: both of these incidents reflect a solid tone-deafness to common sense customer service. Both look horrible from a PR perspective; one is sexism and the other is assault. Interactions like these get plastered all over social media and no amount of damage control can counter-act the horrible message they send to customers and prospective customers. Will United continue as a profitable business generating equity for shareholders? Probably. But at what cost to those profits? At what cost to their reputation? What about common decency and the way we are supposed to treat others? If the truth be told, these stories actually were not shocking to me, as I fly quite a bit and many of my colleagues do as well. Our experiences with United range from consistently rude employees to outright harassment. As a company, we have consciously avoided United Airlines (and the former Continental Airlines) for a few years now.

In order to avoid bad customer service decision making, an organization has to recognize the issues that create an atmosphere of utter tone-deafness. My experience with tone-deaf companies is that there are a number of customer service employees who are out-right hostile towards their customers. They appear to not like their jobs. They are possibly over-worked, under-paid, and either given too little power to make decisions or possibly too much. Think about the gate agent or manager who made the decision to stop offering travel vouchers and a hotel stay before the doctor was removed. They started at $400 and a hotel, but there were no takers so they increased it to $800 and a hotel stay. There were still no takers, so rather than increase the offer they randomly selected four passengers to be removed. One has to ask, why did they stop increasing the offer? The result of the fallout from all of this has turned into an out of court settlement that must be much more expensive than a travel voucher. But another question remains; why did they even board passengers if they knew they had over-sold it. If they had bumped people in the gate, whether those people liked it or not, United could have kept them from getting on the plane and likely defused the situation in a more humane manner. But furthermore, one might ask why airlines over-sell flights in the first place. Why is that legal? You shouldn’t be able to sell something you don’t have as a product. That entire concept to me is a catalyst for corporate cultural problems. However, let’s be clear this situation wasn’t even about overbooking, this was an issue where they needed to fly crew to the destination airport to run another flight, yet it is being framed in the context of overbooking which has been a persistent problem for customers for a few years now. If we try and deconstruct the issue of calling the police to physically remove a passenger that did not want to voluntarily give up their seat, what we have in the end are employees who are angry, frustrated and willing to take those frustrations out on their customers. I think companies like this have a problem when their employees do not believe in their product. They don’t care about providing a good customer experience because the message from corporate is to make as much money at whatever cost. This issue to me is the key behind developing poor corporate culture and, for United, that issue will not be easily fixed considering the size of the company.

Our corporate culture is one that is defined by a sense of day-to-day pride in what we do — an interest in our customers succeeding and the science they are tackling every day. We want our customers to succeed, and we want them to be happy with our products.

Blue Marble is a much different company than United. We’re a small company of technology experts located mostly in central Maine. Although we have remote employees across the country, the way we approach our customers has more to do with what it means to live and work in Maine than it does with working for a software company. But this runs deeper than the face of it. Our corporate culture is one that is defined by a sense of day-to-day pride in what we do — an interest in our customers succeeding and the science they are tackling every day. We want our customers to succeed, and we want them to be happy with our products. We like helping them solve their challenges. Yes, we have rules about how we sell our software. We have rules about how we license it. But if you have been a customer of Blue Marble or Global Mapper for a while you know that our rules evolve over time and that we really try to listen to every customer. It can be challenging to satisfy the varied perspectives of some of our customers:  the sole-proprietor surveyor who has been running his business on his own for thirty years on a tight budget versus the lead software procurement person for a multi-national corporation, or the remote sensing GIS government professional for an Africa-based agency. We strive to meet the needs of a diverse, global set of customers every day. Our global audience is where we are similar to United, but that is where it ends. The difference starts with caring about our reputation.

The Blue Marble Vice President of Sales Kris Berglund at the 2017 APPEA Conference and Exhibition. Blue Marble employees are empowered to support their customers, to do quality work, and to feel ownership in it.

I think there are two keys to being successful at that. The first are the products we sell.  Making quality products that solve a problem (at least for business software) is key. But taking pride in the product and standing behind it, as cheesy as it sounds, is essential. Secondly, empowering the people who support our customers to do quality work and to feel ownership in it. I will be the first to admit that this has been something I have had to learn how to do over the years. We work at it every day. I have surrounded myself with a solid management team, but we have also worked together to hire and promote good, smart people who actually want you (our customer) to succeed. If new hires do not buy into that, they don’t stick around. We don’t force it on them, however, we try to build that culture. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes a lot of practice actually. It takes pride as well. But it also means we can’t be tone-deaf. We listen to our employees and we listen to our customers.

All of us at Blue Marble want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to meet your needs so if you have a concern please email us at feedback (link to feedback@bluemarblegeo.com). We will be sure to respond. Thank you for being our customer.


Patrick Cunningham

Patrick Cunningham is the President of Blue Marble Geographics. He has two decades of experience in software development, marketing, sales, consulting, and project management.  Under his leadership, Blue Marble has become the world leader in coordinate conversion software (the Geographic Calculator) and low cost GIS software with the 2011 acquisition of Global Mapper. Cunningham is Chair of the Maine GIS Users Group, a state appointed member of the Maine Geolibrary Board, a member of the NEURISA board, a GISP and holds a masters in sociology from the University of New Hampshire.

Blue Marble is Traveling to Conferences and Public Training Events Around the Globe

Blue Marble Conferences and Training on a World Map

Blue Marble Geographics is a company of modest size but one that leaves a very large footprint. With customers and users throughout North America and in virtually every county in the world, the company’s technical and sales staff seem to be continually on the road. Seldom does a week go by that we aren’t bidding one colleague bon voyage while welcoming another back into the fold.

This photo contributed by Renier Balt shows new Certified Global Mapper Users at a public training in Mount Edgecombe, KZN, South Africa the first week of February 2017.

As a company that develops the foremost tools for creating visual representations of spatial data (maps, for the layperson) it seems only natural that we share our 2017 travel plans using this media. A cursory glance at the accompanying map reveals an obvious bias towards the Northeastern U.S., our home turf, so to speak, but it is also interesting that folks attending conferences in the Midwestern states have better-than-average chance of encountering a wandering Blue Marble staff member over the coming year.

Increasingly, our trips are taking us beyond these shores with Europe a frequent destination for 2017. As the popularity of the appropriately named Global Mapper continues to expand across the planet, look out for someone in a Blue Marble shirt at an event near you in the future.

For a frequently updated list of events Blue Marble is attending this year, click Here.