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GIS-JOBS  December 2010

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Subject:

Expressions of interest needed: PostGIS/MapServer/OpenLayers developer

From:

Humphrey Southall <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Humphrey Southall <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 7 Dec 2010 20:43:32 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (51 lines)

THIS IS _NOT_ AN ADVERTISEMENT OF A CURRENT VACANCY.

It is also _NOT_ a job requiring a mainstream GIS skill set: if your expertise is in ArcGIS, MapInfo etc. please don't send us your CV!

The Great Britain Historical GIS has developed a complex spatially-enabled database using open source components, and used it as the basis for its popular web site "A Vision of Britain through Time".

Funding to develop the system came as project grants originally from the UK National Lottery, and more recently from the European Union and the Joint Information Systems Committee. The total value of project grants since 1994 is c. £2.5m. Both the developers who worked on the system launched last year are currently working for us, but both are funded by new project grants, in one case for completely unrelated research.

We need someone to maintain the system long-term, installing software updates, and to contribute to new small development projects. This is certainly not a full-time or even a half-time role, and you would probably need to be doing other work with a similar set of software to maintain the level of expertise needed. While our university always prefers to employ someone for a fixed number of hours per week, this may well work better as a "variable hours" contract or as a consultancy. For now, we would be pleased to hear about your preferred business relationship, although the funding available makes it unlikely large consultancies would be interested. This is certainly about developing some kind of continuing relationship.

For now, this is about working with a server based in Portsmouth, but it is accessible from anywhere on the internet. Basic system maintenance is the responsibility of Portsmouth University Information Services. In the longer term we will probably be moving to some form of cloud hosting, but still needing someone to maintain the specialised geo-spatial software stack. An ability to attend infrequent face-to-face meetings in Portsmouth would be an advantage.

THE GB HISTORICAL GIS AND THE WEB SITE "A VISION OF BRITAIN THROUGH TIME"

The GB Historical GIS is a small but self-contained spatial data infrastructure in its own right, providing a geographical framework for diverse historical information about places in Britain and Europe, including statistics, placenames, boundary mapping, historical map images and extensive descriptive text:

   www.visionofbritain.org.uk 
   http://www.port.ac.uk/research/gbhgis

Although the GB Historical GIS began as a relatively conventional system implemented using ArcGIS, the current system is a geo-spatial ontology, i.e. a semantic structure implemented in a relational database, with spatial data then overlaid using object-relational features. This was originally implemented in Oracle and Oracle Spatial, but our current production system uses Postgres and PostGIS, running on a Sun T5440 server. PostGIS enables us to store vector boundary polygons inside the Postgres database, while Minnesota MapServer is used to generate statistical maps from these polygons and our large data library. The JFreeChart class library is used to generate graphs from the same library.

A large library of scanned images of historical maps is held outside Postgres, managed primarily by MapServer and accessed as a web map server. Our own interface to that WMS makes heavy use of the OpenLayers toolkit. Access to the WMS is accelerated using GeoWebCache. This software gives access to part of our historic map library, cropped, geo-referenced, mosaiced, re-projected and tiled, but a second viewer based on IIPimage, developed at the University of Southampton, gives access to unmodified images of the original maps.

Web pages are defined as Java Server Pages and generated via Apache and Tomcat. Our server is covered by a Sun hardware maintenance contract. Back-ups, operating system maintenance and Apache and Tomcat maintenance are the responsibility of our IS people: any application upgrades, etc, needing system shut-downs would need to be discussed with them.

The system gets c. 100,000 unique visitors per month, and income to cover running costs comes from Google Ads and a couple of affiliate deals on the site, plus licensing of some of our content for commercial use. Despite its name, the system is designed to cover Europe, using ETRS-89 coordinates not OSGB, and we are exploring how to extend geographical coverage, starting with Ireland. While major new content creation projects would probably fund new full time developers, smaller projects are currently more likely and would still mean we need changes to functionality.

Development is primarily in Java, JSP and, for OpenLayers, Javascript, but there is some scope for using Python. There may be some scope in the medium to long-term for changing some components of the software stack we use, e.g. replacing MapServer by Geoserver, but the system needs to remain based on open source components, and a move away from Postgres/PostGIS is unlikely.

HOW TO RESPOND

Please reply to me giving details of your experience with at least some of the following:

  Postgres
  PostGIS
  MapServer
  GeoWebCache
  OpenLayers
  IIPimage
  JFreeChart

Please also provide contact details preferably including a telephone number, Skype ID etc, and your geographical location, as well as an e-mail address.

Please indicate on what basis you would be available to do this work. As a "fixed hours" contract of employment this is very unlikely to be more than a 25% post. NB before we can actually offer work the university's procedures mean we will need to decide on a specific employment contract or consultancy, and re-advertise that; but responses now will have a large effect on what we advertise.

I am happy to provide further information to anyone seriously interested -- but if you have just done an ArcGIS course and have never heard of any of the software we use, please don't reply: there are GIS jobs and GIS jobs!

Humphrey Southall (Director, GBH GIS)

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