Natural Earth Vector

Ever since Tom Patterson started offering Natural Earth, a public domain raster dataset of the entire Earth, I’ve been a big fan of it. In fact, the base layer for the Oolaalaa globes is based on Natural Earth I (with added bathymetry and increased contrast).

After releasing 3 raster datasets this way, Tom has recently teamed up with Nathaniel V. Kelso to create a vector product that also will be released into the public domain: Natural Earth Vector. Nathaniel has invited me to participate in this as well, and to be honest I think it’s a wonderful project. So far I’ve been involved in extracting road data from OpenStreetmap and identifying rivers in Europe.

Processing the OpenStreetmap data, using FME, reinforced my slight aversion of XML/GML based data. When downloading the data, you have the option of getting the .osm data, which is in an XML format, or shapefiles. FME does support the .osm format, but processing the files takes a terrible amount of time. Processing the shapefiles for Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa and South America, just filtering out the major highways, takes about 11 minutes. I don’t dare to do that with the .osm data, but I fear it may take days. It’s nice that XML is so open and free, but for large amounts of data it’s simply unsuitable.

Anyway, to get back to Natural Earth Vector, it will be officially unveiled at the NACIS conference in Sacramento this october and I for one am looking very much forward to that.

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