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We are heading to PNW Drupal Summit Seattle 2012

Eight of us from the Affinity Bridge team are going to be in Seattle for the PNW Drupal Summit this weekend. We are all really excited to be sponsoring the summit once again this year and are looking forward to seeing all our drupal friends, old and new.

There will be two official sessions that our team members will be presenting that you might want to check out if you're coming to the conference:

Mapping and GIS on the Server Side of Drupal 

10:00am - Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mack Hardy will be giving discussing some of the tools Affinity has been working with to provide performant, data rich maps in Drupal.  Topics will range from discussions of the tools, Leaflet, Tilestache, Mapnik, Mapbox, Tilemill and PostGIS to some examples of how to deliver information to the weblayer that has traditionally been in the domain of GIS tools.  See more details on the session page.

The Affinity Team is also hoping to participate in a BoF on Geo tools in general, theres so much to discuss!

Responsive design for your website

Have you recently checked out your website on a cellphone, or a tablet, or another mobile device? You may have found yourself scrolling and zooming in and out in order to be able to read its content. All this headache can be avoided by adding a responsive design to your site, but what exactly is a responsive design?

What exactly is a responsive design?

Wikipedia defines responsive design as

...an approach to web design in which a site is crafted to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).

A nice technical definition, but what exactly does this mean? Well, imagine that we have the following set of devices: a nice big monitor with big resolution, a tablet, and a cellphone.

Getting Started with Node.js Web App Development

Affinity Bridge is primarily a [Drupal] shop. We've found Drupal to be a great tool for many of the problems we've been solving. Namely collaborating with non-profits and progressive organizations to build successful web sites. Whether it be data intensive mapping projects, group based collaboration systems, or just a simple brochure site, Drupal is a great tool for many jobs.

Recently we decided to explore some other technologies to get a taste for what is off of "Drupal Island". One technology that many of us here have been keeping an eye on is [Node.js].

The culture at Affinity Bridge invites innovation and self-education so that our team members can learn and challenge ourselves. We began looking for a project to work on so that we could learn more about Node.js. After some brainstorming we decided on a simple web app project.

Server-side mapping

We have several projects that involve processing large geospatial datasets (geo-data) and displaying them on maps. These projects present some interesting technical challenges involving the storage, transfer and processing of geo-data. This post outlines some of bigger challenges we have encountered and our corresponding solutions.

The challenge

In the past we have used the GMap and OpenLayers libraries and their equivalent Drupal modules on our mapping projects. They are effective solutions when you have a small or even moderately sized collection of entities containing some simple geodata (points, lines, polygons) that you want to present as vector overlays on a map. Unfortunately they tend to fall apart fast when you attempt them with larger datasets. There are two main reasons for this:

  1. Geospatial data can be large, particularly as we tend to encode it in text-based formats such as WKT or GeoJSON when we are sending it to a web browser. The larger the data, the longer it takes to transfer from server to client.

2.

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