If I had known then

Reflection

Often times, I find myself asking “why didn’t I think of that”?  No, I’m not talking about the great ideas like Reality TV or Candy Crush Saga; I’m talking about those moments when you think to yourself “if only I knew that existed back then”.

Mapping it out

Years ago, I worked in remote operations – tracking the drilling rig data collection from a remote facility.  I wanted to know where the rigs were located, where our field personnel were stationed, and what were the possible routes field personnel could take to get to the rig-sites.

Google Maps
Aerial photography of Karnes City, TX (source: Google Maps)

Just google it

To solve my problem, I turned to the most convenient solution: Google Earth.  Using an Excel spreadsheet, I compiled a database of latitude and longitude coordinates of each the various locations (rig-sites and field houses).  I then converted the spreadsheet into a KML file which could then be loaded into Google Earth.

If at first you succeed – be suspicious

Google Earth provided a very simple, very efficient, and very easy solution to my initial problem: having no visualization of the geographic scope of our operations.  However, while I could generate routes in Google Earth, I could not perform any advanced analysis like comparing distance, time, and road type between routes.

Free and Open Source is Free

Enter, QGIS, the free and open source GIS application.  When I first started making my maps I had no idea this existed.  I wish I did, because I could have done all that analysis – regardless of whether it would prove useful.  I guess the moral of the story is: if “ifs” and “buts” could be candy and nuts then we’d all have a Merry Christmas.

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