Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Other GIS Endeavors

Hello everyone!

Hope that everyone is having a good week thus far! It's crazy to think that my wedding is only 10 days away close!!

Anyways, I just wanted to update you all on how things are going around here. The transformer pad inspections project is almost completed! I'm just waiting on word to train the inspectors and go out with them on inspections for a few days until they get used to using the IPad and the Collector application for the inspections.

For research purposes, I have looked into other products that offer similar capabilities such as AmigoCloud however I found that it was tricky to use and did not have the functionality to allow a user to only edit pre-existing points nor could I figure out how to get the related table to appear. I consulted with my manager and she said not to worry about looking more into AmigoCloud because it did not appear that it would serve our needs like Collector does.

Since I have been waiting to train the inspectors, I have been working on other GIS tasks and projects in the meantime. I have updated their map that deals with the transformers to reflect the new changes. I have also been working with one of my coworkers, the System Engineer, on editing a map document that will be displayed in his office. I was given a large map that he had printed and was going to hang on the wall. Once my manager and I realized that he was going to hang the map for all to see, we knew that I had to help him since he does not know GIS. He works with it very sparingly.

So I took this map containing all of the information on the town's Overhead and Underground Circuit Distribution (wires, circuits, reclosers, capacitors, switches, poles, manholes) and information about the layout of the town (roads, parcels, wetlands, bodies of water). Coming from a GIS and cartographic stand point, having this much information on one map is A LOT. The map that I was given had symbols that were way too big and had labels that you could not even read. I tried to get rid of some of the items like the wetlands, but my coworker insisted that everything stay. He just wanted it all to be readable. So I went through every single street, recloser, capacitor, manhole, 4x4 manhole, and handhole to re-label each and every one. They were all labeled but the labels were not showing up because of their size and position. I converted all of the labels to annotation and went through each label one by one making sure that you could see it and that it was where it was supposed to be. This definitely was a time consuming process and there may have been an easier way to go about things, maybe a python script? But I still am not comfortable with using arcpy mapping as I am afraid I will somehow mess the whole system up! But going through each label one by one needed a lot of patience and ended up being somewhat soothing. I remember when I first took a GIS course, I did not have any patience and I despised the program. However after much hard work, dedication, and learning that I had a knack for perfection, geographical analysis, and mapping, I discovered that I found my niche.

In the end, what I created from the map that I was given was a large map containing all of the information that my coworker requested all at a readable scale and I added the necessary map elements such as the tile, legend, north arrow, scale bar, and data credits. I added in a NAED logo for good measure too.

My coworker just printed the map to hang on his wall and for some reason it looks like one of the reclosers and one of the capacitors were selected and the map ended up exporting and printing them with a blue dot in the middle. Strange as I have never seen that before! But since it's such a minor detail he still hung the map on the wall (I did make sure that there were no more mistakes before exporting it to pdf for a final time).

It's always nice to change things up for a while and get back to the basics of GIS, which is cartography. I had a nice few days of just focused work on the map. Now I'll be on to the next project...making solar maps! I'll keep you updated.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Substation Tour & Python Scripting

Hope everyone is having a good week!

Photo of a Substation (not the NAED Substation)
I was able to take a tour of the Substation! I certainly learned a lot of new information and was able to see first hand where the towns electrical supply comes from. Of course I did not see where the electricity is generated because that power comes from many miles away at a power plant. What I was able to see was how the Electric Department gets their electricity from the power lines running across the transmission towers that you commonly see along highways or fields. I was also able to see how the voltage gets stepped down to be transported locally and how everything is controlled. It is quite an involved process! I also got to see inside of a pole mounted transformer, and see how  the transformers are repaired and tested. There is a lot of work that has to be done to get the electricity to your home everyday. It is a lot more involved then I'm sure anyone has imagined. We take our electricity for granted, we don't realize the complexity and the dedication of hardworking men and women that it takes for us to simply turn on the light switch or stove or any appliance and to have it work. Touring the substation and seeing things first hand really gave me a better understanding of the work that it takes to get ample amounts of electricity to our homes and businesses.

Transmission Towers

In other news, I have been doing lots of Esri training on Python Scripting. I have completed the web courses and received certificates for the, "Basics of Python (for ArcGIS 10)", "Python Scripting for Geoprocessing Workflows", "Python for Everyone", and "Python Scripting for Map Automation".

 I have been working on these courses because while working with the photo attachments in the Collector App, my manager wanted to be able to export all of the photos into a folder and rename them based on the transformer that they belong to. Seems simple enough right? Well no. With Collector, there is currently no way to rename the photos. When looking at them in ArcGIS Online you have the ability to download the photos one by one, rename name them and then reload them to the map document...that's too much work and tedious. So I found through ESRI that there is a way to batch export all of the photos attachments in ArcMap using a python script. I loaded the script as a new tool in a toolbox and ran the script which produced a folder full of the photos! However the photos had the generic "attach1_photo1", "attach401_photo1" name, not descriptive at all!

Through the help of Esri technical support, my manager and I were able to find where in SQL Server the global id and attachment id's for the photos are located. With that information we are able to go into ArcMap, compare the relative global ids from the photos to the global ids of the transformers and rename the photo. We are sure that there has got to be a python script that can do that for us, but at the current moment we have no idea. In the meantime, I went through and manually changed the names of the photos to reflect the transformer it is attached to.

Once we have the Collector app fully up and running we're hoping to sit down with our IT department to see if they know of a way to automate the renaming of the photos. Let's hope that they can, I will keep you updated!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Fieldwork Fun!

Hello Everyone!

For my weekly update, I wanted to let everyone know that I have conducted fieldwork for the application!

Example of some of the Inspection Questions
I have been testing out the application and configuring the tables and required questions for the app. What has been tricky is that Collector does not currently have a functionality where you can set fields as required. This has become a bit of an annoyance as there are certain fields in the table that we would like to be required and others that are not. We have tried to combat this by making the "required" fields not allow Nulls, but each time we have tried to do this we get an error message. For now, our workaround for this issue is that I have renamed the field aliases for the required fields so that they say (Req.) at the end. While this renaming will not enforce these fields as required, it will show the inspectors that these are the fields that they need to be most concerned about when doing an inspection. If we see that these edits have not been made, we will send the inspector back out to collect the information.

But I have successfully tested the application in the field! We have decided to use the Collector App in a connected setting (for now...might change later). It really is a fairly straightforward application to use, I have written up a tutorial on how to use the application for Pad Mount Transformer Inspections in both a connected environment and in a disconnected environment. To be sure that we wanted to use the Collector solely in a connected mode, I was sent out to the western parts of town where the cell phone service can be spotty. I had no trouble getting cell service for the IPad but I did have trouble finding Pad Mount Transformers as I had never been to that part of town before. I should have looked at my map before I went out to do fieldwork but I thought that I would just be able to find transformers on the roads that I was sent too...nope. The Pad Mount Transformers were all on side streets in housing developments....I didn't know that before going out. But I had fun exploring.

In total, I field tested about 30 Pad Mount Transformers. While I was out on my own testing the application, I was just visually inspecting the transformer from the outside. However, I was able to go out to the field with one of the inspectors and see first hand how the actual inspection would go. I was able to see inside both a single phase transformer (supplying houses) and a three phase transformer (supplying a business). It was nice to finally be able to see what I have been customizing the application for. The inspector told me that he'll take me into the substation at one point to see what that is like, should be cool!

  The green triangles represent the transformers that I field tested

Hopefully I will be able to train the inspectors on how to use the application soon and then we will see how well the application does in their hands!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Making "Pretty" Thumbnail Photos & Helpful Websites

Hello again!

So one of the tasks that I have been given is to create a "pretty" thumbnail photo for the map that will appear on ArcGIS Online as well as on the Collector app.
Generic Automatic Thumbnail

 At our organization, our thumbnail photos for our ArcGIS Online maps are the generic, ArcGIS standard map photos that are given to all thumbnails (as can be seen to the right). Since I had been reading up on how thumbnail photos can really convey the message that your map is trying to send before even actually opening the map, Heather and I decided that it was about time we attempted to create a "pretty" thumbnail photo.

Of course with me starting work in a new topic I had some questions on how to get started creating a thumbnail image, I did not know if there was some type of template that I should be following or if I just could create an image of somesort. ESRI's ArcGIS Blog and GeoNet community are two very helpful websites that I have been turning to for help as I venture along with this project. For any question that I have, or any tricky situation that I encounter, I turn to either one of those websites or I turn to where I can search through hundreds of previously answered(and some unanswered) questions to see if I am able to find a solution. Almost every question I have had thus far, someone else has had this question too and posted it to one of the websites for responses and discussion. I highly recommend using these websites for help and of course I recommend taking a look at the documentation that ESRI provides for each application/tool/etc. My last resort is calling customer service, because a lot of what I have been working on is completely brand new to me, I cannot explain to myself what is going on, let alone trying to explain it over the phone to somebody else. 99% of the time, one of the websites I mentioned can get me out of any ArcGIS jam that I have.

That being said, I found a helpful blog post on ESRI's ArcGIS Blog entitled, "Put Your Best Thumbnail Forward". The author of the post discussed the advantages to having a customized thumbnail for each map in your organization, and explained that for quality purposes, the thumbnail could only be 200 pixels x 133 pixels and in either PNG, JPEG, or GIF format. It appears as though most people who create appealing thumbnail photos are skilled in using graphics editors such as Photoshop. I have no recent experience in Photoshop so that option was out of the equation...I think that the last time I used Photoshop was in my 6th grade Computer Science class...which was a good 10+ years ago. I have experience in editing photos in Paint...which did not seem to work for me, until I remembered that PowerPoint could probably do the trick!

With Powerpoint, I was able to make the size of the slide equal to the 200 pixels x 133 pixels that are needed for the thumbnail photo, by converting the pixel size to inches. While I am not a graphic designer by any sort, I was able to make a decent photo containing the Pad Mount Transformer map, the North Attleboro Electric Department logo and an explanation of what the map contains. It may get tweaked as the project moves on, but for now, here is the new thumbnail photo for the Pad Mount Transformer Inspections map:

New and Improved Thumbnail