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Welcome to, the personal homepage of Brandon Purcell. I started building many, many years ago to share information I ran across everyday in my role as a Support Engineer and Consultant for Macromedia/Adobe. As a support engineer and consultant I always had a lot to blog about but as I moved into managment roles at Adobe my technical content dwindled.

I currently work as the Director of Technology for Universal Mind. My primary responsiblity is managing the SpatialKey project and it has been an amazing experience. I have been spending a lot of time working with Amazon Ec2 and will share my experiences through the blog in the future. I truly believe that Cloud Computing is the IT platform of the future and we have built the SpatialKey architecture on top of Ec2.

Viewing by Category: SpatialKey / Main
July 30, 2009

James Ward and Jon Rose recently published the latest episode of Drunk on Software with members of the SpatialKey team, including myself, Tom Link, and Doug McCune.

In the video we talk about Universal Mind, how SpatialKey came to be, a lot about what SpatialKey is and how it works. I dive into the architecture a bit and how we leveraged the cloud to build out our infrastructure.

Thanks to Jon and James hosting us, we crashed Jon's house for the video. I think Doug tossed back the most beers I can't keep up with him and still talk.

April 23, 2009

I had been looking for a simple way to get a thread dump from JBoss to see what was happening on each of the SpatialKey servers without actually logging onto any of them. After all reading through thread dumps is one of my favorite past times. I found a simple way to do that writes an HTML file containing the thread dump and I can access it by hitting the webserver directory at a hidden URL.

The command is rather simple to generate a thread dump:

/jboss/bin/ invoke "jboss.system:type=ServerInfo" listThreadDump > /dump.html

I modified the /etc/crontab file to create this file every minute

*/1 * * * * root //jboss/bin/ invoke "jboss.system:type=ServerInfo" listThreadDump > /apachewebroot/subdir/dump.html 2>&1

It is pretty simple but it worked for what I needed.

March 27, 2009

Excel is a powerfull tool for sorting and analyzing data but what if you want to look at your data from another angle. What if you want to see the geographic aspect and understand the trends both over time and geographically? Geocoding your data can be a challenging task and getting it on a map can be even more of a pain. SpatialKey takes the pain out of mapping your excel data and makes it simple to get your data into a map and build engaging reports.


I have outlined this process in an article explaining how to take your excel data and get it into SpatialKey

March 25, 2009

With SpatialKey we create AMI's that are exact replicas of each other and can be scaled easily all of the persistent content is stored in a EBS volume allowing us to deploy a new instance from a Snapshot and easy backup with Snapshots.

This article is the best one I have seen highlighting performance with EBS volumes. He also highlights using software based RAID and the performance numbers with RAID are impressive. I am loving Amazon Ec2 more and more each day.

It has been a long time in the works but we are finally in a private beta for SpatialKey. This version has many more features and capabilities beyond our technology preview that was released in August of 2008 and provide a slick new ability to upload your own data.

Instead of me rambling on about what it does and doesn't do just check out the video!

Apply for the private beta if you are intersted in visualizing your own data.

September 8, 2008

Utah State Senator and Ogden City Police Chief blogs about Spatialkey and the power of bringing together relevant data sets from multiple places. Here is a small sampling of Chief Griener's posting.

"Not just any map - it's a combination map of satellite images, street map, and my geographically assigned patrol beat map in layers. The company (Universal Mind) has made it so user friendly that I can literally research and plot over 400,000 calls for service in the last 5 years in about 30 seconds. The system is web based so quickly analyzing What-Ifs can be accomplished anytime, anywhere, on any computer with an air card. You can begin to see how this would be valuable to me and my law enforcement team."

SpatialKey Law Enforcement continues to evolve and improve to provide cutting edge technology to the Law Enforcement community. It is exciting to be a part of great team with so much potential. Keep an eye on the SpatialKey blog for other important news around SpatialKey in general.

September 1, 2008

After leaving Adobe in November of 2007 I joined Universal Mind as the director of Technology. UM had been working on a product that was called LaunchPad. At that time LaunchPad was a proof of concept built for the San Francisco PD with basic heatmap capabilities and no server side architecture. Our goal was to pull together a team with GIS experience, data visualization and build a kick ass product based on LaunchPad. As a consulting organization it is a unique endeavor to go off and build a product that is not targeted toward any specific customer. With a small team and some part time resources we set out to build what is now known as SpatialKey. Over the last nine months I have had the pleasure of managing an amazing group of resources on the SpatialKey project. Initially we started with a very small team of Doug McCune and Ben Stucki. Anyone in the Flex community recognizes Doug and Ben as amazing Flex developers and it did not take me long to realize the same thing. I am amazed at the things they can do with Actionscript. In late December we hired Reggie Wilbanks. Reggie had worked in traditional GIS for a long time and brought us a lot of experience and quickly became a skilled AS3 and Flex developer. Andy Powell has also been a key resource while working with us part time in addition to customer facing projects. Zach Johnson joined our team in June straight out of University of Wisconsin with a masters in Cartography. Zach has great passion and skill for online mapping and data visualization and is a great writer as well. Behind the scenes Mike Connor has served as our product manager, Mike has been a great help to me in getting this product developed and shaping the Law Enforcement version. Tom Link has been the overall leader behind the project as Universal Mind's CTO. Thanks to Tom for bringing me to Universal Mind and giving me the great oppportunity to lead such an amazing team.

I am excited to finally introduce SpatialKey as a a next generation Information Visualization, Analysis and Reporting System. It is designed to help organizations quickly assess location based information critical to their organizational goals, decision making processes and reporting requirements. The technology preview allows you to use our visualization templates to look at sample datasets that we have collected over the last few months. A future release based on Adobe AIR will all users to import their own data and bring into the visualization templates to look at the data in multiple ways.

Why is it different?

Example view of SpatialKey

We've been seeing the same approach to web-based mapping for years now. It is pretty much all the same with just markers on a map. Little pin markers work fine if you're showing a few data points. If you are looking for the closest Star Bucks to your home you can pull up google, do a search and you see all of the Star Bucks within X miles of your home. Markers work great for that, but what if you wanted to see all of the StarBucks in the United States or play back the growth of Star Bucks as they grew from just a single coffee shop in Seattle to the thousands of locations around the country? Or only see the StarBucks built in the US during the 1990s? SpatialKey allows you to view thousands of points without the need of any server technology.

SpatialKey uses some of the most advanced visualization renderings for geospatial data that have ever been seen on the web. The focus here is on aggregate renderings: heatmaps, thematic grids, graduated circles. For large quantities of data you want to see density or sum total value. Piling a bunch of markers on top of each other ends up confusing users without a clear picture or story for the data. SpatialKey focuses on rendering aggregate data in meaningful ways. We can show a heatmap of the entire country or the entire world. and let you visualize any number of data fields. The technology preview is just using CSV files and loads them in at runtime, nothing is pre-rendered and you can intereact with the applications to filter the data and see updates within seconds. What you won't see (yet at least) is the same capability with a server implementation allowing you to do the same thing but with Millions of points. We are already doing this with our Law Enforcement version but could bring the same capability to other industries.

What can you do now?

Go check out our gallery pairing up our four visualization templates that launched with the Technology preview. We will be putting up videos in the near future to showcase the features and provide a walkthrough for each template. If you have a particular dataset that you think would be compelling to see use the contact us form to send us your information and we will be in touch to collect the data. Also sign up for the beta to be notified when the desktop application becomes available so that you can import and view your own data.


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