Friday, December 27, 2013

Google’s weird support for KML

KML is a standard XML format used to describe geographic data. It’s been owned by Google ever since they bought the company who originally developed Google Earth. So you’d think they’d have great support for KML in their products, right? I thought so as well until the other day when I was asked about a problem with some of the KML from my site. So here’s a summary of how different Google products cope with KML.

Google Earth – As you’d expect, Google Earth has full support for KML

Google Maps Javascript API – Using the KmlLayer class, it’s possible to load up KML files from anywhere on the web. There are some limitations on file sizes and not all of the features of the KML file format are supported, but for simple points and polygons it works perfectly well.

Of course, not everyone is a programmer, so using the Javascript API is not really an option for a lot of people. Unfortunately this is where things get messier…

Custom Maps (Maps Engine) – If you try to create a custom map in the new Google Maps, importing from KML is not even an option (the user interface says ‘Google Engine Lite’, so maybe if you pay some money to Google you’ll be able to import KML), which means you have to switch back to…

Custom Maps (Classic) – This claims to support importing KML. My experiments suggests it copes with KML files containing points (up to a fairly small maximum size), but I couldn’t get it working with files containing polygons.

Fusion Tables – Hidden in a corner of the web, is Google Fusion Tables. Basically it’s a spreadsheet with maps and has always seemed like a cool piece of technology but it hasn’t been pushed by Google much. But it seems Fusion’s support for KML is much better than either of the Custom Maps options. Points and polygons worked for me.

What I find weird is that all the web based technologies above are produced by a single company and all do pretty much the same thing, take a KML file and display it on a map, and yet they all clearly use completely different code. Maybe it’s time for some consolidation there?

Bing Maps – If none of the Google options work for you, maybe Bing Maps will do the trick. Points and polygons seem to work, with a couple of restrictions. There’s a fairly low limit on the maximum file size and the Import button only seems available in Internet Explorer.

No doubt there are other options, so let me know if you find any better alternatives.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Land Registry sales data back to 1995 and a new server

After much fighting with my old server trying to import the 18 million property sales from 1995 to today, I decided it was time to upgrade the server. I’ve now got 4 times as much memory, twice as many CPU cores and I’ve successfully imported all the Land Registry data. I’ve flicked the switch to point to the new server and so far everything is looking good. Let me know if you see any problems or have any performance problems. Also let me know if you’d like the property sales data sliced and diced in any other ways.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Handler "PHP55_via_FastCGI" has a bad module "FastCgiModule" in its module list

Trying to get a PHP app working on Windows Server 2012, I got the following error message

“HTTP Error 500.21 - Internal Server Error

Handler "PHP55_via_FastCGI" has a bad module "FastCgiModule" in its module list”

I’d installed PHP via the IIS Web Installer but had failed to do one more thing, enable CGI in ‘Add Roles and Features’ in Server Manager, under Web server (IIS)/Web Server/Application Development. After enabling that, everything sprang to life

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Land Registry destroyed my database

I started to import all the Land Registry data back to 1995 into, which was taking a looooong time. So I tried a little optimisation which involved clearing out some of the data I had already imported. Unfortunately that corrupted my database, which meant I had to drop my property sales table and start again from scratch.

So the property sales data on the site has less information than it did, but hopefully it should all be back online in the next few days. 

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Kingston Council optimise their revenue capturing techniques

Not content with having one of the highest council taxes in the UK…*

Local authority 2013-14 Average Band D (excluding Parish Precepts) 
Gateshead 1,443.20
Rutland UA 1,430.51
Hartlepool UA 1,418.70   
Walsall    1,410.26   
Nottingham UA 1,404.42   
Stockport    1,397.05   
Oldham    1,392.95   
Kingston-upon-Thames 1,379.65

Not content with charging us £80 a year to park on a street somewhere near our house…

Kingston Council have made some more changes. Now not only can we not park on our own street most of the day, we can’t load there either. Practically I’m not sure how this is meant to work. How are we ever meant to get something delivered? How are older residents meant to get picked up from their house? But not happy with this change, the council have also introduced a parking enforcement smart car that roams the streets trying to catch any parking offenders. This was a big money spinner for Sutton council and I guess it will be the same for Kingston. Last Saturday I was caught unloading my car by this roaming enforcer. Unlike traffic wardens, it’s impossible to have any kind of rational discussion with them since they drive off as soon as they’ve got their photographic evidence.

So what to do? Well Kingston Council maybe behaving like the Goldman Sachs vampire squid, but fortunately there are local elections coming up soon. Frankly anyone who stands in that election who will stand up for residents’ interests will get my vote. Which pretty much excludes any of the three main parties…

And maybe another option is just to not play the game anymore. Get rid of the car, try to reduce my income to a level where I no longer have to pay the full council tax. Or just move somewhere with a more sensible level of council taxation.

Update – I appealed against the ticket since there were no markings on the pavement to show loading and unloading was restricted, and my appeal was accepted. I’m happier, but still not satisfied with the council’s tactics.

*Just look at the original document I pulled this data from to see the dramatic difference in council tax levels, can anyone explain these vast differences?