Frequently Asked Questions About MB-System
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
MB-System is a software package consisting of programs which manipulate, process, list, or display swath sonar bathymetry, amplitude, and sidescan data. This software is distributed freely (and for free) in the form of source code for Unix platforms. The heart of the system is an input/output library called MBIO which allows programs to work transparently with any of a number of supported swath sonar data formats. This approach has allowed the creation of "generic" utilities which can be applied in a uniform manner to sonar data from a variety of sources.
The source code is available via anonymous ftp for free.
The primary developers are David W. Caress of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and Dale N. Chayes of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (L-DEO) of Columbia University. Val Schmidt, an engineer at L-DEO, joined the MB-System team during 2002. Val, now a graduate student at the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire, has worked to develop polished MB-System documentation, particularly the MB-System Cookbook. See the home page for pictures and addresses.
The source code for MB-System is written in ANSI C and should be portable to all Unix platforms. MB-System has been successfully installed on PC's and Macintoshes running Linux, Macintoshes running MacOS X, Sun workstations running under SunOS4.1 and Solaris, Silicon Graphics (SGI) workstations running under IRIX, Hewlett Packard workstations, Dec Alpha workstations, and PC's running under the Lynx realtime operating system.
Click here for a list of supported sonars and data formats.
Some of the swath mapping data formats
supported by MB-System are documented on the main MB-System websites:
Click here for instructions on obtaining the MB-System source code distribution.
Click here for information on MB-System copyright and licensing.
Click here for information on other software required for an MB-System installation.
Click here for MB-System installation information.
Although we make no promises about how rapidly problems will be fixed, we strongly encourage users to notify us of bugs (and fixes!).
Problems should be reported by posts to the MB-System discussion list. You will have to subscribe to the list in order to post to it (one can always unsubscribe at any time). If you are unable to access the MB-System Discussion List, you can email both David W, Caress and Dale N. Chayes directly. However, due to our frequent travel, using the discussion list makes timely responses more likely.
In order to support a new data format, we will require a data format specification document and a data sample. We make no promises about how rapidly new formats can be supported. Format support requests by NSF-funded scientists are given priority.
We encourage users with data in unsupported formats to write the input/output modules themselves, and contribute the code to the MB-System project.
Incremental bug fixes and code changes often occur between the source code releases. These updates to individual source files are reflected in the source code archive, which can be accessed at:
Periodically, we construct full source code distributions and make them available on the ftp site:
These source code distributions consist of gzipped tarfiles with names of the form "MB-System5.3.1906.tar.gz", where 5.3 indicates the incrementing major and minor release id's, and the third number indicates the corresponding revision level in the source code archive.
Papers specifically about MB-System:
Caress, D. W., and D. N. Chayes, New software for processing sidescan data from sidescan-capable multibeam sonars, Proceedings of the IEEE Oceans 95 Conference, 997-1000, 1995.
Caress, D. W., and D. N. Chayes, Improved processing of Hydrosweep DS multibeam data on the R/V Maurice Ewing, Mar. Geophys. Res., 18, 631-650, 1996.
This paper on high-resolution autonomous mapping features some of the more recent MB-System capabilities:
Caress, D.W., H. Thomas, W. J. Kirkwood, R. McEwen, R. Henthorn, E. A. Clague, C. K. Paull, J. Paduan, and K. L. Maier, "High-Resolution Multibeam, Sidescan, and Subbottom Surveys Using the MBARI AUV D. Allan B.", Marine Habitat Mapping Technology for Alaska, J.R. Reynolds and H.G. Greene (eds.) Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks. doi:10.4027/mhmta.2008.04
References to the software distributions:
Click here for some notions regarding future MB-System development.
Remember when Y2K was a buzz word? MB-System became fully Y2K compliant as of the final release of version 4.6. Surprisingly, a number of data formats associated with current commercial products still use two digits to represent the year. MB-System treats two digit year values as being in the 1900's if the year value is greater than or equal to 62, and in the 2000's if the year value is less than 62. The use of 1962 derives from the invention of the multibeam sonar in that year - there are no digital swath mapping data available from an earlier time.
MB-System is primarily supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (Marine Geology and Geophysics program of the Ocean Sciences Division) to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (principal investigator David W. Caress) and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University (principal investigator Dale N. Chayes). The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, funded by the Packard Foundation, matches the NSF support for David W. Caress as part of its seafloor mapping program. Additional support also occasionally comes in the form of contract work for various government agencies and companies.
The seamount shown in illuminated color 3D perspective in the MB-System logo is the northern Urville Seamount (or Dumont d'Urville du Nord, as it appears on French charts). This seamount is located in the Marquesas Islands at 9 35'S, 139 47'W. It was surveyed in 1991 and 1992 using the Hydrosweep DS multibeam sonar on the R/V Maurice Ewing.
The development of MB-System began in 1990 as part of ongoing research at L-DEO involving swath bathymetry data collected with SeaBeam multibeam sonars. Development was accelerated in 1991 as part of the effort to support the STN-Atlas Hydrosweep DS multibeam sonar on L-DEO's ship, the R/V Maurice Ewing. The National Science Foundation provided support in 1993 and 1994 to improve and extend MB-System. The intent of this initial grant was to provide a standard "generic" set of tools for processing and display of swath sonar data that could be used by the U.S. academic community. The first generally released version of MB-System (3.0) was made available in the Spring of 1993. This was followed by versions 3.1 and 3.2 in July, 1993, version 3.3 in November, 1993, and version 3.4 in December 1993. All of these early releases supported only SeaBeam and Hydrosweep data.
SeaBeam Instruments and Antarctic Support Associates provided additional support in 1994 for the development of MB-System, with particular emphasis on capabilities related to the new SeaBeam 2100 series of sonars. A considerably enhanced MB-System version 4.0 was released on October 22, 1994; this release followed an almost complete rewrite of the underlying source code. The new capabilities included support for sidescan as well as bathymetry data and support for data from a number of very different sonars.
The National Science Foundation funded a five year effort begun in 1995 to maintain and further develop MB-System. From 1994 to 1997, SeaBeam Instruments (a major multibeam sonar manufacturer and, at the time, the principal employer of David W. Caress) provided significant support for MB-System development and maintenance. Similarly, the Newport, RI office of the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) supported some MB-System development during 1997-1998, when David W. Caress worked there. Version 4.1 was released in November, 1994, followed by 4.2 in February 1995, 4.3 on March 12, 1996, 4.4 on August 27, 1996, and 4.5 on September 23, 1997.
David W. Caress joined the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in September, 1998. Version 4.6 was released on April 16, 1999. The final update to version 4.6 (4.6.10) was announced on March 8, 2000. The primary innovations during this period included support for the new generation of Simrad multibeam sonars and tools for generating data products that could be imported directly into GIS software packages.
The National Science Foundation funded a second five year grant to MBARI and L-DEO which supported the MB-System project from 2001-2006. The version 5.0 release incorporated yet another substantial rewrite of the underlying code as well as providing significant new capabilities. The initial version 5.0 development took nearly three years. A first "beta" release was made on April 6, 2001, followed by thirty more beta releases, the last on April 29, 2003. Version 5.0.0 was finally released on December 5, 2003, and has been followed by eleven incremental updates (including 5.1.2) through December 2009.
The National Science Foundation funded a third five year grant to MBARI and L-DEO which is supporting the MB-System project from 2006-2011.
A number of people have made contributions to the code included in MB-System. These include:
Numerous users and vendors have provided information regarding data file formats and sonar system specific characteristics.
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