Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Data and Images

Seafloor Mapping Software:
Processing and Display
of Swath Sonar Data
David W. Caress (1) and Dale N. Chayes (2)
1. Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
2. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
of Columbia University


Introduction
MB-System is an open source software package for the processing and display of bathymetry and backscatter imagery data derived from multibeam, interferometry, and sidescan sonars. The source code for MB-System is freely available (for free) by anonymous ftp (including "point and click" access through these web pages). A complete description is provided in web pages accessed through links below.

MB-System was originally developed at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University (L-DEO) and is now a collaborative effort between the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and L-DEO. The National Science Foundation has provided the primary support for MB-System development since 1993. The Packard Foundation has provided significant support through MBARI since 1998. Additional support has derived from SeaBeam Instruments (1994-1997), NOAA (2002-2004), and others.


Current Distribution Release Status

Latest Release: 5.4.2209 (4 November 2014)


Recent Announcements
  • MB-System 5.4.2209 Now Available (4 November 2014)
    • This is now the current release of MB-System.
    • For more information read the MB-System 5.4.2209 ChangeLog file.
    • The MB-System 5.4.2209 source distribution is available for download.
    • The MB-System Subversion source code archive can also be accessed directly. The third number in the release identifier indicates the corresponding revision level in the archive. Users can, if desired, export old releases from the archive using this number.
  • MB-System fbt file format documentation examples improved (23 July 2014)
    • Documentation of the file format used for "fast bathymetry" or fbt files in MB-System has been improved with the incorporation of C source code for a working program to read fbt files.
    • The updated documentation and source code example can be found here.
    • The sample source code is licensed under the Lesser GNU Public license, or LGPL and so can be used in the integration of a third-party, commercial bathymetry editor with MB-System
    • li>
    • This format is also known as MBF_MBLDEOIH, or format 71.
  • MB-System Developer's Discussion List (17 April 2014)
    • For several years we have used the MB-System Discussion List as the primary means for communication within the MB-System community.
    • We have recently begun using a separate but similar email list for discussions regarding MB-System development, leaving the original list for all other sorts of discussions.
    • Effectively, we now have two lists:
    • Both lists require membership for posting, and have publically viewable message archives.
    • If you want to follow everything that is happening with MB-System, subscribe to both lists. If you don't want to see lengthy threads on coding details, just subscribe to the MB-System User's Discussion List.
  • MB-System Packaged for HomeBrew on Mac OS X (16 April 2014)
    • MB-System has been packaged for MacOs X as part of Homebrew.
    • If you have Homebrew installed, then MB-System and its prerequisites can be installed using these two commands:
      brew tap homebrew/science
      brew install mbsystem
    • Thanks to Anthony Lukach for creating and maintaining the Homebrew MB-System package.


Not So Recent Announcements
  • MB-System NSF Proposal Funded (August 7, 2013)
    • The Marine Geology and Geophysics Program of the NSF has approved our request for another five years of funding for MB-System development and support.
    • We thank all of the MB-System users who provided letters of collaboration or support for this proposal. Your time and effort are appreciated!!
    • We also thank our NSF program manager Donna Blackman for shepharding this project through the system at a very difficult time.
    • The proposal can be read here
    • Our proposal was mostly funded intact. Requested effort to develop and maintain the software are fully funded. The documentation effort was cut by 25%, and funds to support annual workshops were also cut.
  • New Release of OSGeo-Live (including MB-System) (26 February 2013)
    • OSGeo-Live Version 6.5 was released on February 26, 2013.
    • OSGeo-Live is a self-contained bootable DVD, USB thumb drive or Virtual Machine based on Xubuntu, that allows you to try a wide variety of open source geospatial software without installing anything.
    • This distribution includes over 50 open source geospatial software packages, including MB-System 5.3.1982.
    • Hamish Bowman is responsible for packaging and including MB-System into OSGeo-Live.
    • The distribution is found at: http://live.osgeo.org/
    • The MB-System quickstart description is at: http://live.osgeo.org/en/overview/mb-system_overview.html
  • MB-System Reviewed in LIDAR Magazine (6 January 2013)
  • MB-System Proposal Status (January 6, 2013)
    • Our program manager at the Marine Geology and Geophysics Program, Ocean Sciences Division, U.S. National Science Foundation has indicated that the MB-System renewal proposal reviewed well and is on the list of projects that are high priority for funding.
    • However, no funding decisions will be made until the 2013 and 2014 NSF budgets are settled, a process that may very well take another few months.
  • MB-System Proposal Submitted (August 15, 2012)
    • On August 15, 2012, we submitted a proposal to the Marine Geology and Geophysics Program, Ocean Sciences Division, U.S. National Science Foundation requesting a five-year renewal of funding for MB-System support and development.
    • This was structured as two linked, collaborative proposals from MBARI (Principle Investigator David Caress) and Lamont-Doherty (Principle Investigator Dale Chayes).
    • The proposal title is: "Collaborative Research: Development and Support of the MB-System Software Package for Processing and Display of Swath Mapping Sonar Data".
    • The proposal text is here: 2012 MB-System NSF Proposal
    • Supplementary information supporting the proposal is here: Supplementary Information for the 2012 MB-System NSF Proposal., and includes:
      • Collaboration letters.
      • MB-System user community size estimate.
      • Publications citing MB-System
  • Estimate of the MB-System User Community Size (August 15, 2012)
    • For a variety of reasons, we need to document the existence of a significant MB-System user community.
    • In February we estimated the number of organizations using MB-System during 2011 through a combination of Discussion List membership and source distribution download statistics.
    • As part of resubmitting our NSF proposal, we have updated our estimate using current Discussion List membership.
    • We currently identify 197 user organizations, including 41 academic institutions in the U.S. and 68 elsewhere in the world, 11 U.S. government agencies and 40 government agencies in other countries, and 37 commercial organizations.
    • The details are here: MB-System User Community Estimate from Downloads.
  • MB-System fbt file format (and documentation thereof...) changed (16 May 2012)
    • As of release 5.3.1955, the file format used for "fast bathymetry" or fbt files in MB-System has changed.
    • In particular, the navigation, sonar depth, and related parameters are now stored as binary double rather than scaled binary short integer values, with the result that cm-scale surveys can now be usefully processed with MB-System.
    • This format is also known as MBF_MBLDEOIH, or format 71.
    • Documentation of both the new and old format, along with directions and source code to enable the integration of a third-party bathymetry editor with MB-System, can be found in this updated document.
  • MB-System on Facebook (February 29, 2012)
    • On February 9, Christian Ferreira established an MB-System page on Facebook.
    • As of leap day, 35 Facebook users "like" this page.
  • MB-System Planning Meeting (February 10, 2012)
    • On January 17-18, 2012, we held an MB-System Planning Meeting at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory to develop the priorities for our NSF proposal (to be submitted on February 15, 2012.
    • This was a small meeting involving the core MB-System development team, users that have substantially contributed to the project in recent years, and representatives of organizations that have expressed interest in parallel development efforts contributing to MB-System
    • The goals were to:
      1. Define priorities and tasks for the next five year MB-System project to be proposed to NSF-OCE in February by Caress and Chayes.
      2. Define priorities and tasks for MB-System related development efforts by other groups.
    • The details are here: Notes of and results from the MB-System planning meeting.
  • HYSWEEP HSX Format Support Funded by Ocean Floor Geophysics (10 January 2012)
    • Ocean Floor Geophysics of Vancouver, Canada, has funded the development of an MB-System i/o module for multibeam data in the HYSWEEP HSX format.
    • This capability is available beginning with the 5.3.1917 release distribution. HYSWEEP HSX has an MBIO format id of 201.
    • Also included is a new preprocessing utility for data in the HSX format, named mbhysweeppreprocess.
    • At this time, the new code has only been tested with respect to data collected using the combination of an R2Sonic multibeam and an Octans gyro/MRU. There will undoubtably be fixes and future development required to successfully support HSX data generally.
  • MB-System, GMT, and netCDF RPM Distributions Available from Scripps (December 1, 2010)
    • The Scripps Institution of Oceanography's Shipboard Technical Support group maintains a repository of open source software RPM distributions for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and CentOS Linux.
    • This repository includes both source and binary distributions of MB-System, GMT, and netCDF that can be accessed using the yum utility. The MB-System RPMs require the GMT and netCDF RPMs, but have no other external dependencies.
    • Thanks to Frank Delahoyde for pointing us at these repositories.
    • This repository can be found at:
    • The SIO-STS gpg signing key is
  • MB-System Code Repository Now Publically Accessible (January 7, 2010)
    • The MB-System source code repository is now publically accessible through a web interface.
    • Users can download individual files or the entire MB-System development structure.
    • This repository always reflects the current state of MB-System development.
  • Update to Integrating Third-Party Bathymetry Editors with MB-System (December 31, 2009)
    • This updated document addresses the issue of integrating a third-party, proprietary source bathymetry editor with the GPL-licensed MB-System processing environment.
    • In particular, the edit event definition and related source code have been augmented to handle data from multiple head sonars that produce multiple pings with identical timestamps.
    • For the most part, integration of a bathymetry editor with MB-System can be accomplished using executable programs that are part of the MB-System distribution, and therefore freely available to be installed by users independent of any proprietary software.
    • However, we also include some code derived from the MB-System distribution that we will separately release under the Lessor GNU Public License (LGPL), allowing those functions to be linked with proprietary software.
  • Directions for Installing GMT and MB-System on Ubuntu (June 14, 2009)
    • On April 18, 2009, Marcel Croon posted instructions for installing GMT and MB-System on Ubuntu systems to the MB-System Discussion List.
    • A slightly edited version of these instructions are available here.
    • Thanks Marcel!
  • MB-System Packaged for MacOS X and Poseidon Linux (December 31, 2008)
    • This isn't really new, but we haven't previously highlighted these efforts to package MB-System for easy installation.
    • Since 2004, Kurt Schwehr of CCOM/JHC has maintained a Fink Project MB-System package for MacOs X. Users must specify use of "unstable" packages to make the MB-System package available.
    • Since July 2008, MB-System has been included in Poseidon Linux, the "Scientific GNU/Linux". Poseidon is an Ubuntu Linux based distribution including a selection of open source software packages intended to support scientific research. In particular, it offers several specific tools in the areas of GIS, 3D Visualization, Mathematics, Statistics and several other fields of research.
  • MB-System Discussion List has changed (May 16, 2008)
    • As of May 11, MBARI changed the list server hardware and software that hosts the MB-System Disccussion List
    • The MB-System Discussion List URL has changed to http://listserver.mbari.org/sympa/info/mbsystem
    • Anyone can read the list archives. Click on "Archives" in the web interface linked above.
    • Only members can post to the list. Join the list via the web interface linked above.
    • List members can post via the web interface or by emailing to mbsystem@mbari.org
  • MB-System Beta Distributions Now Linked in Web Pages (May 16, 2008)
    • Beta Distributions of MB-System are generated much more frequently than "official" releases, mostly because we have difficulty keeping the documentation concurrent with the code development.
    • The sections of these web pages relating to downloads now note that beta distributions are frequently updated, and include a link to the most recent beta distribution.
    • Version 5.1.1 will be released as soon as reasonable documentation is completed for the new tools mbgrdviz and mbeditviz.
  • MB-System NSF Proposal Funded (July 26, 2006)
    • The Marine Geology and Geophysics Program of the NSF has approved our request for another five years of funding for MB-System development and support.
    • We thank all of the MB-System users who provided letters of support for inclusion in this proposal. Your time and effort are appreciated!!
    • The proposal can be read here

  • Update to MB-System Cookbook Now Available (January 14, 2006)
    • We are developing an MB-System Cookbook to provide tutorial style documentation for MB-System Version 5. An updated draft of this cookbook by Val Schmidt, Dale Chayes, and David Caress is being made available here along with the data samples used to illustrate the use of our software (see links below).

  • First Visualization-Aided MB-System Tool Released (February 20, 2005)
    • MB-System version 6 is already under development. Our intent is to embed a 3D vizualization capability into tools used for tasks such as project management, bathymetry editing, and patch tests. The first tool using this capability is part of the 5.0.6 release. This program is called MBgrdviz, and allows simple 2D and 3D vizualization of GMT grids. Some screen dumps are available here.
  • Integrating Third-Party Bathymetry Editors with MB-System (October 6, 2004)
    • This document addresses the issue of integrating a third-party bathymetry editor with the MB-System processing environment.
    • Since some editors may have licensing and distribution schemes (e.g. commercial with source held proprietary) that are inconsistent with the GNU Public License (GPL) applied to MB-System, the suggestions presented here do not involve direct use of GPL licensed MB-System source code.
    • For the most part, this can be accomplished using executable programs that are part of the MB-System distribution, and therefore freely available to be installed (but not sold) by third parties.
    • However, we also include some code derived from the MB-System distribution that we will separately release under the Lessor GNU Public License (LGPL), allowing those functions to be linked with commercial software.
  • Draft MB-System Cookbook Now Available (December 5, 2003)
    • We are developing an MB-System Cookbook to provide tutorial style documentation for MB-System Version 5. A preliminary (incomplete) draft of this cookbook by Val Schmidt, Dale Chayes, and David Caress is being made available here along with the data samples used to illustrate the use of our software (see links below).

  • New MB-System Discussion Email List Established (December 5, 2003)
    • We have established an MB-System discussion email list to facillitate communication among MB-System developers and users see links below (see links below).

  • SURF format API released under GPL by ATLAS Hydrographics GmbH (October 18, 2001)
    • ATLAS Hydrographics GmbH of Bremen, Germany, has released the source code used to read and write swath mapping sonar data in the SURF format as open source under the GNU Public License (GPL).
    • ATLAS markets a number of widely used multibeam sonars, including the Fansweep 15 and Fansweep 20 multibeams for shallow water surveying and the Hydrosweep MD-2 and Hydrosweep DS-2 multibeams for mid- to deep-water surveying.
    • The ATLAS HYDROMAP processing package stores Fansweep and Hydrosweep data in the SURF format. A large amount of seafloor mapping data worldwide is archived in this format.
    • We will be adding support for the SURF format in MB-System soon (as time and resources allow).
  • MB-System NSF Proposal Funded(April 6, 2001)
    • The Marine Geology and Geophysics Program of the NSF has approved our request for another five years of funding for MB-System development and support.
    • We thank all of the MB-System users who provided letters of support for inclusion in this proposal. Your time and effort are appreciated!!
    • We also thank Dr. David Epp, our NSF Program Manager, and the mail reviewers and panel members who reviewed our latest proposal.


Caution
MB-System is under active development and is updated periodically. This (usually) results in improved performance and additional capabilities, but often means that the documentation (including these web pages) lag somewhat behind the actual software. Please bear with us and send your comments and suggestions.


Download MB-System Releases
Complete documentation about downloading and installing MB-System is available at:
The MB-System source code distribution and related files, including data samples, are available by anonymous ftp to
Click here to download (by ftp) the most recent MB-System source code release.

MB-System is included in Poseidon Linux, the "Scientific GNU/Linux". Poseidon is an Ubuntu Linux based distribution including a selection of open source software packages intended to support scientific research. In particular, it offers several specific tools in the areas of GIS, 3D Visualization, Mathematics, Statistics and several other fields of research.

MB-System has been packaged for MacOS X as part of the Fink Project. The MB-System Fink package can be found at:

http://pdb.finkproject.org/pdb/package.php/mbsystem

MB-System has also been packaged for MacOs X as part of Homebrew. If you have Homebrew installed, then MB-System and its prerequisites can be installed using these two commands:

brew tap homebrew/science
brew install mbsystem

The OSGeo-Live distribution includes MB-System. OSGeo-Live is a self-contained bootable DVD, USB thumb drive or Virtual Machine based on Xubuntu that includes a wide variety of open source geospatial software.

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography's Shipboard Technical Support group maintains a repository of open source software RPM distributions for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and CentOS Linux. This repository includes both source and binary distributions of MB-System, GMT, and netCDF that can be accessed using the yum utility. The MB-System RPMs require the GMT and netCDF RPMs, but have no other external dependencies. This repository can be found at:

The SIO-STS gpg signing key is

Thanks to Christian Ferreira for creating and distributing Poseidon Linux, to Kurt Schwehr for maintaing the Fink MB-System package, to Anthony Lukach for maintaining the Homebrew MB-System package, to Hamish Bowman for maintaining the OSGeo-Live MB-System package, and to Frank Delahoyde for maintaining the CentOS MB-System RPM distribution.


Access MB-System Source Version Control System
The MB-System source code is archived and managed using Subversion, an open source version control system. The MB-System and MB-Cookbook Subversion repositories can be browsed through a web interface at:
http://svn.mb-system.org/
 
The MB-System repository is at:
http://svn.mb-system.org/listing.php?repname=MB-System
The entire repository, or individual files, can be downloaded through this web interface. Clicking the the link above to bring up the WebSVN interface showing the most recent revision to the MB-System code base, along with a list of paths including "branches", "tags", and "trunk". To download the entire code base, click on the "Download" link to the right of "trunk". To browse the structure and download individual files, click on the "trunk" link. Users can build MB-System using this downloaded code base, but should note that the repository stores a number of files that are not included in the MB-System distributions.

Documentation
The complete web page documentation distributed with MB-System can be accessed here:

Current Release:


The MB-System Cookbook tutorial documentation by Val Schmidt, Dale N. Chayes, and David W. Caress is available both as web pages and as a downloadable pdf document:

A document providing guidance for integrating a third-party bathymetry editor with the MB-System processing environment can be accessed here:


A document providing guidance for supporting new data formats in MB-System can be accessed here:

A few swath data format specifications made available to us can be viewed here:

Documents concerning how mapping sonars work can be viewed here:



MB-System User's and Developer's Discussion Lists
We maintain two MB-System email discussion lists to facillitate communication among MB-System users and developers.
The MB-System User's Discussion List is intended for questions about how to use MB-System, for discussions of bugs and other problems, and for suggestions about improving the software. We encourage users with questions and/or problems to use this list rather than emailing the developers directly. One must subscribe to the list in order to post messages, but the message archive is publically viewable and searchable over a web interface. The maximum message size in this list is 100K.

The web interface to the MB-System User's Discussion List is at:

http://listserver.mbari.org/sympa/info/mbsystem

To subscribe to the MB-System User's Discussion List go to:

http://listserver.mbari.org/sympa/subscribe/mbsystem

To read the MB-System User's Discussion List archives go to:

http://listserver.mbari.org/sympa/arc/mbsystem

The MB-System Developer's Discussion List is intended for detailed discussions amongst the active MB-System developers. All are welcome to join the developer's list, but be warned that topics may not be of general interest. One must subscribe to the list in order to post messages, but the message archive is publically viewable and searchable over a web interface. The maximum message size in this list is 100K.

The web interface to the MB-System Developer's Discussion List is at:

http://listserver.mbari.org/sympa/info/mbsystem-dev

To subscribe to the MB-System Developer's Discussion List go to:

http://listserver.mbari.org/sympa/subscribe/mbsystem-dev

To read the MB-System Developer's Discussion List archives go to:

http://listserver.mbari.org/sympa/arc/mbsystem-dev


MB-System Announcement List
We maintain another low traffic list of email addresses which is used solely for providing notification of major updates. If you would like to be notified when new releases are available, but do not wish to join the discussion list described above, please send an email message to:
    majordomo@ldeo.columbia.edu
with a single line in the body of the message that says:
    subscribe mbsystem-l
to be automatically added to the announcement list.


Last Updated: 4 November 2014