Allan Doyle on the MapServer Foundation

Link – MapServer Foundation – Picking up the pieces

“There was an initial flurry of “oh wow!” and “that’s interesting” messages followed by some more cautious voices and finally the unleashing of a bit of a backlash. That backlash is what Ed McNierney captured so well in his message. The initiative to form the foundation and to donate software to the foundation has the potential to go very, very wrong. Or it can be turned into something very, very good.”

For those not really familiar with what is happening with the formation of the MapServer Foundation, you should really read up on Allan’s post and some of the links he provided in it. There are some really smart people on the MapServer foundation so I can only assume in the end this will help the community, but exclusion can kill a community project. Hopefully this won’t happen here.

The MapServer Foundation

Link – MapServer Community, Autodesk Announce MapServer Foundation

I wasn’t really going to comment on the formation of the MapServer Foundation until I had some time to think about it but since I’ve been getting IMs and emails about it all day I figure I’ll put some things down in a post. First if you haven’t read up on it, click on the link above to Adena’s article which is about the deepest I’ve read so far on the news.

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know much about the goings on with MapServer, but I will say these “foundations” seem to be very popular these days to grow open source software. As for Autodesk? I’ve been a huge fan of MapGuide in the past, but the lack of development in it has pretty much killed it and if MapServer Enterprise allows them to offer product in the marketplace, then so be it. I’m hopeful that this should allow some trickle down into MapServer Cheetah (hmm, not sure about that name), but we’ll have to see how this works out in practice. The fear is that this won’t be too much of a two way street as many of the “enterprise” features will be of no use in the standard MapServer effort, but I’m sure many of the features created in Cheetah will eventually be incorporated into Enterprise. Forks are never good for software, but if managed well this should help grow MapServer. Then again part of the allure of MapServer was its community feel and if that is lost in this transition, it could affect the future growth of the product. Sean has some thoughts about this and I’m sure there are many like him out there questioning the future of MapServer.

Of course there are also many who have said MapServer can only grow if it leaves UMN behind and becomes its own entity. To have such a large and influential company such as Autodesk feel that they can base their next generation web mapping tool on an open source product says volumes to the work everyone on the MapServer project has done in the past. If Autodesk can grow the marketplace for MapServer without alienating many of those who built their businesses around implementing MapServer, it could be a win/win for all. I’m not sure of Autodesk’s experience with open source communities, but hopefully they have learned from others mistakes.

Most of the posts so far on Planet Geospatial I’ve seen on the subject are positive, but there are some lingering questions many have brought up. Hopefully in time they will be answered. Personally I can think of two instances where we proposed using MapServer, but were turned down because MapServer was OSS and wasn’t an approved vendor. I know for a fact both those times AutoCad was on site so I can only assume MapServer Enterprise would have gotten a better reception. Maybe that bodes well for all involved.

Can someone explain to me how this is a patent?

Link – StrataVarious Patent #6,307,573

“A novel display control and information management system seamlessly integrates layered and slotted formatted data from both local and remote sources to provide a highly versatile information display. The system permits selective control of display so that complex data and data flows can be seamlessly accessed with enhanced cognition of salient information by the User.”

We’ve all been doing this for years with GIS, so how can this company get a patent on this stuff? I never considered the work I’ve done in web based GIS “novel”, but maybe that is why I never thought to get a patent on it. I suspect we’ll start seeing the patent wars enter the GIS world over the next year as companies begin to discover the power of GIS. Maybe ESRI should have been getting some patents over the years to protect themselves. Is anyone else a little worried about patents being issued for prior work in GIS?

Where do I send the royalty payments to StrataVarious for my applications?

SWF vs PNG in ArcWeb Public Services

I’ve been playing around with ArcWeb Public Services and the different formats that can be returned (svg, swf, jpg, or png). SWF is the default image format of the map, but how does it compare to png? Take a look below at the same map returned as both swf and png.

ArcWeb Services SWF Image

ArcWeb Services SWF Image

ArcWeb Services PNG Image

ArcWeb Services PNG Image

Besides the smoothness of the swf image, the acetate point label has a nice background on it compared to the PNG image which just places the text on the map.

ArcView 3.x to Google Earth

Link – Do Google Earth

Displays shape data on top of Google Earth:

  • Launches Google Earth from Arcview
  • Displays selected features of active theme
  • If no features are selected, all those in the active view are shown

Sigh, I wish I still had Arcview 3.2a installed or I would give this a try. I’ve got the CD around here somewhere, so maybe I should just give it a shot. Good to see people still using Avenue. 🙂

There is such simplicity to an Avenue script that makes you really miss the days of Arcview 3.x programming.

There are other ArcView 3.x scripts to export to KML such as Shape 2 KML.

ArcWeb Public Services REST support

When I visited ESRI a couple weeks ago I was told there wouldn’t be as much REST documentation as SOAP and that made sense to me at the time as using SOAP was pretty much the only way to take advantage of ArcWeb in the past. Still after playing with REST and ArcWeb this weekend, I’m a little disappointed at the documentation. Hopefully this will improve as ArcWeb 2006 gets rolled out more, but if I was starting out with ArcWeb 2006 I’m sure I would be confused to how it all works. Of course one could visit the ArcWeb REST forums on ESRI’s support site, but I doubt many programmers would bother as Google Search is how most of us get our information.

That said, I’m really impressed with the changes in ArcWeb 2006 over the older v2 version. The map quality around the world is much better than Google’s (at least where I tried).

Update – I got an email from a reader who wants to know what I’d expect from ESRI as far as REST documentation. Well I don’t think one has to go as far as Google did with theirs, but I’d like that after you sign up for ArcWeb Public Services you’d get code that could make a simple map with map controls to zoom/pan much like Google does. That would give anyone the opportunity to make a map and post it on a webpage. The simple example from Google is here, just a cut and paste “Hello World” application which creates this map. ESRI’s default example isn’t that easy due to how one has to request the token.

Getting Used to SWF in Public ArcWeb Services

I’ve been playing around with Public ArcWeb Services and it seems that I know very little of how Flash works because I didn’t have a clue that a SWF file would resize to the browser window no matter what I told AWS to return the image size (a 250×200 pixel swf).


Actually, my respect for SWF as a web mapping format grows each time I use it. After using SOAP with AWS in version 2, I love the simplicity of REST.

KML Home Companion 3

Link – KML Home Companion 3.0.4

KML Home Companion is out of beta and has some bug fixes. Eveyone will probably want to download the latest version. KML Home Companion has really come together as a great tool to get your GIS datasets out of ArcGIS and into Google Earth.

Fixes in 3.0.4

Fixed points with categories – first point was being dropped
Tessellate works correctly – tag was misspelled

Fixes in 3.0.3

Fixed polygon fill with categories – first polygon was being dropped

Fixes in 3.0.2

Polygons can have “holes” – innerBoundaryIs tag now implemented
Fixed polygon extrusion

New Features in 3.0

Can create single or multiple placemarks for a layer
Allows either a default color or the ArcMap layer symbology
Error checking for geometry types
Transparency is displayed as a percentage instead of a Hex number
Refresh button for layer listing
Easier method of selecting output directory