Google’s KML Search

I’ve not really written anything up on Google’s KML Search because it really is irrelevant to me. One still can’t install Google Earth in corporate settings without paying for pro so why would I bother since none of my clients can install it (can you imagine if Adobe had such a restriction on Acrobat Reader when it started up?).

Anyway I’ve read what Directions Magazine and Ogle Earth has posted in regards to the new “service”, but Allan Doyle hit it on the head with is post, “Google’s KML Search – SDI or not?”.

Google paid for the development of KML. Google pays for the crawlers. Google pays for the servers that hold the data and respond to your search.

It’s also open. Anyone else can crawl for KML files. Anyone else can parse them, and anyone else can offer a search service for them.

But, until they do, the only way to geographically query KML is via Google Earth.

To me that’s not an SDI.

Look, I’m not saying this kind of search isn’t needed and probably there isn’t anyone other than Google that could pull it off, but limiting it to KML and not fixing the licensing issues with Google Earth just leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Get out your Google Lube

ESRI’s Support Answer Tree

Jithen notes that ESRI now has new online support tool.

The ESRI Support AnswerTree (BETA) is a now available to help you resolve many common problems encountered when attempting to license or register ArcGIS Desktop products and extensions. Note that this requires Adobe Flash 9.

I have to disagree greatly with him though:

I like the fact that it’s build in flash! Something different from most of the other ESRI sites.

Flash has no business being involved with support sites. It is hard enough to link to ESRI support documents. Granted fighting through the flash interface you can get to a document link, but I have to ask why they bothered with flash in the first place. They should have stuck to simple ajax interface and not require users to install Flash 9 to use it. Why companies put roadblocks in front of their users trying to get support just baffles me to no end.

Help has no place when Flash is in control

Being held at the mercy of Flash

Planet GS down, but there is good news

Yes you can see, the PHP lite Planet GS has finally crashed. The view is not pretty.

The good news is that the new/old Planet GS built on Python is just about ready to go. I’ve got the DNS to change over so as soon as that takes, we’ll be back to having a working Planet Geospatial.

Using online mapping while trying to find a dream house

I had a problem. I sold my house about a month ago (which is good in this market) but hadn’t found a place to buy. Taking the raw MLS results and using online mapping tools to see relationships between houses/schools/roads/airports/railroads/etc is harder than it should be.

First off I figured I’d just do it all in Google Earth and KML. This lasted about a day as Google’s (and Microsoft too) geocoding is less than desired in the area’s of Tempe I was looking at (at times hundreds of yards off). So I ended up using a couple of tools to research the locations before visiting on the ground (with 45,000 homes for sale in Maricopa County, you need to eliminate choices before visiting them).

First off the MLS site that my real estate agent uses is pretty good. I’ve not been able to figure out the company that makes the site, but Steve’s site runs on HomeQuest which is visually a cross between Mapquest and Google Maps. It has a quick AJAX interface that makes it easy to see the general location of a property and the neighborhood it is in (the neighborhood boundaries were very helpful).

The problem is you can’t tell what side of the road it is on and it doesn’t have aerial imagery. Putting the address into Google Maps gives you a nice overview of the house. The problem is that it makes it hard to share multiple locations (pasting 10 permalinks in an email is a non-starter). I tried to work with KML, but that was just an extra step I didn’t want. but it still doesn’t give you a feeling of the location of the house that you’d like before you spend an afternoon there only to see it is next to a Walmart. The work around for me was to use Zillow. Zillow has a much better address search and you can see the parcels to get a better understanding of the particular house.

Now the Zillow aerial is not as nice as Google’s, but they do have the Bird’s Eye view so I decided to click on that.

Sorry, we do not have images available for this location, but check out our Bird’s Eye View of Famous Homes.

OK so that doesn’t work. I know Microsoft Virtual Earth has Bird’s Eye View for Tempe, so off to another site. As I said above, Virtual Earth and Google are both off a little bit on the geocoding (not a big deal for directions, but important when looking at a house) so I used Zillow to pinpoint the house and pan the Bird’s Eye View.

So I can see the yard, the neighbors, the big road in the backyard, the railroad now the street and the power plant 1/4mile away (all without having to visit). The best part about Virtual Earth was that I could add multiple listings to my scratch pad and then share that with my wife, her mom (very important) and friends. KML would have been too much of a hassle and it doesn’t offer the Bird’s Eye View that is so valuable.

Now if Zillow had updated their Bird’s Eye since the first introduced it, I might have never bothered with Virtual Earth, but the Zillow/VE combo was just killer in finding the house I wanted in the location I wanted. I figured I’d be using Google Earth for this exercise, but Virtual Earth’s scratch pad is so valuable with sharing multiple points of interest that I never even bothered with Google’s products.

What about Realtor.com and ESRI’s ArcWeb interface? Well Realtor.com was very slow. Even getting to the map took WAY TOO MANY CLICKS and I’d just give up. The map was nice, but it too was stuck in that horrible slow interface. Compared the my realtor’s site and the Zillow/VE combo it was just too much of a pain to deal with.

So I found my house and I close end of March. The only problem is I have to live in an apartment for that time between February 14th (when I close on my current house) and March 28th when I close on the new house. I can’t wait for the fun that will be. 😉 At least that will give me time to fix Planet Geospatial (yea I’m a bad person for letting that fall apart) and build a 3D model of my new house in SketchUp.

Calling All Terrain Model Experts!

The Army Corps of Engineers is in need of some help. They are looking for any models that will make their terrain analysis process easier.

As some of you know, I’ve recently gotten this job working for CTIS (Combat Terrain Information Systems) to test and integrate all of the latest and greatest COTS software into the DTSS (Digital Topographic Support System) systems. In doing so, I’m working to put as many tools into the newest build of the DTSS as possible. I wanted to email you all and see if any of you have “tried and true” ESRI ArcGIS models or XML files created or acquired that CTIS could integrate into the DTSS system. I know there are a lot of “hundred pound brains” out there that have created models and are using them in their units with much success. It is our, CTIS, desire to evaluate what you have created so we can possibly integrate them into the DTSS system for all analysts to use.

We’re looking for any type of models that will make the terrain analysis process easier; models for LOS, HLZ, LOC, MCOO, COO etc… If someone has something created they are using successfully, please let me know.

Please keep in mind that this process takes time and CTIS is trying its best to get the tools needed out to the soldiers on the ground. These models, once received will be tested and integrated into the newest build of DTSS/GS systems. The sooner we get them from you, the sooner I can start the process of integrating them.

Thanks in advance for anything you may be able to send to me. You have an opportunity to make the DTSS system a better tool we can feel confident is making the job easier than before. If you have any questions about this, please don’t hesitate to call or email me.

Rather than inundate the Corps with email, just post any suggestions here. They will be paying attention. I’m almost all packed up and we have found and bought a house so I might finally have time to fix Planet GS once and for all (and with no PHP!).

Amazon Mechanical Turk Task for the Jim Gray Search

Jim Gray Missing: Help find him by searching satellite imagery

You will be presented with 5 images. The task is to indicate any satellite images which contain any foreign objects in the water that may resemble Jim’s sailboat or parts of a boat. Jim’s sailboat will show up as a regular object with sharp edges, white or nearly white, about 10 pixels long and 4 pixels wide in the image.

If in doubt, be conservative and mark the image.

Marked images will be sent to a team of specialists who will determine if they contain information on the whereabouts of Jim Gray.

Friends and family of Jim Gray would like to thank you for helping them with this cause.

The Search Continues for Jim Gray

Even though the USCG has called off the search for Jim and his boat Tenacious the search continues. Tom Barclay who is Jim’s longtime friend and partner is leading an effort to continue the search. A blog has been set up to facilitate conversation and coordinate the effort.

Tenacious Search

As you can see from the posts, just about everyone is trying to help and there are some scenarios where he could still be floating out there in the Pacific. It is a “needle in the haystack” search, but given the technology available and the commitment of friends there is a good chance he still might be found.