Pitney Bowes GIS

Honestly I would just like them to make up their minds. MapInfo has a huge meaning to most of us in the professional GIS world even if we don’t currently or ever used the software, but you can bet my 98 year old Grandmother knows Pitney Bowes.

Hey, don’t take chances, take Pitney Bowes.

Army Appoints Services First Geospatial Information Officer

I had REST on my mind when this happened, but thanks to a valued contributer I was reminded about this event.

Robert Burkhardt, director of the Engineer Research and Development Center’s Topographic Engineering Center, was recently appointed as the Army’s first Geospatial Information Officer (GIO) by Headquarters, Department of the Army’s Geospatial-Enterprise Governance Board. As GIO, Mr. Burkhardt serves as the Army’s central manager responsible for coordination, assessment, and synchronization of all Army policies and standardization requirements for the geospatial information enterprise, which will help enable interoperability across battle command systems, bringing the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines closer to the realization of a unified common operational picture (COP). This COP allows the Department of Defense to deploy assets efficiently and effectively by providing the warfighter with the integrated capability to receive, correlate, and display a common tactical picture, including planning applications that may include location of friendly, hostile, and neutral units, assets, and reference points.

While I think many joke about the title of GIO, this is a huge deal for anyone involved with Army or DoD work as the integration of these autonomous systems that both warfighters and support staff use with geospatial information is critical to the mission. While I’m sure things won’t change overnight, the significance of the Army creating such a position cannot go unnoticed by others.

The original press release is here for those who like such reading

ArcGIS 9.3 Beta

I don’t think there is anything wrong swinging by the office on the way home from the Developer Summit to pick up the 9.3 Beta disks to install tonight while I watch UCLA destroy Mississippi Valley State. My wife just doesn’t understand me but I’m happy with who I am.

Donkey

Lets see, I have my .NET Sombrero beer hat and cigar. I’m ready to install the ArcGIS Beta

Reflection on the 2008 ESRI Developer Summit

Dev Summit

Well I think most would agree, the 2008 DevSummit was one of the best. There was tons of new stuff to learn about, much more attendees, more ESRI staff, better layout of the conference (the Community Center was particularly good) and better session (and more of them). So what did I take away from the conference?

ArcGIS Platform

So underneath it all, what has changed. Well first ESRI has really focused on bug fixes. I know we’ve all heard this before, but I think the new crash reporting dialog will give better feedback to ESRI and internally they’ve caught many bugs that might not have been caught without the crash reporter. In addition ESRI is using Coverity to help uncover hidden bugs in the code (read some of these case studies, very interesting stuff). I was told that they found stuff that has been hidden for years in the code that would have caused problems, but for one reason or another never was discovered. I think it is safe to say the 9.3 code base will be as bug free as anything they’ve ever released (hold for joke) and given how short this beta period is I think they are confident that they’ve delivered on this.

The focus at 9.3 is stability, performance and security. Those are 3 areas I know have been a great concern for most ESRI users/developers and the examples that we were given between 9.2 and 9.3 showed great performance increases (I can’t comment on stability until I’ve worked with 9.3 for a while). The new security improvements aren’t revolutionary, but address the specific concerns users have had with the product (specifically check out the security presentation on EDN from the DevSummit for the details).

ArcGIS Server

Well there are tons of new “exciting” features with 9.3 as we’ve all heard. First of the REST API is the real deal. The REST API can server up tiles to Google Maps and Virtual Earth (assuming you use the “web Mercator” projection) and the ability to use ArcGIS Server with Yahoo! pipes really opens the possibilities of taking ArcGIS Server and moving it into areas that we’ve not been working in. Providing results from Geoprocessing is as easy as appending f=kmz to the URL (don’t you just love RESTful services?). The JavaScript API is based on Dojo so you’ve got some power in there to make some really interesting JavaScript applications. The Google Maps and Virtual Earth (2D and 3D support) extenders allow you to bring your ArcGIS Server services right into consumer mapping products. The JavaScript API is hosted by ESRI and in the Akamai cloud so it should be very stable anywhere in the world. We’ll be seeing a ton of new applications out there based on the JavaScript API in the next year, that I’m sure of.

Now don’t forget about the .NET Web ADF (didn’t hit any Java sessions this year). It is now what ESRI is calling a “hybrid” model meaning that there is both server and client side stuff going on (rather than the total server side stuff at 9.2). The key new feature is ASP.NET AJAX, but it is still very compatible with 9.2 projects (usually just change a line or two of code and your old projects should still work). The core controls are now scriptable with the ASP.NET AJAX libraries so you can do a ton more on the client than you did before. The JavaScript API in the Web ADF is totally different than the other one (the Server JavaScript API for use with RESTful) so your code may have to be customized between the two versions if you jump between the REST API and the Web ADF. The Task Framework is much improved and you can now build them using User Contols. In addition they are releasing tasks into the code gallery on the ESRI Resource Center for Server (I’ll talk more about the Resource Centers later) so you’ll be able to see what ESRI has done and create your own modifications. The documentation in the Resource Center is so much better than what was available in 9.3. The examples are great and the explanations are detailed and well written. The performance of the Web ADF at 9.3 has increased at least 100% if not more. If you ever blended two data sources (one tiled, one dynamic) you know that it takes the dynamic one time to match the tile scheme that the tile scheme already existing. Now each resource has its own tiling scheme and the layers load much faster. The Web ADF (and obviously the JavaScript API above) will be “uncoupled” from the ArcGIS Server release schedule. This means that you won’t have to wait years for new features to be implemented. Silverlight 2.0 support will probably happen way before 9.4 arrives which would have us all complaining down the road I’m sure. Dave Bouwman has a great write-up on the details of the .NET session so head over to his blog to read up on his thoughts.

ArcGIS Explorer

I’ve already posted on the new features in the 480 release due in May and the 600/700 release due by the end of the year in my Plenary session post, but I’ll list some of the new features in Explorer that caught my eye. First off 480 will increase performance (multi-threaded), direct connect to SDE, GPX support, GeoRSS support and improved task frameworks and popups (the bubbles). Build 600 has the new Microsoft “ribbon” interface and looks great. From a usability standpoint, the information you are working with gets presented right to you and not hidden by interfaces. You will also be able to finally view the maps in 2D mode. I think this will be a boon to organizations who are using AGX as a decision making tool. Ease of use goes a long way. The “enhanced” ArcGIS Explorer SDK will allow you to embed AGX inside your applications. I asked how ESRI would charge for this SDK and they are still thinking about it (will the SDK be free and the deployments cost, will the SDK cost and deployments be free, or will everything be free).

ESRI Resource Centers

New at 9.3 is the ESRI Resource Centers. You’ve already been looking at the first one for quite some time (the ArcGIS Explorer Resource Center) and the ones for ArcGIS Server, Desktop, Engine, Image Server, Mobile, IMS and Geodatabase are currently available for those in the 9.3 beta program. These are help centers where you can get support, online help, code samples, interactive SDKs and other resources that you can use with developing (or even using) the ArcGIS Platform. The forums are due to be re-launched based on the Beta forums (which means you’ll be able to subscribe to a forum topic via RSS). There will be many new blogs available from teams that haven’t blogged yet and there might be community aspects introduced as well. How this all interacts with the EDN site I have no idea.

Issues?

The one thing that scares me and Dave Bouwman did bring it up at the closing session is overselling what you can do with the new REST API and JavaScript API. Have sales staff running around that you can create “rich” JavaScript applications “consuming” ArcGIS Server services using only 12 lines of code is going to put many of us in a bind. JavaScript is easy to pick up, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be adding complex geoprocessing to your Google Maps mashup with one line. The speed that you can develop has increased, but the complexity will still be there. The JavaScript API will increase your productivity, no doubt. But telling everyone all you need is 12 lines of code will result in disappointment.

What now?

Well I’ve got both ArcGIS Server and ArcGIS Desktop installed on my laptop and they seem very stable. Moving forward I think we’ll jump with both feet into the RESTful API and the JavaScript APIs. I think users will want to get their services published via the REST API as soon as possible so Google can start indexing them. What a great way for organizations who want to share their data with the community, just publish and let Google index your services. The ArcGIS Services Explorer is going to be a great tool to learn what is available out there. I had quite a few ArcIMS developers say that they can finally feel comfortable working with ArcGIS Server. The .NET and Java Web ADFs were too much for them and they were usually used to working with simple HTML pages. Compare the speed of JSON vs the speed of sending XML (AXL) requests to the server and see how fast you get a response. It really does highlight why the community at large has really moved to JSON.

So go get on the 9.3 beta, but you’ve got to hurry as 9.3 RTM could happen as early as “June”.

So wait, what was that Flex API for ArcGIS Server?

While the buzz at the DevSummit was for the REST API and the JavaScript API, the Flex API sure got noticed. Folks seemed disappointed that they missed the session on the Flex API. Well some bloggers have already been posting their thoughts on the Flex API and it is well received.

I’ve been telling folks I’ve got serious reservations about using any development environment created by “Adobe”, but this Flex API stuff is really compelling and worth a look.

Chef Don't Like

ArcGIS Chefs have another service to cook with

The Closing Q&A

Yikes – I just saw this draft from yesterday that I didn’t get posted so pardon the untimeliness of it.

The closing Q&A session was over lunch and was pretty calm. A couple issues were raised that I thought I would mention.

VB6 will not be supported at ArcGIS 9.4 and you should really move to .NET.

The File Geodatabase SDK (or whatever it will be called) has been sidelined and they still need to figure out what it will be. The simple solution everyone would like is for them to just work with the GDAL team and get something written into GDAL/OGR (they did at least mention GDAL on stage). I’m just not sure what the problem is on this and why they don’t want greater use of the File Geodatabase (could be why I’m a consultant and they make money selling software).

Dave Bouwman asked them to stop overselling ArcGIS Server. His comment was well received by everyone out there and those on stage all agreed they need to do a better job giving a realistic picture of what it can do and how quickly you can deploy applications.

There was some worry about the future of ArcIMS. Of course the Web ADF works with IMS, but the picture is pretty clear that you need to start seriously working at migrating to ArcGIS Server. There were quite a bit of ArcIMS folks looking at the RESTful API and the JavaScript API. There is a natural progression from AXL to JSON I believe and being able to see the JSON will better help them understand how it all works. The point is though that you probably need to move on as no new features will be incorporated into ArcIMS.

Bart Kool Aid

It was the last chance to enjoy an ESRI Squishee

2008 ESRI Developer Summit Day 2

My laptop seems to have died and I can’t get it to boot up at all. I’ll try and get my notes figured out when I get back to the office, but you can read some blog posts from Day 2 of the Developer Summit. I’m sure we’ll see more come online tomorrow when the bloggers recover from a late night out in Palm Springs. Some reaction to the Dev Summit from other bloggers is below:
Mmmm’ Kooool-Aid! DevSummit With the Goggles On

Building Mashups Using The ArcGIS JavaScript API’s At The ESRI Developer Summit 2008

[ArcGIS Code Challenge… Thanks Everyone! (or where everyone who meets Dave now knows that they can ask him to buy them a beer)

ArcGIS Server .NET ADF Session

2008 ESRI Developer Summit Plenary

Jim McKinney opened the Plenary by introducing Jack Dangermond to welcome everyone to the DevSummit. The DevSummit has gotten much bigger over the last 3 years. It had more than doubled since the first DevSummit. The conference has changed from previous years. It is a longer a conference than before (pre-conference seminars). More sessions than before, presentations will be recorded and put up on EDN, larger community center and ESRI showcase (the server island was described as a continent). ESRI has also added the demo theaters to the showcase to augment the tech sessions. It definitely feels much larger than before. On top of it all, the plenary is much shorter (only 2 hours) than before so everyone can get right into tech sessions.

ESRI has committed to releasing service packs every quarter for 9.2. The future includes SP5 for 9.2 out soon and 9.3 in “June” (or before the User Conference) and 9.4 should arrive in “early” 2009.

ArcGIS Server

Ismael Chivite, the ArcGIS Server product manager, lead the talk on ArcGIS Server. The tag line that ESRI has been using is “Making GIS Knowledge Available To Anyone…”. This aligns with what was send at the FedUC and the BPC. Putting GIS into consumer clients (Google Maps, Google Earth, Virtual Earth) is clearly a huge change for ESRI. ArcGIS Server 9.3 performance is improved because of improved caching workflows (partial cache and on demand cache). This means you don’t need to create map tiles for the world, but pick areas you feel are important. The areas that are not tiled, can be created on demand as users view the world. The “simple” javascript API will speed development over “traditional” .NET or Java ADFs. Security can now be managed from within the Server Manager on each service. Much like the ArcGIS Explorer resource center that everyone can see, there will be a detailed ArcGIS Server 9.3 resource center (only available for Beta users at this point) that will aggregate the documentation and other documents in one place. ESRI is committed to delivering more code samples and web tasks for developers to use. (I can confirm that there are more samples available than I’ve ever seen for an ESRI release)

Web ADFs (.NET and Java)

Rex Hansen demonstrated how you can quickly take code samples out of the Resource Center and create WebADF and ASP.NET AJAX applications quickly and easily. The sample Rex demonstrated was simple and valuable which is definitely something that has been missing on ESRI samples from before. Rex showed how you can quickly take the ESRI sample and create a Sharepoint Web part using your own data. Hopefully this will improve usability of creating quick WebADF applications that leverage Microsoft development tools.

Rex apparently lost his mind and started talking about Java and AGS 9.3. The Java example was very similar in the sense that the code was simple and any Java developer should be able to customize it to work with their own data and projects. Rex looked pretty familiar with Eclipse so maybe he’s been cheating on us .NET folks.

Javascript API

The ArcGIS Javascript API is probably the biggest new feature of ArcGIS Server at 9.3. Now instead of being limited to .NET or Java, you can now pick a simple Javascript API to publish to ESRI’s Javascript API, or Virtual Earth and Google Maps.

Jeremy Bartley demonstrated the new Javascript API by visiting the Javascript API section of the ArcGIS Resource Center. Javascript API resource center allows you to interactively explore the API. Much like how Google has described the Google Maps API, ESRI has really taken the time to explain their Javascript API (Now I’m sure it isn’t as detailed at Google’s Docs, but the change from previous ESRI documentation is very noticeable.) The Javascript API reference is clean and easy to use and there are even plans for a “community” section where developers will be able to upload their own code or tricks that they have for the Javascript API (this will also be available for the .NET and Java sections as well). The speed that you can add ArcGIS Server services to your maps is just slick. One line of Javascript code and a url to the service and you are running. Many have already browsed the Services Explorer on the demos that ESRI has posted and have been able to see the capabilities of the service.

Jeremy also demonstrated the Google Maps and Virtual Earth extenders. Seeing ArcGIS Server being leveraged in Google Maps really gives developers the ability to take classic GIS analysis and put it in a context that “ordinary” users can work with. I will say when Jeremy was done, the crowd really gave ESRI a good cheer. I think that proves that this Javascript API is going to be used quite a bit moving forward. One point about the Javascript API’s is that no development or deployment license is required on the Web server hosting your application.

ArcGIS Mobile

Developers I’ve talked with this week have really been interested in what ESRI has been doing with ESRI Mobile solutions. What is interesting at 9.3 is that ESRI includes ArcSDE SQL Express with ArcGIS Engine. You can do both one and two way replication with ArcGIS Server. ArcGIS Mobile integrates deeply with Visual Studio and enables quick development and deployment. Being able to develop a mobile application on Windows Mobile and Smartphone with a couple lines of code should increase Mobile usage among ESRI Developers.

ArcGIS Desktop/Engine

Euan Cameron talked about changes to ArcGIS Engine 9.3. The biggest news I think was the ability to include SQL Server Express Support with deployments. At 9.3 ESRI increased the amount of documentation and code. Desktop now allows the ability to have “Z Aware” editing, HTML popup windows (like what you are seeing with ArcGIS Explorer), more online support content and VBA 6.5 (thus Vista and Office integration).

Bernie Szukalski started to demo some 9.3 enhancements (the new “left hand tool”), and ArcGIS Desktop 9.3 crashed. We got to see the error detection and debugging tools. Crash dumps created automatically and ESRI will use these to help track down crashes. This should result in Service Packs addressing problems quicker than before.

ArcGIS Explorer

Now the real reason that Bernie Szukalski was up on stage (no he wasn’t there to crash ArcGIS Desktop) was to demonstrated ArcGIS Explorer The future releases of ArcGIS Explorer include 480 will be released in May and followed by releases 600 and 700 by the end of th year. Bernie was demonstrating how you can include ArcGIS Server Globe Services, ArcIMS Services, WMS Services, local imagery, file geodatabases and KML. The new icon symbols really look great and very sharp (and will be available with ArcGIS 9.3 Desktop for use in any ArcMap or ArcGIS Server production). Bernie even when to the Google 3D Warehouse to grab a KMZ of a 3D building. Bernie also demonstrated how you can even embed YouTube videos right into the info bubbles. Any HTML content can be used, there is no limits so you can put any web content into ArcGIS Explorer.

ArcGIS Explorer 480 will increase performance (multi-threaded), Direct Connect to SDE!!!!!, GPX support, GeoRSS, improved task framework and popups and ability to load AGX in your web browser. The future moving forward includes a new user interface, integrated 2D and 3D display, markup and collaboration and a Map Control to embed Explorer objects. You’ll be able to take the map display and use it in your applications.

ESRI demonstrated build 600 (which isn’t the next version) and it has the new “ribbon” interface that you’ll recognize from Microsoft Office. Now tasks aren’t hidden in the table of contents, but available quickly and easily. It really does look like a Microsoft Office application which should help with its adoption. The usability of build 600 is really striking compared to the existing ArcGIS Explorer builds and even Google Earth. Another key feature of build 600 is the ability to view maps in 2D. The enhanced Explorer SDK which will be available with either build 600 or 700. Embedding AGX inside your applications will be big for many developers.

Lastly Scott Morehouse discussed where the ArcGIS Platform is going. ESRI is at the “envisioning” stage with 9.4 so the User Conference will be where we’ll see what will be part of the release. It will build upon what happened in 9.2 and 9.3 so it shouldn’t rock the boat and will probably be a nice stable release. The release schedule of ArcGIS Explorer will be adopted by the Server and Desktop teams so we’ll be seeing more and quicker releases of software, rather than these big Service Packs and large jumps in technology we have been getting. There will be more support for standards, much improved Linux support, faster services in ArcGIS Server and more stability. 9.4 will also see Flex and Silverlight be part of the Server platform. Desktop will continue to be improved with stability/performance and new editing tools showing up. ArcGIS Online is now an integral part of ArcGIS and is not a separate product. More online documentation, best practices and code galleries will also begin to show up with 9.3 and on to 9.4.

Jim Barry described where EDN was heading including more blogs coming online in the next few months (Desktop Developer and Engine) as well as highlighting some of the improved online support tools at 9.3. Also the forums are being updated as part of the 9.3 beta program and when 9.3 is released, will replace the old forums that have existed for years.

That ended the plenary and we will move on to the “super sessions”.