ESRI UC Response to Questions

Every year ESRI sends out a questionnaire to attendees of the UC and they’ve just posted the results from this year. Some of the questions are C-level and probably not interesting to this crowd, but it does get into some of the 9.4 (as was seen at the DevSummit), map automation, file geodatabase, and new technology. A couple that caught my eye:

Q: When will ESRI support direct access to the spatial types within relational databases (i.e. SQL 2008, Oracle Spatial, etc) that are not geodatabases (i.e. does not utilize ArcSDE technology)?

At 9.4, ArcGIS introduces new functionality called ‘query layers’ to allow users to directly access spatial type data stored in a database that is not a geodatabase. Query layers allow users to use a SQL query to access spatial type data and create a new (read-only) layer in ArcMap. This layer will allow users to map, query, and analyze data from spatially enabled databases such as SQL Server, Oracle, PostgreSQL, DB2, or Informix without registering the spatial information in a geodatabase or installing and configuring ArcSDE.

Additionally, geodatabase users who store their spatial information in spatial types can use this functionality to work with their data using complex SQL queries.

Q: Will ESRI support the iPhone?

Yes, we will support the iPhone as a mobile platform to get maps from ArcGIS Server and do queries and edits on data from ArcGIS Server. We plan on releasing an application for the iPhone later this year and then adding additional capability as part of our 9.4 release. In addition developers can build their own solutions for the iPhone using the REST APIs available from ArcGIS Server.

Q: Is ESRI moving into any new business lines?

Our fundamental business is building ArcGIS and supporting our users and partners with effective technical support and professional services to help them implement their technology. In the last year we have extended ArcGIS with online services. Fundamentally, this is ESRI’s implementation of GIS in the cloud. This environment involves a large deployment of ArcGIS Server and an extensive library of GIS content. This direction is principally focused on providing Web services to our software users. Generally speaking our users have been very pleased with these services. ESRI now receives several million requests a day for the use of these services worldwide, and we believe it’s just beginning.

**Q: How will ESRI support professional standing through certification? **

Professional certification provides proof that an individual has attained competence at a defined level of performance. With the ArcGIS 9.4 release, ESRI intends to offer a technical certification program designed around the use of our products in successful ArcGIS implementations. This program will be available to ESRI users, partners, distributors, and staff. While it will focus on the use of our products, it will be complementary to the GISP certification offered through the GIS Certification Institute, which focuses on the practice of GIS. We hope this will help create an active and qualified user community that can expand the reach of GIS in solving problems around the world.

Safe FME User Conference Keynote Video

Safe was nice enough to let me post the video from my keynote on my blog. I really enjoyed the opportunity to speak at FME UC and had a wonderful time meeting everyone there.

OpenLayers 2.8 Released

The wait is over, OpenLayers 2.8 has been released. Some of the highlights I think are important:

  • Add support for multi-layer feature selection when using vector features
  • Added support for “XYZ” layers to interact with standard caches of tiles; includes OSM support built in
  • Add support for drawing text on vector layers
  • Support for loading ArcGIS Server data
  • OSM layer
  • Improved KML support with better styling, networklink support, ExtendedData Support

The full list is here. ArcXML support is “interesting”, but I havne’t touched an AXL file in years.

Hooray OpenLayers!

Hooray OpenLayers!

GIS Cartography — A Guide to Effective Map Design

I just finished reading a new book by Gretchen Peterson called GIS Cartography: A Guide to Effective Map Design and I really enjoyed it. Gretchen wrote this book independent of any GIS tools so that you can apply it anywhere, from ESRI and Autodesk to PowerPoint and Web Mapping. So much of computer books include sections on preferences, installation and best practices, that it takes away from actually learning key concepts. Cartography is critical to visualization of spatial data and with so many different ways to visualize that information these days, you need these key concepts to ensure that you are getting your message out.

Gretchen’s writing style was enjoyable and she was able to cover detailed concepts without losing my interest. I’m guessing because we come from similar GIS backgrounds, I really was able to follow her though process and better understand how I should look at GIS cartography. Another think I really liked was the ability pick the book up and find a section to review so I can see this being a great reference book as well.

The chapter on fonts was particularly enjoyable. So often I believe this is an area overlooked by GIS cartographers and can greatly affect the ability of readers to understand your maps. Color is another area that Gretchen covers and in great detail. The world is much more complicated than just polygons so she goes much deeper than most websites and GIS books have into how color affects your output.

GIS books aren’t cheap because they never do the volumes that general computing books do, but when you can apply them across multiple software packages and disciplines, you get much more value out of them. Gretchen’s book is something that you can use almost anywhere with any medium and won’t get out of date. That is a great value that most technical computing books overlook. GIS Cartography is a great resource to have and one that I’m glad that I have in my technical library. I’m guessing though that it will spend more time next to my computer than on the bookshelf. Flip through the pages at Google Books and see how valuable this book is. Great job Gretchen!

Adobe’s Views on HTML 5

As you can imagine, Adobe John Dowdell responded to the HTML 5 “flash killer” talk in a way only Adobe could.

It’s hard for Adobe to have an official opinion on whatever this consortium of minority browser vendors chooses to do… seeing what the final agreement turns out to be, and how it is eventually manifested in the world, both are prerequisites for practical tool-making.

I suppose when Microsoft becomes the minority browser to WebKit/Firefox then things might change? Guess we’ll see next year when it happens. So if my previous post didn’t excite you, maybe John’s will.

Hey if you like HTML 5, take a look at Flash

Adobe says, Hey if you like HTML 5, take a look at Flash

IronPython and ESRI ArcGIS

IronPythonMan to the rescue!

IronPythonMan to the rescue!

I’m surprised that IronPython doesn’t get more love in the ESRI development world. Beyond Matthew’s blog posts I can’t recall seeing anything really being done. Considering how important .NET is to ESRI, it wouldn’t hurt to see a little embrace of IronPython.

ArcObjects is hard enough to write with C#, so why not allow devs to use the simple Python. Of course Matthew proves you can do it yourself, but it seems like a great combo, writing by Python code for geoprocessing and IronPython code to work with ArcObjects. Heck, why not throw in a little IronRuby for those who roll that way?

I’d really like to see an ESRI wiki were devs can add their own help for those who want to extend ArcObjects more directions than just the C#/VB.NET/C++ ways currently offered.

HTML 5 SHOULD Kill Flash and Silverlight

A great article has appeared about how HTML 5 really should finally kill off the proprietary Flash and Silverlight browser add-ons.

HTML 5, a groundbreaking upgrade to the prominent Web presentation specification, could become a game-changer in Web application development, one that might even make obsolete such plug-in-based rich Internet application (RIA) technologies as Adobe Flash, Microsoft Silverlight, and Sun JavaFX

All this focus on Flex/Flash and Silverlight is really beside the point in my opinion. Sure maybe today, we have to rely on these proprietary browser plugins to deliver content to users, but the real innovative developers and companies are going to standard on HTML 5 and in turn revolutionize how users interact with data. We all want faster web applications and the only way to deliver this is to use HTML 5. Of course some companies can’t get their act together to support it (I’m looking at you Microsoft), but given how positive people have been toward the Google Chrome browser and how it works with their web applications, I think we are really very close to a revolution here. The question we need to ask ourselves is to you want to be in the front, or the rear of change?

MechaHTML5 pushes proprietary browser add-ons to the side.

MechaHTML5 pushes proprietary browser add-ons to the side.


The ESRI Web ADF 9.3

Remember this post Count that as the most popular post ever on my blog (so much for a positive post being my watermark). Anyway Doron Yaacoby has followed up almost a year and a half later with another look at where ESRI has taken the Web ADF since then.

Almost none of the issues I addressed in my original post were fixed. The API is still overly complex. Resources, functionalities and all these so-called abstractions remain in place, emphasizing the strength of the JavaScript API’s simplicity. And yes, there are still about a billion classes that are named ‘Converter’ in the API. It seems like ESRI insists that you write the entire namespace before every class you use.

Yea that was probably predictable, but I don’t think any of it matters. We’ve all moved beyond the Web ADFs and on to the REST APIs (Flex, JavaScript and Silverlight). Really though I’m amazed at how much our web development platform has changed in that time, we all can agree developing with ESRI is much more enjoyable than it was and I’m wagering most of us forget there is a Web ADF out there anymore. I can’t wait until the ESRI UC to see what the future holds in store.

The killing of .NET and Java on the web continues unabated

Back from the 2009 Safe FME User Conference

Yes, I’m back from almost a week in Canada visiting my friends in Vancouver and the FME UC at Whistler. First I’d like to thank Safe for the honor of giving the keynote. I enjoyed it thoroughly and meeting everyone there was an absolute blast.

Both Don and Dale did a great job outlining how Safe was responding to the changing geospatial world. It really does become clear how well FME is able to bridge gaps in proprietary data ensuring it is easily accessible by all. FME Server was definitely the focus of the conference and most people I bumped into really want to go that route. Remote processing is something that everyone can get behind, running scripts on your local desktop is not going to cut it anymore. The workshops and technical sessions were excellent (though I couldn’t go to every one I wanted to) and the word is that Safe will be posting the video and presentations this week on their website. I’m not sure if everything will be publicly available, but I’m sure the Don and Dale show will be and that alone is worth paying attention.

The lightning talks were all excellent, Jeff Konnen talked about Rasters and FME Server, Glen Rhea talked about using FME to assist first responders during natural disasters, Peter Lauland showed some FME, SQL and TCL goodness and Paul Bissett showed how WeoGeo is scaling FME Server in the cloud to just clobber huge jobs (specifically they showed spinning up 64 FME engines to process worldwide tiling jobs).

The welcome social was on top of Whistler Blackcomb Mountain and was quite an experience. I’ve never been to Whistler before and the views just blew me away. Seeing all the work for the 2010 Olympics (and how much more they have to do) was mind bending. And just the networking between users was also great. I really liked seeing how many different ways someone can complete the same task and what different software packages they are using. Much different from the ESRI/Intergraph/Autodesk conferences I’m used to going to. Best tool to get the job done is the rule and FME is usually at the center of it.

I’ll try and post more about the conference this week as I recover and get back into the swing of things. I need to start preparing for the ESRI User Conference early next month and I’ve got some exciting plans for that so stay tuned.

From the Mailbag

A reader wanted to know the following question, I figured rather than answer it myself, you guys could help a fellow out.

“Please list all the pros and cons of ArcView 3.1”

I’m sure whatever insight you could give the person asking the question would be greatly appreciated.

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.