The File Geodatabase API is Available

So I guess there really is news at the Esri FedUC (was beginning to wonder if it was just more of the same from the last year). Esri has finally released its File Geodatabase API. Without having looked into it yet Esri says you can do the following:

  • Create, Open and Delete file geodatabases (we be talking about little g, not big g – more GeoDesign jokes for no reason)
  • Read the schema of the geodatabase
  • All content within a geodatabase can be opened for read access
  • Create schema for objects within the simple feature model
  • Tables
  • Point, Line, and Polygon feature classes
  • Feature datasets
  • Domains
  • Subtypes
  • Read the contents of datasets in a geodatabase
  • All dataset content within a geodatabase can be read
  • Insert, Delete, and Edit the contents of simple datasets:
  • Tables
  • Point, Line, Polygon, Multipoint, and Multipatch feature classes
  • Perform attribute and (limited) spatial queries on datasets
  • Spatial queries will be limited to the envelope-intersects operator

A couple of points here. First off there is no raster support. Second, you are totally on your own here. You have total control over screwing up your geodatabases here. Some may want to continue using ArcObjects as it gives you some framework to work within. Lastly, this is a C++ API, while I don’t see the need for .NET or Java “versions” feel free to continue complaining about Esri ignoring you below.

I still can’t believe they finally released this thing.


Where I Lose My Mind Thinking About GeoDesign

There is no such thing as a GeoDesigner

To understand what GeoDesign is you have to drop any ideas of it being a profession. Yes, that means you don’t have to worry about little Timmy growing up to be a GeoDesigner. I sat for almost a day listening to people argue about an ontology for us to argue about a definition of GeoDesign. Yea, you read that right, ontology has been added to the list of drinking words at any GeoDesign summit.

After that first day, I was a little shaken by what I saw but a night’s sleep clears the mind. People arguing about ontologies are only concerned about either writing about GeoDesign or teaching it. The 99.999% of the rest of us can move on and not worry about such minutia as the term dashboard (I think the point was calling a website information panel a dashboard is offensive to dashboards) being offensive.

That all said, we all agreed that there is nothing called a GeoDesigner and we all took a blood oath to never let such a job be created.

Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the GeoDesign Room!

What’s The Point Then?

OK, so we reject the idea of creating an ontology (Ontologies are irrelevant in the age of a Google search. Chew on that thought for a while.) and the idea that we can all go back to school and get our MA in GeoDesign. Why did I bother going to the GeoDesign summit anyway? Clearly, I’ve got better things to do the first week of the year than spend it in Redlands, right?

Clearly no. I’ve said again and again that the Geography needs to be a deeper part of all planning. Sure we’ve all been “doing GeoDesign” since man could first pick up a stick and drew up where the dinosaurs lived so they wouldn’t be eaten (At least that is what The Flintstones taught me about history). Place is critical to any planning and thus whether you are a GeoDesign believer or GeoDesign agnostic, you have to give me the point, “place matters”. Thus, the concepts of GeoDesign matter even if calling it that makes your skin crawl.

Let Us Stop Making Things Complicated

What concerns me about GeoDesign though is that many of the people defining what it is or isn’t seem to live by the theory, complex problems require complex solutions. I don’t know about any of you, but my life and job are complex enough without “design strategies” defined on high. I want simple solutions to my problems because those are the ones that are implemented. Complex ones get stuffed in binders and put on a bookshelf (Yup, I’m pissed my hard work over the years with planners has spent most of its time on the shelf). Time to make that stop!

A Way Forward?

Part of why I didn’t rush out and write about what I saw and heard at the 2011 GeoDesign Summit is that I’m not sure the details of what happened matter. GeoDesign 2011 is in the past and it probably was a good outcome as a second summit. There were some interesting talks, but nothing that I really wanted to jump up and say “Yes!”. What was sorely needed was someone showing how they are going to use “geo” and “design” together in the future. I think we’ve grown beyond proving we all have been doing GeoDesign for years and show how we are going to design (Big “D” or little “d” design; I’m pretty sure I’m making a joke there but I guess you had to be there) in the coming months, years, decades. There is all this big talk about GeoDesign being able to save humanity from ourselves but we continue to show work we did years ago. Aren’t we better than that?

If we commit to using Geo with Design, think about where we’ll be in 2001!


FME 2011 is in the House

Well that yearly update has happened once again. Safe Software has released FME 2011 on the world. Rather than rehash some good resources on the subject, let me point you to a couple that should showcase what is new:

I’m looking forward to working with 2011 myself. WeoGeo’s ETL functionality is built on Safe’s FME Server which is why I’m never worried a customer will come up with a format that FME doesn’t support (unless it is cough Revit cough Dale cough Don cough).

Now that 2011 has happened I’m looking forward to the 2012 beta builds.

Goes to 11

pause FME goes to eleven!


Google Releases More Oblique Imagery in Google Maps

So there you go, 45-degree imagery update for various U.S. cities.

…the Geo Imagery team has just rolled out some refreshed 45 degree imagery for a number of places in the United States. So whether you already miss the places you may have visited over the holiday season, or you’re looking for new vacation spots to travel to this year, you can now escape the winter weather and check them out virtually from the comfort of your warm and dry home.

So how long to Pictometry’s lawyers start making a fuss?

Oblique images in Google Maps? I see nothing!


2011 — The Year Python Takes over GIS

Funny how we think back to the past and say things like “the world was a simpler place back then”. I was sitting having some beers with a couple of long time GIS friends and one of them started going off on how much better his life was back with ArcInfo and AML (Don’t we all have one of these friends, the one who thinks that AML and Avenue were the high points of their GIS existence.). We went through the workflows back then; ArcEdit, ArcPlot (Actually there is no reason to fondly recall ArcPlot. I hope it does a slow painful death on some HP-UX server in a hot room in the sky.) and the rest. Removing the specific programs from the workflow, we are left with one clear point of GIS analysis in 1997, scripting.

Back then, if you needed to convert a file, re-project it, buffer it and then clip it, build it or clean it; you did it all within one text file (usually ending with .aml). There wasn’t any one-off GUI wizard that you ran, you planned out what you wanted to do, authored an AML script, ran it, and then took some time out for a cup of coffee. That seems to have been lost and probably because AML was essentially deprecated the minute ArcGIS 8 arrived.

But in 2011 we have a great scripting language that no only can replicate those AML workflows of the past, but bring in new tools that can help get our work done faster. That would be Python. There is no reason why, right now, you shouldn’t close out your ArcGIS Toolbox window and start using ArcPy.

import arcpy

from arcpy import env

env.workspace = "c:/workspace"

# variables
in_features = "soils.shp"

clip_features = "study_boundary.shp"

out_feature_class = "c:/workspace/output/study_area_soils.shp"

xy_tolerance = ""

# Execute Clip

arcpy.Clip_analysis(in_features, clip_features, out_feature_class, xy_tolerance)

Shoot that is easy, isn’t it? It all works that way and the ArcGIS help includes all you need to copy and paste to start using python for your analysis at the bottom of each help article. Plus if you are “that guy” who remembers ArcPlot fondly, there is a whole ArcPy Mapping Module that gives you all that power to manipulate MXD and LYR files using Python.

Remember AML fondly if you must, but today with Python you have tools that run circles around what AML gave you. I find myself opening up a command window and running python commands to manipulate data over starting up ArcCatalog these days and I love it.

No more excuses to not use Python.


Off to the 2011 GeoDesign Summit

GeoDesign Summit Logo

Just like last year, I’m headed off to the GeoDesign Summit to start the year. I’m looking forward to hearing how things have changed in the 12 months since we last sat in Jack’s new building, but I’m not sure I’m that hopeful.

As with most things when you involve those in a University setting, it starts getting way too complicated to implement in the real world (and by real word I mean a situation where you don’t have grad students to implement your every whim). For GeoDesign to be embraced in workflows, it needs to get more zen and more pragmatic. We’ll have to see if there is more engagement from the private sector this year to keep GeoDesign from falling into just something you learn in College and never use again (like Shakespearian Literature).

I’ve been prototyping using WeoGeo in GeoDesign workflows and I think there is some really great ways we can use hosted GIS services to help get faster feedback on designs.