New Banner Ad

I hope you like my new banner ad in celebration of the Esri UC.

Update: I’ve put the banner here for future reference:

Prefer ArcInfo


Reviewing the Esri UC Q&A

It’s that favorite time of year again. The one where we all get to read Esri’s Q&A for the Esri UC.

Some of the points of interest…

Q: How is Esri doing?
A: Doin’ fine, thank you. (glad we got that out of the way)

Q: What is Esri?s position about open source and its products?

A: Well we love all god’s creatures. Also we’ve got a couple open source products that we opened up but we know you won’t support because you are a bunch of freeloaders.

Q: Why should I use the Esri family of products? Why not Google Earth and Google Maps?

A: So Google will be the white elephant in the room at all times at this Esri UC. Basically Esri has you covered so don’t worry about the Google.

Q: Is Esri working on simplifying end-user licensing for software products?

A: Some of this is old (borrow license manager license), some of it is pretty new (one month ArcGIS Server license). None of it really changes anything.

Q: When will ArcGIS support OGC?s web tiling service?

A: 10.1 baby!

Q: When will Esri provide full support for KML/KMZ?

A: Looks like 10.1 will be the release that almost does what you want. I say almost because KML/KMZ read/write is a dirty business.

Q: Is Python a replacement for VBA?

A: Here come the VBA questions. Look, the writing has been on the wall long enough. if you are still asking this question, it might be time to move along and find a job in another industry. Python is a replacement for VBA because unlike VBA it is useful and has a future.

Q: When can we expect the next release of ArcGIS?

A: Early 2012 with the beta out in July. 10 SP3 is out this fall.

Q: Will ArcGIS run on Linux?

A: This is such a cute question. There is this wacky hope that Linux or Mac Desktop support could be around the corner. It isn’t guys, Windows only! Now that super secret next verision of ArcGIS will support everything, right?

Q: ArcGIS 10 seems slower than pervious releases for some areas, why?

A: Esri posted some scientific reasons why this is the case but we all know you never use even number releases of Esri software. 10.1 will be fast and wonderful. 10.2 will be a nightmare, but that 10.3 release will make it all worth the pain.

Q: Going forward, how will Esri leverage the cloud?

A: My own personal feeling on Esri’s strategy here is they’ll keep using the word cloud until it has no meaning. It may be better summed up with this video.

Q: What is the future of ArcGIS Desktop? Will it be replaced by ArcGIS Server?

A: Don’t worry button pushers, your job is safe. For now…

Q: Will Esri continue to ship ArcInfo Workstation with the 10.1 release?

A: A moment of silence please for ArcInfo Workstation.

Q: Will Esri release ArcIMS at version 10.1?

A: I swear to god, I’ll buy anyone a steak dinner at the UC that can prove to me this was an actual question. I refuse to believe anyone cares about this product or has in the past 2 years.

Q: Will ArcGIS Server support deployments in Azure?

A: Microsoft and Esri team up to take on the Google.

Q: When will ArcGIS Online support WMS?

A: So this is probably an INSPIRE or Federal Government requirement. I can’t imagine any ordinary person just thinking to themselves… “I’d totally be all over if it just supported WMS”. Right?

Q: Is ArcGIS open?

A: Oh boy. Again, see here.

Q: Is VBA supported at ArcGIS 10.1?

A: Stop it right now, you are killing me with these VBA questions. As I look over at the calendar on my wall, I see the year 2011. VBA was not the answer 10 years ago.

Q: How is Esri planning to support HTML5?

A: I love the answer, basically HTML5 is awesome, but they realize that most of their user base is stuck on old versions of IE. Thus as awesome as it can be, it isn’t.

Q: What is the role of ArcGIS Explorer Desktop in ArcGIS?

A: ArcGIS Explorer is the one product I don’t get. The team Esri put on its development is awesome, but is this product really needed?

Q: When will 2D and 3D viewing be integrated into a single application?

A: Not yet, but soon. Remember what I said about even releases of ArcGIS. If this comes in 10.2, you’ll want to wait for 10.3 for performance reasons.

Q: What happened to FGDC metadata support in ArcGIS 10? It seems to be missing.

A: FGDC Metadata fans are such drama queens. Nobody cares about FGDC metadata so lets move on.

Q: Will Esri support Netezza?s TwinFin database at 10.1?

A: Wait… Is that a direct connection to Netezza? No SDE?

Q: Will Esri be supporting SQL Server Denali at 10.1?

A: Stop using beta software and asking us to support it. You’ll get it when you get it.

Q: When will ArcGIS support direct access to spatial DBMSs?

A: Nothing else needs to be said.

Q: What are some of the enhancements to the geodatabase in ArcGIS 10.1?

A: Lots of good new stuff there. I like the new Geodatabase Administration Toolbox. That should make things much easier for managers of the Geodatabase.

Q: Will Esri be hosting GIS services for its users?

A: Paid subscription stuff here. Looks like you are going to be able to upload your data and visualize it on Then share the map with anyone. Where have I seen that idea before?

Q: How will ArcGIS Online be sustainable? Who is paying for it?

A: Wonder why this question was put in by Esri? Are they getting pressure from someone asking if they are committed to Bottom line is Esri thinks it will be sustainable beause they think they’ll convince you to pay for hosting on it. Wouldn’t bet against that thinking for sure.


The Esri ArcGIS for Home Use Program


The details:

ArcGIS for Home Use makes GIS available to everyone. This offer is ideal for existing ArcGIS users who want to use the same powerful software at home for noncommercial personal use and for individuals who want to expand their GIS skills. However, anyone can participate in this program.

For a $100 annual fee, the ArcGIS for Home Use 12-month term license includes:

  • ArcView
  • ArcGIS 3D Analyst
  • ArcGIS Geostatistical Analyst
  • ArcGIS Network Analyst
  • ArcGIS Publisher
  • ArcGIS Schematics
  • ArcGIS Spatial Analyst
  • ArcGIS Tracking Analyst

Wow, there you go. Use ArcGIS at home for non-commercial use. That’s an incredible deal!

You don’t win friends with salad, but you do with ArcGIS for Home!


All Hail Google Earth Builder, Wait… What?



So yea, two weeks ago I was all excited about Google Earth Builder. What’s not to like? It handles geospatial data easily, has some awesome visualization tools and has a pricing model that seems reasonable (Disclaimer, I should say it scales reasonably. That of course doesn’t mean it will be reasonable in cost at the base line. Google Earth Enterprise isn’t cheap nor is licensing other Google Maps data). And of course everyone is totally excited about it on Twitter (Sewing circle they are) and I have to think Directions Magazine is happy that one of their webinars was so well received. So why do I have a problem with it?

First off, lots of things seem sexy and fun until you start playing with them. I mean watch someone with a Yo-Yo. How much fun does that all look? Then they hand it to you and you are bored before you can even put the string on your finger. GEB could be the same way. Yea it does some things really well, but once you actually want to start and do real work with it, you have to choose another tool. This isn’t to say GEB won’t become all that, just generally these things take time to build up to where other tools have been for 20/30 years.

My other issue with GEB is it seems like a Federal Government play. You know, the one where Google and Esri fight over government pork spending? GEB might be perfect for this world, but that doesn’t mean that those of us with our feet on the ground can actually use it for anything. Sort of like a 2.0 thing. Sounds great in practice, but theory doesn’t pay the bills for most of us. Until I see actual use cases in commercial space, I’m going to chalk up GEB as a government tool that Google has thrown out there to fight Esri, Microsoft, Oracle and whatever other large Government technology implementor that uses “geo”.


Which one is Esri and which one is Google?

Taking on Esri in the Federal Government space? That’s a pretty ballsy move by Google. Esri is a tough customer and they’ve shown time and time again they fight to win. In a way this is probably the best part of GEB for the “rest of us”. Think of Esri technology (Remember Geography Network, ArcIMS and the WebADF) before Google came along? Now they stuff is almost a joy to work with (almost). As long as Esri’s GEB response isn’t more ArcGIS for Explorer (Do I have that name right?) and ArcGIS for Server with Advanced Enterprise, I think we all win.

Tragic Esri

The tragic prelude to all us brothers getting together.


Google+ Demo Site Uses Google Maps API

Have you seen the Google+ Demo site? It uses the Google Maps API as a presentation canvas. That’s pretty slick!

Google Maps, you put the boom-boom into my heart!


I’ve Come to Praise ArcObjects, Not Kill It

OK, I’m the first one to dance on ArcObjects grave (In fact I suspect I’ll take my anti-love of ArcObjects to my grave), but others seem to like it.

…This all comes from the following fact: being a complete ignorant about ArcObjects and the ArcGIS API, I have been able to create the corresponding SEXTANTE bindings from scratch in less time than I needed to create any other bindings before. That means less time than the gvSIG bindings (an application that I knew pretty well), and way less than the OpenJUMP or Geotools ones (both of them softwares that I had worked with before, at least once).

This is basically due to the clean, well designed and perfectly documented API of ArcGIS, which, along with the additional Eclipse plugins, makes it very easy to develop new plugins and extensions for the software.

Now, let me just tell you first off. Sextante coming to ArcGIS – awesome! But the real meat of the matter here is if there is a well documented API, developers just love it (No matter how crazy the ArcObjects API may be). That is the real lesson for any project, proprietary or open source. Documentation matters!

In API hell, as long as there is documentation we’ll all be fine!


Apple Uses Mapping Data — For Reals?

Now With Hat

Apple iOS – Now with Mapping Data

Look, I totally get it. The big shiny object in the sky is Apple. Anything they do is “interesting” (Disclaimer: I give every other paycheck to Steve Jobs for his new shiny objects). I saw this news this morning about TomTom being in Apple’s Legal Doc (The amount of GNP devoted to reading Apple’s tea leaves has to be bigger than most eastern european countries) and let out a big meh. Clearly as location becomes more integrated in smartphone workflows, companies will start adding additional data sources for their customers to use. Since Apple uses Google Maps as the default mapping app on the iOS, we probably won’t see any changes to that for quite some time (if ever). TomTom/TeleAtlas data is used by many companies for many things so the possibilities that Apple would use their data isn’t that far fetched (I’m actually surprised that it wasn’t in there before, it is hard not to use TomTom or NAVTEQ these days).

Adena did a great job highlighting the companies that are now (or have been) part of Apple’s legal description. Let’s see… We’ve got parcel data, we’ve got neighborhood data, we’ve got routing data and we’ve traffic data. If I didn’t know any better, I’d be guessing Apple is trying to build a smartphone (Side note, I’m very happy for Waze and Urban Mapping here. Great job guys!).

The OpenStreetMap whining is already started with folks wondering why Apple didn’t use their data. Clearly Apple is picking and choosing what they need here. Apple is one of those companies that uses whatever makes best sense for them and their uses. That is why they still use Google Maps, it really is still the best solution out there and they can afford to pay Google the licensing costs. I still believe, as many of you do, it is only a matter of time for Apple to roll their own mapping solution. This is a company that loves to control everything and to think they allow a competitor to have a mapping app on iOS by default has got to hurt them. Of course how many years did Apple include Internet Explorer as the default browser on Mac OS X before rolling Safari. Yea, only a matter of time.

Mark Twain iPad

Many don’t remember, but Mark Twain was a big user of iOS mapping applications and thus a user of mapping data.


Esri Java State of the Union

So in my small brain, I see Esri Java Server solutions as the only way to effectively and economically deploy and scale ArcGIS for Server in any hosted environment (I refuse to use the “c” word that rhymes with loud). The idea that I’d scale any ArcGIS for Server on Windows in AWS is simply crazy talk. Because of this line of thinking, I’ve been watching for the “new” Esri Java Server products that hopefully are right around the corner. Well, Esri has posted a “Java State of the Union” for everyone to read:

Esri’s ArcGIS and Java strategy is pervasive, in and through all of the key computing environments that Java is found in, from Mobility to the desktop and to the Enterprise. This makes Esri’s GIS and Java a perfect match for any Java-based implementation that requires the delivery of geospatial or location services and capabilities.

So it looks like Esri is continuing to invest in ArcGIS for Server Java and hopefully we’ll see it available on platforms other than RHE and SUSE (cough Fedora cough). Java still feels like an afterthought for much of Esri’s push, but at least we’ve got a dedicated team trying to get Server where it belongs.

OK, everyone together…. “Java…… in the Server…… Make me happy……. Make me feel fine. Java….. Make me warm all over…”


The Esri Ocean Basemap

I might have mentioned this a couple times on twitter yesterday, but I really like the new Esri Ocean Basemap. My only wish would be that it drops down one more zoom level. So close to being perfect. Here it is in all it’s glory…

View Map


Frank Warmerdam Goes to Google — Google Unimpressed with our Niche Awesomeness

Late yesterday morning I saw something on Facebook that caught my eye. Frank Warmerdam posted that he was moving to California and join Google (We learn this stuff on Facebook these days apparently). He later blogged about it and it’s now all over the internets.

Today I accepted a job with Google as a GIS Data Engineer. I will be based in Mountain View California at head office, and involved in various sorts of geodata processing though I don’t really know the details of my responsibilities yet.

Mr Warmerdam Goes to Google

Mr. Warmerdam Goes to Google

Frank says he was looking for a change (I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to in the past month that are saying the same thing, clearly our niche is stale) and the awesome of Google was too much for him to turn down. You really need to read Frank’s post. Google had no idea what they were interviewing even though they are a huge user of GDAL. It looks like eventually smart people at Google came forward to attest to Frank’s history and he was hired as a non-entry level tech. Here is one of our best and brightest and Google just looked at him as a number (Wake up call people!).

Google does make use of GDAL/OGR for some internal data processing and in products like Google Earth Professional. My original hope had been that my job would at least partly be in support of GDAL and possibly other open source technologies within Google. While things are still a bit vague that does not seem to be immediately the case though I’m optimistic such opportunities might arise in the future. But I think this usage does mean that work on GDAL is a reasonable thing to spend 20% time on.

I always assumed Esri would eventually hire Frank to work on their raster conversion stuff as they already pay him, but it appears that Frank is moving on to better things. Clearly he’s not giving up on GDAL/OGR, but his focus could be elsewhere. Say’s Frank:

Writing file translators for 20 years can in some ways become a rut!

Best of luck Frank, we all appreciate your hard work every time we open any geospatial application since your hard work is in the core of everything we do. And Google? They’ve got top men working on just about anything. Wow!