GDAL 1.9 Brings Esri FGDB and Google Fusion Tables Support

Good news for users of GDAL/OGR:

The GDAL/OGR team is pleased to announce the release of GDAL/OGR 1.9.0.
This is a major new release including the following major new features:

  • New OGR drivers: ARCGEN, CouchDB, DWG, EDIGEO, ESRI FileGDB, Geomedia,
    Google Fusion Tables, IDRISI, MDB, SEGUKOOA, SEGY, SVG, XLS
  • Significantly improved drivers: NetCDF
  • Encoding support for shapefile/dbf (#882)
  • RFC 35: Delete, reorder and alter field definitions of OGR layers
  • RFC 37: Add mechanism to provide user data to CPLErrorHandler (#4295)
  • gdalsrsinfo: new supported utility to report SRS in various form
    (supercedes testepsg)

Some nice new formats in there. How does it all work? Paolo Corti takes a look and says, “Brilliant!”.



Pitney Bowes and Autodesk get “Strategic”

So out of the blue, this just rolls out:

Autodesk, Inc., a world leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software, and Pitney Bowes Software, Inc., a global leader in customer data, location intelligence, analytics and communication software and services, today announced they have entered into a strategic alliance agreement. The new agreement will serve as a framework for both companies to provide resources, services and solutions to help infrastructure owners and architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) organizations make more informed decisions and drive greater efficiencies across the plan, design, build, manage lifecycle of infrastructure.

As with others, I’m not sure what this means for the geospatial space moving forward. As Joe Francica points out, unless both companies have “skin in the game”, there is no real incentive to work together. What is clear though is both companies are going on the offensive which might make 2012 very interesting. Hopefully both companies will spell out in greater detail what this means in the next month so we can all figure out where we might want to align our efforts moving forward.

Wonder Twins Powers

Wonder Twin powers activate! Shape of ‘?!!!! Form of ‘?!!!!w


GeoDesign Summit 2012 — A New Direction

In all fairness to my previous post, I want to share some GeoDesign links. The feedback I’m getting from those who attended is that it has become an education type initiative, rather than working toward changing how we actually do work. I guess bottom up change works sometimes, but these kids graduating with “GeoDesign emphasis” have no chance at changing how established companies are doing business. So here you go if you want to try to figure out what was discussed:

GeoDesign Little Red Book

The GeoDesign Little Red Book is ready to teach a generation of students what won’t work in the commercial sector.


OpenStreetMap Has Momentum, Apparently

All joking aside, this is great news for the project.

Nestoria is one of those companies that was told it would have to start paying real money for Google Maps. When Google couldn?t tell it exactly how much, Nestoria?kicked Mountain View to the curb and switched to OpenStreetMap, a free, collaborative effort to map the globe.

A couple of thoughts about this article and OSM/Google Maps. 1. Google has to tell people how much they are going to charge for their maps sooner rather than later. No one can run a company without a clear idea of costs (well at least run a company for longer than 6 months). While Nestoria could have done better due diligence before banking on Google, clearly it is easy enough to move platforms. Lock-in is something that online mapping APIs do not have. 2. Freyfogle is completely wrong:

… Freyfogle says, and they must render what Google wants them render a criticism Google did not address when we asked the company for clarification. You can make your maps look however you want. Rivers can be red instead of blue if you wanted. With Google you’re not getting any data. You just get a map on your page.

You can make the Google Maps look anyway you want dynamically. That’s pretty awesome because you don’t have to create your own tiles. He says Google didn’t respond to his questions, but I would assume someone using an API would know what it does (seriously, how can you not research an API that is critical to your app?). 1. Steve Coast is still alive. Hey Steve! 2. OpenStreetMap is growing and will continue grow if Google fails to address the customer service aspects of the Google Maps API. Leaflet is the key to gaining control over your applications (Nestoria uses it). Learn it, use it, love it.The Gorillas keep taking my maps

One by one, the Gorillas are choosing OSM.


Bing Maps Has New Routing Engine

Being self-aware is always best. From the announcement of the New Bing Maps Routing Engine:

Did you happen to notice the new routing engine we implemented on Bing Maps? No?

Yea, I can’t recall the last time I used Bing Maps. I’m just so used to using Google’s services, it feels unnatural to not type into my browser. Also I’ve chosen to use Waze for navigation on my iPhone leaving them to handle routing and navigation while I’m out and about. So yea, its been some time since I’ve used Bing Maps. But I guess that’s water under the bridge.

Coupled with the bizarre patent that tells you not to go down a dark street alone without a shotgun, Microsoft seems interested in mapping again after what seems like years of not caring about Bing Maps. I suppose Windows Mobile devices use Bing Maps for routing, but who else uses them these days? It does sound like Microsoft has a cool algorithm going on the backend and I wish them the best of luck.

Many Maps

How many versions of Microsoft Maps will it take for them to be successful?


Let’s Call Esri’s ArcGIS Online What It Is — A Spade

So the Esri GeoDesign Summit is in full session, or at least we know it is because at least two people showed up. Matt (one of the lucky two) showcases the latest Esri initiatives being demonstrated at Esri’s shindig.

Bernie Szukalski, product strategist and technical evangelist at Esri, spoke today at the GeoDesign Summit about ArcGIS Online initiatives and coming capabilities. Web mapping has morphed from sharing maps and geospatial information to a geospatial content management system that supports collaboration. The new iteration allows for the publication and sharing with others, as well as the access to rich global base data through cloud services.

So yea, da cloud roxxorz! We’ve all tried to figure out what ArcGIS Online is (beyond the kitchen sink of Esri’s cloud), but this week it’s content management.

Maps can be shared with others by making them publicly available, sharing a link or embedding in a website or blog. Additional content can be found via the gallery where maps are vetted by the community, with ratings and comments. These maps contain documentation with details regarding the source, providing metadata that allows you to understand how they were created. There is also flexibility in how these intelligent maps can be accessed, with options to open in your desktop, open in Explorer Online, and in the map viewer.

If you dropped off the turnip truck, you probably like most of that paragraph. Sounds like a nice open shared world, where everyone wins. But the last sentence leads to the truth about ArcGIS Online and their vision of content management. Flexibility in the sense that if you’ve standardized on Esri’s suite of ArcGIS products, you can share their proprietary formats. Things like ArcGIS Server, File Geodatabases, Layer files and the rest are not formats we can share with the world.

Esri Hippies
C’mon people now, Smile on your brother; Ev’rybody get together, Try and love Esri right now

Lets look at it this way, SharePoint is Microsoft’s Content Management System. Imagine if Microsoft only allowed you to upload Microsoft file formats. Crazy right? But that is what ArcGIS Online is. Sure you can upload shapefiles, but those really are so limited you can’t really store data in them. There is a reason why nobody uses DBF anymore. No, you have to use Layer Packages, MXDs, etc to get any “value” out of ArcGIS Online. It is a little better on the server-side, Esri supports WMS (probably so they can check off OGC support in some contracts), but nothing else. ArcGIS Online is what it is, an Esri Content Management System that lets you share Esri files with other Esri users.

I don’t fault Esri for creating such a product, they feel there is money to be made doing this. But let’s not pretend it is a GIS content management system because it just doesn’t support open standards let alone other formats such as TAB, DWG or whatever Intergraph is doing these days. It is an Esri File Management System.

But what does that really mean? Basically Esri’s ArcGIS Online is Google My Maps, but with $10,000 client software. Creating a map to share with Esri’s online APIs doesn’t make it content management. There is no geneology of data, no lifecycle to the product. Just some simple polygons or pushpins on a map that at its core isn’t what customers want. The biggest reason why Esri is pushing ArcGIS Online so much is that Google Earth Builder is a direct play toward some vision that Esri has to where GIS may go in 2012/2013.

The problem with both solutions is that they don’t actually manage your data that goes into your products (the pushpin maps you share during GIS Day 2012). The important data is still strewn across hard drives and servers in your organization just hoping that it will never get lost. That doesn’t sound like progress to me and the focus is not on workflows but some mythical federal contract that the big boys are fighting over.

Pushpin Mapping
Cutting edge maps have pushpins on them.

UPDATE: Looks like I missed Sean McGinnis’ take on a couple weeks ago.


Let’s Make This New Year’s Resolution

When was the last time you referred to the Internet as the “Information Superhighway”? Probably not since you upgraded from GEnie to AOL back in the early 90’s and saw there was this HTML world out there. Early on you figured out calling the Internet the Information Superhighway stupid and the world thanks you for it.

In 2012, lets stop using the term “the Cloud” to refer to some arbitrary hosted service. It’s like nails on a chalkboard. Just think about this statement in a year:

The Cloud roxxorz my proprietary GIS Server!

It’s like that picture of you wearing that Members Only Jacket to your Senior prom. You so want that picture to go away, but Mom keeps showing it to your friends.

Same here, don’t be that guy who uses “the Cloud”. It’s a marketing term for newspaper writers who learned how the Internet works from Ted Stevens. In a year you’ll be on to the next Gartner Hype Cycle fetish (I hear the self driving Google car is right around the corner) anyway so call it what it is, hosted services.

Stupid Cloud


2011 Was the Year of Python

So last year I said this:

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.

‘Twas a very good year for Python. Seems like we’ve finally gotten out of proprietary scripting languages and picked a winner in Python. Personally, WeoGeo couldn’t do what we do on our back end without Python and I know many other companies can say the same thing. I’ll “go out on a limb” and say 2012 will also be a very good year for Python.

Snakes on a GIS

There are snakes on this GIS!


Getting Paid by the Hour to Watch GIS Software Start Up

I’ve had it, I’m done waiting for old, slow, bloated GIS packages load while I do nothing. My new resolution this year is to focus on GIS products that start up quickly and let me start working immediately.

Seriously, what’s up with the bloated code? Features have trumped usability in GIS for far too long. This isn’t rocket science.

GIS Day is Slow

GIS Day is a celebration of slow moving software.