More Google Maps Exodus — foursquare goes Mapbox

Every week it seems another company abandons Google Maps and goes another direction. As my good friends at Google are quick to point out, these companies are either small or the total numbers just don’t register. Well how about this news from foursquare?

Starting today, we’re embracing the OpenStreetMap movement, so all the maps you see when you go to will look a tiny bit different (we think the new ones are really pretty). Other than slightly different colors and buttons, though, foursquare is still the same site you know and love.

Sounds like they did this on a dare, but were quite surprised to see how easy it was and the results were more than they had before. Oh and the stack? OpenStreetMap, Leaflet and MapBox. Right? Where have we seen that before? Oh right, just about everywhere in the past 6 months.

They are utilizing MapBox Streets which the team from Development Seed announced earlier this week.
And it isn’t just foursquare using MapBox, but many others.

MapBox Uses

The’ve got a great webpage up explaining how to get started using MapBox Streets and Leaflet. You should check it out.

Heston as Moses

“Let my mappers go!”


ArcGIS’ Future — Sans Extensions?

While watching the Esri Federal GIS Conference last week, I tweeted this when Jack was talking about new features to the raster manipulation tools in ArcGIS 10.1.

Now if you were sitting there, you know you didn’t actually hear Jack say that. What he actually said was that you didn’t need external tools to manipulate rasters anymore. My Erdas joke aside, basically Esri is embedding tools into ArcGIS for Desktop that a year ago you’d pay another company for.

Now I don’t work with rasters anymore like I used to, but I can see the big picture here. Esri is filling in the spaces on their ArcGIS suite with tools that others used to provide. And even more interesting, they are including these tools essentially for free with your ArcGIS license. Maybe 10 years ago, you’d see an Extension for ArcGIS where raster tools could be licensed to those who might need them. Now they are being given away with the master ArcGIS package.

And it isn’t just raster, Lidar tools, 3D tools and other features users want are being backed right into the core ArcGIS package. This is a huge shift for Esri and one that I think Esri users will be very happy with. I still wake up in a cold sweat because I had a nightmare where all the Spatial Analyst tools were checked out and I had a deadline in 5 minutes. Now I’m not sure that we’ll see all these existing extensions being rolled into the core (some of it is probably licensing, see Data Interop), but you have to wonder what changes might be in store with 10.2 11 next year.


You can now flash some more cash around thanks to less software maintenance costs

The image manipulation tools in ArcGIS 10.1 look pretty sweet and given that we’ll have them available in the core ArcGIS package might make many Analysts jump for joy. I guess many can take that Erdas maintenance costs and buy something cool.


Bing Maps and Nokia get Unified

There is such focus on Google Maps, OpenStreetMap and projects like TileMill that you forget about the smaller elephant in the room (the one behind the Google elephant). It looks like Bing Maps and Nokia are getting “unified”.

Last year, we entered into a strategic partnership with Nokia which included plans to offer a unique and compelling mapping experience for our customers. Since then we’ve been working with Nokia and Windows Phone to deliver a unified map style based on one set of design principles with the goal of providing a more intuitive and pleasing online mapping experience. Our Bing Maps designers teamed closely with our partners at Nokia Maps and the Windows Phone team to unify our map elements, improve contrast and usability to ultimately create a more beautiful and functional map. Today we’re excited to share the new map design, available on desktop and mobile versions of Bing and Nokia maps.

So it looks like both services will use the same background tiles and leverage the technologies that both bring to the table (including Navteq). A quick look at the tiles, at least on the desktop still show Bing Maps using the older style, but [Nokia Maps seems to be using]( 33.4288021 -111.8618565 12 0 0 what is described in the blog post above.

Nokia Maps Unified

I’ll be honest, I do like the new tiles as they are shown in Nokia Maps. There is just something about grey backgrounds that appeal to me.

Now maybe Bing is going to roll out these new tiles soon, but for now you’ll need to use Nokia Maps to see what they are looking at. Even on my iPhone, I’m still seeing the older Bing Maps tiles.

Bing Maps Not Unified


ArcGIS as a Service

Last week at the Esri Federal GIS Conference I sat in a couple of sessions on Esri and hosted GIS (what they call “the Cloud”). I even blogged about one of the sessions which I though that Esri did a really good job explaining how hosted GIS works and what you need to know before you bet the farm on it. Buried in there I said this:

I’m happy to see a Linux AMI choice, but unfortunately the news is that I still can’t roll out 10.1 linux myself, I have to use Esri’s AMI.

I’ve said that a couple times before over the years but on the plane ride home from D.C. I started to think about why this was the case.

  1. I’ve been using ArcGIS Server for so long, I feel like I need to have total control over it.
  2. I think I can create an AMI better than the thousands of engineers at Esri.
  3. I won’t be able to use the AMI how I want.
  4. I’m getting old in my age and I don’t like change.

OZ Gatekeeper

I want to be my own gatekeeper.

I think that about covers it. When it comes down to it, I’m just worried that ArcGIS Server on AWS using Esri’s AMI might be bloated and slow. I think deep down I could probably configure that thing in a way that would make it sing. But as I sat on the runway at JFK for an hour waiting to take off, I began to second guess myself. Let me turn those 4 points back on themselves.

  1. Sure I’ve been using ArcGIS Server forever, but Esri’s AMI isn’t locked down. It’s a full featured ArcGIS Server (depending on how you license it).
  2. While I’m darn good at what I do, something tells me that Esri probably knows how to scale ArcGIS in AWS. And seriously, scaling ArcGIS Server is a huge pain in the rear so why do I think I want to handle that myself?
  3. I use AMIs all the time that I didn’t create myself.
  4. I don’t want to get a neck beard so I better stop thinking like that.

So ArcGIS Server 10.1 will be on Ubuntu as an AMI and all I have to do is request Esri to release it to me. Let’s just ignore the licensing for a minute, that’s pretty sweet. I need an ArcGIS Server? Bam, there it is. But the sweetness only goes so far, I’m still stuck without an ELA so this utopia isn’t as wonderful as it seemed while our airplane was in line waiting to take off. Still, if Esri can ever figure out how the licensing works for users like me, there might be a great future here.

So this is where I embrace the new world order on using ArcGIS Server with AWS and just let Esri handle the details as to how ArcGIS Server should work. I can focus on what I really want to focus on, leveraging ArcGIS Server for my customers (again, assuming the licensing is ever resolved). Almost there…

Homer Esri

Time to dig that Esri shirt back out and wear it proudly.


FOSS4G North America Presentation Deadline is March 1st

We should all be thankful that we in North America the USA have a FOSS4G conference every 6 months. Well as nice as that is, it means you better get your abstract in for your in the next few days (though we do get an extra day this year). A hat tip to Paul Ramsey for reminding us all to not forget and get your abstract submitted.



Using ArcGIS Server in the Cloud

This morning I sat on a talk about “A Business Perspective on Deploying ArcGIS Server in the CLoud”. Esri likes to define 3 areas that ArcGIS Server can run; on premise, hybrid an cloud. You can see how ArcGIS Server fits in with each environment.

The talk was actually pretty good on the reasons why a hosted environment makes more sense than rolling your own equipment. I’ve had issues with how Esri defines ArcGIS into the cloud, but this talk was somewhat refreshing and realistic. A very nice change. The freedom that a virtual environment gives you for growing your business can’t be overlooked, something I’ve learned here at WeoGeo. But this same business case can be applied to those rolling out ArcGIS Server.


At 10.1, AWS AMIs will include Ubuntu Linux, PostGIS and of course Windows choices. I’m happy to see a Linux AMI choice, but unfortunately the news is that I still can’t roll out 10.1 linux myself, I have to use Esri’s AMI (WeoGeo creates our own AMIs for various reasons, we’d rather not run someone else’s AMI).

There was a good discussion of how to figure out the cost of AWS. That’s always a bit tricky, especially when you start working with AWS. Stay on top of your instances by looking at the AWS Management Console. Or better yet, work with a SaaS provider (like lets say, WeoGeo who abstracts out all this and charges you a set amount every month.

There was another section on using Vblock. I was unaware there was an Esri whitepaper on using ArcGIS with Vblock so I’m going to share it with you in case you wish to learn more about these two tools. Those who are unable to leverage Amazon and AWS should look at Vblock.

I think the new features of ArcGIS 10.1 will finally see a large uptake of ArcGIS Server in AWS and other cloud providers. This summer could be interesting with the big release of ArcGIS Server in virtual environment.


“Let us hurry. There is nothing to fear here”


The Esri Federal GIS Conference Plenary

So the GIS conference funny season starts off today at the Esri Federal GIS Conference. Clearly the Feds don’t need power strips to power their laptops as I can’t find any place to recharge in this hall. While sitting down I hear Esri reps talk to people in the hall. They keep talking about “ArcGIS 4” being the great new product. It took me a while to figure out that they weren’t talking about the mythical follow on to ArcView 3.x but an unfortunate talking point problem. ArcGIS 4 is actually “ArcGIS for ” where can mean anything from “basemaps” to I guess actual analytics. Still ArcGIS 4 seems to confuse more than help. Maybe Jack getting on stage and saying it a couple times will make people understand.

Jack took to the stage and jumped in to how Esri and GIS are helping people do their jobs. Jack then brought out David Shell, Founder of OGC, to give him a “making a difference award”. I’ve got serious issues with many OGC standards, but I’ll give it to them that they have changed things. Hopefully they can make a difference and kill WMS.

David Hayes, today’s keynote, then stepped up and talked about how GIS and data are changing the Department of the Interior. Sorry Brian, no mention of BLM and their GeoCommunicator failure. Mr. Hayes says geospatial technology is the most important tool for Federal Government. I swear I could hear the consultants in the audience salivating at that.

Shouting at Cloud

When Jack came back on the stage, he jumped into “GeoInformation Products”. Jack says this is a code word for “maps”. Jack then said this is the “most exciting year of his life”. Reasons why include crowdsourcing, da cloud, collaboration, bigger pipes, social networking and of course GIS. Cloud GIS, according to Jack, is the new pattern in our space. He points to better access and common infrastructure (built on ArcGIS) that will help coordinate work inside and between agencies. Jack is clearly saying that Esri GIS in the cloud is how the Federal government will be doing business.

Jack says 10.1 will be released in about 8 weeks. He calls this Esri’s biggest release, ever. He says it will make ArcGIS easier. He says it takes part on the old Desktop and Server, but also in the “cloud”. Of course, Esri started with ArcGIS Online (which may or may not be, I can’t tell). It is, according to Esri, content mangement. He says that ArcGIS Online is about Intelligent Web Maps (so it isn’t content management). The idea is that you have one map in ArcGIS Online and share it with other Esri clients. ArcGIS Online enables; GIS, self-service mapping, office and organization.

ArcGIS Online seems to be a Google Earth Builder competitor. I’m not sure though if this is what people are really looking for. Are Google and Esri creating tools to one up each other rather than just provide what users what. I guess both services are aimed at federal customers who want this stuff.

Esri announced a product that integrates into Microsoft Office. There is now an Esri Maps “ribbon” that gets added to (at least this case) Excel. Unlike the ArcGIS Online, this tool actually seems to integrate into your existing workflows. The most brilliant feature? Share to Powerpoint. In addition they have integrated the toolbar into PowerPoint to add maps directly inside your slide decks. Beta will be available in late March going final late summer. Jack then came back out and says ArcGIS Online is integrated with SharePoint and Office, IBM Cognos and Salesforce.

Next up was ArcGIS for Desktop (not ArcGIS 4 Desktop). 3D, Imagery (you don’t need Erdas), sharing work with ArcGIS for Server or ArcGIS Online. ArcGIS for Server is 64bit and finally have a good Linux version. Esri is going to continue supporting Flex, Silverlight and JavaScript APIs. Thus if you’ve bet the farm on these APIs, you can continue doing so with 10.1. Mobile is still on iOS, Android, Windows (Phone/Mobile) and ArcPad. I’m not seeing any Mobile JavaScript API talk yet.

Jack mentioned he spend $300 million on 10.1 development. The next version will be called 11 (or 10.2) and Esri wants you to visit their Ideas site to post what you want (like drag and drop CSV files).

The afternoon sessions included outlining Esri’s “commitment to open and interoperable standards”, mobile clients, City Engine and new features of ArcGIS 10.1. It appears the new tools for imagery analysis, lidar and video extend the platform out far. I think the DevSummit will be the place to learn more about 10.1 and what’s coming.

The Esri Federal GIS Conference is aimed at Federal GIS user base so it isn’t an area I’m working in. With each new release, Esri pushes ArcGIS that much further as the geospatial choice for the USA Federal Government. The scale here is quite impressive to behold, others wanting to compete better get their act together.


The Esri FedUC – Partly Cloudy?

I’m off to the 2012 Esri Federal GIS Conference tomorrow morning. The one thing the “FedUC” does more than anything else is set the tone for Esri’s marketing push. From the Plenary description:

Esri president Jack Dangermond will provide an update on the latest innovations in ArcGIS, new patterns in cloud GIS, and a vision for the future of GIS.

The Esri cloud story has been half told. Basically it’s a concept that still needs to be flushed out. I’m always waiting for the new ArcGIS architecture to come down the road where Esri can really start treating “ArcGIS” as a true scaleable hosted technology and not just some enterprise server software that happens to run on some IaaS platform.

Esri Card

The “new pattern” as Esri sees it is probably in this article written by Victoria Kouyoumjian. The problem with this vision is that I’m not sure as it exists today is anything close to something GIS professionals (the ones that use Esri Software) want or need. might “grow the brand” for Esri, but it keeps them stuck in the past having to support the world largest COM ecosystem out there, ArcGIS.

We’ll just have to see what happens when Jack takes the stage in about 36 hours and tells us what we need to know about Esri and hosted GIS. Personally I’m still hopeful at some point Esri will figure out a license model that lets us at WeoGeo integrate their products into our infrastructure that doesn’t cost $40,000 an instance (we scale our servers on Amazon to the point we could never afford to pay that kind of license). is a smokescreen for Esri to keep talking about hosted GIS until they announce their new ArcGIS backend. For all we know, is the basis for this new ArcGIS that scales, works on non-Windows servers and is priced at a realistic price point. I’d jump at a chance to leverage more Esri technology in our stack at WeoGeo, but for now we’ll sit and wait with the rest of you for whatever this new pattern is Jack is going to talk about.

Licensing based on how people were doing business in 1988 doesn’t work in 2012. That’s what the “new pattern in cloud computing” should be telling us.


Suggestions to Europe for the 2013 FOSS4G RFP

I saw today that Paul Ramsey posted the 2013 FOSS4G RFP. Highlights according to Paul:

  • 2013 is a “Europe year”
  • Like last year, using a two-stage bidding process, with letters-of-intent, followed by full proposals for selected bidders.
  • Letters of intent due March 31.

Since this is a “Europe Year”, clearly we need to be thinking about a FOSS4G in Europe next year. Because Europeans are always looking to the USA for suggestions (right?), I’ll gladly pass this free advice on to our brothers and sisters in the Euro zone… Don’t put it in Northern or Eastern Europe. Acceptable choices are only the French or Italian Rivera.

I’m sure Prague, Budapest or Warsaw are wonderful cities and should be at the top of any trip to Europe. But to me that’s like having a conference in Chicago. Sure, there are wonderful things to do in Chicago, but eventually you wake up one morning and you realize the best thing about Chicago is that it isn’t St. Louis or Milwaukee. You don’t want that to happen to FOSS4G 2013, right?

Plus who doesn’t want to see old men in speedos pull a fishing boat up on the beach (isn’t that what Italy is all about)?

Only in Europe


Teaming Up Against Esri

I’ve been trying to catch up on some reading during lunch today and this interview that Joe Francica did with Pitney Bowes Software’s John O’Hara caught my eye:

[John] O’Hara mentioned that Autodesk saw Esri moving into design space and therefore saw an opportunity to work with PB as a partner to go up against situations with Esri. Similarly, Autodesk and PB have some dependence on desktop software and largely don’t play in the same space. PB is focused on business applications of GIS in markets like insurance, banking and retail while Autodesk plays in the planning , engineering and energy space. Autodesk’s go to market model is through a huge network of partners; and PB has a more direct sales organization.

All this “GeoDesign” talk clearly caught Autodesk’s eye. I’m guessing that they’ve had enough and we could be seeing a larger commitment from Autodesk in the “Geo” (big G) space in the coming year.


On the way to battle the Wicked Witch of the West Redlands, Autodesk found Pitney Bowes on the side of the road.