LAS, LAZ, LasZip, zLAS and You

Paul Ramsey sums up the situation very well:

Rather than avoiding a lengthy LIDAR format war, we are now entering one. In some respects, this will be healthy: the open LAS community now has to come up to feature parity faster than it might otherwise. But in most ways, it’s unhealthy: users will have data interchange issues, they’ll have to understand and install format translation software, and add extra steps to their processing chains.

Yuck right?  LAS is still niche so it isn’t like FGDB where you have to convert it to old shapefiles to make it useful but working outside the community is not good for users.  I’m glad I don’t work for a data marketplace anymore, these file formats are springing up like weeds1.

As a user, I don’t leave LIDAR data in LAS  but convert it into other formats to use it.  But it’s that interchange issue that keeps us stuck with old formats such as the shapefile.   Sharing LAS is difficult to to huge file sizes.  Binary point clouds with some sort of compression makes complete sense.  Now you’ve got multiple file types to deal with.  Enjoy…

  1. Hard to keep track of them all 

Mobile GIS – 2014 Edition


If there is one area “professional GIS” has failed it is in the mobile arena.  Crazy Windows CE, Java and other solutions just confuse and frustrate users.  Heck after coming back into the GIS consulting world I’ve picked up these handheld ArcPad GPS units and failed to be able to get them to work[footnote]To be fair, the older I get, the more confused I get with technology[/footnote].  There are some great Smartphone/Tablet solutions such as my favorite Fulcrum but they really fail on battery life[footnote]If you can’t tweet all day with your smartphone, how can you use the GPS?[/footnote].

I’m always on the look out for better solutions to solve mobile GIS and the latest seems to be Windows Surface devices running Windows 8.  I’ve been getting a lot of requests internally to test the devices for data collection.  Most of it comes from the wish that users can run ArcGIS Desktop in the field.  We’ve been fighting this on the mobile side for years, but maybe we should just sit back and let them have their day with a hacked up Surface Pro 2 with USB GPS and a checked out ArcGIS Desktop Basic[footnote]ArcView was so much easier to say[/footnote] and be done with.


Then again, what about standardizing on a PostGIS/QGIS field tool?  This solves a couple of issues for me including the licensing implications of having floating licenses in the field for days at a time.  I’m personally trying to reduce software licensing costs to a practical level and the unknown of who will check out extensions throws a wrench in it.  The beauty of a PostGIS/QGIS solution is in the freedom to send people in the field for data collection and not have licensing bite us in the rear.  I’m going to try to secure a Surface Pro 2 test-bed and see what such a PostGIS/QGIS field collection tool can do.

Plus once they get back into the office, sync the PostGIS data up and the GIS analysts can use it with their ArcGIS Desktop projects.  Win/win, right?

The Shapefile

So antiquated, so limiting, so dangerous…

Yet so important to our daily workflows.  It’s the pinch-point on every project.  Every year we make statements saying this is the year the shapefile goes away.  Yet here in 2014 I’m dealing with the limitations of DBF1 yet again.  Shapefile, you drive me nuts yet I can’t quit you just yet.  Here is to another “wonderful” year of .shp, .shx, .shp, .prj, .sbn, .sbx, .fbn, .fbx, .ain, .aih, .ixs, .mxs, .atx, .cpg and of course .shp.xml.

Here’s to another year of the shapefile!

  1. I know so much about DBF reserve words, sadly…