The Geography of LOST

A fun website to explore on a Friday (not that you need my help on being distracted) is this project put together by Jonah M. Adkins, GISP of Newport News, Virginia. Geography of LOST: Retrospective is a project by Jonah where he mapped the island from the TV show LOST using ArcGIS Desktop. The maps are quite impressive cartographical and the style just catches your eye. What is even more impressive is his work has been featured in io9, the New York Post and Entertainment Weekly.

The blueprint is particularly eye catching! Great job Jonah!

Ready to Head to the 2010 ESRI International UC

I’ll be bugging out this weekend to San Diego for the annual ESRI love fest. If all this Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, Backchannel stuff has you screaming “no more”, don’t worry. I’ll be live blogging the show as usual starting Monday morning at the plenary. The UC can’t be placed in 140 characters so I don’t bother.

If you are going as well, feel free to stop by the WeoGeo booth where I’ll be most of the week or beers at night (heck do both).

MapQuest goes OpenStreetMap – At Least in UK

MapQuest, in that ever battle to stay relevant, has chosen to move toward OpenStreetMap. Says the Wall Street Journal:

The company [MapQuest], a subsidiary of AOL, plans to announce Friday morning that it is launching a site in the U.K. based on a project called OpenStreetMap, which is dedicated to user-created mapping. The OpenStreetMap project has caught on most quickly in Europe, which is why MapQuest is starting there, but AOL also will devote $1 million to support the growth of open-source mapping in the U.S. The site has a U.K. address but users can navigate to user-created maps from any country.

While we’ve all worked really hard here in the good old USA to improve the maps, clearly there is still a ton of work to get done (especially with building the networks), but $1,000,000 (doesn’t it look bigger when you use those zeros?) should help get this moving. CloudMade tried to fund this through their Ambassador program, but pulled the plug when progress was slow in coming. AOL is clearly committed to the program and probably happy to spend their dollars on funding OSM than shipping them off to Navteq (er Nokia) and their competition. How long before Microsoft decides that they are done funding Nokia’s Ovi Maps effort through licensing and joins OSM or moves to Tele Atlas?

Now if AOL gave me that million dollars and asked me to figure out how to build out the USA, I’d go ahead and hire the top 10 German OSM contributes and set them loose on America. It would be done in two weeks. Seriously though, the USA map needs a ton of work and the quality of the map compared to Europe is probably the only thing holding back OSM.

MapQuest has more details on their blog.

Here comes AOL!

Test Drive on the Wacom DTU-2231

I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to test out the Wacom DTU-2231 for the past couple weeks. I’ve been seeing quite a bit of Wacom at the ESRI UC and other conferences and it would appear they are making a big push in the professional GIS world. With ArcGIS 10, I couldn’t pass up the offer to give the Wacom DTU-2231 a try.

While the Wacom can be stood up like a monitor, it is best experienced laying flat (like a workspace). This gives you an opportunity to lean on the device and work better with whatever apps you are using at the time. I wasn’t sure at first about putting my hands on the monitor/tablet, but it feels so natural and it mimics how we used to work with cartography before GIS came along (yea, all that pen and paper stuff is coming back to me now).

The Wacom DTU-2231 on my desk

Now the monitor itself is crisp as anything I’ve seen and it runs at a native 1920×1080 giving it full HD resolution. The maps just leap off of the page because they are so crisp. The pen was something I wasn’t used to as previous tablets I’ve used had heavy pens that required to be put in a recharger when not in use. This one has a battery-free pen which means the pen is lighter and you never have to worry about it not being available for use. Once you get used to using a pen directly on a monitor, you never pick up the mouse again. The pen is pressure sensitive, but I couldn’t tell if ArcGIS could tell (I’m sure it didn’t). Other apps of course do take advantage of the pressure making it fun to work with.

Using the Wacom with ArcGIS 10 was my main goal. ESRI’s new editing tools seem like they are meant to be used with tablets. The freehand drawing capability really changes how you sketch out maps in ArcMap. Since I came up through the “Planning” side of GIS, I’ve made more site plans than I care to recall. Usually they are a result of someone drawing something on a map that you printed out and then you attempt to either scan that map back into ArcGIS or you draw it in unnaturally with your mouse. The old adage, you can never have too many nodes usually means your arm feels like it will fall off making those curves.

But with this Wacom tablet, I was able to sketch directly on top of an aerial image, as well as let others sketch what they wanted to see on the map. This meant that we worked directly inside my geodatabase speeding up my work. Plus with the new template tools in ArcGIS 10, we were able to pick exactly the right kinds of symbology as we edited.

ArcMap is ready to go out of the box for use with the Wacom DTU-2231

ArcMap is ready to go out of the box for use with the Wacom DTU-2231

The planner was able to put points down where she wanted them which in turn went directly into my geodatabase

Putting grassy areas down was as easy as drawing them on paper, but in this case they take on the properties of the geodatabase.

As I said above, the whole experience working with geospatial features with the tablet was liberating. I’ve been frustrated for years by planners who ask from broad, smooth curves that by no fault of my right arm, cannot be drawn using a mouse. The pen speeds up any editing of geodatabases and in turn gives results back to the planners quicker than we were able previously. Not scanning in tracing paper or vellum into ArcGIS on its own probably pays for the unit itself.

Also the new editing functions of ArcGIS 10 are a huge change from how people have edited GIS data in any platform before. I’ve also said symbology was as important as the data itself for presenting and the template tools, the storage of these tools inside the geodatabase, all epic.

I’m looking forward to working with this Wacom tablet some more. Its funny in that when I’m working on a computer that doesn’t have it attached, I get very frustrated now having to use a mouse. If you are going to the ESRI UC next week, make sure to stop by the Wacom booth (Booth 2713)?to see it in action and play around with it yourself. I’ve heard ESRI will have a bunch of them around the exhibit hall and in sessions so I’m sure you’ll see it just about everywhere.

Ladies, do you want your GIS Analyst working with the Wacom DTU-2231? Of course you do! Swan Dive!

Note: Wacom provided the DTU-2231 to me for evaluation purposes.

ArcGIS for iOS Release

Over the holiday weekend, ESRI’s new ArcGIS for iOS went live on the Apple iTunes Store.

ArcGIS for iOS (iPhone) Splash Screen

ESRI lists the following as “features”:

  • Navigate map galleries in just a few taps
  • Use maps authored in
  • Access your own GIS data
  • Display and zoom to current location
  • Perform linear and area measurements based on your current location or by interacting with the map.
  • Retrieve detailed map metadata
  • View feature attribute information
  • Perform keyword search and get access to relevant information
  • Execute predefined searches
  • Change the visibility of layers
  • Access popular maps faster by adding them to your favorites list
  • Share maps with other iPhone/iPad users

Now the app is quite impressive. The functionality and the ease of use stand out to me on my quick look this morning. The UI is simple and puts both the map and search functionality front and center. There is also a “Find Maps” button that takes you to what is essentially ArcGIS Online, where you can view many maps that are available in that service as well as add your own web mapping service. The only issue I have with this is that currently you can only add ArcGIS Server web services, not any OGC services. In an ESRI centric environment, that might not be an issue, but it does limit its use outside of an “ESRI shop”. You also can’t consume CSW services to discover web content, you can only use

The simple UI for ArcGIS for iOS on the iPhone

ArcGIS for iOS Find Maps Screen

ArcGIS for iOS Browse Maps Screen

The ArcGIS for iOS OpenStreetMap Service

ArcGIS for iOS uses ESRI Web Services Only

The search works well in that you can find not only places, but companies and other useful points of interest.

Isn’t it nice how the search for ESRI puts you right at the front door of the Q Building?

The Map Tools are accessible via the wrench in the upper right Map screen and give you Identify and Measure (Area and Distance). The Identify has a reverse geocoder to give you the address of a location as well as its coordinate and any features available.

The map tools available for ArcGIS for iOS

The identify function of ArcGIS for iOS

ArcGIS for iOS is a very impressive mobile mapping app. It really shows the attention to detail ESRI has put into their new ArcGIS Mobile apps. Compared to the old Windows CE and Windows Mobile crap they used to put out, this was easily used by my son without any direction. Having all those ESRI web services (from the wonderful Topological Map, to the Bing Maps) at your finger tips is great (plus adding in OSM is just icing on the cake).

ArcGIS Golf Oil Spill Forecast Map

As I said above, my biggest disappointment is lack of OGC standards support. WMS and CSW support is really needed to make this application valuable outside of ESRI centric workflows. That said, watching my 7 year old son move around the application with ease gives me new hope what we GIS folks can actually make usable GIS apps for public consumption. We’ll just have to see how open they can get.

ArcGIS Editor for OpenStreetMap

Marten Hogeweg has a great overview on the new ArcGIS Editor for OpenStreetMap.

For a while, ArcGIS users have been able to use the OpenStreetMap (OSM) content as a basemap in ArcGIS Desktop or in web applications thanks to a republishing of this content through ArcGIS Online. After the earthquakes, we have received many requests from users of ArcGIS who want to contribute to OSM, but who prefer to use the editing capabilities of ArcGIS Desktop.

For users of ArcGIS 10 this is now possible using the new free add-on ArcGIS Editor for OpenStreetMap.

This is great news for ArcGIS users and the OpenStreetMap project itself. Users of ESRI ArcGIS Desktop 10 can use ArcMap to edit OpenStreetMap directly. Lowering the entry to editing OpenStreetMap is what will make the whole project stronger, especially here in the United States where ESRI rules the roost. Hopefully we’ll see some local and state governments start giving back to the OSM project.

If Lawrence Welk can play Velvet Underground, ESRI can edit OpenStreetMap. Somehow it just feels right.

The ESRI UC Q&A Response Is Up

One of the best insights into ESRI and their direction is the UC Q&A. ESRI has posted the latest one here and some highlights are below:

Q: What has ESRI done in the area of map books?

A: At ArcGIS 10, functionality has been added to allow you to create map books using a feature layer to define map extents for multiple pages. This new functionality, in conjunction with all the other enhancements to support map books, is referred to as data driven pages. Data driven pages give you the ability to generate multiple pages by taking a single layout and iterating over a set of map extents. Any feature layer, point, line or polygon can be used, along with a margin, to define the extents.

A question I still get asked again and again is when is ESRI going to update DS Mapbook. Well now you’ve got a real solution built into ArcGIS 10.

Q: Does ArcGIS 10 open up more functionality for use with Python?

A: Python integration is one of the key features of ArcGIS 10. At this release we’ve introduced a new Python subsystem called ArcPy, which exposes many of the ArcGIS functions.

ArcPy is still a little kludgy, but wasn’t isn’t with ArcGIS 10.

Q: What are add-ins? and how do I use them?

A: The new ArcGIS Desktop add-in model provides developers a method to easily extend desktop application capabilities. This is done with a declaratively based framework for creating blocks of custom functionality within a single compressed file. These add-in files can then be easily shared between users without relying on installation programs or Component Object Model (COM) registration. Add-in files can be installed by copying them to a well-known folder location and uninstalled by deleting them from that folder location.

Add-ins are really a game changer for ESRI extension/toolbar developers.

Q: When will ArcGIS Desktop be able to take full advantage of the 64-bit operating systems?

A: We are aware of the need for 64-bit desktop support. ArcGIS Desktop is currently a 32-bit application that is fully supported on 64-bit versions of Windows operating systems. We have started the migration to 64-bit ArcGIS. Our priority will be to complete the migration of ArcGIS Server first (the next release).

Basically sit back and wait for Server to go 64-bit first.

Q: Can I open a map that was built using Maplex on a computer that does not have that extension enabled?

A: Yes. At ArcGIS 10 users can open map documents authored using Maplex in a read only? mode on any ArcGIS Desktop regardless of whether the Maplex extension is enabled. The map retains all the labeling properties. The Maplex extension is required to edit or alter them.

I’m sure this will make all Maplex users happy. A wonderful change…

Q: How does GIS Data ReViewer help review crowd sourced data?

A: GIS Data ReViewer provides tools for sampling and visual review of large datasets such as crowd sourced data. The sampling check automatically generates a statistical sampling of features or records from one or more layers or tables for your review. Using this tool, you can ensure that your data meets the accuracy standards put forth by your organization. GIS Data ReViewer also provides guided visual review tools that allow you to keep track of the areas / features that have been through the quality control process.

It is a new world isn’t it?

Q: Is VBA supported with ArcGIS Desktop 10?

A: Yes, ArcGIS Desktop 10 does support Microsoft VBA. However ArcGIS 10 is the last version with VBA support, so we encourage you to start the migration process. Python is an integral part of ArcGIS Desktop for automating tasks and the new add-in capabilities allow developers to easily create and deploy ArcMap customizations.

An important change at version 10 is that VBA is not part of the ArcGIS Desktop install. If you need VBA, you need to install the ArcObjects VBA SDK, which will setup the VBA Runtime, Editor, and Help. Please note that an additional authorization file is required for VBA. This is a no charge license that can be requested from ESRI Customer Service.

Not only is the writing on the wall, but the door is closing. Migrate those VBA apps now!

Q: Are ArcGIS Online and closed communities?

A: No. ArcGIS Online and are fully open and accessible to anyone and include access to the rich set of ESRI-hosted basemaps and image services. Shared items from ESRI and the user community are available for use in a variety of ways with free, lightweight Web applications like the ArcGIS Web Map and ArcGIS Explorer Online as well as ArcGIS Desktop 10. The services are published using standard and open RESTful architecture, and can be consumed in many different ways. Free Web APIs are available that enable developers to use these resources freely.

I personally think ESRI is answering this question all wrong. Part of it is that they define open one and and others define it another way. For now I still see them getting beaten up on ArcGIS Online being closed.

Q: How is ArcGIS being integrated with Python statistics packages?

A: At the data level, ArcGIS 10 supports import and export of rasters to NumPy arrays; this is a starting point in many statistical analysis workflows. On the Geoprocessing Resource Center Model and Script Tool Gallery you will also find examples of using R in ArcGIS 10, and we expect to expand these samples throughout the year.

Very nice that ESRI is taking it upon themselves to push some of these Python packages. I think all boats will rise in the Python community because of it.

Q: Is there a place for crowdsourced? data in my authoritative? GIS environment?

A: Sometimes referred to as volunteered geographic information (VGI) or user-generated content (UGC), crowdsourced data is contributed by nonauthoritative sources (e.g., everyday citizens). The challenge for GIS practitioners is to ensure the usability of this data in a GIS workflow or to turn this crowdsourced data into useful geographic knowledge. This can mean checking the data to make sure that it is correct. It can also mean getting involved in data collection; structuring the process to ensure that the collected data has meaning and is appropriate as well as accurate.

Does anyone else get the feeling of someone taking down with this response. At least that is my “authoritative” response.

Q: What is the future of the Web ADF?

A: The Web ADFs will be deprecated in the next release after ArcGIS Server 10.

Hmm, I think I need a picture of me dancing on Web ADF’s grave.

Q: Will ArcGIS be available for iPhone, iPad or other iOS devices?

A: Yes. ArcGIS for iOS is the latest ESRI mobile product available at the ArcGIS 10 release that extends GIS to the popular Apple iOS platform. It includes a ready to deploy application which will be downloadable from the Apple App Store, and a native Objective C API that developers can use to build GIS applications that meet their business needs. By making ArcGIS available for iOS, existing customers can extend the reach of their GIS to a wider market.

Apple’s platforms are going to be a key part of ESRI’s mobile strategy moving forward.

Q: Will ESRI support the Android phone?

A: We will continue to build on our supported mobile platforms. We plan to release both an API and an application for the Android operating system around the end of this year.

Makes sense, having ArcGIS Mobile on the two big mobile platforms is not unexpected.

Q: Is Visual Basic (VB) 6 supported with ArcGIS 10?

A: No, as previously announced, ArcGIS 10 doesn?t include a Visual Basic 6 SDK or support. Older VB 6 code will need to be migrated using Visual Studio 2008 or 2010 (VB.NET or C#). The ArcObjects SDK provides several topics on migrating to VB.NET.

VBA devs take note, you’ll be experiencing this answer next year.

Q: Is ArcGIS open?

A: Yes. ArcGIS is open, and it is interoperable.

This is how they should have answered the ArcGIS Online Open question. There are ways to interact with ArcGIS and they have support for some open standards. Better than most GIS companies…

Q: Why has ESRI released its REST APIs as open technology? What does it mean?

A: We see this as a big thing. In many ways, by releasing the ArcGIS REST APIs as open technology, ESRI is repeating what it did in the early 90s?releasing shapefiles as an open data format.

Hmm, I say shapefiles and REST APIs are apples and oranges, but clearly ESRI is using the word “open” as much as they can with their APIs.

Q: How does ArcGIS 10 support OpenStreetMap?

A: You can use OpenStreetMap as a basemap in ArcGIS. ESRI has also developed OSMEditor (OpenStreetMap Editor) and provides it as a free add-on for ArcGIS Desktop. This technology supports disconnected editing, template-based editing, and basic conflict detection.

Nice, very nice!

Q: How does ArcGIS support open source?

A: While ESRI is not an open source company, we are empathetic to the open source movement and seek to collaborate on interoperability that further integrates our technology with this environment.

A nice pragmatic answer to a tough question. I think that is all anyone could ask for. BTW, I’m empathetic towards sea turtles.

Q: What are ESRI?s plans for 64-bit native support?

A: ESRI is actively working to ensure that our server technology runs natively on 64-bit operating systems. This is a major undertaking and a high priority for the ArcGIS Server team. The next release of ArcGIS Server after 10 will run entirely as a 64-bit application.

I’m sure ESRI is counting the days until they can stop answering this question with their “we can run as 32-bit on 64-bit operating systems”.

Q: Does ESRI have plans to support native Mac OS?

A: ESRI has no plans to support native Mac OS for ArcGIS Desktop. However, we have a growing number of users who have adopted the Mac platform for running their ArcGIS Desktop applications using Windows emulation software. We have had excellent feedback regarding interoperability and performance of the Windows environment on this Intel-based platform.

ArcGIS Server applications based on the ArcGIS Web Mapping APIs (JavaScript, Flex, and Silverlight) work well on Mac OS.

Yea, ArcObjects on Mac OS X? Never going to happen.

Anyway looks like some exciting stuff going on. I hope everyone has a chance to drop by and see us at the UC or for adult beverages after.

New Case Study on Microsoft Azure and ESRI

It looks like Microsoft has posted a new case study that focuses on the Azure platform and ESRI.

By making the MapIt service available with Windows Azure, ESRI has made it easier for organizations to adopt GIS technology. The underlying technology is easy to work with and familiar, because it uses traditional Microsoft products. Customers spend less time deploying a solution and more time reaping the benefits, without the need to become a GIS expert.

Customers can deploy the MapIt service in Windows Azure without having to configure and deploy new hardware and install software packages, which can take weeks or months and cost tens of thousands of dollars?not to mention the ongoing costs associated with IT maintenance, power, and data storage. By freeing customers from having to make large hardware, software, and staffing investments up front, we?re helping lower the cost of GIS entry and increase the return on investment,? says Haddad.

Or in simple terms, “You don’t need ArcGIS Server and tons of IT admins to have geospatial applications on the web”.

Let us have Simon & Garfunkel take sing us out – Cloudy!