Open Source Vs Proprietary

We’ve loaded up PostgreSQL and PostGIS up on our Linux server to start playing around with it and I’ll post some thoughts I have of things so far.

Getting PostgreSQL installed wasn’t too much trouble, but PostGIS was a pain. It has to be compiled before installing. My database programmer got it working after a couple hours, but after using ArcSDE for so many years it was an eye opener. I’m sure they will get a compiled version up, but for now we had to do it ourselves. My next thought was to see if ArcCatalog could connect to it. We tried an ODBC driver and an OleDb driver but had no luck. Databases are not my strong point and while we were able to get them to connect to PostgreSQL, we couldn’t seem to connect to PostGIS. There must be something in how PostGIS handles the spatial data that these drivers can’t handle. This is somewhat of a big deal for us as most of our data is in either ArcSDE or Personal Geodatabases and Post GIS only allows loading of data via shapefiles. I was hoping to use ArcCatalog to perform the loading, I guess it is export to shapefiles and then use the shp2pgsql command. It appears that the ArcGIS Data Interoperability Extension supports PostGIS, but if you have to spend over two grand on an extension, what is the point of going to PostGIS. I’m sure we can script something, but I would have rather had the ArcCatalog option open to everyone.

So what does this mean to our development? Probably not too much except it is a strike against open source GIS. If PostGIS had a windows driver that allowed ArcCatalog access, things might be different and we could recommend it to our clients, command line isn’t a user friendly proposition. Open source GIS seems to mimic open source in general. Its getting better, but you still need command line experience to truly get value from it. Since ArcGIS 8, ESRI has really pushed the GUI for GIS giving even the most greenhorn GIS specialist commands that 10 years ago where run by very experienced GIS Analysts on UNIX.

It is very easy to criticize ESRI for their products but they have really taken the GUI to places where open source is at least 5 if not 10 years away from being. I still think that open source GIS has a place on the server side, but we need to figure out ways to get data loaded from industry standard programs such as ArcCatalog before it will start to take off.

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