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ESRI ArcSDE on MySQL or PostgreSQL

Another ESRI conference is upon us and I just noticed that the survey that Jack Dangermond always sends out is in my inbox. I was filling it out as I always do putting in that I’d like support for MySQL or PostgreSQL and low and behold later in the survey there is a question asking if I’d like to see either. I can’t recall if that question was ever in a previous survey, but I know people have asked again and again at the technical workshops.

Personally I’d love to see support for either. The biggest cost for SDE isn’t always SDE itself but a RDBMS that can support enough users on the internet. I still would always recommend Oracle over any other RDBMS, but I’ve run into a couple of situations where clients don’t have the money to spend on Oracle or SQL Server for their web applications and we have to leave all GIS data as Shapefiles (bah!). I’m not getting my hopes up that there will be an annoucement, but both MySQL and PostgreSQL have really taken off in the last 5 years. Personally I’d rather have PostgreSQL support, but either would be help us with our web deployments.

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Moving away from web based GIS

I’ve noticed an interesting trend during the last year with our clients. Many of them have decided that internally they don’t want web based ESRI ArcIMS or similar products. We’ve worked with them to create either stand alone ESRI MapObjects applications (hopefully we’ll upgrade them to ESRI ArcGIS Engine soon) or just using ESRI ArcPublisher and ESRI ArcReader. The MapObjects applications have been more geared at management who need access to the GIS information, but not the complexity. These applications usually answer “what if” scenarios that we used to program via the web. The clients who request them don’t have or don’t want to invest the money in server side (hardware and software) GIS. Most if not all of the ArcReader implementations we’ve done use ArcSDE to store the data (some even use ArcIMS services). These clients seem to want the added cartography options that can be created with ArcMap that we’ve never really been able to get programming AXL. Printing has also been an issue. While we’ve gotten pretty good with some of our layouts on the web, they just don’t look like the ArcMap products that their GIS teams are creating. With ArcPublisher they can have the exact map their GIS analysts are working on. I’ve just received an RFP from one client that wants to look into the new ArcGlobe features of ArcPublisher which should be perfect for displaying what they want.

I’ve always pushed web based GIS because you don’t need to install software to gain value from it. But it seems with today’s managed computer installs, rolling out ArcReader to all clients isn’t as difficult as it once was. I will say the one feature that ArcPublisher/Reader still doesn’t have is a better “pack and go”. I’d love to see a way to embed the GIS layers in the PMF so that you only need one file to send to people. PDF is a pretty good solution, but sometimes you just want to grab that ID tool and see exactly what the database behind a layer is hiding. Oh well, maybe ESRI ArcGIS 10?

We are still developing web based solutions for clients and are even currently working on an open source solution. I just think some people have been burned by overly complex websites in the past and don’t want the overhead of maintaining them or dealing with another department that might control the webservers.

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ESRI Developer Network

We have finally gotten all the paperwork on our end squared away and EDN has been ordered. It will be nice to finally have a development copy of ArcGIS Engine to see how it works for us as we move from MapObjects to a pure .NET development environment. We are finishing up what will possibly be our last MapObjects application this month and I’m hoping I’ll have some time to start porting it to ArcGIS Engine to see how easy it is. The biggest wish we’ve had with MapObjects is the ability to use an ArcIMS server to host the data on. We’ve figure out ways to get the image to load in MO, but not the interactivity that say a ArcPublisher document might have.

Between programing with Mapserver/PostGIS and ArcGIS Engine, its going to be a couple busy weeks. I couldn’t be any happier.

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Moving Forward with Open Source GIS

Now that we have our PostGIS/PostgreSQL running just about perfectly on our RedHat server, it is time to move forward with UMN Mapserver. I’m excited to see how much we can do with it and I think it will open up so much more to our products than .NET and ArcIMS ever did. As I said earlier, I want to make a front end that looks the same to the end users, whether we use ArcIMS/ArcSDE on the back end or Mapserver/PostGIS. In my previous post, I said that the GUI just wasn’t there for PostGIS, but letting it sit on a Linux server hosting our data should be great.

This should be a great week as we start playing with Mapserver/PostGIS and seeing what we can do with it.

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Patches Already? Bah!

Believe me, I’m glad they are out, but why did this not make the RTM? I guess they needed to ship by the end of May, but I hate having to apply patches to software withing a week of it being released.

ArcGIS Desktop 9.1 Map Document Performance Patch

ArcGIS Desktop 9.1 Maplex for ArcGIS Formatting Tag Label Placement Patch

Network Analyst 9.1 Network Dataset Patch

Again, I’ll say that there needs to be an RSS feed to keep on top of these patches as they don’t show up on the “default” ESRI support homepage

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Thoughts

ArcGIS 9.1 Legend Properties

A nice new change is the ability to changes the text symbols for all legend items at once. Before you had to apply them to each layer in the legend as well as the legend title. Now all you have to do is set the text color and font, then hit apply. I spent hours two weeks ago messing with these settings on 9.0.x to match the documents type font and colors. A very nice improvement if you ask me.

ArcGIS91 Legend

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More About ESRI ArcIMS 9.1

In my previous post, ESRI ArcIMS 9.1, is there a point? I asked why didn’t ESRI spell out the changes in ArcIMS 9.1. Well I just noticed there is now a whitepaper outlining the changes and new features of ArcIMS 9.1. This is exactly the information I was looking for, but it was buried in ESRI’s support site. If there was ever a reason to have RSS feeds for support, this is it. I’m sure there is much that gets posted in the knowlege base that most users of the support site never see unless they perform a search. I’d love to get feeds of the latest posting of all support site software, Arcscripts and knowlege base/whitepaper articles. That would be killer!

Most of the changes are evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary, but that is fine. I’d prefer stability on the server side and ArcIMS 9.1 seems to do this. There is only one concern I have:

The ArcXML Guide is provided only in HTML format.

Why do this? Personally I always work off of printed material rather than help or websites for the AXL reference. It doesn’t look like there are many changes in the AXL since 9.0, but the future scares me. Moving from printed manuals to PDF was difficult enough, but not even providing a way for us to print them out on our own just hurts. Hopefully ESRI will revisit this and make sure that in the future PDF manuals are an option.

Tomorrow we’ll start testing our existing ArcIMS 9.0.x applications with 9.1, but I’m guessing they will work without any modifications. I’m looking forward to see how it works.

Categories
Thoughts

ArcGIS 9.1 Legend Properties

A nice new change is the ability to changes the text symbols for all legend items at once. Before you had to apply them to each layer in the legend as well as the legend title. Now all you have to do is set the text color and font, then hit apply. I spent hours two weeks ago messing with these settings on 9.0.x to match the documents type font and colors. A very nice improvement if you ask me.

ArcGIS91 Legend

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Thoughts

More About ESRI ArcIMS 9.1

In my previous post, ESRI ArcIMS 9.1, is there a point? I asked why didn’t ESRI spell out the changes in ArcIMS 9.1. Well I just noticed there is now a whitepaper outlining the changes and new features of ArcIMS 9.1. This is exactly the information I was looking for, but it was buried in ESRI’s support site. If there was ever a reason to have RSS feeds for support, this is it. I’m sure there is much that gets posted in the knowlege base that most users of the support site never see unless they perform a search. I’d love to get feeds of the latest posting of all support site software, Arcscripts and knowlege base/whitepaper articles. That would be killer!

Most of the changes are evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary, but that is fine. I’d prefer stability on the server side and ArcIMS 9.1 seems to do this. There is only one concern I have:

The ArcXML Guide is provided only in HTML format.

Why do this? Personally I always work off of printed material rather than help or websites for the AXL reference. It doesn’t look like there are many changes in the AXL since 9.0, but the future scares me. Moving from printed manuals to PDF was difficult enough, but not even providing a way for us to print them out on our own just hurts. Hopefully ESRI will revisit this and make sure that in the future PDF manuals are an option.

Tomorrow we’ll start testing our existing ArcIMS 9.0.x applications with 9.1, but I’m guessing they will work without any modifications. I’m looking forward to see how it works.

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Thoughts

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.