Where? There. When? Soon.

Where 2.0 Conference 2009For a number of years now, I have watched with longing as Where 2.0 slipped past me on the calendar. I love the idea of a geo-conference where most of the attendees are not in the government/land management/asset management realm. Unfortunately, trivial matters like the births of children and so on have gotten in the way of my attending, thus far. But not this year! This time out, I’m going to Where, and I’m going to be teaching a short course on spatial databases. Spatial SQL is a powerful tool, so powerful that you don’t require much more than a spatial database and a web mapping API to do some nifty stuff. OSGeo will have a booth this year, so if you’re at Where and you want to talk databases, track me down there.

Reminder: If you’re reading this before Wednesday, you still have time to register before the early bird rates go away.

Recession Signs

On my last trip through SeaTac, I thought my thin copy of WiReD was a physical harbinger of the recession. This time, the state of my flight from Victoria was a pretty clear sign.


Oh boy.

A small thing...

Daffodil in TransitLeaving the house this evening, my daughter presented me with a daffodil from the garden, and I put it into my lapel. Little did I know that this would cause me to be sent through the “special line” at customs: the daffodil is an agricultural product.

On the up-side the officers were uniformly good humored and enjoyable and basically waved me through (who can be cross with a man with a daffodil from his daughter?) so it was actually a positive in an otherwise normal drab transit of SeaTac.

ESRI Formats - Back to the Future?

Remember when “coverage” was the holy grail? “Boy, if I could just read/write coverage, I could interoperate with the GIS folks no problem.”

And then things seemed to get better. Most data was in “shape files” and there was a published specification which more-or-less matched the data generated by the ESRI tools. And lots of folks were using ArcView, so you could share “avl” files (layer style) and “apr” files (project file) and even write third-party tools to consume them directly (they were just a funny text format after all).

And now they are back-sliding. Layers and projects are “lyr” and “mxd” binary formats generated by ArcGIS and not consumable by third party tools. Data is starting to be moved into “file-based geodatabase” (FGDB) and the only tools that can peer into those are Arc*. (The old geodatabase had a lot of drawbacks, but at least you could open it in a third-party tool.) There are no specifications for the data formats, for the layer formats, for the project formats.

I thought we in the computer profession had this discussion and came to a consensus: vendors that tried to use proprietary file formats as a lock-in were to be avoided if possible and castigated if necessary. Even old Microsoft had to play the “open format” game, at least in mixed company.

It’s not just data, though the rise of the closed FGDB format over the last couple years is bad enough. The “metadata”, the style files and the project files, are a key piece of “operational data” that can be incorporated into workflows automatically – if you can read and write them. With format lock-in in place, the only way to automate your work flows is through the vendor-approved channel.

Really, I thought it was decided – they don’t get to do this to us anymore.

Geometry Invalidity Examined

Why do we get so uptight about rings that touch themselves? After all, masturbation is perfectly normal for a young ring. Healthy even.