FOSS4G: Was it all a Dream?

Just a week ago, I was addressing the opening plenary session at FOSS4G! It all feels like a blur now, and it is very hard to remember anything distinctly.

Ironically, for all the talking and speaking I did, the things I remember most clearly are the few talks I had time to get into, and listen quietly, on pgRouting, and the new spatial ETL tool from Camptocamp. Perhaps because these are the two talks where I learned something new and interesting. The rest was just reciting things I already knew, which is interesting perhaps (I hope) for those on the receiving end, but less stimulating for me.

Level Two

I walked through the conference centre on the way home from work yesterday… it was shut tight, sadly quiet, and geek-free.

New Tenant

Meanwhile, the second geospatial conference in as many weeks ran today. Make of it what you will. :)

Snow Job in September

In response to Adena Schutzberg’s update on the acquisition and release of the Mentor Software CS-MAP reprojection library as open source, Ted Florence, of Avenza Systems writes:

While we (Avenza) did for a time use Safe’s FME Objects (which uses CS-Maps) in one of our products we have recently pulled it completely in favour of the Blue Marble file format and co-ordinate conversion products (GeoTranslate and GeoCalc). The major reason for this was our dis-satisfaction with the CS-Maps co-ordinate engine which underlies FME.

In investigating and researching our needs, we found that opposite to your comments, most organizations are actually using Blue Marble and not Mentor and that more and more have been leaving Mentor over the last few years. Almost every major oil company and defense contractor I can think of uses Blue Marble.

What he does not write is that Avenza Systems is not his only affiliation. The corporate register of the State of Maine indicates that Florence is also the President and sole Director of Blue Marble Geographics. What an interesting coincidence! Perhaps like Victor Kiam, he liked Blue Marble’s reprojection library so much be bought the company! Regardless, he should declare his interest when making comments like the one he put on Adena’s article.

FOSS4G Tourist Advice - Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf [Map] used to be a little rougher, but it is now solidly on the tourist track. This is not a bad thing, because it caps a nice walk from downtown out along the shore of the Inner Harbour.

Start downtown and walk along the Inner Harbour, keeping the water on your right hand side. If you keep right all the way, you’ll find a nice short-side route with some lovely views of the harbour. Eventually, you’ll come out at the end of the route, which is Fisherman’s Wharf (you’ll have to traverse a bit of parking lot at the end).

Fisherman's Wharf

The Wharf is home to a pretty community of float homes, a few floating take-out restaurants, and a couple of very satisfied harbour seals (well, they live underneath). The fish store sells scraps for seal feeding, which is fun. Twirl your fish scrap above the seal, and he will obligingly do a twirl for you – yes, they are that habituated.

Public Transit @ Fisherman's Wharf

You can take the Harbour Ferry home from the Wharf to the docks below the Empress, which is a pretty ride and a chance to see the city from a different vantage point.

FOSS4G Tourist Advice - Ogden Point

One of the pleasures of living in Victoria is taking a stroll along the Ogden Point Breakwater [Map]. The breakwater protects the “outer harbour” where the cruise ships dock (where the old Canadian Pacific steamers used to dock) from the rough waters and weather of the Straight of Juan de Fuca just beyond.

It’s about a 15 minute walk from the Legislature downtown to the breakwater. Walk down Belleville Street away from the Empress to Oswego Street, turn left, walk Oswego to the water, turn right, walk along the water to the foot of the breakwater.

Ogden Point Breakwater

The breakwater is open to walking from dawn to dusk, and is about 1km from the shore to the lighthouse at the end. Being “out in the ocean” provides unobstructed views of the Olympic mountains to the south in Washington, and the Sooke Hills to the west. It is also common to see wildlife hanging out on the inner side of the breakwater – harbour seals, blue herons, and sea otters.

After your stroll, you can pop into the Ogden Point Cafe, which sits at the foot of the breakwater and have a coffee and a dessert. The views from the Cafe are very nice too.

Proprietary Companies and Open Source

Dale Lutz, the VP R&D of Safe Software has a very thoughtful piece on what they are going to be showing at FOSS4G 2007, and how Safe fits into the open source world as a company that makes its money selling proprietary software.

I think Safe Software is a great example of how proprietary companies can gain from involvement in open source and from adopting an “open source mentality” of frequent releases and frank and honest conversations with customers about technology (and its occasional drawbacks).

One of the things I find particularly interesting about Safe is that they directly fund development of the GDAL project, which includes the “OGR” vector file format library. The OGR2OGR tool in that library has core functionality (file format translation) that overlaps what Safe’s FME does. A less self-aware company would feel a great deal of worry about having any involvement with an open source project that contains the seeds of a direct competitor. But Safe has enough internal self-regard to recognize that the population of people in the market for a polished product like FME does not really intersect with the population of people satisfied with a simple tool like OGR2OGR. OGR2OGR is only a theoretical competitive threat; in practice it is nothing of the kind.

Full disclosure, Safe has also provided direct funding on two occasions to the development of the GEOS geometry operation library, which now ships (along with GDAL and other open source libraries) in the FME product.