Real Men use Real GIS Software

Allow me to echo Peter Batty’s sentiment about this silly post in All Points Blog on neography and real “GIS”.

Speaking at Korem’s Geodiffusion conference, Pitney Bowes Software president, Mike Hickey, struck a resonant chord when he explained that “the explosion of Neogeography is driving awareness [and] collaborative data consolidation [but it] isn’t GIS.” Hickey explained that while neogeography is focused on “Where” there is no data creation and no spatial analysis, an essentially visually useful concept that has helped “cross the chasm from early adopters to an early majority.”
All Points Blog

As a former vendor himself, I’m sure Peter recognizes the core appeal here is to the emotional hind-brain of all the suckers^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hcustomers who have already dropped coin for MapInfo software. Hickey is reassuring his customers that neography is (like open source software) fundamentally inferior to real “GIS” because it doesn’t cost enough money.

MapInfo makes Real GIS Software™, and you can tell, because it has a Real Big Pricetag. I know Oracle must be a Great Database®, because it costs a cool 1/4 million dollars to deploy on a 20 thousand dollar dual-quad server.

Try to remember folks, it’s not how big your tool is, it’s what you do with it that counts.

Silly Patents

If you word things right, even pre-existing concepts can be re-packaged as bright original ideas. Google has filed a patent on an indexing method that is nothing but a specialization of a quad-tree, and a packing of level/row/column information into a 64-bit address space.

The specialization of quad-tree is to always use powers-of-two: cut your parents into four identical children; ensure the children are at a scale exactly half that of the parents. This yields nice behavior in the row/column, you can traverse to the parent row/column of a cell just be dividing the current row/column by two.

The packing of the information into a cell id is not completely clearly explained, because there is some talk of compacting and stop bits, to fit 31 levels, but even without compacting a 64-bit space can hold 29 levels quite easily (5 bits of level information, 29 bits of row address, 29 bits of column address).

I am a bit incredulous at the implied assertion that no one thought of chopping up the map of the world in descending powers-of-two before. The specific claims about the packing method might indeed be “original” but in such a trivial way as to be unimportant.

The whole process of software patenting reminds me of the historical acts of enclosure in England.

They hang the man, and flog the woman,
That steals the goose from off the common;
But let the greater villain loose,
That steals the common from the goose.

– Oliver Goldsmith

Meeting of the Tribes

Wow, what a great synthesis of larger FOSS4G philosophies and culture! Danny de Vries absolutely nails it, on a whole bunch of topics, including interoperability:

What makes open-source so different from a corporate system like ESRI is its fundamental interest in building software according to universal standards. This in contrast to the strategic interest of any closed, corporate system to somehow make users reliant on their system alone.

Melting Snow

Note: In the spirit of my own criticism, I won’t delete this post, but apparently the problem at Directions is technical (lost comments) not political (deleted comments) so I am completely out-to-lunch and offer apologies to Directions! Fool == Me. Ignore the below.*

The Directions Magazine news item on which the owner of Blue Marble Geographics was caught posing as a Blue Marble customer in the comments section has been purged of its comments. The internet is such a fickle place… down the memory hole we go!

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. :)