Ask the Right Questions

If you’re about to embark on a requirements drill or needs assessment focused on “web GIS,” it is important to be sure to answer one question as you proceed: Do you actually need any specialized mapping server at all?

If “none” isn’t one of the choices in your analysis of alternatives, then you are doing it wrong in 2014 and you may be doing a disservice to your users. The state of current technology makes it perfectly feasible to publish interactive mapping products as static content, using nothing more than your current web server. Given the complexity of today’s IT environments, including requirements for FISMA compliance on Federal systems, it is irresponsible not to consider this option before recommending yet another specialized server product (or hosted cloud solution) for your user’s IT architecture.

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File Geodatabase Schema Compare Tool

In my work supporting various aspects of geospatial data modeling, I’ve spent a lot of time delving into concepts around configuration management of such data models. We’ve been able to apply a core tool set to perform various functions such as version managment, profiling, version-to-version migration, and validation in conjunction with a system we call the platform independent model (PIM). I gave quick overview of the PIM in this post over on the Zekiah blog and the complete series on it can be found here.

I’ve recently spent a bit of time consolidating code after a recent data delivery and decided to post a utility that was an outgrowth of that effort: a tool to compare schemas of two Esri file geodatabases and report differences. This lent itself to general use because it does not require any connection to a PIM.

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GeoJSON From ArcGIS Server

A while back, I posted about my desire to see GeoJSON supported as an output format from ArcGIS Server. I found myself needing that capability so I recently completed, and posted to GitHub, a first cut at a server object extension (SOE) for ArcGIS Server 10.1 that enables output of GeoJSON via an HTTP GET.

Using the SOE is fairly straightforward. If you download the code and build it (ensuring you have installed the ArcObjects SDK for .Net), you can simply move the project outputs to your target machine and use the ArcGIS Server manager to install the SOE. Once you log into the manager application, click “Site” at the top of the page and then “Extensions” on the left. Click “Add Extension” and browse to the .soe file. You should end up seeing something like this:

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OGC Abandons the Web

Those are my words, not theirs.

It came to light today that OGC has decided to withdraw the GeoServices REST Specification, also known as the “ESRI REST API,” as a proposed standard. I will not take up the relative merits of the specification or the implications of OGC potentially adopting an industry-developed specification that has so much implied workflow embedded in it. With this decision, three facts remain unaltered:

  1. The ESRI REST API will continue forward as a widely-used de facto standard in the form of ArcGIS Server installs and other emulations, such as that in Arc2Earth.
  2. GeoJSON will continue forward as a widely-used de facto standard in the form of numerous open-source implementations.
  3. OGC still has no JSON syntax.

Yes, twelve years after the birth of JSON, five years after the release of the ESRI REST API and its embedded JSON syntax, and five years after the release of GeoJSON 1.0, OGC is still has no entry in the JSON space. Between Esri and GeoJSON, the utility of JSON in web mapping applications has been roundly proven. In the ESRI arena, find me anyone who willingly uses the SOAP API these days while the adoption of support for GeoJSON across the open-source GIS world speaks volumes. The industry has voted with its feet and its code as to what it prefers.

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Open-Source GIS Bootcamp at Salisbury University

Thanks to LinkedIn, I saw that Dr. Art Lembo of Salisbury (Maryland) University is leading an “Open Source/Enterprise GIS Summer Bootcamp” at the university from June 3 – 7, 2013. All of the salient details, including contact information, can be found here (PDF).

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Simple Tile Viewer

We do a lot of tiles for various customers at Zekiah. Tiling is as much art as science and sometimes things go wrong so we have a range of utilities that we use to perform various kids of QA. Because the caches can be large, we usually want to perform a visual QA on the static tiles before pushing them up to wherever they are going to live full-time.

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When Is a GeoPortal Not a GeoPortal?

When it’s really a desktop application.

Over the past few weeks, I have been reading with conflicted agreement the posts of Brian Timoney and Bill Morris about the nature of geo-portals and what they should or should not be and do. I say that I am in conflicted agreement not because I take any issue with anything they have said. Their posts represent what should be considered best practices in terms of building web mapping applications. In Brian’s posts, the counter-examples he highlights represent some of the worst practices to be avoided.

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