Everything You Have Done is Wrong

It’s true—everything you have ever done is wrong. If you are a developer, look at the code you wrote five years ago—it’s wrong. If you collect and store data—it’s wrong. This is the nature of human endeavor. The world used to be flat. The earth used to be the center of the universe. Discovery and development is an iterative process. What we do today will likely be replaced tomorrow. Just because we can’t be perfect at the outset doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

GIS for the UN*X World

In a recent post on, Jesse was discussing the apparent dominance of U*nix and observed: ‘…the geospatial industry almost completely left behind support for UNIX-like OSes’ It is true that the proprietary GIS vendors have largely abandoned Unix and Unix-like operating systems and continue to do so. However the open source GIS community has embraced all major operating systems with software that runs on Linux, *BSD, Mac OS X, and yes, Windows.

The Shapefile - Reports of My Deprecation have been Greatly Exaggerated

The death of the shapefile has again been predicted—this time for 2010. The technical description of the format has been around for going on 12 years. In that time it has become a sort of lowest common denominator for data exchange. They’re everywhere. Making them go away is going to require a revolution of sorts. ESRI has been sounding the death knell for the shapefile for a while now. I agree that it isn’t a perfect format but it is nearly perfectly supported.

What's Holding Back the Adoption of Open Source GIS on the Desktop?

In my last post I created a poll to get an idea of the extent of migration to open source GIS on the desktop. The results indicated that nearly 50% of the people using open source GIS were still using their proprietary software as well. You can view the results of the poll using the Polls Archive link below the current poll. This leads one to wonder if it is the state of the open source software or other reasons that prevent a full migration.

The Ink is Dry

Looks like the ink is dry on Desktop GIS and it should start shipping soon. You can get the full scoop from the Pragmatic Bookshelf. Update: It’s now shipping. See the announcement.

Desktop GIS - the book - Now in Beta

The book is now available in beta. Excerpts from two of the chapters are available online. What’s a beta book? Well in this case it’s a lot like software—feature complete and ready for you to give it a spin. The announcement from the Pragmatic Bookshelf: The Pragmatic Bookshelf | Desktop GIS “From Google Maps to iPhone apps, geographic data and visualization is quickly becoming a standard part of life. Desktop GIS shows you how to assemble and use an Open Source GIS toolkit.

Wither the command line

Matthew Perry poses the question: Why is the command line a dying art?. Funny how these things go–I was thinking about posting on this same topic just the other day, although I may be repeating myself. The efficiencies of the command line cannot be overstated. I too have seen that deer in the headlights look when a GUI-only user is first exposed to a command prompt. I have also seen people spend days on a data conversion project that could easily be accomplished in hours (or less).

Beyond the RDBMS

In Beyond the RDBMS Sean references Martin’s post which in turn points us to a paper (gotta love the web in action) promoting “The End of an Architectural Era”. This paper advocates the complete rewrite (well trashing actually) of current RDBMS code in favor of specialized “engines”. It’s an interesting read with some good points until I got to this: Our current favorite example of this approach is Ruby-on-Rails.

Desktop GIS - A Car With No Wheels?

Is desktop GIS software a rusty old car with no wheels? Bouncing around the blogosphere sometimes leaves you with that impression. All the excitement these days seems to center around mashups, hacks, and mapping in your web browser. It’s definitely cool stuff. A number of folks think this is the future of GIS, even when it comes to doing analysis. Part of this trend stems from a desire to deliver mapping to the masses.

Top Ten Open Source GIS Predictions for 2007

I remember growing up and reading predictions for the new year developed by some prognosticator, supposedly in the know. Of course most of the time it was all wrong, but often made for interesting reading. With that in mind, here are my top 10 predictions for Open Source GIS (OS GIS) for 2007. Top Ten OS GIS Predictions (in no particular order) OSGeo will be a synergetic force, fostering new cooperation and collaboration between projects.

Making Open Source GIS Easier

How can we make getting started in Open Source GIS easier? To begin with, it needs to be easier to Discover Install Use Discovery This is probably the least of the problems, but you would be surprised how many people “stumble” on OS GIS each day. Things are improving as more exposure is gained through books, blogs, conferences, and the media. The more we talk about it, the more well known it becomes.

Brittle Systems

Lets face it, GIS systems are complicated. Typically there are multiple servers and applications that make up a “system”. Each of these represent a potential point of failure, thus creating a brittle system. Brittle systems break. The definition of the word brittle is: Brittle: Solid, but liable to break or shatter In other words, we can design solid systems that serve us well, but they can be brittle. We can push on them a bit and they perform well, but push too hard and the whole thing shatters.

GIS Data is an Illicit Drug

GIS data is like an illicit drug. You can’t control it. It travels in secret and hides in the dark alleys of your organization. Its effect spreads and enslaves those that use it. In the end it can lead to ruin. Well maybe its not that bad but organizing and managing your GIS data is difficult. If you need to maintain canonical datasets, the spread of “temporary” and/or “working” copies is your enemy.