GIS Monitor Feb 15, 2001
-Internet Land Rush
-A Visit to a MapInfo User Group Meeting
-Bentley Declines Comment on V8Ball
-Raster Maps for the Mobile World
-Voice Activated Wireless Location-based Services Trial
-A Guide to MapGuide Add-Ons
-Two GIS Landmarks Bite the Dust
-Points of Interest
-Week in Review
This issue sponsored by:
INTERNET LAND RUSH
The ink is barely dry on papers approving the new domains and already some
of the designated registrars are taking “pre-registrations” for the soon
to available .biz, .name and .info extensions. The bad news is that these
pre-registrations do not guarantee you will be granted the name of your
choice and most of the registrars will issue no refunds. The registration
process will ultimately be done in a round-robin random sort of way, so no
one registrar can honestly assure a favorite name. The Federal Trade
Commission warned in December that this “pre-registration” is, in fact, a
The actual “sale” doesn’t start until June at the earliest. The “free for
all sale” will be preceded by a “trademark owner only sale” period, and a
quiet period for dispute settlement.
Oversight hearings questioning ICANN’s process of choosing new top-level
domains were held last week. Companies who won or lost in the ICANN
process that ended up with the .biz, .name and .info extensions spoke in
front of Congress. Smaller companies suggested that the $50,000
nonrefundable registration fee, required by ICANN to simply submit a
proposal, kept them out of the market entirely.
The addition of the “new” domains raises another issue: there is a whole
world of other top-level domains already in existence that few of us know
about. Where do these “other” domains live? Just under our noses, as it
turns out. Most of us use the Commerce Departments USG A-root server that
holds the information about which domain points to which computer. But, if
you use an alternative root server, you can not only see all the familiar,
domains (.com, .org, .net) but also .etc, .online, .casino, .music and
.here). An organization appropriately called “youcann” manages a site
explaining this “other” web.
One of the domains already in existence on the alternative web, .biz, was
duplicated by ICANN last December. There are concerns that two “.biz”s
could cause serious confusion.
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A VISIT TO A MAPINFO USER GROUP MEETING
Last week I attended the fourth meeting of the Massachusetts area MapInfo
users. Part of my interest was to see if user groups were surviving in the
age of the Internet. Spend a little time on the Internet and you just
might start thinking that virtual meetings have taken over and users can
sit all day in front of their monitors interacting with others in
newsgroups and webex meetings. I’m pleased to report that there is at
least one user group that is alive and well.
There was a full house at the site, just outside of Boston. And, unlike
some meetings – especially CAD ones I’ve attended – the participants
brought questions. A full hour was spent on technical, management and data
questions. There was a healthy mix of new and experienced users.
The training, done by one of MapInfo’s trainers, covered data sharing:
putting maps into other documents, sharing data with other MapInfo or
ProViewer users, and putting data on the Web. Perhaps the most popular
demonstration involved an application included in MapInfo Professional 6:
an HTML image mapping application. The application made it trivial to
prepare HTML pages of clickable maps from a MapInfo workspace. Publishing
the resulting web pages on a web site provided interactive web maps: a
click on an area linked to its associated data.
An observation: user group attendees always have that same mix of newer
and more experienced users. This may give the false impression that the
user base is not progressing. On the contrary, I think the seats are
simply being filled by the next generation of users. And, I must add, I
for one appreciated the number of “mature users” compared to “whiz kids.”
That indicates that GIS is indeed “growing up.”
I was surprised to find that only 20% at most of the attendees regularly
follow MapInfo-L, the very active newslist. I wonder if meeting
participants did read the postings, if they would need to attend?
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BENTLEY DECLINES COMMENT ON V8BALL
At my request, I received a call from Charley Ferrucci, Bentley’s Vice
President of Corporate Marketing. I asked about the V8Ball website, a
self-proclaimed underground site that may in actuality be a Bentley
guerilla marketing scheme. Mr. Ferrucci would neither confirm nor deny
Bentley’s involvement. He did say that they were very excited about the
beta release of MicroStation v8 (scheduled for today, according to the
RASTER MAPS FOR THE MOBILE WORLD
Simplylook is developing one more of the key enabling technologies for the
wireless world. They have a proprietary imaging engine (heavy server, thin
client) that allows small images to be delivered to mobile phones, PDAs
and other devices. Those images are “smart” and can be zoomed, panned and
have data linked to them.
The company is targeting graphic-intensive needs such as maps, floorplans,
stock charts, photographs and interactive gaming. If the wireless Web
parallels the “wired” Web, Simplylook is in a good position, at least in
the mapping sector. The majority of maps delivered over the web are raster
with some smarts behind them. Streaming vectors do exist (Autodesk
MapGuide, ESRI’s ArcIMS, and Intergraph’s GeoMedia Web Map among others
can deliver them) but for many vendors and users, raster is quicker and
easier, at least for now. The same will likely be true in the wireless
world -- at least at the outset.
VOICE ACTIVATED WIRELESS LOCATION-BASED SERVICES TRIAL
Cell-Loc and Nortel are doing a trial in Austin Texas with location-based
services for cell phones. The idea is to link the companies’ location
capture technology with directory assistance and voice recognition.
The user will dial a number to access the services, but will not need to
report his or her location, that will be determined by Cell-Loc’s
Cellocate network. Cellocate uses TDOA, timed difference of arrival, to
determine location. This technology pinpoints locations based on the
different time required for a signal to reach several antenna sites at
different distances from the caller.
The user will speak their request to the service: “Find me a pizza place
within ˝ mile.” Nortel’s voice recognition will translate the request into
a query and then provide the results via voice to the phone.
I want to suggest that this process is a bit of a house of cards. If the
location captured is not correct, the result will most certainly be off.
Even if it is correct to within an acceptable degree, there is still room
for error in voice recognition. And there is further chance for error in
the “playback” of the answers. I’m reminded of the children’s game
“Operator”: a message whispered from child to child gets garbled beyond
recognition by the end of the line.
Still, I believe this type of trial can’t help but move the technology
forward. The companies hope that if the trial (to be held in April) is
successful, this type of service can be rolled out by the end of this year
to telecommunications service providers.
A GUIDE TO MAPGUIDE ADD-ONS
I noted in the last week’s issue that Autodesk had announced add-ons to
their Web mapping software, MapGuide that allowed the product to directly
read ESRI shape files and Autodesk’s own native DWG. I found it disturbing
that Autodesk would charge for support of its own format.
Dan Ahern, Industry Marketing Manager for Autodesk GIS Solutions offered
"It is true that Autodesk MapGuide Data Extensions for SHP and DWG formats
are currently sold separately. But, despite your strong argument to offer
these features at no charge, our hands are tied by government regulations.
Autodesk, like any public software company, is scrutinized by government
regulatory agencies like the SEC. Autodesk must adhere to the rules of the
Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). The FASB rules state that,
without a software maintenance program in place, Autodesk must sell future
feature enhancements (excluding bug fixes) separately. In fact, we
considered holding off the release of Autodesk MapGuide 5 to include these
two data extensions as part of the major release, but we obviously chose
not to delay.”
"Autodesk does have an extension plan for its products, including AutoCAD.
We take useful features, roll them into packets called "extensions", and
offer them between major releases. This way, our customers can obtain
useful productivity tools today without waiting for a major software
release cycle. And the functionality contained within an Autodesk
Extension is often included later with future major releases. Our
customers can expect to see this particular SHP and DWG Data Extension
functionality wrapped into the next release of Autodesk MapGuide at no
additional charge, but it is available if they want it today."
So, the “pay as you go” nature of these extensions has nothing to do with
their content, but rather with their packaging and SEC rules. Further, it
does help to explain why “maintenance” is becoming widespread in GIS and
elsewhere in the industry. I, for one, have never worked at a public
company so this is quite new to me – and very interesting!
TWO GIS LANDMARKS BITE THE DUST
I learned this week that both GIS-L and GIS Asia Pacific have shut their
Bill Thoen covers GIS-L’s history in this month’s GeoWorld. Like many of
the earliest online “communities,” GIS-L was fine until specialized lists
came along: ESRI-L, MapInfo-L and others. Still, there are now so many
e-mail and web-based discussions, there should be something for everyone.
And, GIS-L had an important role in making that possible.
GIS Asia Pacific, published by Adams Business Media (publishers of
GeoWorld and Business Geographics, among others) shut down in November of
last year. The November issue stands in tribute on the publication
POINTS OF INTEREST
-My favorite search engine, Google, this week purchased my favorite USENET
news reading site, Deja.com. Google plans to reinstate many of the USENET
archives that have not been available in recent years. And, they will
provide their search engine to query the millions of messages.
Unfortunately, the most useful feature of Deja.com, the ability to easily
browse and post to a saved set of newsgroups in a completely threaded
environment, is not currently available. Until Google adds this feature,
I’ve joined Mailandnews.com.
-American Express is trying out free web service for its cardholders. A
past attempt by the company allowing free stock trades eventually went to
a pay-for-service model. With everyone else getting out of free Internet
service, it is odd that high end AmEx is getting in.
-A two-year study by Alexa reveals some interesting data about how
Internet users find their destinations. Most surprising to me: users are
apt to key a website name or addresses, not into the address field of
their browser, but into their search engine. Common searches include
“hotmail.com” or “www.aol.com.” Adult material is the most popular search
topic, while “map” is ranked 20th.
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