December 5, 2002


Editor's Note

Special Autodesk University Issue

Autodesk University: A Brief History
Going to Class
Keynote: Carol Bartz on the Future
Meeting with the Execs
Notes from Autodesk University

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I'm pleased to announce a holiday gift for readers: we've added a search engine to the GIS Monitor website. Special thanks to Joel Cheves who designed both the newsletter and website and set up the search engine. The regular kind comments about how pretty and readable the newsletter and website reflect his creativity and hard work.


This year marks the tenth annual user conference of Autodesk University (AU). The last time I attended was in 1994, the 2nd conference, which was held in Atlanta. I know because the speaker gift, a black clock, still sits on my desk. I still use the conference cloth bag, "Compliments of Autodesk and Cadence," regularly. I have one of the two thick volumes of the proceedings from 1994, the one called Professional Focus, on my bookshelf. The class I gave that year was called "Translating AutoCAD Data into Your Geographic Information System" and discussed the issues in moving data from CAD to GIS.

This is the third year in a row AU is being held in Las Vegas on the week after Thanksgiving. In 1999 Autodesk made a "wrong turn" and attempted four regional mini-AUs. In 2000, a unified version came to Las Vegas, and stayed.

In 1997 and '98 AU was under the umbrella of Autodesk Design World (ADW), which also included Autodesk's developer meeting (once called CAD Camp), a conference for Autodesk Training Centers (ATCs), and a meeting of Autodesk User Group International (AUGI). While scaled down one-day versions of the developer and training events are held in conjunction with AU now, the ADW moniker was dropped. AUGI still has a presence and is considered an honorary sponsor.

In 2000 Autodesk held a separate GIS User Conference in San Rafael, California. Since then, the event has regularly joined Autodesk University. Why do GIS users need their own conference when no other division has its own? When I asked that question of the GIS marketing folks I received the answer that the division uses it as an opportunity to get close to its customers. The 2001 edition of the GIS User Conference suffered from a lack of coverage, so I'm particularly pleased to see quite a variety of GIS press roaming the halls.

I for one was impressed with the turnout the first morning at 8:00 a.m. for a series of 4-hour sessions covering all of Autodesk's product areas. I chose "Autodesk Map from A to Z," and was pleased to find GIS veteran Brian Glidden as the instructor. Among his other credentials, Glidden was involved with certification tests for AutoCAD in past years, which, for the most part, have gone by the wayside. He asked if people were interested in bringing them back-to my surprise quite a number said yes.

This was a lecture, but other classes throughout the week are hands-on labs. I was wondering if I could stay interested for four hours of discussion and demonstration of Map. I'm pleased to report that I could. We started at the beginning (how Map is different from AutoCAD), and by the end of the session we were exploring coordinate systems and some rather advanced queries. Glidden was particularly good at selected appropriate analogies for some of the more "unintuitive" parts of Map. He described the project file (the one that points to the drawings that are used) as a white board. "You use it, and when you are done you clear it off." The process of attaching a drawing to a project was described as "opening a door to the drawing." The saveback set (where changes to attached drawings are listed) became a "half- way house" or a "holding tank."

Glidden was careful to warn the class of pitfalls. For example, Land Desktop and Autodesk Map have project files-but they have nothing to do with one another! He also noted some of the great things in AutoCAD that are not available in Map: x-refs, pack and go, and e-transmit.

Since this was an introductory class, some of the new hot tools available in Map 6 were mentioned but not in any detail. The concept of a feature class, which sets the layer, block, attributes, and other properties of a new object fell into that category. And, to my disappointment, the nuts and bolts of creating good data to use in Map (including updated clean-up and topology tools) were not covered. There is quite a lot to digest about how Map "works" before exploring its more complex underbelly.

A few notes on the students. I estimate that the room held 300, and 250 of the seats were filled-from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Of the group, two or so said they used Oracle Spatial, a few more said they'd made thematic maps, and just about half said they used ArcView.

Next up on my class schedule: Autodesk MapGuide and OnSite Series. I chose this class because I hoped to gain more insight into OnSite, if you will, and come to grips with what the OnSite Series is, or will be.

I saw, I believe for the first time, Autodesk's version of Intergraph's "doer, user, viewer" pyramid. Autodesk uses concentric circles with Map at the center, OnSite Desktop in the middle, and MapGuide on the outside. The individuals who use these are creators, analysts and managers, and viewers, respectively.

The bulk of the first half was a demonstration of the variety of uses for MapGuide. I'm not sure if it is because I'm fairly involved in GIS and the technology or , but in this day and age, the "uses" just didn't seem that remarkable. On the other hand, a friend of mine recently demonstrated an online municipal application to a class of college surveying students and they were blown away. Next, there was a walkthrough of the three parts of the MapGuide Series-its server, author, and viewers (downloadable plug-ins and MapGuide LiteView, which requires no download, but has more limited functionality).

One technology that came up repeatedly: the MapGuide Dynamic Authoring Toolkit, which, when installed on the server, gives display control and other capabilities to the end-user. Another point was emphasized: MapGuide need not run on a browser-some developers are placing the viewer into desktop applications.

The big selling points for MapGuide: it's scalability and ability to support many data types. On the data front, Autodesk has, for some time, turned to Safe Software to provide data access to many formats in Map and MapGuide. The folks at Safe are currently working to support ESRI's SDE in MapGuide. (More on that below.)

Facilities Management (FM) is back at Autodesk. Once upon a time, there was an Autodesk developer called Archibus which gave itself the title "#1 in Computer Aided Facilities Management (CAFM)." The product, Archibus, was a complex solution built on AutoCAD, and the company is still around. Next thing I knew, Visio was moving into that space with stock chairs and desks complete with stored attributes. The low price and ease of use gave it a boost. For awhile it was very quiet in FM circles, until FM hit the Web. No doubt, that's where Autodesk hopes it will stay. A university in Florida uses MapGuide on campus to allow students to define work orders for needs in campus buildings and dorms. (More on FM below)

Next up was a tour of OnSite View-for taking drawings to the field on a Windows CE device. OnSite View 2, when used in conjunction with OnSite Enterprise 2 running alongside MapGuide, can access DWG and MapGuide data.

OnSite Desktop was introduced as a solution that solved the problem of OnSite View's limited capability. Described as a desktop version of MapGuide and a stepping stone to MapGuide, it was also noted as a tool to Author MWFs for MapGuide. I'm looking forward to a clearer definition of OnSite Desktop.

That said, students asked when the functionality of OnSite Desktop (such as draping onto 3D surfaces) would come to Map or Land Desktop. Another question: when will it be available to support data from Architectural Desktop?

Lynn Allen, one of my favorite speakers in the Autodesk (or any) arena, introduced the keynote speakers. She highlighted the differences between the first AU and this year's conference. At the first there were 800 people gathered for 100 classes. This year, there are over 3,000 gathered for 250 classes. She also reminded us of Autodesk's beginnings in 1982 (the year I graduated from high school!), and what that year was like.

First up on the speaker list was CEO Carol Bartz, who was introduced with video congratulations from AU sponsors HP, Intel, and Microsoft. Bartz noted that when people ask her what Autodesk does, she explains that its "customers make everything G d doesn't." That reinforced focus on the built environment the company has which contrasts GIS' birth around land management in the natural (forested) world. She noted the commitment she and the company have to "digital design data" and its role in the coming revolution. Part of that revolution, she suggested, is that "printing" as we know it may not be around, in say, the next decade. Why? "analog or paper data" adds no value to data, while keeping the data digital does. Lynn Allen later put it this way: "Printing stops the intelligence process." She quickly added that if you do need to print, using a printer from sponsor HP was quite appropriate.

Bartz highlighted "smart objects"-which are interactive, three-dimensional, and intelligent-as part of the future. I've heard about these objects for some time and have yet to see them in the GIS arena at Autodesk. The closest thing: the features in Autodesk Map. She also noted that we'll have no more drawings in the future, but rather that we'll all be working with "models." The idea behind the name change, I believe, is to highlight that models are "smarter" than drawings. (In GIS circles, for example, CAD drawings are often called "dumb." )

Bartz closed by commenting that she was confident that "we can create the future of design together." That reminded me squarely of Bentley's "designing the future together" tag of a few years ago.

For the first time Autodesk invited users to speak on the main stage. The first presenter was a GIS speaker, Jonathan Mark, from Vancouver. While outlining the city's move from Vision to MapGuide and highlighting the online VanMap application, he made several valuable comments. He noted that what Vancouver has done is NOT rocket science. Too many demos and presentations make success seem unattainable, so this was a nice reality check. He also was clear that it was not the maps, but the data that was valuable. Finally, he intended to make "GIS just another icon on the desktop, like Word or Excel."

The next user highlighted the use of Inventor in the design of the new Hummer. Next up was Scott Borduin, CTO, who was showing the "new" stuff. Alas, I had to duck out at that point, but understand that a new version of DWF (drawing web format) and a new free "Autodesk Express Viewer" was announced. The updated DWF is not just a graphics format, but carries intelligence and can be plotted to scale. Autodesk staff members compared the format to PDF. (Seems like everything these days is compared to PDF.) Although one part of the demo illustrated DWF's use with Map, I'm not sure of its use in GIS per se. Might this be an answer to ESRI's ArcReader format and free software?

As I've mentioned, Larry Diamond is leaving his role as VP of GIS to pursue a new job in Atlanta. He said goodbye at the conference and introduced Rick Mascitti, who'll be serving as interim VP. Mascitti, the current senior director of GIS engineering, has been working with Diamond for some time on the division's strategy, so he's in a good position to steer the ship. Diamond mentioned that he had a strong management team in GIS, and that the group would continue its leadership, even as he moves on.

Mascitti gave me a lot of freedom to deduce Autodesk's plans, rather than outlining them explicitly. I asked about .NET and received the response that it is important. Adena's translation: Expect to see .NET growing in products other than OnSite Desktop. I asked about the Tablet PC, and though I was not provided a firm statement, I was reminded of the work done by a partner to make OnSite Desktop run on a Tablet PC for an airport application. Adena's translation: Expect extensions that will allow Autodesk products to run on the Tablet PC. When I expressed a concern about the Tablet PC's limited battery life(most offerings now will run for about three hours, not the eight that had been expected), Diamond noted that while in the early days cell phone batteries only lasted a few hours, whereas now they last a few days. While the Tablet PC draws a lot of power from its screen, he expects battery life to creep up, if slowly.

When I asked about Bartz's statement about the use of printing diminishing in the mapping arena, I received a philosophical reply. In essence, the more limited printing would result from "smart objects" which will make printing easier, but whose intelligence will encourage keeping data digital. I asked about the renewed interest in "smart objects" which as I recall, reached a peak just after Autodesk bought Softdesk back in the 1990s. In particular, I wanted to know what made it "more possible" now. Mascitti noted it was some of the technology from Architectural Desktop, which gained "smart objects" as a result of competitive offerings. I asked if current competitors in GIS, to his knowledge, offered "smart objects," to which Mascitti said, "No."

After hearing about-but not seeing-the new DWF, I asked about its role in GIS. DWF, I learned, is not widely used in GIS since MapGuide provides so much more. Still, GIS products like Map and OnSite Desktop will write out DWFs. There is consideration about those products reading DWF, too. On the whole though, the GIS group's "jury is still out" on how the new DWF will play in this arena.

When I asked about the plans for metadata storage and management-something that was brought up in a big way at one the classes-I received a curious response. I was told that it was possible to store metadata (per feature) as object data in Autodesk Map. Other Autodesk products could then read it. I hope that this was a misunderstanding and that Autodesk is looking seriously at this topic.

There were nine Autodesk GIS developers in the exhibit hall, and I asked about the status of the developer program. Autodesk's pure third-party developer numbers are lower because the vast majority of them are both resellers and developers. While that's true, this story about the cyclic nature of partners is more telling: Back in the early days of "just vanilla" AutoCAD, there were hundreds of developers-in GIS and other areas. Autodesk bought some of them (like Softdesk) and incorporated the "unique" functionality of others into AutoCAD or its vertical products (like Map). Those moves cut the number of developers considerably. Now, however, there is a new updated set of development platforms (MapGuide, OnSite Desktop, Map), so a new crop of developers is growing.

To wrap up, I asked about the recent marketing work in the area of facilities management. Mascitti noted that this is perhaps the fifth time Autodesk has looked into that marketplace. Part of the challenge in the past was that FM falls across the Building Industry Division and GIS, and it was tough getting the two together. Now, Mascitti argues, barriers have been overcome. Moreover, he said, almost every MapGuide developer already has an FM solution! In fact, he noted, Autodesk makes about $23-$24 million per year in that area-without a dedicated product. The idea is to create a marketing story for both FM and Autodesk to provide a "sample" solution based on MapGuide, and then work with partners for the implementations.

The more detailed GIS story is to be shared on Thursday afternoon in an industry session. Mascitti provided these three priorities for Autodesk GIS as a teaser: a focus on civil engineer and transportation, interoperability within the Autodesk GIS product line, and with other product lines, and "real" applications in life cycle operations (for example in homeland security and facilities management). Look for more details, if any are presented, in next week's issue.

Since AU is being held at the MGM Grand-the big green casino-I was reminded daily about the geography of casinos. Elevators to most of the rooms are strategically located in the middle of the casino, necessitating a 15-minute indoor walk to the conference center. And each time a guest comes or goes from a hotel room, the slots are conveniently close.

The number of disabled AU students at the conference attests to the fact that CAD has provided great career opportunities for many. I hope that will continue.

The numbers: while I did not get an official count, the rough attendee count was estimated by Autodesk at 3000 attendees, 1000 of which were GIS users. While Autodesk is pleased with these numbers, it's interesting to note that this is a very small percentage of the total Autodesk user base, which is estimated at more than four million users. Is it perhaps because AutoCAD itself is a commodity and that makes this type of event less "special" and more like a conference about Word or Quicken? Is GIS attendance high because it is not yet a commodity and is relatively new to the Autodesk product line?

The focus of one class and at least two partners present (SPATIALinfo and Cook Hurlbert) is the transition of Gentry customers to new solutions. Perhaps this is just another casualty of the move from one generation of developers to the next, as mentioned above.

Hitachi was present, showcasing its Any*GIS. A long time Autodesk developer, the group is still known for its imagery products, though now its focus is data sharing solutions.

The folks at Safe Software, despite all of the work toward data interoperability, continue to fill their niche of solving format conversion challenges. The aforementioned solution for publishing SDE data in MapGuide is expected in six months or so. It will be a Safe Software serverside product that runs alongside MapGuide and makes SDE data available on the fly to MapGuide.

Ralph Grabowski wrote to raise some questions about the National Geographic-Roper 2002 Global Geographic Literacy Survey:

"I am always suspicious when an organization unveils the results of a study conducted for/by them. The results are unvaryingly astoundingly poor, requiring that the organization call on massive resources to solve the 'problem' uncovered. It's a ruse-used often here in Canada-by organizations to get more public funding for themselves.

"In any case, the survey may have been flawed: I read somewhere the maps were unlabeled (I may be mistaken). How often do we work with unlabeled maps?"

The editor replies: The validity of any survey is a concern. Unfortunately, I'm not aware of any other organization that makes it a point to examine geographic literacy regularly. As for the unlabeled maps, I ran through a sample survey and the full survey, and Mr. Grabowski is correct: the maps were outline maps annotated with numbers. I agree that using maps is perhaps the most useful skill students can pick up. And, the more they use them, the easier it is to find countries on unlabeled maps. When I taught college level world regional geography at a public college in Massachusetts I allowed students to use an atlas on every exam. They told me the class was STILL hard.

The news is not all bad. Roger Downs, head of the geography department at Penn State, pointed out that since the last National Geographic survey in 1988, the percentage of young U.S. citizens who reported taking a geography course rose from 30 to 55 percent. And, those who reported taking a geography class did much better on the survey questions.


A/E/C SYSTEMS, once the king of all CAD and related technology shows, is still trying to find its way. Show organizers commissioned a survey and learned that 84.2% of previous attendee respondents were interested in the Building Product and Technology Centers that will be added to the June 2003 event to be held in Washington, D.C. Homeland security and GIS are both highlighted as topics of interest.

According to the Washington Post, National Geographic has gathered many of its famous images in an online catalog, aiming to make reviewing and selling them easier. One division of the organization is charged with selling the works of photographers who work for National Geographic. The society currently sells 600 to 1,500 images a month and hopes to triple revenues in the next three to five years.

The New York Times (free registration required) has an interesting article on the psychological limitation of the distance of a second home. For some, two hours by car is the cut off. Others are willing to go further a field to find better houses. My question: Why all those looking for such houses drawing 120 mile radii around their first home, or timing trips to different exits on the turnpike? Should there not be an online service?

About a month ago a report by Mitre suggested that the U.S. military uses open source software rather widely and should consider using even more. Now, a consortium, The Initiative for Software Choice, supported by Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Intel and others, suggests that this is a bad idea. CNET reports that the initiative argued that "proprietary products are not inherently less secure."

Google, as might be expected, keeps careful track of the topics of queries around the world. The New York Times (free registration required) reports some interesting geographic phenomena in an article exploring the data logs. One particularly interesting "blip" occurred on April 22, 2001. A series of five distinct blips at 48 minutes passed the hour occurred for five hours querying on the maiden name of Carol Brady. I didn't make the connection; see the article for the answer.

Those PDA's with a digital camera on board may have a good use: translating Chinese signs into English. According to Wired, the process is this: take a picture and the system find the characters and presents the English equivalent. There's still work to be done, but it's the first practical use I've seen.

Dave Schafer, general manager of MapQuest seems defensive in a HOT SEAT interview in the December issue of Wired. The interviewer complains that his address geocodes incorrectly on MapQuest, as it does on Yahoo. Schafer says you can't draw conclusions from that. He also notes that "Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of our 23 million users contact us for any reason, and an even smaller fraction report possible inaccuracies." He even pushes location-based "free coupons" as part of the future of the company. None of these answers make me feel warm and fuzzy about MapQuest.

Last week in my discussion of Autodesk's Q3 earnings I joked about the meaning of Product Lifecycle Management, PLM. I found a valuable definition in an Indian online publication: "The name of the new game is Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). A term coined by the Boston (U.S.)-based analysts AMR Research, PLM denotes the sharing and control of product-related data as part of product development efforts and in support of supply chain operations. Internet and other networking technologies help to automate its collaborative aspects (source: manufacturing; October 2002)."

In an article explaining the development of e-government in West Bengal, India, Outlook India notes the development of "a Geological Information Service (GIS) databank [that will] reach even the smallest of municipal areas. I'm confident the author meant "geographic."

An article in Wisconsin Natural Resources highlights two attractive new maps of that state, which I think would make great holiday presents. Landscapes of Wisconsin is available for $10 plus shipping, handling and sales tax from the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey and the Wisconsin Land Cover map is available for $10 from the State Cartographer's Office.

Double-check that legend! A map error led Christmas tree gathers to cut down trees in the wrong area of Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The problem? The shaded and non-shaded blocks in the legend were switching. One showed where it was okay to cut, the other where it was not. Ooops! About 200 trees were cut down after Thanksgiving and it's impossible to know how many were in the wrong area.


Please Visit Our News Sponsor.

According to India's Financial Express, InfoTech Enterprises Ltd has set its sights on the subsidiaries of the $28 billion United Technologies group to achieve its dream of becoming a $100 million company by 2005-06. The company recently signed US-based Pratt & Whitney as a strategic and long-term partner.

The USGS gives out free outdated maps from Nov. 29 to Dec. 23 at its Menlo Park, CA, office. The practice began some seven years ago. This year the USGS expects to give out 10,000 maps to used as wrapping paper or resources for craft-based presents like placemats.

The AP reports that Boeing's first 777-300 Extended Range jetliner is the company's first plane with a "fancy" paint job: a complicated five-color design, a 55-foot map of the world stretching from Alaska to Australia along the forward hull.

KorTerra, a division of Vertical Systems, is adding MapFrame's mapping technology in its ticket receiving and dispatch software.

President Bush is expected to sign into law this week the E-Government Act of 2002, which lays out the rules of engagement for agencies providing information and services online. Federal Computer Week notes that on the GIS front it "calls for development of common protocols for geographic information.
Authorization provided for necessary funding."

USGS released the "Atlas of Natural Hazards in the Hawaiian Coastal Zone" It's available online or in print.

The presentation deadline for the 2003 Bentley International User Conference, May 18-22, in Baltimore, Maryland, has been extended to December 13, 2002.

GiveMePower Corporation announced it will provide its PowerCAD software development systems free to existing AutoCAD developers. The system allows AutoCAD applications to be migrated and sold as productivity enhancing plug-ins for GiveMePower's PowerCAD Pro Windows-based computer-aided design (CAD) system and the company's PowerCAD CE Pro portable CAD system built for Windows CE.

The Intergraph GeoSpatial Users Community (IGUC) announced today that it has chartered its first North American local users' community, the Northern California Chapter.

MapInfo Corporation announced that President and CEO Mark Cattini has been named the guest of honor and will deliver the keynote address at the GEObroadcasting 2002 conference, sponsored by MapInfo and KOREM Dec 3-6.

Space Imaging signed an agreement with The Nature Conservancy. Space Imaging will provide discounts on various IKONOS and Indian Remote Sensing global satellite imagery product suites and provide a limited number of selected images at no cost. This data will be used to inform and enhance The Nature Conservancy's conservation plans for managing lands and protecting biodiversity.

The Internationale PROGIS Conference 2003 will take place February 21-22, 2003 in

ESRI has signed Spatial Data Technologies (SDT), Inc. as a developer. The company also announced relationships with with Red Hen Systems to deliver the first custom DataGATE product optimized for MapInfo users and with eDAT Corporation for an agricultural mobile mapping and data collection.

Contracts and Sales
R.A. Smith & Associates, Inc. has been retained by the city of Berlin, Wisconsin, to provide land surveying and GIS services to enhance the city's existing storm sewer mapping and integrate the data with the city's GIS.

SPATIALinfo will provide Intermountain Rural Electric Association, Colorado's largest electric cooperative, with SPATIALnet/Power as the replacement to GenMap, a discontinued Autodesk product. SPATIALinfo also announced successful implementation of its network management software SPATIALnet, running on Oracle Spatial 9i.

Definiens Imaging GmbH released eCognition 3.0, the latest version of its software for object-oriented image classification.

KW-PLAN offers support for rendering Enhanced Compressed Wavelet (ECW) compressed bitmaps as a background for vector-based maps in its PC-MAP.

eMapSite introduced three new products built on OS data: BaseMap (TOID based mapping), BaseURL (a raster product with user selected features from OS MasterMap drawn against aerial photography), eSiteMap (online service that allows users to generate OS MasterMap raster images).

Avenza Systems Inc. announced that the price of MAPdataUSA 2K Server Edition has been reduced to $1,500 (US). MAPdataUSA 2K Server Edition is a complete set of US Census 2000 TIGER/Line data enhanced and converted to Shape file format. The Server license provides royalty-free, unlimited use of the data.

TerraSeer, Inc. announced the release of ClusterSeer 2. ClusterSeer is software for the analysis of event clustering: it can locate disease outbreaks in time or space.

UCLID announced the latest release of IcoMap for ArcGIS 2.0.

Airbiquity introduced Navigo, a hands-free kit by Airbiquity. The Navigo is currently compatible with more than 80 wireless phone models worldwide, and is easy to install by plugging it into the cigarette lighter of the car. The Navigo instantly enables a full range of call center services, such as roadside assistance, navigation, 411 services and concierge services.

Hires, Appointments and New Offices
Errol Bos recently joined Woolpert LLP's Virginia Beach office as a senior consultant.


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