GIS MONITOR, Dec 7, 2000


-TerraServer Gets Useful for “Real” GIS
-What’s the Big Idea? NIMA Insists on Product Independent Format
-Free Internet Access Coming to an End?
-Technology to Redefine the Landscape
-Earth Resources Mapping Partners With MapBlast -Hide and Seek for the GPS Set

We have been contacted by ESRI and asked to share the following information. Due to circumstances beyond ESRI control, ESRI Web, email and phone service is not available December 7. Service will resume December 8.


TerraServer has been enhanced to provide “world file” data to help georeference the imagery found on the site. Previously, users had to manually locate the images in a GIS to make them useful with other data.

As pointed out in the Spatial News article by USGS’s Joseph J. Kerski, some issues remain. The downloaded files (free ones) are JPEGs and are lossy. The naming convention for the files is wrong: .jgw is correct, .jpw is not. And, you must be a bit careful with the file. Windows may try to interpret that extension as a programming file. I had to readjust my file associations to open it in a text editor and view the 6 numbers. Still, I was able to create a world file and get it up and running. Here’s hoping the crew at TerraServer can make this process simpler in the future.


CubeWerx, as part of a consortium is working on NIMA’s (National Imagery and Mapping Agency) “Big Idea” Initiative. The company's full suite of unique and powerful products - CubeSTOR, CubeSERV, and CubeVIEW - will be used as part of the solution. Part of the project’s goal is to integrate and keep spatial data in an independent format until it is queried.

This project is worth watching for a few reasons. First, NIMA’s extended enterprise is not that different from that of many county, state and business organizations. It includes imagery and vector data, many different platforms, the Internet, mobile users and more. NIMA provides a perfect “test case” for a large enterprise implementation. Second, CubeWerx has been very active in the development and implementation of OpenGIS conformant Web solutions. NASA purchased their tools for that reason earlier this year.


A free ride on the Internet may soon be a thing of the past. AltaVista’s free service will end Sunday Dec 10, according to notices sent to members. AltaVista’s provider,, owned by AltaVista’s parent company, is going out of business. That means that other portals using for free service, such as Excite@Home and Lycos, are in danger, too. AltaVista said they chose to shut down since they were not able to find another provider. Members will have a transition opportunity to move to MSN to get a few more free months but would have to pay after that., Kmart's e-commerce channel, which teamed up with Spinway and Yahoo! to offer free Internet service, is also on shaky ground. Monday, after taking over assets of its provider, Spinway Inc., BlueLight announced that after the holidays the service may shut down or restructure. That would leave Juno and NetZero as the only large free ISPs left standing. The reason: the ad revenue that these companies depend upon has been limited.

The future? Dylan Brooks of Jupiter Research suggests that free ISP use will grow from a current 8% of all Internet users up to 13% in 2003. However, the free access will come packaged with hardware, or online trading accounts. This model parallels the closest thing we have to free phone service: the “free phone cards” that some times accompany purchases.


Reader Arnold S. pointed out a new book of interest to the geospatial community: 'The New Geography': Where to Plant Your Feet in the Digital Landscape by Joel Kotkin. Basically, Mr. Kotkin explores where people will live and work now that technology removes the strong ties to location. He explores the role of “new nerdistans, like Raleigh, North Carolina, and Irvine, California, where techies live in orderly new suburbs, to newly revived core-city neighborhoods in downtown Houston, to artisan bakeries in the outer boroughs of New York and refurbished small-town-like” says Michael Barone, U.S. News & World Report on the back cover. A New York Times review questions some of Kotkin’s conclusions, but the question is certainly worthy of exploration.


Earth Resource Mapping selected Vicinity's MapBlast to integrate into its software for government and real estate agencies. In addition, Vicinity will use ERM as a reseller for its products to enter the government and real estate arenas.

Why do these two companies need each other? MapBlast (“everyone needs a little direction in life”) is focused on direction, rather than parcel type data. Further, Vicinity has had great success in the commercial arena, with business finding tools, BrandFinder and more, but is new to the “old style” GIS market of local government.

ERM is moving to new arenas as well. Their fine ERMapper software was only the beginning. With their image compression and distribution tools on the cutting edge, a move to the Web seems inevitable. They can benefit from the experience of a truly web savvy company like Vicinity.

ERM has taken the channel partner role before. When Autodesk jumped into GIS, they took ERM as a partner to integrate their tools and provide a strong GIS channel. According to its Web page, “ER Mapper is represented by more than 280 reseller organizations worldwide. The software is sold exclusively through resellers.” However, US and Canadian residents seem to able to order via the Web.


Geocaching, the latest hi-tech “sport,” is catching on. Geocaching is a treasure-hunt for trinkets using a GPS receiver. Geocaching is made possible by the lifting of Selective Availability and the resulting ability for GPS receivers to locate targets within a few feet. The game involves posting a note with the “cache’s” coordinates on a web page and letting others find it. Today there are some 150 caches with more being added every day.

The cache itself, a sealable bucket or container, includes some inexpensive prizes. Finders may take one and are encouraged to add one to assure everyone who visits gets a “goodie.” There’s also a log to sign to celebrate successful seekers.

Not only would this sport encourages technologists to get away from the computer and out into the world, but it would also be a great tool to introduce kids and adults to maps and introduce GPS. A geocaching “game” would make a great “event” to tie into GIS/GPS and related conferences.


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Adena Schutzberg
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