GIS MONITOR, December 13, 2001




- USGS Website Down: How Did Word Get Out? 

- Take Our 1-Minute GIS Monitor Survey 

- Global Geomatics Launches MapFusion 

- The Wireless Sky is Falling


Departments: Points of Interest, Letters, New List, Week in Review, Back Issues, Advertise, Contact, Subscribe/Unsubscribe


If a URL runs more than one line, you may have to cut and paste the second line of the URL into your browser.


This issue sponsored by:






The USGS site, along with many others under the auspices of the Department of Interior (DOI) were shut down last Thursday due to security concerns. These are not the same concerns that have removed maps from the Internet to lessen the risk of terrorists finding key locations. Rather, the concerns are related to the security of a land-based trust fund database maintained on behalf of thousands of Native Americans. A contractor, hired by Elouise Cobell as part of a lawsuit against the DOI for mismanagement, succeeded in breaking into the database. As a result, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ordered that all outside access to the trust fund be closed. This led to shuttering Internet access into and out of the DOI.


In addition to shutting out the many commercial, educational and private users of the USGS site, some of the key US hazard monitoring and warning systems were affected. These included military systems, earthquake, tsunami and volcano monitoring, as well as geomagnetism tracking and Landsat library access. On the good news front, Emergency E-mail Network donated its services Friday to allow 11,000 USGS workers to receive urgent updates on a 6.1 magnitude earthquake that hit New Zealand.


Judge Lamberth signed an order last Friday, granting “partial relief” so that agency systems outside the American Indian financial data could go back online. The USGS site was back online Monday morning and I received email from a USGS address as well.


These activities raise the question of how the GIS community receives and distributes information. The information about the USGS situation unfolded in a haphazard manner across the Internet. On Friday morning I completed my regular daily sweep of GIS news and found nothing on the story. I found the story instead - in my weekly Friday pass of the GIS and relating online publications - on the GeoTimes website. GeoTimes refers to itself as the newsmagazine of Earth Science. The status of the USGS site was the top story in their WEBextras section, which adds daily updates to their monthly publication. GeoTimes’ website includes pointers to articles in major newspapers about the litigation. I chose this as the top story for the day.


I heard nothing further about it until a faithful reader forwarded a posting from MapInfo-L late on Friday afternoon. That post cited Slashdot as the source for “USGS and other sites taken off line.” That afternoon SpatialNews posted a story about the USGS Internet shutdown, and the lawsuit, based on a post from GISList, a SpatialNews-hosted e-mail list. The SpatialNews article also pointed out that many of the USGS products were available from GIS Data Depot, part of SpatialNews’ corporate family. SpatialNews editor Glenn Letham also posted the news to the GIS USENET group, comp.infosystems.gis. The Associated Press covered the story at 8 pm EST, Friday. As of Sunday, there was no information on the Directions or GIS Café websites regarding this matter, except in their discussion areas. SpatialNews continued to top its news with “USGS disconnects its external network” until Tuesday morning.


Compare this situation with another from just this time last year. I received a call on Dec 7, 2000 from ESRI’s press relations person, who asked that I help spread the word that ESRI Web, phone and email systems would not be available that day but would be back up the following day. I ran the announcement in GIS Monitor and on the TenLinks GIS site. The news was also, if I recall correctly, just about everywhere, including SpatialNews, GIS Café, Directions and USENET.


Why the difference in distribution? Might it have been that ESRI knew whom to call and USGS did not? Might USGS have been embarrassed to announce such news? Might ESRI, as a commercial company, have had a larger stake in getting the word out? Might the editors have felt ESRI being “down” was important enough to make the situation known immediately? Might ESRI have had better contingency options for such events? I don’t know the answers, but these are interesting questions to consider.


USGS Blocked from Internet 


USGS Disconnects All of its External Network 


Interior Loses Internet for Day (AP) interior_internet_1.html


Interior Dept. Sites Still Down (Wired),1283,48980,00.html 





Take our 1-minute survey and you could win Intergraph's GeoMedia 4.0.

To help us keep improving our newsletter, TenLinks is hosting a brief online survey. All those who take a moment to provide some information will be entered into a drawing for a copy of GeoMedia 4.0, generously provided by generoulsy provided by Intergraph Mapping and GIS Solutions. 


====== a message from our sponsor ===============

ERDAS IMAGINE 8.5 is ERDAS' premiere geographic imaging product suite.


ERDAS' 3-tier product suite can be customized to your individual needs. The latest version of ERDAS IMAGINE includes upgrades to its mosaicking tool, powerful 3D visualization and scene creation capabilities. ERDAS operates as the Imaging and Visualization unit within Leica Geosystems' GIS & Mapping Division. 





Global Geomatics this week announced their new MapFusion product. The idea is to open up GIS products to many data formats. Aimed primarily at the military, the product, which comes in several flavors, supports some 80 formats. I spoke with Gilles Clément, president and founder of Global Geomatics, in early December in preparation for the launch.

Global Geomatics has been around since 1989 and began the move from consulting to products in 1999. The company believes that without interoperability GIS is but a “scientific curiosity.” That seems a bit overstated with thirty-plus years of GIS use and billions of dollars spent. Still, there certainly are challenges in sharing and using data from other systems, which is the type of interoperability that Global Geomatics is addressing.


The product uses an in-memory model, referred to as a transient object model (proprietary) to move data from its native format to a desktop GIS. Global Geomatics provides MapFusion extensions to MapInfo, GeoConcept (a French GIS), AutoCAD (not Autodesk Map or any other flavored product), and ArcView. The company also provides their own MapFusion Workstation, a desktop GIS with basic “GIS viewer” functionality. The Web version distributes HMTL maps, delivers “smart map” features to desktop packages with the MapFusion extension and provides for a metadata repository. The metadata solution is “smart” and will pull available information into the repository. It will tease out what it can when data is loaded and allows updates as information becomes available.


If the concept sounds a bit familiar, that’s because it’s based on the company’s OGDI technology, which has been around for some time. OGDI was originally developed for the Canadian military. The biggest competitor for this technology, according to Global Geomatics, is the military mindset or culture. The company doesn’t see desktop GIS, which reads many formats (such as GeoMedia), or Safe Software’s translation tools in the same market space.


The commercial sector will see the product as part of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) solutions provided by partners under other brands. For now, Global Geomatics’ two references are GlobXplorer, a data publishing and sales website, and the Kentucky Office of Geographic Information. The latter is an ESRI shop that uses other data formats.


How does this solution work with the Open GIS Consortium’s (OGC) interoperability solutions? This is “data only” interoperability; it does not address the interoperability of services. On the data interoperability side, Global Geomatics supports OGC’s GML.


Global Geomatics Introduces “On-the-Fly” Interoperability 


Global Geomatics 





It’s been a bad week for wireless Internet providers. EarthLink, one of the largest Internet Service Providers (ISPs), purchased the assets of OmniSky on Friday, subject to approval. Yada Yada, only a year old, announced it would shut down on Thursday. Arch Wireless owes creditors about $2 billion and filed for bankruptcy protection Thursday.


In the past year at least eight companies offering some type of wireless Internet connection have shown indications of financial challenges. Why? Analysts cite the natural weeding out expected in a new sector. Also, with more wireless phone carriers offering faster Internet connectivity, the pure wireless providers are having trouble competing. Sarah Kim, of The Yankee Group, suggests that the wireless ISPs are still not offering a compelling product, “[People] buy the service, spend $300 to buy a wireless modem and get 9.6K connections? It's just not thrilling.”


Even well known Ricochet, which shut down this year, was only able to capture 51,000 customers - more than half of them in California. The vision of always on, on-the-run, access is seeming further away all the time.


EarthLink to take over OmniSky  0%2C4586%2C5100424%2C00.html


EarthLink to Buy OmniSky Assets news/2001/12/07/earthlink_to.html





- Tiny Rhode Island is set to become the first state to be able to implement cell phone-based E-911. The enhanced system is expected to be up and running next week. Alas, only Sprint sells phones capable of using it.  cell_phone_emergencies_2.html


- Leica announced some new FREE training in its latest newsletter (can you think of a vendor who doesn’t have a newsletter, these days?) There’s a fairly good intro to GPS, and discussions of Rapid Static GPS and Automatic Target Recognition. You’ll need Macromedia Shockwave, but I’m not sure why. The courses use only simple slides. These training sessions will not train a viewer in the use of Leica products, but will instead provide basic background.  advantage/etraining/etraininghome.htm


- Special kudos this week to Kent Knudsen, GSEC, Office of Information Resources Security, Computing & Information Services (ITIM) Texas A&M University. I received a virus-laced reply regarding GIS Monitor from an account at the school. I’ve learned that trying to send e-mail to the individual who is infected rarely succeeds in anything but receiving further infected messages. So, I sent my concern to the webmaster of the site. I was asked for further information and later received a thank you and confirmation that the owner of the account had been provided with a cleaning utility, so I should have no further problems. Well done, Texas A&M, you are setting a great example for all of us!


- At the International Association for Exhibition Management Expo URHere and ActiveMaps showed off three new products: an online map of Washington, D.C. that allows a user to listen to information about the city’s historical and cultural attractions, a mobile version for use on the iPAQ personal digital assistant (PDA) and a printed map that allows tourists to use their cell phones to access audio information about the city’s attractions. The online demo of Washington D.C. provides some clickable audio information in categories for parents, kids and history. Each one provided poor quality audio (I’m on a high speed line) and the “kids” version for the White House made no sense. I see room for improvement here. 


- Jack Shroder, a professor of geography and geology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, who led a project to map Afghanistan, says the innermost caves in that country may be impervious to US attacks. The deep caves, he suggests, may require “gassing” to force out those in hiding.  wl/afghan_blast_proof_bunkers_1.html


- As of early December MapQuest has removed “My MapQuest” from its site. That feature, requiring a log-in, allowed a visitor to store maps and routes, addresses and other information. The new system will use cookies to store that information. Although those who hate cookies may not be happy, MapQuest will no doubt gain back some of its server storage space. 





- Paul Crisp of Syntegra passed along some calculations from a colleague based on the numbers in last week’s article about tracking dog poop with a GPS receiver.


“Ermmmm... One Mile - 1,600 meters. 1,600 meters - 1,494 mounds of poop. So he must have a hand held GPS that's 1m accurate... Or he's counting multiple mounds - that's cheating. I bet his data isn't good enough for a RobotPooperScooper....”





Public/Private GIS Partnerships  





Dec 12 - Autodesk/Fiat Deliver LBS to Telecom Italia Mobile 

Connect TIM delivers navigation, concierge and mobile commerce services to wireless subscribers. This is the first taker for Autodesk’s location-based service offering that was recently moved “from the car to the phone.”


Dec 12 - LizardTech Announces MrSID Geo 1.5 

MrSID Geo 1.5 new features include: Enhanced statistics generation, Flexible TIFF mosaicking, JPEG and JPEG with World File (.jgw) image support, Ability to launch a MrSID viewer from within the encoder, ability to mosaic imagery with slightly different x,y resolution.


Dec 12 - Kivera Announces Migration Option for MapQuest Customers 

Michael Fisher, executive vice president of Kivera, says, “Companies who have already replaced MapQuest with Kivera have done so due to our low cost of ownership, optimized services and proven customer satisfaction.” Don’t look for more info on the company website, a one-page PDF gives only a phone number and no details.


Dec 12 - Security Hold Lifted on Radar Maps

NASA has begun giving scientists access to portions of extraordinarily accurate 3D maps of Earth's surface that were placed under a security embargo following the Sept. 11 attacks. Scientists can access US data, but no foreign data. Further, they are prohibited from making the information the do download, public.


Dec 11 - Snowflake Announces Free Viewer for OS MasterMap 

This is Java based, too, for those on non-Windows platforms.


Dec 11 - Sanborn Announces Plan to Consolidate its Divisions 

The acquisitions moving to the Sanborn name after the first of the year include the Colorado Springs office of Analytical Surveys, Inc., Williams-Stackhouse, based in San Antonio, Texas; Barton Aerial Technologies, based in Columbus, Ohio; Charlotte, North Carolina-based Aero-Dynamics; St. Louis, Missouri-based Walker Associates; and Rochester, New York-based Lockwood Mapping Company. Good move on Sanborn’s part – the name is synonymous with mapping; it should be used to advantage.


Dec 11 - MxInsight GIS Provide Weather Info For Geography Network 

A new subscription service provides real-time weather via the Geography Network.


Dec 11 - OS MasterMap Benefits from Laser-Scan Technology 

Laser-Scan helped build the map.


Dec 11 - DVI To Offer GDT Products in MicroStation Format 

I’d be curious about the size of the market for this product. However, if DVI simply converts the data on demand, they may make a few dollars. This is how ADCi, who pioneered mapping data for CAD, has been successful.


Dec 10 - Matthew Smith Named President of Leica Geosystems 

Smith was Leica Geosystems' GPS business development director for North America; in his new position, he will focus his efforts on providing spatial data acquisition products and services that help customers increase their productivity.


Dec 10 - BAE SYSTEMS Focuses on Support of Interoperability 

BAE has joined OGC at the “highest” level.


Dec 10 - Syncline Launches MapCiti Academic Program 

All educational institutions qualify for special rates that start at $5000.


Dec 07 - Atlas-Arc GIS Migration Pak Offered By RPM For $895 

Upon proof of purchase, registered users of MapInfo, Maptitude, MapPoint or any other commercial GIS or mapping software can obtain a copy of both Atlas GIS 4.0 and ArcView GIS 8.1 for just $895, which is less than half the normal retail price. The offer is good only through December 31, 2001. Think about it, ArcView (US only) is $1,500 at the ESRI store – this is a DEAL. Hey, buy one, take the ArcView and give the Atlas to an aspiring student or colleague. Atlas is a great package to learn on!


Dec 07 - GITA Publishes Fourth Annual Geospatial Technology Report 

The report contains detailed information on the completeness, complexity and direction of geographic information system (GIS) projects being implemented at 157 infrastructure-based organizations. Look for a review in an upcoming issue.


Dec 07 - AGI Assists Massachusetts to Develop Shared GIS Services 

The proposed Shared GIS Service architecture capitalizes on recent industry advancements in services-oriented architecture standards, including the SOAP, WSDL and UDDI standards. Don’t know what those mean? I didn’t either but fear we all will soon.


Dec 07 - Webraska Provides Location Aware Upgrade for Orange UK 

The upgraded service offered by Orange UK now allows the user to be automatically located by the network rather than typing in the address themselves which was the “old” way.


Dec 07 - New Brunswick Power Selects ESRI Technology 

ESRI's technology will be part of the replacement program for their existing outage management system.


Dec 06 - TCS Powers New Verizon Wireless Messaging and more  =tsys&script=410&layout=-6&item_id=233718 

From a website, it is possible to send text messages to Verizon phones.


Dec 06 - NovaLIS Technologies Merges with Partner TerraSoft

The two companies are combining development, but are keeping their own names and customers. This makes me scratch my head.


Dec 06 - Online Gaming Sites Choose Quova GeoPoint

There are different laws for gambling in different geographies. So, online gambling has to “know where you are” to obey them. Seven such sites are now using Quova’s GeoPoint to do just that.


Dec 06 - City of Beloit Signs R.A. Smith & Associates 

R.A. Smith & Associates, Inc., civil engineers and surveyors, Brookfield, is assisting the city of Beloit with implementing the first phase of their new GIS.


Dec 06 - ECW Becomes nVisioned

One more viewer supports ECW.


You can reach more than 6,000 GIS professionals every issue by sponsoring GIS Monitor. For more information, email

Please send comments and suggestions to:
Adena Schutzberg
GIS Monitor Editor
Ultimate Map/GIS Directory - Your search is over!

If you wish to subscribe, unsubscribe or change your preferences visit our
subscription page.