Smathermather's Weblog

Remote Sensing, GIS, Ecology, and Oddball Techniques

Independence– Free as in Freedom

Posted by smathermather on July 5, 2012

I recently gave a talk on a really interesting project I’m working on, and in the process of talking to a non-technical crowd introduced Open Source using some of my favorite (borrowed) phrases, i.e. “Free not as in free beer, but free as in freedom, free as in ‘free puppy'”, which resulting in a surprisingly satisfying chuckle from the audience.

What’s great about the project is that we’re doing some really cool stuff that will be useful to others, and because we’re building it on top of open source software, we can just share it, without licensing restrictions, without pay-to-play start-up for other users.

Today, I write a short post about “free software” and free as in freedom, in the spirit of the US holiday “Independence Day” or colloquially, “4th of July”.

ESRI recently had an article in both of the magazines they send me on Open Source, Open Standards, Open Data, Open APIs, etc.. ESRI catches a lot of flack from the Open Source geospatial community. We can quote Paul Ramsey’s recent blog post: “Thought experiment: if ESRI truly embraced interoperability, at some point would one not expect it to cease to be a noteworthy topic?”   I use ESRI software almost exclusively for desktop, and Open Source software exclusively for server, and love when there’s more and better integration.

And… ESRI has made some recent headway. While not well-manned, they had a booth at FOSS4G in 2011 promoting e.g. their work creating an OpenStreetMap editor for ArcGIS 10.x. They also had a booth at FOSS4G-NA this year, which was well-manned. I had the pleasure of walking past their booth where one of their machines had a blue screen of death. I was kind enough to not take a picture.  🙂 The folks manning the booth blamed Windows, so I suggested they get working on a serious Linux port… .

ESRI has also done some good work in the standards realm, in addition to the venerable shapefile standard, they’ve added open web APIs, and opened up the file geodatabase with an API to read and write 10.x geodatabases.

But alas, to date, no special sauce. No write access to any of these:

  • Annotation and Dimension feature classes
  • Relationship Classes
  • Networks (GN and ND)
  • Topologies
  • Terrains
  • Representations
  • Parcel Fabrics

Which is where the really cool (and largely patented) work that ESRI has done in the last few years.  Jack Dangermond often talks about changing the world for the better with revolutionary software and ideals.  And he has.  You’ve had an excellent Act I and Act II.  Finish the revolution, Jack.  Open up.

So, on this day of freedom (ahem, ok, today is the 5th).  ESRI.  Jack.  It’s time for Act III.

One Response to “Independence– Free as in Freedom”

  1. […] friend of mine read my first post “Independence– Free as in Freedom” and said this: “awesome blog and great post. did jack […]

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