The Spatial Miscellany


A weblog. A website. A geospatial miscellany…

If you stick a Monkey in a room for long enough…

…you get Shakespeare, or that’s the theory. Well it looks like something similar has happened in Redmond, Washington; with their 2008 product line just around the corner, Microsoft are about to give geospatial developers a full box of toys.


Two years ago, a knee jerk reaction to Google Maps spawned Virtual Earth; it’s got great data, low barriers to adoption with an easy to use JavaScript API, and a novel and comprehensive SDK. GIS professionals, who had spent years in the basement, with little acknowledgement from others in their organisations, wasted no time in sharing their work with others with Virtual Earth and tools like Arc2Earth and MapCruncher. OK, well it’s not quite that rosy, licensing issues remain a thorn in the side, but you get the idea.

At the time, MS were toiling away at the next release of their application framework, and devised some XML based glue to hold it all together…zammel (XAML). XAML is a pretty wide ranging language concept, for which MS undoubtedly have numerous intentions. Speaking crudely, for geospatial developers XAML provides the rather handy capability of rendering vector graphics (and then some) on a windows form (think WPF), or web page (think Silverlight) – which ever takes your fancy. Critically for the geospatial developer, both WPF and Silverlight provide shape libraries for representing Points, Lines and Polygons.

At this point I’m very tempted to go off on one, and bash the vole for bastardizing the web, and mighty fine W3C standards like SVG (just look at this stuff) – but thats a whole can of worms…

Can of worms

So Microsoft has given geospatial developers two new technologies for rendering maps, or at least a collection of shapes, both online and via the ubiquitous windows form. But they didn’t stop there…

As people noted a few weeks back, they’ve gone one further and added spatial support for SQL Server 2008, providing two new types (Geometry and Geography) and in the region of 70 spatial operations. Apparently this has been implemented using their CLR User Defined Types architecture, which should mean full access to this stuff from .NET allowing you to tie it all together. If you’re a Microsoft shop…2008 should be good fun.


Free GIS Software...

Download ArcGIS Explorer, a free geobrowser from ESRI!


Use ArcGIS Explorer to visualise geographic datasets. The latest build provides full access to Virtual Earth imagery and comprehensive support for several data formats including GeoRSS, KML and ArcGIS Layerfiles.

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