Several recent posts I want to call attention to…
First, a very interesting discussion on the OSGeo-discuss list kicked off by Tyler Mitchell, who posted a request to the list for examples of how open source software has made employees more valuable in their jobs. The discussion was gently steered to whether one can conduct the same tasks with FOSS GIS software as with ESRI and other proprietary softwares. Paul Ramsey offered a response that fairly well sums how FOSS GIS compares with proprietary products:
“I’d buck up for a copy of ArcView (much cheaper than ArcGIS), and use
GRASS / PostGIS / etc tools for things like analysis. You can use
ArcView to generate the paper and do some quick low-end analytics and
the other tools for more involved stuff.
“My general synopsis: for server-side, for scriptability, for
automation, for web-based, open source wins for most use cases, given
a technically savvy user; for ad hoc, for cartographic production, for
a user who is used to a point-n-click experience end to end,
proprietary still wins.
“This equation hasn’t changed much in the 10 years I’ve been running
it. The goal posts have moved, open source is better at adhoc now than
before, but still not at the level of ESRI, and ESRI is better at the
server stuff now, but still not at the level of open source.
I would add that FOSS GIS still has a long way to go before it incorporates the essential elements of workflow that proprietary products already have in spades. The industry leaders in GIS software, -specifically ESRI, Intergraph, and MapInfo, have invested Big Bucks in numerous vertical markets in an attempt to offer support for the tasks common to those industries. Will it be up to consultants to take incorporate similar functionality in FOSS GIS packages? Or, will vendors and developers undertake the task?
Another lively discussion is going on over on the Geowanking list with regard to the status of KML now that it is officially an OGC specification. There is some confusion over the licensing and copyright of OGC specifications. Alan Doyle has posted an interesting study of the terms governing OGC documents, which is well worth a look. The problem of copyright is a bit thorny because of OGC’s inter-relationship with ISO/TC211 and the overlapping standards and specifications. (There was a lively discussion last year sometime on how ISO could freely encourage the adoption of ISO standards on the one hand, while requiring end users to purchase the standard.) My take is that the copyright/licensing issue is part of the necessary institutional wrestling we incur as we migrate from a paper-based processes to Internet and web-based processes.
Link to Alan Doyle’s study here.
Coincidentally, Fuzzy Tolerance has an interesting and somewhat related post on the licensing terms of FOSS with a link to the Software Freedom Center’s primer on FOSS. Careful when you click, ‘Next’ on those software EULAs!