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OSGeo Foundation Up In Arms Over ESRI LAS Lock-In Plans 35

Bismillah writes: The Open Source Geospatial Foundation is outraged over mapping giant ESRI's latest move which entails vendor lock-in for light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data through its proprietary Optimised LAS format. ESRI is the dominant company in the geospatial data arena, with its ArcGIS mapping platform boasting with over a million users and 350,000 customers.
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OSGeo Foundation Up In Arms Over ESRI LAS Lock-In Plans

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  • by Drakker ( 89038 ) on Tuesday April 21, 2015 @12:41PM (#49520773) Homepage Journal

    I'm not surprised with this. GIS is almost a mono-culture that has been dominated by ESRI since forever. Their software costs in the thousands, yet crashes all the time and a lot of the included tools just don't work. Some parts of the interface have not changed since the 90s and they keep building on this dysfunctional foundation. Working with ArcGIS is a pain in the rear, yet for a lot of what ESRI software does, there is no alternative. Whenever I can I code my own stuff (using GDAL []) and do all I can in QGIS (, but for a lot of tasks, you are stuck with ArcGIS and other ESRI tools. The market is more than ready for a new player that will make reliable software (whether commercial or open source, doesn't matter to most as they are used to pay through the roof for ESRI software anyway).

    • Do ESRI actually generate the data? If so, what's the complaint?

      • Do ESRI actually generate the data? If so, what's the complaint?

        Nature generates the data. ESRI just hoard it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nava68 ( 2356090 )
        No, but as soon as the Market leader does propagate a new data exchange format, the actual creators of the data (commercial companies as well as state agencies) will follow. ESRIs market share is dominating and unfortunately many GIS users are not interested in open tools. So if a more efficient and comfortable format will be available then the GIS community will willingly accept it - without even considering the problems of a further lock in. In addition to that, the Open Source Geo community is already p
        • by Urban Nightmare ( 147344 ) on Tuesday April 21, 2015 @01:45PM (#49521331)

          I work for a Government Agency that uses ArcGIS for that last 10 or so years. Personally I'm a Linux user and try to use and contribute to open source projects (although lately I haven't been able to). I also use QGIS but find it's not always what I want when it comes to the cartography part of GIS. The maps it produces never seem to be as nice as ArcGIS. Sorry got a little off topic here. What I'm saying is that even though I like and use open source, my bosses don't give a rats ass about it. If you even mention no licensing fees then they think its an inferior product. They have drank the kool-aid, so we pay tens of thousands for licensing of all kinds of products that have the same or better open source alternatives.

          I believe this is also how many other agency view things. They don't care about open source. They just want someone to SELL them what they need.

          • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

            Sounds very similar to my own situation 10 years ago.

            ArcGIS, while expensive, produced useful output, even to the point of other councils licencing our work.

            Along comes a new IT Manager (my direct superior). Wanted to know why we were using BSD and not Windows for our internet-facing servers. Seriously, his question was "What's BSD?". He didn't trust anything without a gui, and was deeply suspicious of the Unix server running ArcGIS.

          • by Xyrus ( 755017 )

            ESRI is the Tomacco of GIS software. It's terrible, but they can't stop using it.

            I was pulled onto a legacy application that was using ESRI, and after seeing what a disaster it was (the project was on the verge of losing funding) I trashed the whole thing and rebuilt it from the ground up using open source tools and libraries. What used to take weeks to months of hair pulling frustration from programmers now takes a couple minutes for a non-techie user.

            Anecdotes are a dime a dozen though. I'm sure ArcGIS an

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday April 21, 2015 @01:02PM (#49520941) Homepage Journal

      Don't forget training and consulting. That brings in quite a bit of revenue too. In my experience most ArcGIS installations aren't actually functional because they don't have people who can work the software. Even after training most installations don't have the personnel to dedicate to keep up with it; they maybe produce a report or two, and then the software sits on the shelf, then they need to send someone else to training.

      In this environment a lot of people using ArcGIS might as well be using QGIS. If there were training and support for QGIS, this would build a user base which would attract developers. I think a lot more could be done in getting users to adopt web based mapping -- WMS and WMF -- too. The web is such moving platform that the kind of desktop based entrenchment ArcGIS enjoys is less significant.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      >>>Working with ArcGIS is a pain in the rear

      Wholeheartedly agree. I am one of those poor souls who has to use this tool on a regular basis in my job and it is almost infuriating at every turn. Believe me the bugs that I encounter are sort of incredible at this day and age of software: for instance: there are specific addresses when fed to the ESRI geocoder service will actually crash the entire software! And their map rendering sucks donkey balls. The fact that there has been no challenges to their

    • I'm not surprised with this. GIS is almost a mono-culture that has been dominated by ESRI since forever

      The attitude is slowly changing though, with more and more open source tools becoming available. Like you said, gdal and qgis are adequate for most common use, but in the case of LiDAR there's PCL (point cloud library) offering a workable alternative for the traditional las/laz tools in some cases. On the server end there's PostGIS which is a really nice set of geospatial procedures for Postgresql which for a lot of uses is more than enough. There's geoserver, mapserver, and the various html/js frameworks l

    • For such a large software company, their bug tracking is a joke. I reported an issue where the select by location tool was not selecting accurately, and in the end they admitted it was a known bug with high severity but no planned fix date. Now this makes me anxious because I am worried that there could be other bugs affecting the accuracy of my work, but the bug tracker does not let you see all the open bugs for a given product, nor can you subscribe to updates on existing bugs!
  • by david.emery ( 127135 ) on Tuesday April 21, 2015 @12:42PM (#49520779)

    OK, this is hearsay, but I remember being told maybe 15 years ago that Congress placed language in the DoD budget mandating the use of a Commercial Mapping Toolkit, with language such that only ESRI's product would qualify. What I know is the CJMTK (Commercial Joint Mapping ToolKit) is an ESRI proprietary interface that is mandated for use in DoD systems.

    Since then, it's been difficult to provide alternatives, particularly at the library/component level. Google Earth has gotten some traction, but not as an API but rather as a rendering engine.

    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      I see language all the time in Defense related project that require all software to be from "commercial vendors". It's one of the big reasons Red Hat Linux stays in business. There are reasons for it. If something goes wrong and there needs to be someone to hold accountable you can't just call up random screen names from GIThub and hope they appear before Congress.
      • There's a difference, though, between a preference for COTS with vendor support, and a mandate for a specific COTS product. An Open Source product without anyone providing maintenance is a risk. An Open Source product where you can -compete- for maintenance is a real benefit. A COTS product where you pay whatever the vendor charges for maintenance is at least a predictable life-cycle cost, but that vendor has you by the short-hairs. I've seen products where the sustainment contract was a lot more than t

  • From []: Although thought by some to be an acronym of Light Detection And Ranging, the term lidar was actually created as a portmanteau of "light" and "radar".

    Go fuck yourself.
    • ...And the DAR portion of RADAR stood for "Detection And Ranging". So why the nerd rage? Someone just chose to deconstruct a portmanteau into its root elements.
    • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

      Although thought by some to be an acronym of Light Detection And Ranging, the term lidar was actually created as a portmanteau of "light" and "radar."

      Go fuck yourself.

      Although expressly used by many as an acronym of Light Detection And Ranging, the first usage of a term magically enshrines that usage, and no other, as the exclusive meaning of that series of letters for all time.

      Or not.
      Portmanteau, noun, plural portmanteaus, portmanteaux [pawrt-man-tohz, -toh, pohrt-, pawrt-man-tohz, -toh, pohrt-] (Show IPA)

  • This really isn't a new event; just as always with ESRI you will see them partner with business to define a need and then extend those functions to be new tools in their product only to see a short time later a ESRI specific toolset that is given away for free that does what the partner did but locking you into there platform. But in this they drive business away from said partner.

    Having been on this side its hard on a small business to not see them for the predatory company they can be. So many of the "NEW

  • ESRI does have some competition, just not a lot. You can find GIS shops that run Autodesk Map 3D [] (merged with autodesk topobase a while back) and Intergraph []. Which of the 3 you use is largely dependent on your region. Intergraph is fairly popular outside the US. Autodesk tends to be more used in the western US, and ESRI is about everywhere else.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.