Tag Archive for 'ESRI'

Moving ArcGIS to VMware Fusion

After the upgrade to Mac OS 10.5 I decided not to use Boot Camp any longer and switch entirely to a virtualization solution. Mainly because Boot Camp is limited to the primary (internal) hard drive and occupies a lot of disk space which I want to use for some other things now. A virtual machine I can run from an external hard drive too and move it to wherever I want.

My copy of Parallels Desktop (aff link) transfered the existing Windows XP installation from the Boot Camp partition to a new virtual disk image flawlessly. Problems started later when I tried to start the image for the 2nd time. The disk image apparently corrupted and I had to install everything from scratch again. After hours of Windows and ArcGIS installations, the disk image corrupted again when I tried to restart the virtual machine. I wasn’t able to find out what caused the problem, wasn’t in the mood to spend another couple of hours with basic set ups either and started looking for alternative virtualization solutions.

The next version of Parallels Desktop’s main competitor, VMware Fusion (aff link), is currently in beta and until 2nd Oct 2008 they are offering free beta licenses.

Their website lists all new features and enhancements. From my point of view – not doing any benchmarks, just trying to complete basic ArcGIS tasks in Windows – it feels snappy enough and has useful features like unity mode, snapshots, mirrored and shared folders, which you can add to the virtual machine while it’s running.

I didn’t encounter any problems setting up and running ArcGIS in VMware Fusion. Whereas I didn’t do any geoprocessing tasks yet. Geoprocessing worked well in Parallels and I expect it to do so in VMware Fusion too. If not, I’ll post it here.

However, while working with grids I noticed an issue: my ArcGIS workspace was a subfolder within the mirrored Documents directory in Mac OS X. In that environment, an ESRI grid file I was working with wasn’t fully accessible in ArcGIS. After I copied the entire workspace inside the virtual machine, everything worked fine again. Maybe it’s related to HFS, the Mac OS filesystem.

VMware Fusion

Steven and Roman brought my attention to Sun’s open source virtualization solution called Virtualbox. I tried that one too – it does a fairly good job, not as advanced as VMware Fusion though, but well documented and highly customizable. If you own a Mac, need Windows (or Solaris, Linux, FreeBSD, etc.) and prefer open source, go with VirtualBox.

Another interesting detail is that VMware Fusion is pretty active on Twitter. At least they are scanning Twitter for Tweets about their products and they even respond to those tweets – clever marketing I guess. Though I don’t how far it goes and if you can use Twitter for quick support questions. Would be very convenient.

The Server-side

More than any marketing leaflet, the Google/ESRI Where 2008 presentation made me curious about the potential of the upcoming ArcGIS Server release.

I find the example shown of the fires in California, where students started locating and pinpointing new fire outbreaks in Google My Maps, very interesting. In the field of spatial planning, stakeholder participation is often a crucial part. Since most projects deal with spatial impacts, using maps and plans is just natural to transport information. Enabling feedback processes directly via easy-to-use map interfaces like Google Maps or Microsoft Virtual Earth could support communication strategies very well I think.

The thing is, our clients, partners and most stakeholders aren’t GIS power users. They are not very familiar with desktop GIS and, for obvious reasons, use map server interfaces only when they are forced to (the “Captive” user base). Anything what helps increasing user experience on interactive maps is just a huge step forward.

Arc2Earth is handy for quick & easy interactive map publishing via Google Maps/Virtual Earth or KML, but the potential of having feedback collected, (geo)processed and instantly returned by a server leaves room for some really great project ideas and use cases.

I guess first I’ll have a look at the GeoServer project and see what I can accomplish with the Open Geo-Stack, before bothering our local ESRI sales people.

European geodata

EUROSTATWhat’s TIGER in the US, is GISCO in Europe. Not quite as detailed and up to date but at least free to use under following conditions:

a) the data will not be used for commercial purposes;
b) the source will be acknowledged. A copyright notice, as specified below, will have to be visible on any printed or electronic publication using the data downloaded from this page.

The available geodata is aimed to use in combination with other EUROSTAT products (which are also available for free on their website) in the first place. The scale is too small for detailed map production and on most layers the date is indicated with 199x.

If the left hand of EUROSTAT would know what the right hand is doing, everybody who is interested could now start creating statistical maps and analysis across Europe by simply downloading all necessary data. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as it seems to be: the left hand changed the statistical units in Europe (NUTS), while the other hand didn’t. So what we now have is a statistical database using new region codes and a geographic database using old region codes. Needless to say that a lot of GIS out there, working with EUROSTAT data, are now somewhat screwed because geographic and statistical data doesn’t match anymore. A workaround until updated geodata is available is not using the NUTS3 level, NUTS2 (and larger) data seems less problematic. Not the best solution if you’re in the field of regional analysis of course.

Just one more detail on today’s EUROSTAT confusion:


Apparently the www-directory was copied. One copy was updated. Now which one of both sites holds the correct information? All bookmarks lead to the old one, no hint (or redirect??) that the entire site has moved and was updated…


Regarding interoperability and openness, the downloadable geodata comes as ESRI Personal Geodatabase 9.2, not sure how many GIS applications can cope with that file format. Whereas provided metadata is excellent, well, GISCO already had excellent metadata in 2001.


Companies who admit failures usually gain credibility.

This isn’t new at 9.2; it’s been like this for a while. Why there isn’t a better error message, I don’t know.

John Doe
ESRI Product Specialist

Anyways, if there would’ve been a better error message, I’d not have gone in circles around the problem for quite a while and finally ending up at the support forums searching for users who experienced the same issue. I hope this error message made it on the task list for 9.3…

Registration paranoia

As if the ArcGIS SingleUse registration process (hardwarelock > keycode > registration form > email > license file > activation) wasn’t already painful enough…

ArcGIS registration


NATOSiemens Enterprise Communications got contracted to build the new NATO geographic information system, based on Oracle and ESRI products. Quite an ambitious project, but what makes me even more wonder is that I’ve never heard of Siemens acting on such a geo industry scale before. [via heise]

ArcGIS Explorer, a first impression

After reading this post in the morning, I just couldn’t resist but to have a quick look at the long-awaited ArcGIS Explorer. If you have an ESRI global account (or are willing to register) you can download it here.

As mentioned in a few discussions earlier this year, ArcGIS Explorer won’t be a mass market product and is not supposed to compete with Google Earth. So I expected a product that would fit my needs as ArcGIS user and offer new possibilities for data and result dissemination for instance.

Basically it does.

After trying different globe-types offered by ArcGIS online (btw, which software is needed to create nmf files?) I wanted to load some local content.

Since ArcGIS 8 (if I remember correctly) ESRI is promoting its Personal Geodatabase file format for local storage. If you moved over the years from Shapefile to Personal Geodatabase (as we did) you’re now screwed. Apparently ArcGIS Explorer can only access the new File Geodatabases, coming with ArcGIS 9.2, and good old Shapefiles. So if you consider, among other things, ArcGIS Explorer as tool to access locally stored information, you should migrate to ArcGIS 9.2 and File Geodatabases, another ArcGIS island file format, or just stay and be happy with Shapefiles.

Because there is no ArcGIS Server in sight and there won’t be any in near future, I tried WMS. Well, it works. Basically. Sometimes.
Serious Application Error

Still, the major drawback of ArcGIS Explorer is its overall performance. Once you’ve seen how fast you can move and fly around in Google Earth, it’s hard to go back to a sluggish performance like the one you’re experiencing in ArcGIS Explorer.

It would be interesting to see ArcGIS Explorer in combination with ArcGIS Server together in a local network. I bet it performs somewhat faster.

The concept (e.g. extensible with customized tasks) is great and there is definitely a market for usable professional globe applications (cf. Google Earth’s license agreement), but this software isn’t ready yet. Even ESRI evangelists have to face that fact.

Please don’t resize the logo!

Maybe this feature is something already implemented in ArcGIS 9.2, don’t know, but I’ld love to create a map template where the author can LOCK certain graphic elements such as logos, frames, bars, references, etc.

We often deal with predefined map layouts which must not be changed. Our life would be easier if we could fix positions, colors or sizes of certain layout elements and let other ArcMap users just edit defined layout areas.

Currently if an ArcMap user loads a map template he gains full control over each layout element, which isn’t always the best idea.

Personal ArcSDE and more…

Episode 57 of A VerySpatial podcast covers a very interesting interview with Craig Gillgrass from ESRI talking about the geodatabase in the upcoming ArcGIS 9.2 release.

It gives a good overview about the new geodatabase concept, starting with file-based geodatabases, mentioning new packages like Personal ArcSDE – bundled with ArcGIS Desktop, runs on top of Microsoft SQL Server Express (!!), should allow up to 2 users and is targeted to small companies – and finishing with ArcGIS Server / ArcSDE Enterprise.

All in all it’s extremely interesting and clarifying information for somebody like me who wasn’t attending ESRI’s UC 2006 and just got confused about the new geodatabases. I guess it’s time to get one of the updated product schemas to finally understand all connections and relations between the ArcGIS product lines.

Bye, bye Shapefile?

Thanks to planet geospatial I almost was able to attend ESRI’s International User Conference 2006 without even going to San Diego (and experience those nice travel adventures as others did).

Beside all improvements and new features (btw, can’t wait to see this animation thing demoing somewhere) and bug fixes of ArcGIS, one point called my attention: the File-Based Geodatabase.

Since they can be compressed and are cross platform (Linux, Solaris, and Windows), file-based geodatabases are a good choice for data publishing. Like it did with shapefiles, ESRI is providing an open API that will allow anyone to create and use file-based geodatabases.

Is the File-Based Geodatabase going to be the next Shapefile?

Quite an ambitious project considering that, as far as I know, every piece of software dealing with geographic data is able to read (most of them even to write) a Shapefile. I’m not that long in the GIS business world, but I know the Shapefile as de-facto standard for quick geographic data exchange.

A major advantage of Shapefiles (and the Personal Geodatabase) is that you can access and edit attribute data without the need of a GIS client. In case of Shapefiles just fire up Excel (or any other DBF editor), access, read or change the attributes you want and save them back to the file (if you used Excel, be careful).

Will it be possible with File-Based Geodatabases too?

E.g. while working with ArcReader the non-ArcMap user can open Access and update the whole attribute set without any difficulty. A common and highly appreciated workflow in my environment.

However, in times of increasing importance of easily accessible geographic data the Open Geodatabases concept looks promising:

It is no longer necessary to access geodatabases via ESRI software products; the technology and documentation easily support direct access from other products and systems.