News Roundup - Esri REST Specs Released, OpenOffice Forks and Live Spaces Punts, Dream Theater Blues

First up, via Slashgeo, James Fee and others, Esri’s GeoServices REST Specification has hit the streets. This is a great development, and it will help make AGS more relevant to folks who are leery of vendor lock-in. It isn’t a casual read (220 page PDF), but as far as these types of docs go it isn’t bad. It isn’t perfect - the OWF agreement can be changed at any time, and I think the last thing Esri wants is a community to sprout up around improving and evolving the spec - but I still give it a big thumbs up. I’m a little concerned Esri is doing this in lieu of opening the file geodatabase spec (after 3 years it’s gotta be that or some IP problems with the file geodatabase itself). That could just be my tin foil hat talking though.

There was interesting news in the open source world this past month. OpenOffice was forked and rebranded LibreOffice (the download looks like a plain OO 3.3 beta with rebranding), with a non-profit called The Document Foundation overseeing the project. While it’s easy to blame this on Oracle, in truth most people were unhappy with this project when Sun was in charge. This could get some traction - Google, Novell, Red Hat, and Canonical are supporters. I think it’s a little too late to the ball game though. Desktop office suites peaked years ago. For the most part, the innovation in that arena is all online.

This next open source story shocked me. Microsoft is shutting down Live Spaces and migrating all of its accounts to Wordpress. If you try to make a blog on Live Spaces now it will direct you to Wordpress. While this makes perfect sense from a logical standpoint (Wordpress is much, much better), it is so out of character for Microsoft I had a hard time believing it. As Ars eloquently puts it:

But this is a remarkable decision nonetheless. Microsoft is king of Not Invented Here (NIH) syndrome. The company has historically chosen to reinvent the wheel on many occasions: creating its own audio and video codecs, its own network protocols, and its own programming languages. It’s not just external inventions that get ignored. Product teams within Microsoft even reinvent other Microsoft software…

I would add embrace, extend and extinguish to their NIH machinations, but the point is valid. Microsoft has made a number of really smart decisions lately. I don’t know what’s going on over in Redmond, but I like it. Now if they would just dump Sharepoint…

Ars has a really interesting post on Yavin IV: Exploring space on the cheap with an iPhone, Droid, and Flip. Basically they took common off the shelf consumer equipment, loaded it into a playmate cooler, attached it to a weather balloon, and took pictures and video from over 100,000 feet. And to think I was proud of my Droid 2’s Tricorder app.

In most important news this or any other month, news that will bring a tear to the eye of up to several of you, Mike Portnoy, one of the greatest drummers to ever pick up sticks, has left Dream Theater. Dream Theater is one of my all time favorite bands. I’ve been trying (and failing) to play their songs on guitar for two decades now. DANG IT!

And now for a few parting shots:


  • SketchUp 8 has been released. The coolest two changes are the integration of Building Maker and the ability to pull a bunch of geodata into your model.

  • PC Pro has a good article on Windows 7 vs Ubuntu 10.04, comparing them in a number of categories. It was really close - Ubuntu scored 38 points, while Windows 7 scored 41. They concluded with Ubuntu is clearly an operating system on the rise. If we repeat this feature in a year’s time, will it have closed the gap? We wouldn’t bet against it.

  • Google Chrome Frame has left beta. Chrome frame plants webkit in Internet Explorer’s chest ala Alien so users stuck on IE6 can use web sites written after 2004. With IE9 out in beta, hopefully we won’t need this sort of thing too much longer.

  • The Department of Homeland Security (which is nearly big enough to declare independence and form its own nation) was recently audited for security, which turned up 1,085 instances of 202 high-risk security holes. I’d make fun of them, but I have to jump on a plane in October and I don’t want to end up on a list that involves the use of rubber gloves.

  • Downloadsquad had a good post on Vision of Humanity’s Global Peace Index. It’s a really nice geovisualization, if I can make up such a term.