News Roundup - Bilski, Google Phases Out Windows (Maybe),

First up in this month’s news roundup is the Supreme Court’s decision on Bilski. The SC took its traditional narrow ruling approach (i.e. “punt”), invalidating Bilski’s patent but not invalidating software patents in general. Process patents are still allowed, and the machine/transformation standard can’t be the only standard applied. But it did uphold the machine/transformation standard as a useful test, and the argument used to toss Bilski could be used to toss many software patents. But to make a long story short: process patents will be harder to get but still obtainable, and the validity of software patents will remain an open question until a software-specific patent case makes it to the Supreme Court.

As first reported by the Financial Times, Google is planning to phase out the use of Microsoft Windows. Google has traditionally been a “run whatever you want” shop, but after the Aurora exploit employees are being pushed toward OSX and Linux. One employee was quoted as saying “Getting a new Windows machine now requires CIO approval.” While the security angle seems to be getting the most press, in many ways it’s a smart business move. With Android and Chrome OS, Google is moving more and more into the operating system market. You always want companies to eat their own dog food. Maybe it’ll get the Google Earth Plugin running on Linux a bit faster. I should note that although this has been reported everywhere, to my knowledge Google has still not confirmed the story.

Sean Gorman at Off the Map hit the nail on the head when summarizing the community's sentiment on the ESRI contract. If you haven't been following this, in a nutshell ESRI has a no-bid contract with the Feds to do all of the geo work for and...wait for it...

…share the data out in proprietary formats and via proprietary API’s. Basically, becomes our de facto national Spatial Data Infrastructure.


If I still had my cheap home-built Strat I’d Pete Townsend it on my amp. Well, not my Vox amp. I’m starting to buy into the idea that local open data portals are better at many things than centralized SDI services.

ArcGIS 10 is officially out. Those with maintenance contracts will be getting an email with instructions on how to download it (yes, download it - I can has torrent please?). I can’t say anything else about it until I can lay mits on it. Hopefully it won’t reject my work machine outright for being .2ghz below the new minimum requirements.

Boston GIS has a great post comparing the spatial features of PostgreSQL/PostGIS, SQL Server 2008, and Oracle 11g. It’s a very detailed analysis of the capabilities of each platform. For my (no) money, it’s PostgreSQL/PostGIS all the way.

And now for a few quick hitters:

  • Google Earth 5.2 has been released, and includes a lot of great new features, like improved GPS tracks, elevation profiles, and a better embedded browser.
  • had a couple of good GIS posts this month. Citizens are involved in a grassroots mapping project on the oil spill. Using weather balloons and kites with cameras attached, they've captured and stitched together some of the best and most current aerial photography available.
  • Another post talks about open data initiatives at MassDOT, and how the community has used their data to make a lot of useful applications, including real time bus tracking.
  • OpenGeo released Prj2EPSG, an application to convert well known text projection information to EPSG codes. I can finally take the brain cells holding 4326, 2264, 900913, and 102113 and do something useful with them.
  • On the browser front, Mozilla has released the first beta of Firefox 4, and with IE9 preview 3 they've made a first run at HTML5 canvas support. IE9 preview 3 also upped ACID3 compliance to a more acceptable level. As much as I begrudge saying nice things about IE, IE9 is headed in the right direction.