Open Source Computing and GIS in the UK

Travels in a digital world

Hurrah for Autodesk (Sort Of)

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FOSS4G Day 3. Fantastically inspiring lectures on Open Source Spatial Data Infrastructures, which is just what we (in an Oxford Archaeology sense) are looking for. Time to go back and re-evaluate a lot of these products, which are maybe two major releases further on, and a great deal more developed and sophisticated, than last time I looked.

Prize for the most exciting new product of the conference (IMHO) goes to MapChat- which the conference abstract describes as “a prototype web-based tool for synchronous multi-user communication via a mab interface”. In archaeology the technical term we would use to describe this would be “very cool indeed”. In a nutshell it’s a geographically enabled forum with a map front-end built with mapscript/chameleon and some ajax widgets, and the data stored in postgresql. I came away with these rosy ideas of passionate discussions amongst my fellow archaeologists about what has been found in a particular area, or more prosaically being able to plan trenches interactively with the client, all through a map and discussion-based interface. It’s still in alpha at the moment, but a demo is available at http://fesdss08.uwaterloo.ca/mapchat.

So why am I grudgingly praising the mighty AutoDesk monster? Well they’ve been a big presence throughout this conference and have invested quite a lot of money in making it a success (which it has been, without a doubt). However, I think that their motives for opensourcing MapGuide are still not entirely clear, and there is a lot of ingrained distrust towards them. Having said that, tonight they laid on a boat trip to the Chateau de Chillon at Montreux, a guided tour of what is undoubtably a fantastic castle, and a delicious three-course meal in one of the castles’s four great halls. So, thanks guys!

[Posted on my pda from the hotel]

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