Data Policy opensource Thoughts

StateoftheMap 2009 Call for Papers

The call for papers for always one of the most interesting conference has just been announced. StateoftheMap 2009 is the conference to discuss all thinks to do with the ground breaking Open Street Map Project, and this year will be held in Amsterdam in July

This is much more than a gathering of people who like to ride bikes with GPS tapped to their handlebars however, the conference is a excellent forum for discussions of new types of cartography, data access policy and legal issues around open source data.

Indeed this year I’m sure one of the hottest topics will be licensing of data, not something which appears to everybody, but its an indication that the project has reached a level of maturity that it needs to be addressed.

Written and submitted from the 11:45 London-Cardiff Train, near Bristol.

opensource Thoughts

UK government starts to get open source

As the Guardian Technology blog notes the UK government is once again trying to push Government Departments into looking at Open Source software solutions at least as an alternative to the proprietary software we all know and love.

This is not the big stick approach which has been used in some other countries, here the policy is from a procurement perspective to just make sure open source solutions are see viewed on an equal footing, taking into account the total cost of ownership of new systems recognising the many years of support and maintenance that will follow the initial purchase.

osgovThis I hope will not just be seen as the simplistic religious debate between Windows v Linux, Microsoft Office v Open Office, or MySQL v Oracle, because actually it is not in terms of packaged software where the real benefits can be found.

The real big costs in Government IT projects go into the bespoke software development customising or building additional functionality around off the shelf software like Oracle or SAP, or from the GI perspective ArcGIS.

This is where this is massive potential, for much of the code developed solves very similar problems for different departments and agencies across government. As things currently  stand none of this code is reused and each department pays for similar code to be developed for them, often I’m afraid to say by the same vendors.

So for example in the GI world, the data management systems developed to build and maintain the maps for Ordnance Survey is not so different from that needed by the UK Hydrographic Survey, or at a larger scale the tools used by the Land Registry to maintain your title deed plans are not so different to what is needed  to build and maintain OS Mastermap.

If the code developed to meet these needs was made open source, the initial code base could be used and maintained by all government agencies each benefiting from potential improvements developed by the others, and the tax payer never have to fund more reinvention.

There is once small hitch with this, companies like Google are very open about their use and support of open source software tools, which form the backbone of their back office systems, and which can be maintained and extended internally by skilled engineers.

Over the last 10 years most of the IT expertise has left government departments, meaning that very few actual software engineers or developers are left within government.. They have all been outsourced. This means that the potential benefit is reduced internal maintenance of code and its development cannot occur within house, another reason perhaps government should think about re-skilling in IT ?


Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.

Google Earth OGC opensource

Looking for a Google Earth Server

Then look no further than the latest release of GeoServer which has fantastic new KML serving capabilities on a par with the Google Earth Enterprise server.

The key new capability here is to stream vector  and raster data to Google Earth as the user zooms or pans  making sure that only just the minimum amount of information is transferred thereby giving the great performance you expect from Google Earth.

This release of GeoServer can also extrude KML with a height attributes allowing users to stream simple 3D model data to Google Earth.

GeoServer 1.7.1
GeoServer 1.7.1 serves 3D KML


GeoServer continues to develop into a serious enterprise application which no doubt is getting the attention of the guys in Redlands and is providing much needed competition in the market. From a KML perspective it is now possible for an organisation to self publish almost any type and size of geospatial database using an open technology stack.

And it runs nicely on my Mac !!!

Written and submitted from the Google Office, London.