Surveying, Mapping and GIS

Exploring all aspects of mapping and geography, from field data collection, to mapping and analysis, to integration, applications development and enterprise architecture...

  • Geospatial Technology, End to End...

    Exploring all aspects of mapping and geography, from field data collection, to mapping and analysis, to integration, applications development, enterprise architecture and policy

Google Maps In Real Life?

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/28/2007 02:17:00 PM 0 comments

As a fun item, Aram Bartholl of has posted a video on, showing a real-life Google Maps pushpin:

$50k in Scholarships for Geospatial Tradecraft

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/28/2007 12:56:00 PM 0 comments

USGIF Accepting Applications for 2007 Scholarship Program

Foundation to Award $50,000 to Promising Students Studying the Geospatial Tradecraft

HERNDON, Va.--The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) is currently accepting entries for its 2007 USGIF Scholarship Program.

All graduate and undergraduate students studying fields relating to the geospatial tradecraft are encouraged to apply. USGIF also will award scholarships to well-qualified high school seniors planning to enter a geospatial- or GIS-related program at the college or university level. Applications can be found on the Foundation’s website at

“We are pleased to again be able to offer scholarships at the high school, undergraduate, and graduate levels as we help provide for the future of the geospatial intelligence tradecraft,” said USGIF President and Chairman K. Stuart Shea.

Students have until June 1, 2007, to submit their applications. USGIF plans to award more than $50,000 in scholarships. The number of scholarships awarded will be based on the number of qualified applications and the selection of the Foundation’s Scholarship Committee. Applications will be evaluated on a peer-to-peer basis in each of the four categories, assessing the qualifications of Ph.D. candidates relative to other Ph.D. candidates, master’s candidates to other master’s candidates, and so on. Winners will be announced in early-August.

Last year, USGIF recognized 12 promising future contributors to the geospatial intelligence tradecraft: two Ph.D. candidates, four master’s candidates, three undergraduates and three high school seniors. High school winners received $2,000 and the other winners received $5,000.

“USGIF’s commitment to supporting the education and academic success of students interested in the geospatial intelligence tradecraft is paramount,” said Shea. “We carry out our academic mission with the same passion as we have for supporting our national security objectives.”

USGIF is a Virginia-based non-stock, not-for-profit corporation. The Foundation is dedicated to promoting the geospatial intelligence tradecraft and developing a stronger community of interest between government, industry, academia, professional organizations and individuals whose mission focus is the development and application of geospatial intelligence data and geo-processing resources to address national security objectives. USGIF produces the Nation’s Premier Intelligence Event, the GEOINT Symposium, which takes place this year Oct. 21-24 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas. For more information on the Foundation and GEOINT, visit

Congratulations to St. Thomas More

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/26/2007 08:53:00 PM 0 comments

To follow up on a prior post, congratulations to St. Thomas More school of Baton Rouge, LA for their win in the Engineers' Week Future City competition. These kids will have a bright future.

MetaCarta JSON API

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/26/2007 08:41:00 PM 0 comments

After a great meeting this afternoon, I am looking to rehash some of my previous MetaCarta work. Looks like some of the previous kinks that I was running into with using a SOAP call to the HeadNode service originally developed on MetaCarta 3.0.1 have been worked out in newer versions (we are currently standing up two boxes with 3.7), and further, it may be a good opportunity to look at the JSON API that MetaCarta has developed.

I am also anxiously awaiting some of the document focus and other enhancements that MetaCarta has coming down the pike later this year. Other things I'd like to look at are streamlined, enhanced and more-focused document crawling.

Help Wanted

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/24/2007 07:55:00 PM 2 comments

We currently have several positions open in SynTechGp:

Industry Job Title: Software Quality Engineer Sr

Required skills: Excellent Communication skills, Experience- CMMI Environment, Oracle PL/SQL

Desired skills: Experience with Test Tools, eg. Test Partner

Specific Job Description: Must be skilled at assessing project/client needs and coordinating project development form inception to deployment. Must have excellent communcation skills.

Standard Job Description: Develops, modifies, applies, and maintains standards for quality operating methods, processes, systems and procedures. Provides coordination and guidance in preparation of technical appraisals of programming languages and systems, computational software and related technology, and the integration of computers into the overall functions of scientific computation, and data acquisition, transmission, and processing. Ensures that corrective measures meet acceptable reliability standards.

Develops overall operating criteria to ensure implementation of the software quality program according to project, process and contract requirements and objectives. Ensures that project and process control documentation are compliant with requirements, objectives and/or contract. Reviews software design, change specifications, and plans against contractual and/or process requirements. Reviews include applicable specifications, materials, tools, techniques, and methodologies. Performs or directs verification of software requirement allocations, traceability, and testability.

Security Clearance: Other

Typical Minimums: Bachelors degree from an accredited college in a related discipline, or equivalent experience/combined education, with 5 years of professional experience; or 3 years of professional experience with a related Masters degree. Considered career, or journey, level.

Work Location: Arlington, VA

Industry Job Title: Business Appl Prgrmr Sr

Required skills: Informatica ETL tool (v7.x), Oracle , C, Perl, and Korn Shell, Strong understanding of OLTP, dimensional modeling exp., optimizing large data loads, UNIX Solaris scripting, PL/SQL programming

Desired skills: PL/SQL web tool kit, Business Objects, Cognos, SQL Loader, Configuration Management, TOAD

Specific Job Description: Design and develop transformation processes to load data from source to target. Develop and tune ETL mappings and sessions Code and document scripts and stored procedures for data warehousing processes. Performance and tuning of ETL tool for parallel loads and cache optimization Document ETL processing systems. Work with business transformation teams to define and derive application integration requirements. Maintain knowledge of Enterprise Application Integration, planning, design, analysis and methodologies. Familiarity with administrative tasks within Informatica platform such as stopping/starting Informatica repository and server processes, performing code migration, backup and restore of Informatica repository, and security administration. Strong SQL programming and stored procedure development skills process oriented focused on standardization, streamlining, and implementation of best practices. Sharing knowledge by effectively documenting work. Maintain expert level of knowledge in area of expertise. Develop and maintaining a thorough knowledge of the assigned applications, functional areas or projects. Work with the team to ensure the quality of coordinated business functions.Respond quickly and effectively to production issues and taking responsibility for seeing those issues thru resolution. Participate in project planning.Participate in design and maintenance of enterprise architecture.

Standard Job Description: Plans, conducts, and coordinates programming application activities. Writes business applications computer software that contains logical and mathematical solutions to business problems or questions. Develops statements of problems, designs systems and programs, and writes programs in computer language for solution by means of data processing equipment. Applies knowledge of computer hardware and software, subject matter to be programmed in business applications, information processing techniques used, and information gathered from system users to develop software. Corrects program errors, prepares operating instructions, compiles documentation of program development, and analyzes system capabilities to resolve questions of program intent, output requirements, input data acquisition, programming techniques, and controls.

Security Clearance: Other

Typical Minimums: Bachelors degree from an accredited college in a related discipline, or equivalent experience/combined education, with 5 years of professional experience; or 3 years of professional experience with a related Masters degree. Considered career, or journey, level.

Work Location: Arlington, VA

Industry Job Title Programmer Analyst Sr Stf

Required skills: Documentum, Documentum Web Publisher, Documentum Content Server, Documentum Administrator, Documentum Content Intelligent ServicesDocumentum Foundation Classes, Web Services

Desired skills: JAVA, Oracle 10i

Specific Job Description: Experience in all phases of Software Development Lifecycle from requirements analysis to implementation and support of computer application systems using available and current technologies. Three to four years of experience in the administration and development of content management applications using Documentum Content Server. Experience in the design and development of Documentum Content Server-based applications using such tools as Documentum Administrator, Application Builder, Business Object Frameworks, Documentum Foundation Classes, Workflow Manager, WebTop/WDK, Desktop, DQL, DMCL, Java/J2EE, DocBasic, Visual Basic, XML, XSLT, XHTML. Other tools used include Oracle 9i Database and Application Server, Apache, Tomcat, Oracle JDeveloper, SQL, Java Script, VBScript, Visual Studio, ASP, .NET, Lotus Domino, Lotus Notes, Web Services and AJAX. Must be experienced with Documentum Web Publisher 5.3 SP3 or above. Must be able to create SOA compliant Web Services.

Standard Job Description: Builds and codes applications and/or modules using languages such as C++, visual basic, ABAP, JAVA, XTML, etc. Provides patches and upgrades to existing systems. May design graphical user interface (GUI) to meet the specific needs of users. Prepares operating instructions, compiles documentation of program development, and analyzes system capabilities to resolve questions of program intent, output requirements, input data acquisition, programming techniques, and controls. May build add-on modules using application program language.

Security Clearance: Public Trust

Typical Minimums: Bachelors degree from an accredited college in a related discipline, or equivalent experience/combined education, with 14 years or more of professional experience; or 12 years of professional experience with a related Masters degree. Considered an expert, authority in discipline.

Work Location: Arlington, VA

Industry Job Title: Business Process Anlyst Sr Stf

Required skills: CMMI Level 3 familiarity. 10+ years SDLC experience. Team lead experience. 7+ years requirements engineering experience. Excellent verbal and written communication skills.

Specific Job Description: Leads Requirements Team for a major Federal Program. Responsibilities include implementing CMMI Level 3 processes, mentoring team members, refining Requirements Engineering processes, developing System Requirements specifications, facilitating Requirements and Design sessions with stakeholders and technical staff, translating business requirements into technical requirements, etc.

Standard Job Description: Analyzes business and technical processes to formulate and develop new and modified business information processing systems, such as production and inventory control systems, financial tracking systems, marketing and human resources systems. Represents the business unit to define requirements and business cases for the technology developments. Coordinates with business and technology teams, ascertaining system requirements, such as program functions, output requirements, input data acquisition, and system techniques and controls. Requires knowledge of e-commerce tools, computer system capabilities, business processes, and work flow.

Security Clearance: Other

Typical Minimums: Bachelors degree from an accredited college in a related discipline, or equivalent experience/combined education, with 15 years or more of professional experience; or 13 years of professional experience with a related Masters degree. Considered an expert, authority in discipline.

Work Location: Arlington, VA

These are all positions on a multi-year federal program. As software contractors on federal programs, all applicants must be US Citizens or hold US Permanent Resident Status.

To apply, email your resume to dsmith (at)

NGS 10-Year Plan: Call for Comments

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/23/2007 07:17:00 PM 0 comments

The National Geodetic Survey, in keeping with quite a few innovations and revelations to coincide with their 100th anniversary, has unveiled a copy of their 10-year plan, and are soliciting comment:

During the last year, NGS has spent considerable effort refining its mission, vision and strategy for the future. The result of this effort is the NGS 10 year plan. Because any plans for the future will affect the NGS stakeholders and the general public, NGS is releasing this plan in draft form for a public comment period lasting until March 31, 2007. NGS is interested in hearing all feedback on the proposed plan over the next few weeks. NGS will also discuss and take comments on the 10 year plan at the ACSM conference in St. Louis. This will take place during the first half (8:30 a.m. - Noon) of the "National Geodetic Survey and Partners" meeting on Sunday, March 11.

Please note that this document is in draft form. At this time NGS is seeking comments on the content of the plan. Once those comments have been received and incorporated into the plan the document will undergo a professional editorial review to address administrative (spelling, punctuation, etc.)
issues. Following the public comment period, NGS will consolidate all feedback and issue a final copy of the 10 year plan some time in April 2007.

Click here to download the draft of the NGS 10 year plan.
Click here to go to the comment template for providing feedback on the plan.Comments will be mailed to the NGS 10 year plan working group.

I am currently reviewing the document, it's around 42 pages. Some interesting touchpoints within the document:

"...the geodetic latitude, longitude and height of points used in defining the NSRS should have an absolute accuracy of 1 millimeter at any time."

"...the gravimetric geoid used in defining the NSRS should have an absolute accuracy less than 1 centimeter anyplace at any time."

"NGS will publish all coordinates of defining points of the NSRS with an epoch tag and will furthermore publish velocities relative to that epoch-tagged set of coordinates."

"NGS will therefore publish all coordinates and velocities of NSRS defining points in both the most recent official U.S. Datums and the most recent realization of the International Terrestrial Reference Frame (ITRF). Furthermore, NGS will provide simple transformation tools between all historic and current datums and reference frames used by NGS, in 4 dimensions if possible."


"NGS will validate local capacity for accurate positioning through direct interaction with a county geospatial representative and evaluation of that county’s access to the NSRS."

Thanks to John Halleck for pointing some of these out, to pique everyone's interest. Some very lofty goals indeed...

W3C, REST vs. SOAP, and where are we headed?

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/22/2007 04:28:00 PM 3 comments

Looks like some major battles are heating up... There is an upcoming W3C workshop: Workshop on Web of Services for Enterprise - and it is stirring up quite a few emotions and arguments and throwing them out onto the table for debate.

Is it to be a battle or reconciliation between REST and SOAP/WS-*?

Here's one take on it, from Jérôme Louvel: Will we reconcile REST, WS-* and SOA?

Or is the bigger question, what W3C's role should even be? Nick Gall of Gartner put a few pointed, incendiary statements into his position statement, which are drawing quite a bit of attention:

It is my position that the W3C should extricate itself from further direct work on SOAP, WDSL, or any other WS-* specifications and redirect its resources into evangelizing and standardizing identifiers, formats, and protocols that exemplify Web architectural principles. This includes educating enterprise application architects how to design "applications" that are "native" web applications.

It appeared that there are also a few drawing a line between "World Wide" and "Enterprise"... Or suggesting that W3C should abandon aspects of their pursuits and leave it up to industry.

Certainly the geospatial community will need to sit up and take note of where this leads... Having written my own WFS and WMS services and clients from scratch, though I am still no Web Services guru, I still had to wonder about the wisdom of the approaches being used in the whole paradigm. Are the current OGC standards really in line technologically with the vision that was originally expressed by Tim Berners-Lee? I think not. Are they compatible with some of the security and other needs of the community? I think not. Not the end of the world, but certainly much iterative refinement to get us where we ultimately need to be.

Stefan Tilkov at InfoQ provides a good roundup of many of the position papers. Will we see some simplification and resolution to the ever-emergent convoluted forest of Web Services and Standards?

I just came across a spanish-language blog, called TopoNorte - the author features a wide variety of great geospatial and surveying content. Some items I thought were particularly great:
Cadastral mapping of Spain, using Google Maps:

And here, a publication on geodesy and UTM grids by Professor Ignacio Alonso Fernández-Coppel at the University of Valladolid:

National Engineers Week

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/20/2007 06:40:00 AM 0 comments

February 18th - 24th is National Engineers Week, with a number of events and items of interest associated with it.

There are, in particular, numerous initiatives and fun events toward getting kids interested in engineering, and toward fostering a love for the math, science and principles underlying engineering:

There are a number of engineering resources for kids at Discover Engineering - such as PBS Kids' Cyberchase (one of my 5-year-old son's favorites), "New Faces of Engineering" to meet young engineers, PBS Kids' ZOOM, virtual bridge building, and plenty more.

"Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day is February 22nd:

Another fun one is the Future City competition:

Check it all out at EWeek:

Watch out for Design Squad

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/17/2007 12:51:00 PM 1 comments

Tune in for Design Squad, a new show premiering this week on PBS in selected markets... The show is geared toward promoting engineering and design principles for young students. With each episode, the show pits two teams against each other, and presents them with an engineering channel to solve independently, as teams.

The two teams, "Red Team" and "Blue Team" then pit their design against that of the other team in a competition. The members of the winning team then gain 100 points. For the next episode, the members of the teams are then scrambled to form new Red and Blue teams, and are then presented with another design challenge. Ultimately, as the design challenges conclude, the kid who emerges with the most points is granted a $10,000 college scholarship from Intel's foundation.

NCEES, to which I am a member, is quite proud to be one of the major sponsors of this effort, and I got a preview of the first, "Need For Speed" episode.

100 Years of Professional Licensure

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/16/2007 09:21:00 PM 0 comments

NCEES is kicking off a celebration of 100 years of professional licensure.

In 1907, Wyoming State Engineer Clarence T. Johnston was alarmed by the number of untrained individuals offering engineering and surveying services to the public. Johnston prepared a bill mandating registration by a state board; the state legislature passed it into law. Later that year, Charles Bellamy became the nation’s first licensed engineer.

By 1950, all states, plus Alaska, Hawaii, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico had adopted similar legislation toward protection of the public.

A more complete timeline is presented here:

Off to Atlanta (hopefully)

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/15/2007 07:50:00 AM 0 comments

I am scheduled to leave for Atlanta, to attend the NCEES Board Presidents' Assembly this afternoon... although with just shy of 2 feet of snow that just got dumped on us, the interstates shut down, and a state of emergency that was declared through this morning, it will remain to be seen whether I am actually able to get to the airport or not...

The flight still shows as on-track, whereas most of the flights yesterday and early this morning show up as cancelled - so I will be in touch with the airport to confirm, and will leave myself plenty of time.

I must have put in 5 hours of solid snow shoveling yesterday...

At any rate, I am looking forward to this trip - it will be an opportunity to touch base with all of my fellow Professional Board presidents from across the nation to feel them out on several issues burning of late - Continuing Professional Competency for Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists first and foremost, the "B+30" initiative for Engineers, and the MAPPS lawsuit and Brooks Act.

Happy Valentine's Day

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/14/2007 12:00:00 PM 1 comments

Came across this vintage Surveying-themed Valentine's card...

Geospatial Data, Security and Protecting the Public

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/14/2007 09:10:00 AM 1 comments

Jeff Thurston at Vector One has posted a great article on geospatial data and the interplay of security, restrictions, and censorship versus freedom, citizen-centric government, and the ever-dynamic geospatial industry. I agree wholeheartedly with him on many aspects of his argument and perspective. I believe that, in an ideal world, access to data should be transparent.

However, I do think that there are more things at stake than just military and homeland security's wishes for data to be controlled. There is also an aspect of protection of the public from accidental misuse of data, and intentional abuse of data. Where harm to the public may be an issue, typically professional licensure, security clearances, or other safeguards come into play.

There are many datasets that can fall into this category - for example, there have been several publicized cases involving the misuse of GIS tax parcel mapping to attempt to enforce such things as building setbacks and other ordinances, to the harm and detriment of property owners who may in retrospect have actually turned out to be in compliance with the ordinances - though in some instances only through costly litigation and/or demolition of a structure. In some instances, actual surveyed boundaries were rejected by undereducated GIS staff or other bureaucrats, in favor of digitized-and-rubbersheeted GIS parcel boundaries or misused COGO routines in the hands of people who do not have a solid understanding of surveying. Clearly this is unacceptable misuse of GIS data.

Among other things, I work extensively with GIS data for facilities, which may contain toxic or hazardous materials - certainly agencies which regulate their activities and emergency responders need to have ready access to what is onsite, and what the consequences of a catastropic event at one of these facilities might be on the community - but aside from keeping this data from the hands of would-be agents of terror, certainly that facility's competitors might be able to gain some competetive edge from knowing what this facility is working with. This is generally known as "Confidential Business Information" (CBI). It is a classified data category apart from the usual Governmental Secret or TS/SCI classification hierarchies.

Another area with tremendous potential for misuse is in traffic incident data - Departments of Transportation collect information on reported accidents and incidents, and plot them on roadway maps - the analysis of this can help the DOT in triaging, prioritizing, budgeting and sequencing improvements to the roadway for safety. However, in the wrong hands, this type of data can also lead to litigation - "you knew this was a bad intersection, yet you didn't do anything". Often a DOT is aware of problems for many years, but given budgetary or organizational constraints may be unable to act on them in as timely a fashion as would be liked - and a multimillion-dollar court award or settlement is generally only going to take away money from being able to address the problem properly.

Another example from personal experience comes from some of the Emergency Response work we had done in conjunction with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Here, GIS data on accidental spills and contamination relating to the flood event must be captured, however given Agency issues with cost recovery, along with civil litigation and other issues, often this data must be tightly controlled, to avoid misuse which might undermine cleanup and remediation in the future.

These are just a handful of examples - many more come to mind. GIS is, at the end of the day, just a tool. The ever-emergent plethora of geospatial data and the ubiquitousness of GIS tools available to the public is certainly wonderful, however data and a tool in the hands of one, either without the adequate domain expertise to use the data properly - leading to unintentional harm; or the intentional abuse by one who wishes to exploit the data toward personal gain at expense of the public, or toward the outright, intentional harm of the public, can be a dangerous thing.

Daniel Boone

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/13/2007 02:16:00 PM 0 comments

Just got this photo emailed to me from friends at PSLS:

Here I am at the 2007 Pennsylvania Surveyor's Conference with Patrick Lee, who was there as a re-enactor performing biographical sketches told as Daniel Boone.

It was a thoroughly wonderful evening - Mr. Lee is a talented and enjoyable speaker. He has also graciously sent me several leads for researching one of my early Searcy ancestors, who was an associate of Daniel Boone's.

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Posted by Dave Smith On 2/12/2007 10:25:00 PM 0 comments

Thanks to Gene Kooper for this great illustration of a theodolite from J. Johnson's 1886 text, "Theory and Practice of Surveying".

News from the MAPPS Lawsuit?

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/09/2007 06:34:00 PM 0 comments

On the lawsuit by MAPPS et al. v. United States of America, to pursue an interpretation of the Brooks Act as it pertains to mapping and geospatial activities, with the trial date to have been today, little news of what may or may not have transpired today has been reported.
Elsewhere in the geospatial community, Adena at All Points Blog relays some information that a settlement was being pursued, presumably prior to litigation.

She also provides a link to GIS Monitor, which has an excellent rundown on the issue from the MAPPS side, based on a conversation with John Palatiello, executive director of MAPPS.

Additionally, as of late yesterday, GeoCommunity Spatial News posted a position statement by the URISA Board of Directors, one of the parties wishing to block the MAPPS litigation via an Amicus (Friends of the Court) Brief.

I will, in the meanwhile, pursue a few other avenues to see if I can gain some insight on this.

NAD83 (NSRS2007) is now online!

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/09/2007 06:01:00 PM 0 comments

Exciting news: In keeping with their aims for big ways to commemorate their 200th anniversary, the National Geodetic Survey has just put the new National Readjustment of NAD83 online.

Some PowerPoint presentations on the adjustment are provided here:
Data is downloadable in "Re-Adjustment Data Format" here:

Many thanks to NGS and all the good people who put a lot of time and effort into this - it will be great to have all of these stations tied to a consistent, seamless adjustment instead of many independent regional adjustments, as well as having NAD83 tied to CORS for concurrence.

MAPPS Lawsuit this Friday

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/07/2007 09:51:00 PM 0 comments

The battle is coming to a head. MAPPS versus the Federal Government on what the Brooks Act means, with regard to definitions of surveying and mapping, and to what extent federal contracting activities must be Qualifications-Based Selection (specifically meaning, with the implication the work will be performed under the responsible charge of a licensed professional).

For me, fortunately this is no problem, as not only am I a GIS practitioner in the Federal arena, I am also a Licensed Professional Land Surveyor and Licensed Professional Engineer. I can also say I know of quite a few firms doing GIS work, which have similarly licensed professionals on staff. However, I also know of quite a few firms which do not have licensed professionals on staff. In some instances, they have managed to skirt state laws and the Brooks Act by virtue of the work being generally unrelated to land surveying, however in instances such as topographic mapping, the lines become more blurred, and in the instance of cadastral mapping, quite often are crossed outright.

As such, AAG and others have teamed up to file an Amicus Brief and are acting to stop this lawsuit.

I can certainly understand the concern of the GIS practitioners and the organizations listed. However, many of the organizations represented only have a very limited number of members who actually do federal contracting. And of these members, many do have licensed staff in-house. Those that don't, certainly could consider retaining licensed professionals as well, if so much is actually at stake. But I certainly don't agree with the "end of the world" characterizations that have been raised.

What I do, however, find disturbing is the marginalization of professional licensure during the course of this. Essentially, statements have been made, that licensure doesn't really protect the public, or that licensure doesn't ensure perfection. No, it doesn't, and nobody ever claimed it did - in fact, licensure is the mark of minimal competency to take responsible charge of a project. In essence, the starting point upon which a true professional is built.

It isn't perfect, and that is why we have investigations, enforcement, E&O insurance, and other safeguards and remedies in the professions - as opposed to the complete lack of similar infrastructure which exists in the unlicensed community.

Oddly, these same statements marginalizing licensure and professional status would also tend to undermine GISCI and other efforts toward promoting professionalism in the unlicensed GIS community.

Further, it has been stated that it would be impossible to devise an examination to ensure the competency of GIS professionals as they do in Engineering and Land Surveying. Thoroughly untrue.

This demonstrates fundamental misunderstandings of professional licensure. Professional licensure is similar to a three-legged stool - the key elements are not just an examination, but also educational requirements and experience requirements. No single one of these can ensure an adequate yardstick. The stool does not begin to have balance without all three.

And with regard to examinations, certainly not every aspect of engineering or land surveying is adequately covered by their respective examinations, either - the exams present a microcosm of the universe of each profession, intended to gauge basic breadth and depth of understanding. The same most certainly can be done for GIS or Computer Science. I say this from experience, as one who straddles all of these.

I do have mixed feelings on this entire lawsuit - I have concerns about Land Surveyors being thrust into new areas of practice beyond their familiarity, in which they are not competent to practice, and yet at the same time, see the need to curb some of what amounts to unlicensed practice in the GIS community, particularly with regard to cadastral and other issues.

Another issue is that state laws governing what does and doesn't constitute land surveying vary from state to state - and in many it is not just boundary surveying. Certainly states do not intend to give up their sovereignty to Federal Government, so there is some interplay to be realized here as well.

Fortunately, I can cast stones in either direction, and do not have to pick sides... My only hope is that some clarity will emerge from all of this.

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GIS Developer needed in Austin, TX

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/07/2007 03:38:00 PM 0 comments

I was contacted with another pressing need by a colleague, this time in Austin, TX

Location: Austin
Duration: Through May 31, 2007 on an "as needed" basis.
There is 560 hrs of work that could be done fulltime or part time.

Minimum Requirements:
Years Skills/Experience

  • 4 Experience in systems analysis, design, development and implementation
    of application software.

  • 4 Experience developing GIS applications with ESRI tools such as ArcInfo
    and ArcGIS

  • 3 Experience with geocoding and working with geodatabases

  • 3 Experience using MS SQL Sever database

  • 2 Experience developing applications with ASP/.NET and VB/.NET in Microsoft Visual Studio .NET

Years Skills/Experience

  • 2 Experience developing/maintaining code with Visual Basic 6
Please contact me: dsmith (at) for further details.

Geospatial Liaison Positions at USGS

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/07/2007 02:56:00 PM 0 comments

I just received the following announcement from a colleague - several GIS-oriented positions are currently open at USGS:

Today the U.S. Geological Survey published vacancy announcements for the Geospatial Liaisons for Washington, Oregon, and several other states.
Information on the announcements is below. These jobs are open to all qualified applicants and are not restricted to current USGS or Federal government employees. Questions on the application process can be answered by Nina Fralick (

Here's the information and links to the announcements:

Applicants qualified for either the Physical Scientist or
Cartographer series are being sought for the following locations. These
positions are open simultaneously with equivalent ones in Maine, Georgia, West
Virginia, and Nebraska, and all announcements are accessible at the OARS website
( and
on USAJobs (

No more XP?

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/07/2007 10:23:00 AM 0 comments

I am actually not afraid to admit I am one who likes Microsoft products, a .NET developer, a Microsoft Registered Partner, a user of MS Office, Project, SQL Server, Exchange and so much more - and one who generally likes their vision and model... but sometimes it seems a juggernaut run amok.

BUT... while I'm on the topic of ranting, yesterday I went out to pick up another laptop, and was amazed to find that all of the local retailers only carry boxes with Vista (and generally some flavor of Vista Home to boot) - and no XP on any of the boxes in stock.

I was one of the Vista beta users, and readily admit I did not have any serious problems with it, but nonetheless am not yet ready to be flung headlong into adopting the new technology for any production machines. And further, I don't want to be bothered with half-crippled "Home" versions of much of anything.

I was happy with the model of shipping machines with XP along with a Vista upgrade certificate, but was surprised to see that this seems to have come to an abrupt end.

The other concurrent Microsoft marketing annoyance I have is that IE 7 is being pushed... hard. It comes up in my Updates list pretty regularly - and this is another key piece of infrastructure that I am just not ready to migrate on.

Don't get me wrong - I am generally on the leading side of the curve when it comes to adopting new technologies, but slooow it down, Microsoft. Given the track record of previous Windows and IE versions, we need time.


Posted by Dave Smith On 2/07/2007 09:10:00 AM 0 comments

Thanks to a heads-up from the Very Spatial folks, I was turned on to WikiSky - this is a compilation of data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) and a number of other catalogs and efforts, into a Google Maps type interface, where users can pan, zoom, and select objects, to get detailed reports.

For example, a user can type in a Messier Catalog number (M45 in this example) and be whisked right to the area of interest on the sky map. Objects in the catalog are hyperlinked, and clicking on them (ηTau/Alcyone in the Taurus constellation below) pulls up a detailed report, complete with great photos, analyses, and hyperlinks to a wide variety of rich sources specific to the objects of interest:

This is an excellent resource for any amateur astronomer - far more info than I ever imagined possible back when I spent many a night out in the back yard with my telescope...

USB Power issues

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/05/2007 06:06:00 PM 2 comments

I have run into this before, and yet it still amazes me. Last night, one of my machines decided to lock up... no big deal... but then, it refuses to boot up. Keeps getting hung up at the same spot during bootup. So I disconnect all extraneous devices, try various things, such as Safe Boot (still won't boot, even to a command prompt), disabling services in the Recovery Console, nondestructive system restore (locks up)...

Nothing seems to help. Finally, I back up the drive and do a destructive system restore. Still no dice, locks up generally in the same spot during boot. The last message I can get out of it pertains to the AGP video, but video seems to be working... Stumped.

So just for kicks, I grab a Vista cd, and throw that in. Vista install dies at the USB driver with a Blue Screen of Death. Ding! A bell goes off in the back of my mind... The machine had been having some occasional issues with USB devices prior. I try disabling them, and lo and behold, I can perform my system restore and soon enough, I am up and running again. But plug a USB device in, and lockup. Evidently the integrated USB on the motherboard is FRIED.

While I do normally have a few devices plugged in - printer, shoebox drive, bluetooth wireless keyboard and mouse, and occasionally a thumb drive and PDA ActiveSync cradle - and the machine also has an integrated memory card reader on USB - so I thought I was smart enough to use a powered hub. I had run into issues in the past (with another machine), where devices refuse to work when too many are plugged in, but this is the first time I have smoked the USB outright. I thought the point of having an external powered hub was supposed to take care of the power demands.

Evidently the engineers have missed something in their design or implementation of USB. 127 devices? I think not. I evidently can't even manage half a dozen, even with a powered hub, without frying componentry. At least I have a PCI USB card floating around to cannibalize...

In the Amazon Mechanical Turk effort to analyze imagery for potential clues in the disappearance of Jim Gray, I thus far managed to log 185 units of 5 images each, the count was well over 4000 when I started, and the last one I completed said 1 remaining. It was plainly evident that I had a great deal of company throughout this effort.

Certainly there were several instances of images where boats, along with their associated wakes, could be seen in the images, however a great many were difficult to read, with a great deal of reflectance, cloud cover, and so on.

It will be interesting to see what the next steps are - whether more data or additional passes will be offered up through Mechanical Turk, and if any of what participants identified will ultimately be able to correlated to other activity in the vicinity, or indeed provide clues to Gray's location.

UPDATE: Some additional images from a NASA aircraft have been posted to Mechanical Turk - see the following link:

I have also located a blog site operated by the folks who have been organizing this effort:
- They have posted quite a few updates and insights into the nature of the imagery and ongoing effort

The Search for Jim Gray

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/03/2007 10:17:00 AM 0 comments

I have been trying my hand at Amazon's Mechanical Turk - scouring imagery in search of missing Microsoft Research guru Jim Gray. Dr. Gray is the father of TerraServer and many other groundbreaking pursuits at Microsoft. Coast Guard efforts to date have been fruitless, as the story continues to unfold. Through a collaborative effort, recent imagery of the search area has been posted on Amazon's Mechanical Turk, in the hopes that signs of his 40-foot sailboat, life rafts or any other signs can be found, in a collaborative effort.

It is somewhat challenging, as image resolutions and scene conditions for the images I have had are not optimal for finding a 40-foot sailboat, let alone smaller features, such as a liferaft, but it is good to see that efforts like Mechanical Turk are becoming available toward organizing massive human effort toward detection and other tasks.

My hopes and prayers remain with Dr. Gray's family, friends and colleagues.

A late picture from ESRI FedUC 2007

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/02/2007 11:14:00 AM 0 comments

I was delinquent in posting this pic from the 2007 ESRI FedUC...


A group of colleagues from the USEPA contracting world - From left to right: Myself, Jessica Zichichi (Innovate!), Jack Dangermond, Claudia Benesch (CSC - Agency Central Support) and Catherine Harness (CSC - GeoData Gateway Lead)

This was the reception at the Organization of American States - and yes, that is a map on my necktie...

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Brooks Act Trial has been postponed

Posted by Dave Smith On 2/01/2007 09:38:00 AM 0 comments

The MAPPS lawsuit, to clarify provisions of the Brooks act, as they pertain to geospatial, mapping and surveying activities has been postponed from this Friday to 2/9, per Adena Shutzberg at Directions Magazine - it will be interesting to see how this all pans out.

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