The View from Here: Questions and Follow Ups for Fall 2008

By Adena Schutzberg

As we settle in for the last quarter of the year many are back, or heading back, to school and work. I offer this Q&A update on geospatial issues based on questions I've received from readers and some new items that popped up in recent weeks.

Q: Did I hear correctly that the Census Bureau won't be using handhelds for the 2010 Census?

Not quite. Their use will be far less extensive than planned. This decision was made in April. The original plan was to use handhelds both for canvassing and to follow up on paper forms that were not returned in the mail. But Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said the role for handhelds would be much more limited and include simply confirming that individuals live at the addresses claimed.

Back in April, officials pointed not to the technology as the issue, but rather management: "...auditors from the nonprofit organization Mitre and the Government Accountability Office said the Census Bureau's mismanagement, not technological issues with the handheld computers, were primarily at fault for the failures of the $647 million program."

More recently, in August, Census Bureau Director Steven Murdock stated that "a combination of events" caused the change in plans. The Census Bureau was to provide a cost estimate of the project to Congress by August 15.

A Government Accountability Office report from July, released in September, makes clear that more work is needed to ensure the handhelds can be used in this more limited capacity in 2010.

Q: How does the STARS GIS Certification compare with university online programs?

First off, I teach in the Penn State Online Master of GIS program. Penn State also offers an online non-degree certificate in GIS. Other universities and colleges offer online and residence certificates and degrees in GIS.

"STARS (Spatial Technology and Remote Sensing) is a fully developed ‘turn-key' certification program for high schools, colleges and university as well as career professionals looking to integrate geospatial tools into their on-the-job skill set. STARS is the first industry-recognized geospatial certification recognized by NASA, the U.S. Department of Labor, and by industry leaders." Further, "STARS is an output driven, competency-based program in which students master the use of geospatial problem solving, software, data, and tools standard in the geospatial industry."

I don't know much about the schools that use the materials or the nature of the curriculum. The only site with any information on the certification is the company that produces the materials: Digital Quest. That's the source of the above text. This article about graduates appeared recently. It highlights how STARS trained high schoolers did internships this summer.

Q: What's up with SiRF, the company that makes GPS chips?

SiRF looked great in 2006, holding about 90% of the GPS chip market, according to iSupply. Things were skidding earlier this year as the company cut predictions for expected earnings and laid off workers with the economic downturn. Not long afterward, the CEO stepped down. Market share was about 38%.

Recently a court decision stated that the company had infringed on six Broadcom (Global Locate) patents. SiRF and the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) have separately appealed the ruling, with a decision expected in December 2008. For now, SiRF continues to provide chips to its customers, though the stock price continues to fall (85% drop this year) and more customers are jumping ship.

Q:What ever happened to the MAPPS vs. U.S. lawsuit?

As we reported, the suit was dismissed because MAPPS was found to have no standing (legal right to bring the suit). Last summer MAPPS stated it would ponder what to do next, but the organization has made no public statements on the matter. In the meantime, COGO was launched. That organization, of which MAPPS is a member, aims to get geospatial organizations "on the same page." The materials on the case, once publicly available on the MAPPS website, are no longer available.

Q: Any news on the Geographic Information Officer for the Department of Interior?

No, there's been no news at all. It's unclear if a search will begin before the U.S. elections this fall or even if the announcement would be valid in the new administration. We are keeping an eye on the topic.

For comparison, when the USGS announced it would appoint a GIO in July of 1999, the hope was to have one in place by October of that year. In fact, the appointment occurred in late November 2000.

Q: SQL Server 2008 is out. So, what's the verdict? How do its spatial features stack up against other spatial database solutions?

SQL Server 2008 went to manufacturing during the ESRI User Conference, per Microsoft's Ed Katibah. There have been a few articles that describe the release, but none that I've found evaluate the geospatial tools, save this article from Boston GIS, titled "Cross Compare SQL Server 2008 Spatial, PostgreSQL/PostGIS 1.3-1.4, MySQL 5-6." (I learned of this article via NAVTEQ on Twitter.)

Published Friday, September 12th, 2008

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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