The View from Here: Questions and Follow Ups for Fall 2008
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?
A: 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
combination of events" caused the change in plans. The Census
Bureau was to provide a cost estimate of the project to Congress by
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
A: 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?
A: 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?
A: 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
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
A: 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
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
Q: SQL Server 2008 is out. So, what's the verdict? How do its
spatial features stack up against other spatial database solutions?
A: 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.)