Monthly Archives: November 2011

Talk at UC Berkeley GIS Day 2011

I’m giving a 30 minute talk at UC Berekeley’s GIS Day tomorrow. The talk will be about how GIS can help solve three (3) problems faced currently by communities in the California Central Valley. I’ll try to video tape the talk and post a link later to it later in the week. I was also pleased to learn that my friend Ragi Burhum will be giving the keynote address at the event. Ragi said I could tape his talk, so I will try to post a link to it as well.

The Sunburned Surveyor

The Death of Apache Harmony

I was hoping to make some contributions to the Java 2D Graphics code in the Apache Harmony Project. To my disappointment, the project was killed by Apache recently. A vote was held on the death of the project a couple of weeks ago. You can read about the vote and the resulting decision to kill the Apache Harmony project in this short article from ADT Magazine.

I poked around the net looking for another open source Java runtime platform I could contribute to. It looks like the only thing that is alive now is the OpenJDK project.

The Sunburned Surveyor

Guide to Surveys: Aerial Photogrammetry Article Complete

I’ve completed my first draft of my second contribution to the new edition of the book “Land Surveys: A Guide for Lawyers and Other Professionals”. This second contribution is an article on aerial photography. The article is entitled “Aerial Photography in the Land Development Process: Understanding the Basics and the Land Surveyor’s Role”.

The article was reviewed in a gracious gesture by Terry Hayden, a long time friend and working partner of KSN. Terry Hayden is owner of the photogrammetry company Aerial Photomapping, located in Clovis, California. The article also went through a review by Kris Nehmer, the survey department manager at KSN. I’ll be integrating comments from both reviewers this weekend. I hope to make my final submittal of the article to the editor on Monday.

The Sunburned Surveyor

Installing Javascript Tools for Eclipse

I’ve been doing some programming in Javascript lately, and I learned that Eclipse provides Javascript support through a plug-in. However, I couldn’t figure out how to get the plug-in installed.

This web page showed me how to install the Javascript plug-in for Eclipse.

The tutorial on the web site is for an older version of Eclipse, but I was able to get the Javascript plug-in downloaded from the information it provided.

You’ve got to download and install the plug-in through the help menu like other Eclipse plug-ins, but this one doesn’t have its own plug-in update site, like the Subversion plug-in does, for example. Instead, you’ll need to select it for download an installation from the list of plug-ins under the update side for your Eclipse release.

Here are the steps I followed to get the Javascript plug-in for Eclipse installed:

  1. Open the Install New Software Window in Eclipse.
  2. Add the repository for your release of Eclipse. If you’re not sure what release of Eclipse you have, you can check the Wikipedia page for Eclipse, which contains the names of each release of the IDE. I’m currently using the Indigo release of Eclipse, which you can see in the screenshots.
  3. Select the Javascript Development Tools for Installation. You’ll find the check box for this plug-in under the programming languages check node.
  4. Complete the installation after accepting the licenses.

The Sunburned Surveyor

Prevent Text Mirroring in AutoCAD

The newsletter from Cadalyst recently had a tip on how to prevent text mirroring in AutoCAD. (This happens when you use the mirror command in AutoCAD. Typically you want to mirror the text anchor point, but not the letters of the text. If the letters are mirrored, its very hard to read…without a mirror.)

Since mirroring the letters of text in AutoCAD has always irritated me, I wanted to share the tip with my users.

The Sunburned Surveyor

HP Dumping Personal Computers: The Economist Explains Why

HP recently announced it was dumping personal computers as part of its business(The company also announced its plans to ditch tablets.) It also moved more aggressively into the software business with the acquisition of Autonomy.

The Economist Magazine has an article in its August 27, 2011 issue entitled “Aping IBM” that talked about the possible reasons behind HP’s decision. The article stated: “To grasp what HP has in mind, one has to understand the two main currents in the IT industry. First, nearly any new technology quickly becomes a commodity that is easily copied and hence not very profitable. This is why IT firms are always trying to move “up the stack” into software and services, where margins are higher. Second, the biggest IT firms typically control what is known as a “platform”: a digital foundation on which others build their products, such as Microsoft’s Windows. This allows them to capture a disproportionate share of the industry’s profits.”

The article also commented on the possible reasons why HP bought Autonomy: “Buying Autonomy also helps HP to move onto higher-margin terrain: the British firm’s operating margins exceed 40%. But the main reason HP paid a 64% premium for its shares seems to be that it believes that Autonomy’s technology could be turned into a platform to help companies make sense of their ever-growing pile of data. This includes not only “structured” data (payroll records, sales figures), but also the “unstructured” kind (documents, e-mails), which now makes up more than 80% of the information that flows through a typical company.

Such a platform would allow firms to do some nifty things. A retailer, for instance, might decide how much beer to stock based not just on previous sales records, but also on weather forecasts, party chatter on social media and schedules for sports matches.”

I understand why HP would be interested in building a platform. Any surveyor who’s dealt with the headaches of mixing surveying equipment and software from different vendors would understand that desire. I’d like to blog more in the future about what makes a technology platform, and about the conflict between technology platforms, consumer freedom, and open technology standards.

I don’t understand this: Why is it so hard to make money selling personal computers? Could it be a result of how easy it is to get a bogus patent for software? This would give software companies the advantage of overcharging for their products that hardware companies don’t have. Or is it because HP didn’t do a good job of selling their hardware with an appropriate business model? For example: If personal computers are a commodity, as the article implies, you have to offer something more. This could be great customer service, reliability, value, a bullet proof warranty, or something else that will attract consumers. What are the other personal computer makers failing at?

The Sunburned Surveyor

MapQuest and OpenStreetMap Partnership

I just learned that during the State of the Map 2010, MapQuest announced their support for OpenStreetMap. The OpenStreetMap wiki indicates this is the first large online mapping service to embrace OpenStreetMap.

On a MapQuest blog post from December 16, 2010 the company announced the addition of the US open map site in partnership with OpenStreetMap. The US site was being added to 10 open sourced maps in Europe and Asia.

I’m still not clear on exactly how the partnership between OpenStreetMap and MapQuest works. What does each partner get out of the arrangement? How does this fit in and improve the MapQuest business model? The information in the blog post and on the OpenStreetMap wiki didn’t seem to have the answers to these questions.

The Sunburned Surveyor

No New Employees = No New Ideas?

I was slightly offended at a statement in the October 8, 2011 issue of The Economist Magazine. The statement was in an article entitled “A Helping Hand For Start-Ups”. This article talked about the best ways for governments to encourage the growth of small businesses that will create jobs. Here is the statement that caused me some heartburn: “In the past, policy has promoted start-ups and small businesses in general. Yet the vast majority of these firms are never likely to create original ideas or many new jobs.”

I can’t argue with the statistics about small businesses and job creation included in the article: “A new study published by the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, called “What do small businesses do?”, finds that: “While most aggregate employment growth may come from small (new) firms growing big, the vast majority of small (new) firms do not grow.” In 2004-08, 60% of all new firms studied did not add even one employee; 90% added fewer than five and 97% added fewer than ten.”

However, I don’t think that means small businesses that aren’t adding employees never generate good ideas. They may implement a good idea but not expand, or they may sell the rights to their idea, give their idea to others, or have their idea acquired by another company when the small business itself is sold. I’ll point out that the article didn’t contain any statistics to support the statement about a lack of good ideas.

I run a one-man side business. I may never hire another employee, given the legal, regulatory, and financial hurdles. However, I still plan on having, and implementing, some good ideas.

The Sunburned Surveyor

Paywalls for Online News: An Epidemic?

The October 8, 2011 issue of The Economist Magazine had an article that talked about the dramatic rise in pay walls for online newspaper content. These pay walls work by tracking how many times a user accesses an online news site. When a certain limit has been reached, the user is asked to pay for access to the site.

How dramatic is the rise of newspaper pay walls? Is it yet an epidemic? The article provides some interesting statistics:

  1. More than 100 newspapers are using Press+, an online payment system developed in part by a former publisher of the Wall Street Journal.
  2. MediaNews, a newspaper group, put up 2 pay walls in 2010. It has erected 23 so far in 2011.

Why the increase in pay walls? The article mentions two (2) reasons:

  1. Systems like Press+ or Google’s One Pass make it easier for companies to build pay walls and collect money from readers.
  2. Newspaper advertising dollars in print and online have crashed.

Does this mean that pay walls are here to stay? Not so fast. The article concludes by saying: “Fewer than half of the newspaper’s print subscribers have so far signed up for unrestricted free access to the website. Other newspapers report similar proportions. That suggests the game is not over.”

I pay for a subscription to my local newspaper, but rarely visit its web site. I can’t ever see myself paying to access its online content. (Maybe this is because its web site is so ugly?) Maybe my mind would change if I bought a tablet computer, but I think it will be a tough sell. I hope I can release all of the media content produced by Redefined Horizons under a Creative Commons license, supported by a few loyal advertisers and reader donations.

You might want to check out these blog posts from to learn more:

The Sunburned Surveyor