[Freegis-list] survey for a newbie
Tue, 9 Jan 2001 13:08:20 -0800
Thank you for your considered and thoughtful post re: conversion
from ArcInfo to GRASS.
> Given these two recent questions about commercial software,
> it seems like it would be resonable for the FreeGIS site to
> give this summary in detail and discuss the realistic
> difficulties of moving beween systems.
A summary web page is a very good idea. I would like to add
some more comments on potential difficulties.
We have ~2gb of data in ArcInfo formats, 2 core ArcInfo users,
1 or 2 more satellite Arc users, and about 2 dozen ArcView
users. The AV users ran the gamut from raving newbies to
hard core power users. Although we have Arc8 we are not taking
advantage of any of the new technology (buggy,slow & crash
prone, not fit for production use).
We recently decided to update our core library. After careful
planning we budgeted 2 months for the update and roll out.
We're now at the 4 month mark and there are still a one or
two significant difficulties to overcome. We will be done
"Real Soon Now" ;-/
All this for a simple data update and revision. We are not
changing file formats, software or technologies.
I'm not saying "don't change software", I'm just advising you
to think and plan for change carefully. In changing from
ArcInfo to GRASS you would encounter a host of unnamed problems
with the different approaches the softwares take, *plus* the
difficulties inherent in carrying your data over.
I've changed GIS platforms twice before and it's *always* more
complicated and time consuming than you think.
Questions you should think about (in no particular order):
* Do you want to keep your map compositions? (eg: published maps)
Your clients have come to expect a certain look and feel to
your maps. Your hardcopy maps are your "brand name". You want
to be able to maintain "your look" with your new software.
Can you port the layouts, legends, etc. as well as the base
* Do you need to keep your projects?
A project is more than just the base data. There are also the
queries, event themes, layer order and thematic composition
(colours,line styles, coloured by attribute, etc.). Usually it
is this fiddly work which actually comprises the bulk of your
useful information. Can it be ported?
* Can/will your users adjust?
It's often almost trivial for a power user to adopt a new
platform or way of doing things. It is usually exactly the
opposite for casual/shallow users who are the majority. Make
sure to budget a lot of tech support and training time.
* Can the new software actually *do* what you need?
Don't take the feature list for granted, investigate. Everybody
carries around their own definitions for terms. Make sure yours
match or at least be aware of the differences. For example,
ArcInfo does not support 3D vectors, though it emulates them
well enough for some purposes.
Re-reading my post, it sounds as if I'm against the idea, but
I'm really not -- I'm hanging around on this list for a reason
you know. :) Our ESRI tax consumes a very significant whack of
cash every year, but that's not the reason I would like to move
us out. Single Vendor Lock-in is the evil.
ESRI is spending most of their resources developing the next
generation technology. Conceptually it's very elegant and could
make vast improvements in how things are done and what is
possible. Practically speaking, it's not there yet and won't be
for at least 2 more years (IMNSHO).
In the meantime the existing products are languishing and won't
be fixed or updated unless ESRI is forced to. AML (Arc Macro
Language) has some very annoying limitations, but it is somewhat
cross platform, working on both Unix and Windows. The limitations
will not be addressed because everything is MS-COM and Windows
only now. Unix Arc is being phased out as fast as ESRI can make
it happen. The thousands of 3rd party Avenue (for ArcView)
programs are stuck. Avenue is now a discontinued product and
developers have to decide whether to stay with a not-to-be-updated
-but-very-large-userbase or not.
I'ved suffered through enough discontinued products,
thank-you-very-much. A few years ago I calculated out how many
hours in the previous 5 years had been spent purely on data
translation and software migration: 43%. Yuck. Just think what
might have been accomplished with an extra 1000 man hours...
Anyway, nuff said, sorry for the rant. As you can tell, I'm a
little sore in the subject and I just couldn't help myself. ;-)
There's a data migration project calling my name, so I'd
better get going...
Matt Wilkie * GIS Technician * Yukon Renewable Resources GIS