July 30, 2007

ArcGIS for AutoCAD User Forum

My printer at home was on the blink. It continuously had been reporting paper jams and then systematically jamming more paper during printing. Each time I cleared the paper jam another would re-occur. I surmised that one of the rollers was broken or malfunctioning. I suspected it was some broken $0.30 plastic part that would render the entire printer useless. Facing the high probability of adding this printer/scanner/copier to the growing enormity of e-waste, I was dedicated to giving the printer one more vigorous going over. Figuring that some poking and prodding in places where fingers should not normally go couldn’t do any more harm to the printer than its final drop into the recycle bin. I picked up the printer firmly to eye-level to see what I could see, which was nothing. However, the act of picking up the printer opened the clamshell like access to its internal parts changing its center of gravity and then the entire printer spun out of my hands and onto the floor! As it hit the ground a small wad of paper lodged somewhere in the printer’s innards was forcibly ejected. ...It was actually a little surreal.

The printer successfully passed the 1 meter drop test and is now functioning normally, postponing its trip to the recycler thanks to this computer peripheral version of the Heimlich maneuver. I suggest that you should consult your printer’s service manual before attempting to duplicate this procedure.

By the way, you may have noticed ESRI has added a user support forum for ArcGIS for AutoCAD users.

July 13, 2007

The View from ArcGIS for AutoCAD

I just got back from camping on a lake that you can’t swim in. In some ways it is a form of torture… on a hot summer day being so close to the water and not being able to jump in. The water in the reservoir can touch you, but you can’t touch the reservoir. We enjoyed canoeing on the reservoir, and with a little extra paddle splashing we managed to keep sufficiently cool in the summer sun. Still, I am wondering what problems are added to the domestic water supply with the advent of swimming in a lake that a rotting dear carcass, an active coyote population, and motor boat oil don’t already present? As a former Civil Engineering student I guess I should have paid more attention during the chapter on water treatment.

The no-cost downloadable ArcGIS for AutoCAD software currently provides me with an image drawn by ArcGIS Server, positioned accurately in my AutoCAD drawing. I can’t actually touch the GIS data from within AutoCAD, but I can see and plot the resulting image drawn by ArcGIS Server in AutoCAD. ArcGIS Server can touch me in AutoCAD with a world-class cartographic view of the reservoir of data along with access to the data’s tabular attributes (wherever they might be stored, I don't care since ArcGIS Server knows). The biggest benefit is the content of the map that gets drawn and the functionality of the application used to generate the image; namely ArcGIS Sever. All GIS data types supported by ArcGIS Server are now available to me in AutoCAD. All worries of mapping symbology and data access evaporate. I get the benefit and keep my cool doing it.

Our next camping trip is planned for the beach… right on the sand. We’ll have the entire Ocean right in front of us, and we plan to jump in!

July 03, 2007

ESRI 2007 International Users Conference

The planning for this summer’s event began months ago. In the limited time allotted there are many training and skill building opportunities that are shared. We all have to make tough choices about what we put into the schedule and after it is all over what we hope to accomplish from attending. Of course I’m talking about our high school girls summer basketball camp. Coming off an undefeated season, and capturing the 9th grade homeschool state basketball championship we’ve tasked ourselves this summer with taking our game to the next level in pursuit of a national championship. A lofty goal, especially considering many of our girls have very limited experience despite their unparalleled efforts and teach-ability. Unlike the season's basketball practices, the weekly one night a week format of basketball summer camp is hard work, but it is also fun. We started with a core group of girls, but word soon spread and we’ve almost doubled that number because the girls are having so much fun. They don’t realize how much work they are actually doing.

Also occurring last week was the 2007 ESRI International Users’ conference. I’m am not sure if it is true, but I heard that the event in San Diego is one of the largest single software meetings in the world with almost 14,000 people gathering in an atmosphere of fun and learning. As always I had a chance to meet with many of you and discuss your work, and you had the opportunity to experience a little of what I do when I’m not blogging. Thanks for sharing your work with me as well as your encouraging comments in person.

One GIS and CAD interoperability technology development that was unveiled during the conference was the description and demonstration of enhancements to the ArcGIS for AutoCAD application. Demonstrations included a new method of defining the coordinate system for a CAD file that is stored inside the AutoCAD drawings, and using that coordinate system information (projection information) to project ArcGIS Map Services on-the-fly for maps that may be maintained in a different coordinate system.

Also shown was a subtle but important new piece of GIS and CAD interoperability technology; a new AutoCAD-based feature class data encoding technique and specification. The new specification doesn’t require any add-on Autodesk or ESRI software inside AutoCAD. It is based on the entity filter syntax of existing AutoCAD named selection sets and includes some simple text strings stored in AutoCAD ‘X’-records to denote the type and contents of a user defined CAD feature class. The resulting feature class definition functions like a definition query in ArcMap, but instead of being set by the GIS professional after she receives an AutoCAD drawing, I as the CAD user define the correct feature class definitions based on my knowledge of the CAD file and how it can best be understood in the GIS.

Future versions of ArcGIS will recognize and honor the CAD feature classes along with the standard POINT, POLYLINE, POLYGON, MULTIPATCH and ANNOTATION feature classes of a CAD file. ArcGIS for AutoCAD will include tools to create and manage these feature class definitions, but CAD users can easily create and edit them using the simple AutoCAD application programming interfaces (API’s), as long as they adhere to the simple specification. These CAD feature classes will in turn be recognized by ArcGIS. More to come on this …
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