September 11, 2007

ArcGIS Server Services and CAD

I had an interesting assortment of experiences with services last week, and I thought I’d share some of them. First there was the happiest most energetic technical support person that I have ever talked with. The support person from T-Mobile used the words excellent, super and totally in response to every question I asked, and cheerfully answered every one of my technical questions effortlessly and with unadulterated effervescence! This person must have been a cheerleader, president of the honor society and someone who loves cell phones and everything about them! I hung up the phone, looked at my wife and spontaneously gave her a cheer with accompanying hand motions exclaiming Excellent!

Another day, I came home to a stopped-up drain where the bathroom sink was now draining into the bathtub. My efforts to unstop the drain with a handy $3 hose attachment, which almost always worked…didn’t. I went to the hardware store for liquid drain cleaner, which in my experience, never works. Faced with 4 different products I chose the one with the bright guaranteed to work star on the packaging. I listen to a radio station where most of the products advertised for whatever reason are scams. Weight loss, memory improvement, useless information etc… all free with a small shipping and handling charge, which somehow is not counted as a cost? I was listening to that radio station while hopefully administering the drain product according to the directions, which then always seems to digress into pouring the entire contents of the gallon jug down the drain. I was inspired by the incessant radio commercials to get back at the world; I would be sure to follow up on this product’s claims. The drain service I then called was prompt, clean and got the job done. The liquid drain product didn’t work… the refund form is in the mail.

Speaking of refunds, I bought a refrigerator online this last week and the Labor Day sale included free delivery. The delivery charge was listed on the shopping cart pre-total screen, but the amount was then omitted from the final total ordering screen and I confidently made the purchase with free delivery after adding all the numbers.
Ahh, but the plot thickens… I got my receipt via email some time later. The delivery charge was added back to the total!!! (I think this is illegal). This was a MAJOR retailer. I called customer service and asked them to explain. This person seemed to be filling-in for someone else and was clearly sorry she had answered the phone. She was able to tell me that the free delivery offer was by rebate, but didn’t know what a URL was and when I baulked at her suggestion to go to // she told me she would just email me the form and hung up. Going back to the retailer’s ordering website I did find a 6pt font link to more details under the 50pt font claiming free delivery. The link explained the detail of the offer, but no link helped me locate the actual rebate form. So, I Googled it.

The refrigerator was delivered, but still no rebate form.

Another call to support… this service person was all business.

Yes, …rebate form, …no problem. …I just emailed it to you, anything else… Okay bye.

I open the ensuing email attachment and the form was for a rebate of postage for purchases made before August 2005!!! Another call to the service number… this person claimed she couldn’t help me and that rebates were a different department with a different 800 number. I, like a fool, dialed it… I kid you not, a fax machine answered…. I am a little less happy now. Another call to the service number; I was quiet, calm and deliberate when the customer service guy answered the call. I warned him I was grumpy and that I was challenging him to provide useful service, before giving him a brief review of the service I had had so far. He pointed me confidently to the rebate forms section of their website (someplace I’ve already been thanks to Google) and begins to ask me if there is anything else he can help me with. I ask him to tell me which form of the 18 different forms I am supposed to use. His confidence waned… none of the descriptions of the forms fits the description of my purchase…

Can I put you on hold? is his response. Long pause….
Uhh, how about number 3?
No, I quickly reply that form is for dishwashers, I bought a refrigerator.
Oh, can I put you on hold again?, is his retort. Longer pause…
Ok, (confidently) it is number 1. Try number one, he suggests as he attempts to close the call again.
...Wait, I suggest politely. I want to read it.

The description for the form’s link says it is for a different brand than I purchased, but he convinces me the link was mislabeled and that the actual form is for any appliance not just the brand listed in the link description. I reluctantly end the call. I guess you'll have to wait 6-8 weeks to hear the conclusion.

I took my wife to a restaurant this weekend. We were given a gift certificate for that restaurant and we had a fine meal. My wife ordered the special and when processing the check the server returned to our table informing us that the owner said we could not use the gift certificate with the special. After thinking very carefully what I might say next, to avoid ruining an otherwise pleasant evening with my wife, I suggested to the server that a gift certificate is not a coupon, but rather just like cash. She sheepishly returned to the owner who then processed the check herself. The owner walked to our table to return our finished check and wanted to express in person how gracious SHE WAS for accepting the gift certificate under these circumstances! The exchange with her was so surprising… so NOT RIGHT, I was actually amused to receive such bad service from the owner herself. If you ever get a chance to visit Balboa Island in Southern California, might I suggest you try Ciao’s italian restaurant two doors down, instead.

Last week I also took an ESRI class on ArcGIS Server where I learned more about ArcGIS Server. From what I understood, ArcGIS Server creates different types of services that various software clients can use. There are Map Services (which display maps and allows me to query the underlying data), 3D Globe Services (3D Maps like Google Earth), Geodata Services (special access to the data over the web), Geoprocessing Services(predefined GIS tools), Metadata Services (access to catalogs of content), WMS Services(OGC standard published maps), WFS Services (OGC standard published map features) and Locator Services (Geocoding and Routing for GIS networks). Most of these services interoperate with CAD by the simple fact that ArcGIS Server uses CAD files as a valid GIS data source content for the services. The geoprocessing (GP) services work both with CAD data as input to many GP tools as well as potential output. I can include the GP tool EXPORT TO CAD to generate CAD files as a part of a GP Service task.

ArcGIS Server interacts with tools that communicate with the internet to provide sophisticated GIS services through simple protocols for software applications to use over the intra/internet. I use ArcGIS desktop tools to author content, like 3D globes, or map documents or geoprocessing tools and then publish them to ArcGIS server that pushes them out efficiently and securely to the network for client applications to connect to and use.

The ArcGIS Server map service is special in terms of CAD. In addition to the capability of including CAD data in an ArcGIS Server map service (along with all different kinds of other GIS data) I can also view map services in plain AutoCAD with the no-cost ArcGIS for AutoCAD application. This type of service gives me a window into the GIS world in CAD and I see what the GIS people see.

The no-cost ArcGIS Explorer mapping client software gives me access to even more services. Publishing CAD content as part of my ArcGIS Server Map service allows me to easily distribute GIS and CAD content together in a published map. Geoprocessing services that provide sophisticated query and analysis capabilities can also be utilized from the no cost ArcExplorer application. GP services can also be accessed by custom web applications.

I use the ArcGIS Server Manger to build custom web applications (in seconds). I click through a wizard and include the services I want from simple checkboxes that then creates the HTML application on server that is accessible to the intra/internet. These wizard-generated applications support most of the different kinds of GIS Services that ArcGIS Server can serve out (with the exception of geodata services, which are designed for desktop applications to access the underlying data of a service.)

GIS Services are created for all different reasons by content publishers and are accessed by many more users interested in that content, generally with no-cost applications. If I am an engineering contractor with plain AutoCAD and the City has published ArcGIS map services for public access then I can connect to those services and see and query those map services via a simple web application, or perhaps more usefully in AutoCAD with ArcGIS for AutoCAD.
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