Jeremy Monn

Jeremy Monn

At least half of my work week involves working with ArcGIS Server. So when my organization upgraded to ArcGIS Server 10 I was naturally curious what improvements were made to the software for map service caching purposes.  The most well-known and highly publicized caching-related improvement for ArcGIS Server 10 is the compact cache, which groups individual tiles into bundle files instead of storing each tile separately.  This modification not only helps shorten caching time, but it also shortens the time required to copy a cache from one location to another.

While the introduction of the compact cache option is important to know about, there are two lesser-known improvements that caught my eye which could be useful to those who regularly create or work with cached map services.

Mixed Tile Format
When configuring a map cache one needs to decide what image format to use for the cache tiles and what one decides will determine whether or not portions of a tile can be transparent.  If one selects JPEG then none of the tiles, even those along the cache periphery that have large areas that should be transparent, will have transparency.  This is an issue when one wants to overlay two cached images on top of one another.  In ArcGIS Server 10 one can work around this by using the mixed tile format, which provides the needed transparency in periphery tiles by storing them as PNG32 and storing all other tiles as JPEG.

Export / Import Map Server Cache Tools
Two tools available in ArcToolbox in ArcGIS 10 that could be very useful to those creating or modifying cached map services are the Export Map Server Cache and Import Map Server Cache tools.  The name of each tool clearly identifies each tool’s function.  However, what might not be so clear is the usefulness of these tools in the caching process.  Using these tools together provides the ability to collaboratively build a cache.  For example, one user could export a specific portion of a map service’s cache that they updated and share the update with others who can then incorporate the update in their own versions of the same map cache by using the Import Map Cache tool.  Additionally, the Export Map Cache tool can be used to export the cache to a folder that ArcGIS Desktop users can access. The ArcGIS Desktop users can pull in the cache as a raster dataset, thus eliminating the need to be connected to the ArcGIS Server that hosts the cache’s parent map service.

For more information on all improvements associated with ArcGIS Server 10, refer to ESRI’s What’s new in ArcGIS Server 10 page.


Ashley

More and more MD iMap users are accessing applications and searching for data using mobile devices. In fact, several State agencies have purchased iPads for their employees to replace their Blackberry phones. To accommodate this growing user base, CGIS generated a mobile friendly version of the Portal website and a mobile friendly version for MD iMap application, GreenPrint. Also, a search capability on the MD iMap portal has been set in place that allows users to find GIS services on MD iMap in a fast, up to date and easy to use manner.

Mobile GreenPrint Application or http://www.mdimap.us/greenprintmobile

This mobile-ready application for GreenPrint allows users to turn on and off the data layers, view a dynamic legend, change basemaps between streets and aerial imagery, use an identify tool, and search by location. The GreenPrint application determines how the user is connecting – either with a mobile device or tablet or via a computer – and then launches the appropriate mobile site or the full mapping application.

Mobile Website for the MD iMap Portal or http://www.mdimap.us/imapmobile

This mobile-ready application for the MD iMap portal provides:

  • service alerts
  • information on how to connect
  • service URLs
  • event information
  • link to the Twitter account
  • GreenPrint mobile mapping application.

The MD iMap Portal determines how the user is connecting – either with a mobile device or tablet or via a computer – and then launches the appropriate mobile site or the full website.

GIS Service Search Capability

Previously, the MD iMap portal displayed a PDF of available GIS services. The PDF was often out of date and hard to maintain. The portal also displayed metadata records by map service name. This began to grow and was a somewhat tedious task to find a record. The new webpage dynamically lists the GIS services and other information provided utilizing the ArcGIS REST endpoint for each service. Users can browse for services by typing in a keyword or expanding the folders in the catalog tree. Clicking on a map service name launches a pop-up box with the service name, a service description, an image of the data, and a link to the service details as well as metadata records.


Michael Bentivegna

Doesn’t it seem like the pace of life is getting faster and faster, and that technology is at least supporting this change, if not causing it? With every time-saving productivity gain that technology provides, the expectations for the speed and the amount of work to be completed in any time frame seem to just increase.  Within the field of GIS (Geographic Information Systems), this expectation is being driven by consumers that want to search for and view information in a spatial context (a map). In the world of media mashups, the publishing of new GIS data and applications is expected in a few weeks, if not days, and updates are expected to be nearly instantaneous.

For GIS professionals, Esri’s ArcGIS Online comes to the rescue or further enables this trend (depending upon your perspective). This platform enables the discovery, sharing, and display of GIS data in a free cloud-based software-as-a-service, social GIS ecosystem. In plain speak, it allows you to create map data mashups with great Esri hosted/developed basemaps and lots of national and global scale GIS data. In the past few months, Esri has added the capability to upload basic spreadsheets with address information and other data in GIS formats that are processed and made available through the site. They even offer templates to provide simple applications with functions like search, measure, identify, and social media integration. All of this can be shared within a group of your choosing or out to the greater public, embedded in your website. Exciting stuff!

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to dig into ArcGIS Online so I could share the new capabilities to CGIS’s staff in a brown bag lunch, and I am glad I did. Later the very same day, I was in a meeting with the Maryland State Geographic Information Officer (GIO), Barney Krucoff, where we were asked to assist with a hurry-up effort to push information about volunteer locations out to the public for the holidays. After listening to the requirements of rapid and ongoing development of volunteer location data by interns and the need for a simple application to find the sites, I mentioned that this was a perfect project for ArcGIS Online. With the go-ahead given to investigate, I took a draft cut of the volunteer locations that the interns had compiled in Google Docs and within a few hours had the data set up on ArcGIS Online for review. Within a week of data refinement by the interns, investigation of the data update workflow process, and tweaking of the template application, we had the end product mapping application ready to be embedded in Governor O’Malley’s Maryland Stronger Together website. With the site up and running, the interns were trained to edit and update the data using ArcGIS Online tools, and the site was released to the public a few days later. You can see the map under the locate charitable organizations near you link in the website above. This is a great example of success in meeting the new accelerated expectations, and in this case, with free hosting.

I happily followed an interoffice email thread a few weeks after the Maryland Stronger Together site was launched, wherein team members were looking for an organization for DECO to donate food to this year (as we have done for the past several years). Without any prompting on my part, the site was used to find the nearest location to donate. I hope that in this time of need and giving, this tool might make it that much easier for you to find a place to donate to or to volunteer for during this busy holiday season.

View the Maryland Stronger Together map in mobile device.


Ashley

The past few weeks have been devoted to testing the migration of MD iMap to ArcGIS Server 10. It is important to limit potential issues and ensure all services and applications function appropriately after the upgrade. If you have ever successfully done an upgrade, you know how important it is to test, test, and do more testing.

Because ArcGIS Desktop, ArcSDE and ArcGIS Server are spread out among multiple machines within the MD iMap infrastructure, we can upgrade the different components at different times. So, we are only upgrading ArcGIS Server at this time. And, MD iMap has seven instances of ArcGIS Server: 2 staging, 1 pre-release and 4 production servers. We upgraded one of the two staging instances to ArcGIS Server 10 so we could test away. The Center for GIS’ goal is have all instances upgraded by the end of November.

Please note that ArcSDE is still at 9.3.1 until we do a domain migration at the end of November. Once the migration is complete, we will upgrade ArcSDE to 10.0 as well.

While I understand that every environment is different, I wanted to share two problems we have discovered in our upgrade testing.

1. No special characters in WMS-enabled services

Issue: Several map services would not draw in ArcCatalog and we received the following error when adding them to ArcMap: “Could not add the specified data object to the map.”

Workaround: After speaking with Esri Technical support, they confirmed this is a known bug – #NIM066837 Need to support additional special characters when using WMS. The bug states that a WMS enabled map service that contains a comma (,), tilde (~), parenthesis (()), ² , ° , ? , and ` in the layer name won’t start.

At this point the only workaround is to either disable the WMS capability in the affected map services, or to rename the layers in the MXD.

2. Address Locators in 9.3.X ArcSDE Database do not work with a Geocode Service at 10.0

Issue: When trying to create or start a geocode service at ArcGIS Server 10 that utilizes an address locater in a 9.3.1 ArcSDE database, the following error appears: “Configuration GeocodeServices/MD.State.MDStatewideTest.GeocodeServer can not be started. Server Object instance creation failed on machine mdimap-XXX-X. The connection property set was missing a required property or the property value was unrecognized.”

Workaround: Publish the address locator from a file geodatabase. We did this and the ArcGIS Server 10 geocode service now starts and works appropriately. I posed my question to Esri’s technical support and they said that they have seen other cases where a new address locator was needed to work past the error. They also said that sometimes a locator built with 9.3.1 will publish to server 10, but practically speaking is finding that more often than not, they don’t. This is especially the case with customized address locator.

Tech support concluded that there are 2 options.

1. Publish the locator from a file geodatabase. There has been some unusual behavior with older address locators stored in SDE geodatabases. **Honestly, at ArcGIS 10, you’ll get better performance with file-based locators anyway.

2. Create a brand new address locator in ArcGIS 10. For best practices, it is recommended that you re-create the address locators using the current version of ArcGIS.

This brings me to my last point. I inquired again to the Esri technical support person to expand on his comment “…at ArcGIS 10, you’ll get better performance with file-based locators” so I could fully understand what he meant. His response indicated that prior to 9.3.1, ArcSDE would be faster, however, at 9.3.1 and later, benchmark testing has indicated that file geodatabases are actually faster for not just geocoding services, but also for serving vector data! He said that Oracle CAN be faster with Vector data, but only if the database is tuned very well. This has more to do with I/O against the database – and I/O is relatively limited with a file geodatabase. He stated he would use ArcSDE when editing, with versions, etc. and he suggested a presentation on ArcGIS Server Performance and Scalability–Performance Factors and Optimization.

For those of you like me, who don’t understand what I/O is, here is how the Esri technical support person explained – “Basically, it has to do with how the bus (the part of the computer that connects the motherboard to the hard drive) sends and receives data back and forth to the database software. Fewer paging operations have to be performed against a file geodatabase because pages can be cached ‘in memory’ as opposed to accessing the database. Fewer resources are being used to achieve the same goal.” Very cool!

While we did run in to these two issues during our testing, there are workarounds that we will put into place. These two issues will not hinder us from pushing forward with the migration of the remaining six instances to ArcGIS Server 10. Next steps you may ask? More testing, more research and more fun!


Jenn

Our newest Education Meets the Workforce video features student interns from Towson University’s Center for GIS. The interns, Justin Mannion, James Parmeter, and Alex Stapleton, work closely together on data collection processes in connection with the Maryland Broadband Map project. The Maryland Broadband Map allows residential and business consumers to discover the high-speed Internet services and providers in their neighborhood, anywhere in Maryland.

Watch the video to learn more about how the interns are contributing to the Maryland Broadband Map Project and to other projects at CGIS.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TW1GN_k9y3w]


Jeremy

Jeremy Monn

Apparently my favorite topic to blog about is creating a KML-enabled ArcGIS Server (AGS) map service, because I find myself writing about the same topic even though I have written about this topic in two previous blog posts.  The impetus for writing about this topic a third (and hopefully final) time is that I found myself troubleshooting a KML-related issue that I am sure other GIS practitioners have or will come across.   Provided below is a description of each issue and its solution.

ISSUE ONE

When panning to a new location in Google Earth, the data that the KML-enabled AGS map service references disappears.

Explanation

The problem here likely stems from how the KML file was configured when it was created from an AGS map service.   There are specific configuration settings that deal with when or how a refresh of the KML file occurs.  In this case, one should configure the KML file so that it refreshes once the user stops panning.

Solution

Open the KML file with a text editor and search for the <viewRefreshMode> tag.  Make sure the value inside this tag is set to “onStop”.  Additionally, if any <refreshMode> and <refreshInterval> tags exist remove them if you want the refresh to be solely triggered by a user panning.

ISSUE TWO

The KML-enabled AGS map service used returns a URL when a feature is identified in Google Earth, but the URL does not work.

Explanation

An obvious reason why this might occur is because the URL provided in the dataset’s attribute  table was entered incorrectly.  Another less obvious reason is that special characters in the URL are being replaced by other characters.  For example, the “&” character may be replaced by the “&amp” string.

Solution

Obviously if the data was entered incorrectly in the source data’s attribute table then one has to correct the mistake.  However, when one has an issue where the “&” character is being replaced    by the “&amp” string then one should find out what MXD is being used for the AGS service,      save it as a MSD file, and re-point the AGS service to the newly created MSD file.  Once the AGS service is refreshed, the URLs should be correct in the service’s KML file.


Sharyn

Did you know that Towson University works with government agencies and businesses from across Maryland to implement a variety of features on their web sites and recommend marketing initiatives to support their goals? These services include advanced application development, e-commerce integration, email marketing service implementation, search engine marketing analysis, geographic information systems (GIS) application development, and database development. We also work with clients to improve the look and feel of web sites as well as the user experience issues that can challenge web visitors. We even assist organizations as they learn more about the use of social media on how it can integrate with their web strategy.

The Division of Economic and Community Outreach has over 100 professional employees who can provide guidance on design, programming, writing and marketing who are poised to enhance your web site so that your employees can focus mission critical programs.

If you would like to learn more about the web services mentioned here, check out our web page dedicated to providing additional information and a quick and easy way to contact us about your organizations needs.



Ken Juengling

In my role as Project Manager for the Center for GIS, I am involved in many interesting efforts that leverage GIS technology to solve critical issues in today’s ever changing world.  Having just gotten back from the premier GIS conference, the Esri International User Conference, I feel a little overwhelmed – as I do every time I get back – and energized by Jack Dangermond’s plenary session that opened the conference.

Here are a few of my thoughts from the conference, which attracted over 15,000 attendees (about 5,000 were there for the first-time!).

Hopefully, you’ll have the opportunity to attend next year’s User Conference, which happens July 23-27, 2012.



Jeremy

Jeremy Monn

A couple weeks ago I found myself trying to remember how to create a KML-enabled ArcGIS map service through ArcGIS Server Manager.  Luckily for me I wrote a blog on this topic about a year and a half ago.  Reading the blog helped me with the task at hand, but I felt an update would be valuable. Therefore, this month’s blog post focuses on returning attribute data from KML-enabled ArcGIS map services as well as things to watch out for when WFS-enabling ArcGIS map services.

Why doesn’t my KML-enabled map service display tabular data???
In my previous post, I described the steps involved in creating the map service’s KMZ file on an ArcGIS server.  However, I didn’t relay how one goes about ensuring that the tabular data tied to the features in that service will be returned when a user clicks on the feature in Google Earth.  In order to do this, one must enable the feature layer’s HTML Popup tool within the map service’s MXD.  For detailed instructions on how to complete this task, refer to the “How to set HTML properties for feature layers” section.

I can’t WFS-enable my ArcGIS Server map service, why???
If one is interested in providing users of their dynamic ArcGIS Server map service with the ability to use the data within the service in geospatial analysis scenarios, then one solution is to WFS enable the service.  Just like KML enabling, the process of actually WFS enabling the ArcGIS map service is quite simple.  However, there are two very important things to keep in mind when WFS enabling an ArcGIS map service.

1) If one’s ArcGIS map service is published using a MSD, as opposed to a MXD, then the map      service cannot be WFS enabled.  The solution is publishing the service from the service’s MXD.

2) If one’s ArcGIS map service consists of at least two layers that reference the same feature class then the map service cannot be WFS enabled.  A solution is to create a copy of the feature class and reference one of the layers to the copy.  NOTE: This solution can be painful from a  data management perspective, especially if one is working with large datasets that are   frequently updated.

Hopefully now that I have written these tasks in a blog I will not forget them.  However, it is nice to know that if I do I can always refer back to my blog for guidance.  I guess blogging can sometimes be viewed as a unique type of documentation.


Ashley Buzzeo & Erin Lesh

If you are interested in getting involved with GIS in Maryland, there are several avenues you can pursue, including statewide committees and initiatives as well as local user groups and conferences.

MSGIC
You can start by becoming a member of the Maryland State Geographic Information Committee (MSGIC).  This volunteer organization is made up of members from all levels of government, academia, regional organizations, and private industry.  There is an Executive Committee that meets the second Wednesday of every month in Columbia at 9am.  While this meeting is open to all, there is a larger quarterly meeting that is held on the second Wednesday of January, April, July and October.  This venue is perfect for networking with fellow GISers and keeping up with statewide coordinated activities. The next quarterly meeting is April 27th at the Caroline County Health and Public Services Building in Denton MD.  MSGIC has a group on LinkedIn: MSGIC

MD iMap
Another great resource is Maryland’s Internet Map (MD iMap), which provides a wide variety of products and services to the citizens and government employees in Maryland at no charge. It represents a centralized collection of the most commonly used, best available GIS data and applications in the State.  Take a look at the MD iMap Portal.  This website details the current MD iMap initiatives in Maryland.  You can also get involved with the MD iMap initiative by joining the MD iMap Technical Committee, which meets the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month at MDE from 1 – 3 pm.  Follow MDiMap on Twitter: @MDiMap

MD iMap Portal

Local User Groups & Conferences
There are also several regional users groups in Maryland – central, western, and eastern.

  • The Central Maryland User’s Group (CMUG) is the largest local user’s group, focusing on GIS activities in Central Maryland.  A meeting was just held on April 15th, and the next meeting will be in the mid-August timeframe.  Be sure to check out the blog for more details.
  • The Western Maryland GIS User’s Group (WMUG) meets 3 times a year – the third Friday of May, August, and November. The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, May 20 at Frederick City Hall.  Contact Elizabeth Stahlman at Allegany County for more details.
  • The Midshore Regional GIS committee (MSRGC) meeting is April 20 from 9 to 11:30 at the Public Safety Building in Easton, and the next meeting is October 26 in the morning, location TBD. Contact Lauren McDermott at Salisbury University for more details.

The ESRI Mid-Atlantic User Group (ESRI-MUG) is an organization of GIS users in PA, DE, NJ, MD, DC, VA and WV.  This group helps to identify and educate users regarding GIS trends, ESRI product development, local/regional applications, and events of interest.  They also have an annual conference for all users, which is a great place to see what how GIS is being applied in the mid-Atlantic region.  Follow ESRI-MUG on Twitter: @Esri_MUG.

The TUgis conference is held by the Department of Geography and Environmental Planning at Towson University.  This conference has some excellent presentations and is a great place to network with GIS users from all over Maryland.  The 25th annual conference will be held in March, 2012.

GIS Day Events
Another option to be more active or to learn more about GIS in Maryland is to attend a GIS Day event on November 16, 2011.  GIS Day is intended to promote GIS and Geography awareness.  You can find a GIS Day event near you by searching on ESRI’s GIS Day website.

Ashley Buzzeo works at Towson University Center for GIS (CGIS) as a project manager.
Erin Lesh works at Maryland Environmental Service (MES) as a GIS specialist IV.