I was reading James Fee's blog recently on Open Source on the beach at Waikiki
and as usual James does a good job of stirring up thinking.
One thing I found interesting about the comments was the perception a lot of people have that you choose to understand one
tool or another and if you choose open source for one thing, then you are somehow taking away time to learn more useful proprietary techniques.
I have found this speculation to be for the most part untrue.
For example I consider myself to be fundamentally a Microsoft SQL Server expert and fairly competent in Microsoft technologies.
When I started to get involved in Open source software - such as PostgreSQL, MySQL, Linux, Mapserver, PHP, etc.
I discovered something very startling. These Open source folks really care about standards..
Understanding standards is more important than understanding how to use a set piece of software because standards are more aligned with trends in technology.
For example, A long time ago, I used to think COALESCE and NULLIF were functions developed by the PostgreSQL folks. One day
forgetting which database I was in, I accidentally used these in SQL Server. And guess what? SQL Server knew what they meant.
Similarly SQL concepts like INTERSECT and EXCEPT existed in PostgreSQL long before SQL Server introduced it into SQL Server 2005. So when
SQL Server 2005 came out, gosh darn it I already knew how to use these tools. The same holds true for PostGIS by the way. You will find that PostGIS does
things the OGC standards way so when SQL Server 2008 finally comes out with OGC Spatial support, I suspect people using PostGIS and similar tools will be way ahead of the curve.
Other example - because of my exposure to open source tools such as PHP, Linux, PostgreSQL, I realized early on that Microsoft's Active Directory was
nothing more than a Light-weight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) service by another name. This had some very interesting consequences. For example I realized that it was much easier
to query Microsoft Active Directory with PHP than it was even using Microsoft.NET Framework.
In the GIS world, because of my exposure to Mapserver and other open gis tools, I knew what ESRI's WFSConnector and WMSConnector were for and how to test them
long before my GIS brethren knew what those terms even stood for. I knew the foundations of these and found myself explaining the concepts of web services etc. to my GIS friends.
So the point is this - if you are spending your time simply learning how to use proprietary tools instead of really trying to understand the fundamentals
that drive these tools, you have totally missed the boat and you will be forever playing catchup.
I have found that Open source really enforces understanding fundamentals more than proprietary does and that is a very good thing because that knowledge has a longer shelf-life.
I am at the annual conference of the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations in Little Rock, Arkansas. I gave a brief presentation today on emerging trends in geospatial technologies, in which I covered map mashups, web services, and open s...
Tracked: Oct 05, 02:28