[OSGeo-Discuss] OSGeo friendly countries to live in

Landon Blake lblake at ksninc.com
Thu Aug 20 10:23:43 PDT 2009



You make an interesting point. I would respond to your argument in this


Richard wrote: "I think this may be the best way to show the return on
the taxpayers' investment in the data. The vast majority of citizens
don't want to manipulate these datasets; they only want to view them.
The MrSID format with USGS topo maps and USDA county compressed mosaics
makes them available to many more people than a more open format would."


If you can only view the data, you really miss out on a lot of its
value. To really benefit from the data you need to be able to manipulate
it, and to convert it to/from other formats. How useful would shapefiles
be if we could only look at them?


I think the main argument for using MRSID is the file compression. But
this is the government we are talking about. Tile the image data and put
up an easy to use index online that allows people to download just what
they need. Users that want to access images for entire counties are
likely going to have the computing power to use that much data anyways. 


In my mind, the issue can be boiled down to this: MRSID doesn't have to
be a closed file format. Look at a company like Adobe. Governments
around the world release tons of data in PDF format. But Adobe publishes
a spec for this format. This has important implications for the adoption
of the format, for the ability to archive, for dealing with vendor
lock-in, and for supporting development of open source software. Adobe
makes a killing on PDF software, but if you wanted to write an open
source library to write and manipulate PDF files you could. (iText is an


The bottom line is that closed file formats give a company like
LizardTech a way to lock out competition from other commercial companies
or from open source developers. They don't have to keep the file format
closed, they choose to do so. They could publish a spec if they wanted
and the USDA would loose none of the benefits of the MRSID file format.
If there was a published spec I would have no problem with the USDA
using MRSID or with them paying LizardTech for software and support
because of their choice of this format.


I'd wager LizardTech keeps the MRSID closed for the same reason Autodesk
keeps the DWG format closed. It means money and market control. I don't
think US taxpayers should be supporting that type of business model.


I know what I'm saying here likely rubs some people the wrong way. But
this is the OSGeo mailing list. :]


I don't care if a private company chooses to use MRSID. I don't care how
Autodesk and LizardTech run their businesses. Until you get my tax
payers involved. Then I have a right to be critical. My government's
choices in these matters say more about a single business or IT
decision. They say a lot about what principles we value and financially
support as a society.



Office Phone Number: (209) 946-0268

Cell Phone Number: (209) 992-0658




From: discuss-bounces at lists.osgeo.org
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.osgeo.org] On Behalf Of Richard Rupp
Sent: Thursday, August 20, 2009 10:03 AM
To: OSGeo Discussions
Subject: Re: [OSGeo-Discuss] OSGeo friendly countries to live in



This is a great thought-provoking discussion.

Thinking about the U.S. geodata released in the MrSID format. I think
this may be the best way to show the return on the taxpayers' investment
in the data. The vast majority of citizens don't want to manipulate
these datasets; they only want to view them. The MrSID format with USGS
topo maps and USDA county compressed mosaics makes them available to
many more people than a more open format would.

For those of us who want to manipulate these datasets with our
geospatial OSS, alternatives are available. Perhaps someday there will
be a widely adopted open format that can compete with MrSID but for
today the MrSID option provides for the best access for the largest
number of people.

Regards, Richard

On Thu, Aug 20, 2009 at 7:36 AM, Landon Blake <lblake at ksninc.com> wrote:


I didn't mean to shine a spotlight on the USDA's use of MRSID. It is one
of several examples of an attitude I was trying to describe.

I think you and I respectfully disagree with one another on one aspect
of this debate. In my humble opinion sharing data acquired with tax
payer funding in a format that is easily accessed without the use of
proprietary software should be the most important factor in a file
format decision by a government agency. (Well, maybe the second most
important. The most important is the license that data is released

A company is well within its rights to use and promote a proprietary
file format. I admit that file format may even have awesome benefits
when compared to the best equivalent open file format.

Just don't ask me to be happy when my government decides to use this
proprietary file format. I think it short changes the citizens of the
government and give that company an unfair advantage over its

I'd much rather see the government support a company that was trying to
build its business around open technology standards.

In my opinion, you can't have it all. If you want to build your business
model around a proprietary file format like DWG or MRSID you should be
prepared to deal with a little push back from open source and open
technology advocates, especially when their money (in the form of tax
dollars) is involved.

One of the greatest things ESRI ever did was publish the Shapefile
specification. I don't doubt they have a software monopoly of sorts, but
I will always respect them for that move. In many respects it has
changed my view of their company. I don't know that the free software
movement on the geospatial side of things would have been widely adopted
without that standard way to share data.

But alas, I am just one man and my opinion doesn't count for much in the
greater scheme of things!

I appreciate having an open source advocate like you at LizardTech, and
please don't take my e-mail as a personal attack. The use of open file
formats by our governments is just something I feel strongly about.



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