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Citrix Solutions for Fellow GIS-ers AND Mac Enthusiasts

Emma Paz - Friday, July 18, 2014

If you are a proud consumer of Apple products, you may be able to relate to the frustration and hints of sadness I personally felt when I was first “falling in love” with the field of GIS back in graduate school. Having experienced no other class like it, I vividly remember the highs of seeing data symbolized right before me, and talking through plot scenarios with our professor, which then required us to create intersecting buffers and use map algebra tools for further analysis of our data. I was quickly blown away, convinced that the software we were using, Esri’s ArcGIS for Desktop, had to be the most powerful software I’d ever imagined.

Then the unthinkable happened: I tried to exchange my Windows ArcGIS for Desktop installation disc for one I could use to install the software on my relatively new Macbook, only to find out that such option did not exist. Devastation.

Of course we’ve all either had to move on (running ArcGIS on Windows) or find round-about ways to run ArcGIS on Macbooks and iMacs. Such means include hard-drive partitioning using Boot Camp Assistant or running Parallels software, which may take up a large footprint on a machine as it runs two operating systems at once, as well as the ArcGIS software.

Which brings us to the announcement regarding Esri’s latest release of Explorer for ArcGIS… for Macs! Exciting? I think so! After all, it probably means that Esri has taken note and is working on developing the rest of the ArcGIS suite for Apple systems, right?

Yet, a lot of us might wish we didn’t have to wait any longer. With that in mind, I want to draw attention to ROK’s Cloud GIS Solution--delivering Esri’s full, virtualized ArcCatalog and ArcMap GIS software applications, using the Citrix Receiver, to any OS platform (i.e. OSX). Running straight from cloud servers, ROK’s Cloud GIS Solution allows users to log on and access ArcGIS from any internet-powered machine, including Apple’s beloved Macbooks and iMacs. The best part is, utilizing the cloud to employ ArcGIS has an incredibly low footprint on your computer's hardware resources, translating into FAST application deployment and performance.

If your eyes just lit up and you want to see a demo or learn about the other full-scope benefits of ROK’s Cloud GIS solution, check out our CTO’s recent webinar and send us an e-mail or give us a call.



Happy mapping,
EP

Cross Browser Testing for HTML5 / JavaScript Development

Jay Fowler - Friday, July 11, 2014

Web development hinges on successful deployment through multiple browsers and devices. Cross browser testing has always been a necessity, regardless of the amazing strides modern browsers have made in recent years. Remember the days when an organization picked one browser and then could not upgrade internal software or the browser without facing dire consequences? Remember how you would have to look at some web sites with Internet Explorer and others with Netscape Navigator? Fortunately those days are way in the past. The most recent shake up to browser technology has been the mobile browser.

                 During the peak of browser deployment inconsistencies, web developers embraced scripting languages such as Adobe's Flex which requires the Adobe Flash plug-in in order to provide consistent deployment of web applications to users. However, mobile and desktop browsers alike have evolved to the point where 3rd party plug-ins are no longer necessary. This development shift was made possible with the creation of JavaScript Libraries such as jQuery and Dojo as well as the modern browser's acceptance of HTML5.

                This brief browser history brings me to the main point of this blog: Modern browsers are smart, but developers still need to do cross browser testing when developing HTML5 / JavaScript web sites. ROK Technologies is creating fantastic new mapping applications through the use of Esri's ArcGIS API for JavaScript, jQuery, Dojo, Esri's ArcGIS for Server, and the Bootstrap framework. Nevertheless, It is still vital for us to conduct cross browser testing. Testing exposes user interface issues related to HTML elements, JavaScript library's elements / widgets,  and CSS tweaks that need to be addressed before a web application can go live.

                If left unattended, browser inconsistencies affect the overall functionality of your web application. They can likely lead to potential confusion with clients, unexpected revisions post implementation, and hinder your awesome web application from being everything it otherwise could be. The process is relatively painless and just takes a few minutes of review. To make it even easier for you, The ROK Team has a simple spreadsheet you can download and use while working through your cross browser testing. Enjoy!


Click here to download spreadsheet

Web-App Development from Scratch

Emma Paz - Friday, June 20, 2014
After our recent submission to Esri’s Climate Resilience App Challenge, I wanted to follow up further with details on RainHarvest, addressing that which many of you might have asked--what does it take to develop a web-app from scratch? If that’s the case, here’s our ROK recipe:

1. Find a Problem that Needs a Solution: Before developing RainHarvest, ROK took on the goals proposed by Esri’s Challenge and thought about the resources at risk as a matter of climate change. With that said, keep in mind that most projects, whether for non-profit or for-profit, begin by “solving a problem” or streamlining a process.
2. Define the Scope of the Project: While looking to our surrounding area, we narrowed our focus to water and the challenges it poses among our community. We also decided we would query and analyze/calculate data for Charleston (with the potential of expanding nationwide). Word of caution: the larger the scope, the harder the data acquisition and overall project.
3. Research and Acquire the Data: Finding data can often start through government agency websites (like NOAA and USGS), or colleges and universities (like Oregon State University’s PRISM Group, from where we downloaded RainHarvest’s national monthly rainfall polygons) or Esri basemaps and ArcGIS Online data, among others.
4. Publish your data/map services: Here at ROK, we processed the data we acquired and published through our own ArcGIS Server, ready to be displayed and queried from our Rest Services.
5. Plan & Write the Web Application: Before diving into any code, take your project’s scope (from step 2) and flesh it out as a diagram of related functions and variables. With that plan, focus on the bare bones functionality of your app. As mentioned previously, RainHarvest was developed by building onto a Bootstrap template downloaded from GitHub, some of the latest framework that uses HTML5 and JS to automatically synchronize your work into a seamless web and mobile-ready interface. Here at ROK we also recommend sifting through the code samples available through the ArcGIS API for JS. This is where you will find many of the components essential to the functionality of your app, available as JQuery and Dojo library plug-ins, among others. Lastly, never hesitate to search for additional “effects” and animated thunder .gifs (that’s a shout-out to our own app) through Google.
6. Seek Evaluation: Even after running the numbers (triple-checking your outputs) and collaborating with colleagues and peers, never hesitate to seek feedback from some of your non-expert family and friends. In fact, they will almost always be the ideal app-testers--novice users who will “break” what you thought was perfect. That’s the kind of quality assurance you need before an app release.
7. Walk Away: Chances are you could always continue to improve a project, even after reaching its defined scope. Regardless, try walking away for a few days; see how you really feel about those changes you made at midnight before committing any more time. With a clear head, you may just realize your app is great.

And, just in case you haven’t seen it yet, please check out ROK’s Environmental App,
RainHarvest.


Happy mapping,

EP

Mission: Esri’s Climate Resilience App Challenge? Complete!

Emma Paz - Wednesday, June 04, 2014
What a great feeling it is to finalize a project and click “Submit.” Sigh, relief!

Here at ROK, we just completed Esri’s latest contest, the 2014 Climate Resilience App Challenge and we’re very excited about having the opportunity to develop a brand new, environmentally-conscious web application--RainHarvest. Given the nature of the Challenge, RainHarvest’s purpose is to integrate spatial GIS data and produce a simple, visual, and spatially-based “calculator” interface that can help users plan for water conservation at their homes and/or work-places by using rain barrels. To build the ArcGIS Server app, we used Esri’s ArcGIS API for JavaScript and configured Bootstrap (for templates, search here) with HTML, JQuery and Dojo. Not only was this project a lot of fun to create, but we hope it can be of contribution to our local, Charleston community and to our growing goals for sustainability.

More on the app’s architecture in an upcoming blog post.

Happy mapping,
EP

GIS Preparation When Transferring to a Cloud ArcGIS for Desktop Solution

Jay Fowler - Monday, June 02, 2014

Time, thought, and anxiety are common investments when an organization undergoes infrastructure / architecture changes that affect their GIS. So why have you gone through the aforementioned experience? Often times change must occur due to hardware maintenance, upgrades, additions, or movement. Another common factor causing change to an organization's GIS relates to the software itself.  Your organization may be going through change because of version lock, legacy systems, software updates, or the need to apply necessary service packs.

                Recently, I sat down with a client to kick off the process of transferring  their organization's GIS off of in-house computers where collaboration was minimal to a Cloud GIS platform. This platform is set up specifically to allow for data sharing between GIS users VIA an Enterprise Geodatabase, the entire organization VIA ArcGIS Online, and finally public users VIA ROK hosted map services and our standard web GIS data viewer: GoMaps.

                 I want to share the major steps one should consider when transitioning to a cloud based GIS solution.  First off, Esri licenses will be migrating to the cloud so it is important to inventory and migrate your entire GIS during a transition period. This transition period allows you to confirm that you have what you need in the cloud to perform day to day workflows.  It allows you to improve data quality and reduce redundant datasets (particularly if you happen to have a few folders of good old shapefiles laying around). Finally it can allow your organization to upgrade to the latest and greatest version of Esri's ArcGIS for desktop, working out any kinks before diving in head first. Below is a general list of procedures for transitioning:

Set up an inventory of custom Toolboxes

Set up an inventory of all currently used MXDs (this is a great time to ditch those old MXDs that you never use)

Set up an inventory of all of the GIS features used by those MXDs and possibly used in any other workflows

Create a File Geodatabase that will mimic the Geodatabase you will use in the cloud. This is the perfect time to move away from using shapefiles for primary GIS functions and to employee an Enterprise Geodatabase.  Use the data inventory and this staging Geodatabase to do the following:

Rename datasets where desired

Take note of coordinate systems

Assign preliminary GIS roles

Based on GIS roles and coordinate systems, create datasets within the staging File Geodatabase. The datasets will help facilitate setting up versioning and assigning user roles

Reduce redundant datasets


Data mining?

Emma Paz - Thursday, May 22, 2014
Whether you’re new to GIS or are a seasoned user, do you ever find yourself wondering what kind of projects you could dabble in, if only you had more data? Data of all kinds? While “pretend” data certainly has its value in providing good practice in learning the ins and outs of GIS tools, the truth is there is nothing more powerful than working with real data--that which you know has actual significance. As such, one relatively new source of government data available to the public and worth exploring is data.gov. With close to 105,000 datasets published to the site, you’ll find a variety of geospatial data in a variety of formats: JSON, shapefiles, spreadsheets, and others. Alternatively, you could also start researching major U.S. cities like New York. You’ll be surprised at the volume and quality of spatial data this particular powerhouse has compiled and published. And, just in case you haven’t already accessed the ESRI Basemaps that are available through both ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Desktop (after you sign in to your ArcGIS Online account), you should definitely check these out.

Happy mapping,
EP

Parcel Fabric Training Announced for March 2014

Carey Jenkins - Thursday, February 13, 2014

ROK is pleased to announce 2014’s Parcel Fabric Training in Charleston, SC. To make sure you are getting the most out of ArcGIS Server 10.1, we will be hosting a training class in conjunction with Panda Consulting in Charleston, SC  March 18-20.  Frank Conkling, of Panda Consulting, will be instructing the Parcel Fabric class. 

The three day Parcel Fabric Training covers the following main areas: 

Day One covers the fundamentals of the Parcel Fabric structure and its inner workings. During Day One we examine how the various components fit together and help to maintain information critical to Parcel Mapping. We will look at the points, lines, polygon and control sub layers and the ways in which we control the location and accuracy of the parcels. We also include a review of associated layers and applying least squares adjustments to the Parcel Fabric. 

Day Two examines your existing parcel data structure and we develop a Parcel Fabric design that can maintain your current information while taking advantage of the Parcel Fabric. We develop a staging geo database and process to convert your data and convert a portion of your data into this structure. By the end of Day Two, you will gain a good understanding of the transition process and be able to begin the conversion at your site.

Day Three
 delves into the daily workflow of using the Parcel Fabric for parcel maintenance. We review how to best implement a Parcel Fabric while continuing to maintain your existing systems serving maps to the general public and other Departments. We also review and perform parcel maintenance workflows using the Parcel Fabric maintenance tools.

*The training includes the initial conversion of 1,000 polygons during Day 2 of the training.  Inquire for additional conversions.

For more information, contact us or call 888-898-3404 x 2.

 

Mapping Capacity grows with ArcGiS Online and GOMaps

Carey Jenkins - Wednesday, November 20, 2013

We are pleased to share our client’s experience regarding GOMaps and ArcGIS Online.  Through the use of two new mapping services, Association of Central Oklahoma Governments has greatly enhanced its ability to provide dynamic maps and data to both member local governments and the public at large.

ACOG serves as a clearinghouse of regional data and these new tools – GoMaps and ArcGIS Online – tremendously streamline the process of generating interactive maps from a wealth of data and informational assets.

GoMaps

GoMaps is an online application that consolidates ACOG’s data such as transportation, land use, public safety, urban planning data and aerial photography into one GIS resource. Developed using ArcGIS, GoMaps features a range of tools that allow users to utilize ACOG data to build and share their own maps using any variety of the available layers including regional transit routes; bike routes; traffic counts; fire, law enforcement and ambulance service areas; school districts; municipal boundaries and snow routes.

Not only does GoMaps allow users to toggle data layers to create custom maps, but users can also extract and download data in varying formats – including shapefiles – for greater flexibility and use across other platforms. In addition, the application is loaded with interactive tools that allow users to create custom feature selections or queries using the parcel or address search features. 

You can find ACOG’s GoMaps application at acogmaps.org.

ArcGIS Online

Esri’s new online subscription service, ArcGIS Online, is a giant leap forward in the world of online GIS. Now, organizations such as ACOG already using Esri software products can build interactive maps in a number of minutes that can be shared worldwide. Esri has taken on the role of maintaining the tools and functionality of the application so that users can focus on what they know best – their data – rather than the behind-the-scenes web development. With ArcGIS online, ACOG staff can take any dataset and publish it on the fly as a data or map service available to share with other users (publicly or permission-based) as it is completely self-contained in an application with built-in tools for data editing and analyses.

Starting this fiscal year, ACOG has subscribed to this new service in order to increase project or program-based mapping services. This service extends the GIS data sharing capacity of this agency by providing a quick mechanism for staff to build a map from a variety of sources already published in the cloud or uploading it directly from their computer. Since ACOG has partnered with ROK to serve as a host for their own GoMaps application and map services, ACOG staff already has a number of map layers that have been published to the cloud immediately available for mash-up. Applications can be fined tuned for land use data, traffic crash analyses or even as a forum for collecting member suggested changes to the federal functional classification system for roads.

The staff has already published a series of demographic maps with data that the agency uses in the long range transportation planning process. These maps have been published using ArcGIS online and embedded in the website, but the source of the data on the maps comes from multiple live sources. To view ACOG’s suite of ArcGIS maps available now, please visit: http://acog.maps.arcgis.comThis blog post was written by Darla Hugaboom, Program Coordinator – Long Range Planning at ACOG. 

Why host your GIS data in a cloud?

Yvonne Jones - Monday, October 29, 2012
 

Hello folks! Yvonne Jones here, Marketing Manager, with ROK. For this week's update we have decided to pick the brain of our CTO Jason Harris and discuss his thoughts on GIS hosting and cloud services!

 

YJ: Good Morning Jason. We are very excited to hear your thoughts on this very hot and trending topic!

 

JH: Good Morning Yvonne, great to be here.

 

YJ: Let's jump right in to the thick of things and start off with, why is a cloud hosted GIS solution important?

JH: It is funny, when I first heard the term 'Cloud Computing' many years ago, I said to myself 'This just means a server that's sitting somewhere outside of your building, it just a new buzzword that the industry is pushing'.  It didn’t take me long to realize just how wrong I was. It is all about data redundancy, security, speed, scalability, and optimal use of available computing power.  GIS, like other industries, can take advantage of these real world benefits right now. All industries and organizations should want to serve their data faster, more securely, and of course less expensively - and using the Cloud to serve geographic data and services should be no exception.


YJ: How does one make an informed decision in regards to what program to choose?

JH: As the industry continues to mature, we are given more and more options when it comes to serving GIS through the cloud.  There are many factors to consider when choosing a vendor or service.  The very first thing I discuss when making recommendations to folks is how hands on do you want to be?  Many people opt to use a service such as Amazon EC2, where you 'rent' an entire server in which you must administer from start to finish. From licensing, to publishing maps, server maintenance, etc.  Everything.  It is your server and you are ultimately responsible for it.  It is not a role that some folks want to take on though.  There can be some budgetary issues because the cost for this service can vary quite a bit from month to month due to bandwidth demand, extra CPU cycles, etc. You pay for that server even if it sits idle for hours. For the very high volume and demanding map services, along with the right personnel administer it, this option works well. 

For folks that wish to take a more hands-off approach, the latest offering from Esri called ArcGIS Online is an excellent choice.  It allows non technical users the ability to quickly and easily publish their maps and data to web using the power of the Esri hosted cloud.  Simple web maps can be easily configured from a wealth of ready to use templates - and then shared within your organization, or the world.  There can be some downsides to this service, mainly the limited ability to utilize the more advanced features of ArcGIS Server. ArcGIS online is a 'metered' solution meaning you pay for what you use - which can be both good and bad.   As your monthly usage can vary widely, these situations can be difficult to budget for.   Overall, if you are looking to get your feet wet in 'Cloud Hosted GIS' and looking to easily share your data, then ArcGIS Online is a great option.

Then there is a hybrid type of cloud solution, which I like to call the 'Personalized Cloud'.  In this scenario, you partner with an existing company, such as ROK, to host GIS data and map services for you on their cloud.  This approach allows you to be hands on, while maintaining all the benefits of the cloud infrastructure - such as scalability and redundancy.  In addition, the full power of Esri's ArcGIS Server is exposed.  However, you get one more very important benefit - the expertise of a dedicated team backing you up. Managing servers and dealing with intricacies of serving spatial data can be time consuming.  When you have a talented team that is there to help, it can make all the difference.  Using this approach allows you to focus on your core competencies, and leave the heavy-lifting and server maintenance to others. 


YJ: Wow. Jason that is a pretty lengthy answer, could you narrow it down to the single most important point?

JH: Well Yvonne, it really all comes down to the economics of scalability. Some options use the 'metered' pricing tier, while others, such as ROK, use a fixed price.  The very first thing that we do here at ROK is to talk to the customer.  We are all developers at heart and understand what it takes to successfully launch a service or new web app.  So, in these initial discussions, we get a good feel for the requirements and target audience.  This lets us estimate out the resources needed and determine a fixed monthly price that won’t vary - and one that the customer is comfortable with.  Let us look at this scenario - Suppose you are hosting an emergency management application during hurricane season along the gulf coast of Florida. As a hurricane approaches, more and more citizens use these hosted services to, for example determine an evacuation zone.  This scenario would sharply raise your monthly bill, since more and more 'credits' were used.  Again, as we discussed before, this can be a budget concern if using the metered approach.  The good news is that service is not susceptible to this rapidly increasing load.  The cloud is able to quickly scale up, allot additional bandwidth as needed - all to effectively serve your GIS services.



 YJ: Ok, so you spent a good time on how but now tell us why to
 choose a hosted GIS solution.

JH: We are all expected to do more with less these days.  No matter which approach you take, the benefits of utilizing a cloud hosted GIS are compelling.  Taking into consideration a lower total cost of ownership, server uptime/redundancy, scalability, along with far fewer management headaches, moving your GIS to the cloud just makes sense.

 

YJ: You heard it best from our resident CTO. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us here or contact Jason Harris at jharris@roktech.net. 

Need Help with Your ELA (Enterprise License Agreement)?

Carey Jenkins - Saturday, July 28, 2012
As a strategic partner of eGroup, we have expanded our ArcGIS Cloud offerings to include Infrastructure and/or Desktop as a service. These GIS services enable clients to efficiently integrate their enterprise software with ROK GIS solutions, products, and services.

Are you a small business or local government and have an Enterprise License Agreement(ELA) with Esri? Are you short on the resources to get this implemented? Are you struggling with:
-IT Resources?
-Hardware, Servers, bandwidth, etc.?
-Application Map Services?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then ROK Full Service GIS can assist you with your ELA. ROK Full Service GIS can take your licensing and host it on our cloud, providing you a remote access through Citrix. This frees you up to continue with your day-to-day activities, such as editing and updating your data.

ROK Full Service GIS offers you peace of mind by providing:
-All IT Infrastructure
-Backup/Data disaster recovery (eGroup)
-40 years GIS experience which can assist you with data conversion, migration, configuration, upgrades of all service packs. By allowing us to help you with your Geographic Information System needs, we allow you to more effectively focus on your core competencies and day-to-day jobs.

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