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Why didn't they use NASA World Wind for Java?

Posted by fabriziogiudici on June 26, 2008 at 4:53 AM PDT

I've been just notified that the Italian Ministry for the Environment has just introduced a 3D viewer of italian cartography. The main features are: "fly over the terrain; fluid motion between two points; path tracking; popping up 2D maps related to the current point; simulating fog, sun, moon and stars; controlling the lighting model of the scene", etc....

Now, almost all of those features are already available in NASA World Wind for Java, which is free, open source, freely customizable, well designed, multi-platform and can be even run in an applet, without requiring the installation of an application. WWJ could have been an excellent platform to develop the Ministry's application upon.

In spite of that, they just made an application which is only distributed with a .msi installer: thus, it only works with Microsoft Windows. And I hope that the public administration has not paid once again a lot of public money for developing from scratch things that are mostly available for free.

PS I hope alto that the data are freely available by connecting with the server (but there's no mention about that), and in a documented format, so people can use alternate (and better) viewers. Going to read the documentation.


@samkass If the "it came first" criterium had to be always honored, no public administration in the world would be using Linux since Windows come first - note that I'm not a FLOSS fanatic: I'm not saying that every public administration should necessarily go with Linux, but do that only if there's a benefit. Now, given that a lot of administrations went Linux and they are happy with it, I think that in many cases there are really benefits. Now, nobody would see them if, as @miojo said, somebody wouldn't look around periodically and evaluate stuff. In second instance, I'm not saying that ESRI should be always killed in favour of WWJ-based stuff: it's a consolidated professional tool and you don't rewrite one from scratch in a matter of days. But as far as I understand, the tool that the Ministry has made available is somewhat aimed at a wider target than mere professionals (sort of "prosumer" tool) and forcing the requirement of an operating system is a kind of digital divide.

I can't say for sure, as I haven't looked at the Italian page, but my guess is that since ESRI is the gorilla in the market that they just went there first. That ESRI supports Java as an afterthought or not at all (depending on the task) is pushing a lot of people to the smaller packages like WWJ, but there's still many folks who use ESRI ArcGIS even just for viewing such data (and on which all the cartography data was probably processed in the first place).

The answer is quite simple: they [companies and governments] don't consider the research task of a Consultant as a real job. People don't like to pay someone to spend a week surfing online to find a tool that will provide all the requirements. This is bad, really bad.. I consider myself as a good "Open Source Technology Consultant" having the task of "online research" as my main task. But nobody consider that. Maybe we should notice to this problem rather than keep asking ourselves "why companies prefer to develop things from scratch than looking online for a ready-to-use tool/product" just m2c

I don't think there are country constraints once the license is ok - for instance, OpenOffice isn't european, but a lot of european public administrations are using it.

Simple. NASA isn't European and as an EU government you have to use European stuff.