Sunday, October 28, 2012

ArcGIS for Home Use

In August my 1-year subscription for my ArcGIS for Home Use license expired.  For those of you not familiar with the program, it's something ESRI started back in 2011 with the release of ArcGIS 10.0.  For $100 a year you could get a 'home use' license for ArcView 10.0 and a whole raft of useful extensions - virtually every ESRI add-on that would work with ArcView.  At the time I said it was one hell of a bargain, and it still is.

The software can only be used for individual ArcGIS skill development and maintenance, although limited use to support non-profit causes is allowed.

But with the release of ArcGIS 10.1 ESRI has sweetened the deal.  The ArcGIS for Home Use program gives you an annual license not for basic old ArcView, but for the new top-of-the-line product from ESRI - ArcGIS for Desktop Advanced!  

(In case you didn't get the memo, the old ArcGIS license level designations that have been around for decades - ArcView, ArcEditor and ArcInfo - are no more with ArcGIS 10.1.  Now it's ArcGIS for Desktop Basic (ArcView), Standard (ArcEditor) and Advanced (ArcInfo)).  

In addition to ArcGIS for Desktop Advanced (OK, I'll say it once and be done with it - ESRI's new naming conventions are a kludge) you get almost the whole suite of extensions.  The list is impressive:

  • 3D Analyst
  • Data Interoperability
  • Data Reviewer
  • Geostatistical Analyst
  • Network Analyst
  • Publisher
  • Schematics
  • Spatial Analyst
  • Tracking Analyst
  • Workflow Manager

That's almost the whole shebang.  If memory serves, any extensions not included have dependencies on ArcGIS for Server so wouldn't be much use anyway.

Any way you slice or dice it, $100/year for this software is a heck of a deal, particularly when you consider that if you are a geospatial professional you should be able to deduct the $100 subscription fee come tax time (disclaimer here - I ain't a tax lawyer and I don't play one on TV).

So how big of a system hog is ArcGIS for Desktop Advanced?  (Grrrrrr.... that naming convention again.  I know, I know, I promised.)  Actually it isn't too bad.  I was going to wait a few months to renew my subscription until I could scrape up enough money for a new home desktop system.  My old Compaq Presario (Windows 7 (64-bit), 500 gig HD and 3 gig of RAM) is getting long in the tooth and I really, really want one of those slick Dell XPS 27" systems.  Can you imagine stream digitizing on that baby?!  Well, reality intrudes.  It'll probably be well after tax time before I can afford one and while I really like Windows 8, ESRI is warning all ArcGIS users off of the new OS until they certify its compatibility.  So I bit the bullet, renewed earlier this week and got the software up and running on my old Compaq a few days ago.

Now, I won't go into ArcGIS 10.1 nuts and bolts functionality, that's not what this blog post is about.  We've been using 10.1 both beta, pre-release and final release at work for over 6 months and its good software.  There are some stability/functionality issues that are slated to be fixed in Service Pack 1 due out this week, but overall it works as advertised.  I'll just say that 10.1 runs fine on my old Compaq.  Yes performance could be snappier, but remember I've only got 3 gig of RAM (soon to be upgraded to a whopping 4 gig - all the motherboard will support).

What I particularly like about 10.1 is its better integration with the free version of ArcGIS Online.  ArcGIS 10.0 kina' sorta' worked with ArcGIS Online but 10.1 is much better.  In particular, basemap services pulled from ArcGIS Online seem to work much smoother.  You are still a slave to bandwidth when using these basemap services, but if you've got one of the mainstream broadband providers (we use Comcast) you should be OK.  

ESRI is also making significant changes to their imagery basemap services.  They are aggressively acquiring new high resolution imagery, have made the metadata directly queryable (is that a word?)  in ArcGIS and provide the imagery royalty free.  ESRI must be writing some big checks to the imagery companies.

Basemap imagery coverage of Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta.  Note the
metadata window showing the date acquired, the provider, accuracy
and resolution (in meters).  This shot shows a Korean Airlines 747
taxiing for takeoff from Concourse E.  Cool stuff, eh?

I guess you can tell by now I'm a big fan of ESRI's ArcGIS for Home Use program.  If you read back through this blog you'll figure out that I can be quick to heap criticism on ESRI for their foibles and misfires.  But I'm equally quick to heap praise where praise is due, and this is one of those times ESRI deserves praise.  If you are a geospatial professional or an amateur with a strong interest in GIS then this program is for you.

 So just what does a geospatial geek do to test his new installation of ArcGIS for Desktop Advanced 10.1?  Why, he digitizes all the hydrology in his neighborhood, that's what!

As my kids tell me, I'm such a geek!


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