New technology is great, but sometimes presents us with some challenges. 64-bit computing is giving some great gains in performance, but has provided some unique challenges as well. The primary challenge is that 64-bit architecture and the older 32-bit architecture have some interoperability issues (interoperability challenges seem to be the GIS professionals constant companion), and applications on either architecture have some problems communicating. Microsoft has worked around this by providing an emulator to allow 32-bit applications to run on 64-bit systems, which is why we can still run most of our old 32-bit programs. One of the areas that has been later in development has been drivers for Microsoft’s Open Database Connectivity (ODBC). These ODBC drivers allow Windows to serve up, or publish different database for applications to use. The drivers for Microsoft’s Jet database (The engine used by Microsoft Access) were unavailable.
What difference does this make to the GIS user? Well many of the datasets we use rely on ODBC to make the data available to our software. AutoCAD Map 3D used these ODBC drivers to access data through FDO as well as Map data links (link templates). In 32-bit versions of AutoCAD Map 3D, we can drag an Access (Jet) database or Excel file onto the Map Explorer and have it become a Data Source that I can view the data or use it to link to AutoCAD objects. Users who have moved to 64 bit systems (such as myself), could no longer do this. We also couldn’t use the FDO connectors to connect to many of our databases, as they were based on ODBC drivers as well. Microsoft released new drivers, and this made FDO connectors available, but the link templates were still unavailable. That’s because the Link Templates rely on ODBC as well. AutoCAD Map has calls to the Microsoft Jet drivers to make the drag and drop possible. The problem is that Microsoft never released a 64-bit Jet driver (at least in name). Instead they have released the Office Access Connectivity Engine (ACE). The new drivers for ACE were available after the Map release so it wasn’t part of the 2011 release.
The good news is that you can load those drivers and use your Link Templates again. You can’t drag and drop, but you can manually create the links. You’ll have to manually establish the data set through ODBC, and then you can connect to the data in Map 3D. The Autodesk Map 3D support team has a blog with a link to the drivers, instructions, and a video on manually setting up the ODBC connection and connecting in Map.
Keep in mind, Microsoft has set the default install for Office to be 32-bit, so you need to make sure you select the 64-bit version to get the new drivers. When I first installed Office 2010, I accepted the defaults assuming it would load the 64-bit version. As I found out, with the 32-bit version of Office installed, you can’t install the drivers. In that case, you’ll need to uninstall the 32-bit version, and reinstall the 64-bit version of Office (or the drivers). I understand you can load the 64 bit drivers, and then reinstall your 32-bit version of Office (2010 or previous version) – I haven’t tried it since I have made the jump to Office 2010. Let me know how it goes if you try it.
Autodesk has released the new Subscription Advantage Packs for the 2011 products. These Packs give some additional tools to the software users and provide a little extra value to those users on subscription. Last year, we got cloud file capability with AutoCAD Map 3D. The Packs are downloadable fromt he Scubscription Center, and are now available.
In addition to the added AutoCAD tools which my coworker Isaac Harper blogs about, one of the tools I’m looking forward to most is the new FDO providers. There is a new FDO Provider for ArcGIS allows direct, editable connections to Personal and File Geodatabases as well as SDE connections. These data stores are becoming increasingly popular, particularly as portable GIS data stores. The new FDO Provider opens up more possibilities for managing spatial data without conversion right inside AutoCAD Map 3D (or Civil 3D as well).
Katie Jacques from Autodesk has posted an item on the new Installation & Licensing forum listing some new videos for installing Map 3D 2011. It covers network and stand alone installs, creating deployments and post install tasks. So if you’re planning your upgrade, it could prove to be quite helpful.
Katie Jaques, the GIS Technical Lead in Product Support for Autodesk, is sharing some details on the new AutoCAD Map3D 2011 release - new FDO providors, and one I’m really looking forward to – Windows 7 compatibility. I made the move a few weeks ago, and I’d like to get out of the Virtual XP mode.
The new 2011 version (or is that “oh-eleven”) of AutoCAD Map 3D has some unique new features.
Some are not visible, such as Autodesk reworking the memory usage and making it more efficient, to visible items, such as moving the Group and Display Order toggle to it’s own place on the Task Pane.
The most substantive impact came with the incorporation of the tools to read LIDAR, or point cloud data. Subscription users got a sneak peak at this with the Subscription Advantage Pack (SAP) late last year. I commented on this in my blog right after last year’s AU.
Now the tools to display and work with point clouds are built right into the ribbon, and have been combined into the Data Connect button on the Task Pane (in the SAP, you had to go to the tools button to work with indexes before you could add point cloud data from the Data Connect button).
When I first tried to use the add point cloud data option, I struggled with adding it because I didn’t realize I had to first go to the tool bar to generate an index first. Now it’s a little more intuitive.
One of the primary applications driving the use of Map 3D was the capability to manage projections and coordinate systems. You can establish a coordinate system for your current drawing and bring in drawings or data sets from other coordinate systems and Map 3D will project them into the current drawing’s coordinate system. Along with this is the useful capability to “track” coordinates. The Track tool allows you to identify (or digitize) the location of the cursor in a different coordinate system. For example, I may want to get the latitude and longitude of radio transmitters for a FCC permit, but my mapping data is in a UTM system. I can use the tracking tool to capture the latitude and longitude without having to reproject the data. Likewise, if someone gives me a location from a GPS that is in lat-long and I want to add it to my UTM-based map, I can use the tracking tool to place the point. Well, in 2011, the tracking tool has been expanded to add multiple systems. You cann add additional “trackers” to the dialog box to get several on there as once. This can be really helpful to some of us working in several coordinates all the time (such as UTM, State Plane and Lat-Longs).
One new set of features dosen’t really extend the software, but may make it easier for users to take advantage of the tools. There are a number of new “assistance features.” Right on the startup screen, there are links to videos for several tasks available.
That’s a short list. There’s a number of others, such as the ability to add grids and graticules, better overlay analysis (can handle a significant higher volume of features), and adding more capability to the Workflow tools (you can now add AutoCAD commands to your workflows).
So there’s some great reasons to look forward to making the transition. Not to mention all of the new AutoCAD features – Isaac Harper blogs about them here. See you on the other side!