Last day of ESRI class

The ESRI class is almost over. We're down to the last 2 of 16 lessons.

Today has been pretty boring for me. The instructor has been doing a great job, it's just that we're getting deeper into the details of managing a geodatabase. Since this is the first time I've ever actually worked with a geodatabase, the finer points are more or less lost on me. I can understand the concepts, but I have no frame of reference for applying them. In terms of practical knowledge, I don't even know enough to ask an intelligent question.

By way of contrast, the people from host agancy, the City of Hartford, really know their stuff. They've been to several ESRI classes, gone to the ArcGIS user conference, and work with an ArcGIS database regularly. It's clear that they have a good handle on this stuff and are really getting something out of this.

All in all, I file this experience under "pointless waste of time and money." I had a better time than I anticipated, and I now know something about ArcGIS geodatabases, but I really had no business attending this class in the first place. They should have sent someone with at least a basic knowledge of ArcGIS instead - or, at the very least, someone who isn't looking to jump ship at the first opportunity (and my supervisor does know I'm looking for work - I'm not trying to hide it).

So, to sum up, I did get something out of this experience and it was very nice to get out of the office for several days. But the benefit to my employer won't even come close to justifying the $1400 registration fee plus travel expenses. I really don't know what they were thinking.

ESRI class day 2 - boredom and web access

More live-blogging today. Unfortunately, it turns out that's the only kind I'll be doing until the class is over. I'm staying at the Crowne Plaza hotel, and while they offer WiFi service, they charge $10/day for it! That's actually worse than the $4/2-hour block that they charge for the AT&T WiFi at the Barnes & Noble back home. At that price, I could get 5 hours of service, and there's no way I'm going to be online that long here. Fortunately, the PCs in the training room for the class have web access, so I can at least check my e-mail.

Yesterday afternoon and this morning we got more into the details of managing ArcGIS geodatabases. Things like connection methods, authentication, data loading, management tools, "gotchas", and so forth. Basically, the stuff I will probably never need to know.

I'm actually a little ambivalent about this class so far. On the one hand, it's absolutely mind-numbing at times. It's not that the class is bad, it's just that it's getting into details that have absolutely no relevance for me.

On the other hand, it's actually very interesting in an academic sense. After all, we're talking about a system that scales up to clustered, multi-terabyte databases. The ArcGIS server runs under Windows, UNIX, and Linux and supports pretty much all the major DBMSs - Oracle, SQL Server, DB2, Informix, and there was even some talk of people using Postgress and Sybase. So we're really getting a closer look at the architecture of a very complex, high-end system. Plus our instructor has been around long enough that he can talk about how things have evolved over the years and the direction the architecture has taken. We're not just getting the tedious technical details, but some insight into the layers of the system, the APIs involved, and how everything interacts on various levels.

So as a case study of a major major information system, this class is actually quite interesting. However, it's really a class on managing geodatabases, not a case study on ArcGIS. So while the concrete details are putting me to sleep, the high-level stuff was definitely worth hearing. As a programmer, you tend to look at and read about things on more of a code-level. It's good to see how the "big boys" handle complicated design issues.

At the ESRI class

Well, here I am at Constitution Plaza in Hartford, Connecticut. I'm actually here on a business trip. My employer sent me to a training course with ESRI entitled Data Management in the Multiuser Geodatabase.

There are a few things to note about the very fact that I'm here. In the 6 years I've been with my current organization (which is far too long), this is the first time I've been on an out-of-state trip. In fact, it's the first time I've been on a trip that lasted longer than a day. It's also the first off-site paid training class I've been sent to. Kind of seems like a waste, given that if things things go well, I'll be able to get the hell out of here before I have a chance to put any of this to use.

As for the class itself, I have no real complaints so far. It's actually hosted by the City of Hartford IT Department, which has 2 people attending. The instructor, Jim, has been in the GIS business forever and has been working for ESRI for 14 years. He's really nice and seems pretty knowledgeable, so I'm actually enjoying the class so far. In particular, learning about the system architecture was kind of cool. Of course, I'll probably never put any of the stuff he's teaching us to use, but at least this gets me out of the office for a week.

One cool thing I've discovered is that Python is apparently one of the favored languages for automating ESRI's system. In fact, the lap machines we're using for the class actually have Python 2.4 interpreters installed on them. I don't know if we'll do any scripting in the class at all, but I just found that to be really cool.