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July 4, 2006

IGN Portal – A revolution in satellite imagery…but when ?

Filed under: France,Software — stephane @ 10:22 pm

There has been lot of press (in France) recently about the IGN showcasing products to compete with Google Map and later Google Earth. The IGN portal was not accessible for weeks because it was apparently hammered by users (probably 2 request /s). The IGN team was working hard to make it accessible again. So in exclusivity I took some screenshots that will reveal the excellence of this product, the revolutionary interface and the amazing map resolution and content available to everyone.

Google, watch out, the IGN is there.

Let’s first start by comparing the Eiffel tower:

Eiffel tower by IGN
Eiffel tower by IGN
Eiffel Tower by Google Map
Eiffel tower by Google Map

As you can see, Google Map offers a much better resolution approximately 4.5x better than IGN. Not mentioning vivid colors compared to a washed out photo.

Let’s move on some more funny things. It is of course a matter of national security to hide some military areas from public exposure. IGN complies fully by hiding even the most stupid areas despite the atrocious resolution. Moving on close to Brest and Ile Longue in Brittany. It is the logistic base for nuclear submarines located approximately at 48.3N 4.5W.

IGN resolution is extremely poor but apparently that was worth hiding it. Note all the other white patches around which is either the sea or military areas such as nuclear missile facility, port, French Oceanic Force HQ and so on. Not sure what you could see with such a poor resolution, but having worked in the defense industry before and witnessed a C tutorial which was filed as ‘classified’, I imagine that it is indeed worth classifying other irrelevant things.

Ile Longue by IGN
Ile Longue by IGN
Zoom Ile Longue by IGN
Zoom on the submarine port area

Let’s point Google Map to it. Nice resolution.

Ile Longue by Google Map
Zoom Ile Longue by Google Map

Let’s zoom further to see this submarine:

Extra Zoom Ile Longue by Google Map

As we can see, that was really worth for the IGN doing such patchy work to hide poor information considered what you can get (for free) somewhere in Google Map…as for what you can get by paying publicly, well that’s just about a 0.5m/2ft resolution.

Now, let’s move on to nicer areas, Noumea in New Caledonia located in the Pacific Ocean:

Noumea as seen by IGN portal. No satellite/aerial image, the only one available is a great road map available as a lossfull jpg bitmap full of artifacts:

Extra Zoom Ile Longue by Google Map

Noumea as seen by Google Map (you can zoom further of course, and clearly see Ilot Amedee, Anse Vata, etc…):

Extra Zoom Ile Longue by Google Map

Congratulations. IGN is really competing at the same level with Google Map. You can expect a Google Earth competitor in autumn 2006 and a webservice API in 2007.

That’s seriously embarrassing to produce such poor service and content while the IGN is supposed to be the cartography authority in France. Note that I’m not displaying here what you can get by switching from aerial image to street map. It is indeed a severely compressed bitmap which at some level is something that is really food for vectorization. That’s extremely poor content on the street level compared to viamichelin or mappy.

Apparently due to the “success” (ie the portal was down for several weeks), IGN will “think” about investing a bit more in the future potentially maybe not yet now.

NB: The webservice API implementation is apparently in the public competitive dialogue phase between IT companies, so expect a really bad implementation in the future and a late delivery over budget. :)

There is a video here which shows what to expect from in the 3D version, which looks pretty nice, but unfortunately it would be surprising if that could scale. In any case as everything is done by IT companies through stupid public call for tenders, it is unlikely they will get any expertise at all…in anything.

June 7, 2006

Thalys 10-year anniversary: Got 2 round-trip tickets and Champagne

Filed under: France — stephane @ 11:09 pm

I went to The Hague (Den Haag) from Paris at the last minute via the Thalys for a meeting and ended up being offered 2 round-trips Thalys tickets and a small bottle of Laurent Perrier Champagne as my seat number was picked up for the 10-year anniversary of Thalys.

That was worth the pain of waking up at 04:45 and come back at 21:30. (It takes ~3h30 to travel from Paris to The Hague). The meeting was productive and I don’t mind being offered Champagne and free tickets from time to time without even participating to a lottery :mrgreen:

April 2, 2006

Back to Paris

Filed under: France,Travels — stephane @ 2:22 pm

I made my way back to Paris after 3 months off. Looking back I’m quite happy about how things went during this time off. I had a great time, learned new things especially in the area of human physiology and freediving, been able to dive in great places, got my PADI Nitrox and PADI DiveMaster certification, took pictures of whale sharks, met incredibly nice people and had stocks performing more than 100% in the meantime.

Not that I needed to go back absolutely to work, especially as my 6-month of non-competition clause is not over yet, but I felt like working again on new challenges.

November 29, 2005

France public debt rising to 2000 billion euros

Filed under: France,General — stephane @ 9:16 pm

Thierry Breton, Ministry of Economy and Finances, revealed today that France public debt is worse than the already huge 1167 billions euros that everyone had in mind and published according to the Maastrich Treaty. Indeed, the report from the Direction Générale de la Comptabilité Publique was apparently not doing his best to make it visible at the initial report but conveniently wrote 100 pages later all the accounting related to the retirement of civil servants (which is only to be accounted as of January 1, 2006; they say in the initial pages there was not any agreement about it to have it included, even though they say that it does not make any sense from an accounting point of view to not include it). If you want to take a look, it is mentioned p. 119 of the 168-page report of the 2004 report (French – PDF). So we have to add a rough estimate of 900 billions for retirement. So that means that each citizen’s share of this debt is about 34,500 euros.

As a comparison, the US public debt is a bit more than 8 trillions dollars, which means about 27,200 dollars per citizen.

It is interesting to read report 413(98-99) (French) that has been published by the Senat about the evolution of the French public debt between 1980 and 1997 and a comparison with other European countries.

As an indication, the 2004 revenue taxes from the 34-million French taxpayers only manage to pay the public debt interests.

For an understanding of the French Civil Service , please refer to the Wikipedia article.

November 25, 2005

Jack Welch about the French entrepreneurship

Filed under: Business,France,International — stephane @ 9:10 pm

On thursday, the financial newspaper La Tribune published an interesting interview of Jack Welch. Jack Welch has been the CEO of General Electric for 20 years and named Manager of the Century in 1999. I will try to roughly translate and sum up what was written in the article because it is much much longer (3/4 of a 4-column page). I wish I could find the original interview though, this seems to be taken from the New York Times Syndicate.

He was in Paris during the recent car burning fest in the suburbs, and was later interviewed by a swedish journalist who asked him what should the french goverment do ? and what should other european governments do to avoid similar problems ?

His answer was along the line of: the government must work with private companies to create jobs. Not smoke-screen jobs in the public sector, but real jobs in new companies. This can be done with the help of a fiscal and social law that is encouraging and retributing risk and investment

Apparently the journalist replied that he was dead-wrong and that to solve this problem, the government should give more money to jobless people.

Jake Welch replied that no-one will probably ever know the reason why those people were burning cars, but what is
sure, is that people looking for career evolution and financial security rarely burn cars. Those riots expressed anger and frustration, and even though freedom and dignity play a major role in hope, meaningful work does too when it offers opportunities.

In France, 20% of employees work in the public sector and 76% of people aged 15-30 years are attracted to it.
During the last 35 years, from the Wall Street Journal, the US economy created 57 millions of new jobs while Europe created only 4 millions. Why ? Because laws make investment very costly, and in France or Germany there are very few fiscal incentives for risky investments. Social laws also make it difficult to lay out employees which is a reason why companies are very cautious when it comes to hiring. (and….are….so…slow…at….taking….decisions)

Jake Welch also makes a point that this situation leads to something that starts to spread everywhere: risk aversion.
The essence of business is to manage risks, not to run away from them.

What Europe needs, is a change in fiscal and social laws to allow more flexibility. Government and companies must work together to create jobs – real jobs – . Mentalities must also evolve so that they are able to take more risks. Entrepreneurs must come out and start building the future. Yes, some of them will fail. But a lot will succeed. And so will Europe.

What a breath of fresh air to read this, thank you Jake !

There is such a gap between Jake Welch analysis and our political leaders that it is shocking. Politics excel in rhetoric and in running away from responsabilities. What we miss is a (wo)man of actions.. but I’m afraid this is way too difficult. From what I can see, every political party just do his best to to slow down or cancel what another is doing.

All this reminds me of a private conversation I had with Stefan Bodewig during the same car burningfest, even though our two countries are so close and have similar social laws, there is already quite some difference already in their application and how we are so..risk averse, here in France.

Anyway, Jake Welch, I will vote for you !

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