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Jun 17, 2013

All About Background Maps in JMP 9: NASA Server Lost in Space?

If you followed my series of blog posts on background maps in JMP 9, you may have read the blog post titled, All About Background Maps in JMP 9: NASA Server and Web Map Service. In that blog post, I discussed two of the options for background maps that use a Web Mapping Service (WMS) to retrieve maps. One of the choices is a WMS server supported by NASA.

However, if you have JMP 9 and try to use the NASA option for background maps now, you will find that no map appears in the background. If you check the JMP log, you will see the message: "Unknown error while attempting to retrieve maps from WMS server." Recently NASA decided to stop supporting full WMS capabilities. So the NASA option for background maps in JMP 9 no longer functions.

But NASA has not bailed on us completely. The WMS server is not just another piece of space junk. It is still running and does support limited WMS functionality. The WMS functionality that it does support is more restrictive and requires the WMS requests to conform to a different standard than before. Unfortunately, it means having to make some code changes in JMP to make it function again. In fact, that is what I have done for the next maintenance update for JMP 9. So while the NASA option will no longer function properly in JMP 9.0 (or 9.0.1), it will return this spring in the 9.0.2 maintenance release. You will once again be able to produce background maps like the following.

These two maps show the impact site of a meteorite referred to as the Barringer Crater. It was named after Daniel Barringer, who was the first to suggest that it was created by the impact of a meteorite. The crater is located between Flagstaff and Winslow, Arizona. In the image above, the ridgeline of Diablo Canyon is visible to the west of the impact site, running in a north-south direction.

This situation does highlight one of the limitations of the WMS option for background maps. We (JMP) have no control over the WMS servers, and they can come and go as they please. You may have read another one of my blog posts in the series, titled All About Background Maps in JMP 9: WMS Explorer Add-In. That blog post describes a JMP add-in that I wrote called the WMS Explorer. The add-in helps you explore different WMS servers, and it comes with a pre-populated list of "known" WMS servers for you to explore. Some of the servers on that list have also stopped working since the release of the add-in.

Could it be that my blog posts are so popular and that so many people are using the add-in and hitting these WMS servers that the tidal wave of requests is overwhelming the servers and causing their demise? Sure, let's go with that! In any event, I think it is time for me to release another version of the add-in, with an updated list, including a few new servers that I have discovered. So don't forget to check the JMP File Exchange for this update coming soon, as well as many other new and updated JMP add-ins.

There are many WMS servers available on the Internet, and some of them have been very stable and continue to operate. So I hope you will continue to enjoy the WMS feature in JMP 9.