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Autodesk geography tool goes open source

Developing mapping software? Autodesk plans to release a handy coordinate conversion tool as open-source software.

Autodesk on Tuesday announced it will release as open-source software a tool that can convert geographic coordinate data from one format to another. If you're not a map nut, that's the challenge one might encounter switching, for example, from latitude and longitude to Universal Transverse Mercator--or from geocentric latitude to geodetic latitude, for that matter.

The software, acquired from Mentor Software and used within Autodesk products already, supports more than 3,000 coordinate systems, the company said. Norm Olsen, Mentor's founder and the programmer who created and supported the transformation technology, will be a senior software engineer at Autodesk.

Ultimately, the company hopes for faster software development through the open-source move. "We expect there to be a few dozen core programmers who will work with the coordinate system code acquired from Mentor, and, ultimately, many hundreds of thousands of users," the company said in a statement.

The software will be released under the LGPL (Lesser General Public License), as with previous Autodesk open-source moves. The LGPL permits software to be linked tightly to proprietary projects. The company plans to release it as open-source software by the end of 2007 after ensuring the code is documented and organized properly.