At least I think it’s a bit deeper. I will not be worried about hitting my head in this pool.
I seem to be a lightening rod for questions these days. I apparently am faking it better than I thought. My niece came over the other day. She’s taken on a project and amazingly enough hasn’t had any GIS classes. As the GA URISA Education chair for a few more days that mostly horrified me….as me the mild-mannered GIS dude it completely horrified me. To me that is the equivalent of getting out of college and barely being able to turn on a computer (assuming your major has a component that will touch GIS).
Her project was simple enough…to me. To her it was a mountain. Two things needed to be done – generate random points and put those points on a GPS. I can do that in ArcGIS – at least the random point generator easy enough. I can load the data into a GPS several different ways. But I was bored and I…er we needed a challenge. A challenge that would get her close to finishing what she needed…and not going the ArcGIS route just yet.
I am currently a bit fascinated with Open Source GIS software….which you should be able to tell from the last few posts. I downloaded the OSSGeo4W installer from http://download.osgeo.org/osgeo4w/osgeo4w-setup.exe a few months back. Actually longer than that as I got to teach the Open Source GIS Workshop from URISA over the summer. Actually looking back over the year I’ve had two or three really good things that have happened. This being one of them.
I installed the basic setup on my niece’s computer. That basic setup gave her quite a few tools.
The best tool was QGIS – Quantum GIS. If you haven’t used it you should give it a try. It’s not ArcGIS. I consider that a good thing for now. If you’ve used ArcGIS it’s not going to be that hard to deal with. If you’ve never used any GIS – it’s not going to be that hard to deal with. QGOS 1.6 (Capiapo) was just released. For an open source project it’s quite robust. I actually used a search feature to pull in a WMS layer of Hamilton County TN in less than a minute. (I just searched for “WMS Tennessee” in the add WMS GUI).
In less than half an hour we had walked my street with a GPS unit. Used QGIS to download the data and symbolize it. Traced the empty lot at the end of the street and generated random points inside that lot. I have no doubt I ran through that too quickly and she will have questions. But the nice thing is I don’t have to worry about a 60 day timeout. At the end of this we will finish it up in ArcGIS. For all the niceties of Open Source GIS it still doesn’t make cartographically pleasing maps (In my opinion).
It does make me think though. A buffer is a buffer. Nodes are connected by a line. The science of GIS is the science – be it ESRI software or something else. I search for an answer…and really having more than one tool to get to that end point is a good thing…..Until I’m tossed out of the ESRI Business Partner Program for suggesting that. Hehe.
The real fun in all this…..I get to play the grumpy Uncle. The “just because we did it differently doesn’t make it any less right” Uncle if they are nuts enough to start asking questions on why she did it this way…..
At some point people are going to wise up and stop asking me questions.