[OSGeo-UK] RE: UK Digest, Vol 5, Issue 1

Joanne Cook j.cook at oxfordarch.co.uk
Tue Jun 24 04:19:45 EDT 2008

Hi Bill,

Many thanks for this- there's a lot to think about here! A short response to some of your questions:

1) GRASS is not a good place to start your investigation into open source GIS. It is very different to ArcGIS (and every other GIS package under the sun) and you do need some form of training before it makes any sense at all. However, you will almost certainly find QGIS (which actually includes the GRASS toolkit built in) and GvSIG much easier to use without training.

2) GRASS installation for windows has been, in the past, difficult, before you even get to using it. You had to use a linux emulator (so you are running a self-contained linux installation inside windows). It looks and feels completely different to windows, and requires you knowing a fair bit about the command line even to get started. WinGRASS is an improvement, but is still sometimes difficult to install, and requires some configuration. By using it on the stick, all of that is done for you, and if you want to work on different computers you just take the stick out of one and put it in the other- all your data comes with you and you don't have to go through the painful installation process. I should say that the installation gets easier with every release though.

If you're keen on GRASS, I would recommend the full manual- it does explain how it's all set out and makes it a lot easier. We might be able to arrange a training course- I certainly know someone who has run them in the past so I will have a think about that one.

3) The USB stick- if you haven't already got it you might want to try the latest version, which is 1.2- there is a patch to get you from version 1.1 to 1.2 on the site to save having to download it all over again and I can talk you through sorting that out if you need it.

4) Practical advice- it would be great if we could offer that kind of service. How that would work is slightly uncertain, because it could be very time-consuming for the people providing the service. We may have to differentiate between individuals requiring limited assistance (like yourself) or companies requiring detailed advice, but that's something else to think about.

5) Finally- the data- the biggest issue is that the basic mapping data just isn't there, unless you are affiliated with a university or council. However, we could provide advice on how to use openstreetmap data, and I certainly like your idea of a portal for other types of data, or at least links to where it might be found. 

Thanks again,


Joanne Cook
Senior IT Support and Development
Oxford Archaeology (North)
01524 880212

----- Original Message -----
From: "William Wilcox" <billwilcox at wilcox53.freeserve.co.uk>
To: uk at lists.osgeo.org
Sent: 23 June 2008 20:04:22 o'clock (GMT) Europe/London
Subject: [OSGeo-UK] RE: UK Digest, Vol 5, Issue 1

Hi Jo,

I hope you are well. I have been meaning to email you for some time and this
last email of yours has prompted me to do so.

I congratulate you regarding the USB GIS data stick. I downloaded it,
installed it onto a USB memory stick and it appears to work fine. However, I
understand that you have a few minor 'teething' problems with it. Also,
thanks for your advice regarding OS GIS programmes. I have tried QGIS,
GvSIG, Jump GIS and Grass GIS.

If I can explain my circumstances and experience so that you know my 'angle'
on OS. I use AutoCAD, SPSS, ArcGIS, MS Office, Paint Shop Pro, etc on a
regular basis as a professional Structural Engineer, Architect, Contract
Archaeologist and PhD student studying Landscape Archaeology. For example, I
learnt ArcGIS by enrolling on an MA course module at my university designed
for Environmental Scientists. Now whilst I do not consider myself to be a
computer 'Geek', I certainly do not consider myself to be computer
illiterate - probably above average when it comes to computers. I'm also
happy working within a Windows environment. 

The various OS GIS programmes you suggested all look and sound great.
However, they all appear to be typically written by programming experts for
use by other programming experts. In other words they are not as user
friendly (or should that be idiot friendly) or 'instinctive' as ArcGIS. I
know that I'm after an ArcGIS clone but it took me 1.5 hours just to work
out how to load an image in Grass GIS! I know that you included a manual on
your USB data stick (and GvSIG comes with an excellent manual) but I find
learning from a manual always difficult - possibly it's a man thing! Just
working out their terminology can be difficult and I do not always have the
time to 'plough' through a manual. If I was to ask you why can't I run Grass
GIS directly from my hard drive (as opposed to using your USB data stick)?
I'm sure you would have a good answer but you would probably have to resort
to 'Techno-Gabble' to explain it to me. Probably a lot of people feel like
me - so I load up this programme (which everybody says is great), I start it
up and think 'now what'? After 'fiddling' about and getting frustrated with
the programme, I finally give up and return to ArcGIS. It's like being given
a new car and not knowing how to drive! 

I therefore feel that in order to promote OS Geo we need to offer practical
advice on the use of such programmes. If we concentrate on one programme at
a time and run a practical (basic) course on that programme - to ensure that
by the end of the course all the students would go away and know how to use
its basic functions - I feel that this would advance our cause greatly.
Question - why do software companies give away (or sell at a reduced price)
certain software programmes to universities, colleges and schools? Answer -
so that when the students leave and want to purchase such a programme they
will inevitably choice that particular programme over other similar ones as
they already know it! So, may I be the first student to sign up for ANY
workshop, training day, etc to learn Grass (or similar) GIS - I would be
happy to pay! Leif ran a three day workshop at Southampton on various
computer aspects and it was great - I learnt so much! Your idea about a wiki
on the subject is also a very good one. I take it that you mean a 'help
section' for people to post queries and then experts can offer help and
advice on particular problems.  

Be assured that I'm fully behind OS Geo and all it stands for, so the above
is not attempting to knock it but to promote it. I'm personally interested
in the subject as I normally teach various aspects of archaeology at a site
in West Norfolk (I'm not doing it this year) as a volunteer and I'm
interested in teaching the use of computers in the subject (ie, CAD, GIS,
Web sources, etc). However, in order to do this I need to use OS software.
Further, I'm getting a bit fed up with using ArcGIS and ESRI. I'm always
having problems with the programme and they take for ever to sort them out -
speaking 'Techno-Babble'. Further, their protective attitude about licences
grates a bit - it's like working with MI5!

I started to think about your comment about lack of data. It is all very
well having these great programmes but without data they are of little use.
What about a wiki or data store for free datasets? People can upload them
for use by other members. Obviously a moderator could verify that each set
of data was actually free! This would not only promote OS Geo but offer a
'beginner' a starting place to find data. It would be a 'package' - an OS
programme and OS/free data with which to work with!
Anyway, I hope that the above gives you a few ideas and please remember me
for a Grass (or similar) GIS workshop (or if you just happen to hear of one
please let me know). I think that you are doing a great job with OS Geo and
if I can help in any way, please let me know,

Best wishes,

Bill Wilcox

-----Original Message-----
From: uk-bounces at lists.osgeo.org [mailto:uk-bounces at lists.osgeo.org] On
Behalf Of uk-request at lists.osgeo.org
Sent: 23 June 2008 17:00
To: uk at lists.osgeo.org
Subject: UK Digest, Vol 5, Issue 1

Send UK mailing list submissions to
	uk at lists.osgeo.org

To subscribe or unsubscribe via the World Wide Web, visit
or, via email, send a message with subject or body 'help' to
	uk-request at lists.osgeo.org

You can reach the person managing the list at
	uk-owner at lists.osgeo.org

When replying, please edit your Subject line so it is more specific
than "Re: Contents of UK digest..."

Today's Topics:

   1. Thoughts on what a local chapter could do (Joanne Cook)


Message: 1
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2008 15:27:03 +0100 (BST)
From: Joanne Cook <j.cook at oxfordarch.co.uk>
Subject: [OSGeo-UK] Thoughts on what a local chapter could do
To: uk <uk at lists.osgeo.org>
	<13520005.105791214231223858.JavaMail.root at mail.thehumanjourney.net>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=utf-8

Hi All,

After attending part of Suchith's excellent geoweb workshop last week, I
thought about a few things that a local chapter could promote, and I would
like people's thoughts on this.

1: One thing that came out of discussions with a few people there was that
they want advice on alternatives to various proprietary packages- not
because they want to move over to open source per se but because they want
to play around at home, or broaden their skill sets. I think it would be
handy to provide a forum where people could get impartial non-rabid advice
on how to achieve particular gis tasks with open source- or at least links
to good sources of information.

2: Companies considering the move to open source need something more
substantial in the way of advice. Something that comes up a lot in the
various discussion lists that I subscribe to is the need for good case
studies for companies. We could provide links to these, or articles about
the business case for open source, or write our own.

3: We need a list of places to promote our local chapter. I think a section
on the wiki would be handy, including all of the mailing lists, discussion
groups, websites, magazines where we could sensibly post articles, press
releases, conference notifications etc. I can start this off, but help would
be valuable.

4: At the meetup in May, the question was asked as to whether the local
chapter should promote free software or free extensions to proprietary
software (ie esri extensions). Looking through the mission statement of
OSGeo, and the guidelines for local chapters- this isn't really what OSGeo
is for. I also think it might muddy the waters somewhat- confusing free as
in speech with free as in beer. What do people think?

Finally- I am speaking on open source software at the AGI conference in
September, but will not be attending FOSS4G due to a lack of time and cash.
I know of one or two people who are going, but we will need someone to
report on the UK local chapter at that point. Ideally it would be good if we
could have the chapter officially formed by then, though I'm not sure if
that's really achievable, but whatever the state of the chapter it would be
nice if someone could stand up and say a few words on our progress this
year. If you're interested, let me know...

All the best


Joanne Cook
Senior IT Support and Development
Oxford Archaeology (North)
01524 880212

Files attached to this email may be in ISO 26300 format (OASIS Open Document
Format). If you have difficulty opening them, please visit
http://iso26300.info for more information.


UK mailing list
UK at lists.osgeo.org

End of UK Digest, Vol 5, Issue 1

UK mailing list
UK at lists.osgeo.org

Files attached to this email may be in ISO 26300 format (OASIS Open Document Format). If you have difficulty opening them, please visit http://iso26300.info for more information.

More information about the UK mailing list