[OSGeo-Discuss] RE: Comparison between Proprietary and OS

Dan Putler dan.putler at sauder.ubc.ca
Sat Apr 26 09:07:31 PDT 2008

Micha observations as to what his students have in terms of hardware is
an important one. In North America this past year 40% of entering
undergrads went off to university toting Mac laptops. Consequently,
ESRI's current Window-centric focus offers a nice opportunity for open
source desktop tools in the education arena.

To also follow up Micha's comments, I teach a capstone fourth year
course in which student teams develop a marketing plan for an outside
organization. Half my teams this year had retail clients, and each of
the teams with retail clients did some type of GIS analysis. I was able
to get each team going with about 40 minutes of instruction on GIS tools
(this is how you load a layer, this is what a projection is, this is how
you do basic choropleth symbology, etc.), placing links to the
appropriate project sites to get software and training documents,
providing appropriate predigested shapefiles of attribute data on my
course web site, and the teams were good to go. Some teams selected
QGIS, others uDig, and PAGC was used for geocoding. My two observations
from this (which will not be a surprise) is that better tools are needed
for printing and laying out maps (another +1 for the OSGeo Cartographic
Library initiative), and that students (or at least students in
Marketing) have a complete lack of prior exposure to command line tools.


On Sat, 2008-04-26 at 17:31 +0300, Micha Silver wrote:
> Andre Grobler wrote:
> > ...
> >
> > So the hurdles for me to OS were "acceptance" specifically for the following
> > reasons:
> > Free and easy access and training of ESRI at varsity. Autocad did the same
> > and look where that got them.
> > Linux, just mentioning command lines has me a little nervous. (I know this
> > is changing, but the field calculator is enough programming for me, thanks)
> >
> > ...
> >
> > So in short I am doing what somebody already suggested, get ESRI for day to
> > day soft landing and learn OS GRASS and OSSIM meanwhile for real work;-)
> > Hopefully in a while I'll wonder what the fuss was about... and possibly
> > contribute, if only to the dummies FAQ section.
> >
> > André Grobler
> >
> >   
> Andre:
> I had the privilege recently to give a short beginners course in GIS to 
> a small group of undergrads in environmental science.  Before the 
> semester started I had decided to give the course based on FOSS tools. I 
> first sat down with the network technician, who told me that they have 
> ArcGIS 9, network licence, but he don't know where the disks were, and 
> was concerned about space on the server, network traffic, bogging down 
> their Terminal Server etc, etc. So I (rubbing my hands together) told 
> him, no problem, we're going with Open Source Software.  Turned out some 
> of the students had MACs and one was using Ubuntu, so the choice to go 
> with OSS tools was a no brainer.
> To my surprise, by the forth lesson we had gotten to watershed analysis, 
> and students were running the GRASS modules (within QGIS). Admittedly we 
> leapfrogged over some stuff, but still I doubt I could have reached that 
> level with Arc* tools in such a short time span.
> The "comfort zone" problem is well know and likely the most difficult 
> hurdle to overcome when trying to migrate to OSS tools. But to some 
> extent it's nothing more than a matter of perception. Proprietary 
> software vendors have surrounded us with distorting mirrors.  Once you 
> step away, things look quite different.
> Regards,
> Micha
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Dan Putler
Sauder School of Business
University of British Columbia

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