[GRASS5] Using GRASS in teaching

Malcolm Blue mblue at nb.sympatico.ca
Tue Jan 16 23:28:12 EST 2001

I would like to add my 2 cents worth, to the good advice that Bernhard
and Markus have already provided.

Since your course is starting out in September, you have a little time
to prepare - but the months can go quite quickly.

I assume that since you are planning to teach a course using Linux that
you have some background in UNIX.  You mentioned that you are new to
Linux, but since Linux follows UNIX conventions so you should be able to
pick this up very easily.  If you don't have a strong UNIX background,
then make sure that you choose one of the Linux distributions that is
geared to the newcomers.  There are a number of these, and most have
good documentation, so familiarize yourself with the core Linux
environment.  There are a number of packages that offer a lot of extras,
but when you are starting out these will probably be a cause of
information overload.  The more popular Linux distributions offer
choices for installing a few "standard" installations, plus the
customized installations.  Make sure that you select an installation
that supports X Window applications and networking.  If you plan to
teach programming GRASS or wish to compile GRASS to your own
configuration, then you will also need the development environments.
The Linux setup programs make this very easy to configure.  A lot of
books are available now for setting up, using and programming Linux, so
the level of depth of knowledge that you wish to acquire is just a
function of how much time you have available.

GRASS is very much a developing software.  I have been using GRASS for a
while - but only as a personal interest, not in a professional capacity
so I am quick to try out the latest version.  I would strongly recommend
that you use version 5, even though it is still in beta versions.  There
have been several major enhancements in version 5, and most of the later
beta releases have had significant improvement in stability.  (Check out
the long list of fixes in "GRASS 5 news" - just go to the link under the
Software heading on the main GRASS page).  I have had much more success
with version 5 than previous versions and the development team is
working toward a stable release for V5.1.  Either beta8 or beta10 will
provide a good starting point for learning GRASS.  I would recommend
downloading the binary version and using that until you are familiar
with the layout of GRASS.  Then, if you are more adventurous, you can
download the source code and compile it yourself.  Please note that a
few people have had some trouble with the make process (compiling), so
you should be familiar with UNIX software development if you want to try
this.  Most of the problems should be sorted out fairly soon, judging
from the effort that the development team is expending on the configure,
make and install processes.  While they are sorting these issues out,
you can easily work with a precompiled version.  Just check back from
time to time, to see what the latest release is, since there may be a
few between now and September - when you see that there is a new beta
version (or when they finally issue that minor version number [5.1] )
then you can read the development news to see what has been changed.
Then you can decide whether or not you should upgrade.

As someone who has used GRASS off and on for years (6 or 7?), I am
always interested in looking over the new tutorials and revised
documentation.  The online tutorials listed under "Online Courses" at:
are excellent places to get an introduction (or in my case a good review
- as I recently did - and I picked up a few things that I missed the
first time around).  The tutorials listed under "Tutorials" (what else)
are mostly older, but after you are somewhat familiar with the system
from the online courses they should be worthwhile reading.  Most of the
material is still relevant - the biggest challenge is probably going to
be the fact that the sample data sets don't match the write-up.  For
that reason alone, the Project ASSIST tutorial is good for starting out
- they also provide sample data to use in the tutorial.  For most of the
other tutorials you can follow along, but you won't have the same data
to use.  In just reading over the tutorials and trying a few things out
I was able to pick up a number of new ideas.  I think if you start out
with the project ASSIST tutorial and then go through the other's you
will be able to pick it up without much trouble.

If you want to learn about basic introductory GRASS programming, there
is a link (to a link) to an incomplete course on GIS programming, using
GRASS, on the bottom of the
page, which has some very basic information.  After that there is the
(hundreds of pages of the) grass programmer's manual.

The link  Welcome First Time Users!  (from the main GRASS page) lays out
a lot of good information for getting started.

If you have any questions you should probably go to the main GRASS
Mailing List rather than the developer's list.  If you want to follow up
on any of the above, you can contact me directly and I will try to help.

You might want to contact the people who developed the online courses
for their suggestions, as well.

Good luck,


Bernhard Reiter wrote:

> On Mon, Jan 15, 2001 at 06:16:12PM +0000, Dr.Michael Francis wrote:
> > I am a relative newcomer to both GRASS and Linux. However, the little I=
> =20
> > have seen of both Linux and GRASS has interested me a great deal.=20
> Welcome to the world of free GIS. :)
> > In September 2001, we shall be starting a new Bsc course in GIS
> > and I plan to use GRASS 5. This will be the first time a) Linux is
> > being used in the Gulf countries, and b) GRASS is being used in
> > the same region. I am based at a University in Dubai in the United
> > Arab Emirates. So, although this may be the wrong list for me to
> > send this email but, you seem to be the knowledgable people regarding GRA=
> SS.=20
> Yes, this is the GRASS development list with a lot of knowledge
> accumulated.
> > OK - my question is really a simple  one.=20
> > Now that I have decided to go ahead and design the course based on=20
> > Linux/GRASS, I need to know what version I should use, and how to go=20
> > about it. Are there any books around? Literature? Papers? Anything?? I=20
> > would bge grateful for any advice.
> Markus already answered the question about the online courses and
> papers in a different mail. (Did you already get it?)
> I try to elaborate on the version to use.
> This decision will largely depend on the computer skills you have at hand.
> Going for GRASS version 5 is probably the right thing.
> This version has beta quality but can be considered more stable and
> complete than the GRASS 4 versions overall.
> If you do not want to mess with getting CVS versions yourself and
> fixing bugs you can get the rpm from the freegis-cd at:
>         ftp://freegis.org/freegis/gnu-linux-i586/freegis-1.0.4/i586/
>                 GRASS-5.0beta8-2.i586.rpm
> This includes (GRASS5beta8) but does not have the latest bug-fixes and no n=
> viz.
> But it is easy to install and hand out to your students at home.
> It might be enough.
> If you know a bit about Linux and how to compile programs under
> Linux, you can get the beta10 or CVS version and fix them up to have
> the stuff running stable you need. Beta10 and current CVS contain
> more bugfixes and a nicer interface, but you will definatly need
> some unix knowledge and track the version numbers more closely.
> We all hope that we get a stable beta11 release soon, but as always
> with free software: Do not hold you breath for it. ;->
> Regards,
>         Bernhard
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