The Future of GRASS

David Mandel dmandel at
Tue Mar 12 07:00:00 EST 1996

Dear GRASS users and programmers,

    I'm surprised that Andreas Holz's posting on the future of GRASS
didn't get more response.  (You will find a copy of his posting appended
to this posting.)

    I have many questions, but I think his proposal to create a 
"Free GIS Foundation" should be considered seriously.  Their are major
changes taking place in the US Federal government that will result
in much less funding for freeware in general and GRASS in particular.
Like Andreas I think the world needs an open GIS which is affordable
and open for everyone to view and modify as needed.

    GRASS could be the foundation for such a GIS.  It is a good GIS
with a large highly skilled user/developer base.  It was also developed
in the public domain, so the source code is publicly available for 
all to use, modify, and redistribute.  This is true even if CERL shuts 
down the GRASS project.

    Before creating a new organization, I'ld like to know what the 
existing organizations are doing.

    (1)  What is the status of the CERL GRASS development program?
         Is it shuting down?  Phasing down?  ???
         Will there be a GRASS 5.0?
         If so, what will it contain?

    (2)  Once upon a time there was an "Open GRASS Foundation" which 
         then became the "Open GIS Foundation" which doesn't seem to 
         have much interest in GRASS.
         Is this true?
         Are they relevant to the future of GRASS?

    (3)  What happened to the GRASS Journal or GRASS Online Journal or ???

    (4)  Did the same thing happen to the GRASS Conference?
         Since most GRASS (or Linux) users can't afford to attend
         conferences would it be practical to hold some sort of 
         online conference?  I suppose internet isn't quite there yet.
         At least, I'm not there with my 14.4 k baud SLIP account.

    (5)  I keep hearing that some of the GRASS developers are now 
         working on the "next generation of GIS software".
         Is this something the GRASS people should wait for?
         (Or is this like waiting for a good version of MS-Windows?)

    The Free Software Foundation, the Linux Project, publishers such as 
Specialized System Consultants and O'Reiley & Associates, and internet
communications have all advanced the freeware industry a great deal.
They seem to be developing a freeware business model which is highly
decentralized and doesn't depend on major government and/or corporate 
sponsors.  This might work well for a "Free GIS Foundation."

    So if there was a "Free GIS Foundation"

    (1)  How would it be funded?
         How much funding would be required?
         (Could this come from sales of advertising in online and paper
         publications, subscriptions, coffee cups and nick-nacks?)
         If so, who would fund it up front?

    (2)  Could the modified versions of GRASS be moved to a GNU license
         or is this important?  (This would help keep all future enhancements
         by anyone open to all.)

    (3)  Would current GRASS users/programmers accept and aid a 
         "Free GIS Foundation"?

                                                      David Mandel
                                                      Chief Activist
                                                      Portland Linux Users Grou
                                                      1114 NE 57th 
                                                      Portland, Oregon 97213
                                                      dmandel at


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