shrug-l: Open Source and free GIS Course

watry at watry at
Tue Dec 13 10:11:16 EST 2005

Back in July/August I asked for input on Software that runs across 
platforms, This has grown into a web course on open-source and free gis 
Desktop/web software.

I will start working with the Grad students in January. If you are 
interested in learning a little about the open source world, I will add 
you to the e-mail list for this course. Here is what went to the grad 

Good Morning

I am putting together a course that will start in January and will be 
taught on-line at your own pace. If interested, let me know via e-mail 
and I will add you to the mail list.

All the data used in the lessons will be from the National Atlas and 
all the software will be open source and available for down-load over 
the internet.

If you are a grad student and leaving at the end of this semester and 
desire to take this, all you have to do is to keep a current e-mail 
address on file with me.

The purpose of this course is not to teach a commercial software 
package such as ESRI ArcGis, Autodesk Map, or Bentley Microstation. Nor 
is it intended to teach you the skills needed to get a job as a GIS 
Technician. The concept is to expose you to the concepts of GIS in an 
affordable format. The concepts and theory for the use of GIS is the 
same regardless if you are using a commercial or open source software. 
The idea of this series of lectures is two fold: the first is to expose 
you to the world of GIS, and second to introduce you to several 
software packages that you could access to if you had a need for a 
quick map or chart for a presentation or as part of a research project.

Several of the software packages I want to explore include

AccuGlobe - The AccuGlobe 2004 software product series was created to 
be a flexible and extensible base for the global GIS community. This 
scalable software is the core engine behind many of DDTI?s advanced 
spatial software products. The casual user, with limited GIS knowledge 
and expertise in GIS, can use a freely downloadable version in 
developing, editing, and viewing GIS data. AccuGlobe 2004 is an 
easy-to-use tool to modify and analyze GIS data without having to pay 
expensive license fees.

SAGA - SAGA is a free geographic information system (GIS), with a 
special 'Application Programming Interface' (API) for geographic data 
processing. This API makes it easy to implement new algorithms. The 
SAGA API supports grid data, vector data, and tables.

DIVA - DIVA-GIS is a free mapping program, sometimes called geographic 
information system (GIS),that can be used for many different purposes. 
It is particularly useful for mapping and analyzing biodiversity data, 
such as the distribution of species, or other 'point-distributions'.  
With DIVA-GIS you can:  1.Make maps of the world or of a very small 
place, integrating, for example, state boundaries, rivers, a satellite 
image, and the locations of sites where an animal species was observed. 
2. Make grid maps of the distribution of biological diversity, to 
identify ?hotspots? and areas that have complementary levels of 
diversity. 3. Map and query climate data. Predict species distributions 
using the BIOCLIM or DOMAIN models. Create ESRI shapefiles, import and 
export grid data, and much more! uDig - The User-friendly Desktop 
Internet GIS (uDig) is both a GeoSpatial application and a platform 
through which developers can create new, derived applications. uDig is 
a core element in an internet aware Geographic Information System.

Quantum GIS - Quantum GIS (QGIS) is a user friendly Open Source 
Geographic Information System (GIS) that runs on Linux, Unix, Mac OSX, 
and Windows. QGIS supports vector, raster, and database formats. QGIS 
is licensed under the GNU Public License. Some of the major features 
include: 1. Support for spatially enabled PostGIS tables  2. Support 
for shapefiles, ArcInfo coverages, Mapinfo, and other formats supported 
by OGR  3.Raster support for a large number of formats 4. Identify 
features 5. Display attribute tables 6. Select features 7.  GRASS 
Digitizing 8. Feature labeling fGIS - Forestry GIS (fGIS?) is a compact 
but robust shapefile editing program, digitizer and GIS data query tool 
for Windows®. fGIS was designed for natural resource managers who are 
not GIS specialists. It?s easy-to-use and simple to install. Many power 
users also like fGIS because they can run it on laptops or home 
computers without copyright issues, it produces data compatible with 
commercial GIS programs, and fGIS was free.

TNTmips Lite - The TNT products support fully integrated GIS, image 
processing, CAD, TIN, desktop cartography, and geospatial database 
management. With TNT, you edit, display, and present project materials 
in raster, vector, CAD, relational database, and TIN formats.The TNT 
products are available for the computer or network you already own: 
Windows, LINUX/Unix, or Macintosh.  The TNT products work exactly the 
same on all three platforms. The unique meta-technology provides an 
identical interface and cross-platform data format no matter what mix 
of computers you use.  Geospatial analysis is a growing, complex 
science. MicroImages can help you learn the basics.  They provide 
TNTlite, a free version of the professional TNT products.  They also 
provide a series of free tutorial booklets. In the fall, I plan to take 
a look at two software suites: Mapserver by the University of Minnesota 
- MapServer is an Open Source development environment for building 
spatially-enabled internet applications. MapServer is not a 
full-featured GIS system, nor does it aspire to be. Instead, MapServer 
excels at rendering spatial data (maps, images, and vector data) for 
the web. Beyond browsing GIS data, MapServer allows you create 
"geographic image maps", that is, maps that can direct users to 
content. For example, the Minnesota DNR Recreation Compass provides 
users with more than 10,000 web pages, reports and maps via a single 
application. The same application serves as a "map engine" for other 
portions of the site, providing spatial context were needed. MapServer 
was originally developed by the University of Minnesota (UMN) ForNet 
project in cooperation with NASA and the Minnesota Department of 
Natural Resources (MNDNR). Presently, the MapServer project is hosted 
by the TerraSIP project, a NASA sponsored project between the UMN and 
consortium of land management interests.

Here we will build a full functional open source map site.


GRASS - this is a Geographic Information System (GIS) used for 
geospatial data management and analysis, image processing, 
graphics/maps production, spatial modeling, and visualization. GRASS is 
currently used in academic and commercial settings around the world, as 
well as by many governmental agencies and environmental consulting 
companies. GRASS GIS is free and runs on the following platforms: 
Linux, Sun Solaris, Solaris x86, Solaris SPARC, SGI Irix, HP-UX, 
DEC-Alpha, PowerPC, MacOS X (Darwin), IBM AIX, BSD-Unix, FreeBSD, 
CRAY/Unicos and other UNIX compliant platforms (32/64bit), additionally 
Windows NT/Cygnus.

Other open source software packages may be added as well.


Gary L. Watry

GIS Coordinator
Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies
Johnson Building, RM 215
2035 East Paul Dirac Drive
Tallahassee, Florida 32306-2840

E-Mail: watry at


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