Thursday, November 24, 2011

Opening up the open source option!

Images: Student 3D work using ArcView 3x

Related sites to the Spatialworlds project
Spatialworlds website
21st Century Geography Google Group
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website
'Towards a National Geography Curriculum' project website
Geography Teachers' Association of South Australia website
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Adelaide, Australia: S: 34º 55' E: 138º 36'

Open Source GIS, which one??

Access to software such as open source (the license shall not require a royalty or other fee), is becoming a viable alternative for schools to expensive stand-alone vendor products. In previous Spatialworlds posting we have highlighted the availability of free GIS on-line products such as ESRI ArcGIS on-line , Spatial Genie , QGIS and GRASS.

It seems that on a monthly basis the number of such software choices is growing. Basic GIS open source programs can provide basic GIS functionality, including data input, map display, spatial query, attribute query and spatial analysis. There are also open source programs for remote sensing and 3D visualization.

In this posting I wish to highlight the importance of this trend to the achievability of using GIS in the classroom and some of the open source products I have not previously mentioned. An excellent spatial blog from Direction Magazine is planning to review many of these on-line open source GIS platforms in coming months. It is worth keeping an eye on this site if you are considering exploring the option of open source GIS.

These programs are proving to be popular for a range of reasons:
* they are a real option for the teacher who would like to explore the possibility of teaching GIS but does not have immediate financial support from their school to purchase GIS software.
* the software is an excellent option if students would like to install and try GIS software on their home computers.
* the immediacy of such software is attractive for the teacher who would like to use GIS with their students tomorrow (commercial GIS software will require more than one week to finalize the licensing with vendors. You can download and use open source software immediately).
* it is the way to go for schools with computers that are using non-Windows operating systems, such as MacOSX or Linux

Here are a few of the open source options we have not previously discussed.

* uDig is an open source desktop application framework, built with Eclipse Rich Client (RCP) technology. The uDig program can be downloaded from the site, as can free data and walk throughs to support the use of the program.

* gvSIG is another open source geographic information system (GIS), that is a desktop application designed for capturing, storing, handling, analyzing and deploying any kind of referenced geographic information in order to solve complex management and planning problems. gvSIG is known for having a user-friendly interface, being able to access the most common formats, both vector and raster ones. It features a wide range of tools for working with geographic-like information (query tools, layout creation, geoprocessing, networks, etc).

* The OpenGeo Suite combines the power of open source plus the reliability and support of a single, stable vendor behind a full stack of software. The OpenGeo Suite offers a fully-integrated open source geospatial platform for serving maps and data through web applications, mobile devices, and desktop clients. The OpenGeo Suite Enterprise Edition is comprised of tested, integrated and supported geospatial components GeoServer, OpenLayers, GeoWebCache, PostGIS and GeoExt

* GISVM is a free and ready to use anywhere Geographic Information System Virtual Machine. It is now available in three main versions; A full-feature GIS Desktop Workstation, a base GIS Desktop Virtual Machine and a full-feature GIS Server based exclusively on free Server GIS software:

The Open Source Foundation

While talking about open source GIS it is worth mentioning the Open Source Software for Geospatial initiative organized by Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo). This is a foundation created to support the collaborative development of open source geospatial software, and promote its widespread use. The recent 2011 FOSS4G conference in Denver was focused on free and open source geospatial software. Open source is becoming so popular that the list of FOSS4G sponsors has been growing rapidly. Sponsors today include names such as ESRI, Google, MapQuest and USGIF.

I am sure this is just the tip of the iceberg and in the future (if not already), open source software will be the way to go for GIS in schools.

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