The Concise 2015 Year in Review...A Good Year!

Professionally

Personally

  • Celebrated my grandmothers 100th birthday
  • Travelled to Denmark, Vermont, New York City, San Francisco, Colorado, Bisbee AZ and Charleston SC.
  • Worked out 184 times...not bad for an aging GeoHipster!
  • Walked 370 miles...ah technology!
  • Climbed my 20th 14’er (Mt Yale)...a work in progress
  • PR bench press – 215lb 3x
  • PR dead lift – 300lb – 5x
  • PR back squat – 205lb – 4x

 

 

NMGIC 'Green Chile' Outstanding Service Award

At the most recent New Mexico Geographic Information Councilmeeting I was honored to be awarded the NMGIC Green Chile Outstanding Service Award. Dr. Ken Boykin, from the New Mexico Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, won the Red Chile award. Not sure which is hotter:) 

I'd like to thank NMGIC for this award. I was very surprised and as I told the NMGIC President, "I feel like I'm just getting started!"

Dr. Ken Boykin and Kurt Menke

First User/Educator/Developer QGIS Conference - Nødebo Denmark

I finally have a moment to report back on the first ever international QGIS User/Educator/Developer conference in Nødebo, Denmark. It was certainly one of the best GIS conferences I've been to. It had a very intimate feel. The setting at the Forestry School of the University of Copenhagen (Skovskolen) was beautiful and peaceful. It was located in one of Denmarks largest forests and there were numerous trails and forest gym play areas.

Danish forest (Gribskov) near the conference groundsI had a lot of great conversations, some with old friends, and some with people I've known only from the QGIS-sphere. It was exciting the meet the latter face to face! There were ~150 attendees from 25 countries, and being one of only two Amercans was stimulating and refreshing.  QGIS 2015 Attendee Map

After Jeff McKenna's keynote I presented on the FOSS4G Academy.

OsGeo President Jeff McKenna opening the conferenceThere were some really good talks and workshops over the first two days. One highlight was a fruitfull round table discussion on education, curricula and certification. I'm excited to announce that our FOSS4G Academy material are being adopted by the QGIS project. This is the best chance for this material to survive and grow past 2015. 

My personal conference highlights included: 

  • Matthias Kuhn presenting QField - this will be a mobile version of QGIS
  • Nyall Dawson and Andreas Nuemann showing new advances in rendering and the Print Composer - there are a lot of great tools coming out in the near future
  • Anita Graser showing all the new features of the Time manager - it's becoming a very powerful data visualization tool
  • Tim Sutton leading an open discussion on the future of QGIS. It's not clear when version 3.0 will be released or what upgrading to Qt5 and Python 3 will involve. However, the QGIS development team will give us plenty of lead time before that change happens.
  • The farewell dinner held in a huge tent in the forest. The Danes know how to throw a party!Farewell dinner
  • Meeting people I've known only via the QGIS-sphere including my co-author Luigi Pirelli and conference organizer Lene Fischer!Myself and Luigi Pirelli - Mastering QGIS!
  • Making new Danish friends

Group shot QGIS 2015

Thanks to Lene Fischer and the staff and students at the University of Copenhagen Forestry School for organizing a great conference! Here's hoping there is a follow on educational conference there next summer!

My wife and I posing with Lene Fischer

I didn't stick around for the developer meeting and the hackfest. I instead spent some time sightseeing and relaxing on the north coast of Zealand in a town named Gilleleje.Sunset over the Kattegat

Excited to be Attending the 1st QGIS Conference!

Monday I'm heading to Denmark for the first time to attend the first joint developer | user | educator QGIS conference. In 2003 I attended the first Mapserver Users Meeting and it feels like there are some similarities. That meeting was also held at a Forestry College (St. Paul, MN) and had about 150 people as are exptected in Nødebo. That meeting felt cutting edge and exciting. It was several years before FOSS4G's came into existence. This feels like it might have a similar excitement to it.

First Mapserver Users Meeting (2003)

I'll be one of only two American attending. I am anticipating meeting many of the European QGIS developers and bloggers that I only know from the Twittersphere. This includes one of my co-authors of Mastering QGIS. There will be some great talks and workshops. Before and after my wife and I will be able to tour the Danish countryside. Stay tuned...

Mastering QGIS is Ready for your Bookshelves!

It is with great excitement and pride that I announce our book Mastering QGIS has been published! I co-authored this book with Dr. Richard Smth, Dr. Luigi Pirelli and Dr. John Van Hoesen. It is available as both an eBook and in hard copy from Packt Publishing and Amazon.

Mastering QGIS Cover

QGIS is the leading alternative to proprietary GIS software. Although QGIS is described as intuitive, it is also, by default, complex. Knowing which tools to use and how to apply them is essential to producing valuable deliverables on time.

Starting with a refresher on QGIS basics, this book will take you all the way through to creating your first custom QGIS plugin. By the end of the book you will understand how to work with all the aspects of QGIS, and will be ready to use it for any type of GIS work.

The introductory section servers as a quick start guide for those with little QGIS experience. It includes directions for installing QGIS on all the major platforms, reviews the layout of QGIS Desktop and Browser, and covers adding data, working with projections, querying tables, creating maps and finding and installing plugins.

From the refresher, you will learn how to create, populate and manage a spatial database and walk through styling GIS data, from creating custom symbols and color ramps, to using blending modes. In the next section, you will discover how to prepare vector and raster data for processing and discover advanced data creation and editing techniques, such as geocoding, georeferencing and topological editing. The last third of the book covers more technical aspects of QGIS, including working with the Processing Toolbox, how to automate workflows with batch processing, and how to create graphical models. Finally, you learn how to create and run Python data processing scripts and write your own QGIS Plugin with pyqgis.

This book is the most thorough tutorial for everyone needing a free and open source desktop GIS.

Geo For All Announces Nominations for Global Educator of the Year!

As a part-time educator it is exciting to be nominated for the Geo For All Global Educator of the Year Award! I've been passionate about promoting FOSS4G for many years and am excited to see it gaining more traction in eductional programs. I was fortunate to be nominated for a course I developed, and have been teaching for the last 6 years, at Central New Mexico Community College. I have also been part of the GeoAcademy team. I developed 3 of the 5 courses and have been teaching them on line through Del Mar College. Our team was nominated for that work as well. As we say everyone can 'Steal this curriculum for Free'! https://foss4geo.wordpress.com/

Announcement: Learn the new QGIS 2.8.1!

The GeoAcademy is pleased to announce the launch of their new Introduction to Geospatial Technology Curriculum. The curriculum will be based on the latest version of QGIS, version 2.8.1 Wien which is a long term release (LTR).

The curriculum is a complete package of five GIS courses leading to a Certificate of Proficiency in QGIS from the Del Mar College continuing education program. The five courses will be offered in a limited-enrollment online class format (25 students maximum), taught by leading GIS professional educators (GISP & PhD) who created the course material. I am one of the instructors.

The first course, GST 101—Introduction to Geospatial Technology Using QGIS 2.8.1 will begin April 3, 2015 to be followed each month by a new course through August 2015. Tuition is $25 USD per course, or a total of $125 for all five in the Certificate of Proficiency. The courses include:

  1. GST 101—Introduction to Geospatial Technology Using QGIS 2.8.1 (April 2015)
  2. GST 102—Spatial Analysis Using QGIS 2.8.1 (May 2015)
  3. GST 103—Data Acquisition & Management Using QGIS 2.8.1 (June 2015)
  4. GST 104—Cartography Using QGIS 2.8.1 (July 2015)
  5. GST 105—Remote Sensing Using QGIS 2.8.1 and GRASS 7.0 (August 2015)

Anyone interested in learning more about the offer or enrolling should contact the GeoAcademy director: Phillip Davis at (361) 698-1476 or email:pdavis@delmar.edu

Mastering QGIS Due out by the end of the month!

Over the winter Kurt Menke co-authored Mastering QGIS along with Dr. Richard Smith, Dr. John Van Hoesen and Dr. Luigi Pirelli. The book will allow you to go beyond the basics and unleash the full power of QGIS with the help of practical, step-by-step examples. Topics covered in the book include: working with spatial databases, advanced vector and raster data processing, styling data, working with the processing toolbox, building models with the graphical modeler, automating processes with scripting and building Python plugins. 

The book is due out by the end of March. It will be available in both e-book and hard copy formats. Pre-orders are being accepted now! Visit the books page on the Packt Publishing site for more details.

Mastering QGIS cover

QGIS 2.8.1 Released

This week the next stable version of QGIS was released. It is being called QGIS version 2.8 ‘Wien‘. Wien is German for ‘Vienna‘ which was the host city for the QGIS developer meetings in 2009 and 2014.

QGIS 2.8 Splash Page

Recently a new version of QGIS has been released every four months. This rapid pace of development has its pros and cons. On the plus side, the software is rapidly growing and improving. On the con side it has made it difficult to maintain documentation. It has also been an issue for people working on large projects. They have had to deal with the software changing every four months.

QGIS 2.8 is a special release because it is the first in a series of long-term releases (LTR’s). The idea is that one release per year will be an LTR. This means that the LTR release will be supported and available for download for one year. This way people needing stability can use this until the next LTR is released a year from now.

Some of the highlights are:

  • Numerous bug fixes and stability improvements
  • QGIS Browser is more responsive
  • Ability to select the units in the Measure tool
  • Improvements to editing: better control of snapping and a new suite of Advanced Digitizing tools
  • Improvements to the Map Composer such as better control over coordinate graticules and map rotation.
  • Symbology improvements such as filling polygons with raster images, ability to have multiple styles per layer.

The detailed list of new features can be found in the QGIS Virtual Change log: http://www2.qgis.org/en/site/forusers/visualchangelog28/index.html

Visit the download page and take the new version for a spin. Remember you can install it on Windows, Mac and Linux!

Bird's Eye View Conducts a Training in the South Carolina Lowcountry

Recently Kurt Menke headed to Charleston, South Carolina to train several groups how to map their communities. This was part of the Community Health Maps project with the National Library of Medicine. This region is also known as the ‘lowcountry’ due to the flat, low elevation geography. The training was hosted by the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and included people from Communities in Schools – Charleston (CISC) and the MUSC School of Nursing.

MUSC Community Health Mapping Training at the School of Nursing

First everyone learned how collect GPS field data with iPads. For this we used a new app named iForm. This app was used in lieu of EPI Collect, which no longer supported on iOS.  iForm is an app very similar to the Android app ODK Collect, allowing a custom data collection form to be developed. To practice we collected bike rack locations  and seating areas around the MUSC campus. The afternoon was spent working with everyone’s  data. GPS data points were brought into QGIS and shown against some local Charleston GIS data layers.

MUSC Data Points in QGIS

The points were also uploaded to CartoDB. CartoDB is another new component of the Community Health Mapping workflow. It has become more intuitive than GIS Cloud and worked really well. (Note: There will be a post on using CartoDB soon too.)

The following day I visited CISC’s Derek Toth and three of his students at St. John’s High School on John’s Island, SC. Over a working lunch Mr. Toth showed students how easy it is to collect GPS points with their iPhones. We collecting several points while walking around the campus.

Mapping the St. Johns Campus

Afterwards we went back inside and showed them how to upload the points into CartoDB and make a map. The figure below shows the results of 45 minutes worth of work! Click on the map to open the live version.

St Johns High School Data Points in CartoDB

This spring these three juniors will be leading the charge to map their island!  They will be presenting their work to the National Library of Medicine later this spring. I look forward to seeing their work!

The St. Johns High School Mapping Team from left to right: Jocelyn Basturto, Khatana Simmons, Candace Moorer (MUSC), Corrieonna Roper & Derek Toth (CISC)

FOSS4G Academy Launched

For the first time there is a complete GIS curriculum based on free and open source (FOSS4G) software! Better yet the material are freely available to everyone. The curriculum consists of five courses:

  • GST 101 – Introduction to Geospatial Technology
  • GST 102 – Spatial Analysis
  • GST 103 – Data Acquisition and Management
  • GST 104 – Cartography
  • GST 105 – Remote Sensing

Examples of FOSS4G Academy QGIS Labs

The courses were developed via the National Information Security and Geospatial Technologies Consortium (NISGTC), under the leadership ofPhil Davis (Del Mar College). Kurt Menke(Bird’s Eye View), andDr. Richard Smith(Texas A & M – Corpus Christi), authored the material which includes: theory, lecture, labs, data and task oriented video tutorials for each lab exercise.

The courses are aligned with the Department of LaborsGeospatial Technology Competency Model(GTCM). The GTCM  was published in 2010 and will be revised in 2015. It describes the complete set of knowledge, skills, and abilities required by GIS professionals. It is designed around a hierarchical tiered model of knowledge and promotes use of open source technology.

Geospatial Technology Competency Model

QGIS is the featured software for all courses. When appropriate other FOSS software’s are also included such as GRASS and InkScape.

The vast majority of US based colleges and universities use a single vendor’s proprietary GIS software, making this series of courses very unique. In fact it is the first national attempt at a completely open source GIS curriculum. By their very nature of open source software, there is no marketing engine promoting them. This has slowed the adoption and overall use of open source GIS. One hope is that this material will entice people to learn about FOSS4G. Bird's Eye View will be offering instructor led online versions of these courses in the near future.

The targeted audience is broad and includes:

  • Secondary school educators and students
  • Two and four year college educators and students
  • Students in need of GIS skills
  • Workers seeking to broaden technology skills
  • Anyone desiring QGIS and open source knowledge and skills

FOSS4G Academy

The courses are available online at theFOSS4G Academy. Over 2,500 students have already enrolled for these courses demonstrating how in demand these materials are. Visit the FOSS4G Academy now and explore the material!

Announcement: New Community Health Mapping Blog

Community Health Maps - Information on Low Cost Mapping Tools for Community-based Organizations

Kurt Menke, of Bird's Eye View, is contributing to a new FOSS4G related National Library of Medicine blog: Community Health Maps. The goal of the blog is to provide information about low cost mapping tools that can be used by community based public health organizations.  Perhaps you’ve seen the potential uses of mapping in public health, but are overwhelmed by the technology and/or simply too busy to pursue it.  I hope this blog will facilitate the use of GIS mapping for those that fall into this category.  I also hope to support those already engaged in mapping and enhance their community mapping initiatives, even if they may be using other tools.  The blog will be a mixture of mapping apps/software reviews, best practices, and the experiences of those who have successfully implemented a mapping workflow as part of their work. Training materials developed in 2013 are also available.

TrekWest Corridor Meeting

The Wildlands Network and friends met this last week in Salt Lake City to discuss TrekWest year 2. We were graciously hosted by Black Diamond Equipment. There were about 30 of us from 19 different organizations along the Western Wildway, aka the Spine of the Continent. John Davis was there to share his thoughts on his 10 month human powered journey to promote wildlife corridors. The focus was on protecting wildlife corridors. Stay tuned! 

TrekWest Meeting at Black Diamond Headquarters

The TrekWest crew meeting at Black Diamond Headquarters

TrekWest Priority Corridors

2013 Year End Recap

The summer and fall went by so quickly! Unfortunately this blog necessarily took a backseat to the actual work. Thankfully the holidays have given me time to reflect on 2013. Professionally it was a fantastic year filled with great projects. Below are some of the highlights, in no particular order.  

  •  ~400 maps produced
  • Modeled potential and suitable beaver habitat in New Mexico
  • Traveled to Seattle, WA and Honolulu, HI to train people in an open source data collection workflow
  • Taught the 5th installment of the Introduction to Open Source Software and Web Mapping at CNM...the best one yet!
  • Attending FOSS4G NA in Minneapolis, MN
  • Supporting the Wildlands Networks TrekWest with route maps
  • Applied GIS to a wide variety of topics: wildfire, wildlife habitat protection, public health, wilderness proposals, travel management analysis, water rights, industrial noise, and parcel mapping.

Suitable Beaver Habitat

A tour of the Moana Lo'i (tarot field) and native Hawaiian permaculture

TrekWest Route map

FOSS4G-NA 2013

I just returned from my favorite conference, The North American conference on Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G-NA). I know it's a mouthful. But it's a gathering of the brightest FOSS4G developers (aka geeks), and has a friendly atmosphere of collaboration and openness.  It covered two and a half days and included: pre-conference workshops, multiple plenary sessions, five concurrent paper sessions, lightning talks, code sprints, a Gala Event, panel sessions, and birds of a feather sessions. It was my first time in Minneapolis since the inaugural 2003 Mapserver Users Meeting and it was nice being back. 

One day standing in line for lunch I met two guys who were also in attendance 10 years ago, but we'd never met before. It was the guy in front of me and the guy directly behind me. We ended up eating together. What are the odds of that? It's those little moments of connection that make these events so much fun.

This year I noticed an even more distinct focus on web mapping technologies, and web development, than usual. With QGIS 2.0 just about to release it would have been great to hear a state of QGIS talk. I'd also really appreciate more sessions on spatial analysis. Maybe I'll need to sign up for one next time. After all there is more to geospatial than web development.

The opening plenary was one of the highlights. Erek Dyskant covered use of FOSS4G technologies behind the Democratic National Committee's recent presidential campaign. A stack of FOSS4G software was developed including PostGIS, QGIS and web services. This stack allowed access to current campaign related data in near real time to all nationwide staff. Field offices were then in a great position to prioritize door knocking and calling campaign, and maximize resources.

Another session of note had an educational focus with papers titled: The New Users, Adapting Web Mapping Curriculum to Open Source Technologies, and Building a Geospatially Competent Workforce with FOSS4G. This was especially interesting for me as I strive to keep my Introduction to Open Source GIS and Web Mapping course current in a rapidly changing field. I also heard valuable updates on MapServer, GeoServer, MapBox, OpenGeo, GDAL/OGR, Leaflet and OpenLayers 3.

Steve Lime and Daniel Morissette answering questions about MapServer

The final session was a panel discussion on the use of FOSS4G in state and local governments. It was an interesting frank discussion. On one side it was about the political and bureaucratic hurdles in the way of organizations adopting FOSS4G. On the other were success stories of FOSS4G being utilized in state governments.

The Gala was held at the Mill City Museum in the ruins of the Gold Medal Flour mill on the Mississippi River. A gorgeous site. Seeing voluminous water is a treat coming from drought stricken New Mexico.

The ruins of the old Gold Medal Flour Mill

The view of the Mississippi River from the 8th floor of the old mill.

Plus I met a bunch of new folks! Kudos to the organizers for putting on another great show. It was a great conference!

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END NOTE: If you're a geo-geek and into exercise you've got to get a Suunto Ambit. Here is the data from my walk back to the conference hotel from the Gala Event. I wasn't wearing my heart rate monitor, but it still collects elevation, barometric pressure, GPS, elevation, speed, temperature etc., and allows export to KML. Oh and you can navigate with it and it has a compass. 

My walk back to the hotel from the Gala event recorded with my Suunto Ambit GPS watch

Low Cost Tools for Mapping Community Public Health

The past week was spent conducting training sessions on how to use a low cost workflow for public health mapping in minority communities. Trainings were conducted at two sites. The first site was the Urban Indian Health Institute in Seattle, Washington. They are monitoring noise pollution in urban indian populations. The other Papa Ola Lokahi in Honolulu, Hawai'i. They are working on a community public health assessment. The workflow starts with data collection using iPhones/iPads, moves into working with the the data in QGIS and finally data presentation via GIS Cloud.

Taking GPS and decibel readings in Seattle.There is an ever expanding ecosystem of geospatial apps for iOS. For this project we are evaluating EPICollect and GIS Pro. EPICollect is a free app designed to collect point data with a custom form. GIS Pro is a very expesive app. However, with the price comes a very intuitive and robust data collection system. 

An assortment of mapping apps for iPad

Once data is collected QGIS is used to combine the data with other organizational datasets, conduct spatial analyses and prepare maps. GIS Cloud is being used for final online presentation.

2013 Brings An Adjustable Height Desk to the Office

One of the best parts of my job is working at home. This allows me to cook and eat whatever I need to, anytime I need to, take breaks etc... For this I am eternally grateful. However, like most GIS folks, I also work at a computer 40-50 hours a week. I've been doing this type of work for 15 years now and it has taken a toll on me physically. In fact the side effects of working at a computer all these years is a big part of why I made the change and adopted the Paleo lifestyle two years ago. I experienced a very gradual physical decline, with a suite of evolving and nagging aches and pains. Tennis elbow, stiff neck, sore wrists, numb fingers, tight shoulders became my everyday reality. I feel significantly better these days as a result of eliminating grains, legumes, dairy, sugar and industrial seed oils from my diet, and following Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint workout plan. The diet has reduced inflammation and the workouts have me moving again and getting stronger.

GeekDesk Max in sitting position

I'm still always looking for ways to improve my work space. I've used an ergonomic keyboard/ mouse tray for the last 4 years. I try and get up and walk around frequently too. Two years ago, I read this article in the New York Times. I've wanted an adjustable height desk ever since. I then started hearing all the news reports about how unhealthy it is to sit all day. For example, this piece aired on NPR and this blog post came up on Mark's Daily Apple. It's certainly not shocking news. However, it got me thinking about how much sitting I do between work all day, and lounging in the living room at night. I started realizing I not only want, but need, a desk that would allow me to stand at least part of the day.

GeekDesk in an intermediate position

I felt almost immediately that the GeekDesk would be the perfect fit. It was at the right price and it matches my existing office furniture. Just before the holidays I ordered my GeekDesk figuring I could use the break to get it set up, and tear the old one down. Originally, I ordered the GeekDesk v3 in the 47" width. I then realized the GeekDesk Max had a nice feature, it comes with a control pad that allows you to preset four desk heights. That same afternoon I changed my order to the GeekDesk Max in the same size. Once it arrived I realized that the wider one would work better taking into account my CPU hangar and my space. The folks at GeekDesk were very accommodating with all these changes to my order. In fact they have some of the best customer service I've ever encountered.  In the end, they let me exchange just the parts that differed between the small and large desks - the table top and some braces.

GeekDesk in standing position

I also purchased a CPU hangar to hold my computer underneath the desk. This keeps the computer with the desk as it raises and lowers. It was easy to install and works great with my HP workstation. I still need to either buy a new human scale keyboard tray or cut my existing keyboard track because it is too long to fit under the desk. Aside from that, my GeekDesk is now completely set up and works great. It will adjust from 23" to 48". I absolutely love it! It's been a seamless transition and it feels very natural to stand. I haven't gotten into any routine yet. I noticed though, that I seem to prefer standing in the morning while I'm reading and returning emails and surfing the web. Then while I'm working on more challenging tasks I tend to sit or use a stool. I now change the height of my desk half a dozen times a day!

GeeKDesk Control Pad with 4 presets and a height display

Sights from the 2012 AAG Conference in New York City

Last week I headed to New York City to attend the American Association of Geographers conference. I conducted a workshop for educators on teaching free and open source GIS (FOSS4G) and sat in on a panel discussion on teaching introductory GIS courses. I also had an opportunity to do a lot of urban hiking and exploring, some of which was lead by Kevin Patrick, an urban geographer from the Indian University of Pennsylvania. The weather was fabulous and the big apple was spectacular. Selected highlights are below.

 The Queensboro Bridge and sight of the famous scene in Woody Allen's 'Manhattan'.

The view north from the Top of the Rock looking at Central Park.

The Dakota on Central Park West.

The old American Radiator Building, built in 1924, with the Empire State Building in the background. This is one of the most magnificent gothic art deco buildings in the city. It's now called the Bryant Park Hotel and is just south of Bryant Park and west of the New York City Public Library.

Grand Central Station buzzing with activity on an early weekday morning.

The Seagram Building at Park and 52nd. A classic modern skyscraper built in 1957 and site of a famous scene from 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'.

The famous Flatiron Building at Madison Square Park.

Katz's Delicatessen near 1st Ave and 1st Street in the Lower East side.

The lunch crowd at Katz's Deli.  Site of a famous scene from "When Harry Met Sally'.

The Brooklyn Bridge.

The route of one days walk from the Lower East Side across the Manhattan Bridge into Redhook in Brooklyn.

The view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Manhattan Bridge.

Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

There are two factors that stop people from exploring or adopting free and open source (FOSS) GIS software. The first is fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD). While it's true that corporations, such as Microsoft, have used FUD as a marketing strategy (purposely spreading FUD about OS software), FUD regarding FOSS GIS software is now commonly spread by GIS users themselves. I don't think this is intentional. Rather, it can be counterintuitive for people who have grown up in a competitive capitalist society to understand why anyone would create and use free software.

Initially people often wonder:

  • How can I make money using FOSS software?
  • Why would anyone create FOSS software, what's in it for them? 

The other main factor is unfamiliarity. Over the last two summers I've taught a semester long course called, Introduction to Open Source GIS at the local community college. The GIS program at my school, like most, is ESRI-centric. A majority of the students are very surprised to learn about the broad array of FOSS GIS software. Once exposed to FOSS software, such as QGIS, they ask, "Why doesn't everyone use it?" It comes down to a combination of these two factors.

In full disclosure, I also use ArcGIS almost every day. However, I also utilize all the leading FOSS GIS software. I consider them all valuable tools in my toolkit. One of the nice features of FOSS GIS software is that it's free. So there is absolutely nothing preventing you from downloading a FOSS GIS package and trying it out. If it doesn't meet your needs just uninstall it. My hope is to inspire people to do exactly this.

This year the FOSS4G Conference is in Denver, CO and very accessible to those of us in the USA. The timing couldn't be better to learn more about FOSS4G. While FOSS GIS software has been around since the 1980's, recent years have seen the software becoming much more mature and user friendly. There are great FOSS GIS products for the desktop, web server, web client, spatial database and mobile GIS. There are now intuitive Windows installers for all the leading packages.

So, if you have questions like:

  • What is free and open source software?
  • What FOSS GIS software is out there?
  • Is it really free?
  • Does it work?

you should sign up for the Introduction to Geospatial Open Source at this year's FOSS4G conference

Hope to see you there!

HR 1581: The Great Outdoors Giveaway Act

Officially called the “Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act," HR 1581, recently introduced by Rep. McCarthy (R-CA) and co-sponsored by Rep. Pearce (R-NM), would roll back protections from 58.5 million acres of Forest Service roadless areas and another 6.7 million acres of BLM Wilderness Study Areas. The bill would nullify the Roadless Rule and eliminate all Wilderness Study Areas. Bird's Eye View created the map below for the PEW Environmental Group to highlight the issue.  Protections would be removed from all the red areas in this map. This has caused a broad coalition of conservation organizations to call it the Great Outdoors Giveaway.

All of these areas represent potential wilderness, and they would all be opened to road-building and off-road vehicle use–impacts. Not only would existing protections for these areas be reversed, but future administrations would be prevented from ever protecting Wilderness Study Areas or unroaded Forest

Service Lands.

For more information go to: PEW Environmental Group