Recently a friend asked me how to move a dataset from one feature to another in ArcGIS. I threw together the following tutorials utilizng Wink which is a tutorial and presentation software that creates flash shows. The files are relatively small and they can be put together without too much hassle.
On the 10thof this month QGIS 1.0.0 was released, this is very exciting. I first started using QGIS a couple years ago. However, since I had access to the ArcGIS suite of programs I rarely used QGIS. Mostly for those times where I needed a portable GIS to visulize shapefiles on a computer that did not have a GIS already installed.
Recently I have had to rely on QGIS and GvSIG as my sole GIS platforms, for various reasons. While QGIS is not perfect, it is steadilygetting better with each subsequentrelease. I was planning on sharing my thoughts about version 0.9 but now that 1.0 has been released I think I will go over how this new version compares with previous versions.
What do you do when you need a GIS but for whatever reason you do not have access to a commercial GIS and you cannot install software on your computer? Use a portable application. Though there may be more portable GISs’ than I mention here, these are the ones I am familiar with.
QGIS is a cross platform GIS that currently runs on Windows, various flavors of Linux and the Mac. The program is small enough to fit on most USB drives, for a GIS on the go. This GIS allows users to create, view and edit many of the popular spatial file formats to include shp, PostGIS and Grass files. While it is no ArcGIS it does allow a user to perform most common spatial analysis such as buffer, difference, dissolve, union along with other basic functions. QGIS is open source and if one knows what they are doing they can modify the core program, create plugins and become a contributing member of the QGIS community.
SpatialLite while not a traditional GIS complete with a GUI, it is a SQLite (DBMS) extension that supports spatial data. I have very little experience with Spatialite, but from working through the tutorial it has the ability to import and export shp files, and perform basic spatial analysis. However, Spatialite is primarily a command driven program that is executed from the shell. The results can be exported to a shp file and viewed after the fact, but for instant results all you get is text. There seems to be some real potential here based on my limited exposure.
I wish there was more selection and more functionality than these aforementioned programs. However, they are free and they allow me to use a GIS where I otherwise would not be able to. Until the big commercial GIS vendors are willing to create a portable application (and cheaper) I have to use these types of applications.
Your level of everyday work in the GIS industry can help you feel connected to the rest of the spatial community. Obviously some jobs are much better at this than others. Attending conferences, training and interacting with others in your field can help this feeling. But who cares and why should they care? In my opinion everybody in the industry should care to some extent.
I receive quite a few new ideas on how I can do my job better by exposing myself to others; a new perspective can help. Associations such as The Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) can also help you interact with others in your field. Interacting with the industry has a positive effect on my level of excitement for things spatial; I am invigorated.
For myself, I find conferences and off-site training the most invigorating. However, both of these options can become quite expensive and as a consequence I do not utilize them often. Blog RSS feeds help bridge the gap, such as Planet Geospatial. Through my school I can go through online ESRI training. However, the best low cost method I have found is the A Very Spatial podcast.
During my last couple cross country trips I have loaded twenty plus hours into my car and listened to the show for hours at a stretch. This constant information stream bored my wife and kids to tears but invigorated my dedication to things spatial and helped me feel like I was a part of something bigger than myself.