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Taking the GIS plunge

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#1
ravells

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Hi all, I've decided to take the plunge and teach myself how to use GIS software. Since this is strictly a hobby, I'm not splashing out on the expensive end like ArcGis, but I've downloaded QGis which comes bundled with Grass (so to speak). I'm an experienced photoshop and Illustrator (equivalent) user which I have been using to create maps of fantasy places, but I thought it would be good to add 'real life' to my inventory :)

For some reason QGis returns an error on my computer and doesn't run, but Grass (the TclTk version) works fine.

In order to teach myself, I have bought an introductory book: 'GIS a visual approach' by Bruce E Davies, which is giving me a really good overview of what GIS applications are, how they work and what they're used for.

Can I ask a few questions please?

1. Am I right in thinking that (at least for initial learning purposes) I don't need to worry about not having QGis running and that Grass is good enough to learn the fundamentals?

2. Are there any books you can recommend to a complete beginner like myself which don't overlap hugely with the book I already have?

3. Do you have any tips or recommendations for a beginner?

Many thanks in advance!

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#2
Hans van der Maarel

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For some reason QGis returns an error on my computer and doesn't run, but Grass (the TclTk version) works fine.


Funny, for me it's usually the other way around ;)

In order to teach myself, I have bought an introductory book: 'GIS a visual approach' by Bruce E Davies, which is giving me a really good overview of what GIS applications are, how they work and what they're used for.

1. Am I right in thinking that (at least for initial learning purposes) I don't need to worry about not having QGis running and that Grass is good enough to learn the fundamentals?


The fundamentals of GIS should be independent of the software you're using. So for the time being, I wouldn't worry too much about QGis not running when you can do the same in Grass.

2. Are there any books you can recommend to a complete beginner like myself which don't overlap hugely with the book I already have?


Hard to say. I have an old one in my collection: "Principles of Geographic Information Systems" by P.A. Burrough, but that's a 1994 reprint of a 1986 book, so outdated. Fundamentals would still be the same, but there's been a lot of new development since.

I'd recommend browsing through the ESRI Press offerings and see if there's anything to your liking there. If only there was a GIS/cartography bookstore where you could actually see the books... (still my preferred way of buying books).
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
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#3
Gretchen Peterson

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1) GRASS can be difficult for the beginner (but not impossible) because it doesn't have a robust visual interface and the mapping part, in particular, is fairly limited. However, GRASS is great for learning analytics. It'll do all the analysis you need and then some. Hopefully you can get QGIS going as that is a great way to get started with GRASS more easily. In my work I use ArcGIS for almost everything but I turn to GRASS when I need to do faster raster analysis or need to do some functions that aren't available in Arc without extensions. You might check out MapWindow too.

2) Don Boyes had a recent discussion about GIS textbooks on his blog. You may find that helpful.

3) A nice way to get started is to download a couple of datasets for your local area a local government agency's website. Take a look at them, do some overlays, maybe an analysis or two.

Good luck and happy GISing!

#4
ravells

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Thanks Hans and Gretchen!

I'll take a look at the books and see if I can get Qgis to run (so far it's not looking like good news and my google-fu on the error message has proved weak).

That's a really top idea to get started with datasets of my local area since it gives me a personal interest. I have no idea what analyses I want to perform (it's just cool knowing I can perform them!), that's the strength of GIS, isn't it? Being able to compare and process geographical data and represent the result visually.

It seems you're spoilt for choice for datasets in the US, but they are much thinner on the ground in the UK. I'll see what I can find.

I'll probably go quiet for a bit while I play and assimilate information and learn....and then come back begging for help!

Thanks again!

Ravs

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#5
gregsd

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....It seems you're spoilt for choice for datasets in the US, but they are much thinner on the ground in the UK. I'll see what I can find....


Best place to start would be OS Open Data.

Good Luck

As for software, you could try the free version of MapMaker. I've played around with it, but not much and it only has limited spatial analysis functions as it's aimed more at the cartographic side.


Greg Driver

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