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Laptop running GIS feedback!

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Muad Dib

Muad Dib


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This is Will from the Great Basin steppes and Sierra foote, I have purchased this lap top for GIS, and was wondering if you could give me some feedback on what will be needed to keep it field ready and maintained, and what I may need for map-making if any. I am principly using it for mapping plant communities and vector data, such as transmission lines. I am also looking at a good gps handheld in the 600 dollar range. Do I need to worry about anything (hardware, drivers etc.) for downloading data and printing?

Please respond at your convenience. I am grateful for your feedback.

Thank you~

Satellite P870-BT2G22 Laptop
Intel® Core™ i7-3610QM Processor 2.30GHz (3.30GHz with Turbo Boost Technology 2.0), 6MB L3 Cache, Genuine Windows® 7 Professional 64-bit, SP1, Microsoft® Office Professional 2010, 12GB DDR3 1600MHz SDRAM (4GB + 4GB + 4GB), 128GB SSD (Solid State Disk, Serial ATA), 1TB 2nd HDD (5400rpm, Serial-ATA), 2GB GDDR3 NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 630M with NVIDIA® Optimus™ Technology, DVD SuperMulti drive, Glossy Black LED Backlit Tile keyboard, harman/kardon® Quad speakers, WiFi® Wireless networking (802.11b/g/n) with Bluetooth® version 4.0, Norton Internet Security Suite (NIS) 2012 12-month subscription, 1 Year Standard Limited Warranty (1 Year on Battery)




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... keep it field ready and maintained, and what I may need for map-making if any....also looking at a good gps handheld in the 600 dollar range. Do I need to worry about anything (hardware, drivers etc.) for downloading data and printing?

Thank you~

Hi Will,
You have quite a high powered laptop and should be more than sufficient for mapping plant communities and features on the landscape. Can you describe your working conditions to give context to your "field readiness" needs? A search of "Grand Basin Steppes" and "Sierra" indicates your work area is in California, USA correct? So not a jungle or international assignment. Do you need to produce a map before you leave your work site (this is relevant if you are working on an overseas assignment and the client wants the final report before you leave the country)? If not, it seems you can separate your field work from your map production. What will be your camp conditions? Will you return to civilization each night? Running a laptop in primitive camp conditions without power is tricky not to mention the challenge of keeping the laptop free of mud and humidity. Still in a rough camp situation, you should at a minimum verify your data at the end of each day to make sure your GPS is working correctly. For verifying data in the field , a netbook is very useful, has long battery life and can do some basic mapping to view your collected data and progress. If damaged or rendered unusable, a netbook is less expensive than your laptop. Then you can leave your high powered laptop in the office and work on map making when you get back.

As for GPS, I've had good success with the Garmin GPSMap 76 series for field work, they are water proof, float, have big buttons to use with gloves, colour screen, takes micro SD cards for tons of storage for tracks and points, can do 2 days continuous tracking on a set of batteries, uses easily found AA batteries, has good GPS sensitivity and is straightforward to connect and download data.

As for map making, do a search in the forum for cartography. Depending on your desired finished product, you may need to use a GIS program for basic mapping then doing the artistic flair in an Illustrator type program. For mapping, check out qGIS (open source). If not sufficient, check out ArcGIS or Manifold (both have a long learning curve).

Apologies if I've missed the gist of your question or have answered at the wrong level. There are lots of unknowns about your field work conditions, intended work flow, and if the final maps need to be done before coming home. Above is my modus operandi for field work and to separate field data collection from working on final products (otherwise you waste expensive field time writing and preparing final maps which you can do back at the office without incurring travel expenses. I do recommend verifying your data quality at the end of each day (and to back it up!).

Printing will depend on your printer and laptop. Printer setup shouldn't be a problem these days and can be tested before your field work. Are you bringing a printer into the field? I've never used one in a field camp (no power, paper quickly turns to mush) but I have had a printer in the motel room to print maps for the next day's work. As for downloading data from a GPS, depending on the make and model, some will download directly to the mapping program, other units will produce a downloadable file which you then import to the mapping program (2 steps). Downloading shouldn't be a major obstacle.

Good luck with the project,

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