Friday, March 25, 2011

Hello World

I have been building GIS software solutions for over 10 years now and have never blogged about it. I don't think I have ever blogged about anything technology related actually. Not sure why...probably just too tired at the end of the day and want to think about other things (I am pretty damn tired right now and not sure I want to even do this!!) Well I'm not exactly going to start blogging about what I do for a living now. As interesting as it can be, 8 hours a day is enough for me. I am going to blog about the free / open source GIS software that I don't use professionally for building GIS solutions.

Most professional GIS software developers (including myself) use software components, built by a fine company called ESRI, as a starting point for building their solutions. ESRI builds great software, but it is very expensive and is primarily built to run on the Windows operating systems... which is also very expensive software. You usually need a database, and most people naturally choose a Microsoft database like SQL Server...which is also very expensive. The price tag for running a GIS solution can become huge before you even start to develop your custom software solution on top of it.

For the last couple of years I have been playing around with free / open source technologies that one can use to build GIS software solutions as well. I guess the community calls it FOSS4G (Free Open Source 4 GIS). I am starting this blog to document my experiments using these opens source equivalents to ESRI software. I am not exactly sure why I have been so drawn to these technologies lately. It is probably because of the global cooperative effort and the more idealistic approach to building open source technologies. It seems somehow very pure and honest. Some of these technologies are really very good as well...if not better than their commercial counterparts. I think taking the capitalistic motivation out of the equation can result is some really great software.

So here is the goal of this blog. I want to document the process of building a completely free / open source platform for creating web-based GIS software solutions. Most of the proprietary GIS software products out there are amazingly expensive and it is nice to know that there are a number of free community driven solutions that work well. The problem is that the information on how to use them is sometimes hard to find or laden with unnecessarily technical jargon. I am hoping to document a few things that may help others get started using these technologies.

Luckily there are a number of technologies in the open source world that many seem to agree on as the best in class. I am going to blog about the following technologies and try to explain how to set them all up in a simple and reproducible way, and how to use them to build great GIS software solutions. I am not a master of any of these technologies but hopefully I will learn a lot more going through this process.
  • Linux
  • Apache
  • C# / Mono
  • PostgreSQL / PostGIS
  • Geoserver
  • OpenLayers
  • etc
On last thing, for most of my career I have been a Microsoft developer and have become very comfortable using C# / .Net to build applications.  Because of this I have been drawn to Mono so I can continue to use my experience with the C# language and .Net framework but on the Linux operating system. I will probably spend a lot of time covering topics related to Mono with C# as the language of choice...because it makes a lot of sense in my case, with so many years of experience invested. Many of the Open Source GIS software available is written in C, C++, Java, and PHP, so this will make things a bit interesting and challenging. I'll probably cover the use of some other languages as well though.

Ok, I am really tired of talking about technology now....good night.

EDIT: Take a look at OpenGeo Suite if you want to do a lot of what I am going to cover here, but in a much quicker and easier way. You may not learn as much, but can get started in just a few minutes.

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