Open source GIS

November 17, 2011 – 5:22 pm

It would be awesome to have an open source GIS that works as well as R does for stats, and it looks like there almost is one. I checked out QGIS last week and was pretty impressed. I managed to get it installed and pull some of my thesis data in there and display it without any problem. QGIS had a really nice interface and smooth operation. It couldn’t straight-up convert my .mxd files but then I wouldn’t really expect it to be able to do that. It did easily import shapefiles and raster images, and displayed x-y coordinate data.

However, I quickly found a limitation, which was that I couldn’t implement the kriging procedure that was the goal of my session. I wasn’t trying to do something fancy, just a run-of-the-mill interpolation. Apparently there is some package called SDA4PP that implements a Geostatistical-Analyst-style interface, but my quest to install it quickly became a wild goose chase. Oh well. It looks to me like this type of functionality should be pretty close though.

The good news was that I realized that kriging procedures are pretty easy to implement in R. The tutorial on this page was really helpful.

Nobody likes dealing with the expense and hassle of running ESRI software. I would be more sympathetic to ESRI if they had good customer service like LiCOR, but last time I tried to ask a question they had some bogus system in which I had to contact a campus representative before I could talk to them… Thus, I must conclude that they have had a good run of it over the years, but that it’s time to go Firefox/MySQL/R on them. It also seems like a lot could be done with a user-contribution system like R. If I knew a grad student getting into GIS, I’d tell them to go straight for open source options.

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