experience using FOSS4G live-dvd in teaching FOSS Geo

I was invited by PAFID a non-profit organization to provide an overview of using FOSS Geo tools. The organization provides mapping services to Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines through collaborative efforts like participatory and resource mapping as a tool for asserting IP rights to resources and ancestral domain. The participants are in-house geo-analysts coming from indigenous communities as well (note that the participants have no formal GIS “schooling” and has no experience using FOSS Geo thus far).

Previously, I was requested to install the OSGEO stack to some old windows machines but this time I have to teach it. :-S

I provided several exercise using QGIS and GRASS using the FOSS4G 2008 live-dvd (no offense to uDIG and gvSIG: don’t use, can’t teach). I didn’t used the GRASS sample dataset, because I want local sample data for my exercise. My datasets are just a small LANDSAT image and a DEM.

foss4g 2008 livedvd

The exercises are as follows:

Part 1 Open GRASS and QGIS - load vector and raster layers, saving project files
Part 2 Editing GRASS vectors and rasters
Part 3 Remote sensing based-classification
Part 4 Map layout and visualization

In GRASS’ CLI terminal

The initial plan was to do everything GUI, but I had to move to GRASS terminal when we did the image classification because QGIS doesn’t have the i.smap in the GRASS toolbox plug-in. Anyway, this provided me the opportunity to show the advantages of using the command line interface. At the end of the session, I showed them that by understanding the CLI, you can actually paste every command to a text file, run a bash script, implement all the exercise including the map layout we did for 3 hours, in just several seconds!

The reaction was: “Hey, I can do more work with GRASS while drinking my beer!” Reminds me of xkcd:compiling. =D>

The overall experience was good and I believe I was able to demonstrate FOSS Geo’s power over the $2,500 ESRI stack they have (the DVDs I bought and distributed was just a little over $1!).

Some thoughts (and requests) on improving my subsequent FOSS Geo demos:
1. I can’t get the live-dvd running laptop to display to the LCD projector. I had to use another windows laptop for the presentation and GRASS/QGIS demo. Is there way to fix that in the live-dvd? Or is it the projector?
2. If the live-dvd running laptop works on the LCD projector, I can’t show my presentation slides because it has no OOO Impress (which is correct to strip down the iso size). Is it possible for future release of the live-dvd to at least add a pdf reader? This way I can convert my presentation slides to a pdf document and I won’t be needing another machine for my slide presentation.
3. It is best to use local datasets, participants can “relate” to the data better. Although my sample data are just a LANDSAT image and a DEM, I was able to demonstrate how to produce several map layers (landcover, hillshading, contours, etc).
4. Never underestimate the power of showing newbies the CLI. I usually hide the CLI when introducing FOSS Geo to noobs for fear that they might be overwhelmed with the cryptic commands with no menus and icons to click-on. This time, they were easy converts to using the CLI.

This entry was first posted and being discussed on the osgeo-discuss list and osgeo-edu.

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