Tag Archive for 'Open source'

Quantum GIS and Homebrew, Pt. 1

A few weeks ago I decided to give Homebrew as package manager a try and move some of my projects to Mac OS X as development platform. Until now I really liked the advantages of using Ubuntu as virtual machine, have development dependencies separated from my day-to-day system, safely try stuff out and be able to rollback to a snapshot if something goes terribly wrong. Sharing hardware resources is obviously the drawback of given setup, which basically made me think about alternatives.

Homebrew is great so far: very easy to setup, integrates well with Mac OS X, large repository and a great “Formula” system to add your own packages.

When it comes to GIS applications and libraries on Mac OS X, William Kyngesburye’s site is one of the best resources you’ll find out there. I used his’ downloads quite a bit. But with the move to Homebrew, I also had the intention to manage my GIS packages with it. Although Homebrew doesn’t provide user friendly double-click-to-install packages, like William does, its Terminal commands are simple enough:

$ brew install mypackage

Drawback of having Homebrew manage my GIS dependencies was, as I noticed immediately, that William’s Quantum GIS package didn’t work any longer. So I decided to build Quantum GIS on my own, from source, against dependencies managed by Homebrew. The entire build process is very well documented on QGIS’s wiki. Using Homebrew for getting all dependencies is as simple as:

$ brew install python --framework --universal
$ brew install postgis qt gdal geos proj \
sqlite libspatialite libiconv gsl pyqt qwt cmake

I edited the existing SIP-Formula slightly (added a “–universal” option) to meet QGIS’ requirements on Mac OS X.

$ brew install sip --universal

Next step is to configure and make QGIS. Some paths and libs weren’t found automatically by cmake, so I had to specify them:

$ cmake -D CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=~/Applications \
-D QWT_LIBRARY=/usr/local/lib/libqwt.dylib \
-D QWT_INCLUDE_DIR=/usr/local/include \
-D GEOS_INCLUDE_DIR=/usr/local/include \
-D GEOS_LIBRARY=/usr/local/lib/libgeos_c.dylib \
-D GDAL_INCLUDE_DIR=/usr/local/include \
-D GDAL_LIBRARY=/usr/local/lib/libgdal.dylib \
-D GSL_INCLUDE_DIR=/usr/local/include \
-D GSL_LIBRARIES=/usr/local/lib/libgsl.dylib \
-D POSTGRES_INCLUDE_DIR=/usr/local/include \
-D POSTGRES_LIBRARY=/usr/local/lib/libpq.dylib \
-D PYTHON_EXECUTABLE=/usr/local/bin/python2.7 \
$ make
$ make install

…produces the QGIS.app in your ~/Applications folder.

The Homebrew Formula for QGIS that I’ve started, doesn’t make a successful QGIS build yet. It fails somewhere at

Linking CXX shared library libqgis_analysis.dylib
[ 33%] Built target qgis_analysis
make: *** [all] Error 2

…although Homebrew is basically building against the same dependencies as my “manual” steps did – working on it.

So far so good. However, the bad news, maybe just in my case, is that QGIS seems to be linked to Mac OS 10.6 original Python version 2.6.1 and throws following error at startup:

Couldn’t load SIP module. (note: SIP is installed in /usr/local/bin)
Python support will be disabled.

Traceback (most recent call last):
File “”, line 1, in
ImportError: No module named sip

Python version:
2.6.1 (r261:67515, Jun 24 2010, 21:47:49)
[GCC 4.2.1 (Apple Inc. build 5646)]

Major downer here is the second line, “disabled Python”, which means most plugins won’t work. This is major since one of Quantum GIS’ strength is its plugin-architecture.

To be continued…

Open Source for Non-Profits

There is one question that won’t stop spinning in my head recently:

You decide to open-source your software development project, but at the same time limit the Open Source characater to non-profit use only. The idea is to have a second commercial side of the project, that cross-subsidies the non-profit branch through for-profit licensing.

The main difference compared to other popular existing dual-licensing schemas like Ext JS or MySQL is, that the Open Source license and character only applies to non-profit use. Imagine “GPLed for Non-Profits”.

I don’t seem to be able to find a best-practice or successful implementation of such a license schema.

Why is that?

Open Source is around long enough. It is applied in academia, large non-profit foundations and global organizations and the developer community seems to often support the philanthropic cause.

Boston mapping folks!

… join the

Boston OSGeo Enthusiasts Meetup

next Tuesday, May 18th, 6:30-8pm

at the Bocoup Loft (319 A St, Boston, MA 02210)

View Larger Map

… and meet other Open Source mapping software users and developers, share experiences, learn about tools, discuss projects and developments.

To RSVP, please just add your name to the Doodle.

For more information and to participate in planning the meetup, please join the mailing list and follow the May meetup thread.

See you there!

Wrapping up Gov 2.0 Camp New England

Gov 2.0 Camp New EnglandI had a fantastic time yesterday at Gov 2.0 Camp New England and enjoyed the event a lot. In particular I was very impressed by the interest of the public sector. I wouldn’t say it’s typical that an event, held on a Saturday, which happens to be the first nice spring day in Boston, attracts so many government employees, ranging from the governor’s office to local town administrations, and affiliated organizations. Throughout the event you could feel the commitment to work on better and more inclusive governance at all levels.

My personal highlight was the first session I attended, about Open 311. It’s clearly not my core area, but I’m interested in the current development and felt that I learned a lot in that session. One of the most interesting points during the discussion was the evaluation of “Resistat”. Resistat is an initiative to include residents in 311 statistics in Somerville. It works very simple: a mailing-list facilitates communication and statistics and results are sent out to residents as powerpoint files. Not rocket science, but it’s enough communication technology that even though only about 25% of involved residents have been to in-person meetings, 85% of them say that they feel better engaged with their local government (by sending powerpoints to a mailing list, it’s as simple as that!). Anyway, great insights when talking about the “town hall meeting divide”, can’t wait to read the entire study about the program.

Our session about Open Data Strategies was “merged” together with I think 5 other sessions that had the word “data” in the title. Unfortunately it didn’t really work out as we intended it and the discussion went somehow all over the place. Better luck next time I guess.

The last session I picked was all about data visualization. Two young IBM researchers showed and demoed amazing data visualization tools – Many Eyes and sense.us among them. Their latest project, called “IBM Visual Bill explorer”, should make it easy for citizens to visually explore and analyze legal texts. Tremendously valuable when trying to understand or to find potential pitfalls in 1000+ pages documents written by lawyers, as bills usually are.

On a side note: I had absolutely no idea that IBM is running such a great research department. Where are marketing departments when you really need them?

Happy hour – free beer was involved – went straight to talking GIS and Open Source. As it turned out, there are very similar problems across gov agencies (surprising, huh!). One notion during the discussion was, that, instead of throwing money individually at our problems, why not join forces and contribute to and customize Open Source projects where we all benefit from? Interesting thought, will be continued…

FOSS GIS sandbox

That’s what I actually had in mind: creating a local Sandbox in VMware for testing GeoServer in conjunction with other FOSS GIS software. As it turned out, it’s not necessary to set such a system up by myself. Ricardo Pinho did it already and made a VMware image already available:

GISVM is intended to be a full-feature GIS Workstation based exclusively on free GIS software: PostgreSQL, PostGIS, GeoServer, Mapserver, FWTools, QGIS/GRASS, gvSIG, uDIG and Kosmo, on Ubuntu Desktop.

Great work! Exactly what I wanted. It’s a huge time saver. GISVM gives you a feel what FOSS GIS software can do for you, without going through any installation and configuration hassles.

uDig accessing GeoServer WFS in GISVM

GISVM works well as sandbox in VMware Fusion (aff link) here on the MacBook (1 processor and 512MB RAM enabled) , although it asked for upgrading the image file and installing VMware Tools for better performance.

VMware Fusion

Drupal or Joomla?

DrumlaDrupal and Joomla are my short listed Open Source CMS for a small website (performance won’t be an issue) which is going to be maintained by users who aren’t very talented regarding online applications. Since they would like to edit the website content by themselves, an easy to use CMS backend is the main criteria for my decision (just trying to avoid too many future phone calls).

Any suggestions before I start downloading and test run both of them?

Aqua form controls preview

Select OptgroupIt’s probably only a small step for mankind, but a major improvement for any Firefox user on Mac OS X: the next version of the famous open source browser comes with good looking Mac OS X native form controls. Anyone interested can download an early preview here.

An Austrian Atlas

Since end of January one of the largest projects I’m currently involved in is online and open for public access. We decided as first step to publish it silently before the official announcement and receive more user feedback as well as reserve some extra time for fine tuning.

It’s a national atlas (ÖROK-Atlas online is the official name) containing socio-economic information, mainly focused on the Austrian territory but providing a European perspective as well. The entire application is based on 100% Open Source software like MapServer, PostGIS, GDAL, Proj4 and other usual geo open source suspects.

You won’t find any fancy AJAX driven user interface or high-res imagery to sneak a peek into your neighbor’s garden. Instead you’ll be able to visualize a comprehensive collection of predefined maps as entry point to a large database of socio-economic data and indicators relevant to regional analysis and spatial planning. An important user group, already involved in the development process, were decision makers and other administration departments (ministries, federal states).

Traditionally the atlas was published annually on paper. It was one of the main challenges of the project to transform those rather complex printed maps (most of them containing multiple socio-economic information layers, multidimensional signatures, etc.) into an online application in terms of retaining the same information content.

We’re still working in the background – the English version isn’t 100% completed yet, data and maps are extending continuously and some bugs need to be fixed – so please be patient if something isn’t working as expected.

ÖROK-Atlas online

Where 2.0 day #2

Where 2.0: Patrick HoganThere are dozens of posts out there that cover very well the second day and all the talks of Where 2.0. So I’ll briefly sketch my personal highlights of today (as I did yesterday):

I really got impressed by the effort of NASA’s World Wind team to improve their product and their enthusiasm behind all their work. From an EULA point of view it’s quite clear that in a professional environment NASA’s World Wind is the only option to go (by now) if one would like to use globe applications:

  • World wind has no use restriction,
  • it’s 100% open source software,
  • extendable due to their add-ons,
  • direct integration of WMS (and soon WFS),
  • supports GIS file formats like ESRI shapefiles.

Once the place names can be accessed via WFS and don’t have to be packed into the application itself, the download size (60 MB at the moment) will significantly decrease to probably only a few megabytes.
Support for more platforms should be achieved in fall 2006 as World Wind is currently ported to Java. Well, not only ported but reprogrammed as far as I understood today.

Apparently, for Autodesk did the concept of Open Source make sense, as they claimed that the revenue is made in other segments of the mapserver market than selling server software and they could meet user needs better by adopting Open Source development cycles for parts of their product portfolio.

There were only a few GIS talks at Where 2.0, but they made me wanna try some of the shown tools like OSSIM and GRASS (well, GRASS I tried once but had not the time to dig deep enough into it).

Pretty funny was the presentation of Donald Cooke from TeleAtlas! I definitely will get a copy of “Fun with GPS“.

Mr Jack Dangermond demonstrated the strategy of ESRI products: author, serve and publish. The audience saw a demo of ArcGIS Explorer (incl. Jabber chat), how data is edited in ArcGIS Desktop and published as WMS on the server. Quite impressing was the demo of ArcWeb SVG Map Viewer, which illustrated with a view clicks the power of the-next-big-thing-since-5-years SVG by changing to various projections, applying different styles and switching layers on/off without reloading (no, not even asynchronous!) anything. To me it became quite clear the ESRI isn’t heading at all into this Where 2.0 market, they clearly stick to their professional GIS business and concentrate in providing the technology to enable the back-end for services like Google maps (I don’t know if Google maps is using any ESRI technology at all…).

Check out this excellent Where 2.0 photoset at Flickr (btw, wasn’t Stewart Butterfield on the speakers list?) and the roundup written by the Where 2.0 co-chairs.

See you next year at Where 2.0, 19.6-20.6.2007, Fairmont Hotel, San Jose, CA.


Once Songbird supports iPods I’ll definitely have a closer look at it. Very promising sounds the extensions concept (like Firefox) which’ll make it highly customisable. But for now iTunes is the one and only useful jukebox.