Sunday, September 10, 2006

Night of Linux Ends with GIS


Spent last night installing Linux OS on my laptop. Actually did it, and finished the evening off by creating a choropleth map (graduated color) displaying the distribution of median household income by block group in Dallas County. I used qGIS for this. (See left for screenshot.)

This also is my first blog post written in a non-Windows environment. Tastes a bit different, eh?

Here are the highlights of what I had to go through did to make this all happen.
  1. Install Xandros Open Circulation, a Debian style of Linux.
    1. This was extremely easy, which was why I opted to use the Xandros package. I repartitioned my hard drive to make a partition for Linux.
  2. Set up my wireless connection.
    1. Believe it or not, this was the most difficult step. My wireless network card, a Broadcom 802.11b/g wlan, must not be compatable with Linux. I had to use ndiswrapper to use the Windows drivers. Fine, I then had to find those drivers. Throw in a couple of reboots and retires, and it was a few hours spent setting this up. I eventually got it to work, and am writing this post on my wireless connection.
  3. Install/update software using Xandros Networks, a Debian package management application.
    1. I was very happy to install the latest version of Firefox at this time. Along with my wireless network, it is vitally important that I contine to have acess to particular Firefox extensions, such as the Yahoo! Toolbar to access my remote bookmarks. Web applications make this transition from Windows so much easier as there is less to install. Yahoo for email, Meebo for chat, Bloglines for rss, Easynews (paid) for usenet, the list can go on and on.
  4. GIS time.
    1. I know that qGIS operates on multiple operating systems, so I fire up Firefox and on my wireless connection I head over to qgis.org. The Linux version, I had to remind myelf as I headed over to the download page. They offer a Debian package. I download it and attempt to use Xandros Networks to install it. Wasn't meant to be as it could not locate the necessary dependencies. But the qGIS site also mentions apt-get as an easier installation method. Research apt-get, and it seems to be similar to Xandros Networks. Then I see that Xandros Networks has a search. I search for qGIS, and sure enough it finds the package. It installs easily and beautifully, just as the qGIS site advised it would.
    2. So, I thought I would attempt to use qGIS to complete a basic exercise that my real estate class completed during the first class (see image above). I do not know how to do a tabular join using qGIS. Do I install PostGIS or MySQL? No, not today. I simply edit the shapefile's DBF file in Open Office Calc, and paste in the attributes (after sorting them, of course). Very impressive how well Calc was able to edit the DBF file. Excel does not work so well with DBF files. Very nice. Easy to create themap from there.
    3. Well, the keyboard print screen button did not work. A screen capture program that was included in the installation, and this created the image you see above.
This was my first night's foray into Linux. As I accomplish more, I will post about it here.