Open Source Computing and GIS in the UK

Travels in a digital world

UKQGIS Inaugural User Group Meeting

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On Friday I attended the inaugrual meeting of the UKQGIS User Group, set up by Simon Miles and Matt Travis in sunny Maidenhead. I’d been asked to do a presentation about Portable GIS, which both surprised and flattered me, and they actually gave out USB sticks with it on to all the delegates (kindly sponsored by Ordnance Survey). So anyhow, I gave a brief intro into Portable GIS, it’s history, what’s currently installed, and what plans I have for the next version. (Yes! There is going to be a new version as soon as I can put it together!). I also did a quick demo of it in use. The reaction was amazing- mind you it doesn’t take much to overwhelm me with Portable GIS- just hearing that someone uses it is enough!

You can see my talk on github (note it might not make much sense without the demo in the middle). To be honest, mine was probably the least relevant of the talks, after all it was only nominally about QGIS! It was followed by a couple of really interesting talks on using QGIS as part of super-fast broadband deployment, and a demo of a really innovative use of Anita Graser’s Time Manager plugin to show the movement of a train, passing through stations on a route. It was really cool and very simple to set up- when you think about it!

The afternoon’s talks were quite varied- we learnt about QGIS Server and the Mobile Web Viewer from Andreas Neumann (who also pointed out this really useful visual changelog for QGIS 2.0 and talked about the Swiss QGIS User Group). We also had a couple of presentations about using QGIS in a corporate environment, integrating with proprietary databases, and the general challenges of getting it accepted (hint, the non-existent initial price tag helps- though that’s not a comment on TCO so don’t flame me).

The general feel for the event was great- very relaxed and informal. There was some discussion about the potential structure of the User Group moving forward, drawing inevitable comparisons with things like the OSGeo UK Local Chapter. Having just surfaced from several years of OSGeo committees, I have to say I’m now a total convert to the loosely organised informal approach that we had today and long may it continue. Having said that, there’s some obvious grounds for cross-fertilisation and interaction between the two groups and I’m all for that as well!

All in all, a really good event- refreshing, fun, and informative. UK QGIS Users- keep an eye on the blog and google plus for future events.

Back to Portable GIS… all fired up and full of enthusiasm, I’m giving serious thought to how to make the development more sustainable. In an ideal world I would get it into an online repository so that others can contribute, and also figure out how to automate the process of updating it when new versions of the core packages come out. If anyone has any solid ideas as to how this could work *, then ping me- let’s talk!

*Note it needs to be fairly easy to set up, and not take too much time for me to manage…

I’m also ready to start thinking seriously about how it could be used for rapid deployment, for the likes of MapAction and HOT. Again, ping me if you have some ideas about this!