Arc GIS? Any users?

Discussion in 'Mapping & Navigation' started by mountain eagle, Sep 23, 2007.

  1. mountain eagle

    mountain eagle terrorist

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    Ok, so I've wandered into this strange place full of things I don't understand.......

    My wife however is working on a GIS certificate as part of her degree and I thought the geeks here might have some insight or something.....

    So.... any of you folx know or work with GIS or is everything here Garmin, or other system overlayered from (presumably) GIS? Anyone have access to GIS software she could use before dropping the $750 :huh for a student coppy? Hints or suggestions for easy projects for practice that have usable applications? She's new enough that when I asked what questions to ask ya'll that she doesn't quite know what the right questions are...... so if you know, speak up :D

    Thanks!
    #1
  2. R-dubb

    R-dubb Dubbious Adventurer

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    calling Phil........
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  3. R-dubb

    R-dubb Dubbious Adventurer

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    moved from Rockies
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  4. Twohondas

    Twohondas Long timer

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    ArcGIS comes from a company called ESRI in Redlands CA. Mostly gov't type organizations use this for planning and many other uses etc. Lots of other professional groups from oil companies to large retailers and land developers use their software. They have a very large market share with high end GIS crowd.

    Pretty expensive stuff and not really a consumer product. But it works!
    #4
  5. DirtyDog

    DirtyDog Lust for dust.

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    Arc GIS (or Arc anything) is basically a huge can of worms. Open at your own risk.

    People get degrees trying to use it, if that is any indication...

    We use it here at work in fisheries conservation, but I have avoided it like the plague. Too much startup self-education for me.
    #5
  6. Smithy

    Smithy Avoiding the Skid-Demon

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    I got it. I use it, I love it.

    Ok, I don't love it, but I have been deemed pretty darn good at it now after a decade of using their stuff.


    Garmin uses a fairly proprietary filetype for their basemaps. I recall somewhere, though, was a script to convert Arc language stuff into Garmin language stuff so you could publish your own basemaps. Lemme poke around for it.

    Unless you wanted something else...



    EDIT

    ok, re-read your post. Folks don't generally "loan" copies of this stuff. Mine is licensed to the Govt, and I doubt you want that coming up on some report when your computer calls home to momma. You ought to be able to get a free evaluation copy (full function, but timebombed for a month or 3) before you lay down dough.
    #6
  7. mountain eagle

    mountain eagle terrorist

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    Hey Smithy, ya she gets the timebombed ones for classes but there's been a few glitches with them at times. Quite frustrating with moving from school to home desktop to laptop with the work. She's working on a GIS certificate as part of her geology/landuse type of degree. The impression is that a GIS cert makes anyone hireable as it's getting used for all sorts of stuff and skilled people are in short supply.

    She's looking for easy project suggestions as well. She was hoping to somehow link usedfull info to topos or trail maps for us riders. Right now she's doing some stuff with the known problems building on expansive clays (bentonite) in colorado.

    I guess she's also looking for a heads up on where to get data (opensource or cheap preferrably) and how to merge the various data. Or any good sources for self learning.....
    #7
  8. Twohondas

    Twohondas Long timer

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    My recommendation is for you to contact ESRI office in Denver.....
    One International Court
    Broomfield, CO 80021-3200
    Telephone: 303-449-7779

    AND tell them you would like to work with them or help with the Homeland Security Conf in Denver in Nov 2007.

    This company loves to show users what their products can do. Good chance to get some data and work up some scenarios/case studies in prep for the conference.

    Hell they might even give some GD software.

    What do you think?

    Todd
    #8
  9. Smithy

    Smithy Avoiding the Skid-Demon

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    Clearly, there are as many facets to this work as there are people involved in it, but here are my impressions.

    GIS used at the desktop to do one-off projects is cool, gets people's attention, and can serve many useful purposes. But it is hard to grow beyond hobby-shop problem solving. Greater utility is gained by integrating the power of GIS as a central repository of all mappable knowledge, and making it core to whatever mission/business goal/research directive she's working on. Just my professional 2 cents.

    Example: Simply creating a GIS with topo as the basemap, roads/trails as the primary information layer, and maybe gas stations with average bike ranges expressed as buffers from those fuel stops, you can identify weak points in the infrastructure. Better if you do a density map of fuel stations as well, showing the relative closeness/distance of them as potential good/bad places to break down or run out of gas. A cost-surface of towing distance to each service station would be interesting too.

    Now, if she were to do all that, but expand it to all vehicle classes, and start looking at back roads where ADVRiders may congregate off the beaten path, she can start layering in more difficult-to-get-to places such as dirt roads, forest roads, etc, where tow trucks might not be able to access. Layer on private land that borders public roads and you introduce potential conflict areas between landowners and the public. Layer on known criminal activity in the backwoods (mapped meth labs, for instance), commercial activity such as logging that might disrupt accessability, and distance calculations to emergency medical care, and finally a map of cellular network visibility, and you have a multi-use map suited for the ADV'er but usable by anyone interested in emergency services, rural crime, land use management, forestry, and infrastructure.

    Now have her go sell some consulting hours to those industries, and buy a friggin ArcEditor license and get on with her career.

    :deal
    #9
  10. PhilSpace

    PhilSpace The Gov Administrator

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    What Smithy said, it ain't cheap and thow shalt not pirate, so there is also public domain GIS applications for the hard core that was originally developed by the Army Corps of Engineers that is pretty cool - free GNU license distribution - it's called GRASS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System). It's good, but you gets what you pays for.

    It's not for the the weak of heart, but it's free and it will run on both Windows and a MAC (:thumb) as well as UNIX ala X-Windows.
    #10
  11. danmack

    danmack Tall Tree

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    But I never inhaled. That was on a UNIX station. Full featured but difficult learning curve. Arcview after that on Windows and the Arcview copies had no timebombs in them and the ESRI company hadn't figured out how to capitalize on use of updates, etc. When they started the ARCGIS series it came with support and a contract licensing agreement that has to be renewed annually.

    They give a lot of grants though and the USDA has lots of their stuff. The most recent interesting purchase of their software was made for ESDA personnel under the guise of Homeland Security.

    Still doing GIS but the natural resources stuff has got it down to a pretty much canned setup and I am trying to get a local ESDA guy to that point with all the data they installed on his super high end laptop that came in a bomb proof case.
    #11
  12. Gringo

    Gringo simple by nature

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    I've been a GIS geek for 20+ yrs, and have been using Arc GIS since before they had Arc-GIS (I still dust off Arc-View 3.x once in awhile rather than rewrite all those old scripts for the new platform). After being self-taught in Arc-View, when they came out with ArcGIS I lobbied for, and got authorization to be sent for training at the local ESRI facility; have done about 7 or 8 courses there now, and it's made a huge difference. Allows me to almost keep up with the youngsters coming here straight out of grad school.

    There is alot of data available for free out there, some of which may be of use. ESRI has a server for lots of stuff - political boundaries, road networks, etc. - sometimes it's not the greatest quality but it's a start. GLCF at UMD has tons of satellite imagery for free, as well as SRTM topo data. I have to admit I've never downloaded anything for the US, only S. America, but it is called the GLOBAL land cover facility after all, so assume the data are available. Anyway I think with a little searching she could put together a decent database to start with, then see what's missing and maybe think of alternative sources...

    She's right about the job thing though - GIS capabilities linked with any other kind of resource management/planning/policy degree is a real good thing to have these days... and if you're gonna learn GIS, may as well do it in Arc.

    good luck
    #12
  13. MrMac

    MrMac Been here awhile

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    Well, A few places to start:

    http://nationalmap.gov/
    http://gos2.geodata.gov/wps/portal/gos
    http://www.geographynetwork.com/
    http://www.ncgia.ucsb.edu/giscc/

    ESRI has a plethora of free and low-cost on-line training courses and seminars.

    And welcome to GIS! I highly recommend this as a career!!
    #13
  14. FixerDave

    FixerDave KLR650 - XR200R

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    Quantum GIS is multi-platform (UNIX, Mac, Windows), does GRASS, is (by GIS standards) fairly easy to use, and it's free. Free is one freak of a lot less that ArcGIS.

    You can download it from http://qgis.org/

    it's not anything compared to ArcGIS, but is does let you view and edit map data, and it's getting better. I'm not saying that it's the best thing to invest in learning, but it can get you started. ArcGIS is the industry standard - if you can say you know that, then you are more hire-able. On the other hand, if you're working for some small-time company and see a problem that you could solve via Qgis, then saying "you know, we could just do this, and it would be free..." would go a long way to making you popular.

    Someday, Qgis will be a serious alternative, but right now it's not even at version 1 (currently, it's at 0.8.1 - that means "under development"). But, it does work and can give you a feel for what GIS does. If all you're doing is playing with maps, track, and points, and not so much the data processing side, then Qgis is fine.

    I wrote a little bit on digital mapping here, from a strictly amateur prospective. It's probably too basic for you wife, but it might help you understand what she's talking about.

    Oh, as for data, there's tons of it out there for free. One trick is to search for "E00" and some place or thing. E00 is a file format for sharing mapping data and not much else. That helps narrow things down for Google. Also, hit the government sites. Canada, for example, pretty well has the whole country laid out in raster and vector data, all for free. It's here. And, yes, you can open this stuff up in Qgis.

    David...
    #14
  15. Smithy

    Smithy Avoiding the Skid-Demon

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    Cool, never heard of it before. I'll have to look into that one. We have lots of situations crop up where the ESRI suite is just to complex for new users to apply to one-off projects, a lighter-weight solution seems ideal.
    #15
  16. doc_ricketts

    doc_ricketts Thumper jockey

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    Quite a coincidence. I have worked with ARCGIS and GRASS and we have the same avatar. Anyways, for simple tasks GRASS is not that hard to use. You can get delve into it more at:
    http://grass.itc.it/
    And there are other, simple commerical GIS packages available that are easier to use than ARC and much cheaper.
    #16
  17. Frank Warner

    Frank Warner Traveller

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    While the GIS stuff by it self is all well and good ... most people are using mobile GPSes .. and want their data in a format for the GPS.. garmin/magellan/lawrence etc ..

    For Garmin .. free map making then it would be

    http://mapcenter.cgpsmapper.com/

    To see what has been done (and there are a few that are not listed there too)
    http://mapcenter.cgpsmapper.com/catalogue.php (Look at the one for Buthan for detail ..)

    As far as I know there is not much done for adventure riders in Mongolia .. could be a usefull 'student project' ? Roads, topo and facilities (towns, police, medical, fuel .. things like that .. would be tremendous... but roads and towns good)
    #17
  18. Madmardigan

    Madmardigan Generally confused...

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    I'm coming a little late to this thread, but thought I'd add a little.

    If your wife is looking for projects to work on, well, almost anyting is fair game now. Consider anything that is geospatial by nature and you can do a project on it. If you need ideas, take a look at the ARC News, published by ESRI (the manufacturer of Arc GIS). Other options to consider, take a look at some of the University research programs on the web and see what they're doing with GIS. The possibilities are almost limitless. I have a lot of experience with GIS and we've done a number of projects over the years, both in our group and with students. Some simple things I've seen: mapping sprinklers for irrigation management for a golf course, basic home range projects in wildlife management, combining GIS with modelling (say hydrological modelling) and lots of GIS applications in fire management (perimeter, progression, etc.). If you want to move on to the more difficult, you can read up on geospatial research on things like how people move through grocery stores and the related product placement. And you thought the bacon was randomly stashed.... :D

    Someone also mentioned something about converting GPS data for use in a GIS. It's very common and I have experience with two prettty simple software packages: DNR Garmin and Ozi Explorer. Google either of 'em. DNR Garmin was created by the Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources and is available for free. This is the one I see being used the most in my work. Pretty quick learning curve. You can convert a track log to a shape file in no time.

    Finally, data... well, there's any number of sources out there for data. Depending on what you want, it should be pretty easy to find. Most states are running geospatial data clearinghouses these days. A quick search for Colorado (I assume that's where you're at based on your profile info) gave these:

    http://water.state.co.us/pubs/gis.asp

    http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/BLM_Programs/geographical_sciences/gis.html

    and many more. It's all a quick google search away (I searched "Colorado geospatial data" and Colorado GIS).

    Finally, check out the geography network for more free data. They have all sorts. Good luck
    #18
  19. Lobby

    Lobby Viel Spass, Vato!

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    :lurk
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  20. eap

    eap El Adventurero Solitario

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    I agree with most of what has been said here about ESRI's ArcView products. I am just completing a 3rd year in the 'other duties as assigned' category and am just now putting out usefull products and maps and preparing for a 4th class. That said, it is a long and somewhat painful learning curve, but I love it -

    Some project ideas:

    - Take a municipal area and map the pervious and impervious surfaces by type - usefull for stormwater analysis, compare this with a rural area.
    - Georeference a building drawing (blueprint or pdf...) and overlay it over the aerial photo of the same to compare design vs as-built.
    - use the universities maps as templates, and remap the schools best places to eat.
    - Download he US Census data plot statistic using their zipcode data - how many doctors per acre (per capita?) in Podunk vs Gotham City.
    - Overlay John Snow's 1843 cholera epidemic map over a modern aerial image of London

    Wish I had time to devote 4 yrs of study....

    Happy georeferencing....
    #20