Building a System

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013


My first map as an independent took a while.  That is because I’m not just the cartographer.  I’m the IT guy and the researcher.

From an IT perspective GIS is hard.  The software options are complicated and expensive.  Visualization places heavy demands on the video card.  Large data sets require sufficient space and organization.  Terrain processing can run for hours.  For the home GIS solution it has to be cheap too.

One software package sets the stage for everything.  ArcGIS.  As a pro you need it and it only runs on Windows.  I solved that with a gaming quality laptop.  The video, memory, and hard drive are nearly as good as a workstation laptop and it’s a lot cheaper.  Since I can’t afford a full ESRI license I run Quantum GIS for some processing tasks.  I manage my files on a recycled Linux laptop.  This low budget filer server supports every machine in the house and has it’s own battery backup.  The performance isn’t bad either.

For under $3,000 I’ve got a complete system that’s backed up, mobile, and ready to work.  Most of my compromises are on software.  The open source offerings aren’t as smooth as the commercial products but they are getting the job done.  Let’s make some maps.