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GIS On A Stick

Jo Cook of Oxford Archaeology has created a portable suite of Windows’ GIS applications that can be run from a thumb drive on any Windows XP/Vista system, or from your local hard drive, with no installation required. Applications include:

  • GRASS, a powerful but complicated GIS
  • Quantum GIS (version 10), a simpler GIS viewer/editor that incorporates some GRASS functionality
  • gvSIG, a full-blown GIS viewer/editor
  • GeoServer, a open-source map server
  • PostGreSQL with the PostGIS extensions, a relational database server (and Xampp, a portable version of the Apache server, to run it on)
  • FWTools, a full suite of command-line utilities for manipulating raster and vector data, along with the OpenEV raster image application  (note: I’ve been unable to get this one to work, but Jo thinks this may be a DLL conflict with an already-installed version of FWTools)

Download the Portable GIS zipped file here (warning: close to 500 MB even in zipped format). A few notes:

– You can run this from your hard drive as well as from a thumb drive, but you need to unzip it to a root hard drive directory, e.g. C:; unzip it to a subdirectory and it will have problems finding files.

– If you’re going to put it on a thumb drive, I’d recommend unzipping it first to a hard drive, then copying the files to the root directory of the thumb drive. Regardless, with about 20K files, it will take several hours to copy them over.

– In the current version (1.2), Portable GIS will only fit on a 2 GB or larger thumb drive in its default configuration. But with a bit of work, you can get it to fit onto a 1 GB thumb drive, and even have 250 MB of free space:

  • Right-click on the thumb drive’s icon, choose “Format”, and select the NTFS file system and Quick Format.
  • Once formatting is complete, close the Format window, right-click on the drive icon, and choose “Properties”
  • Check the box marked “Compress this drive to save disk space”, then click OK.
  • Unzip the Portable GIS files to your hard drive
  • Copy the files and directories over to the thumb drive, but in groups, not all at once; if you try it all at once, you’ll get a message saying there’s not enough room.

You’ll wind up with all the files you need to use Portable GIS, as well as extra space.

– For the thumb drive, double-click on the thumb drive icon; you’ll get a tray icon that clicking on will pop-up menu items for program configuration and running. If you’re running it from a hard drive, run the “PortableGISMenu.exe” app to create the tray icon.

– Before running GRASS, FWTools, or the Apache server using Xampp, run the appropriate setup program for each app to set system variables.

– Use the tray icon menu items to start up all the programs; use the same menu to shut down the GeoServer, Xampp and PostGreSQL applications (just closing the program windows may not work). GRASS, gvSIG and Quantum GIS can be shutdown normally.

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2 Responses to “GIS On A Stick”

  1. 1 Simon

    I D-L this a few weeks back and shoved it on a 4GB USB drive.
    Apart from a quick play seeing if applications fired up (they did) I have not had time to play with these tools further.

    I used to use GRASS & some BASH shell scripts on a Ubuntu box a few years back but apart from that, I have little experience with the other apps.

    Would be intersting to hear what people have done with these apps (specifically within the Windows environment/boot from USB)

    Again – is there a central resource for resources for this product – support and community forums?

  1. 1 Tiny geocoder « LocalLab : Foire aux Infos
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