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Portable GIS on a Stick!

GIS on a Stick from Free Geography Tools


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.

Portable GIS on a Stick 2.0 Released

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  • Survey Legend

    Thanks Skip

  • Land Surveyor
    I don't do much in the GIS industry, well, I guess that by providing coordinates on 121 section corners in the State of Wisconsin that will ultimately be used in generating a more accurate depiction of tax parcels referenced to aerial photography, I do get involved a bit.  Whether or not I just typed that is irrelevant to the fact that I think this is a great idea and I think I will take it for a test ride out of pure curiosity.  I may find these applications useful, or maybe not.  I guess I won't know until I try them.
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