Open Source Free Software GIS - GRASS users conference 2002
Trento, Italy, 11-13 September 2002
Why are we - a forestry scientist and an environmental engineer - working with GRASS?
When we started to work on GISs back eight years ago, Marco thought "oh, many useful color maps", while Paolo thought "oh no, all those boring database tables". Then asking around for more information we discovered that GISs belonged more to myth than to real word: a few knew what they were and less have ever seen one. Then the curiosity arose: we had to get our hands on a GIS. By a quick inquire we found out that those expensive - and quite magical - systems were difficult to get and more difficult to understand. After a couple of failures with expensive but innefective proprietary software, a friend of ours came to visit and he brought us a DAT tape with a strange program. It took a full day to him to make it work on our shiny and powerful HP workstation; a day of messing with code, Makefiles and libraries. To Paolo, self made Unix administrators and programmers, this was heaven: thousands of source code files to read and learn, a whole complex system built up from the source under our eyes and, finally, some maps on the - black and white - screen. To Marco, field forester and DOS user, this was a cause of perplexity but also of a strong curiosity.
GRASS had made its appearance in our - scientific - life, it was 1994. Since then we have used other GISs - a lot of them - but none of them compared to GRASS, it made us wondering - every time - how the system works and, while with GRASS the documentation and the code is there to give the answer, most of the time we are sent back to the initial misty world of magic. GRASS made us demanding for more each time we approach a new system, to us it is the reference GIS.
Many things have happened since 1994, we have meet several people interested in GRASS and we have been part of the creative process involving users and developers. A large and strong community has grown around GRASS, especially thanks to the GPL licensing scheme and the initial project quality. We are now proud of being part of this community and we hope this Conference can help to make another small step forward for GRASS and the whole Open Source and Free Software community.
Marco Ciolli and Paolo Zatelli Trento, Italy, August 2002