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Thread: Urban planning Linux distributions

  1. #1
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    Urban planning Linux distributions

    Well would it be more perfect to have our operating system as urban planners?
    And more specifically a Linux Distribution dedicated to Urban Planning.
    I think it would be the best thing. Do you know any related project and what software do you think this Linux Distribution MUST have pre-installed?
    Some suggestions of me is surely a CAD program that runs on linux, GIS,GRASS,and something like SPSS but for LInux. These programs we are working as students in urban planning in greece.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    If they're installing the system themselves then use Ubuntu, as it's the most hands-off and user-friendly distribution with the best installer.

    If you have a sysadmin who is going to install the software and maintain the machines, then use Debian. You need to know what you're doing to configure it but it's much more stable.

    For planning, yes, you'll need GRASS. The most powerful Open Source statistical program is GNU R. It's more analogous to SAS than SPSS but is as powerful as either (I believe both SAS and SPSS will run on Linux as well, with great licensing expense). I can't comment on CAD as I've never done any CAD work and don't know what is available. If you have a commercial CAD program in mind and they have a Unix version it'll almost certainly run on Linux.

    Depending on how much statistics and math they need to do you might also want to install Octave (a modern replacement to Fortran for doing matrix math), GNU Plot, a visualization engine used by many systems, and Maxima, a symbolic math engine and replacement for Maple/Matlab.

    For planning, you'll also need The GIMP (photo manipulator), Open Office, and all that.

    All of the Open Source programs above are available through Debian's or Ubuntu's package management system and are painless to install.
    Reality does not conform to your ideology.
    http://neighborhoods.chicago.il.us Photographs of Life in the Neighborhoods of Chicago
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  3. #3
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    This is not for some specific group of people

    I opened the project in order to discuss how would be a linux distribution dedicated to urban planning. I have seen astronomical ,medical , archeology linux distributions. Why not an Urban Planning distribution. So lets make suggestions for Urban pLanning software that a future urban planning distribution MUST contain and have pre-installed.
    As for for your suggestions as anproud ubuntu user i agree at all. Ubuntu is indeed very good for desktop user and Debian the most stable.

    But I have heard hundreds of linux distributions does anyone know if any group have ever made a Urban PLannning linux distribution or if anyone plans to do this?

  4. #4
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by alex_greece View post
    But I have heard hundreds of linux distributions does anyone know if any group have ever made a Urban PLannning linux distribution or if anyone plans to do this?
    I visit Distrowatch from time to time, and I've never seen news of a planning-specific release of Linux. The reason may be that most planners work for government agencies (which haven't exactly embraced open source software and Linux) and private firms (that may or may not have an IT department, but likely depend on Windows-based apps like MapInfo, Photoshop and so on). Except for GRASS and perhaps some project-management software or groupware, I don't know what would be in a planning-related distro that is lacking in Ubuntu or Debian. The technophobia of older planners may also contribute to the lack of demand for a planning-related distro.

    FWIW, Cyburbia runs on a CentOS Linux-based server, and uses a combination of open-source (Drupal, MediaWiki) and copyrighted but visible-source (vBulletin, Photopost) software.

  5. #5
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    linux urban

    I am a geography student. I have been using linux since some times now. I have been looking for this kind of linux distributions but I could not find. But there are some good linux distributions you can use and install the software yourself.
    I agree about ubuntu. It is good but is a little slow. I am using now debian and you can use their testing and unstable repository to install your softwares through apt-get.
    I suggest that you add to your list beside grass and R, Qgis, Openjump and inskape for drawing.
    if there is any urban linux that will be made it should these softwares and some db softwares as Postgres with postgis or mysql.
    I will will be happy to see this distribution soon. so let us claim for it

  6. #6
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    Building an Ubuntu deriv is actually pretty easy. Build a simple "meta-package" and away you go. If you want to get something going, I (within the constraints of my time) love to help. However, having watched efforts like this (in general, not urban planning specific) fail, what is really needed is developers, not just enthusiasts. And no, I can't help you on that front.

    Oh, for the wondering, I am fairly heavily involved in Ubuntu. I hate to sound pretentious. My Ubuntu profile can be seen here http://wiki.ubuntu.com/CoreyBurger

    Creating a custom Ubuntu deriv isn't hard. What you need is a "meta-package", basically a package that installs the other packages you want. The bigger challenge is maintaining all the software like GRASS that only you care about. Regardless, the biggest challenge is getting enough developers to help you.

    And yes, I am heavily involved in Ubuntu. I can help you create such a deriv, within the constraints of my time as I am a student.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 28 Jan 2008 at 9:25 AM. Reason: double reply

  7. #7
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    One thing that can be confusing about Linux and othher open source projects, though, is that there are so many specialized forks. Even the front end of Cyburbia runs on a Drupal fork. Ubuntu, which can be thought of as a fork of Debian (Is it still more-or-less Debian compatible? On my backup PC, I use PCLinuxOS, because it is more compatible with the machine's hardware out of the box) is a great distro. Why fork it, if most planning-related apps can be downloaded through a package manager and the default repositories?

    / Typing this on my trusty old iBook G4 running Mac OX 10.5.1 I use Windows XP, Mac OS X, and Linux.

  8. #8
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    What I was suggesting was not a fork of Ubuntu. All the software would exist within the same Ubuntu repos and the edition would release at the same time. Ubuntu Studio and Mythbuntu do this. Mostly it is just marketing and polishing (making sure the default installed apps are relatively bug-free).

  9. #9
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Segways, Linux for Planners, and Ron Paul...

    ...all great ideas...in theory.

    I am anything but a technophobe. But I can't see wasting any of my limited brainpower or time wondering if I really really have the right operating system, let alone trying to learn something new that holds damn little promise of actually improving my planner skill sets. There are too many other high-return learning opportunities available to a planner. [bitter sarcasim] My AICP CM opportunities for instance [/bitter sarcasim]. Picking up a working knowledge of Linux is not one of them. And yes, I have about 10 old versions laying around the casa. I gave up on all the promises I heard from the linux cult about 5 years ago.

    However, if you are drawn to Linux as a hobby then by all means explore. I don't want to discourage anyone from exploring their iterests. But, I just don't see it ever going mainstream in planning and sitting on Joe Planner's workstation as the replacement for the dreaded MS-OS and all its family of applications. They have about a bagillion dollar head start.

  10. #10
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    You are absolutely right that Linux is not ready for the planning professional, but that is only because critical mass has not appeared yet.

    As for the bagzillion dollar lead myth, I suggest you use your Unix/Netware/Wang/Apple computer to tell me. Oh wait, they are no longer dominant despite having a majority marketshare...

  11. #11
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CoreyBurger View post
    You are absolutely right that Linux is not ready for the planning professional, but that is only because critical mass has not appeared yet.

    As for the bagzillion dollar lead myth, I suggest you use your Unix/Netware/Wang/Apple computer to tell me. Oh wait, they are no longer dominant despite having a majority marketshare...
    I didn't realize the market share of an MS OS on professional workstations was a common myth. I foolishly made my statement based upon my own observations, personal experience and general cultural knowledge. That said, I stand by my thoughts anyway; Linux isn't ready for the average joe's workstation, for numerous reasons. Let alone is it poised to capture the rich market that is the planner kingdom. I don't wish the Linux 'movement' bad luck. A much more robust and featured filled Linux as competition to MS would be good. But Linux doesn't have the richness of features, flexibility, user friendlyness nor has it made any in roads into public conciousness beyond the priest of the penguin clan. When I bought my media player, camera, gps, and last 6 PC games not a damn one of them came with Linux drivers or instalation modes.

    I say, "Good Luck, and Good Day Penguinistas"

  12. #12
    Cyburbian b3nr's avatar
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    This organisation has just switched to Open Office. With 14,000 employees that is quite a feat... and met with quite a bit of resistance.

    I'm a fan of Linux and have Unbuntu on my home machine, i'd like to see it used more in both public and private sectors. I think for most admin tasks Linux software will do the job, our problem would be with the specialist software used. MapInfo is not even compatible with Open Office... so some machines still need Excel and Access. Then there's some very specific traffic modelling, accessability and time keeping software which is not Linux compatible.

    I'd love to see this though.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally posted by el Guapo View post
    I didn't realize the market share of an MS OS on professional workstations was a common myth. I foolishly made my statement based upon my own observations, personal experience and general cultural knowledge. That said, I stand by my thoughts anyway; Linux isn't ready for the average joe's workstation, for numerous reasons. Let alone is it poised to capture the rich market that is the planner kingdom. I don't wish the Linux 'movement' bad luck. A much more robust and featured filled Linux as competition to MS would be good. But Linux doesn't have the richness of features, flexibility, user friendlyness nor has it made any in roads into public conciousness beyond the priest of the penguin clan. When I bought my media player, camera, gps, and last 6 PC games not a damn one of them came with Linux drivers or instalation modes.

    I say, "Good Luck, and Good Day Penguinistas"
    I am not saying that MS is not dominant now. I am merely saying that assuming the current monopoliy will stand for all time is the height of folly.

  14. #14
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by el Guapo View post
    Linux isn't ready for the average joe's workstation, for numerous reasons.
    'Tis true, much as I hate to admit it. Linux is fun, but it can be frustrating as hell.

    Mac OS X: It just works.

    Microsoft Windows XP: It just works, even though it has a few problems now and then.

    Linux: It just works. Except with my fairly new GeForce video card and fairly old 21" CRT, which only displays the desktop at 640X480 instead of its full 1600x1200 resolution. To get around it, I've got to Google around to find a solution, not find anything, post to a Linux message board about the problem, have responses from ten neckbeards saying "learn C++ and write your own driver" (with the obligatory signature file containing a Monty Python quote), followed by one useful answer about a week or so after I made the original post, edit /bin/etc/apt/sources.list to add an obscure repository, reload the repository information, download a patch, install the patch, edit some other stuff in a monitor configuration database file, edit anther file in some obscure subdirectory like /usr/bin/etc/bin/usr/usr/bin, reboot ... and it's broken. Command line interface only, and can't boot into the Gnome desktop. Time to check out another distro ...

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Getting back to the original question

    Any "wrapped package" of software for this urban planner will need at least:
    - a GIS for spatial analysis, with both raster and vector capabilities, preferably with network and 3D analysis and visualization capabilities
    - a powerful database engine for storing the data for the GIS,
    - a good statistical package to cover anything the GIS can't handle
    - a design program (CAD) because most GIS are simply not made for design work
    - a web map server, if anyone is going to publish their maps on the web
    - a graphics program for manipulating images, photos,
    - a word processor for report writing
    - a spreadsheet program for numerous things
    - preferably a presentation program, you guessed it, for presentations
    - and no doubts a few other goodies I can't think of just now.

    There are linux programs in all of these categories, but not all of them are of the highest quality, and many are not particularly user-friendly...at least for a newby. One thing I've noticed is that quite a few linux-based programs are supported by surprisingly good user-group forums, and help can be quite quick in coming. That said, there are others that are quite poor.

    Today I saw a comparison between Mac Leopard OS and Linux in a magazine. I was very surprised to read how many aspects the author felt linux (and it was Ubuntu) surpassed the new Mac OS. Graphics was NOT one of them. Flexibility definitely was.

  16. #16
    Interesting thread to me, because I'm not really a planner, but a Unix systems administrator/programmer with a passionate interest in urban issues. I run Debian at home, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) as my primary workstation on the job, manage lots of solaris machines, and have been using GNU/Linux since 1994.

    One interesting note which isn't directly related to planning software, but potentially could influence planning in the international world of ideas for years to come is that SimCity's source code has been GPL'd, and is included in One Laptop Per Child (OLPC). That means that assuming the OLPC project is successful, the planning principles intrinsic in Micropolis (as the GPL'd SimCity is called) will be propagated among users of that system at a very early age.

    I've engaged the primary developer in an email dialog, and have written an initial post on Micropolis at

    http://larryfeltonjohnson.typepad.co...polis-and.html

    I think it's very important that the professional planning community provide input into the rules of the game, so to speak.

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