Ubuntu-tz Core Team member pages

Guy Picton Phillipps gpictonphillipps at wcs.org
Mon Sep 8 08:49:43 BST 2008



Firstly thanks for getting the TZ Ubuntu website up and running, I for one,
as a pretty much complete novice in Ubuntu really welcome the development of
a local focal point, and am looking forward to being an active member.Good
Skills! I also think having core team member profiles is a good idea, not
only to put a human face to Ubuntu in TZ but also to highlight the multitude
of different interests that Ubuntu users will represent. 


My initial interest in Ubuntu was simply to experience a different operating
system, however it quickly became apparent that I could use Ubuntu for some
things that I couldn't use other OS for. For example, some scientific
applications are designed specifically for Linux systems, so relatively
quickly I started using only certain aspects of Ubuntu, and am still fairly
ignorant on large parts of the operating system. There is, imho, a lot of
potential here to get Ubuntu adopted by the scientific community in Tanzania
and East Africa/Africa as a whole, as the applications I started using
Ubuntu for are related to climate change. In fact most of the tools to
manipulate and extract data from climate models used by the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are designed to run on
Linux. This is of interest, as there is currently a real need for African
researchers to start looking at the possible impacts of climate change on
the continent and to do this they need the model outputs, which they can
only really work with efficiently using a Linux system - and what better
Linux system than Ubuntu  ;-). One current barrier to this  is that when a
scientist needs access to such data, unless they are currently familiar with
Linux, then the necessity of finding a spare machine or dual booting Ubuntu,
then learning the operating system and possibly some scripting language like
Python to automate certain processes means that the path of least resistance
may lie elsewhere. Providing resources to make this process less painful and
more efficient is one of the key benefits of having a site like ubuntu-tz,
and of course and excellent way of promoting use of Ubuntu - not necessarily
as a replacement desktop (initially), but a standalone tool that is used to
run certain applications. Of course this may also be considered similar to
the free sample given out by your friendly neighbourhood drug dealer to get
you hooked! (And what is wrong with that I hear you ask?!!) In any case I
would like to add an objective, or maybe just a focus for Ubuntu-TZ which is
getting the system adopted by the scientific community here.


Another area I am interested in is using Geographic Information Systems
(GIS) on Ubuntu. This is the area that I am mainly working in, and given the
cost and learning barriers associated with most commercial GIS (there are
some exceptions of course), I would be really happy if it is possible to
identify a collection of open source GIS applications running on Ubuntu
which could be available to users in Africa and beyond at no cost. Linked to
the use of GIS is an interest in processing speed; given that users of GIS
often need to process large amounts of data, speed can be a primary
consideration. Given that the main commercial GIS software supplier hasn't
yet and doesn't seem willing to produce a native 64bit version of their
product for windows, there is a real potential for open source GIS software
to exceed the performance of some commercial systems. Given the amount of
moaning on GIS mailing lists about the sluggishness of currently available
software this could represent a real opportunity to promote open source GIS
software (and the operating systems they run on of course). Given that I am
admittedly ill informed on what makes an OS fast I am currently in a poor
position to evaluate this, but I hope that over the coming months I can make
a start on this. One major challenge for open source GIS though is current
functionality. I have looked briefly at a couple of applications and my
initial impression is that they understandably have much less functionality
than the commercial versions. It is very possible though that a collection
of several different applications may be able to provide most of the
functionality that you need, so it is also interesting to evaluate the
different products available, what they can do and possibly start looking at
gluing several together - this seems to already be starting with the
inclusion of a GRASS toolbox (GRASS being a well established open source
GIS) into Quantum GIS (a relative newcomer to the open source GIS arena). A
more advanced project would be the development from scratch or modification
of an existing application that would be optimised to run on Ubuntu. However
I don't know whether this would be feasible from a technical expertise
perspective or even desirable in terms of the relative benefits that could
be gained by optimising - though still worth thinking about.


I suppose the point of the random ramble above is to suggest that as well as
having core team member profiles, there could also be a number of special
interest groups (SIGs) for different aspects of Ubuntu usage - I would be
more than willing to volunteer to kick off a TZ GIS on Ubuntu special
interest group, which would build on the existing Ubuntu GIS resource
https://wiki.ubuntu.com/UbuntuGIS but would also address in more detail some
of the issues mentioned above, and hopefully focus on applications and
challenges that are specific to TZ. I would also be interested in a
Scientific SIG, but as the scope of this could be huge this probably needs
more thrashing out to come up with a good set boundaries for what it would
and wouldn't aim to achieve.


Would be interested to hear about others thoughts on whether such SIGs would
be useful and other areas of specialisation that SIGs could be relevant for,
apart from anything, it is interesting to read about what others are
doing....and daydreaming about changing jobs when everything gets too much!


Looking forward to exploring this more,






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