Friday, 28 May 2010

gvSIG, I want to love you...

I've just been proofreading an article on gvSIG for the next OSgeo Journal (Volume 6, coming to an HTTP server near you soon). And I so want to love it. The author claims it does everything for him. I want it to do everything for me too.

Currently I use QGis for my day-to-day GIS operations. But the limitations are there - mostly in the geoprocessing arena. Vector and raster operations are a bit fragile and buggy at the moment, mostly because they are fairly new to QGis. A grand effort by Carson Farmer et al has greatly increased the analytical capabilities of QGis but there is still a way to go. Meanwhile gvSIG, with the Sextante toolbox, has it all. At least in theory. Time for me to try it out again.

So, off to the web site, and download the latest version. Its a Java app, and I keep getting bitten by incompatible Java environments so I downloaded the version for Linux with the included JRE. It's a big .bin file, so once downloaded you chmod it executable and run it. Choose an install directory and components, and there it goes. All ready to run. 

First thing I notice is that the java environment doesn't resize properly. No matter how I stretch or refresh the window, the blue desktop remains fixed size. The grey area is unusable:

Oh well never mind, let's have a look at the interface:
yes, well peace to you too. This menu has one option concerning DBF file encodings. I went 'huh?' and tried something else. Let's load a shapefile.

First you have to create a new "View", so click on the View icon and there's a new view. Double-click or hit 'open'. Now, how to load that shapefile?

Ah, the menu bar has changed. Okay, let's hunt. Layer? No, not there. Shalom? Nope. File? Nope. Oh, it's under View then Add Layer. That's not a standard place for adding things. Usually the View menu is for stuff like zooming in and out. Oh well.
At least now I've got the option. Hit it!
Yeah. Blank. There's controls in there, since random clicking does things. But I see nothing. Oh well, let's quit and try something else:
Blank again. Most of the dialogs are blank, including Help. There's no obvious errors on the console either. I have to hit Ctrl-C to kill it.

Normally I blame these problems with java apps on JRE incompatibilities, but I have no idea what is going on here. I'm running on Ubuntu Karmic on a PC and everything else works nicely. Obviously something is messing up gvSIG since plenty of other people must be using it. Ideas welcome. I think my next step is to try it with a new clean username. But that shouldn't be necessary in this day and age...


  1. Hey Barry,

    FWIW, try the OADigital Edition. It has some substantial language enhancements (and works just fine on our linux boxes at work).


  2. The Java Virtual Machine and 3D effects on linux are quite... crappy. It's not a gvSIG specific issue. As I replied on twitter, look here to solve the blank screen problem:

    Regarding the load of shapefiles... why not start looking some documentation like this contributed training?

    Of course, the mailing list is open to post comments and get feedback.

    Hope it helps

  3. Cheers all. The OADigital Edition works nicely. The blank window fix also works. But that fix page dates back to 2007 so I'm surprised its not been fixed already. I don't know what you lose by switching AWT_TOOLKIT to the Motif Toolkit in order to fix that. If it's not much, I'd suggest coding it into the shell script in the distribution!

    I was also fairly sure it was a Java problem, and did think it was possibly a Compiz interaction, but I can run other java apps no problem. No slur intended on gvSIG!

  4. and strange 'add layer' placement is explained by the fact, that it has been inherited from Arcview GIS. There, depending on what type of doc you're on, you have different menu and 'add layer' is under 'View'.

  5. I guess its because you are looking at a gvSIG thing called a 'View', and that drop-down is options for the View, rather than to control the view of the View!

    Nobody has explained 'Shalom' yet.