GISVM article at InfoGEO

infoGeoAn introduction article to GISVM has been published at the popular Brazilian magazine InfoGEO by MundoGeo. The article has been writen in colaboration with Fernando Quadro and I make it available here, translated into English:


Virtualizing your GIS

A lot has been said about virtualization, especially with the increase in the processing capacity of computers, but virtualization is simply the process which, through the sharing of hardware, allows the user to run various operating systems on the same machine, whether it be a server or a desktop.


Figure 1. Example of how a virtual machine works

Each virtual machine created in this way is a complete operating environment, as safe and totally isolated as if it were an independent computer. In a virtualized environment, one single machine can store a diversity of operating systems, allowing a much more agile usage at a lower cost.


GISVM (Geographic Information System Virtual Machine) is a virtual machine created on the VMWare platform, based on the operating system Ubuntu Linux and it is a mix of the following ingredients: GIS, Free Software and Virtualization.


Figure 2. GISVM Desktop

It has been developed keeping in mind those who are taking their first steps in the GIS world. Apart from being practical, it allows you to use it wherever and however you want to, without complications, and it can be run even from a USB harddrive or pendrive.

It is a complete set of Open Source GIS applications, selected in such a way as to provide tools for the main needs of a GIS user. It can be easily adapted to meet one’s personal needs, allowing the user to add new data or applications.

In it you will find a very popular distribution of Linux, with several useful applications, including  Open Office, a relational database server (PostgreSQL) with spacial support (PostGIS) , two free map servers (GeoServer and MapServer), as well as net services and configurations that ease the data communication between the virtual machine and the physical machine in such a way that allows GISVM to function as a simple machine within your computer network.

GISVM is available in English and Portuguese in two versions: GISVM Server and GISVM Desktop. See below for the list of items installed in each version:

GISVM Desktop: GISVM Server:
  • S.O. Linux Ubuntu 8.04 Desktop
  • Samba
  • PostgreSQL/PostGIS
  • Java/Tomcat/GeoServer
  • Apache/PHP/MapServer
  • Quantum GIS
  • gvSIG
  • uDIG
  • FWTools: OpenEV, GDAL/OGR, Proj4, OGDI
  • OpenOffice
  • And all the applications included on standard Ubuntu instalation.
  • S.O. Linux Ubuntu 9.04 Server Edition
  • Pacote LAMP Server (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP)
  • Samba
  • Tomcat Java Server
  • PostgreSQL/PostGIS, ZigGIS and FDO ready!
  • Mapserver
  • Geoserver
  • Deegree
  • Webmin

How to use

GISVM is a virtual computer which is run within your physical computer. To start using it you need to first install a programme which can run a virtual machine. For common use of GISVM, the VMWare Player, which is free and has versions in Windows and Linux, is recommended. To be able to use GISVM comfortably, some basic requirements must be met including having 5GB of free space on the hard drive, 1GB of Ram memory and having a Dual Core processor.

To use GISVM all it takes is a download from the official site (, and to expand the file in your chosen location. After having done that, you need to open the VMware Player and select the vmx extention file in the directory where it was expanded to.


Figura 3: GISVM running on Mac OS X

The advantages

a) Ready to use as it is a “computer” which has applications already installed, which reduces the amount of time wasted on installation and configuration.

b) Runs in any environment as it is based on Virtualization technology, i.e. it is multi-platform,  which means that it can be run on computers with different operating systems (Windows, Macintosh and Linux).

c) A complete pack which offers the user a complete range of SIG applications.

d) Flexible and adaptable to different situations and needs, as, apart from the tools it offers you can customize and adapt it.

One of the biggest sucess stories of GISVM  has been its adaptation to teaching environments. From GISVM, teachers have been adapting it to the needs of the class/content to be taught to students, by adding their data and exercises. Afterwards, in class, they share this new version with all the students, who then have acess to a ready-to-use learning environment, saving a lot of class time which would otherwise be used on irrelevant tasks.

The different between the Desktop and the Server editions

GISVM was initially made available only in its Desktop version, i.e, with a graphic interface to interact with the user. This version is more complete in terms of variety of GIS applications. In it you can find all kinds of applications, be it of visualization, editing, analyzing and publishing.

In the Server edition, only the interface of command lines is avaliable, with no graphic interface. In it you can find a greater number of server applications which function as services that are run in background. This version  fucntions as a SIG server in its network, ready to provide services. One of the main reasons for its launch was to allow it to be used in an interoperating way with any GIS Desktop application which you have installed on your computer or local network.


Figure 4: Quantum GIS and GISVM Server on Windows Vista

GISVM offers the user a lot more than the possibility of using or experimenting with an individual application. In it the user can enjoy a whole set of GIS solutions and services which can be used together, and in this way verify the true potential of FOSS4G (Free Open Source Software for GIS).

GISVM.COM 1st Year statistics report

GISVM.COM has just celebrated it’s first Birthday!

Just like an one-year old child, it has been through a lot of changes and now it’s getting ready to start walking! 😉

It is time for some site and download statistics for this first year of life. The following statistics where taken from data collected between: 1st September 2008 and 30th September 2009

GISVM.COM site : Monthly Summary Report

The next summary graph clearly shows the growing success of GISVM. In the last months, the number of visitors has doubled, compared to the first quarter months, and page views have risen from the initial 18.000 to nearly 90.000 pages/month .

Site monthly summary report

Visitors and Unique Visitors per month:

Site visitors per month

Site page views per month:


Server sessions per month:

Site server sessions

Visitors Map overlay:

There’s a new arrival on top 10 visitors country: Australia 😉

Site Map Overlay

Forum statistics:

Forum activity now shows a new dynamism, after a low period in the first 6 months of this year.

Forum statistics

GISVM image file downloads:

Some of the direct file download statistics. Here, ‘visitors’ means successful downloaded files.

Total downloaded files per month.

Downloads are very dependent on new version releases, when they go over 1000 downloads per month. During the “zero release” period, it never goes under 200 downloads per month, which means approximately a minimum of 10 downloads per day.

Total downloads per month

File versions downloads:

The two International versions released on 2008.11.01  have been the most downloaded ones, resulting in more than 3.600 downloads out of a total of 7.264 downloads.

Distinct files download

And who is downloading GISVM:

There are downloads from all over the world!

Download contriesDownload OS:

Microsoft Windows users make up nearly 3 quarters of the total downloads.

Download Operating System

GISVM at FOSS4G 2009

This year the Biggest conference in the World about Open Source Software for GIS is going to happen at Sidney.

There are 3 GISVM presentation submissions for FOSS4G 2009. So let’s hope that this year it can make a presence there!

GISVM is still the unique project concerning Virtualization on GIS!
You can find GISVM abstracts by using “Virtualization” tag:

Please take a look at the proposed abstracts:

“GISVM, the ultimate tool for teaching FOSS4G
(Ricardo Pinho)”

GIS Virtual Machine is a new concept of FOSS4G distribution, based on Virtualization technology, which enables it to be a completely installed, configured and ready to use GIS Workstation. And, as a Virtual Machine, it can literally run anywhere. GISVM is a full-feature GIS Workstation based exclusively on free GIS software: PostgreSQL, PostGIS, GeoServer, Mapserver, FWTools, QGIS, GRASS, gvSIG, uDIG, Kosmo and OpenJump, on Ubuntu Desktop. As such it offers the growing number of professionals and general users, who need to perform any kind of GIS task, an opportunity to quickly and painlessly start using FOSS4G on their current computer environment. A case study will be presented on using GISVM at university training, for teaching “ecological modeling and spatial data analysis”, aimed at Master and Doctoral level students in different Universities. It demonstrates how it can be used with excellent results in the framework of teaching purposes.

“GISVM Server, Your Open Spatial Virtual Server
(Ricardo Pinho)”

In the past, commercial GIS software companies have based their business model on offering a complete and closed GIS solution, with proprietary file formats and proprietary drivers to access all types of external data. Today there is a way to solve the resulting incompatibility problems, with Open Spatial Standards from OGC and their extensive implementation from Free Open Source Software for GIS (FOSS4G). GIS Virtual Machine Server, offers the GIS user an easy way to start using FOSS4G with their current GIS software solution, to enter into the world of OGC Open Geospatial Standards and benefit from the power of real interoperability. There will be a presentation on the possibility of using GISVM Server with two proprietary software solutions, Autodesk AutoCAD MAP and ESRI ArcGIS, which will demonstrate how it is possible to access a PostgreSQL with PostGIS, a Simple Feature Geospatial Database, using FDO drivers or ZigGIS, and several OGC Web services, such as WMS and WFS.

(Jeremy Cothran)”

GISVM is a vmware based virtualized image containing many popular open source tools. Xenia is the name of a minimal relational database schema and associated scripts for processing data to a variety of formats and services. Xenia has been developed in the ocean observing system domain to ingest data from a variety of fixed and mobile distributed platforms and observation types at the current rate of approximately 10,000 observations/hour and produce popular formats such as KML, GeoRSS and web services. Combining both a proven relational database observation collection schema with a variety of open source GIS mapping tools on the same virtualized image provides easy turnkey solutions to data management and sharing issues for distributed observation platforms and systems.

GISVM.COM 1st quarter statistics report

GISVM.COM has passed its first quarter, with 3 release dates and 5 different image file versions, resulting on 4,000 direct downloads, torrent excluded!

Once again I would like to thank everyone for the amazing feedback!!!

So here are some statistics of these first 4 months (2008 last quarter).

GISVM.COM site access:


During the first 4 months the site had a total of 62,657 pageviews, with some top day values corresponding the announcement dates, but almost equal amounts for each month, aprox: 15,000 pageviews/month.


The site received near to 25,000 visits on these 4 months, with 15,000 unique visitors at an astonishing  rate of 4,000 unique visitors/month.


The Internet is amazing, the visits came from all over the world! From the known visitors geographic location we can view a Map Overlay showing Europe and Americas on top.
Of course Portugal cities, my home country, are at the top of the table, because I suppose there has been more publicity here and having a local PT image file also helped! 😉

GISVM image file downloads:

Here, only the direct file download statistics are shown. GISVM can also be downloaded from torrent, the recommended way! But unfortunately I don’t know any exact way to get the download statistics from torrent.

So over these past 4 months, there as been approximately 4,000 direct image file downloads. This includes all image versions, with some top days passing 100 downloads/day on the announcement dates.

The FOSS4GIS 2008 is still the most downloaded version, with near to 1,200 downloads. But all the 20081101 release files together make over 1,500 downloads!

And if you think about the other Torrent downloads, this is really amazing. I still can’t believe it!

There are several possible ideas for 2009!

If you have some, please share them with us.
Please leave a comment or a forum post!

Thanks everyone!!

Cheers, Ricardo Pinho

GISVM on a… Macbook!

GISVM is supposed to run anywhere!

Undoubtedly it performs well on any of the NT based Windows, that is, on 2000, XP and Vista. It was built on them, and I use it there almost every day…

So to see it for myself, I grabbed a recent opportunity to try it on a Macbook.
It was a: Macbook 3, board x3100 at 800Mhz bus, Intel Core 2 Duo at 2 GHz, 4GB of RAM and 250GB HD. Boosted by OSX 10.5 leopard!

I ran GISVM with VMware Fusion and it worked faultlessly and ran more smoothly than on any Windows I have ever tried!

An amazing experience! So good that I want one of these to be my next laptop! 😉
Here are some photos and screenshots:

Macbook with GISVM – front view!

Macbook with GISVM – side view!

Macbook with GISVM – screen angle view!

Macbook with GISVM – screen detail!

Macbook with GISVM – multitasking screenshot!

It would be a lot of fun, if everyone joined this “GISVM on a…” experience initiative.
Please comment this post or send me you story to:

Cheers, Ricardo Pinho

GISVM present at 1st OSGeo Portuguese Conference

Hi all,
Last Monday (October 20, 2008) I have been honored to participate on the amazing 1st OSGeo Portuguese Conference (named as “1as Jornadas SASIG“)

1as Jornadas SASIG

And so GISVM has made its first ever public appearance!


It was very nice to personally receive so many enthusiastic congratulations and interest on the project.

Thank you everyone. I will do my best to meet up to your expectations!!!

Ricardo Pinho

GISVM.COM 1st month statistics report

GISVM.COM is a month old and more than 2,000 downloads!

I would like to thank everyone for this wonderful feedback!!!

Here it goes some site statistics for this first month.

GISVM.COM site: Daily number of page requests

(note that the main site has only one page!)

1st month - Daily page requests - graph

1st month - Daily page requests - table

GISVM 1st month downloads

GISVM 1st month downloads
GISVM 1st month downloads Total
1st month downloads - total - table

(note this doesn’t include files downloaded with torrent. Uncontrolled!)

There are at least 1,500 GISVM users out there.

Ooops, that costed me near to 2 TeraBytes of Bandwidth!

Hope everyone is using them!!!

And Who’s donwloading GISVM?

GISVM 1st month Downloads – Countries
1st month downloads - countries

1st month downloads  -countries - table
GISVM 1st month downloads – Browsers

Firefox rules!!! 🙂

GISVM 1st month downloads – Operating Systems
GISVM 1st month downloads - Operating Systems

Windows rules!  🙁

What do you think about this first Month Statistics?

Please, leave your comment!