Well, it's been a while, but I've been making slow progress. I decided to go with QGis and GRASS because I can't find what I want in other packages. That's not to say that they're not there, but the features I'm looking for are not obvious to me, except in QGis and GRASS where I'm pretty sure I'll find what I need.
Something else I've discovered in the course of a few work-related meetings in the past week; ESRI ArcGIS is giving me a vocabulary in GIS that others seem to have trouble with. I'm also finding that the tools I'm finding easily in ArcGIS are not so easy to find in any other solutions because the ESRI names are unique. Maybe just working with the other software will expand my vocabulary.
Anyway, I'm finding some awkward bits in compiling everything needed for QGis. The required software includes GRASS if you want to use it, and GDAL. Problem I'm struggling with is that if you want the two to be aware of each other, they need to be told that at compile time. Which do you compile first when the other doesn't exist? I'm compiling both without awareness of the other, and then re-compiling. I'm struggling to get the compilations to complete, so I haven't been able to get to the point of testing to see if that approach works. Haven't found any documentation that helps.
One issue in compiling is that my latest FC4 update installed a newer version of fft utilities that GRASS doesn't appear to help. Once again the open source model kicks in; I'm subscribing to every listserv for each of the packages in the hopes that someone is willing to answer newbie questions that may or may not be worth answering...
Ever catch yourself checking the e-mail every few minutes on a Sunday in the hopes that a group of developers is actually hard at work?