Fedora Scientific, an interview with Amit Saha

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Our latest interview is with Amit Saha, responsible for Fedora Scientific, a Fedora based distribution geared towards scientists, students and professionals alike. The distribution is packed with software like GNU Octave, R, Maxima and many more. Give Fedora Scientific a spin! Enjoy the interview!

F4S: Hello Amit, thank you for agreeing to the interview. Please, give us a brief introduction about yourself.

I am Amit and currently doing my Ph.D research at the University of New South Wales, Australia. I took up Linux 10 years back and have been involved in few Open Source projects from time to time. I also write quite regularly for Linux Magazines.

F4S: What is Fedora Scientific?

Fedora Scientific Spin brings together the open source scientific and numerical tools used in research along with the goodness of the Fedora KDE desktop. Thus, simply put Fedora scientific is a Fedora Linux flavour custom made for users whose work and play involves scientific and numerical computing.


Fedora Scientific

F4S: Why and when did Fedora Scientific come to be?

Fedora Scientific was a classic case of scratching my own itch.

Once I moved into research, I soon discovered a plethora of open source scientific tools and libraries that I used. Installing them everytime I did a fresh install of Linux seemed time consuming and redundant.

I longed for a Linux distro which would already have these tools installed and allow me to have a fully functional Linux workstation from the first boot. And then I started looking at the tools available for creating Fedora custom spins and was convinced that my project could now be a reality.

F4S: Which operating system is it based on? Why?

It is based on Fedora Linux. The spin creation process is so simple and its already existing user base made me choose Fedora.

F4S: What type of users will benefit from using Fedora Scientific?

Users whose work and play involves scientific and numerical computing.

F4S: What scientific software is included?

The current list of software available in Fedora Scientific is available here (https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Scientific_Packages_List). Briefly, they are:

  • Scientific Computing tools and environments: The numerical computing
    package GNU Octave, front-end wxMaxima, the Python scientific
    libraries SciPy, NumPy and Spyder (a Python environment for scientific
    computing) are some of the software included in this category. A
    development environment for R, the statistical computing environment,
    is also included, and so are the ROOT tools for analysing large
    amounts of data.
  • Generic libraries: Software in this category includes the GNU C/C++
    and FORTRAN compilers, the OpenJDK Java development tools, and the
    IDEs NetBeans and Eclipse. Also included are autotools, flex, bison,
    ddd and valgrind.
  • Parallel and distributed programming tools / libraries: Software
    tools and libraries included in this category include the popular
    parallel programming libraries OpenMPI, PVM, and the shared-memory
    programming library OpenMP. Also included is the Torque resource
    manager to enable you to set up a batch-processing system.
  • Editing, drawing and visualisation tools: So you have simulated
    your grand experiments, and need to visualise the data, plot graphs,
    and create publication-quality articles and figures. The tools
    included to help you in this include LaTex compilers and the Texmaker
    and Kile editors, plotting and visualisation tools Gnuplot, xfig,
    MayaVi, Dia and Ggobi , and the vector
    graphics tool Inkscape.
  • Version control, backup tools and document managers: Version control
    and back-up tools are included to help you manage your data and documents better:
    Subversion, Git and Mercurial are available, along with the back-up
    tool backintime. Also included is a bibliography manager, BibTool.

Besides these four main categories, some of the other miscellaneous utilities include: hevea–the awesome LaTex-to-HTML converter, GNU Screen and IPython.


Fedora Scientific

F4S: Does Fedora Scientific have sponsors?

Since Fedora Scientific is an official Fedora Spin, its supported by the Fedora Community.

F4S: How many users you estimate Fedora Scientific have?

So far there has been about 650 downloads of the spin, but hopefully more people will know of this effort.

F4S: Do you know where is Fedora Scientific used?

My guess would be universities and institutions where research is conducted.

F4S: How many team members does the project have?

The project is under the umbrella of the Fedora Science and Technology SIG (http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/SIGs/SciTech).

F4S: In what areas of Fedora Scientific development do you currently need

Mostly in suggesting other packages which are used by people and have not been included. And software which are not yet packaged in the Fedora repositories.

F4S: How can people get involved with the project?

Right now, people can start using the spin and make it more customized – wallpapers, software not already included, a GNOME based spin. I would encourage interested people to sign up on the Fedora SciTech mailing list: http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/SIGs/SciTech

F4S: What features are in the roadmap?

Some new applications, more customization are a couple of directions in which the spin will be enhanced soon.

F4S: Why do you consider free/libre open source software important for the
advancement of your field?

I think scientific research and open source software in their own ways encourage innovation and hence there is a need to find out more ways to merge these two.

F4S: Where people can contact you and learn more about Fedora Scientific?


F4S: Thank you Amit for you contribution to the scientific community through Fedora Scientific.

Note: If you liked this interview you can Flattr it at the top of the post!

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Related posts:

  1. First release Fedora Scientific Spin
  2. High-quality scientific graphics with MathGL: An interview with Alexey Balakin