Urania

A blog named for the muse of Astronomy containing musings by an astronomer

Archive for the ‘Astronomical Software’


Scisoft OSX 2009.6.1 Released 2

Posted on June 05, 2009 by admin

Nor Pirzkal has apparently been busy fixing the issues I noted in last month’s release of Scisoft OSX given his blog entry:

Scisoft OSX Intel 2009.6.1 Released

This version updates the STSDAS/TABLES packages and a few other packages.
It also fixes the issues pointed out by J. Cabanela

The new version of Scisoft OSX 2009.6.1 differs from Scisoft OSX 2009.5.2 in the following ways:

  • Stiff was updated from version 1.10 to version 1.12
  • HEASARC fv.app was updated from version 5.1 to version 5.2.1 and properly installed.
  • HEASARC hera.app was updated from version 5.1 to version 5.2.1 and properly installed.
  • HEASARC StudentHera.app was updated from version 5.1 to version 5.2.1 and properly installed.
  • SAOImage DS9 was updated to version 5.6.3 from version 5.3b.
  • Interestingly, the STSDAS and TABLES IRAF packages are still version 3.10, so I am not sure what updates Nor refers to above for STSDAS/TABLES.

The only glitch I noticed is that permissions problems persist. Specifically, when the installer installs Scisoft OSX, it appears that a bug in Apple’s Installer program triggers a change in ownership of the /Applications directory to that of the second user on the system. I strongly suggest checking the ownership of the /Applications directory afterward and if isn’t owned by an administrative user, set it as such using:

sudo chown username:admin /Applications

(where “username” is the primary administrator’s username, in most cases, your username) to perform the repair. I know Nor spent a bit of time trying to resolve this without success last summer, so its a glitch that will probably persist.

I also have a minor gripe. This is not a bug, so much a feature I prefer. I like having the X11 command-line version of ds9 available, so I manually installed the current ds9 command line binary into /Applications/scisoft/i386/bin/.

The current version of Scisoft OSX is available for download from the Scisoft OSX website (or will be shortly) and I have made the package available on my Scisoft OSX mirror as well.

XQuartz on MacOS X for the Astronomer 0

Posted on May 28, 2009 by admin

When I first started this blog, I was using Apple’s built-in X11, but then with the transition to MacOS 10.5, there were some serious issues with Apple’s X11 implementation having to do with the transition from X11R6 to X.org. One of Apple’s programmers started putting out bleeding-edge updates to Apple’s X11 called XQuartz that fixed a lot of the programs and I have kept using it ever since.

Two years ago, I wrote a blog entry with hints for setting up X11 for the astronomer. The problem is that while the hints in that writeup are still valid, they don’t work if you are using Xquartz because the preferences are stored in a different location for XQuartz versus the built-in X11. As such, I am reproducing those X11 hints here, but with the edits necessary for use with XQuartz.

Once you have installed XQuartz, the X11.app should automatically launch when a program that needs X11 is executed (If you are an old hand at X11, you probably discovered since moving to Leopard that you should NOT set the DISPLAY variable to :0 to display an Xwindow on your primary display, just leave DISPLAY undefined.):

  1. There are many hidden preferences in XQuartz just like in many Mac Applications. You can see a list of the hidden (and not hidden) preferences using the command line tool defaults. To see the available XQuartz preferences, type:defaults read org.X.x11NOTE: If you are still using Apple’s built-in X11 implementation (or if you are using MacOS 10.4), just replace ‘org.x.X11’ with ‘com.apple.x11’ in all the following hints.
  2. In addition to “reading” the preferences, you can write to them. From the command line you can type:
    • defaults write org.X.x11 no_quit_alert true
      This allows X11 to quit without an alert box. Useful if you find it irritating like I do that X11 will prevent me from logging out or the computer from restarting due to that dialog box. However, this does mean you can accidentally quit X11.app pretty easily if you hit cmd-Q at the wrong time.
    • defaults write org.X.x11 wm_ffm true
      Allows which X11 window is selected to follow the mouse, which is the way X11 behaves under most *nix systems by default.
    • defaults write org.X.x11 wm_click_through -bool true
      This activates click_thorough events in the Quartz window manager, which allows clicks to pinned windows, another behavior common to *nix X11 installations.
  3. You can control which window manager is launched (if you prefer something other than the quartz-wm used by default). If you don’t have a ~/.xinitrc file, copy the default one:
    cp /private/etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc ~/.xinitc

    and then manipulate it with any text editor.
  4. BIG LAPTOP USER HINT: Because XQuartz on the Macintosh uses authentication to prevent connections from unauthorized sources to the X11 client, something interesting happens when you change IP address, you will discover you can’t use X11.app from the MacOS X Terminal until you quite and relaunch X11.app. This happens to me all the time on my laptop when I travel and the IP address changes. I recommend either using the Xterm as your terminal or just get used to restarting X11 if you have problems connecting to the terminal.
  5. You can run X11 remotely on your Mac, if you can ssh into your Mac, then just use
    ssh -Y youraccount@yourcomputer.com

    , the -Y flag should allow you to run X11 remotely as long as X11.app is running on your machine before the connection is made. If your ssh on the remote machine doesn’t support X11 connections and you have admin access, you can edit the file /etc/sshd_config on the remote machine and make sure X11 Forwarding is turned on by looking for the following lines and making sure they are uncommented and that all “no”’s are set to “yes”:
    X11Forwarding yes
    X11DisplayOffset 10
    X11UseLocalhost yes

And that is it for the hints for now.

Scisoft OSX 2009.5.2 Released 0

Posted on May 15, 2009 by Juan

This first Scisoft OSX release of 2009 has appeared. Despite the brief entry on the VersionTracker website which said that this update rolled in the recently released STSDAS and TABLES IRAF package updates. from reviewing the CONTENTS file distributed with the install, I found Nor Pirzkal made quite a few additional updates in this release. The changes from Scisoft OSX 2008.9.1 are:

  • Eclipse 5.0.0 has been added to the distribution. Eclipse is an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for programming. I don’t find it to be terribly useful, and in fact find it fairly awful in its implementation for IDL, but I am sure there are many people who disagree (enough to foster development of five major versions of it).
  • Gnuplot has been updated to version 4.2.5 from 4.2.3
  • Eye 1.4.1 has been added to the distribution. Eye is a program designed to allow you to use an artificial neural network to construct SExtractor filters for “adaptive filtering, feature detection and cosmetic corrections.”
  • Swarp was updated to 2.17.6 from 2.17.1
  • WeightWatcher was updated to 1.8.10 from 1.8.7
  • The Python distribution was updated to version 2.5.4 from 2.5.2 and the following python packages were updated:
    • ipython updated to 0.9.1 from 0.8.4
    • Numpy updated to 1.3 from 1.1.1
    • pyfits updated to 2.1.1 from 1.1 (or this could be a typo in the old CONTENTS)
    • matplotlib updated to 0.98.5.2 from 0.98.3
    • pyraf updated to 1.7.1 from 1.6
    • stsci_python updated to 2.8 from 2.6
    • AstroAsciiData updated to 1.1 from 1.0
    • scipy updated to 0.7.0 from 0.6.0
  • The STSDAS and TABLES IRAF packages were updated to version 3.10 from 3.08
  • fftw library version 3.2.1 added. This will be useful to me since we have been using fftw in the computational physics class I have been teaching this semester.
  • I noticed the Aquaterm.app application (used for graphics display by PGPLOT and Gnuplot) is now pre-installed in /Applications/scisoft/i386/Applications/.

Some minor glitches I have noticed in this distribution

  1. Permission Problems Persist: When the installer installs Scisoft OSX, it appears that a bug in Apple’s Installer program triggers a change in ownership of the /Applications directory to that of the second user on the system. I strongly suggest checking the ownership of the /Applications directory afterward and if isn’t owned by an administrative user, set it as such using: sudo chown username:admin /Applications (where “username” is the primary administrator’s username, in most cases, your username) to perform the repair. I know Nor spent a bit of time trying to resolve this without success last summer, so its a glitch that will probably persist.
  2. Older SAOImage DS9 included: I noticed that the SAOImage DS9 distributed with this version of Scisoft OSX is version 5.3b, whereas the current version is 5.6.1, so I manually installed the current ds9 command line binary into /Applications/scisoft/i386/bin/ and the current Aqua application into /Applications/scisoft/i386/Applications/ and everything is working fine there.
  3. HEASARC fv.app not installed: The fv.app application in the /Applications/scisoft/i386/Applications/ is actually a second copy of studenthera.app, misnamed. Not sure how that happened, but I manually installed the current version of HEASARC fv.app there without an issue.

All in all, a bunch of small updates, but it gets the package mostly up-to-date again. The current version of Scisoft OSX is available for download from the Scisoft OSX website, but I have made the package available on my Scisoft OSX mirror as well, in case it is faster for people.

X11 Updated, but requires unavailable OS X release! 0

Posted on April 24, 2009 by Juan

I just noticed that the XQuartz folks released X11 2.3.3, but when I attempted to install it, it said I needed Mac OS 10.5.7 installed, which hasn’t been released yet. I have confirmed this on the release notes page. The full release notes seem to describe to major changes, updated support for OpenGL and some bug fixes regarding Caps Lock and mouse tracking.

Interestingly, the XQuartz wiki notes that

[MacOS] 10.5.7 updates the X11 server to match what shipped with 2.3.2. Most of the userland, however, only saw security updates. The version reported by X11 in 10.5.7 is 2.1.6 to distinguish it from the 2.3.x series which contains a much newer userland.

I have the feeling that the update to MacOS 10.5.7 will be released very soon now.

[UPDATE: In fact, it took almost two weeks, but MacOS 10.5.7 was released on Tuesday, May 12, 2009.]

X11 for Leopard now supporting Full Screen 0

Posted on March 30, 2009 by Juan

There are some older school astronomers on Macs who cut their teeth on Linux and as such really prefer the full-screen X-Windows display for running astronomical data reductions. This way of running X11 has been unavailable since MaxOS 10.5 (which switched from X11 code bases). Well, to quote Macros Huerta’s MacSingularity Blog:

Well, I’m way late to the game on this, but our long national nightmare is over – Xquartz for Leopard support full screen!

The Xquartz folks latest edition of Xquartz (version 2.3.2.1) includes full-screen support. Now, personally, I like the way X11 integrates with Aqua, but for those who prefer to use only one windowing system at a time, you can now do it on MacOS X Leopard. You can download it here.

Papers for iPod (and Mac) 0

Posted on February 20, 2009 by Juan

icon_glow.jpgI have been a very happy user of Papers for organizing downloaded Journal articles for about a year. The program, by the Dutch software firm Mekentosj BV, makes it easy to search for journal articles on ADS and arXiv (although the arXiv support seems a bit twitchy at times), download them, and place them into a searchable database. The program does occasionally show is roots as a biomedical oriented tool, but it functions very well for this astronomer.

Yesterday Mekentosj released version 1.9 of Papers for the Mac as well as a new iPod Touch/iPhone based version of their software (Apple iTunes store link) I have purchased it and can confirm that the synchronization works as advertised, I am now carrying all the papers I have read in the last 10 years in my shirt pocket. Nice!

Here’s the (slightly edited to reflect stuff of interest to astronomers) press release from Mekentosj

Papers 1.9 for Mac – sync your library of science with your iPhone – Published on 02/19/09

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Mekentosj BV has announced Papers 1.9, the Apple design award-winning application that helps scientists on the Mac manage their personal library of scientific articles. The free update brings over 60 improvements, including an improved workflow for working with collections, support for French and German library proxies. But most of all, it allows you to synchronize your PDF library with the newly introduced Papers for iPhone and iPod touch.

Aalsmeer, The Netherlands – Mekentosj BV has announced Papers 1.9, the Apple design award-winning application that helps scientists on the Mac manage their personal library of scientific articles. The free update brings over 60 improvements, including a better workflow for working with collections, and support for French and German library proxies. But most of all, it allows you to synchronize your PDF library with the newly introduced Papers for iPhone and iPod touch.

With Papers 1.9 mek and tosj continue to improve the user experience and workflows of their popular PDF organizing tool for researchers. And with the ability to synchronize your library with the newly introduced Papers for iPhone and iPod touch it becomes easier than ever to manage your research literature, and now you have it with you wherever you go.

Papers for Mac and Papers for iPhone work together as a great team. Select which collections you want to keep in sync or make use of the smart auto-fill function to fill up your iPhone or iPod with articles based on the criteria that you choose. And if you make changes, or add ratings and notes, or if you download new articles on the road, the next time you sync with Papers on your Mac all those changes are immediately present in your library. It’s that simple. Visit our web site for a screencast to find out more.

Papers Features:
* organize and manage your entire library of scientific PDF files easily and elegantly
* built-in support for searching online article repositories
* built-in webbrowser for browsing publisher websites
* automatic downloading and archiving of PDF files
* tabbed and fullscreen reading of your PDF files
* razor fast spotlight searching of your entire library
* Syncing with the new Papers for iPhone and iPod touch.
* and much more.

Papers has built-in support for the following online repositories:
* ACM portal – Computer science
* NASA-ADS – Astronomy
* arXiv – Preprint repository
* Citeseer – Computer Science
* Google Books
* Google Scholar
* IEEE Xplore – Engineering
* MathSciNet – Mathematics
* Scopus – All sciences NEW
* Web of Science – All sciences

Minimum Requirements:
* Mac OS X Version 10.4 or higher
* Universal Binary for PowerPC and Intel
* 1.5 Ghz or faster G4, G5 or Intel Processor

Pricing and Availability:
Papers is priced at $42 (USD) for a single-user license. (Under)graduate students can apply for a 40% discount. A 30-day trial is available.

About Papers for iPhone:
Papers for iPhone and iPod touch puts your entire research literature database in your pocket, available at your fingertips wherever you go; whether you’re at a conference, in class, visiting your peers, or on the road. To celebrate the launch of Papers for iPhone and iPod touch you can now buy version 1.0 for the introductory price of $9.99 (USD) in the iTunes app store.

Papers is a program made by Mekentosj BV, a Dutch independent software company that writes innovative software for scientists. After a PhD in Cell Biology founder and CEO Alexander Griekspoor switched fields and initially joined the European Bioinformatics institute as a Marie Curie postdoctoral fellow. Alexander is perhaps most well-known as “Mek” from the duo “Mekentosj”. Together with his friend Tom “Tosj” Groothuis he developed a number of scientific Mac applications, two of which won Apple Design Awards for best Best Student and Best scientific Mac OS X application, respectively. What started in his spare time became his passion and has now also become his work: Mekentosj Inc. He aims to create new and innovative Mac OS X applications for scientists, of which his recently released new program Papers is a prime example, it won Mekentosj’ third Apple Design Award. Visit our website to learn more.

SAOImage DS9 5.4 Released 0

Posted on October 31, 2008 by Juan

Fast on the heals of their release of version 5.3 about two weeks ago, the folks at the SAO have released version 5.4 of SAOImage DS9. Here are the links to the downloadable Mac-related SAOImage files

The release notes for SAOImage DS9 don’t necessarily suggest dramatic changes in this version relative to version 5.3.

  1. CATALOGS: removed support for Chandra Source Catalog at request of Ian Evans of CXC (only added on October 3, 2008).
  2. MASKS: add support for mask transparency.
  3. MASKS: add new mask properties.
  4. GRID: add grid title support.

My previously posted notes on integrating upgrades of DS9 into the Scisoft OS X installation still work. Just note that newer releases of Scisoft OS X place the binaries in /Applications/scisoft/i386/bin/ instead of /scisoft/i386/bin/ and if you are installing the X11 binary that is compatible with the firewall, you have to install both the ds9 and ds9.zip file in the bin/ directory of Scisoft OSX.

The One where I release Clear Sky Clock Widget version 1.3 0

Posted on October 24, 2008 by Juan

ClearSkyClock Half-Size Screen ShotEvery Semester in introductory astronomy we run a series of field trips out to the Paul J. Feder Observatory which lies about 14 miles from the MSUM campus. As such, I like to check the weather before going out there and usually do so with a quick look at Attilla Danko’s Clear Sky Chart website. It occurred to me it would be nice to see if a Dashboard widget to show the Clear Sky Chart existed. I found two. The one by Joshua Lynch worked well, but it had a major problem, it never listed the Paul J. Feder Observatory as a site I could examine. I ended up biting the bullet and looking at the code. Turns out Joshua Lynch released the code open source. Therefore, I felt free to start hacking on the Dashboard widget (learning how to program widgets in the process). The result is the Clear Sky Clock Widget (version 1.3). The key changes I made to the widget were:

  1. Fixed a parsing bug that prevented the loading of any Clear Sky Chart for sites containing parentheses or periods in their names. It was this bug that was interfering with the loading of our observatory’s Clear Sky Clock.
  2. Since the Clear Sky Chart is quite large and many people will use the widget on laptops with small screens, I added a “Half-size mode“. All you do is click on the “Toggle Size” link on the widget. This shrinks the charge and saves screen real estate.
  3. With Attilla Danko’s permission, I added a Built-in Legend (copied from his site) for interpreting the Clear Sky Chart to the widget. Just click on the charge and the legend appears. Click again and it goes away.
  4. I also added a link to the Clear Sky Charge site page, so if I wanted more detailed information, I can get it there.

I hope a few Mac-owning astronomers in the U.S. and Canada find this widget useful.

SAOImage DS9 5.3 released (fixes Leopard Firewall issues) 0

Posted on October 15, 2008 by Juan

The folks at the SAO have finally released a version of SAOImage DS9 (version 5.3) that plays well with the current version of the MacOS Firewall (as of MacOS 10.5.5) . Here are the links to the downloadable Mac-related SAOImage files

To quote the release notes on the SAOImage DS9 website, the changes in the newly released version 5.3 are

Regions: Regions now support a centroid function. The centroid function can be manually invoked or regions can automatically snap to a centroid when moved or edited. Regions now have a DASH line property.

Colorbar: Now supports a vertical colorbar layout option, via the View Menu. Users can configure the font type and size of the colorbar, via the View Menu.

GUI: Now supports a vertical button bar, when in vertical layout mode.

Aqua MacOSX 10.5 firewall: The MacOSX Aqua 10.5 Leopard port of DS9 can be used with the MacOSX 10.5 firewall enabled.

X11 MacOSX 10.5: There are now two versions available for X11 MacOSX 10.5 Leopard. The non-firewall version is recommended for all unless you wish to enable the 10.5 firewall. [Juan’s Note: While not stating this, they mean specifically the application-specific version of the MacOS firewall. See my notes on this problem here.] In that case, please use the firewall enabled version. Please note: this version consist of 2 files, ds9 and ds9.zip. It is very important that ds9.zip be placed in the same directory as the ds9 binary at all times.

Contours: Contours now have a DASH line option.

I have previously posted notes for integrating upgrades of DS9 into the Scisoft OS X installation and they still work just fine except that newer releases of Scisoft OS X place the binaries in /Applications/scisoft/i386/bin/ instead of /scisoft/i386/bin/ and if you are installing the X11 binary that is compatible with the firewall, you have to install both the ds9 and ds9.zip file in the bin/ directory of Scisoft OSX.

Scisoft OSX Intel 2008.9.1 released 0

Posted on September 23, 2008 by Juan

Scisoft OSX Intel 2008.9.1 was released yesterday. Nor noted in his blog post about it that this is a bug fix release that

should resolve a few outstanding problems created when changing the location of scisoft from /scisoft to /Applications/scisoft/. Packages such as MIDAS and Gnuplot should now work properly.

This version removes some remaining dependencies on the HPC OSX compilers, which I had on my machine but which most users do not have (and do not want to have).

I compared the /Application/scisoft/i386/Packages directory from this release of Scisoft OSX to the last one and there are no new packages installed. The few issues I noted with the Scisoft OSX 2008.8.1 release all appear to still be valid. Notably:

  1. Permission Problems Persist: When the installer installs /Applications/scisoft, it appears that a bug in Apple’s Installer program triggers a change in ownership of the /Applications directory to that of the second user on the system. I strongly suggest checking the ownership of the /Applications directory afterward and if isn’t owned by an administrative user, set it as such using:
    sudo chown username:admin /Applications
    

    (where “username” is the primary administrative users username, in most cases, your username) to perform the repair.
  2. ds9 command line executable missing: This release has the same glitch I noticed in version 2008.8.1 in that /Applications/scisoft/i386/bin doesn’t appear to have a ds9 binary installed. You can fix this by installing the X11 version of ds9 there or by linking to the Aqua version of ds9 that was installed using the command line
    ln -s "/Applications/scisoft/i386/Applications/SAOImage DS9.app/Contents/MacOS/ds9" /Applications/scisoft/i386/bin/ds9

I have placed a copy of this release in my Scisoft OSX Mirror in case the main Scisoft OSX repository gets bogged down.

Scisoft OSX 2008.8.1 released 1

Posted on August 27, 2008 by Juan

Scisoft OSX Intel 2008.8.1 was released about a week ago. I have been working with Nor Pirzkal for the last few months beta-testing this version and trying to make sure my concerns about the previous version were addressed. Nor’s blog post about the update states

There are a few changes in this version and all packages have been updated to the latest available versions. Starting with this version, Scisoft is installed in /Applications/scisoft (it previously was installed in /scisoft). Make sure that you remove any old /scisoft installation and properly update your startup files to source the Setup.csh or Setup.bash from their new locations.

In the README file you are told

Once the collection is successfully installed csh and tcsh users should invoke the command:

source /Applications/scisoft/all/bin/Setup.csh

to gain access to all the software and configure their environment correctly.

Users of the “bash” shell should instead use:

. /Applications/scisoft/all/bin/Setup.bash

Personally, to avoid problems in tcsh with a script breaking or with modifying my PATH multiple times by repeated execution of the Setup.csh script, I use the following line in my .tcshrc to first check for the existence of the Setup.csh script and SCISOFT environmental variables before executing it.

if (! $?SCISOFT) then
test -r /Applications/scisoft/all/bin/Setup.csh && source /Applications/scisoft/all/bin/Setup.csh
endif

Permission Problems Persist
This version addresses all the issues I noticed with Scisoft OSX 2008.5.1 except for one annoying one, the reassignment of ownership of the enclosing directory on installation. If you installed the old version of Scisoft OSX, it would reassign ownership of the root (/) directory to the second user on the system (in my case, since their is none, it showed the user as “502”). I beta-tested various versions of Scisoft OSX but Nor was not able to stamp out this particular problem. I believe Nor has come to the conclusion after extensive testing that this is a problem with Apple’s software for constructing installer packages. By moving the Scisoft OSX installation to /Applications/scisoft, it is the /Applications directory that gets its ownership changed instead of the root directory, which is less damaging. However, I would strongly suggest checking the ownership of the /Applications directory afterward and if isn’t owned by an administrative user, set it as such using:

sudo chown username:admin /Applications

(where “username” is the primary administrative users username, in most cases, your username) to perform the repair.

A Quick-Fix for any Legacy Scisoft-related scripts
If you had a few scripts that relied on Scisoft OSX being located in /scisoft and you don’t want to edit them all is you can make /scisoft point to /Applications/scisoft. This can be accomplished by first moving the old version of Scisoft OSX before installing 2008.8.1 via the command line:

sudo mv /scisoft /scisoft_old

and then once you have installed the new Scisoft OSX in 2008.8.1, create a symbolic link from the old location to the new by typing (again from the command line)

sudo ln -s /Applications/scisoft /scisoft

This will allow any scripts that refer to items in /scisoft to continue to work for the most part.

What’s New?
An investigation of the /Application/scisoft/i386/Packages directory as well as the NEWS file reveals the following changes to this version of SciSoft OSX over the 2008.5.1 version.

  • DS9 updated from 5.1 to 5.3beta
  • FV updated from 5.1 to 5.2.1
  • ATLAS updated to version 3.8.2
  • MIDAS updated to 08FEBpl1.1
  • cdsclient was updated to version 2.87
  • OpenMotif updated to 2.1.32_compat
  • cfitsio library updaed from 3.090 to 3.090 (the current version is 3.100)
  • pango library updated from version 1.20.2 to 1.21.3
  • pixman library updated from 0.10.0 to 0.11.2
  • expat library updated from 2.0.0 to 2.0.1
  • fontconfig library updated from 2.3.2 to 2.6.0
  • freetype library updated from 2.2.1 to 2.3.6
  • gettext library updated from 0.14.5 to 0.17
  • gtk+ updated from 2.12.9 to 2.12.10
  • libpng library updated from 1.2.10 to 1.2.29
  • netCDF library version 3.6.2 added
  • pkg-config updated from 0.20 to 0.23
  • TclTk package updated from 8.4.13 to 8.4.19
  • wcstools library updated from 3.6.4 to 3.7.3 (current version is 3.7.5)
  • IRAF package rvsao updated t version 2.5.7 to 2.6.4
  • Python was updated to 2.5.2 and the following Python libraries were updated:

Minor Glitches
The only other minor glitch I noticed was that /Applications/scisoft/i386/bin doesn’t appear to have a ds9 binary installed. You can fix this by installing the X11 version of ds9 there or by linking to the Aqua version of ds9 that was installed using the command line

ln -s "/Applications/scisoft/i386/Applications/SAOImage DS9.app/Contents/MacOS/ds9" /Applications/scisoft/i386/bin/ds9

Announcing External SPECROAD… woot! 0

Posted on August 11, 2008 by Juan

A few folks have been aware that I am involved in an interesting project to determine the “Shape of our Galaxy”… specifically the nature of the asymmetries observed in the Thick Disk stars in the galaxy. Part of that project involved obtaining multi-fiber spectrograph observations of many stars in selected fields of the sky using the Hectospec multi-fiber spectrometer on the MMT on Mount Hopkins.

Unfortunately, there are very few “external” users of the Hectospec, so the software pipeline available for reducing Hectospec observations, called SPECROAD, was only geared to run on SAO computers. I spent a considerable amount of time last summer and this summer getting that software into a much more portable form, documenting how to use it, and removing bugs from the code.

All this work resulted in the creation of a new version of the Hectospec data pipeline I dubbed “External SPECROAD” or “E-SPECROAD” for short. There were several major problems with the original SPECROAD code that I addressed in E-SPECROAD:

  1. Nonportability: The SPECROAD scripts were only designed to run on a Solaris computer at the SAO, with files in specific hard-coded locations using a specific IRAF environment with all the IRAF parameters set before the scripts were run. This has been addressed by trying to assume almost nothing about a user’s IRAF environment from the start except that they have the proper packages installed.
  2. Lack of Documentation: The documentation for SPECROAD is frankly inadequate. It was an in-house tool for the SAO, so the publically-available documentation consists mostly of one webpage describing what the scripts do. I have now written up both an installation guide (because there are a lot of pre-requisite pieces of code to install) and a E-SPECROAD user’s guide.
  3. No Installation Instructions: There were several IRAF packages to install (available here). The shell scripts required not only the installation of several IRAF packages and the compilation of several C programs, they used korn shell (ksh) which I was unfamiliar with. And, as I would also soon discover, the ksh installed on the Mac had serious bugs in its list handling. There is now a fairly compete installation guide laying out all the pre-requisites and addressing installations on both Macs and Linux boxes.
  4. Undocumented Bugs: The available SPECROAD scripts had major bugs whose workarounds were undocumented and only available when I would email someone at the SAO to inquire about them. In one case, you had to know to actually break out of the script with Control-C, then run some of the reduction in IRAF, and then restart the script! E-SPECROAD has been fairly extensively debugged. It’s not bug free, but the exterminator has made some serious passes at the code.
  5. Assumed Availability of Spectral Templates: The SPECROAD scripts typically relied on pre-set spectral line databases for different grating/central wavelength configurations instead of having the user exploit the IRAF identify command to build a database. E-SPECROAD is geared toward the user who is going to wavelength calibrate their observations by building the spectral line database for themselves.
  6. Assumed Use of Low Resolution Spectra: The SPECROAD scripts were mostly pre-configured for working with 270gpm gratings and required some tweaking for 600gpm. E-SPECROAD can work with either configuration without editing the code.
  7. Inconvienent Backups As Data Reduction Progresses: If one of the scripts executed by SPECROAD crashed, you had to dig around subdirectories to “backtrack” the changes before restarting the script. With disk space not an issue, I prefer monolithic backups of the entire data directory at certain key points in the data reduction pipeline. Since you may not like this form of backup (as they consume a lot of disk space), they are optional.

Today, I am posting E-SPECROAD online as a beta release along with installation instructions and a user’s guide. All the other external users of Hectospec I am aware of, all two of you, can enjoy or complain to me about this code. The ones I am unaware of are free to use the code as well.

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