[ubuntu-science] Ubuntu Science Edition...

Jordan Mantha mantha at ubuntu.com
Thu Jun 28 20:24:21 BST 2007

Note: CC'ing new list to start it off. Let's try to move the thread there.

On Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 02:35:13PM +0200, Kjeldgaard Morten wrote:
> Hi fellow ubuntu-scientists,
> I am very motivated to engage in work on the Ubuntu Science  
> editition, an effort that seems to be somewhat stalled (?) I think an  
> Ubuntu Science edition would be very useful in many situations, both  
> in teaching and in research.

I'm not aware of a project called Ubuntu Science Edition. Are you saying
there is one or you'd like to create one?
> While a standard, installable edition (Scibuntu?) would certainly be  
> desirable, it would also be extremely useful with a live CD, that  
> could contain scientific software, databases, and various types of  
> documentation.

This would almost certainly have to be a Live DVD. Science apps can take p
a lot of space.
> Teachers in a course could simply hand out a copy of the CD to all  
> the students, who could take it home and work with the relevant  
> problems. If the students need to save files, they could use a USB  
> stick. In my own teaching, such a distribution would hit a dry spot.  
> Plus, it would be a great opportunity to present students to the  
> wonders of Linux!

I totally agree. I've for a while now wanted to create a custom Chemistry
Ubuntu CD for use in my departement. I know several of the groups that
physical organic chemsitry (with a fair amount of computational work) like
Ubuntu. We also used to have a computer lab that I wanted to convert to
Ubuntu (Edubuntu specifically) and have CDs on the desk as people go out.
Sadly our computer lab is going away to make room for more research labs.

> Perhaps the installable Science edition could even include tools that  
> would enable teachers to add their custom material to the CD.
> If someone on this list is interested in this project -- or if I just  
> haven't discovered where it's going on -- I would love to hear about  
> it. Perhaps we can set up a meeting on IRC and discuss things.

OK, so here's my general opinion on have a Scientific Edition. I think it
would be very difficult to make a CD that would cover all the sciences well
enough to warrant people downloading it. It would definately be DVD size
and it could be quite a task to maintain as a sort of separate distro. I'm
not crazy about Scibuntu. They've done a simple script to install a few
common apps. But it is nowhere near what I would call a scientific distro
(think Scientific Linux for example). So what's the alternative?

First, I think we need to have metapackages or tasks for each discrete area
of science. Not necessarily *all* packages in that area, just the best and
the ones that most people are going to want to use. I'm working on this to
some extent for Edubuntu already, although more focused on
teaching/education in science.

Secondly, once we have the metapackages I think it would be relatively easy
and straightforward to produce Ubuntu add-on CDs that just hold a
repository of .debs so that people can install the metapackages from it
without needing an internet connect.

Thirdly, going along with the second point. I think having metapackage will
also allow people to create customized Live CDs or DVDs. I tend to prefer
that these weren't installation CDs but rather demo or student use CDs. I
tend to be wary of having hundreds of way of installing Ubuntu.
So overall, yeah, I think there could be some things done. One step at a
time though. 

> Another thing is that I have several science-related packages sitting  
> in REVU, waiting for review. If there are any MOTU's in the  
> readership of this list, perhaps you could help push these packages  
> along. They are:
> theseus - Maximum likelihood superpositioning of macromolecular  
> structures
> kaksi - Protein secondary structure assignment program
> mustang - Multiple structural alignment of proteins
> btk-core - Biomolecule Toolkit C++ library
> chooch - Anomalous scattering factors from X-ray fluorescence data
> cgraph - A minimal library for scientific PostScript plots (needed by  
> chooch)

Awesome, I'm not sure when I'd be able to get to them but I'll try to stick
them on my todo list. Other MOTUs are welcom to jump in too ;-)

- Jordan Mantha

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