[Numpy-discussion] Meta: too many numerical libraries doing the same thing?

Jonathan M. Gilligan jonathan.gilligan at vanderbilt.edu
Mon Dec 10 11:56:02 EST 2001

To follow up on Paul Dubois's wise comments about history, I would cite a 
more recent example: Software Carpentry. In 1999, with great fanfare, DOE 
(LANL) and CodeSourcery announced:

>The aim of the Software Carpentry project is to create a new generation of 
>easy-to-use software engineering tools, and to document both those tools 
>and the working practices they are meant to support. The Advanced 
>Computing Laboratory at Los Alamos National Laboratory is providing 
>$860,000 of funding for Software Carpentry, which is being administered by 
>Code Sourcery, LLC. All of the project's designs, tools, test suites, and 
>documentation will be generally available under the terms of an Open 
>Source license.

With announcements to the scientific community and an article in Dr. Dobb's 
Journal, this thing looked like a project aimed at development tools quite 
similar to what you are envisioning for numerical tools, right down to the 
python-centricity. If you go to the web site 
(http://www.software-carpentry.com) today, you will find that a year into 
the project, the plug was pulled.

This does not bode well for big open or free projects financed by the major 
scientific agencies. Curiously the private sector has done much better in 
this regard (e.g., VTK, spun out of General Electric, Data Explorer from 
IBM, etc.).

At 01:53 AM 12/7/01, Christos Siopis <siopis at umich.edu> wrote:
>In essence, what i am 'proposing' is for a big umbrella organization (NSF,
>NASA and IEEE come to mind) to sponsor the development of this
>uber-library for numerical scientific and engineering applications. This
>would be 'sold' as an infrastructure project: creating the essential
>functionality that is needed in order to build most kinds of scientific
>and engineering applications. It would save lots of duplication effort and
>improve productivity and quality at government labs, academia and the
>private sector alike. The end product would have some sort of open-source
>license (this can be a thorny issue, but i am sure a mutually satisfactory
>solution can be found). Alternatively (or in addition), it might be better
>to specify the API and leave the implementation part (open source and/or
>commercial) to others.

Jonathan M. Gilligan                         jonathan.gilligan at vanderbilt.edu
The Robert T. Lagemann Assistant Professor    www.vanderbilt.edu/lsp/gilligan
                    of Living State Physics            Office:    615 343-6252
Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, Box 1807-B            Lab (X-Ray)    343-7574
6823 Stevenson Center                                 Fax:           343-7263
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37235            Dep't Office:  322-2828

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