[Numpy-discussion] Numeric3

konrad.hinsen at laposte.net konrad.hinsen at laposte.net
Fri Feb 4 12:08:07 EST 2005

On Feb 4, 2005, at 20:19, Travis Oliphant wrote:

> O.K.   I can see that there are several out there who belive that 
> SciPy is sufficiently hard to install that they are concerned about 
> requiring it for their math-using

It's not just belief, it's my own experience, admittedly not very 
recent (I last checked about a year ago).

> packages (despite the provided binary distributions, and the work that 
> continues on

For Windows and Debian - that covers none of the machines I have ever 
used in my scientific career. Moreover, my experience with binary 
installations for Linux in general is not so good. Hardly anyone uses 
an unmodified standard distribution, there's nearly always something 
that doesn't fit.

> While I can appreciate that installation issues are a major headache 
> (one reason I support the idea of selling binary-only copies to 
> customers), I think that this is an issue no matter what packages you 
> decide to deliver, so I don't think it negates my

In principle, yes, but there are significant differences in "mean 
expected trouble". Some libraries are moving targets (GTK comes to 
mind), and dependencies on them are a big source of fragility. With 
only C code and no external dependencies, there is rarely ever a 
problem, and that's why Numeric is a low-risk package.

There's also integration with other stuff to be considered. Take the 
installation instructions for MaxOS X for example. They start by 
recommending not to use the Fink package. Good advice, because I never 
got it to work. Fink has enormous package interdependencies, so usually 
you need to install or upgrade 10 or more packages, and the chance for 
one of them not installing correctly is quite high.

But then, following the instructions puts SciPy with the Apple-provided 
python. Fine if SciPy is all you want, but I have dozens of other 
Python packages installed for the Fink Python, which in general is the 
better choice because there is a very complete set of easy-to-install 
Python packages from Fink.

The net result is that I still don't have SciPy on my Mac, which is my 
main development machine.

> people have installation difficulties caused by the use of FORTRAN.   
> The biggest problem, I see, is not using FORTRAN, but trying to 
> support all the different FORTRAN compilers that might get used.  
> Pearu has done a magnificient job in

There's also the need to have a Fortran compiler. Installing g77 is not 
exactly an easy task for the average user.

> If this is an important distinction, why not just place this division 
> in SciPy itself?   SciPy's goal is not to be "hard to install", or 
> "only for power users."    If these installation issues are real and 
> cannot be fixed with better installers, then those of us at SciPy 
> would be very glad to see an "easy-to-install" scipy sub-package, that 
> fits into a single framework.

That sounds like a very good idea.

> In other words,  why aren't you helping make SciPy better, instead of 
> just re-creating what it is doing.  Are you really saying that "scipy 
> is beyond hope for me to

Because in the short run that's the path of least effort, or least 
pain: I actually like coding, but I strongly dislike sorting out 
installation problems. I dislike even more sorting out someone else's 
installation problems, which is what I would have to do if my published 
code depended on SciPy.

This is in fact not just a SciPy issue. Installation problems and the 
fragility of package interdependencies are the #1 problem in the 
OpenSource world in my opinion.

Konrad Hinsen
Laboratoire Léon Brillouin, CEA Saclay,
91191 Gif-sur-Yvette Cedex, France
Tel.: +33-1 69 08 79 25
Fax: +33-1 69 08 82 61
E-Mail: hinsen at llb.saclay.cea.fr

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