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The newsletter of the SIE de Investigación y Enseñanza N. 55 - July/August 2016

SIE's Supercomputing support is back!

Since a couple of weeks ago, the SIE's Postdoc is back at work. As you may already know, the SIE offers support on many topics related to Supercomputing (HPC programming, HTCondor, TeideHPC, LaPalma, etc.), so if you have any issue with those matters or you want to explore ways on how Supercomputing can help your research, do not hesitate to contact us. You can also find some general information (with manuals, HowTos, etc) about Supercomputing at the IAC by visiting the webpage:

Python courses

Python is becoming more and more popular as the primary programming language in astrophysics, and the number of Python users here at the IAC is increasing, especially thanks to the young PhD students who join our Institute. On the other hand, while Python itself is relatively easy to learn, mastering all the Python packages devoted to numerical analysis, fitting, plotting, processing of astronomical data, etc. might be a daunting proposal for novice users. This is why the SIE has already given two courses on "Python for astronomy", where, besides the basics of the Python language, many of the astronomical-related packages are explained, with special emphasis on examples and practical applications. Moreover, other departments have also shown strong interest in Python, so that two additional courses are planned, one for engineers working in the Instrumentation Division, and one for System Administrators. Finally, we'd like to remind that a complete list of talks and courses imparted or organized by the SIE can be found in the SIE's courses webpage.

Meteorological data screens for the "Sala Remota"

If you have recently visited the users room, you may have noticed that it has changed significantly. Seven computers, each with 4 monitors, have been installed for exclusive use for remote telescope control, allowing observers to use several telescopes and instruments at the OT and at the ORM from the IAC headquarters. In order to help with the observations, we have set up two large monitors to display meteorological data for the two observatories.
These are commercial-grade TV LED screens (that is, screens that withstand long operating hours and have extended lifespans), each connected to a cheap Raspberry-Pi microcomputer that uses a standard Linux distribution running a lightweight http server. We developed a small application, written in Python, which gathers meteorological information, seeing and webcam images from different resources, and displays them together in a single screen. The data are refreshed every minute, and visual alerts are shown whenever necessary.
This experience has strenghtened our confidence in the flexibility and utility of such tiny computers, and chances are we will use them in further projects.

IDL licence borrow

The most recent versions of IDL and of the Licence Manager allow a user to "borrow" an IDL licence and use it locally on her laptop without being connected to the network where the server running the floating licences is located. In practice, by borrowing the licence your laptop will acquire a node-locked license for the specified time period (one month maximum). Thus you can use IDL in a plane, on a beach, on the peak of Mont Blanc, while hang gliding, or anywhere else no Internet access is available (or is too expensive). The basic steps to borrow an IDL license, for Linux and for Mac, are described in the SIEpedia article: How to borrow an IDL license. Note that an IDL version >= 8.0 is required for the borrow facility to work.

Gmvault (backup of Gmail messages)

Many of us use GMmail as their personal email application, and often also to keep a copy of their work-related messages. The main strengths of GMail are its web interface, with a number of useful customizations, and the available storage space (the free version allows as much as 15 GB). While Google is certainly one of the most reliable and safest email providers in the world, messages can be lost to a number of reasons: accidental deletion, glitches in applications accessing it, account has been hacked, etc. So it is always a good idea to have a backup updated regularly. A simple tool to achieve it is the python-based gmvault. You can install it easily yourself with the command: pip install --upgrade --user gmvault, and then execute it with a command like: /home/user/.local/bin/gmvault sync --db-dir /scratch/user/gmvault-db (follow the on-screen instructions for authentication). For more details, see the gmvault website.

SIE de Investigación y Enseñanza :: N. 55 - July/August 2016 - Contact: