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The newsletter of the SIE de Investigación y Enseñanza N. 20 - July/August 2007

SIEminar: "Making Astronomical Databases with VO tools", by Jorge A Pérez Prieto, Tuesday 24 July 12:30

When dealing with lage quantities of images or large catalogs, it becomes necessary to create a database to organize and query this huge amount of data. The effort to develop those databases could be big, but fortunatelly the Virtual Observatory (VO) offers several tools to create and search our own databases. In this SIEminar, Jorge will show us the available VO tools and will explain us how to create personal databases with them.

La Palma Supercomputer (512 CPUs, Myrinet) in production

Although dwarfed by the GTC "First Light" event, the LaPalma Supercomputer installed at CALP "opened for business" on July 16. All the details have not been ironed out yet, so there might be some rough edges during the first weeks, but basically it is now ready for use. After the summer we will have a SIEminar to explain how to use the machine, what software is available, etc., but if you don't want to wait and want to try it over the summer, do get in touch with us. For those who have been using the MareNostrum Supercomputer before, the transition should be seamless, as LaPalma is just a reduced version of MareNostrum, with the same hardware and software.

Conversion of old .imh+.pix iraf files (Solaris) to fits

As already announced, support to Sun Solaris will be soon discontinued, and old Sun workstations will be replaced by newer Linux PCs. Note that, because of the different endianness of Sparc and Intel processors, old .imh+.pix IRAF files, or old STSDAS tables, created in a Sun can't be read in a Linux PC. If you have such files, perhaps in some almost forgotten tapes or disks, please consider using some of the still available Sun machines to convert them to fits (according to the info we found in the IRAF forum, no other conversion options are available).

Software packages upgrades

Mathematica v6.0, STSDAS/TABLE3.7 and stsci_python 2.5 have been installed in the Linux network.
Mathematica v6.0 - According to the Wolfram Mathematica 6 site, this version "represents a dramatic breakthrough that immensely broadens Mathematica's scope and applicability and redefines the very way we think about computation".
STSDAS/TABLES 3.7 contains changes to ACS, AXE, CALSTIS, CALWP2, MultiDrizzle, PyDrizzle, SYNPHOT, and MSTOOLS as well as minor changes to CVOS and HSTIO (see STSDAS Release Notes for details). These changes are in sync with the latest release of stsci_python, v2.5, which includes PyRAF and several updated python modules (see the STScI_Python Version 2.5 Release Notes for details). Please note that numarray support is being dropped in favor of numpy, and users are encouraged to migrate to numpy. Old python and pyfits scripts relying on numarray can still be used by defining the environment variable: setenv NUMERIX numarray.
As for IDL, the ITT IDL 6.4 page says: "The most feature-loaded release since IDL 6.0, IDL 6.4 provides powerful, new core visualization and analysis functionality, and new capabilities that allow data analysts and developers to leverage IDL's power in multiple software environments."
Finally, MIDAS 07FEBpl1.1 and the Intel Fortran Compilers F90 and C++ v10.0.25 have been installed.

Keep track of visits to your website using Statcounter

StatCounter is a very useful tool to gather interesting statistics on how many visits your site is being receiving, what specific pages, when and from where, what OS and browser, etc.; if you wish, you can also add a hit counter to your home page. We are using it to track visits to our SINFIN and SIEpedia sites, as well to the Research Area Intranet, and we are quite satisfied with it. A couple of illustrative screenshots: the first shows the overall statistics for the three sites, while the second is a detailed list of the last visits to the SIEpedia (which are virtually all from outside the IAC: nemo propheta in patria). All the details can be found in the StatCounter website, or get in touch with us.

Do you feel overwhelmed by technology?

The development and implementation of new technologies inevitably create difficulties in usage and adaptation, and we may well feel overwhelmed. However, this is not something new to the third millennium; many basic items and tools that nowadays seem to us as extremely easy and natural to use were not quite so when they were first introduced. This video, filmed sometime in the day of the middle age, is a striking example.