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The newsletter of the SIE de Investigación y Enseñanza N. 30 - May/June 2009

Special SIEminar: A website content management system for research projects, Tuesday 16 June, 13:00

Nowadays, the web is the most efficient and fastest medium where to make your work known to the whole scientific comunity; in the Web 2.0 era, if your research group does not have a webpage, it simply doesn't exist. Traditionally, developing and maintaining a website was a time consuming and often tedious task. Fortunately, several tools are now available that make it very easy to create and administer websites online. In this talk, Jorge will introduce one of such tools, Website Baker, and explain how to use it to develop a simple, yet attractive website for your research project. If you are unable to attend the talk, please have a look at the Guia del Administrador de Contenidos Web. Both the talk and the Guide are in spanish; if there is strong demand, a translation of the guide into english can be provided.

Recent software updates

In the last few months we have carried out a few software updates. The most important are: For a comprehensive, itemized list of all software updates, see


Some astronomical software packages are written (all or in part) in Perl, and often use Perl modules that are not installed by default. While doing a personal installation of Perl modules is not especially complicated, and is well explained in our SIEpedia article, it's nonetheless a time-consuming and somewhat cumbersome task. For this reason, we have done most of the work for you by installing several astronomy-related Perl modules in a public directory. To be able to use them, please set the following environment variable:
setenv PERL5LIB /usr/pkg/SIEvarios/Perl5lib/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.8.5:/usr/pkg/SIEvarios/Perl5lib/lib64/perl5/site_perl/5.8.8:/usr/pkg/SIEvarios/Perl5lib/lib/perl5/5.8.8
To check whether a given module is installed or not, use the -M flag, for instance:
perl -MMath::FFT -e 1 (no space after the -M flag)
If no output is printed, then the module is installed. To find which version it is:
perl -MMath::FFT -e 'print "$Math::FFT::VERSION \n"'

Astronomical software for Mac

While currently the SIE does not offer full support for installation of astronomical software in a Mac, we do not fail to notice that the number of Mac-addicted (or just plain Mac-users) is steadily increasing, and every so often we are asked for help about installing some packages. For the time being, we can offer the Astronomical Software for Mac OS X webpage, which contains a list of interesting Mac OS X resources about astronomical software, and some websites from where you can download and install the most popular software packages. If you wish to make comments, suggestions or additions to this page, you are very welcome to do so by writing to .

IRAF startup tip

The standard way to start IRAF is to go first to the iraf home directory (the one with the file), type ecl, and then go to the directory containing the data you are working on. Starting IRAF directly from the data directory, as several people do (or would like to do), is certainly possible, but may bring about such problems as ending up with multiple, possibly different copies of files, or files with incorrect settings (for instance with the iraf home set to /scratch/data/ ..., a location inaccessible from any other machine).
Jose Acosta hit the right solution: first a symlink to the "standard" file is created, then this symlink is deleted when you log out of iraf in order to avoid having hordes of symlinks scattered across your hard disk. Define and use the following alias (which will also launch the xgterm); you just need to change the path to the file (and the xgterm settings if you wish so).
alias iraf 'xgterm -geometry 120x30+33+401 -bg blue -fg gold -sb -title IRAF -e csh -c "ln -sf /home/jap/iraf/ ; ecl ; if ($PWD != /home/jap/iraf ) rm" &'

Three brand new or revamped search engines: Wolfram|Alpha, Bing and Google squared

You may have already heard it, but if not, let us tell you that in the last few weeks two new search engines, and a revamped one, have been made public:
  • Wolfram|Alpha: According to Wolfram Research, "One thing that sets Wolfram|Alpha apart is its computational power, which comes from Mathematica. Wolfram|Alpha taps the algorithmic power of Mathematica and the parallel power of gridMathematica. The launch of Wolfram|Alpha is just the beginning of our endeavor to make all of the world's systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone."
  • Bing is touted by Microsoft as "a new Decision Engine and consumer brand, providing customers with a first step in moving beyond search to help make faster, more informed decisions. Bing is specifically designed to build on the benefits of today's search engines but begins to move beyond this experience with a new approach to user experience and intuitive tools to help customers make better decisions, focusing initially on four key vertical areas: making a purchase decision, planning a trip, researching a health condition or finding a local business."
  • Google squared "is a search tool that helps you quickly build a collection of facts from the Web for any topic you specify. Facts about your topic are organized as a table of items and attributes (we call them "Squares" for fun)."
But not necessarily all that shines is gold: read for instance the harsh review of Wolfram|Alpha, the critical appraisal of Bing, and the mixed feelings on Google squared, all published by the e-magazine The Register.
SIE de Investigación y Enseñanza :: N. 30 - May/June 2009 - Contact: