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Archive for the ‘IRAF’

SciSoft OSX 2012.7.1 Available 0

Posted on August 01, 2012 by Juan

I haven’t been doing much image processing in recent months (something that will be changing as I take charge of the MSUM observatory for the next year).  I just noticed that Nor Pirzkal placed a new version of the 64-bit SciSoft OSX online here.  If you are still transitioning from 32-bit Scisoft, this version of SciSoft OSX doesn’t install over the old 32-bit version, so a simple edit of your start up files can allow you to switch between the two versions.

This version makes a variety of updates to IRAF and pyraf and the underpinnings of those systems.  Specific changes I noticed versus the 2012.3.1 beta I was using

  • IRAF updated to version 2.16 64bit (from version 2.15 EXPORT) which was released on April 13, 2012.
  • STSDAS and TABLES updated to version 3.15 from version 3.13
  • pyraf updated to 1.11 (from 1.10)
  • Python package changes include
  • The ipython interactive interpreter updated to 0.13 (from 0.10)
  • The matplotlib plotting package has been updated to version 1.1.0 (from 1.0.0)
  • The scientific computing packages NumPy and SciPy have been updated.  Numpy from version 1.5.1 to 1.6.1 and SciPy from 0.8.0 to 0.10.0.
  • stsci_python updated to 2.12 (from 2.11)
  • The astronomical ephemeris calculator package pyephem was updated to (from
  • ScientificPython updated to 2.9.1 (from 2.8)
  • The python Monte Carlo stats package pymc was updated to version 2.1a (from 2.0).
  • The python database interface package egenix-mx updated to version 3.2.2 (from 3.1.3)
  • Cython updated to 0.15.1 (from 0.13)
  • New Python packages Quantities (version 0.7), uncertainties (version 1.8), and pymzq (version 2) added.
  • Nor also noted in his release notes that “This version fixed a missing link for SuperMongo and updated the STScI Synphot tables.”

Before installing this version, I backed up the old version of SciSoft OSX using the command line

sudo mv /usr/local/scisoft /usr/local/scisoft_old

(you may not need to ‘sudo’ if you have write permission for /usr/local).  Once the backup was done,  I installed this version of SciSoft OSX by double clicking the installer package.  

Minor Tweaks I Made to My SciSoft Installation After the Installation

  1. Fixing Owenership Issues: To fix ownership issues with some of the files, I performed a

    sudo chown -R root:admin /usr/local/scisoft

  2. Updating SAOImage DS9: I noticed that SAOImage DS9 installed by this Scisoft OSX is still at version 6.1 whereas version 7.0 is the current version, so I manually installed the updated version by downloading the MaxOSX 10.7 (Lion) version  DS9 from here.  Once unpacked, there were two files there, ds9 and ds9.zip.  I replaced the symbolic links to the SciSoft OSX ds9 binaries in /usr/local/scisoft/bin with these binaries using the commands when I had the terminal in the ds9 download directory:

    sudo rm /usr/local/scisoft/bin/ds9*
    sudo mv ds9 /usr/local/scisoft/bin/ds9
    sudo mv ds9.zip /usr/local/scisoft/bin/ds9.zip

  3. Living with Enthought Python Distribution: I have been using the Enthought Python Distribution for the last few month, quite happily I might add.  However, SciSoft OSX prefers to use the system’s python distribution and so I have taken to only loading the SciSoft OSX packages into my path when I need them by defining the following command in my ~/.tcshrc (and I use C shell, the native shell for IRAF out of habit):

    alias load_scisoft "test -r /usr/local/scisoft/bin/Setup.csh && source /usr/local/scisoft/bin/Setup.csh"

Mac Apps for the Professional Astronomer 2

Posted on June 01, 2010 by Juan

I was asked by one of my colleagues who was late to switching to a Mac (from linux) what the necessary software is for an astronomer to have on their Macintosh. Some lists of this sort have been assembled online, however most are no longer available. Some resources I was aware of that were still online as of this writing (Summer 2010) were

  • Jane Rigby’s (Carnegie Observatories) OS X for Astronomers: This site is a fairly complete listing of Mac software the Professional Astronomer would be listed in. However, she uses “Fink” whereas I prefer “MacPorts”. To each their own.
  • MacOS X for Astrophysicists: This site is a bit dated (last update 2007) but there is a lot good information about how to configure X11, LaTeX, etc. on the Mac.
  • MacResearch: Focused more generally on using a Mac for research (notably programming), this site is a good read even if not astronomy focused.

My approach here will be to list everything I use on a regularly basis in my research. I will warn you up front that I am an optical astronomer who as dabbled in some radio astronomy, but I don’t know anything about High-Energy packages. So that is one bias. Secondly, being a college professor at a smaller state institution, I tend to focus on free (as in beer) or inexpensive software although I will list a few programs that I think are definitely worth the money for professional astronomer.

Programming/Unix Environment

There is some stuff any astronomer using a Mac should install, because it is free and/or critical to using your computer as a competent astronomer (depending on your specialty)…

  • XCode: You will need the gcc compilers in many cases and they come with the OS, so you might as well install them. If you want to get the most current Xcode, you can download it from the Apple Developer Connection website (you will need a free account).
  • g77/gfortran compilers: If you need a g77 (for MacOS before 10.6) or gfortran compiler, the best place to get pre-built binaries is at the High Performance Computing of MacOS X website.
  • X11: X11 is an optional install under Tiger and is installed by default under Leopard. However, when in Leopard, Apple switched from Xfree86 to X.org, and this transition introduced some advantages (no DISPLAY environment setup necessary…. yeah!) and some bugs (Boo!). As such, I had been using XQuartz in Leopard, which remain a few steps ahead of Leopard’s X11 and easily installed over it. However, I have found Snow Leopard’s X11 installation stable and robust enough to not replace it with XQuartz any more.
  • MacPorts: The bane of many unix-style OSes these days is the package manager one uses to install the unix-style programs with all their dependencies. I have settled on MacPorts. I used it’s “competitor” Fink for a while, but I have found MacPorts to generally be a much more up-to-date package manager. I use it to install TeTeX and a multitude of CLI programs (PGPLOT, gs,gv,gsl,xephem).
    • Porticus: is a decent (free) GUI front end for MacPorts if you fear the command line.

For the Optical Astronomer

This is the data reduction software I use almost every time I work on my research…

  • Scisoft OSX (My Mirror): IMHO the simplest way to install IRAF and many other packages I use regularly (PGPLOT, WCSTools, Sextractor, CFITSIO, etc.) in one double-click of a mouse (and some editing of my .tcshrc file).
  • SAOImage DS9: I sometimes update the version of DS9 included in SciSoft OSX with the most current versions from the CfA.
  • HEASARC’s fv: They call it the “Interactive FITS File Editor” and frankly it sometimes is the easiest way to quickly see the contents of a complex FITS files.
  • JSkyCalc: This venerable observing planning software that used to be solely for the command line (when it was skycalc) has now been updated to a graphical user interface written in java, so it runs on almost any platform, including Mac OSX. For the Mac, just save the jskycalc.jar file someplace and double click on it to launch it.
  • IDL: Definitely not cheaper (but cheaper than it used to be). Some astronomers I know swear by it (I have been known to swear at it). Personally, I do need the power of IDL sometimes, especially when someone else provides me her/his IDL code. If you use it, you will probably want to grab the IDL Astronomy Users Library which provides a large number of pre-built IDL routines for the astronomer. If you are feeling cheap, you might be able to get away with GDL (from High Performance Computing)

For the Radio Astronomer

This is the data reduction software I played around with when reducing radio data. I can’t claim I am current on the state of the art, so let me know if you feel I am missing something here.

  • AIPS: When I was doing more radio astronomy, I was working with AIPS a lot. I helped in the process of getting it working under MacOS (as a guinea pig). It ran quite nicely under MacOS the last time I used it (about 2004).
  • CASA: CASA (formerly AIPS++) is a sort of successor to AIPS. Personally, I was never that impressed with it, but I know several people who like using it (such as folks involved with ALMA). It is available for Mac OS 10.5 and 10.6 (Intel Macs only).

Writing Tools for Astronomers

Writing either documentation or papers for peer-review publications can be a challenge. For informal work, I have quite happy using Apple’s Pages for written work or Apple’s Keynote when assembling a poster or set of slides. However, for peer-reviewed journals or NSF applications, I typically use latex, having installed tetex with MacPorts.

  • Texmaker: is a nice interface for writing LaTeX on the Mac. Certainly not perfect or as good as some commercial products I have seen, but it is free and it works well. I especially like it when used with the Skim PDF reader which allows in-window updating of the PDF.
  • Papers: This is an awesome package for organizing your personal library of publications. It provides (somewhat glitchy) ADS Abstracts and arXiv interfaces that allow you to match PDF files to their metadata. Once you have done this, you can search for you local library by the words in the title, abstract, author’s name, year of publication, etc. And you can keep your PDFs organized. It has been a wonderful way for me to keep track of everything I have been reading when I have to prepare a paper.
  • iWork: is a very useful package from Apple that acts as a lower cost replacement to Microsoft Office (if all I cared about were cost, I would use OpenOffice.org). However, I use it because it includes:
    • Keynote: Keynote is a much more polished presentation manager than PowerPoint.
    • Pages: I prefer pages for my word processing and MacResearch had a compelling article on why you might use Pages for grant applications.
  • MathType 6: I would recommend also getting MathType 6, which let’s you insert equations into Pages or Keynote with ease (and it accepts LaTeX as a way of building equations). Make sure to update to the current version, it avoids a lot of crashing bugs.
  • LaTeXit: If you don’t want to pay for a commercial program, LaTeXit is a great option for typeseting formulas with LaTeX. It allows you typeset and then drag the results into Keynote or Pages documents where they are inserted as PDF images.
  • Evernote: I don’t use Evernote solely for writing papers, it is just a place to toss little notes I used to keep on post-it notes. But if I want to save some webpage or some text for later use, it is a perfect tool for that. It can sync between Mac and iPhone/iPod touch and it is free for up to 40 MB of notes a month.

Astronomically Useful Widgets

Widgets have been in MacOS since version 10.4 (Tiger), and while I don’t find them terribly useful, there are some free Widgets can be useful to have on observing runs:

  • Clear Sky Clock Widget: I may be biased since I helped re-work this widget and am responsible for the current version, but is useful as a way of displaying the current Clear Sky Chart (formerly called “Clear Sky Clock”) on your desktop. Clear Sky Chart is only useful for astronomers in North America.
  • AstroTimes Widget: I am not sure if this widget is still available, but it was a quick way to see the Local Sidereal Time when observing.

Astronomically Useful Spotlight Plugins

Spotlight is a feature that has been built-in to MacOS X since version 10.4 (Tiger). It indexes the contents of files to allow for almost instantaneous searches of the contents of a hard drive. The built-in plugins search many file types, but the following additional plugins are useful for file formats astronomers commonly run into.

  • FITSImporter: This plugin allows Spotlight to index FITS file headers.

Astronomically Useful QuickLook Plugins

QuickLook is a feature that has been built-in to MacOS X since version 10.5 (Leopard). When in the Finder, selecting a file and tapping on the spacebar displays a preview of the file. As with Spotlight plugins, many common file formats are supported with the built-in plugins, but for file formats astronomers commonly run into some plugins can be useful.

  • QLFits: This QuickLook plugin allows easy previewing of FITS file headers and images/spectra from the Finder.
  • QLColorCode: This QuickLook plugin displays source code files with syntax highlighting making QuickLook a much more powerful way of previewing code.
  • EPSQuickLookPlugIn: Allows viewing of encapsulated PostScript files via QuickLook. Since most figures I embed in my papers start as EPS files, this is very useful to me.

The Less Obvious Stuff

Some software doesn’t fit well into a particular broad class of work astronomers do, but can come in useful all the same for specific tasks.

  • User Interface Enhancements:
    • ShellHere.app: Drag this to your Finder winder and from now on, if you want to open the Terminal at a location corresponding to a given Finder winder, all you you need to do is click on the ShellHere icon. Works great, sort of the counterpart to “open .” in the terminal opening up a Finder window.
    • QuickSilver: Why waste your time digging through the Finder? I use QuickSilver to launch programs, access frequently used documents, and basically streamline my use of my Mac. Its the swiss army chainsaw of launchers.
    • GeekTool: This is an awesome little tool that allows you to display almost anything on your desktop. I use it to display my weblogs and system logs to my desktop, along with the local weather conditions and Doppler radar image. Anything you can display in the shell can display on the desktop.
  • A backup solution beyond Time Machine! Time Machine (part of Mac OS since version 10.5) is wonderful for incremental backups, but if your boot drive fries, you can’t boot from your Time Machine backup. This is why I also clone my boot drive regularly.
    • Carbon Copy Cloner: This is a free way to clone your boot drive on the Mac.
    • DejaVu: If you want an more automated solution, I prefer DejaVu, which runs scheduled rsync sessions in the background. That way, my backup drive is constantly updated and when my boot drive fails, I can just switch over to the backup without losing a beat.
  • Versions: Actually, I can’t say I ‘recommend’ Versions per se. I would strongly recommend subversion or some other version tracking system for anyone who writes code regularly. It makes tracking edits to source code (and latex documents) a breeze. I happen to use Versions as a very nice GUI that allows quick examination of differences between different versions of the source code you have tracked. That said, it is not cheap and I think SynX is a perfectly adequate free GUI front-end for code version tracking with similar functionality, if not as polished.
  • Parallels/VMWare Fusion/VirtualBox: If you occasionally have to run software that only runs on that other platform (you know, Linux), virtualization software is quite useful. I have found both Parallels 5 and VMWare Fusion 3 to be quite good (I found Parallels to be faster, but I heard VMWare was catching up). VirtualBox is free (as in beer) and may be an option to try before shelling out money for commercial virtualization software.
  • Chicken of the VNC: At several observatories, I am required to use VNC to interface with the computers. Chicken of the VNC works as a client. There are commercial VNC clients that are a bit faster, but if you have decent bandwidth, this works fine.
  • Wx: As an frequently optical astronomer, I sometimes obsess about the weather. Of all the weather programs out there, I have found this one to be the most stable and flexible. Its relatively inexpensive ($16.95 US), but as a warning, it is limited to the United States.
  • OmniFocus: This program is probably the single most useful program I have for managing my time. It implements David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach to time management. Its not cheap, nor is it completely intuitive… but it is absolutely necessary for me. A iPhone version also exists, which allows syncing of your OmniFocus sessions between your Mac and iPhone/iPod Touch.
  • DropBox: If you look at DropBox for the first time, it just looks like a way to sync files between computers. That is, until you realize you can allow specific users to share specific directories. I use it to share files to big to email with collaborators all the time. The only warning, it currently doesn’t map out extended attributes of files (like the executable settings) between computers, so it is not good for shell scripts. This failing is supposed to be fixed in the current version 0.8 beta.
  • fseventer is useful for diagnosing programs that create files. It tracks all file system events as long as it is on. So if you want to know where an installer is tossing files around your system, this will help you see what is happening. Its rare that I need it, but when I do, it is a Godsend.

[I made some minor edits adding some links I had forgotten about. – June 1, 2010 11:45 am CDT]

Scisoft OSX 2009.10.1 released 2

Posted on October 01, 2009 by admin

Nor Pirzkal has released another minor update to Scisoft OSX. He states in his blog that:

A minor revision of Scisoft is available for downloading. Many people are experiencing many problems with the Apple Package Installer and I am distributing this release as a simple tar.gz file.

This version of Scisoft is distributed as a simple tar file that can be un-tarred in /. Scisoft expect to be located in /Applications/scisoft/

I can confirm the CONTENTS file distributed with the install is identical to the file for Scisoft 2009.9.1 so this release may just be a way to avoid some issues with the Apple Package Installer program.

This change to a tarball format is good, but it changes how to install the software. However, there is at least one major glitch in this distribution

  • WCSTools is missing from the installation! There are symbolic links to the package, but the /Application/scisoft/i386/Packages/wcstools-3.7.3/ directory is empty! If you are upgrading from a previous version of Scisoft OSX, there is an easy way to recover from this problem. I am outlining my suggested installation routine below.
  • As I noted for Scisoft 2009.9.1, “on Snow Leopard, Gordon Richards discovered that if you attempt ‘import pylab’ in python, you get a bus error. I can confirm the same error occurs on my Snow Leopard machine using either this SciSoft OSX release or the previous one. Furthermore, I can confirm the error DOES NOT occur in Leopard. I am not a heavy Python user, so I will leave it to Gordon, Nor, and others to investigate this issue. Gordon notes that this blog posting contains instructions for getting pylab installed under a vanilla Snow Leopard install, in case you need them.”

My suggested routine for upgrading to this version of Scisoft OSX from a previous version is the following:

  1. Backup the previous version of Scisoft by renaming the /Application/scisoft/ directory to /Application/scisoft_old/.
  2. Download the current gzipped tarball of Scisoft OSX. The current version of Scisoft OSX is available for download from the Scisoft OSX website, but I have made the package available on my Scisoft OSX mirror as well, in case it is faster for people.
  3. Using the command line in an administrative account, you can untar the tarball using the command:
    sudo tar -C / -xzvf Scisoft_OSX_macintel_2009.10.1.tar.gz
    You will be asked for your account password to allow ‘sudo’ to run the tar command as root.
  4. The files are untarred with their ownership intact from when Nor created the tarball, so be sure to change the ownership to match your root account using
    sudo chown -R root:admin /Applications/scisoft/
  5. Finally, if you want to copy over the WCStools package from the previous Scisoft OSX installation, you can use the command:
    sudo cp -r -p /Applications/scisoft_old/i386/Packages/wcstools-3.7.3/ /Applications/scisoft/i386/Packages/wcstools-3.7.3/
    That should get your back the WCStools.

I have alerted Nor to the missing wcstools directory as well as some other minor issues with this release. Hopefully, if Nor has some time, he will make

SAOImage DS9 5.4 Released 0

Posted on October 31, 2008 by Juan

Fast on the heals of their release of version 5.3 about two weeks ago, the folks at the SAO have released version 5.4 of SAOImage DS9. Here are the links to the downloadable Mac-related SAOImage files

The release notes for SAOImage DS9 don’t necessarily suggest dramatic changes in this version relative to version 5.3.

  1. CATALOGS: removed support for Chandra Source Catalog at request of Ian Evans of CXC (only added on October 3, 2008).
  2. MASKS: add support for mask transparency.
  3. MASKS: add new mask properties.
  4. GRID: add grid title support.

My previously posted notes on integrating upgrades of DS9 into the Scisoft OS X installation still work. Just note that newer releases of Scisoft OS X place the binaries in /Applications/scisoft/i386/bin/ instead of /scisoft/i386/bin/ and if you are installing the X11 binary that is compatible with the firewall, you have to install both the ds9 and ds9.zip file in the bin/ directory of Scisoft OSX.

Scisoft OSX Intel 2008.9.1 released 0

Posted on September 23, 2008 by Juan

Scisoft OSX Intel 2008.9.1 was released yesterday. Nor noted in his blog post about it that this is a bug fix release that

should resolve a few outstanding problems created when changing the location of scisoft from /scisoft to /Applications/scisoft/. Packages such as MIDAS and Gnuplot should now work properly.

This version removes some remaining dependencies on the HPC OSX compilers, which I had on my machine but which most users do not have (and do not want to have).

I compared the /Application/scisoft/i386/Packages directory from this release of Scisoft OSX to the last one and there are no new packages installed. The few issues I noted with the Scisoft OSX 2008.8.1 release all appear to still be valid. Notably:

  1. Permission Problems Persist: When the installer installs /Applications/scisoft, it appears that a bug in Apple’s Installer program triggers a change in ownership of the /Applications directory to that of the second user on the system. I strongly suggest checking the ownership of the /Applications directory afterward and if isn’t owned by an administrative user, set it as such using:
    sudo chown username:admin /Applications

    (where “username” is the primary administrative users username, in most cases, your username) to perform the repair.
  2. ds9 command line executable missing: This release has the same glitch I noticed in version 2008.8.1 in that /Applications/scisoft/i386/bin doesn’t appear to have a ds9 binary installed. You can fix this by installing the X11 version of ds9 there or by linking to the Aqua version of ds9 that was installed using the command line
    ln -s "/Applications/scisoft/i386/Applications/SAOImage DS9.app/Contents/MacOS/ds9" /Applications/scisoft/i386/bin/ds9

I have placed a copy of this release in my Scisoft OSX Mirror in case the main Scisoft OSX repository gets bogged down.

Announcing External SPECROAD… woot! 0

Posted on August 11, 2008 by Juan

A few folks have been aware that I am involved in an interesting project to determine the “Shape of our Galaxy”… specifically the nature of the asymmetries observed in the Thick Disk stars in the galaxy. Part of that project involved obtaining multi-fiber spectrograph observations of many stars in selected fields of the sky using the Hectospec multi-fiber spectrometer on the MMT on Mount Hopkins.

Unfortunately, there are very few “external” users of the Hectospec, so the software pipeline available for reducing Hectospec observations, called SPECROAD, was only geared to run on SAO computers. I spent a considerable amount of time last summer and this summer getting that software into a much more portable form, documenting how to use it, and removing bugs from the code.

All this work resulted in the creation of a new version of the Hectospec data pipeline I dubbed “External SPECROAD” or “E-SPECROAD” for short. There were several major problems with the original SPECROAD code that I addressed in E-SPECROAD:

  1. Nonportability: The SPECROAD scripts were only designed to run on a Solaris computer at the SAO, with files in specific hard-coded locations using a specific IRAF environment with all the IRAF parameters set before the scripts were run. This has been addressed by trying to assume almost nothing about a user’s IRAF environment from the start except that they have the proper packages installed.
  2. Lack of Documentation: The documentation for SPECROAD is frankly inadequate. It was an in-house tool for the SAO, so the publically-available documentation consists mostly of one webpage describing what the scripts do. I have now written up both an installation guide (because there are a lot of pre-requisite pieces of code to install) and a E-SPECROAD user’s guide.
  3. No Installation Instructions: There were several IRAF packages to install (available here). The shell scripts required not only the installation of several IRAF packages and the compilation of several C programs, they used korn shell (ksh) which I was unfamiliar with. And, as I would also soon discover, the ksh installed on the Mac had serious bugs in its list handling. There is now a fairly compete installation guide laying out all the pre-requisites and addressing installations on both Macs and Linux boxes.
  4. Undocumented Bugs: The available SPECROAD scripts had major bugs whose workarounds were undocumented and only available when I would email someone at the SAO to inquire about them. In one case, you had to know to actually break out of the script with Control-C, then run some of the reduction in IRAF, and then restart the script! E-SPECROAD has been fairly extensively debugged. It’s not bug free, but the exterminator has made some serious passes at the code.
  5. Assumed Availability of Spectral Templates: The SPECROAD scripts typically relied on pre-set spectral line databases for different grating/central wavelength configurations instead of having the user exploit the IRAF identify command to build a database. E-SPECROAD is geared toward the user who is going to wavelength calibrate their observations by building the spectral line database for themselves.
  6. Assumed Use of Low Resolution Spectra: The SPECROAD scripts were mostly pre-configured for working with 270gpm gratings and required some tweaking for 600gpm. E-SPECROAD can work with either configuration without editing the code.
  7. Inconvienent Backups As Data Reduction Progresses: If one of the scripts executed by SPECROAD crashed, you had to dig around subdirectories to “backtrack” the changes before restarting the script. With disk space not an issue, I prefer monolithic backups of the entire data directory at certain key points in the data reduction pipeline. Since you may not like this form of backup (as they consume a lot of disk space), they are optional.

Today, I am posting E-SPECROAD online as a beta release along with installation instructions and a user’s guide. All the other external users of Hectospec I am aware of, all two of you, can enjoy or complain to me about this code. The ones I am unaware of are free to use the code as well.

SciSoft OSX 2008.5.1 Released (with my installation notes) 3

Posted on May 28, 2008 by Juan

SciSoft OSX Intel 2008.5.1 was released today. Nor’s blog post about the update states

The latest update to Scisoft OSX is now available. This includes an update to Pyraf (v. 1.6), GSL, pygsl, Gunplot, and a few backend libraries.

I went ahead and decided to install it today to investigate the improvements. As is usually my procedure, I first moved the directory containing my functional SciSoft OSX install temporarily out of the way via the command line:

sudo mv /scisoft /scisoft_old

Having done that I double-clicked on the installer package and let it do its thing, installing everything in the /scisoft directory. I poked around a bit an realized almost immediately that /scisoft/i386/Applications directory was empty! This one is kind of a show stopper as it means DS9 and FV are unavailable. I copied the files back from the previous installation without too much of a hitch. I did check, the installer package file with Pacifist and it does appear to contain those files in it, so I am not sure why they didn’t appear to install. I hope this is an isolated incident and not a recurring issue with the installer.

Other minor glitches I noticed:

  • I discovered that /scisoft/i386/Packages, /scisoft/NEWS and /scisoft/i386/share are set to have owner 502:502 instead of root:admin. This glitch is easily fixed by issuing the following command from the Terminal
    sudo chown -R root:admin /scisoft/
  • I also noticed that in addition to the x11iraf-1.5DEV installation, the entire x11iraf-1.3.2 installation is still sitting in the /scisoft/i386/Packages directory. All the x11iraf binaries in /scisoft/i386/bin/ are linked to x11iraf-1.5DEV instead of the older 1.3.2 binaries. I suspect this is an oversight.

An investigation of the /scisoft/i386/Packages directory as well as the NEWS file reveals the following changes to this version of SciSoft OSX over the 2008.3.1 version.

  • GSL updated from 1.9 to 1.11
  • DS9 updated from 4.13 to 5.1 (The current version of SAOImage DS9 is actually version 5.2, you can read about how to update the SciSoft version of DS9 in this post)
  • GNUPlot updated from 4.0.0 to 4.2.3
  • Swarp updated from version 2.15.7 to 2.17.1
  • WeightWatcher updated from version 1.7 to 1.8.7
  • pyraf updated from version 1.3 to version 1.6
  • The following Python libraries were updated:
    • pygtk updated from 2.8.6 to 2.12.1
    • matplotlib updated from 0.90 to 0.91.2
  • atk library updated from 1.10.3 to 1.22.0
  • cairo library updated from 1.1.6 to 1.6.4
  • cfitsio library updaed from 3.040 to 3.080
  • glib library updated from 2.8.6 to 2.16.3
  • glib-1.2.10 library added as well (possibly for a particular package needing older version of library)
  • gtk+ library updated from 2.8.19 to 2.12.9
  • gtk+-1.2.10 library added as well (possibly for a particular package needing older version of library)
  • pango library updated from version 1.10.4 to 1.20.2
  • pixman 0.10.0 library added
  • libtiff library upgraded from 3.7.4 to 3.8.2

Hats off to the SciSoft OSX folks for keeping this package up to date. I have placed a copy in my SciSoft OSX mirror in case there are any access issues.

SAOImage DS9 versus Leopard Firewall 2

Posted on April 22, 2008 by Juan

Immediately after installing SAOImage DS9 5.2, I had a major failure of the application and initially I just thought it was some sort of build bug. This is what I posted at that time:

[HOLD OFF ON THIS UPDATE! I have discovered that at least on one of my systems, this version of ds9 is refusing to run properly. It launched once, but when I attempted to check the “About SAOImage DS9”, it triggered the following error:

 “An internal error has been detected local header mismatch couldn’t open “zvfsmntpt/doc/sun.gif”: no such file.

(this occurred in both Aqua and X11 versions). Furthermore, all future attempts to launch ds9 (again, either Aqua or X11) fail with the following error:

Error in startup script: couldn’t read file “./zvfsmntpt/src/ds9.tcl”: no such file or directory  

Even removing the preferences file at ~/.ds9.prf didn’t help.]

Apparently, my problems with SAOImage DS9 in Leopard are a known issue. If you configure the built-in Firewall to “Set access for specific services and applications” so that you can approve “holes” in your firewall on an Application by Application basis, your first launch of SAOImage DS9 will irreparably damage the application!  Unfortunately, Apple implements the application firewall in part by modifying the Application package of the Application you are running by digitally signing it if it was not digitally signed by the developer (adding a file called CodeResources to the Application package). According the Apple’s documentation on this:

If you run an unsigned application not in the Application Firewall list, you will be presented with a dialog with options to Allow or Deny connections for the application. If you choose Allow, Mac OS X 10.5 will sign the application and automatically add it to the Application Firewall list. If you choose Deny, Mac OS X 10.5 will sign the application, automatically add it to the Application Firewall list and deny the connection.

So basically,Apple doesn’t warn you in the dialog box that comes up that it has whatever decision you make, it will modify the application by digitally signing it and it doesn’t give you a way to avoid this. This is, in my opinion, is an incredibly boneheaded move on Apple’s programmer’s part. They readily admit that

  Some applications check their own integrity when they are run without using code signing.

They suggest the application firewall will try to automatically detect these and avoid modifying them, but they should give you, the user, the option instead of making the decision via some internal algorithm.  MacOS X shouldn’t assume its OK to change an application. In the case of SAOImage DS9, they are irreparably damaging the application without leaving you a way to avoid the damage once you trigger the application firewall. Shame on you Apple. The only way to fix it is to reinstall the application!

So when I figured this out (a tip of the hat to this post on IRAF.net). I reinstalled the SAOImage DS9 executables (both Aqua and X11 versions) and before launching them, I set the Firewall (via the Security Pane of the System Preferences) to “Allow all incoming connections” (this is the default mode, so it is as secure as MacOS Tiger was). Everything now appears to work just fine.

Personally, I believe an application that fails its checksum should present a message indicating that is the problem instead of just crapping out, but in this case, the fault lies mostly with Apple. Apple is damaging applications by making this critical decision in the background, without user intervention!

DS9 version 5.2 released 1

Posted on April 19, 2008 by Juan

[See my more recent post warning about MacOS X Firewall settings and how they can destroy the SAOImage DS9 executable during its first launch! This problem is avoidable by tweaking the Firewall settings, but once you have launched SAOImage DS9 with the bad settings, the application is damaged can can’t be relaunched again. A reinstallation is the only solution, so it is a good idea to avoid this problem.]

The folks in Cambridge have kept busy. They have released SAOImage DS9 version 5.2. The versions for MacOS X include the following:

The rather extensive changes are detailed in the release notes here, but the notable ones to me include:

  • ANALYSIS: for MacOSX tiger, wrap cmds with shell and PATH.
  • GUI: change default directory for standard dialog to $HOME.
  • ANALYSIS: add /sw/bin to default path for MacOSX. While unstated in the release notes, this is clearly an attempt to support Fink, which places its installation in the /sw directory.
  • GUI: ds9 will now start in the users home directory for MacOSX Aqua users when invoked from a double click and the default dialog box is Motif or Windows.
  • MACOSX: fixed a problem with printing non standard colors.
  • MACOSX: restore postscript printing.
  • REGIONS: apply WCS to fits regions if present.
  • GUI: add support for user configured button bar.
  • CATALOGS: add support for simbad.
  • IMEXAMINE: added support for key stroke events.
  • Although unstated in their release notes, they are now apparently providing universal binaries instead of PPC and Intel binaries for MacOS X.

I have previously posted notes for integrating upgrades of DS9 into the Scisoft OS X installation and they still work just fine.

IRAF V2.14 Now Available 1

Posted on December 03, 2007 by Juan

To quote iraf.net:

As of September 2007, NOAO has resumed development of IRAF on a limited scale, although primary responsibility for user support remains at the community IRAF.NET web site. IRAF V2.14 is a formalized version of the IRAF.NET V2.13 releases previously made available by iraf.net.
The major version number increase is meant to disambiguate NOAO releases from earlier versions and to provide a clean code base for future development. Unlike earlier ‘major’ IRAF releases that contained substantial new functionality, this release may seem a bit lacking. Support for Intel-based Mac and Cygwin platforms is the key highlight as well as many unseen but required maintenance/viability changes. A number of new tasks and features have been added, either inherited from the V2.13 releases or done as part of external package development.

It appears a full installation is required, even if you have previously installed IRAF 2.13. I won’t be upgrading until SciSoft OS X is upgraded (there is a beta I am playing with of SciSoft, but it has IRAF 2.13 in it). Marcos Huerta is already playing with it so those of you needing package installers of (just) IRAF 2.14 will probably get your wish soon enough.

Scisoft OSX 2007.11.2b Notes 2

Posted on November 16, 2007 by Juan

No… the new Scisoft OSX isn’t out quite yet, but I got the following note from Nor Pirzkal responding to my post regarding the various broken symbolic links in SciSoft OSX 2007.11.1.

Just to let you know that I just implemented your changes in 2007.11.2b. Thanks again.

So it looks like these bugs will be fixed when Scisoft OSX 2007.11.2b is released soon. I have to hand it to them, Nor is pretty quick to respond to these bugs, given he has a full time job which doesn’t involve maintaining SciSoft OSX!

SAOImage ds9 version 5.0 released 1

Posted on October 16, 2007 by Juan
On October 15, the folks behind SAOImage released SAOImage DS9 version 5.0. The big change I noticed is they now have a completely MacOS X native (read “Aqua”) version of ds9 (but only if you use the application package version of ds9, the command line versions remain X11)! I downloaded the following three versions: The new features lists page tells us that this release includes:
  • MacOSX Aqua Support: DS9 has been ported to MacOSX Aqua and is an universal application which no longer requires X11.
  • Compressed FITS Support: DS9 supports compressed FITS images using RICE compression.
  • Mask Support: DS9 supports overlay masks. A mask is defined as a valid FITS image, in which a non zero value indicates that the selected mask color is to be displayed instead of the data value color.
  • SkyView Support: DS9 provides support for HEASARC’s image cutout service, SkyView. This site provides image cutout service for a number of image surveys, including SDSS.
  • Multi-Language Support: DS9 provides multi-language support. By default, the language used for menus and dialog boxes is based on the value of the operating system locale variable. The user may override the default value by selecting the desired language in the preferences or by the -language command line option.
  • Preferences: Preferences are automatically saved when a user changes an option. Selecting the saving preferences menu item is no longer needed.
More detailed release notes are available here. I was able to get this version of ds9 integrated with SciSoft OSX by doing the following:
  1. Decompress the command line version of ds9 via the terminal using tar xzvf ds9.darwinppc.5.0.tar.gz (PPC version) or tar xzvf ds9.darwinintel.5.0.tar.gz (Intel version). When the decompression is done, all you have is an executable called ds9.
  2. Next, from the terminal, go to the /scisoft/bin directory (on PPC) or /scisoft/i386/bin/ directory (on Intel) and rename the old ds9 executable to something like ds9_old (using something like mv ds9 ds9_old).
  3. Copy your newly decompressed ds9 executable into the SciSoft OSX binary directory. I should note the command line version of ds9 still requires X11.
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