[SciPy-User] Pylab - standard packages
Sat Sep 22 10:22:49 CDT 2012
From: Fernando Perez <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: SciPy Users List <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, September 21, 2012 4:38 PM
Subject: Re: [SciPy-User] Pylab - standard packages
Warning: what follows is a highly opinionated, completely biased post.
I'll be using a 'we' that refers to the IPython developers because
the credit for much of what I talk about goes to the whole team, but
ultimately the rant is my responsibility, so flame me if need be.
I think it's important to address directly the question of the IPython
notebook. I realize that not everybody uses it, and it has some extra
dependencies (though they are really easy ones to satisfy). But I
also think it's an important discussion that goes to the question of
whether we simply are trying to play catch-up what matlab/R-Rstudio
offer, or to be truly forward-looking and rethink how scientific
computing will be done for the coming decade. Needless to say, I have
little interest in the former and am putting all my energy into the
latter: if it were otherwise, I'd been contributing to Octave for the
last 10 years instead.
I am not a developer of open source software, but I am a big user, especially of things Python. But I like the vision even though it will bring more issues than just catching up. That's worth it.
Because of my viewpoint, I would caution a more nuanced view of how programming languages, libraries, etc. are used by people like me in science. I would not divide the community into two communities: (1) developers with the edit, compile, run, cycle and (2) the users who only want to use the libraries and packages as they are. Yes, the latter would benefit greatly from a nice notebook, interactive app, but I would argue that many of us actually work in between the two styles.
I am often developing my own software that leverages many other things (numpy, Sage, etc.), but I am also doing research as I develop. I run the software as I go to see the outputs. Many times I find new things that I can do or that I do not quite have the right idea about solving the problems. I am constantly developing and analyzing, simultaneously. In fact I am often sending results to my collaborators so they can continue their research as I continue to develop and refine my software.
I bring this up because as cool as IPython is, I have never found a good way to use it for my style of research/development. I often just run from scripts instead since the code has to be continually re-interpreted (I'm assuming Python here) and IPython seems to put up road blocks to using software while modifying it. At least I haven't found a way to do it. If you could do that seamlessly, that would be a big advance!
If I'm missing something, please let me know. Otherwise, good luck on the project. I hope it's successful because it would provide a good gateway to the world of Python.
-- Lou Pecora, my views are my own.
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