Teaching basic lab skills
for research computing

But I Was Gone Less than 48 Hours!

I left Toronto for Austin mid-day Wednesday, and got back at midnight last night. Lots happened in the interim, so here's a linkandthoughtdump (which I bet actually is one word in German):

  • Gave a talk about Beautiful Code to the Austin Python Users' Group Wednesday at Enthought's swanky offices. (They're the kind folks who provide web hosting for the Software Carpentry course.) About 27 people in attendance, and good discussion afterward; was grateful to Travis Vaught and Sergey Fomel for rides from the airport and to the hotel respectively.
  • Gave another talk titled "HPC Considered Harmful" at the Texas Advanced Computing Center's Second Annual Scientific Software Days. I was a bit nervous about telling people at a supercomputing center that focusing on massive parallelism and peak performance is wrongheaded, but there were a lot of nodding heads.
  • I made lots of notes from two other talks that I want to follow up on at some point:
    • Robert van de Geijn's FLAME system lets you draw matrix operations, then automatically generates the corresponding high-performance code. It's a great example of a real high-level programming tool for scientists (and yet another special case of what a real extensible programming system would support).
    • Eric Jones (also from Enthought) talked about a tool they're building that watches changes to variables in Python programs, and automatically generates interactive plots of their values. It sounds simpler and less impressive than it actually is; I've asked him to put together a screencast, and I think you'll be wowed—I was. (Later: Steve Eddings from The Mathworks sent me a link about data linking in MATLAB, complete with a video tutorial.)
  • At roughly the same time, half a world away, Diomidis Spinellis presented a study comparing the code quality of Linux, Windows, OpenSolaris, and FreeBSD. Very cool work; wish I'd been at ICSE'08 to ask questions.
  • Meanwhile, Dmitri Vassiliev, who is continuing his work on SlashID this summer, has discovered that generated code is next-to-impossible to debug. Not to be a one-note symphony or anything, but I said in that same article about extensible programming systems that the real challenge is not extending notation, but creating extensible debugging tools so that those notations and high-level representations can be fixed when they break. Robert van de Geijn doesn't think FLAME needs a debugger; respectfully, I disagree.
  • Science in the Open has a plea to scientists to make their raw data available, motivated by yet another irreproducible result.
  • Kosta Zabashta has posted early thoughts about integrating IRC into DrProject. (Gray on black? Kosta...your design skills rival mine...) I need to tell him that DrProject's RPC module doesn't handle tickets because Jeff Balogh is going to replace the entire ticketing system with an extensible one this summer, using his Dojo Form Editor as a front end...
  • Elisabeth Hendrickson has thoughts on automating tests for legacy web applications. Students, take note.
  • Thanks to Nick Jamil and others, we have instructions for installing DrProject on Windows. Yay!
  • Everything old is new again, including Ada and the Bletchley Park Colossus.

And then there's this:

Thanks again to Sergey Fomel for inviting me down, and for introducing me to the reproducible research community—I'm looking forward to many more discussions.


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