Introducing … Ubuntu Science Edition…

Wouldn’t that be great? Hey, there’s an Ubuntu Christian Edition, an Ubuntu Muslim Edition, and another Ubuntu Christian Edition. Why not an Atheistubuntu? Or a Skeptibuntu? or, more usefully, I would think, Sciencebunutu with Atheistic tendencies?

(And for those of you who like to cross certain boundaries there could be a Science Fiction Edition. Called, of course ….

… Cthulhubuntu!)


Anyway, how would a science edition of Ubuntu be different than plain old Ubuntu?

Well, three things. First, it would have a LOT of software automatically included that at present us sciency types have to bother installing. Second, a community on how to use all that cool stuff could form. Third, the repositories managed by apt would not be only software. There would also be data repositories into which places like NASA and NOAH and various citizen science projects and so on would put stuff.

Here are a few software items that I think Sciencebuntu should include;

1) A collection of programming languages (we can fight about that later)

2) Bleeding edge emacs (and other text editors. We can fight about that later.)

3) Gnumeric spreadsheet

4) r, with bells and whistles included

5) All the TeX, LaTex, BibTex stuff.

6) Mendeley desktop (and a collection of other research tools)

7) Some calculators

8) The default home screen for the Firefox installation would include a google universal calculator window, and links to three or four key resources in each of the major sciences, implemented as an on-board HTML page that can be easily edited and customized (no, wait, no need to make it easy. Just raw code is fine). People can excange their home page ideas.

9) Sciency screen savers including protein folding and other CPU sharing progects.

10) Astronomy software, Chemical symbol reader software, whatever math software seems to work well that is OpenSource, etc.

And, to remind you, the repository would include a data repository, not just a software repository.

What else?

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30 thoughts on “Introducing … Ubuntu Science Edition…

  1. I thought there was already at least one science distribution for Linux. Chemistry and Astronomy are two fields with dedicated distributions and there are probably more. I think even CERN has a distribution of its own.

    And of course there is “Edubuntu” and a number of educational distributions (in which the French seem to feature prominently – vive La France!) Oregon seems to be experimenting with communism now – they have released a Free Software CD which I presume has free software for Evil Bill’s toy operating system, but just wait – they’ll pull the ol’ bait-n-switch and before you know it they’ll all be Linux thralls and Freetards.

  2. There are a couple of specialized distributions, yes. Not of Unbutu, though. They are red hat or fedora distros. Also, Sciencebuntu is for the generalized science audience and is way different than those other distributions.

    Edubuntu is actually a special implementation of a network using thin clients and such, not just a software package. But there are probably features of edubuntu that should be checked out.

  3. Ooohhh!!!! I would totally be torn between the practicality of a science edition and the total absolute awesome of Cthulhubuntu…I am not sure the scifi geek wouldn’t win out over the science geek.

  4. Great geek potential here:
    -The preinstalled RSS reader can come with preloaded lists you can pick from, say the top Astronomy blogs, or Gen Science, or Science communication.
    -Firefox preinstalled with addons relevant for browsing for research (eg. ones that automatically highlight academic citations and link them to canonical download URLs from an external database — I’m sure these exist)
    -Appropriate preinstallations for the games folder, eg. creationist whack-a-mole.

  5. @a Nadder: No go on the creationist whack-a-mole – a recent internet poll has proved it’s a leading cause of RSS in people with a brain.

    Scibuntu (or whatever it will be called) sounds very ambitious to me even if it only caters to an audience from primary to undergrad level sciences. It will be interesting to see how it evolves.

  6. The preinstalled RSS reader can come with preloaded lists you can pick from

    Exactly, I was thinking that too.

    In fact, perhaps podcast data could be updated and maintained in the repository as well, as these things tend to be a bit more dynamic than one would like.

    Yes, research tools I suggested Mendeley, and there are others too.

    BOINC is good, plus there is a citizen science project clearing house as well.

  7. There is a science oriented Ubuntu derivative already called Poseidon Linux. It is a Brazilian project, but also supports English language users. It has a rather low profile, so I have no idea how good it might be, but it could be worth a look.

    Incidentally, I found it by looking at the Ubuntu Derivatives page. You might find other projects there you like.

  8. I just found this HowTo for creating Ubuntu derivatives. If someone is interested in creating a science oriented derivative, this might be the place to start.

  9. Ubuntu Christian Edition was one of the most useless, stupid things to ever happen in the Ubuntu community, and I think I’d say that even if I were still a Christian. A parody made real, one person described it as an example of “Jesus Junk” — ordinary products marketed with a Christian spin, for no good reason.

    Your idea sounds like it could be more useful, but I hope the model would be something like Ubuntu Studio rather than UCE.

    “Scibuntu” already exists, although apparently not as a full distro.

    BTW, don’t miss this particularly silly comment from the Ichthux forums.

  10. Good idea… I’m sure not original, but I’m sure there is a contribution the Scibling hoards could make.

    Putting together a base distro for scientists, engineers, and technical students would be quite useful IMO. Educational distros tend to focus on K-12 and stuff like thin-client settings. “Usability” distros tend to try for an “everyman” target. This idea is really different enough to matter.

    Octave should be included, preferably with octave-forge packaged in.

    SciPy and its kin should definitely be in there too. Enthought’s EPD isn’t open-source AFIK, but it is a good setup.

    Biocondutor (mostly R packages) should be included too.

    In addition to the packages… a new package tool (or set of tools) to simplify, perhaps integrate, the finding and management of add on packages such as CRAN, CPAN, and such would be very nice. This is where making an actual distro could make life easier for a lot of users. A lot of what us scientists end up using are these add-on packages/libraries, and it does get to be a mess pretty quickly.

  11. For example:

    Well, I know this is stupid but the term “deamon” really disturbes me. In Linux and UNIX, “deamon” is often used to describe a background process to perform a certain task. The daemon might be for mail routing, garbage collection, disk defragmenter, audio or anything else that needs to run behind the scenes.

    Why did the some of the most philanthopic people in the world such RMS and Linus chose to allow such offensive terminology? My Computer Scientist mind tells me that these are just background processes, but my Christian ideals tell me that there is something strange about creating Christian Art or products using an OS filled with “daemons”

    Of course, there would be no “daemons” in Skeptibuntu either. They would be “background processes. Of which we are skeptical”

  12. Daemons go back to the origins of unix well before linux came along and were meant to refer to Greek daemons which were spiritual beings (often benevolent) less than gods but greater than humans. Admittedly I’ve heard that the Texan reaction to someone wearing a unix daemon t-shirt was not favorable.

    Myself I would include some desktop backgrounds from the Hubble telescope in the distro.

  13. @Nemo: So the “Christian Edition” wasn’t a Poe? Dang … no wonder the “Satanic Edition” folks take themselves so seriously.

  14. @Erp: That’s a good idea for the desktop pictures (for those who want pictures). You can put in a whole range (and take up a lot of DVDs) – meteorological and earth observation satellite images, images from space observatories (Hubble, Plank, Herschel, the various Solar observatories), and macro and micro photography and others. Hmmm .. maybe just a “readme” file with links to free image repositories and perhaps 10 images from various categories in the distribution.

  15. And hey, if it takes “Jesus Junk” to get people to use Ubuntu, what’s wrong with that?

    I do like Greg’s list of features. The first thing I install is definitely R. Ubuntus already have Perl, Python and Ruby. I would use OpenOffice instead of gnumeric, although I would use gnumeric on an OS X box because I have had huge accuracy problems with R4CALC and NeoOffice.

  16. For graphs we use
    GNU Plot

    For diagrams:

    I’d put a beefed up Python on. I know you already said programming languages but if you include libraries like scipy/numpy and matplotlib then it becomes as powerful as something like MatLab.

  17. Except for the occasional loan amortization program, I really don’t use spreadsheets, so I’m curious as to why you prefer Gnumeric over the OpenOffice spreadsheet?

  18. I like the graph function in Gnumeric. Harder to learn but then more powerful. Gnumeric has more science-oriented functions.

    OpenOffice calc is better at some importing tasks, but otherwise, on a one to one comparison for me, Gnumeric seems better. But calc is good to. I actually use them both.

    Also, all the OO software has this annoying habit of making me click extra, unnecessary buttons when it starts up much of the time. I suppose this is to make MS users feel more comfortable. Gnumeric is more GNU like in that regard.

  19. A large script chock full of ‘apt-get install’s and a bit of configuration could transform any generic Ubuntu installation into a “Scienceybuntu” box pretty effortlessly. A collection of such scripts could cover lots of different disciplines.

    Sounds like the sort of obvious thing that would be out there, somewhere…

  20. A large script chock full of ‘apt-get install’s and a bit of configuration could transform any generic Ubuntu installation into a “Scienceybuntu” box pretty effortlessly. A collection of such scripts could cover lots of different disciplines.

    That’s basically what a Debian metapackage does–

    “ubuntu-restricted-extras” is one you’ve probably run into already.

  21. “OpenOffice calc is better at some importing tasks”
    Could you bugzilla up a sample of any problems you hit? We’re always looking to improve things.


  22. I am thinking that XBuntu is simply Ubuntu with software already added. So for example, PornBuntu would be Ubuntu with a few porn flicks added (probably with VLC player). It leads one to wonder, why not just use regular Ubuntu and install the extra stuff yourself?

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