Fedora Scientific is a Linux distribution designed for enabling open science

A Linux distribution for science geeks

Posted 20 Jun 2014 by 

Amit Saha (Red Hat)
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Fedora Scientific is a Linux distribution specifically designed for enabling open science. It is a Fedora spin targeted at users whose work involves scientific and numerical computing. Perhaps like other Fedora spins, it was conceived out of a simple need: the need to avoid constantly installing the same software on a fresh Linux installation.

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If you use open source software tools such as GNU Octave, IPython, gnuplot, and libraries such as SciPy and GNU Scientific library in your work—and you write papers and reports in LaTeX—Fedora Scientific is for you. When you install it, you get these and a number of other applications that you may be using to get your scientific work done. The Fedora Scientific guide aims to help you learn about the included software. It features pointers to resources, so you can learn more about them.

Downloading Fedora Scientific

You can download the current Fedora Scientific release (Fedora 20, at the time of this writing) as an ISO file. Both 32-bit and 64-bit images are available, and each is around 3.4 GB in size. You can also create Live USB media with these images. Just follow these instructions. You can also burn the ISO file to a DVD.

If you are not keen on installing Fedora Scientific before trying it out, it's a good idea to use software such as libvirt or VirtualBox to first test it in a virtual machine.

Customising Fedora Scientific

Since Fedora Scientific is essentially a Fedora Linux distribution with a number of additional applications installed, you can install any additional software using the package manager. For example, if you are not a big fan of the KDE Plasma Desktop, you can install GNOME 3 or any of the other desktop environments.

Discussions, support, and getting involved

If you have a suggestion regarding the spin, have a query, or want to report a problem, please join the Fedora scitech mailing list.

As users, you are most enabled to help shape the spin. At this stage, the best way to contribute is to help complete the user guide.

Why should you care?

The reason you are reading an article on Fedora Scientific during Open Source Week is obvious. Outlined here are the benefits of using Fedora Scientific for scientific work. I encourage you to use Fedora Scientific and help make it better. In the process, you will help push forward the beautiful collaboration between science and open source software.

View the complete collection of stories for Open Science Week.



This sounds like a nice initiative. Still, I cannot help thinking: does it really solve the problem? In my experience, in several cases you need something more up-to-date than what a typical Linux distribution provides. For example, I found that the quite static, several-years-old snapshot of Texlive that Ubuntu provided at the time was not good enough for me and I ended up installing Texlive's own distribution with their tlmgr to keep it up to date. I am currently using Anaconda's Python distribution for the same reasons.
The point is that a specialised team taking care of one specific software product or collection seems naturally able to do this better than the team behind an entire Linux distribution which of course has a much wider range of software to worry about. I wonder if this might be the case for Fedora Scientific as well so that you would end up wanting to supplement your install with stand-alone software anyway? After all, it is really not very much work installing for example Anaconda Python or Texlive.
Just my thoughts... I wish the project the best of luck.

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Amit Saha

Hello Thomas, your observation that you may need access to more up-to-date versions of software than that available in the Fedora repositories is very valid. In that case, as with other software, you must depend upon the package maintainer to make the updated software available to you. And yes, it isn't much work at all to setup Anaconda Python on any Linux distribution, for example.

However, beyond the Python ecosystem, there *are* quite a number of tools, libraries and such which are used in scientific computing. And even though they are just a "yum install" away, making them already available along with the Python specific software is the goal of Fedora Scientific. In an ideal world, there would be task force aiming to always having the packages shipped with Fedora Scientific always updated with the upstream. However, I don't think we are there yet.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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Bryan Hellyer

I work as a Unix Systems Administrator for a large University in Australia, and during my time as HPC Systems Administrator we used Scientific Linux (www.scientificlinux.org) for several years.
It started out as Redhat Advanced Server 2.0 re-compiled with Redhat branding replaced with "SciLinux or SL", and since has pretty much kept pace RHEL releases, with dedicated teams at Cern and FermiLab maintaining distro.s.
It is Opensource, free to download, and practically the same as using RHEL or CentOS, and has freely available updates, ISOs and yum repositories.

Cheers all

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Just noting that Fedora Scientific now lives at https://labs.fedoraproject.org/en/scientific/

(I'm also looking into whether or not a redirect from the old location to the new one might be possible)

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