Apple Science and Technology News for 03-01-02

As March begins, we thought we would keep everyone apprised of updates in the Scientia et Macintosh world including applications and news items.

For those users of GIS (geographic informations systems) software, there has for some time been available GRASS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System). GRASS is an open-source GIS environment that provides raster, topological vector, basic image and graphics processing tools available for OS X. The problem for lots of folks has been that the binaries have not been available in a pre-packaged compiled form limiting the number of people willing to explore GRASS. To remedy this problem and to make GRASS available to folks who have no experience with programming or compiling, OpenOSX is selling CD?s with pre-compiled binaries that install just like a typical Macintosh application.

Of course we have had other GIS programs in the past including ENVI from Research Systems. While GRASS is for the cost conscious and the open-source community, ENVI historically has provided a more powerful package with many tools and features not available in GRASS or other even dedicated platform GIS options. ENVI is based on IDL also from Research Systems which is currently in development for an OS X release with an x-windows motif.

For those biologists and geneticists in the crowd, we now have an optimized version of BLAST (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool) for OS X that takes advantage of the Altivec instruction set. BLAST is a set of applications that have been designed to explore DNA and protein databases to discover sequence similarities. The Altivec enhanced BLAST provides for dramatic speed advantages over BLAST libraries available on other platforms and should be a significant incentive for many in the bioscience community to embrace OS X.

General Science users will find the latest release of IgorPro 4.05 the first release of Igor built natively for OS X. IgorPro is an extensible environment that allows for data analysis, graphing, image analysis and data presentation.

Speaking of image analysis, Adobe has announced the imminent availability of Photoshop 7 for OS X. While Photoshop is not generally considered a scientific tool, most scientists I know use it fairly regularly for preparation of images for presentation and some use it for data inspection and image analysis/forensics when augmented by third party plug-ins. We hope to have a review article about these uses of Photoshop in the near future.

Reindeer Games a developer of Image Processing Tool Kit (IPTK) and Fovea Pro, plug-ins for Photoshop has released a free custom filter plug in that replaces the filter that ships in Photoshop. This filter allows for the creation of custom filters in both 8-bits and 16-bits images and overcomes some other limitations present in the filter shipping with Photoshop.

Finally, we want to relay a call for papers to the IEEE International Conference on Cluster Computing.

Cluster computing has been slowly gaining momentum as a means to inexpensively gain true supercomputer performance in parallel and distributed paradigms out of consumer level hardware. Macintosh computers have not been left out of this field traditionally associated with more esoteric or expensive platforms. Pooch from Dauger Research has enabled easy to implement cluster computing on the Macintosh including Classic Mac OS and now OS X. The advantage of cluster computing on the Macintosh using Pooch is that one can use the Macs individually as personal workstations (for writing, graphics, computation, surfing the web) while at the same time having them available in clusters for compute intensive work during evenings or times of less intensive use. This makes for a doubly productive machine and one that is much cheaper as more work can be accomplished with it than simply using it as a dedicated node.

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