This afternoon has mostly been devoted to getting my laptop’s Python tools into shape to do some actual science. The tools in question (numpy, scipy and matplotlib) are all supposed to have automatic installers, but these are particular about which version of Python you have (in particular, Apple’s python sucks and so the autoinstallers require the version). Unfortunately the latest version of scipy isn’t supported under’s v2.7. A moment’s thought later on caused me to realize I could download older versions of Python from to save myself the headache, but for reasons I am at a loss to supply, I decided to go build everything from source instead. (“I like doing things the hard way” seems to be the only adequate response.)

MacPorts is now busily compiling gcc 4.4, which has the CPU fan panting to keep up. Predictably, the build is taking forever, which made me think of this:

I suppose it’s just as well that I have the latest and greatest, but maybe the thing to do is to just get the latest version of python and use the bloody autoinstallers.

I don’t think I really like doing things the hard way, though. It’s probably more accurate to say that when dealing with a problem, there’s the “big picture” level, where one makes plans and thinks about the best approach, and the “in the trenches” level, where one is focused only on the next goal and plows steadily towards that. It’s kind of like a minimation process, where the fitness function is “effort involved to obtain the solution”; I’ve spent most of the day crawling along this really long trench when I might’ve done well to take a step back. The goal for this afternoon was “get these things installed”, and I’ve managed to do that, but I still feel a bit silly.

edit: Yep, took about 2 minutes to install Python 2.6.6, numpy, scipy and matplotlib at the end of the day with the binary installers. It’s still tough sometimes to figure out exactly where the installers put these things so one knows what to tack onto $PYTHONPATH. Even mentioning $PYTHONPATH makes me feel like I’m missing something, though, like my environment is some horrible Franken-thing which doesn’t belong either in the world of “easy” or “hard” things… as the quote at the top of Kelle’s recent post suggested.


About Richard

I'm an American scientist who is building a new life in Australia. This space will contain words about science and math, but also philosophy, policy, literature, my travels, occasional rants, all sorts of things I find strange and awesome. The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer at the time (currently University of Sydney), though personally, I think they should.
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One Response to compiling.

  1. Mike says:

    Hey Richard –

    You should try Enthought Python Distribution ( It’s free for academics and is IMO by far the best way to get scientific computing in python all happy on your machine (esp if said machine is not running linux).


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