Sunday, March 14, 2010

Insanity, n: Doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

You've probably heard that before. But what do you call it when you do the same thing and actually get a different result? I've always wondered about that. Especially when it happens to me. Take today, for instance.

As some of you may know, I'm working with one of my professors, Dr. Takamiya, on a research project she's doing right now about star formation rates in galaxies. We've been trying to install a flavor of Linux called Fedora on a Virtual Machine on my computer with no luck for the last two weeks (a Virtual Box simply means that you can run one operating system within another one. I'm still running Windows 7, but I can open up a window and run Fedora 12 in it). We're doing this because IRAF (Image Reduction and Analysis Facility), the premier astronomy data reduction package, doesn't run on Windows.  We maneuvered our way around several obstacles such as enabling hardware acceleration on my processor by flashing the BIOS and figuring out which of the many versions of Fedora was the correct one to download and install, until we got to the part where the instructions couldn't be simpler: "double-click the 'Install to Desktop' button and follow the prompts". Only double-clicking the button had no effect. After two hours spent double-clicking the button and searching for solutions to the problem on Tuesday, we were ready to look into alternate ways of installing it that would be a bit more involved.

I was pursuing one of those ways this morning, when I idly opened up the virtual machine hosting Fedora and double-clicked the button. And what should happen, but lo and behold, it worked! The only difference between this time and last time I tried to install it is that this time my computer was physically in a different location, sitting on my desk instead of in Dr. Takamiya's office. I have no clue why it worked this time, but the important thing is that it does (setting a bad precedent for future sanity) meaning I can start moving forward again from where we've been stuck these last two weeks. So all's well that ends well, I guess.


  1. Install Ubuntu as a dual-boot on your computer. It is Linux so it will allow you to run IRAF, and last but not least it is FREAKING AWESOME!

  2. I thought about doing a dual-boot, but Dr. Takamiya recommended using Virtual Box instead, which saves time by not having to reboot each time you want to change OS's. Plus I've never used Linux before, and I like the idea of being able to shut it down safely and get back to Windows if I do something wrong.

  3. Fair enough. I was cautious about Ubuntu too. In fact, the only reason I went through with it is that I've been getting guidance from friend and computer wizard Njugu. Though I have to say, now that it is up and running I am considering completely getting rid of my old Windows XP OS. Ubuntu is actually fairly easy to use and is really designed for computer nerds.

    By the way, I fixed the telrad on the imager, though it still needs to be realigned which I plan on doing tomorrow if they'll let me come up.

  4. Huh. I'll take that into consideration. The nice thing about using Virtual Box is that I can install an OS worry free, and I can install as many as I want, so I might give Ubuntu a try over spring break.

    Glad to hear about the imager. We were having *quite* the time trying to find stuff with it Saturday night.


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