Thursday, December 18, 2008


As an astronomer, there is one thing I dread... installing IRAF. The Image Reduction and Analysis Facility software package is a linux environment, essentially, that aids in the reduction of image data. For astronomers, this basically means taking raw, observational data, and converting it into a usable form by ridding the data of bad pixels and any other detector and telescope anomalies.

The thing is... it sucks to install! I've had to do it three times now, every time I update my linux system I have to reinstall it. Now this could be avoided by following their guide to placing the files in a convenient place so that an upgrade does not overwrite them... but I always do a fresh install because if anyone has ever updated linux, they know that when you upgrade your system... it will stop working. Packages on the "old" system are somehow more recent than package for the "new" system and thus the new system's packages do not get installed and it's just a mess... especially because those packages always seem to be the GCC packages... kind of essential to the ENTIRE system.

So as a result I'm always stuck reinstalling IRAF. This time is went slightly more smoothly, the packages were installed in the correct directory the firs time! Normally, they end up in a wrong directory or you're not quite sure where to put them the first time you install the packages, so they end up in a wrong directory and all hell subsequently breaks loose. As I said, I got the packages in the correct spot, this in itself was amazing. Next, all I had to do was run the installer as the IRAF user (yes it needs it's own user account on the machine, do not ask me why, I just follow instructions). Easy enough, right!? No... of course not. It keeps telling me that it won't be available to all users because it doesn't have the correct permissions so only the IRAF user and root will be able to run the software. At least it told me before it installed! I can be thankful for that. So after about 15 minutes of searching for the correct permissions to grant the files, I found it and was able to get it installed; wonderful!

The last and final step, test run the packages to make sure it all work and to great your IRAF login file. So I hopped back over to my user account to do this, ran mkiraf, which makes your login file... then I ran cl, which is the command to essentially start the program... didn't work. It said I was missing a file, "" which is a library file apparently needed by the IRAF environment. Great... this is fantastic... enter Google. I found the library rpm file on RPM Finder, there we go, problem solved. Except... the file won't install on my system, apparently it's not a REAL rpm (it is but my system didn't believe it). After some more searching (a solid 2 or 3 hours worth) on the IRAF user forum (where everyone posts their numerous issues with installing IRAF), I found the answer.

In Fedora 9 the package was succeeded by the ncurses libraries. So after making a symbolic link from to, all was happy and everything works! I'm now just waiting to see what the next devious error IRAF has in store for me!

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