Scientific Linux


In the midst of the well advertised battle for the server and desktop markets, Linux has quietly become a dominant platform in the scientific and engineering markets.

With a powerful combination of open source code, low costs, excellent performance, minimal porting requirements from other Unix variants and support for a wide range of platforms, Linux has emerged as a significant computer solution for the scientific community.

This presentation examines the key strengths of Linux in science and engineering, focusing on:

  1. The reasons why Linux has become a key platform for scientific work,
  2. The benefits of access to kernel source code for scientific software developers,
  3. The broad range of free scientific software now available for Linux, including development tools, numerical libraries, visualisation tools and scientific programs such as SciLab, Rasmol and Octave,
  4. The use of Linux as a cost-effective scientific workstation in a heterogeneous computing and networking environment, often replacing high-end workstations (running other Unix variants or Windows NT) as large "number crunching" programs are ported across to Linux
  5. The Beowulf project: high-performance computing at the right price, allowing researchers with minimal funds to create supercomputing clusters from commodity computer parts,
  6. The Linux Lab Project, which acts as a clearing house for Linux kernel drivers and interfacing software used to communicate with data acquisition and control hardware such as A/D cards, timer/counter cards and digitisers,
  7. Real-time Linux: a layer of kernel extensions that provide real-time capabilities for precise data acquisition and hardware control, without requiring extensive modifications to either the Linux kernel or user software,
  8. LabView for Linux: National Instruments have released a Linux version of the de facto industry standard for instrument interfacing and virtual instrumentation,
  9. Embedded Linux: using Linux for telemetry, systems control and SCADA interfacing in a wide range of scientific, engineering and telecommunications applications, on a variety of computer platforms such as ARM-based wearable computers and embedded PC104 boards, and
  10. A summary of other significant scientific Linux resources, such as the SAL (Scientific Applications on Linux) website

These points will be illustrated with a number of examples from around the world, including our own work at Monash University developing Linux-based wastewater monitors for Sydney Water Corporation.


Updated: 20 June 1999