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Omega Force

Which operating system(s) do astronomers most often use on their computers?

  

13 members have voted

  1. 1. Which operating system(s) do astronomers most often use on their computers?

    • Microsoft Windows
      67
    • Apple Mac OS X
      11
    • Linux
      7
    • Other
      1


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Omega Force    0

Hello.

Currently I'm in my third year of university.

I would like to work in the field of observational astronomy (not so much theoretical astronomy).

In about two weeks I'm going to buy a new laptop portable computer in the 2000€ range.

Firstly I was thinking to buy a Microsoft Windows PC, since every single one of my computers except one were Windows PCs (the one which wasn't was an Apple Mac OS X).

But then I came across a thread on a Forum (I don't remember the name of the Forum) where someone said that astronomers usually don't use Windows PCs and that they generally use other operating systems.

So I have some questions:

- Is it true that astronomers don't usually use Windows like everyone else? If yes, why?

- Which operating system(s) do astronomers most often use on their computers?

- Do you think it would be a wise decision for me to buy a computer with an operating system different than Windows? (so that I may get accustomed to the operating system which I will need to use when I'll be an astronomer) If yes, which operating system would you suggest me?

Thanks in advance for your answers.

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christhebrit    38

I use Windows.

My new Laptop has 8.1 on it which I find annoying.

I'll be reverting it to XP as soon as I find the disc again.

The reason is the drivers for software and the graphic card.

Chris

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D4N    823

There is a lot of software that is windows only and some camera manufacturers do not support other operating systems at all.

Personally I use OSX whenever I can but sometimes it can be a bit of a struggle getting things to work.

I have XP in a VM for when things refuse to work in OSX.

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

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JamesF    7,850

I think there's quite possibly a difference between "amateur and hobby astronomers" and "professional astronomers".

I think it's almost certain that the former group tend to use Windows, but it wouldn't surprise me if the latter used UNIX and UNIX-like operating systems to a far greater extent.

James

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BeanerSA    134

I use windows "most often" but that's a bit of a necessity really. I've got all sorts of linux distros installed on various machines.

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ronin    3,755

I would expect Windows to be the most used.

PC's tend to come with it and software is generally aimed at it, and usually it will get supported/updated more.

One aspect is that from a similar question is people do not use the most recent variant, Win7 still appears to be the most common.

Reasons for this will be that when Win10 appears the packages will take a time to catch up and be fully compatible.

If a person has say Win7 and everything operates correctly and as expected there is a disincentive to change OS and go through the process again of getting things to work.

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damnut    970

windows 7, xp pro. W8 isn't getting through the door...

  • Like 1

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NickK    499

Apple OS X.

Although it can be a pain, I've found it more productive than Linux, from a developer perspective, although there's far more support on Windows.

The main issue with Linux is that most developers 'play' with their installation - so unless they stick with the standard distributions you'll end up doing a lot of foot work rather than "boom it just works".

This is the list of OS X Software I'm using on OS X 10.10 Yosemite, so I'm a little biased here because:

* ATIK OS X Drivers - I wrote these

* OpenPHD2 - I wrote the support for the drivers into this

* EQMac - I know David, spent some time with him down in the south of france at OllyP's place.

* Software Bisque - TheSkyX and Camera Add-on - I wrote the plugin that uses the drivers..

* Nebulosity 4 - this uses the drivers..

* PixInsight - because there's nothing quite like it as a base line for doing processing

* Xcode 6 developer tools .. because the above and doing non-standard realtime processing ;) dev work.

Edited by NickK

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johnrt    2,213

Win XP for capture and OSX for processing.

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DaveS    2,520

I use Win 7 exclusivly.

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jnb    469

I use a mixture of linux and Windows. Most of my processing and desktop work is in windows because that's what excel and word run under and a lot of basic image processing software runs under that. Low level work tends to be in linux (web servers, data collection, embedded software etc). You will not be hampered by using linux because a lot of "professional" astronomy will use some form of unix OS although as NickK says you may have to become used to the slight differences between platforms. A few quick examples are that I was looking at some ludicrously expensive kit in the "I'll never afford that" category (Alluna Optics, I was looking at it bec ause my University has recently installed one of these in it's observatory) and it is all controlled by linux computers I was also looking at FITs data processing packages and linux is as common as windows for the platform.

That said, do not get too hung up on the OS. It is the data that is important not the colour of your lab notebook.

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Ouroboros    926

If you're aiming for a professional scientific or technical career in astronomy that should not influence what operating system you choose for your personal computing needs. After you're degree I guess you'll be doing a PhD at a university or working for an employer so they will have the computing side covered already.

What might be more useful is acquiring some knowledge of coding and control systems. So if you've done some computing in your degree or as a hobbyist that will almost certainly help you get in to the next stage, which will almost inevitably involve further specialist training probably at PhD level.

I understand that professional astronomers no longer do observing in the sense that we mean as amateurs. They're either scientific astronomers in universities or they're highly specialised support scientists and engineers designing, building and operating observatories - usually in far flung parts of the world. I assume you aim to become the latter. In which case you'll need to acquire some relevant skill in engineering, optics or computing to pursue a career in this field.

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NickK    499

It's interesting that a lot of scientific programming occurs on linux - because it's free and it can be hacked to work in any specific form. Unix forms really came about from Silicon Graphics involvement as the fashionable science computing box. If you look at some of the modern science projects - LHC - they're using windows for the front but often the backend supercomputing is a very specific form of unix.

So often university fields that involve new research with programming will use some form of unix.. not because it's really any better or worse than windows but because it's cheaper (and grads are more technically minded).

For using .. you'll have specific applications that I would suspect you're recommended.

Next thing - I assume that in your later course years you'll need to write papers. If this is the case using Windows and a student licence for MS Office will help you. 

So with a virtual machine - you could run Linux software in it's own 'bubble' on your PC using something like Virtualbox that's free. So using a windows laptop doesn't stop you from running linux.. Apple VMs are expensive (Parallels/VMware). VirtualBox for Macs is so buggy that I've had to result to Bootcamping into Windows and then using a VM to run linux.

So if it's for uni.. probably windows with a good 16GB of RAM and then if you need to you can run a VM with a Linux install.. 

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Uranium235    6,086

XP for image capture (Acer aspire netbook)

W7 for processing (64bit quad core PC)

May take a look at W10 if there are no issues reported (wait for someone else to take the leap first!).

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Cath    1,106

You can also set your PC up to fully boot up into different OS's. Windows and Nix on the same PC but on their own partitions can be quite common.

Edited by Cath

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Philip R    718

You could always dual or multi-boot. I had Windows and two Linux distros; (Distro Astro & Mint) on my old laptop HDD. When I get another laptop it too will multi-boot. If you don't fancy that, then (if you can access the HDD) purchase a spare HDD caddy and swap around to your hearts content, (though you may void the guarantee/warranty).

Distro Astro not only includes astronomy apps. It includes office apps, multi-media apps, Internet apps; (Wi-Fi, BroadBand, Mobile, Dial-Up are supported), networking etc). What I do like about Distro Astro is the speed at which it downloads and installs the updates, unlike Windows, (which I now spell W-I-N-D-O-Z-E), as it does seem to take forever, (either I doze off or Windows does).

Slightly off-topic. I am 'toying' with my ageing iBook G4/Mac OS X Tiger (PPC) and install Yellow Dog Linux (also PPC) on the same HDD.

Edited by Philip R

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michaelmorris    1,620

The range of software (and hardware drivers) for Windows far exceeds that availiable for any other operating system.

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Philip R    718

I did not notice the 'poll' at the start of this topic, so I voted for 'Other'. I use...

FreeDOS & Windows 3.1 (sometimes Windows 95/98) - (forget ME... It was awful).

Windows NT 4.0 / 2K pro / XP pro / Vista.

Apple Mac OS X (PPC).

Linux, (mainly Distro Astro) other distros). 

...as I mainly use them for star charts. Not for controlling a 'scope, webcam, etc. 

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dph1nm    290

From professional experience, I would hazard that the majority of professional astronomers in the States can now be found with Mac laptops.

NigelM

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Psychobilly    7,131

From professional experience, I would hazard that the majority of professional astronomers in the States can now be found with Mac laptops.

NigelM

But how many of them are actually using them to "locally"  control mount, camera, filter wheels etc...?

Peter...

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GarethA    24

Win XP for the 'astronomy laptop' because everything for controlling cameras/mounts/etc only really works on windows (phd guiding, camera drivers, CdC, DSS + other astro software). This machine has networking disabled, updates switched off and just *works*.

For everything else in life (including image processing in gimp) I use linux.

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thehand    7

I would be interested to hear anyone's experience using WINE

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damnut    970

So run a WIdows virtual machine on a linux/ solaris / osx platform .... To run err windows software???.. That's just adding a layer of complexity

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thehand    7

I don't have any licences for Windows.  I would rather not buy any either.

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damnut    970

I hate providing any profits for MS. I have been responsible for supporting some   large computer estates. However when it comes to my personal kit I like the easy life. If I am going to buy licenced software that runs on W platform, I am going to run it on WXX, not a virtual machine just because I can.

I admire your tenacity in not slipping into the Win / MS camp.

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