Google Summer of code at Scilab

Avril 29th, 2010

First, a quick news. Scilab 5.2.2 has been released a few days and he now available in the Debian archive (Debian Unstable for now).
It is mostly a performance improvements and bug fixes release. See the changelog.

Second, for a second year, Scilab is part of the Google Summer of Code v2010. I am admin (and also mentor) this year again.
Google just released the list of accepted students. We have 9 students (against 7 last year). 2 are working on experimental projects, the other should have a finished result by the end of the GSoC.

Extends Scilab UI Control - Han Dong
Extension of Scilab User Interface construction (uicontrol) by providing more elements (tree, image display, etc).

Simulink import in Xcos - Jerzy Zagorski
Importation of most of the Simulink schemas from Xcos.

Cumulative distribution function improvements - Michael Zhang
Improvement and extension of the current cumulative distribution functions (CFD) into Scilab.

Metanet and Boost.graph - Balša Raičević
Extension of the Metanet capabilities in term of graphs by Boost.graph

SOAP Client/server - Artem Glebov
Making available from Scilab both SOAP client and server capabilities as an ATOMS module.

Database module + fuzzySQL - Igor Gridchyn
Allow to access to most databases systems from Scilab. Based on this work, the FuzzySQL will be introduced, a SQL extension to allow flexible conditions in queries.

Python import - Baozeng Ding
Introduction of a mechanism to load and use Python code (objects in particular) from Scilab.

Experimental projects:
Use Eigen into Scilab - Joseph Fahnbulleh
Base some components of the Scilab core code on the Eigen library which is a state-of-the-art C++ linear algebra library. This work will be a joint mentoring between Gaël Guennebaud from the Eigen team and Scilab R & D team.

Hybrid Automata module - Ievgen Ivanov
Provide a convenient environment for direct modeling of hybrid automata in Scilab/Xcos.

Update of the linear algebra libraries in Debian

April 6th, 2010

In the numerical computing world, the cornerstones libraries are BLAS and LAPACK. They have been used in most of the numerical software for decades (like Scilab, R, numpy, OpenOffice with calc, etc).

During that time, many implementations appeared to improve the performances taking advantages of clusters, multicore, SEE{1,2,3,4}, various levels of cache...
Between the reference BLAS (refblas) to an optimized one like ATLAS or MKL (Math Kernel Library by Intel - non-free), it is not rare to have a 15 factor.

In Debian, we use by default the reference implementation of BLAS (168 reverse dependencies) and LAPACK (178 reverse dependencies). If the results are usually bad, they are pretty easy to use. What is hard to use, is switch between highly optimized libraries.
For now, the main one in the archive is ATLAS. ATLAS build process will launch many computations to know what will work best on the architecture. Results are usually excellent.

1) Upload of a refactoring of the ATLAS package.
I have been working on this for a while and after 19 uploads into Debian Experimental and I am happy (and kind of relief) to upload into debian unstable the release 3.8.3 of ATLAS.

The new key elements in this release are:

  • Package of the release 3.8.3 ... Long overdue
  • Much more packages for recent architectures (sse3, core2sse3, etc)
  • A simplified maintenance
  • Easy to build a custom package: fakeroot debian/rules custom
  • Easy upgrade to version 3.9.X when it is stable
  • 12 bugs closed in Debian (including 4 RCs)
  • 6 bugs closed in Launchpad.
  • MMX optimized package removed

Note that, as before, all prebuilt binaries of ATLAS will be always slower than if you built them on the target architecture (but using Debian binary packages will save a few kilograms of Uranium).

And one of most important feature is the capability to switch to any ATLAS implementation.

2) Switch between the different implementation
The problem in Debian (and Ubuntu) was that it was hard to switch between the ref BLAS/LAPACK and the optimized libraries. The user has to play with the LD_LIBRARY_PATH to use the various optimized packages and since there is no convention between the various distribution, the upstream developer has to develop crappy tricks to handle such things.

It is why I implemented the following proposal: Handle different versions of BLAS and LAPACK.

The main idea is to use the update-alternatives system to allow a quick and easy switch. For example:

# update-alternatives --config 
There are 3 choices for the alternative (providing /usr/lib/

  Selection    Path                                           Priority   Status
* 0            /usr/lib/atlas-core2sse3/atlas/   55        auto mode
  1            /usr/lib/atlas-base/atlas/        35        manual mode
  2            /usr/lib/atlas-core2sse3/atlas/   55        manual mode
  3            /usr/lib/libblas/                 10        manual mode

# update-alternatives --config
There are 3 choices for the alternative (providing /usr/lib/

  Selection    Path                                             Priority   Status
* 0            /usr/lib/atlas-core2sse3/atlas/   55        auto mode
  1            /usr/lib/atlas-base/atlas/        35        manual mode
  2            /usr/lib/atlas-core2sse3/atlas/   55        manual mode
  3            /usr/lib/lapack/                  10        manual mode

Thanks to this, it is just trivial to switch from one to the other...

I just pushed the changes into Debian unstable for blas, lapack and atlas.
I have been testing a lot these deep modifications and I fixed all the problems that I found. However, in case I missed something, please report a bug...

Back from the dead

April 6th, 2010

I know, my blog is pretty much dead. Not much time to blog on my various travels.
However, I am going to try to resurrect it for Debian and Scilab.

My next messages related to Debian will be also published on Debian Planet.

Australie 2009

Juillet 17th, 2009

Après trois ans loin de l'Australie, me voila de retour pendant trois semaines de vacances accompagnés par des supers amis!

A la différence des autres fois, pas de photos mais deux vidéos.
La première, par Gre (ie Vincent).

Et la mienne, réalisée à l'aide d'Animoto:

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Mongol Rally 2009: Mon défi le plus stupide

Juillet 17th, 2009

Départ: Samedi 18 juillet, 6 h 30.
Arrivée: 28/29 août à Oulan Baator
Moyen: Skoda Felitia (break)
Longueur: entre 13 000 et 15 000 kilomètres
Détour: nombreux
Contexte: Mongol Rally
Plus d'informations