Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What operating systems do astronomers use?

by Jane Rigby on December 20, 2011

Previously on AstroBetter, we’ve discussed what operating systems are used in our profession, in particular relative numbers of OS X (Mac) versus Linux users. While it’s good for us at AstroBetter to know our readership, we can use Google Analytics for that. It’s more important for the astronomical community to know the broader landscape, so that as astronomers develop software tools, they are aware of the platforms colleagues will use to access those tools.

So I asked the folks at STScI who run the Astronomer’s Proposal Tool (APT). They’ve been keeping track of what operating system was used to submit every Hubble proposal for the last 7 proposal cycles. They kindly sent me a chart to share. Here it is,

regraphicked for clarity. The Y axis is the percentage* of proposals per year submitted with a given operating system.

Each cycle had between 700 and 1100 proposals submitted. While there may be wavelength-dependent trends, I would argue that Hubble users are a broad cross-section into the astronomical community.

So this is a fascinating chart! Linux has slowly lost market share, and now serves a quarter of users. And check out the decline of Sun, and the corresponding rise of Macs. These are trends we all know — but it’s neat to see quantification.

Comments? Discussion?

* Ignore the small not-summing-to-100% problem; I digitized the charts from powerpoint figures, and didn’t click with fantastic precision.


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