from gnuplot to python

Part of my moving to python for science.

I have lately been using gnuplot to monitor the progress and end results of my simulations.  These are 2D hydrodynamic simulations, which involve 2D scalar and vector fields.

2D plots

With gnuplot, I used to run stuff like

plot ‘8000/points.dat’ u 1:2

for a 2D plot of a scalar field. On column 1 I have the x values of the coordinates and on column 2 the y values, so this just plots the coordinates. The “8000” is the directory for time step 8000, where the data file is saved.

OK, now running ipython –pylab I have to run

dt = pylab.loadtxt(‘8000/points.dat’)




2D scatter plot with colors


Important things to notice:

  • python starts numbering c-style: at 0! so, despite pylab having been designed in order to mimic matlab syntax, there is a clear departure here.
  • it’s easy to assign a color to the points, in this case column 12 (11 for python) is a density field. The default color scale looks ok (it goes from blue to red).
  • the size is set to 50 for a nice full-screen view.
  • New plots will appear on top of this one. If this is not desired, close the window, or run pylab.clf()

Vector plots

This is quite easy in gnuplot:

plot ‘8000/points.dat’ u 1:2:($5/10):($6/10) w vec

On columns 5 and 6 I store the x and y components of the velocity. In this example they are reduced ten-fold in order to hace a decent plot (and this has to set by hand…).

Now we may run:


which does the same. A bonus is that the vector length is automatically calculated from the average vector length. This may the right solution, if not the option “scale=xx” may be used. The higher xx is, the shorter the arrows (??). The fifth entry is a color code, which does not look to good at present because, I think, they are taken as RGB values, unlike with scatter.


Vector plot -- funny senseless colors

Vector plot — funny senseless colors

 3D plots

This one’s harder. To get a scatter 3D plot of three columns I used to run

splot ‘8000/points.dat’ u 1:2:12

Now, it’s more like

from mpl_toolkits.mplot3d import Axes3D

fig = plt.figure()

ax = fig.add_subplot(111, projection=’3d’)


That produces a quite nice scatter plot with tick marks on the three axes.


3D scatter plot



xubuntu installation

Notes on the installation of xubuntu 13.10, Saucy Salamander, on my work desktop.

  • Long story short: problems with openSUSE (suddenly not booting…), sick and tired of the new KDE and stuff I never use anyway but slow down my system (nepomuk, akonandi, virtuoso, plasma thingies). Tried debian, and was pretty happy; unfortunately, openFOAM was a bit of a pain to install, due to issues with the libc libraries (that I sort of worked out by compiling from scratch). On top of that, the graphic driver did not suppor dual monitors, with which I can live, but paraview would not work (missing GLX, that stuff). Propietary ATI drivers also did not work.
  • On the upside, I fell in love with the light-weight Xfce windows manager, so I tried xubuntu next. It is just a port to Xfce of a standard ubuntu distribution.
  • Dowloaded iso image from site. I just took the suggested version, perhaps should have tried the LTS version instead 😛
  • Burned onto DVD drive. The iso image is just too big for a CD.
  • Booted with no problem onto live system, installed carefully, respecting existing /home. Network was impossible to configure manually at this stage.
  • Installed onto hard-drive, booted from hard drive, everything was fine, with all my files and previous settings running. Now the network can be manually set.
  • Tons of updates are now suggested. Some are related to graphic drivers (let’s keep our fingers crossed). Yep, X11 still works after restarting.
  • Ubuntu software center (USC). First thing: paraview. It works!
  • Next: openFOAM. Not included in USC, only the freefoam fork (I’ll try it some day). From the official download page, everything works as explained for ubuntu 13.10, codename saucy. No need to compile, which is such a pain (at least for the poor computer… it takes hours!). It is convenient to start this way, since tons of other stuff I’ll need later (g++, boost, the works) is also installed. In order for paraFoam to work, cmake should be installed.
  • CGAL libs. Some helpful comments here. I didn’t need any special libs after having installed all the other stuff. Only cmake-gui, because for some reason the working directory was set to “4.2” in the latest 4.3 release (I don’t know if this is my fault or theirs). Ah, had to install liblapack-dev.
  • octave and gnuplot. These come in USC
  • ipython, scipy. Also in USC
  • LaTeX. Just install beamer from USC, and a whole set of LaTeX things gets installed (latex, pdflatex, bibtex,…). texlive-latex-extra for the exam class. texlive-publishers for a bunch of interesting classes. texlive-lang-spanish also.
  • Cloud stuff: spideroak, dropbox (in USC)
  • Internet: chromium (in USC)
  • vim and emacs (in USC)
  • The classic xfig. Don’t forget gsfonts-x11 in order fonts work, and restarting the X system.

Moving to python for science

OK, it’s final.

After some thinking, reading here and there, I have convinced myself to move to python as far as science is concerned.

One of the mean reasons is that there is this environment (“ecosystem” they call it), SciPy, in which my main concerns are answered.

  • How many times have I looked for information on a language only to find about something I don’t care about. Like address books, what’s up with those? SciPy goes straight to the point: linear algebra, plotting and analysis, symbolic analysis…
  • Already in the first lines, they are already discussing software I use: matlab, octave, emacs, xmgrace (one of the reasons of moving is the lack of progress in this fine 2D program)

Not long ago I wrote a list of scientific software that was interesting to have in linux. Now, if things go as planed I will only need:







  • SciPy
  • Not replaceable:
    • Good ole C and C++


  • LaTeX
  • emacs (don’t forget the AucTeX extension for LaTeX)


Ubuntu USB stick creation

It’s funny,but I don’t think ubuntu’s installation instructions ubuntu’s installation instructions make this clear. The easiest way to install ubuntu from a USB stick is to download and burn the CD. Then, boot from it and claim you want to “try ubuntu”. All this, on a computer with a CD unit, of course.

Then, click the top-left button with the ubuntu logo in it to search for “startup disk creator”.

This is actually the same program as the one on the desktop named “Install ubuntu”,but the later assumes you want to install it onto your local disk, while the former automatically assumes you want to transfer the system onto a stick (if one is inserted). Wait about 15m and the system will be loaded and ready to be inserted in the computer you want.


multivolume rar-ing

This is a problem I encounter quite often. I have this huge file, perhaps an iso image (say, a linux distro), which I want to transfer somewhere. But the transfering medium (external HD, usb drive…) does not take such long files since it has an old DOS FAT formating (for compatibility with linux, e.g.).

The good old tar command can split this file, but I think rar is easier to use. Just issue this command to split the file into 1Gb chunks:

rar a -m0 -v1G /media/498A-DFE9/myiso.rar myiso.iso

“-m0” means no compression, since the transfer copy is usually temporary and can will be erased later. No “-m” switch means “-m3”, the usual compression. “-v1G”, means “split in 1G chunks”, and is actually not documented in the man page for rar (only k, b, and f are)  – but it works for me.