Thursday, November 1, 2007

So What's With the Title?

There's a great myth in paleontology these days--that you need technology, and expensive technology at that, in order to do quality research. This includes everything from CT scanning and computer reconstructions to statistical analysis.

Let's face it. Paleontologists are often uncreative when it comes to the use of technology. We use this protocol or that program because we saw someone else use it in an SVP talk. But what if you want to try something different? Do we always need commercial software for our research? Is that fancy-dancy analysis even necessary or useful?

Over the last few years, I've been on the slippery slide into open source software. It started when I wanted to analyze CT scan data without a $4,000 piece of software. The next thing I knew, I had Ubuntu Linux as my primary operating system and I was writing dissertation chapters in OpenOffice. This blog will review how these and other pieces of software may be of use for other folks in paleontology (or other sciences). I'll highlight some of the software I've been using, along with pros and cons.

Finally, I want to make this something other than just a technology blog. In the spirit of open source, I will discuss advice on graduate school, grants, and other topics, with the hope that this information will be useful for many people starting out in their education. And, because I'm a paleontologist, I'll probably discuss that topic a little bit, too.

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