Future software directions

Charles A. Alexander charles at MEDINFO.ROCHESTER.EDU
Fri Feb 19 10:30:54 EST 1993

>To: bio-soft at net.bio.net
>From: rice at embl-heidelberg.de (Peter Rice)
>Subject: Re: Future software directions
>Date: 19 Feb 93 09:25:31 GMT
>In article <9302180457.AA20119 at net.bio.net>, KNECHT at UCONNVM.bitnet writes:
>> Greetings to the mol bio software experts out there-  My department is trying
>> to make some computer buying decisions with insight into future trends.  We 
>> are currently running MacVector on Macs and have GCG running on a VAX.  The 
>> question has come up as to the future directions.  I see lots of development 
>> going on in the PC world and from my experience with GCG, I expect it to die 
>> a slow death that I will shed no tears over.  I hate having to work with a 
>> manual open on my lap.  

...(stuff deleted with apologies)>
>Biologists have to learn to use computing as a tool, not just for sequence
>analysis but also for the growing variety of network services. Avoiding these
>possibilities because they are initially a little difficult is like reading
>a tabloid newspaper instead of a broadsheet. It may be easier, but you
>miss a lot of important information.
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Peter Rice, EMBL                             | Post: Computer Group
>                                              |       European Molecular
> Internet:    Peter.Rice at EMBL-Heidelberg.DE   |            Biology Laboratory
>                                              |       Postfach 10-2209
> Phone:   +49-6221-387247                     |       W-6900 Heidelberg
> Fax:     +49-6221-387306                     |       Germany


Just thought I'd throw in my 2 cents worth.  Peter Rice makes an excellent point 
about biologists having to learn to use computing as a tool.

I can also sympathize with users with little or no computing background
trying to use GCG.  I come from a non-computing background myself.  But learn
GCG I did and now I support about 50-60 users (or labs).  GCG is a powerful
package and I still learn new things everyday about it.  I agree that the
native interface is not so user-friendly but things like GCG-MENU seem
to have alleviated some of the pains of learning.

What we do here is that with every gigantic GCG manual we give to a new user, we
enclose a separate handy-dandy little hand-out that guides the person
through simple tasks like homology searches, seq retrieval, restriction
mapping etc.  Once users gain confidence in their own abilities I find that
their more inclined to learn more independently.  They make mistakes sometimes
but overall they do pretty well.  I just cheer-lead.  I am trying to introduce
them to stuff like GOPHER, WAIS maybe even MOO.

It's been really satisfying to watch progress with a little encouragement.
GCG support has been above par.  However, I would like to see a better X Windows
or graphics driver for the VMS world but I'm sure their working on improving
their product.  All said and done, GCG is still up there.

Charles Alexander
Div.of Medical Informatics
University of Rochester, Rochester, New  York
E-mail(Internet):GCGC at db1.cc.rochester.edu
E-mail(Bitnet):GCGC at UORDBV
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