Published on January 25, 2013 by Dr. Randal S. Olson
2 min READ
Update (Nov. 2014): IPython Notebook installation has advanced considerably since I originally published this post. Check out the Anaconda Python Distribution for an easy one-click installer for all your Python library needs.
Today I ran a small (~20 person) 1-hour workshop at Michigan State University focusing on installing IPython Notebook and using it as a research notebook. Since I knew it's quite a pain to install IPython Notebook for the first time, I put together a set of installation instructions for both Windows and Mac/Linux and asked the attendees to attempt to install IPython Notebook ahead of time. On top of that, I held a 30-minute session before the workshop dedicated solely to installing IPython Notebook (which admittedly, helped a little bit).
By the end of it, I was able to get through the IPython Notebook demo, and many people seemed excited about using it for their research. Before everyone left, I had the attendees fill out a post-workshop survey to get their opinion on the workshop. In the post-workshop survey, I found some interesting trends in the responses:
I think the third trend is the most telling: one of the biggest barriers to the adoption of IPython Notebook is installation issues. This isn't an uncommon observation, either. In my case, despite all of my precautions, the workshop was still plagued by installation issues. At least 1/4 of the workshop attendees had these issues during the workshop, including:
two key some key issues the IPython community needs to work on before IPython can reach a broader audience: (1) we cannot rely on EPD to maintain a free, update-to-date Python package installer and (2) we need to sort out the IPython installation process and distill it to a single, double-click install file.
UPDATE: Fernando Perez offered some easy installation instructions that seem to have solved the installation issues. I will report on how these work out in an upcoming workshop soon!