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Top 10 IDL Requests

Hi Folks,

I was teaching an IDL course at RSI this past week
and had the opportunity to do a bit of intelligence
work on behalf of this newsgroup at the annual RSI
picnic on Thursday. Besides the usual volleyball and
Frisbee, some of us sat around and talked shop. Sigh...

I'll get a life later, but I thought you might like to
know the IDL 5.4 beta is do to go out in the next week
or so and they are signing up testers. If you would
like to participate, you can contact the IDL beta program
at idl_beta@rsinc.com.

I would especially encourage those of you who want
more math functionality in IDL to do so, because
that seems to be one of the themes of this release.
Apparently the new math guy they hired recently has
been busy. I think Craig in particular should have a 
look at the new curve fitting routines.

There are other things that should warm the heart of
any regular IDL newsgroup reader. For example, a 
completely rewritten SPAWN command for Windows will
be warmly embraced. Not only can you now get the results
of the spawned command back (the way you have always been
able to in UNIX), but you can also use the NOSHELL keyword
to avoid the ugly DOS window popping up all the time.
And J.D. will appreciate the new relaxed structure rules
that will allow anonymous structures (with similar fields)
to be concatenated.

And, as often happens, the biggest changes under the 
hood get short--shrift in the marketing hype. But the
fact that the Windows version of IDL now supports
LARGE data files meant a four-month effort to work-around
Microsoft's very restricted I/O layer. But this will be
a godsend for those of you working with those 40 GByte
image files. :-)

One of the people I ran into at the picnic was the
new VP of Software Engineering. After we were introduced
and it was pointed out that I was, uh, the person who
wrote "that book about IDL" the VP gave me his e-mail
and phone extension and encouraged me to submit my
top 10 IDL requests to him personally.

Wow! You don't get an opportunity like this every day. :-)

Not wanting to hog the spotlight, however, I thought
I'd have a little contest and see what the rest of 
you want. I've already reserved the top spot for taking
the Table Widget out in the field behind RSI and shooting 
it, but I'm open to suggestions after that.

I do feel strongly that the TV command could be made
a whole lot smarter. I find I can't even use it
anymore if I want to write device/version/decomposed_state
independent code. Certainly you can use my TVIMAGE or
Liam's IMDISP program, but shouldn't something as 
simple as this be built into IDL? And please, God,
don't EVER take my 24-bit image though a color table,
no matter what silly thing I've done to the color
decomposition state. :-(

(One thing that seems obvious from reading the list
of new features in IDL 5.4 is that in today's
employment marketplace it is futile to assign good
engineers to fixing old technology. They will just
go down the street and work for someone else doing
something a whole lot sexier for twice as much money.
It's reality I guess, but it seems a shame too.
RSI is certainly not the only software company
suffering from the current state of affairs.)

So, here is the deal. If you feel inclined to
submit a couple of ideas to this newsgroup, I 
will collect them and submit them personally 
to the VP. I'll even follow up and make sure 
he has, uh, read them. :-)

Please restrict yourself to a paragraph or so
about why you think your suggestion is a good
idea. Suggestions can either be fixes to something
currently in IDL, or requests for future capabilities.
Items that make it to the top of the list
will be written with some wit, intelligence,
and humor. Items at the bottom of the list
will be written with a lot of whining. I reserve
the right to edit submissions if I think it is
unintelligible to the average computer dolt.

That's it! No prizes or anything. Just a chance
to be heard by someone who can maybe make a
difference. In today's world, that's about all
we can ask. :-)



David Fanning, Ph.D.
Fanning Software Consulting
Phone: 970-221-0438 E-Mail: davidf@dfanning.com
Coyote's Guide to IDL Programming: http://www.dfanning.com/
Toll-Free IDL Book Orders: 1-888-461-0155