Installing Software

Installing Software

Requesting software installation by the SCF

In general, SCF staff are happy to install software at the system level when that software could be of interest to multiple users. Please email your request, including links/instructions for installing the software.

For specialized software, we can help you install software in your home directory or a project directory.

Installing software on the SCF

Tips for installing software

  • Note that any installation instructions that require you to use `apt-get` or `sudo` won't work because they require administrative privileges.
  • However, in many cases, one can install software in your home directory by making sure the installation process will only create files in your home directory. SCF staff are available to help.
  • Since home and scratch directories are accessible from all SCF machines, you only need to install the software of interest once while on any SCF Linux machine, and it will be available on all the machines.

Using the Conda/Mamba package manager

Conda is a general package manager. Many users use it just to install Python packages, but it can be used to install software more generally. A good option for installing a piece of software is to check if there is a Conda package for it, before you try to install from source code. Executables installed when you install a Conda package will be placed in the `bin` subdirectory of the active Conda environment.


It's common that installing packages using Conda is slow or fails because Conda is unable to resolve dependencies. To get around this, we suggest the use of Mamba.

Mamba is a drop-in replacement for Conda that is generally faster and better at resolving dependencies. Here's an example of creating an environment and installing package(s) of interest:

mamba create --name your_env_name python=3.10
source activate your_env_name
mamba install name_of_python_package

Isolating your environment from the SCF Python installation

When creating a Conda environment, if you do not specify the version of Python, your environment will use our default Python version via the SCF Python executable, and with all the SCF-installed Python packages available to you. That has the advantage that you may not need to install a bunch of packages. 

mamba create -y -n myenv
source activate myenv
type python
# (myenv) paciorek@smeagol:~> type python
python is /usr/local/linux/mambaforge-3.11/bin/python
python -c "import numpy; print(numpy.__version__)"
# 1.23.5

The downside is that your environment is tied to our defaults and is harder to reproduce. Also, in many cases when you install a package in the environment, updated versions of dependencies (potentially including Python itself) may be installed.

To isolate your environment, make sure to specify the Python version you want, even if it is the same as the SCF's default Python version.

mamba create -y -n myenv python=3.8
source activate myenv
type python
# python is /accounts/vis/paciorek/.conda/envs/myenv/bin/python
python -c "import numpy; print(numpy.__version__)"
# NameError: name 'numpy' is not defined

One additional complication is that if you have packages installed via pip (which will be located in `~/.local` in your home directory), your environment will try to use those packages, which means your environment is not fully isolated and can be hard to reproduce. In addition, if you choose to install packages for your environment via pip, you'll generally want to install without using the `--user` flag. Omitting that flag will cause packages to be installed within the environment's directory, while including the flag will cause them to be installed in `~/.local` (and risk affecting your use of packages outside the environment!).

R and Conda

Conda can actually be used to install R and R packages inside a Conda environment. You're welcome to do this, but most users make use of the R installation (and a wide range of R packages) that we provide at the system level and install additional packages for use with the system R.