NetCDF Perl documentation (fwd)

Robb Kambic                                Unidata Program Center
Software Engineer III                      Univ. Corp for Atmospheric Research
rkambic@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx                   WWW:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 21 Nov 1999 19:13:13 -0800 (PST)
From: Steve Diggs <sdiggs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: russ@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: NetCDF Perl documentation

Hi Russ,

We actually met years ago during the CEPEX experiment when I was visiting
Dick Dirks about logistics in Fiji.  I've since moved on, more liked moved
around SIO, but I've remained a loyal fan of NetCDF.  In the last 6 years,
I've also become a big fan of Perl, since it has unparalleled string
processing capabilities and lots of other nice features.

Recently, I've convinced the powers that be on my international data project
(WOCE) to convert and exchange data in NetCDF. So far, so good. Since the software group that I manage uses Perl almost exclusively, we
decided to make all of our NetCDF code use the NetCDF/Perl interface.

Well, to put it lightly, it's been a struggle.  Robb Kambic has been quite
helpful, but I feel as though I'm taking up a lot of his time asking dumb
questions that could have been answered much more efficiently if I only had
access to a comprehensive NetCDF/Perl manual.  I have to keep asking, "how
does one do blah, blah....".

When I was using C to do this, the support was great and the documentation
plentiful.  Imagine trying to get users to try to use NetCDF in C or
FORTRAN w/o extensive documentation with examples!  You may think that
there aren't a lot of people using your NetCDF/Perl interface, but that may
be because they tried and couldn't make heads or tails of it. BTW, there's a quote in the man page that really gives me heartburn:

"     In addition to the above functions, most C  macro  constants
    that are defined in the netCDF header file netcdf.h are also
    available to a perl script by dropping any  `NC_'  substring
    and using the NetCDF:: prefix, e.g. NetCDF::LONG."

Not NetCDF 3!
Well, you can't just use the docs for the C interface since the function
names are different!  I found out (on my own) that one must refer to the
obsolete NetCDF 2 (1996) docs.  Why isn't Perl getting the attention that
FORTRAN and C are?  Has it really been three years since the Perl interface
has had any attention?  I would switch to C, but trust me, it would consume
a lot more resources here and would be very inefficient for us.

I don't mean to complain incessantly, but I'm finding the going hard and
slow developing my software in Perl to use NetCDF.  Usually, this indicates
that a particular interface will soon be dropped from official support due
to lack of interest, and that would be a shame, for there are a lot of Perl
users out there (I teach a class for UCSD extension and they're *always*
sold out) that use the language in a lot of science-related applications.
Many more than, say, Java.

Please reply, I'd like to know your thoughts on this subject.  I still
remain a fan of NetCDF.

all the best,
-sd --
Steve Diggs, Data Manager                       Voice: (858)534-1108
Scripps Institution of Oceanography             FAX  : (858)534-7383
WOCE Hydrographic Program Office/STS            EMAIL: sdiggs@xxxxxxxx
9500 Gilman Drive                               WWW  : La
Jolla, CA 92093-0214