Many of the big name bioinformatics applications that previously existed only for Unix platforms are coming to the Mac, thanks to Mac OS X and its Unix underpinnings. An article on O’Reilly’s MacDev Center shows how.
“Traditionally, scientific research has been performed on Unix workstations,” writes Bruce Stewart, an editor for O’Reilly & Associates’ Online Publishing. “This is partly because of the Unix operating system’s long, stable history and partly because Unix systems allow for the easy sharing of information. Now that Apple’s Mac OS X operating system is Unix-based, scientists will more easily be able to run their favorite number-crunching or sequence-searching applications on their desktop Mac.”
The article notes that Dr. William Van Etten, lead bioinformaticist at the Blackstone Technology Group, has helped bring several bioinformatics applications to Mac OS X including Primer3, Clustalw, HMMER 2 and the EMBOSS suite. One thing that makes the porting of such apps convenient is the fact that the GNU autoconf tools are fully supported on Mac OS X. These are a set of programs that help make code configurable and portable to various versions of Unix.
Scientists are porting bioinformatics tools to the Mac because many are already Mac users, said Stewart. Now that the Macintosh has a Unix-based operating system, bioinformaticists who are looking for the “most efficient, cost-effective means of conducting their research will increasingly be able to use their Macs,” he adds.