As a sysadmin at a university institution, I often find that software installation requests from research groups are a fairly common occurrence for scientific computing groups like mine. I often dislike the gatekeeper role that this puts me in, since I’d rather give groups the flexibility to try out new software without needing a middleman, and I often feel as though such software installations take time away from the other (sometimes urgent) infrastructure projects my group has.
The conda package manager seems to be a nice way for researchers to both keep track of their computing environments (library versions used, etc) and also self-provision without needing the much-coveted rootly powers of the sysadmin. Although primarily known for its Python packages, it also apparently gives researchers the ability to download packages written in other languages (e.g., you can download and install the entire gcc toolchain within a conda environment) without acting upon system-level tools and libraries. This is very appealing to me, since it prevents people from potentially compromising operating system stability (e.g., the giving researchers root route) while also empowering them to try out new (or updated) tools.
I recently noticed that a lot of the pre-requisites for AFNI (which all require sudo privileges, and are listed here) are also available in conda-forge (i.e., the tcsh, xorg-libxp, openmotif, gsl, xorg-fontsproto, pyqt, firefox, and netpbm packages). Has AFNI ever been tested within a conda environment? Would it be feasible for researchers to run it in such a way?
Relatedly is there a minimal subset of the dependencies listed in the AFNI installation instructions that can be installed for headless clusters or are the dependencies listed (like Eye of Gnome, Nautilus and Firefox) always necessary?