Installing scuff-em

0. Try scuff-em online before installing anything!

Johannes Feist has set up an interactive online notebook using MyBinder that you can use to run some simple scuff-em calculations on the cloud without having to install anything. This free service offers limited computing power, so you won't want to attempt any heavy calculations here, but you can follow Johannes' tutorial to observe the flow of a typical scuff-em calculation, play around with your own calculations, and get a feel for what using scuff-em will like once you have installed it on your machine.

Here's the link:

1. External packages

scuff-em relies on a small number of well-established free software packages to implement certain non-essential functionality. scuff-em can be compiled and installed without any of these packages, but in this case the code will be somewhat crippled.

  • If you actually want to solve scattering problems (instead of just setting them up), you will need LAPACK/BLAS.

  • If you want the capacity to write output files in the standard HDF5 binary format, you will need HDF5.

  • If you want to compile the python interface, you will need the python development files.

  • Although not required to install, compile, or use scuff-em, gmsh is an extremely valuable open-source meshing and visualization tool that is used throughout the scuff-em documentation.

On Debian/Ubuntu Linux systems, you can fetch all of these packages by doing a

% sudo apt-get install liblapack-dev libblas-dev libhdf5-serial-dev python-dev gmsh

Note: In some cases it seems the gmsh package conflicts with the libhdf5-serial-dev package. In this case, just remove gmsh from the above apt-get statement; you can install it by hand following the instructions on the GMSH website. (Note that gmsh, though very useful, is not necessary to compile or run scuff-em.)

2. Cloning the GitHub repository and building the code

scuff-em is hosted on GitHub. The current build status of the scuff-em master branch is:

Build Status

To fetch and install the latest version of the code, execute the following steps. (Replace the string /path/to/scuff-em-installation-directory with your desired installation directory.)

% git clone
% cd scuff-em
% sh --prefix=/path/to/scuff-em-installation-directory
% make install

If this succeeds, the executable versions of the application programs (such as scuff-scatter, scuff-rf, etc.) will be installed in the directory PREFIX/bin/ and the demonstration examples for the various application programs will be in PREFIX/share/scuff-em/examples (where PREFIX is the directory you specified using the --prefix option above).

If you have trouble installing scuff-em, please file an issue on the scuff-em GitHub page.

Build options

You may specify options to the (or configure) command to guide the compilation process. For a full list of available options, type configure --help. Here we summarize some of the more salient possibilities.

Multithreading: openmp vs. pthreads

The scuff-em core library uses multithreading for all steps in the main flow of the BEM scattering procedure. You can use configure options to select whether this multithreading is implemented using openmp or pthreads. The former is the default, while the latter may be enabled like this:

% ./configure --without-openmp --with-pthreads

The default openmp multithreading tends to play better with other multithreaded software packages and is definitely the right choice if you will be operating on a shared machine with some CPU cores occupied by other users. (You can monitor performance by inspecting .log files.

Support for pthreads is a legacy feature that will be discontinued in future versions of scuff-em.

Note: in some cases you may need to tweak certain environment variables to achieve maximal openmp performance. For example, on my workstation (which has 8 CPU cores), in order to get openmp codes to use all 8 cores I need to set the following environment variable:

% export GOMP_CPU_AFFINITY=0-7

Disabling the python interface to speed the build process

Compiling the python interface is slow---it accounts for more than half of the build time on some systems. If you don't need the python interface to scuff-em, use the option --without-python when running configure to accelerate the build process.

Building for debugging

If you would like to run scuff-em API codes in a debugger like gdb, you will want to modify the build options to (a) include debugging symbols, (b) turn off optimization, (c) disable openmp multithreading, which does not play well with GDB.

Here is the script that works for me to achieve these goals:


CC="gcc -ggdb -O0"
CXX="g++ -ggdb -O0"
export CFLAGS="-O0"
export CXXFLAGS="-O0"
sh --enable-debug --without-openmp --disable-shared

(It shouldn't be necessary to have to add -O0 to both the environment variables and the compiler command lines, but this seems to be the only way things work for me.)

After running this script to reconfigure for building with compiling support, you will want to make clean; make to rebuild everything with debugging support. Of course, after you are finished debugging you will need to reconfigure with debugging support removed and then re-do the clean build. Because this is time-consuming, I typically maintain two separate copies of the code base, one for debugging and one for running at full speed.

Once debugging support has been added, you can run the code in gdb. Here's a sample session:

 % gdb /path/to/debug/repository/bin/scuff-ldos

 (gdb) set args < scuff-ldos.args

 (gdb) break GetHalfSpaceDGFs
Breakpoint 1 at 0x409626: file, line 217.

 (gdb) run

Breakpoint 1, GetHalfSpaceDGFs (Omega=..., kBloch=0x7fffffffd5c0, 
    zp=0.10000000000000001, LBasis=0x7fffffffd380, MP=0x130a7c0, RelTol=0.01, 
    AbsTol=1e-10, MaxCells=1000, GE=0x7fffffffd3a0, GM=0x7fffffffd430)

217   double BZVolume=GetRLBasis(LBasis, RLBasis);

(gdb) print Omega
$1 = {_M_value = 0.10000000000000001 + 0 * I}

(gdb) u 230

GetHalfSpaceDGFs (Omega=..., kBloch=0x7fffffffd5c0, zp=0.10000000000000001, 
    LBasis=0x7fffffffd380, MP=0x130a7c0, RelTol=0.01, AbsTol=1e-10, 
    MaxCells=1000, GE=0x7fffffffd3a0, GM=0x7fffffffd430)

230   cdouble Sum[18];

(gdb) print Data->Epsilon
$2 = {_M_value = -45765.335680436379 + 115960.58424811834 * I}

Note: If you have a better debugging solution that does not require steps (b) and/or (c) above , please let me know about it. It stinks to have to run the codes at greatly reduced speed when debugging, because often the problem spots lie after expensive sections like BEM matrix assembly, and then it takes forever for the code to run in the debugger to get there.