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Math Software Upgrades

Mathematica 6 Launched 222

Posted by kdawson
from the simulate-this dept.
Ed Pegg writes "Wolfram Research has just released Mathematica 6. That link, in addition to the usual 'dramatic breakthrough' material, has an amazing flash banner that simultaneously shows a thousand mathematical demonstrations all at once. The animations came from the Wolfram Demonstrations Project, a free service with 1200+ dynamically interactive examples of math, science, and physics, all with code. For the product itself, much is new or improved, with built-in math databases, improved visualizations, and more."
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Mathematica 6 Launched

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    An article about the demonstrations is at
    http://www.maa.org/editorial/mathgames/mathgames_0 5_02_07.html [maa.org]

    That a dollar in nickels needs $1.88 in metal to be made is surprising.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @08:48PM (#18949817)
    check out SAGE: http://modular.math.washington.edu/sage/ [washington.edu]
    • by alamandrax (692121) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:29PM (#18950109) Journal
      How about Maxima [sourceforge.net], or Scilab [scilab.org]? A commenter further down also suggested MayaVi.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:35PM (#18950161)
        SAGE actually uses Maxima for doing symbolic computations. In addition, you can easily drop from the SAGE console into a Maxima console. Similarly, SAGE provides consoles for GAP, Mathematica, and Maple amongst others.
        • I have been using TeXmacs as a front end for Maxima, which is a very nice program but a bit heavy-weight for the machine I'm running on. I'll have to checkout SAGE.
      • by Noksagt (69097) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:43PM (#18950203) Homepage

        How about Maxima
        I like maxima quite a bit! For certain operations, it is MUCH faster than Mathematica & other commercial Computer Algebra Systems (CASs). (The most recent example that springs to mind was a relatively simple (symbolic) cardonic equation. Maxima spit it out instantaneously.)

        or Scilab?
        Scilab is mostly a numerical package (similar to matlab). By many people's (OSI, DFSG, FSF, ...) definitions, it isn't free/open source--commercial redistribution of modified versions is prohibited

        A commenter further down also suggested MayaVi.
        MayaVI is a 3Dvisualization package & isn't remotely a CAS. It doesn't even provide analysis.

        For other open source options, see Comparison of computer algebra systems on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org].
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by UtucXul (658400)

          I like maxima quite a bit! For certain operations, it is MUCH faster than Mathematica & other commercial Computer Algebra Systems (CASs). (The most recent example that springs to mind was a relatively simple (symbolic) cardonic equation. Maxima spit it out instantaneously.)
          Speed isn't the only great thing about maxima. The LaTeX output maxima provides for equations is an awesome feature that wasn't in anything else as of the last time I checked.
          • by JohnFluxx (413620)
            Oh neat, how do you do that? I've been doing it by hand all this time!

            I love maxima and octave btw :-)
      • I used GNU octave for my thesis:
        www.octave.org
        ( Open source MATLAB clone )
    • FreeMat [sourceforge.net]!

      My favorite part of their site is the quote from the FAQ:

      "Q:Is FreeMat 100% compatible with MATLAB? What about IDL?"

      "A:No. FreeMat supports roughly 95% (a made up statistic) of the features in MATLAB."

      Mathematicians making jokes about made up statistics, hee hee :-)

    • There used to be free[beer] MuPad [mupad.de], but now that I look it up to post this comment, I see it is no longer free (beer or speach.)

      (I looked at it about 3-4 years ago, but after a while I got frustrated with it and got my boss to buy me Mathematica 5. I no longer remember what it was that frustrated me.)
  • by setirw (854029) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @08:54PM (#18949865) Homepage
    As Mathematica seems to be transitioning more and more into the realm of visualization, I wonder when Wolfram Research will add support for 3D-accelerated rendering. A lot of things I've drawn in Mathematica have been somewhat limited by the software's non-accelerated output capability.
    • RTF web site (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @08:58PM (#18949903)
      From the section on 3D improvements, a whole one click away from the summary-linked page:

      "Seamless optimization with graphics hardware on all computer platforms."
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by hkfczrqj (671146)
      Good point... Lately I've been using software based on the VTK library, and I must say, it's beautiful, it makes Mathematica look very outdated.

      Though my biggest complaint is the front end, as always (reading through the site it seems they still use those outdated widgets...)
      • by metlin (258108) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:09PM (#18949973) Journal
        Ah, if you are looking at VTK based software, you should look at MayaVi [sourceforge.net]. It lets you do some fantastic scientific visualization and has a neat GUI, too. And oh, you can also do some really cool CFD stuff with it. Check out the screenshots [sourceforge.net].

        Back in the day, I used to be friends with the guy who did this stuff (met him at one of the LUGs). Turns out that he's now a prof at one of the better schools in India [iitb.ac.in].

        Anyway, Mathematica rocks, too. There is a lot more that you can do and it has some pretty neat capabilities. Besides, the strength of Mathematica is not merely the engine, it is the libraries and the wealth of demos and code out there.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by hkfczrqj (671146)
          I know MayaVi, it's a very cool package, but I wasn't been able to run it before. I should try again.

          Also, speaking of cool VTK stuff, there is VisIt (http://www.llnl.gov/visit/ [llnl.gov]). Seems very cool, and it's BSD-licensed (can they do that? they redistribute Qt with it...)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jd (1658)
        VTK is amazing and can be used in conjunction with other toolkits, such as ITK, to produce visualization for specific purposes. (ITK was designed for medical work, for example.) Other great visualization tolkits are OpenDX, GGobi, Ballview, ChomboVis and Fityk. This is something that is badly needed, if the number of toolkits is anything to go by. 3D FFTs are often closely associated with scientific visualization, but I've only found one package (P3DFFT) that supports it.
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)
        You can use Wx with VTK. If you want REALLY pretty, run it on a Mac and use Cocoa. If you want pretty and easy, use Cocoa and Python.

  • Can it process the number 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0?
    • by KevinKnSC (744603)
      Hmm. Do you mean something like this, for those of us with 10 fingers?

      In[64]:=
      NumberForm[FromDigits[Replace[{0,9,f,9,1 ,1,0,2,9,d,7,4,e,3,5,b,d,8,4,1,5,6,c,5,6,3,5,6,8,8 ,c,0},
      {a->10,b->11,c->12,d->13,e->14,f->15},1],16],Digit Block->3]

      Out[64]//NumberForm=
      13,256,278,887, 989,457,651,018,865,901,401,704,640
  • by Detritus (11846)
    It still costs a bazillion dollars, which puts it far out of reach of the average person.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ficken (807392)
      If you are a student, Wolfram offers some pretty decent site-licensing deals with educational institutions. (Consult your local higher ed facility)
      • I would say so! I got it as a free download.
      • by nwbvt (768631)
        But if you are one of those lucky few who manages to graduate at some point in your life, it will cost you a bazillion dollars.
  • I'm torn... (Score:5, Informative)

    by kebes (861706) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:18PM (#18950025) Journal
    Mathematica is an absolutely fantastic package. The symbol manipulation (derivaties, integration, etc.) are outstanding, the graphing is rich (though the options are obscure), and the data-manipulation is great. It's a very useful tool when doing serious engineering and science, plus it's fun to play around with.

    However, I recently ran into one of those "top 10 reasons why proprietary software is annoying" situations. I hadn't used Mathematica in awhile, and wanted to go back to some old code and re-run some analysis. However in the meantime I had migrated from Windows to Linux. No problem--the install disk has the installer for Windows, Linux, and Mac all in one. Great. So I install it in Linux and then get the annoying "you must register this product to use it." (On Windows it gives you two weeks before locking out, but in Linux it won't open unless you enter the code, which changes with each new hardware installation.) The online automatic registration said I had to contact them via email. So I did. Eventually got the reactivation code. Turns out it didn't run properly on Linux. The controls were clunky and I couldn't get individuals block to execute (though I could re-execute an entire workbook.) Okay, no problem--I have a Mac laptop. So I load it up there. Then I have to go through the reactivation process again. Another email, more waiting. Eventually get it running.

    My point is that I had alot of difficulty getting my (legitimately purchased) copy of Mathematica to actually work for me. I was in a hurry and just wanted to run some code quickly. This 10-minute operation turned into a 4-day ordeal, at the end of which I was very frustrated. It really reminded me the great advantages of programming in standards-based languages, that have open-source implementations. If the code had been written in python (using the Gnu Scientific Library), I would have been able to run it without hassles, and I could send the code to others, knowing that installing Python (on the OS of their choice) was always easy.

    I don't want to turn this into a stereotypical OSS vs. proprietary rant... but this very recent experience with Mathematica has left a bad taste in my mouth--and I was previously very much a Mathematica evangelist!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wall0159 (881759)

      I sympathise. I'm finishing up a PhD in signal processing, and all my coding has been in Matlab. I love Matlab - it's a fantastic package - but licensing is a pain in the ass. The number of times I've been unable to use (my legitamate copy of) Matlab because of some issue with the license server... It's cost me at least a couple of weeks' productivity. I know many other students in the same boat.

      For my post-doc work, I'll be using another package. I'll definitely be investigating SciPy (http://www.scipy.org
      • by kebes (861706)
        For Matlab code, there is Octave [gnu.org], which is an open-source implementation of the Matlab syntax. However, it is only a partial implementation, and I've had mixed results trying to run Matlab code in Octave. (But it's usually worth a try!)

        I'm going to have to give SciPy a try--it looks very cool.

        Thanks!
    • Re:I'm torn... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Quarters (18322) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:27PM (#18950091)
      What part of your problem would've been fixed if it had been open source, all other things being equal? Was your problem the licensing, the inferior Linux performance, or the fact that it would only reprocess workbooks? How would it being open source have fixed any of that? Even if it being OSS just meant that there was no licensing scheme that is only 1/3 of your listed problems (at best). Given that you were in such a hurry and that the code to do what Mathematica does is probably extremely complex I doubt you would've edited the code to fix problems #2 or #3. So, how exactly would OSS have helped you?
      • by kebes (861706)
        The licensing was the annoying part. If it were not for the licensing, I could have discovered the incompatibility with Linux within 5 minutes, and switch to OS X right away. I could have re-run the code and been done with what I needed to do within an hour, instead of the many days that it took instead.

        My main point was that it took so long to even discover the problem, due to artificial licensing restrictions. I'm not really even complaining about the glitches on Linux.

        That having been said, I think it's
        • by Quarters (18322)
          Thank you for answering that and shedding light on where you think OSS would've helped. I understand that if it was, historically, OSS software the Linux performance issues and backwards compatibility issues would probably have been fixed. That's why I asked my question in terms of "all other things being equal". I wanted to see what your biggest concern was with the software as it currently exists.
      • Well, after hearing stories about Mathematica and Matlab, here's the Maple story. I purchased Maple 6.0 in 2001 (I think). The retail box has a penguin on the outside. Nevertheless, it took a week of calls to Maple to get the license for Linux set up. Less than a year later, I replaced a broken CD ROM drive and upgraded the RAM. Oops! License is no good. So I call again, and again. Finally got someone to mail licenses to me, and after none of the licenses based on my "hardware profile" work, they FI
      • Re:I'm torn... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Quarters (18322) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @10:59PM (#18950847)
        I love it. I ask a serious question....a question of elaboration on the parent's post and I get marked a troll. Why? Solely because I broke the unspoken pact and questioned what OSS would've provided to solve this one person's particular problem. I dared to, even in this one instance, question the assumed superiority of OSS so that I could better understand how it would've helped. I set out to gain valid use-case data from which everyone could've learned and benefited. Instead, a group of moderators decided they needed to show their support of OSS, not by engaging in a debate of its merits, but by trying to bury my question...essentially burying their heads in the sand in the process.

        It's this mindset...this "OSS is holy....just because" group-think that keeps OSS from truly gaining traction with mainstream users. It's the community's insular nature, lack of interest in how software is actually used by people, and general "We know better, so there" attitude that keeps the whole concept sidelined.

        Marking my question as a troll might make the moderators feel like they've done something useful. All they've really done, though, is show their ignorance and their desire to not have to look at the real issues. They'd rather just hold on to their belief of "it's just better....because!"

    • Re:I'm torn... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Somnus (46089) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:46PM (#18950227)
      There is also a serious scientific issue in using closed-source software for data analysis or theoretical calculations. All scientific work should be transparent to review and reproducible, from first principles, in order to find validate any findings. A black box code is antithetical to this principle.

      Mathematica, wonderful as it is, should only be used for prototyping.
      • by Trelane (16124)
        A black box code is antithetical to this principle. True, that. Plus, when I called them on the phone to ask about updates, they asked me to verify that I had run into an issue before they would tell me if there were any pending bugfixes.
      • Generally speaking, when you use a computer algebra system you want it to run an algorithm to compute something. It doesn't matter whether the software is a black box, what matters is whether what it produces is correct and useful. That can be checked.
        • by Somnus (46089)
          The only way to ensure complete coverage is by unit testing -- this requires atomic operations to be exposed, with everything else open source on top of it.
      • Re:I'm torn... (Score:5, Informative)

        by DynaSoar (714234) * on Wednesday May 02, 2007 @04:52AM (#18953765) Journal
        > There is also a serious scientific issue in using closed-source software for
        > data analysis or theoretical calculations. [etc.]

        I do science in the real world. I can safely say that's a patently ridiculous assertion. We rely on any software we can get to work. Often that's commercial software, because people who develop good software in science frequently take it commercial.

        It's our results that need to be replicated, not our methods. Anyone can do the same thing and get the same result. Doing it by a different method and getting the same result is a much more rigorous validation. As long as it's a different box, it doesn't matter if one or both are black.

        It's also to our benefit to use commercial software because it's cheaper to buy it, including (re)licensing fees and support, because it's cheaper than paying salary to a code hacker to keep things running. Maybe some have the spare time to hack their own code. I wish I did. But I've got more important things to do.

        I've worked in a lab that at first had a EE doctoral student doing Matlab code, and then started using some hardware that required doing analysis in Code Warrior. We needed to get someone else. Not good for the first guy, and expensive in either case for us. I also started collaborating with a lab that used the only open source analysis software in our field (only one other lab used it; the one the lab director came from). I could do by myself what took them 3 people to do, and get it done faster. The collaboration didn't last long.

        The accepted procedure in carrying out and publishing research is to reference the software manufacturers in the text and/or references section. If anyone wants to check the results by getting the same things and doing the samr things with them to check validity, they're welcome to. But they don't. They use what they have and compare results. If they really want to check the validity of results, they can get copies of the validity testing done on the software. Any decent software maker will have already done all the validity testing necessary and is glad to make that data available.
    • by fm6 (162816)

      I don't want to turn this into a stereotypical OSS vs. proprietary rant... but this very recent experience with Mathematica has left a bad taste in my mouth--and I was previously very much a Mathematica evangelist!

      It isn't so much that Mathematica is proprietary. It's just that Wolfram still indulges in practices that the rest of the closed-source software industry has given up on: charging as much as they can get away with, and putting piracy prevention ahead of customer experience.

      I developed an interest in Mathematica many years ago when I read an intriguing article by Stephan Wolfram on the innovative things he'd done with the Mathematica programming language. Even though I'm not the usual math or hard science g

      • by Trelane (16124)

        It's just that Wolfram still indulges in practices that the rest of the closed-source software industry has given up on: charging as much as they can get away with, and putting piracy prevention ahead of customer experience.

        I find it hilarious that you claim this with a straight face, in light of XP/Vista's WGA/OGA and other such misfeatures.

        • by fm6 (162816)
          Yes, Microsoft is bad too. But Wolfram does all kinds of weird anti-piracy stuff that others, including Microsoft, have long since abandoned.
      • by dal20402 (895630) *

        It isn't so much that Mathematica is proprietary. It's just that Wolfram still indulges in practices that the rest of the closed-source software industry has given up on: charging as much as they can get away with, and putting piracy prevention ahead of customer experience.

        Um, well, probably the two most important proprietary software vendors in the world (for the general public) are Microsoft and Adobe. If charging $400 for a WGA-infested Vista "Ultimate" license or $2000 for a CS3 Master Collection that can lock you out if you have to replace a completely failed machine on short notice doesn't qualify as what you said above, I don't think Wolfram's practices do either...

    • Re:I'm torn... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Trelane (16124) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:55PM (#18950305) Journal

      which changes with each new hardware installation.

      More than that: it changes with network device configuration. If your wireless card changes, or you insert a new one, or they get renamed or whatever, you have to get them to reactivate it. I've only bought Mathematica once--the student version several years ago, and I've not bought a new one since.

      No, wait. I'm wrong. I bought 5.1 or 5.2 because I had 4.something, because 5.whatever had been released and therefore switching notebooks would have cost me $40 all because they were now shipping 5.x and it was an "old" version. I kid you not. I've had to call them several times because some network device was renamed differently (funny, nothing else on my system seems to care what I call my wireless card, and I've switched the name around a few times) and they couldn't cope with the fact that my ipw2100 card was now "ipw2100" instead of "eth2".

      This, however, is only slightly less annoying than Matlab, which requires the effing documentation CD to be mounted in order for it to run thanks to craptastic gaming CD checking technologies. I've not bought another license from them.

      Say what you will about IDL (wow I hate that system) but at least its licensing is straightforward. Heck, I bought it 4 years and a whole notebook (not to mention a plethora of network devices) ago, and it is still running off of the original license file.

      I'm looking into Maple (can anyone tell me what their licensing scam looks like?), but so far the only math/graphing system I've not absolutely hated is the one I've not yet used....

      • I'm looking into Maple (can anyone tell me what their licensing scam looks like?),

        Bound to MAC address. Just use ifconfig.

      • More than that: it changes with network device configuration. If your wireless card changes, or you insert a new one, or they get renamed or whatever, you have to get them to reactivate it. I've only bought Mathematica once--the student version several years ago, and I've not bought a new one since.


        With FlexLM, you can usually spoof the MAC and keep on going.

    • by radtea (464814)
      in Linux it won't open unless you enter the code, which changes with each new hardware installation

      Mathematica is very nearly the only piece of commercial software I own, and I've used it off-and-on since 2.0 came out. But I haven't upgraded my 4 to 5 and don't plan to buy 6 because it is such a pain to reactivate every time my hardware changes on Linux. I'm not sure what the parameters are for requiring reactivation, but IIRC things like adding a new hard-drive will do it. It just got to be too much of
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bcrowell (177657)
      I had a similar problem, but worse, IMO, because Wolfram refused to help me. I bought a copy of the mac version of Mathematica ca. 1992. Later, when I upgraded to a later version of MacOS, Mathematica wouldn't work. Wolfram's response was that I needed to buy a more recent version of Mathematica, at full price. Since then, I've used nothing but OSS (including Maxima) for symbolic math, and have never regretted it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JBv (25001)
      I used Mathematica during my PhD thesis. It's a great piece of software that did save me a lot of time. Unfortunately, ever since I left that lab, I have no access to a Mathematica licences and I am not willing to spend the money on them just to re-visit some of the work I did back then. In a sense, part of my PhD work has a randsom equivalent to the purchase of a Mathematica licence.

      All I can say is that I learned my lesson. Since I finished my PhD work I have moved exclusively to linux and tried to limit
    • I'm part of the group of people who always thought Maple did better integration, while Mathematica yielded somewhat "awkward" answers (that is, not quite what you find by hand). Anyways, there's a lot of material regarding Mathematica's shortcomings on the Net...But Wolfram Research does a great marketing job, with all those Flashy animations. I thought the curated data sets were a great idea, though.

      As to your installation problems, they really are a Linux problem. I had the following problem: when I upgra
  • Student scam.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Trelane (16124) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:22PM (#18950061) Journal
    I see that the student license still goes away when you graduate. Yuck.
    • by ultracool (883965) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @10:27PM (#18950565)
      It's easy to get around that. Just do a PhD.
      • by Trelane (16124)
        I don't see a special situation when you get a PhD. (Please tell me if there is one I missed, because it might be good for me to just, ehm, know...)
        • by ultracool (883965)
          I'm saying if you are reaching the end of your undergraduate degree, then do a PhD. It will take a long time to complete, during which time you can have a student copy of Mathematica. Of course, a decent university department should provide you with it if you need it anyway.

          Although, my original post was just a joke about how PhDs can drag on into the distant future :-P

          • by Trelane (16124)

            It will take a long time to complete

            Ah. Unfortunately for me, the "long time" to which you're referring is a year to a year and a half in my case. So not at all useful for me. :(

      • by nwbvt (768631)
        It might actually be cheaper to just buy a non-student version...
        • by Trelane (16124)
          At 1.056k USD, let us just say that the academic price is outside of my price range!
  • by moly (947040) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:34PM (#18950151) Homepage

    Mathematica has a killer engine (kernel), but a lousy UI, and it costs a shocking amount of money. Mathematica was one of the first pieces of software to scan your computer's MAC address and serial number while you entered the activation key, so it could not be installed on more than one computer (this after the $250-$1000 price tag). A student can get the castrated $250 version, but the real version is considerably pricier. Wolfram's treatment of his users is as distrustful as Micro-Suck.

    Why can't the FOSS community beat Wolfram at this? Octave, Maxima, Yacas; they all fail miserably in comparison. The UI for Yacas is so idiotic that the function that transposes a matrix is Transpose[], a nine-character entry for an operation that a real mathematician may use a few hundred times in a given program. At least Mathematica is smart enough to use T (or at least it was when I last used it, at 4.0). Why can't we do better than this?

    The best UI of any CAS was the UI for the built-in graphing calculator for Mac OS 9. The current version, NuCalc, is available for Mac and Windows, but it is proprietary, and there is no plan for a Linux/UNIX version. The FOSS community can put a UI like NuCalc over a Maxima engine, use MathML and/or LaTeX for the syntax (like LaTeX input, MathML output). Use code from GNU TeXmacs for the UI, but include the beautiful way that NuCalc simplifies fractions and radicals (and algebraic equations) by clicking on them with the mouse. Brilliant. And possible. Future generations of math and physics and engineering grad students will thank us.

    • "Why can't the FOSS community beat Wolfram at this?"

      It's hard to find highly-qualified people willing to work for free. Yes, I know some people get paid to write FOSS, but it happens only in those cases where some other means of earning money is possible. This is the exception rather than the rule.
      • by QuantumG (50515)
        Sigh, it's not that at all.

        The reason why no-one has bothered to make free software for this niche is that it is so fucking boring.
        • by imsabbel (611519)
          Thats the fucking reason why missing _payment_ is a limiting factor.
          Because, you know, people are amazingly good at doing boring stuff as long as it gets them a shitload of money on their bank account...
          • by QuantumG (50515)
            1) I wouldn't say anyone is good at doing things that are boring
            2) Mathematica was written by people who find this stuff the most interesting shit in the world.

            The problem is not that there is no-one who finds it interesting enough to write.. the problem is that there isn't enough people who find it interesting - and the result is useful to people who are not interested in writing it. So the people who find this crazy interesting jump at the chance to write it and tell everyone they know what they are doin
            • The problem is not that there is no-one who finds it interesting enough to write.. the problem is that there isn't enough people who find it interesting - and the result is useful to people who are not interested in writing it. So the people who find this crazy interesting jump at the chance to write it and tell everyone they know what they are doing (who just look at them like they're talking about stamp collecting) and then someone comes along and says "hey, ya know, we can sell this."

              I'd love to write something like mathematica and give it away for free... I just can't afford the time needed to write it because I got a mortgage to pay (I owe 1.3 gazzillion dollars on shack on a postage stamp sized lot) and I've got kids to feed (about 67 at last count). My boss makes me work every waking hour to get my paycheck... and the lawyers say if I worke on open sourcem they'd own the IP anyway.

              So yeah, I know how to write something that would blow the doors off mathematica and kick matlab's a

        • by azaris (699901)

          The reason why no-one has bothered to make free software for this niche is that it is so fucking boring.

          If you think you're up to it, why not start by implementing the full functionality of Mathematica's FullSimplify routine (one single routine). I can guarantee you it's not boring at all, though you're unlikely to finish it this millenium unless you have a PhD and some serious experience.

    • Is $1000 actually expensive? I can imagine that reproducing Mathematica in a months time would be a bit of a trick, so for an individual, maybe it isn't that expensive. If someone who makes a decent US salary used a license for a couple of years, it would only have to save them a couple of weeks to be worth it(so it could increase their productivity by ~1% and be a net win).

      And I understand that if it were Open or Free that it could be the product of many free months of effort and be a win for its users, bu
    • Points taken. However, the student version of Mathematica is "only" $150, not $250 USD, (for the 5.x versions, anyway) and it isn't crippled in any way except for the printing of "Mathematica for Students" when one prints a notebook. ALL of the functionality of the full professional version was there. Of course, I don't know (yet) about this new 6.0 version.
      • by Kadin2048 (468275)
        I think the Student version is only valid until you leave school; how they tell this, I'm not sure, but given how aggressive they are about requiring revalidation for trivial hardware changes, I wouldn't assume that you could just keep using it forever -- eventually you might need to get it revalidated and they might ask for proof that you're still a student after 10 years.
    • Why can't the FOSS community beat Wolfram at this? Octave, Maxima, Yacas; they all fail miserably in comparison.

      As a mathematician, and more to the point an applied mathematician, I can confirm that indeed the FOSS offerings are usually significantly inferior to proprietary solutions.

      Maxima, though theoretically powerful, lacks the sane(r) syntax of either Mathematica or Maple. It's also buggier and lacks the sheer breadth of abilities that Mathematica has on hand. I'm not as familiar with Yacas, but if I r

  • title says it all.
  • by Trelane (16124) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:42PM (#18950197) Journal
    In the list of new features (gotta go find the full list), you find
    • QT-based window interface on Unix and Linux.
    • New antialiased fonts for Linux.

    So It seems they've finally caught up to the 21st century....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:42PM (#18950201)
    I hope they fixed the horrible bugs with the exponential integrals. IIRC this one was completely wrong

    Integrate[Exp[-a*x+i*b*x]/(x^2+y^2),{x,0,infinity} ]

    Maple can't do them either, so it's not like I'm just bagging Mathematica. Exponential integrals have a branch cut in the complex plane and the programmers never seemed understand it. Not that Mathematica was capable of simplifying the resulting sum of logarithms, because it wasn't, but at least it could give you something correct.

    Here's wishing for the best from a program that doesn't get supported with bug patches. I reported this years ago. Yeah it's a bug, but no it won't get fixed in my copy. Why would I upgrade otherwise?
  • by Goonie (8651) * <robert@merkel.benambra@org> on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:47PM (#18950237) Homepage
    Mathematica can be a very cool tool, but also an incredibly frustrating one, because there are many occasions where you can't use its results.

    Why? Because when it does its symbolic algebra thing, it largely acts as a black box. You've got no idea how it got its answers. So you can't rely on it.

    So, if you're using it to figure out any symbolic algebra out that's part of research that you're later going to publish, at best it's useful for finding things which you then have to show by hand anyway.

  • by starseeker (141897) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @10:00PM (#18950341) Homepage
    While you're checking out Mathematica, consider taking a look at the major open source computer algebra projects:

    Axiom: http://wiki.axiom-developer.org/ [axiom-developer.org] (formerly known as Scratchpad) was developed at IBM as a commercial system, sold to NAG, and released a few years ago as an open source program.

    and

    Maxima: http://maxima.sf.net/ [sf.net] (descended from the pre-commercial Macsyma codebase) was maintained by William Schelter for many years and he obtained permission to release it as open source. Sadly, he passed away a few years later but the Maxima project has grown and now has many active contributors.

    They won't have the glitzy graphics or army of specialized packages Mathematica boasts, but they also don't cost $1500 and (theoretically) can be audited for correctness all the way down to their foundations. I regard the latter as very important for people trying to do scientific research with computer algebra tools, and what's more no commercial company is required for their survival (the story of Macsyma is a very good object lesson.)

    Maxima is the more "engineering" oriented of the two systems and will probably make more sense to Mathematica inclined users - it can use gnuplot, run on Windows and has a decent GUI called wxMaxima: http://wxmaxima.sf.net./ [wxmaxima.sf.net] Axiom is more oriented towards being "strong" mathematically - it takes more getting used to and has very ambitious goals for long term mathematical research. It is attempting to become a literate program in the tradition of Knuth's TeX system. It doesn't currently have the interfaces to familiar tools the way Maxima does.

    Both systems are already very powerful and while there are many bugs to work out progress is being made. If you're shopping around for a CAS and are interested in open source systems, I highly recommend checking them out.

    (Bias disclosure - I have been a (minor) member of the Maxima project and am currently interested in/doing a little work on/with Axiom, in case the URL in my info doesn't give it away.)
    • I'd also like to mention the R project and Octave. Though I use maybe 1% of what these tools (including Maxima) can do, they have helped immensely in both work and personal projects. I strongly believe that computer algebra tools help with understanding mathematics and wish they were available to me when I was in school.
      • Definitely seconded, although the focus of those projects is not symbolic computation per-say. Both R and Octave are very good tools - R is an industrial strength statistical environment (it probably has the most active user base of any of these projects - certainly its contributed materials are formidable) and Octave tends more toward numerical computation.

        R is located at http://www.r-project.org/ [r-project.org]

        Octave is at http://www.gnu.org/software/octave/ [gnu.org]
    • by highacnumber (988934) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @11:01PM (#18950857)
      Maxima is included in the SAGE project. I strongly encourage anyone interested in open source alternatives to Mathematica to check out SAGE (http://modular.math.washington.edu/sage). It also includes a raytracer, the Gnu Scientific Library, numpy, scipy, singular, gap, and many more open source math projects. It is already very impressive and improving rapidly. I have over 5000 Mathematica notebooks, I've used Mathematica since 1990, and I am preparing to move all of my research and teaching (I am a math professor) over to SAGE.
    • by Somnus (46089)
      wxMaxima and SciPy [scipy.org] could round out a nice open-source scientific suite. SciPy uses wxWidgets for its GUIs as well. (I prefer GNUstep personally, but whatever works.)

      In the distant future, some kind of integrated portable platform for both high-performance numerical analysis and reliable symbolic/special functions calculation would be fantastic .

    • by Somnus (46089)
      Huh -- somebody above mentioned SAGE [sagemath.org], and it's intense: written in Python, uses NumPy, Maxima and matplotlib.
    • by jim_deane (63059)
      I really, really like Maxima. I realize it's not fully a Mathematica clone, but it is so very useful. I am looking to implement its use in my upper level physics classroom next year, along with either FreeMat or Octave. (I was stuck on Matlab and Maple for grad school work, so it's what I know.)

      I also love MuPad Light, but unfortunately the company took it completely commercial, eliminated the free student/educator/personal license, and hosed all of their original developers. Luckily, I archived the ins
  • I clicked on the Demonstration Project link [wolfram.com], then browsed through the list of demos and decided to try the Monty Hall Problem [wolfram.com] demo.

    It brings me to a flash application which lets me experiment with the problem by clicking on doors and then seeing where the prize is. Actually, it doesn't. It gives me two options: I can download a "live version", or I can watch a demo of someone else clicking on doors and seeing where the prize is. Hello? This is flash, it's already interactive! Gah..

  • http://reference.wolfram.com/mathematica/guide/Sum maryOfNewFeaturesIn60.html [wolfram.com]
    "Full-featured source-level debugger, including breakpoints, watchpoints and stepping."

    If you haven't used Mathematica, you have no idea how badly the debugging sucks (prior to the new version.)

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