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Author Topic: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics  (Read 9812 times)

zridling

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Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« on: December 09, 2007, 08:35:13 AM »
This is big:
Until recently, a student solving a calculus problem, a physicist modeling a galaxy or a mathematician studying a complex equation had to use powerful computer programs that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. But an open-source tool based at the University of Washington won first prize in the scientific software division of Les Trophées du Libre, an international competition for free software. The tool, called Sage, faced initial skepticism from the mathematics and education communities.

cubeplot101.jpg

"I've had a surprisingly large number of people tell me that something like Sage couldn't be done -- that it just wasn't possible," said William Stein, associate professor of mathematics and lead developer of the tool. "I'm hearing that less now." Open-source software, which distributes programs and all their underlying code for free, is increasingly used in everyday applications. Firefox, Linux and Open Office are well-known examples.


The benefits of using free software for maths extend far beyond the usual ones:
The frustrations weren't only financial. Commercial programs don't always reveal how the calculations are performed. This means that other mathematicians can't scrutinize the code to see how a computer-based calculation arrived at a result.... "Not being able to check the code of a computer-based calculation is like not publishing proofs for a mathematical theorem," Stein said. "It's ludicrous."

Darwin

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Re: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2007, 09:22:31 AM »
Wow! Great find, Zaine. This is unbelievably cool (ok, so it's not unbeleivable, but it's close). I'm downloading it now  :Thmbsup:
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

housetier

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Re: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2007, 09:26:59 AM »
this should come handy -- when I need it! ;)

It's great to see good open source software.

Darwin

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Re: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2007, 09:27:24 AM »
Cool. You can download it or use it as an online application. Nice.

Good thing too. It's a 627MB download!
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin
« Last Edit: December 09, 2007, 09:30:01 AM by Darwin »

cmpm

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Re: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2007, 10:04:14 AM »
You may need some of these-

http://www.vmware.com/download/

I had to get the decoder and the player to view the video documentation.

Workstation 5.5 decoder and the player is all I downloaded so far.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2007, 10:09:27 AM by cmpm »

f0dder

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Re: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2007, 10:33:03 AM »
I just think it's lame++ that it runs inside a browser >_<
- carpe noctem

Lashiec

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Re: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2007, 12:46:00 PM »
You run it within a browser, and inside VMware? Weird...

And how does it compare to Octave? (Yeah, there were OSS mathematical software before Sage...)

urlwolf

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Re: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2007, 12:58:38 PM »
octave = OSS matlab
sage = OSS mathmatica

IMO.

Shops who need both may save a huge chunk of money.
In practice, I think there's so much matlab/mathematica code out there that using anything else comes with a huge 'antisocial cost'. I'm feeling that with R (www.r-project.org). by the way, that's another outstanding piece of software that completely made the paid version (S+; mucho $$$) completely obsolete and the statistics community has completely moved to R!

urlwolf

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Re: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2007, 01:00:52 PM »
You can use code from different languages inside Sage!
http://sagemath.org/...rom_within_sage.html

Lashiec

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Re: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2007, 01:03:39 PM »
Ah, since I never worked with Mathematica, I can't comment :)

Yeah, R is a pretty good pack, despite being ugly at first, and it's truly replacing commercial alternatives. Just experienced that this year at college, they didn't have enough money for SPSS licenses, so they moved to R.

housetier

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Re: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2007, 01:07:23 PM »
I don't see how I would need vmware. Since I seldomly read an entire webpage, can you guys tell me what I have overlooked?

Lashiec

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Re: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2007, 01:13:23 PM »
Yes, it's in the installation instructions. Linux and Mac OS X users don't need it. I assume it does not have a native port for Windows, and the image must bundle a Linux distro with only the essential to run the program. Besides, the installation packages for those OSs are far smaller. Yeah, I know about the differences between OSs, but...

On the other hand, it seems only 3 distros are supported.

housetier

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Re: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2007, 01:33:35 PM »
ah no wonder I overlooked it! I didn't look at that. Thanks for pointing it out :)

urlwolf

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Re: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2007, 02:17:02 PM »
From slashdot:
Quote
"mapping a 12-dimensional object to calculating rainfall patterns under global warming"
I can do that in Perl, C, assembler, and any other Turing complete language. But I use Mathematica because it is full of functionality, fairly reliable, and has a very elegant programming paradigm. Also, as a student, it'll cost me $100-150, depending on where I live, for the lifetime of my studentship, assuming no site license; the kinds of business that run this software commercially really don't care too much about a $2500 license fee.

This is just like GIMP trying to take on Photoshop. When you're a kid, Adobe prices seem so off-putting that you can't see why people wouldn't flock to the free alternative. When you're doing a real job involving print work, you simply don't think twice about paying Adobe for the required feature set, intuitive UI and better workflow.

So, kids will carry on pirating Adobe or paying a much reduced student price, then paying for it when they go into the real world; and the same goes for Maple, Matlab, Mathematica, or whatever.

Oh, yeah, the whole "open source" thing. Excepting core functionality, some of Mathematica and the majority of Maple is provided in source form. You can whine about needing peer review of implementation at all levels, but how many of you have inspected your CPU's microcode or circuit diagrams? At some point the line is drawn, and you combine a trust in the reputation of your vendor with the fact that usually you're prototyping and modelling. Things will be re-implemented and tested in many ways before your "final product" is out of the door (whether that's theoretical physics or an aeroplane).
[ Reply to This ]
Re:FLOSS misses the point again (Score:5, Informative)
by mhansen444 (1200253)  on Saturday December 08, @10:25AM (#21624065)
Since you specifically mentioned Mathematica, I'd like to address some reasons why Sage was created when something like Mathematica exists. While good for some types of problems (calculus, solving equations, etc.), Mathematica is not so good at a number of other ones (linear algebra, abstract algebra, number theory). Many of these are important to the Sage developers who need this type of functionality. Mathematica's programming language is a whole lot less flexible than a "real" programming language like Python. Plus, with Mathematica, you aren't allowed to change the internals -- you're stuck with what you get.

These were all reasons that led William Stein to start up Sage.

Good point.
Do we have any mathematica addicts here? Can you comment? I find the workbook idea great.

In R you end up with a bunch of data files, graph files, and source code. Good luck finding which chunk of code generated each graph! (I think this is an important problem!).

With mathematica, you have everything integrated into a single proprietary file.

It's kind of like comparing oneNote with having a messy tree of small txt files, graphs, sounds, and other stuff that make references to one another, but worse.

If anyone knows how to use R without having to orchestrate 100s of small files, speak up :)

urlwolf

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Re: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« Reply #14 on: December 09, 2007, 02:24:21 PM »
btw, maxima looks nice too.

zridling

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Re: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« Reply #15 on: December 10, 2007, 12:09:57 PM »
If you get a chance to use Sage, report back and share your findings, and thanks for the additional links, urlwolf.

kovi2

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Re: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« Reply #16 on: December 10, 2007, 01:58:21 PM »
I'm a big user of Mathematica. Notebook concept origins from that indeed (which is a very useful concept, I must add). I experienced with maxima in the past and I think if I hadn't been using Mathematica at the time maybe I would have started using that.
What I like in Mathematica is that there are load of useful information available online and printed (yes, that's true for lot of other systems, too) and can be used almost all areas of Mathematica (at least at those areas where I'm interested in).
Above I read that Mathematica lacks linear algebra, abstract algebra and number theory. I'm not certainly sure about it since I've already solved both lin.alg and abstract alg. problems. I will definitely have a look in Sage's documentation what features it offers (there can be some, though... but to establish a standalone software because it would be missing from Mathematica, I don't know). Even the most sophisticated algorithms can be implemented easily in Mathematica.
Disadvantage is that you may need some time to get accustomed to that not to use loops and other C-like structures because Mathematica encourages one to use functional approach where you can solve almost everything with several powerful operators (or functionals as one could call).
Graphical opportunities are great and symbolic calculations are incredible (not necessarily about symbolic integrations and the like, but the symbolic approach how you can formulate a specific problem).

Again, a big disadvantage is the price. For me, the only one. However, companies often buy it (in my very neighbourhood there was a company who bought it with an additional package and that spared 4 engineer-months for them at the first time).

And what I don't like in Mathematica is the big hype around Wolfram and Wolfram Research.  :-\ But their soft still is great :)

If Sage addresses the same paradigm as Mathematica then it could evolve into a gem.

kovi2

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Re: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« Reply #17 on: December 11, 2007, 12:03:29 PM »
If it is not that already...

kovi2

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Re: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« Reply #18 on: December 19, 2008, 01:02:17 PM »
A year has passed and no-one posted anything. Does anybody use this tool? I'd be very curious of experiences.

urlwolf

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Re: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« Reply #19 on: December 25, 2008, 10:33:23 AM »
Mathematica 7 is out and it does some crazy cool thing with graphics.
You can stick a graph into an equation.

No idea how useful this is. Visual, yes.

I have not used sage much. I code mostly in R. I envy the notebook concept though.

kovi2

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Re: Free Software brings affordability, transparency to mathematics
« Reply #20 on: December 25, 2008, 01:08:14 PM »
Yes, Mathematica 7 is out and I've been using it already. :)
Placing graphics to equations were already possible in version 6. One application can be when you put graphics to commands which operates on them. (Apply filters, partitioning, etc.)

Then, I suppose you are rather into statistical applications, aren't you?