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Re: The future of Octave

From: John W. Eaton
Subject: Re: The future of Octave
Date: Thu, 7 Dec 2000 23:59:41 -0600

On  7-Dec-2000, Andy Adler <address@hidden> wrote:

| 1. The "communitity" needs to come to a clear consensus about
|    the goals of future development.
|    How important is Matlab compatability?

FWIW, I don't think that complete compatibility is a reasonable
goal, primarily because if you aim for that, then as soon as a new
version of Matlab is released, you are immediately years behind.

Many people seem to believe that Octave only follows wherever Matlab
leads.  Over the years, however, Octave has included a number of
features missing from the then current version of Matlab only to find
that later editions of Matlab implemented those features in
incompatible ways.  These kinds of incompatibilities are especially
bad, because fixing them means breaking compatibility with older
versions of Octave, or assuming the burden of supporting multiple ways
of doing the same thing.

So, if you really truly want a 100% compatible Matlab clone, then
maybe you should either just buy Matlab, or rip out any and all
features from Octave that Matlab does not have, and only try to
reimplement whatever it is that the MathWorks designs.  That sort of
project would not be at all interesting to me.

|    My opinion is that contributions should be accepted fairly
|    easily. This will broaden the developer base, although it 
|    will reduce the cleanliness of design.

In most cases, I have been quite conservative about incorporating
patches from others.  I'm sure that this has frustrated some
contributers, but, in my experience, there aren't very many people out
there who have been willing to fix Octave when it breaks, or even
maintain their patches once they have been submitted, and I have not
been comfortable with having to maintain code that I could not work
with easily.

| 2. There needs to be a new maintainer/ maintainer group?
|    Ideally this can be done in a way that everybody is
|    happy with, encouraging contributions and preventing
|    the temptation to fork.

I'm not too worried about forking.  Octave is a relatively large
project.  I'd guess that you have to be fairly serious about working
on it, or your fork will quickly die.  But I agree that given the
limited resources, you would want to avoid spreading them even
thinner by having multiple development groups.

| 3. Where will octave be hosted? Where will FAQs, mailing lists,
|    etc. be kept.

For now, it will remain where it is.  I am happy to continue hosting
the mailing lists and so on until someone emerges who is really
serious about taking over maintenance of the project.

|    One option would be to move development to sourceforge.

If they are eventually moved, I'd suggest the GNU machines.  They have
a nice mailing list management system set up on, and a
CVS server on  They can probably also host the
web pages at


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