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Re: The future of Octave

From: David Doolin
Subject: Re: The future of Octave
Date: Fri, 8 Dec 2000 11:35:49 -0500 (EST)

I agree completely with every single one of Kevin's points.


> What form will this revolutionary new application take?  I don't know, but
> here are some ideas I've come up with:
> 1) Flexibility.  If you're like me, you own at least one each of the
> following:  numeric software (ie octave), statistical software (minitab or


> 2) Innovative Interfaces:  Octave's command-line interface is fast (for
> all of us who have been using it for years) and takes few


> 3) Distributed Computing:  Now that MPI, clustering, and other kinds of
> distributed computing are finally coming of age, it would be stupid to


> 4) Native high quality graphics:  I think the next project should draw its
> own graphics, and draw them well, instead of using an external program
> like gnu-plot.  
> 5) Portability:  This goes without saying, but obviously we want it to run
> on everything octave runs on, plus emerging systems.
> Well, there you go.  Maybe all of that is impossibly big.  Surely no one
> person could even design it, much less do the programming.  Maybe I'm the
> only one who wants it.  If it was to happen, though, I can't think of
> anyone more able to do it than the readers of this list, especially
> jwe.  There, would that be enough of a challenge for you?

It needs to done as components.  The next iteration of the discrete
element code that I am writing (in win32) will have the numerical 
engine in c++ and be platform independent.  (Actually the current kernel 
is platform independent, but written in c.)  I have no interest in 
creating a unix front end to this because the set of all my users that 
also use unix has no measure.  It's 100% win32.

There is no reason I could not implement some interface to expose the
functionality to octave or matlab.  But I will not design this interface
ex nihilo, in toto, whatever. I have my hands full with the discrete
element parts, and frankly since that is my area of competence every is
better served by me spending my effort mostly on that.

Here are a few more items that I am not willing to argue about, but others
may find useful or interesting.
1.  Bill Gates provides about 75% of the training necessary to use the
code I have written in windows.  The relieves me of a huge burden and lets
me concentrate on the important bits, like the math.
2.  win32 makes a lot of stuff really easy for me the programmer and for
the users. For example: gdi allows me to either draw to the screen or to a
printer or to a metafile with very little additional code. (My
implementation is not disputable, it works, it does exactly what I want.)
3. Operating systems are yesterdays technology.  While I prefer command
line interfaces, I do not know anyone in my field (geotechnical
engineering) who are similarly inclined.  So further developement should
enfold rational gui interfaces as well.  Anyone who would insist on
sneering at gui's I would invite to write one.  It's harder than you
think.  Way harder.  Very challenging in fact.

>  On Thu, 7 Dec 2000, John W. Eaton wrote:
> >   There are a number of reasons, but one of the most important is that
> >   working on Octave is no longer the challenge for me that it once
> >   was.  Much of what I set out to do with Octave has been done.  I am
> >   pleased with what we have accomplished so far, but ready to take on
> >   something new.

Graphical user interfaces are *very* challenging...  hint hint...
and usually not done very well.  Guide is certainly ugly.  I should 
also add that we are paying an undergrad $12.50/hr to program a 
post-processor in guide.  It is already useful, and will save me a lot  of
time on my current paper.  I should also add that she is an Art History

> > 
> >   I never intended Octave to be a Matlab clone, nor am I really
> >   interested in creating such a thing, but that seems to be what many
> >   users of Octave want.  It is not very interesting to me to simply
> >   reimplement all the features/bugs of Matlab.


> >   I am finding it too constraining to try to maintain almost any level
> >   of compatibility with a proprietary product for which there is no
> >   standard.  It stifles any creativity by the threat of future
> >   incompatibility.  I see this is as a real problem, not just an
> >   imagined one.
> > 
> >   Free software needs a vision beyond reimplementation of existing
> >   proprietary tools.  Those of us who are interested in free software
> >   tools must become leaders rather than followers, and I am optimistic
> >   that this can happen for numerical software.  But I don't believe it
> >   can happen if Octave continues down its current path.

Agreed.  But lets get beyond the OS.  Everything I do in the current
version of octave will be with the win32 port.  Life is too short for me
to fight the OS battle any longer.

> > 
> > What will you do?
> > 
> >   I believe that we (users of numerical software tools) could benefit
> >   greatly from a freely available, high quality, high level language
> >   for solving numerical (and possibly symbolic) problems.  Octave has
> >   been an interesting experiment, and has shown that, within the free
> >   software community, it is possible to do a lot with limited
> >   resources.

Agreed.  Two things need to happen: 1. Funding agancies need to understand
that these kinds of projects have merit.  2. Academic tenure committees
need to allow software development as viable activity. 3. Graduate
students outside the field of computer science need to be allowed
dissertation credit for viable software engineering, both design and
imlementation.  Having seen a number of people get credit for what amounts
to basically designing load frames that somebody else builds, I am
perturbed that my software development does not get similar consideration
because its "just programming". (I will spare everyone the long version of
that rant.)  Ok so that was three and I could think of several more things
that would help stimulate free numerical software development but I will
stop here.

Thanks for listening!

Dave D

> >   I think now is a good time to step back, examine what we have done,
> >   and decide what is the best course for the future.  I'm looking
> >   forward to helping to define and implement the next generation of
> >   free software tools for numerical problems.
> > 
> > 
> > jwe
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > -------------------------------------------------------------
> > Octave is freely available under the terms of the GNU GPL.
> > 
> > Octave's home on the web:
> > How to fund new projects:
> > Subscription information:
> > -------------------------------------------------------------
> > 
> ==========================
> Kevin Straight
> University of Idaho
> ==========================
> -------------------------------------------------------------
> Octave is freely available under the terms of the GNU GPL.
> Octave's home on the web:
> How to fund new projects:
> Subscription information:
> -------------------------------------------------------------

Octave is freely available under the terms of the GNU GPL.

Octave's home on the web:
How to fund new projects:
Subscription information:

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