The future of Octave

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Re: The future of Octave

David Doolin


> In summary, what I am trying to say is this: continue development of Octave
> as it is now by introducing new ideas for making it a leading software in
> the field.  Also, let us perhaps establish a more bazaar-like/
> benevolent-dictator mode of development (a la Linux kernel). Finally, if
> others wish to, let them fork the project to achieve that 100% compatibility
> goal.

Yes!  Perfect answer: those who want matlab compatibility, fork it.  If
the fork is good, and they can construct a mechanism keeping up with the
Mathworks, then it can always be merged back in later, and jwe does not
have to deal with that part of the code at all.  The onus is on those need
it.  

>
> Regards,
>
> --
> Rafael Laboissiere
> Institut de la Communication Parlee | Email: [hidden email]
> UMR CNRS 5009 / INPG                | Voice: +33 4.76.57.48.49
> 46, av. Felix Viallet               |   Fax: +33 4.76.57.47.10
> F-38031 Grenoble CEDEX 1 France     |   URL: <a href="http://www.icp.inpg.fr/Šþrafael">http://www.icp.inpg.fr/Šþrafael
>
>
>
>
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>



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Re: The future of Octave

David Doolin
In reply to this post by Paul Kienzle-5


>
> >    Should octave have additional "non-numeric" features to
> >    support all sorts of generic scripting language features?
>
> Do scientific programmers need to do string processing? database access?
> GUI interfaces? process control? cgi scripts?   How about a web interface
> to the data taken at your beamline which allows you to select a particular
> sample and applied field, perform a variety of fits and produce a graph
> of the results?  The project I have in mind is being written in Java, but
> it would be nice if something like octave could handle it.

I don't if either octave needs this stuff or if I "need" it, but I want it
bad enough to move to win32 to get it.  If I have to.



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Re: The future of Octave

John W. Eaton-6
In reply to this post by David Doolin
On  8-Dec-2000, David Doolin <[hidden email]> wrote:

| Yes!  Perfect answer: those who want matlab compatibility, fork it.

Generally, I think forking projects is a bad idea.  We have very
limited resources, so spreading them any thinner is not good.

| If the fork is good, and they can construct a mechanism keeping up with the
| Mathworks,

I don't think this is possible.  The MathWorks does not openly discuss
their development plans.  If you wait until their next release to find
out what is new, and what has changed, and what you need to `catch up'
on, then you are already many years behind at each new release.  I
believe it is a losing battle, and that is one of the primary reasons
that I am no longer interested in working on Octave as it is now.

| then it can always be merged back in later,

For fundamental new features, I'm not so sure that this would be
possible very often.

The `non-matlab-compatible' branch would presumably be innovating, and
not standing still.  It is likely that some of the innovations would
then be duplicated in incompatible ways by the next release of Matlab.
When there is overlap like this, you lose, because (assuming that
compatibility is a critically important goal) it means that you either
have to break compatibility with previous versions of the
`non-matlab-compatible' branch, or you have to assume the burden of
maintaining two incompatible ways of doing the same thing.  This has
happened in the past, and I expect it would happen again.

| two forks would not both  and jwe does not
| have to deal with that part of the code at all.  The onus is on those need
| it.  

jwe does not have to deal with the code at all, because jwe will
probably not be working on a project like that.  :-)

But, whoever is the maintainer of such a project would have to deal
with the code, because there would almost surely be conflicts and
divergence.  Merging would not be easy.  Just look at GNU Emacs and
XEmacs, as an example.  Even if the two groups could get together, it
would now require a huge effort to merge those projects back together.

FWIW, I'll stay in this discussion only as long as I feel I'm not
repeating myself too often.

jwe



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Re: The future of Octave

John W. Eaton-6
In reply to this post by David Doolin
On  8-Dec-2000, David Doolin <[hidden email]> wrote:

| 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.

Again, we have very limited resources.  If your goal in writing free
software is to satisfy `customers' rather than getting together with
fellow developers to create something useful for the developers, then
maybe you have the right idea here.  But I believe it will suck a lot of
resources away from the core numerical parts if you spend a lot of
time putting a fancy gui on it.

jwe



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Re: The future of Octave

John W. Eaton-6
In reply to this post by David Doolin
On  8-Dec-2000, David Doolin <[hidden email]> wrote:

| Perhaps.  Maybe "core" could mean "what is implemented when jwe steps
| down". Or it could mean what octave has now + sparse, or + a couple of
| other things.

This is the problem.  I'd say that if Matlab compatibility is critical
to you and a few thousand other people, then you won't be able to stop
on this list until you have everything, because you will all have some
different pet feature that you simply must have in the "core".

| This is not to say there isn't a useful core subset right now.  There is.
| But it is enough to attract new octave users?

Sure, but the ones coming from Matlab continue to want more Matlab
compatible features.  Should we start a pool to bet on how long it
will be before someone new to Octave posts a message saying that it is
inconceivable that Octave doesn't have feature X from Matlab R12?

jwe



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Re: The future of Octave

John W. Eaton-6
In reply to this post by David DS Barnes
On  8-Dec-2000, David DS Barnes <[hidden email]> wrote:
| o
| weblication interface <?php?>
| o
| some xml language
| o
| expresses objects, behaviours/etc
| o
| subsets for cfd/fea/etc
| o
| opengl graphics

Can you give some reasons why you think these things are important?

Just because something is the latest fad doesn't mean it is worth
following, particularly if you have very limited resources.

jwe



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Index of Octave Software (Was: The future of Octave)

Kevin Straight
In reply to this post by David Doolin
I've been thinking...it seems like people have written a whole lot of
code: patches, .oct files, .m files, etc for Octave.  Wouldn't it be nice
if we had a (well indexed) directory that listed all of it, perhaps with
the author's email and a short discription; sort of like what the
calculator companies do with contributed calculator programs.

I would even volunteer to set it up (though not till the holidays
<grin> ).  The whole thing could be more-or less automated (a la
freshmeat).

In a similar vein, I think someone should collect binary distributions,
since they haven't been on the main ftp server for a while now.  It seems
like a lot of people have trouble compiling octave, and would be happier
with an older, precompiled, version.  If anyone has binaries, e-mail them
to me and I will be happy to put them on my own ftp server
(ftp://12.32.54.90/pub/octave/).  I already have the linux rpm of
2.0.16...



==========================
Kevin Straight
University of Idaho
www.uidaho.edu/Šþstra9456
==========================



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Re: The future of Octave

David DS Barnes
In reply to this post by John W. Eaton-6
John W. Eaton wrote:

> On  8-Dec-2000, David DS Barnes <[hidden email]> wrote:
> | o  weblication interface <?php?>
> | o  some xml language
> | o  expresses objects, behaviours/etc
> | o  subsets for cfd/fea/etc
> | o  opengl graphics
>
> Can you give some reasons why you think these things are important?
>
> Just because something is the latest fad doesn't mean it is worth
> following, particularly if you have very limited resources.
>

here is the spirit:
open/cross-platform
inherently mp..
interface with outside world

here's some letters:

gui --
o
use minimal subset of browser (eg mozilla)
-
lean, graphics guaranteed
o
php : (?) was meant as question/joke
doesn't have to be php,
just a nice, capable, fast script language ...
public data --
o
xml is, in my ltd experience,
very powerful, very attractive :
free ascii + process(or) independent
legible descriptors, simple descriptor structure
graphics --
o
opengl communicates with xml and vrml languages
and most platforms

anyway, I thought you were looking for a challenge 8)
if this is noise, I won't waste your time

David
--
David DS Barnes
mech eng dept, imperial college | t/f:0207 594 7181/7127
exhibition rd, london, sw7 2bx  | http://www.metaphorm.iwarp.com





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Re: The future of Octave

Rafael Laboissiere-5
In reply to this post by John W. Eaton-6
On Fri, Dec 08, 2000 at 11:06:25AM -0600, John W. Eaton wrote:

> The `non-matlab-compatible' branch would presumably be innovating, and not
> standing still.  It is likely that some of the innovations would then be
> duplicated in incompatible ways by the next release of Matlab. When there
> is overlap like this, you lose, because (assuming that compatibility is a
> critically important goal) it means that you either have to break
> compatibility with previous versions of the `non-matlab-compatible' branch,
> or you have to assume the burden of maintaining two incompatible ways of
> doing the same thing.  This has happened in the past, and I expect it would
> happen again.

Okay, your point is very well made.  I would guess that everybody
participating to this discussion already understood that  it is essential
for you to abandon the Matlab compatibility goal for the "new generation"
numerical software.

Now, you already gave us a taste of your future plans, so please make them
more explicit, give us some more details.  I will go with you.

--
Rafael (who finally understood that Matlab compatibility is a Bad Thing)



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Re: The future of Octave

David Doolin
In reply to this post by John W. Eaton-6
On Fri, 8 Dec 2000, John W. Eaton wrote:

> On  8-Dec-2000, David Doolin <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> | Perhaps.  Maybe "core" could mean "what is implemented when jwe steps
> | down". Or it could mean what octave has now + sparse, or + a couple of
> | other things.
>
> This is the problem.  I'd say that if Matlab compatibility is critical
> to you and a few thousand other people, then you won't be able to stop
> on this list until you have everything, because you will all have some
> different pet feature that you simply must have in the "core".

Probably so.  I did buy matlab recently and really have no complaints.
I like how octave does some things better, but I need sparse and guide.
And I still use octave for everything I can.

>
> | This is not to say there isn't a useful core subset right now.  There is.
> | But it is enough to attract new octave users?
>
> Sure, but the ones coming from Matlab continue to want more Matlab
> compatible features.  Should we start a pool to bet on how long it
> will be before someone new to Octave posts a message saying that it is
> inconceivable that Octave doesn't have feature X from Matlab R12?

Well, people are going to say ths.  Let them.  Be nice to them.  Then
ignore them.  And continue doing it the way you want.  But definitly
take a vacation from octave. ;)

dave d

>
> jwe
>



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Re: The future of Octave

David Doolin
In reply to this post by John W. Eaton-6
On Fri, 8 Dec 2000, John W. Eaton wrote:

> On  8-Dec-2000, David Doolin <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> | 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.
>
> Again, we have very limited resources.  If your goal in writing free
> software is to satisfy `customers' rather than getting together with
> fellow developers to create something useful for the developers, then
> maybe you have the right idea here.  But I believe it will suck a lot of
> resources away from the core numerical parts if you spend a lot of
> time putting a fancy gui on it.

The time I have spent putting a fancy gui on my discrete element code has
already paid off in for two other people getting a conference trip paid
by offering a short course in how to use the program, fancu gui included,
to solve problems in rock slope stability.  Think rocks falling on
highways.  

Obviously, I intend on developing my "customer" base as much as possible,
and using win32 gui makes an emininent amount of sense [1].  It is
resources in terms of development time that has been very well spent. Why
would having a "fancy gui" for octave be a bad thing?  Would make the
barrier to entry too low?

Dave D

[1] FWIW, the numerical core can be downloaded from
http://www.ce.berkeley.edu/Programs/Geotech/DDA.
We plan on opening up the win32 base similar to how Peter Deutsch runs
ghostscript.


>
> jwe
>



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Re: The future of Octave

David Doolin
In reply to this post by Rafael Laboissiere-5

> Okay, your point is very well made.  I would guess that everybody
> participating to this discussion already understood that  it is essential
> for you to abandon the Matlab compatibility goal for the "new generation"
> numerical software.
>
> Now, you already gave us a taste of your future plans, so please make them
> more explicit, give us some more details.  I will go with you.

I will follow also.  octave right now is useful to me, presumably what
follows will also be useful.  So after taking a break, jwe, fill us in!


>
> --
> Rafael (who finally understood that Matlab compatibility is a Bad Thing)
>



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Re: The future of Octave

Michele-20
In reply to this post by John W. Eaton-6
Hi, to all.
As many I'm coming from a Matlab experience.
It's since 8 month that I'm using Octave and I like it.
It's powerful, free and sometimes better than Matlab.

I can't understand why there is all this interest to maintain Matlab
compatibility.
Matlab is a software and Octave another one.
I personally think that Octave must go on without care to Matlab
compatibility.



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Re: The future of Octave

Michele-20
In reply to this post by David Doolin

>
> > 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.
> >

I don't think that this is a good idea.
I prefer the Unix, Linux philosophy to have small programs that do
different things.



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Re: The future of Octave

Trond Eivind Glomsrød-2
Michele <[hidden email]> writes:

> >
> > > 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.
>
> I don't think that this is a good idea.

Right now, graphics is an area where matlab is much better.

> I prefer the Unix, Linux philosophy to have small programs that do
> different things.

A component approach using e.g. bonobo would probably be the best
thing...

--
Trond Eivind Glomsrød
Red Hat, Inc.



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Re: The future of Octave

Alfredo Tomasini
In reply to this post by Michele-20
Michele wrote:

> >
> > > 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.
> > >
>
> I don't think that this is a good idea.
> I prefer the Unix, Linux philosophy to have small programs that do
> different things.
>

I agreed.

I am using Octave since 96 and I used matlab before, I do not see the
compatibility
problem with matlab as a real issue.

I basic scripting is the almost similar and people that know matlab should easily
migrate
to octave, if they like it.

My feeling is, if you like octave make a effort to learn it as it is, otherwise
buy matlab.

GUI interface.

Spending resource on GUI is not something that a consider high priority. For
instance
a tools for symbolic analysis sound to me more interesting.

"interesting book"
In the Beginning was the Command Line

by Neal Stephenson

http://econ161.berkeley.edu/oped/virtual/stephenson_beginning.html

alfredo








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Re: The future of Octave

Etienne Grossmann-3
In reply to this post by John W. Eaton-6

  Hello,

  no one will say this talk isn't constructive : here is a patch for
the faq (*) :

======================================================================
--- Octave-FAQ.texi.orig Fri Dec  8 14:34:00 2000
+++ Octave-FAQ.texi Fri Dec  8 14:54:16 2000
@@ -537,7 +537,8 @@
 
 @cindex Octave, version date
 
-The latest version of Octave is 2.0.10, released February 6, 1998.
+The latest version of Octave is 2.0.16, released January 30, 2000. The
+latest development version -wich is quite stable- is 2.1.31.
 
 @node Installation, Common problems, Getting Octave, Top
 @chapter Installation Issues and Problems
======================================================================

Jwe: Would you like some help to update the docs for the next release of
     Octave?

  Cheers,

  Etienne

And of course, thank you for Octave.


(*) I hope I modified the right file. "make" made Octave-FAQ.ps
    correctly.



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Re: The future of Octave

Michele-20
In reply to this post by Trond Eivind Glomsrød-2
Trond Eivind GlomsrØd wrote:

>
> Michele <[hidden email]> writes:
>
> > >
> > > > 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.
> >
> > I don't think that this is a good idea.
>
> Right now, graphics is an area where matlab is much better.

Yes, your right, I know this. I don't know if there are other free
foftware packages to use insted of GNUPLOT.
It also depends on how Gnuplot staff will go on in their work.
>
> > I prefer the Unix, Linux philosophy to have small programs that do
> > different things.
>
> A component approach using e.g. bonobo would probably be the best
> thing...

Sorry but I don't understand the last part of your letter.

>
> --
> Trond Eivind Glomsrød
> Red Hat, Inc.
>
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>
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Alternative to Gnuplot [was: Re: The future of Octave]

Rafael Laboissiere-5
On Fri, Dec 08, 2000 at 08:22:15PM +0000, Michele wrote:

> Yes, your right, I know this. I don't know if there are other free
> foftware packages to use insted of GNUPLOT.

Try Joao Cardoso's PLplot_Octave package:

    <a href="http://merlin.inescn.pt/Šþqual/plplot_octave/">http://merlin.inescn.pt/Šþqual/plplot_octave/

Also available as a Debian package (I am its maintainer):

    http://packages.debian.org/stable/math/octave-plplot.html 

And here is the PLplot web site:

    http://www.plplot.org

--
Rafael Laboissiere <[hidden email]>



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Re: The future of Octave

Paul Kienzle-5
In reply to this post by John W. Eaton-6
On Thu, Dec 07, 2000 at 10:09:51PM -0800, Kevin Straight wrote:

> Long-winded ramble follows:
>
> jwe's point is well taken.  Octave is a very solid and useful application,
> but it is impossible to escape the fact that it is based on yesterday's
> technology, not today's.  It does what it does very well, but it is
> inherently limited by design considerations.  Working on my degree in
> applied math over the last three years I have become increasingly
> convinced that we are long overdue for the next evolution in
> mathematical software.  I think we-the open source community-should be the
> ones to come up with it, and let the commercial teams scramble for
> bug-for-bug compatibility with US.  
>
> 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
> whatever), CAS/symbolic software (maple, derive, etc), technical document
> prep software (ie latex), and spreadsheet.  If you're in engineering you
> also probably have CAD and flowcharting software.  All of these duplicate
> features found in some or all of the others.  NONE of them interoperate
> worth beans.  They all use different interfaces and commands to accomplish
> the same thing.  

The existing Octave framework can handle these, and to some extent,
aleady does.  But these projects NEED YOUR HELP.  Most of base matlab and
some of the toolboxes are there.  That includes a goodly portion of the
statistics toolbox (distributions, tests, and descriptive stats, but not
parameter estimation, experimental design, process control or principle
components analysis).  Ben Sapp has started an interface to GiNaC,
which is a symbolic algebra package.  Ask him what needs to be done.

The gtk-extra package has a spreadsheet interface which could be handled
if someone could find the time to interface to the GTK widget set in an
extensible way.  That is, you must be able to register new widgets from
an .oct file, or if the GTK interface is a separate process, by its own
shared object loading mechanism.  Once this framework is in place, then
individuals can start to contribute widgets and buttons independently and
real distributed development can occur.

This doesn't get you a Mathematica-style notebook (which is presumably
the sort of technical documentation interface you want?), nor does it
get you simulink, but in the case of simulink, there are people who are
working on that as well.

>
> I submit that the world is ready for a well integrated SUITE of
> open-source technical applications--designed to work together and have the
> same (highly customizable) look-and-feel.  I DO NOT think we should simply
> take existing applications and glue them together--but instead design the
> whole thing from the top down.

There is a lot to be said for using others people work rather than reproducing
it for yourself.

>
> 2) Innovative Interfaces:  Octave's command-line interface is fast (for
> all of us who have been using it for years) and takes few
> resources.  Those are the only good things that can be said about it.  The
> new application should have both modern graphical worksheet interfaces and
> the old standby command line.  The worksheet should be fast and bug-free
> (which is more than can be said of Maple, for instance).  It should also
> be intuitive.  Lets face it...we're the old guard.  Most of my students
> have never seen a command line, and they're the ones who will be using
> this thing 9 years from now, so we should make it "pretty".

So do your students a favour and introduce them to the command line :)  They
will need to know it anyway if they are going to be doing any scripting.
But I agree that for certain applications, having a spreadsheet interface
to the matrices would be useful.  And for some things, it is nice to have
buttons and menus, though only if those same facilities are available to
your scripts, and only if those facilities can be accessed without having
to mess with the mouse.  GUIs are okay for learning a new application, but
horrible if you have to use it regularly.

>
> 3) Distributed Computing:  Now that MPI, clustering, and other kinds of
> distributed computing are finally coming of age, it would be stupid to
> design mathematical software without planning to take advantage of them
> from the very beginning, while still being usable on the old
> "one-station, one processor, one user" model.

A partial solution is to use existing parallel blas and solvers.
Some people are already doing this with Octave.  The complete solution
would implement parallelizable scripts.  This will certainly require a
different scripting language and should not be done without a thorough
analysis of the existing parallel languages.  Better yet, let the language
and compiler experts design your language, the application experts design
your solvers, and bring the lot together for an ideal numeric environment.

>
> 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.  

The advantage of an external program is that someone else is doing all
the work of maintaining it.  Admittedly, though, it would be nice if
your scripts knew a little more about the graphics were being rendered.
Improving existing third party applications so that they can give Octave
the feedback they need is also a reasonable approach.  The big problem
that I see is that people want to construct pretty interfaces to their
data, and none of the scientific graphing applications that I know of
provides any GUI facilities.

>
> 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?
>

Paul Kienzle
[hidden email]



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