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GNU Octave 3.0 Released After 11 Years 222

Posted by kdawson
from the math-just-works dept.
Digana writes "GNU Octave is a free numerical computing environment highly compatible with the MATLAB language. After 11 years of development since version 2.0, stable version 3.0 released yesterday. This version is interesting because unlike other free or semi-free MATLAB competitors like Scilab, specific compatibility with MATLAB code is a design goal. This has manifested itself in goodies like better support for MATLAB's Handle Graphics, a syntax closer to MATLAB's own for many functions, and many functions from the sister project Octave-Forge ported to the core Octave project for an enriched functionality closer to the toolboxes provided by MATLAB. GUI development is underway, but still no JIT compiling, which is a show-stopper for Octave newbies coming from MATLAB with unvectorized code."
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GNU Octave 3.0 Released After 11 Years

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  • 11 Years? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    11 Years no GUI, and no JIT and only partial MATLAB support. Tell me again why GNU FreeSoftware is a better development model if you don't mind.
    • by nacturation (646836) <nacturation@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Saturday December 22, 2007 @07:33PM (#21793824) Journal

      11 Years no GUI, and no JIT and only partial MATLAB support.

      Tell me again why GNU FreeSoftware is a better development model if you don't mind.
      It may not be the best now, but just wait until HURD is released... then this development model's superiority will be obvious!
       
    • Re:11 Years? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @08:53PM (#21794248)
      Features? Maybe I can't beat you there. Reliability? Absolutely (GNU code is at least on par with BSD and other Unixes, and far more reliable than other systems, in my experience). GNU won't waste your time with a license check; when my school's Matlab license server went down, me and my peers were left out in the cold, with final projects looming over our heads.

      My school will not give students a copy of Matlab for any purpose, because of license restrictions. We can either use a school terminal (ever wonder what a crowded computer lab looks like?), or run it off a Solaris server (X11 forwarding, leaving Windows and most Apple users out of the loop) which has strict resource limits imposed (forget processing anything big). Of course, with this setup, it is completely impossible to hook up any specialized hardware to the system running Matlab, so to process data from the real world, we must first collect it on one computer, then copy it over to a computer with Matlab installed (which is rarely in the same room as the equipment in use), and no, you cannot process anything as it happens, and yes, our disk space on the Solaris server is limited to 100MB, so your data can't be too large (not that you get enough CPU cycles to process anything large).

      Octave? Right on my system. On any system I want, actually. I miss a few features, and bit of Matlab compatibility (not nearly as bad as it sounds, I have yet to have it be an actual problem), and a GUI (which I am not at all concerned about -- I'll take a functional CLI over a dysfunctional GUI any day), but in the end, I get what I needed: Something that allows me to work with other people's Matlab code, without having to wait in line for a computer or worrying about a resource limit on a Unix server. If Mathworks stopped screwing around with license restrictions, that are even worse than Wolfram (the maker of Mathematica, which is also mangled in license restrictions), I would never have even looked into Octave.

      • First of all, it works great with Windows and MacOS X. When you install Windows or MacOS, one of the first things you do is get an X server. (for evil reasons, the OS is supplied without decent compatibility with open protocols and open file formats) Of course you also install an ssh client, a POSIX shell for Windows, etc.

        Second of all, maybe that is where your CPU cycles are going. Last I checked, which was indeed some time ago, Matlab was fully capable of running without the GUI. You can make your graphi
      • by DAldredge (2353)
        Why not buy the student version - almost 100% certain it cost less than one of your text books.

        MATLAB® and Simulink® Student Version Includes MATLAB, Simulink and Symbolic math functions $99.00

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nadaou (535365)
        Matlab from the terminal:

        local$ ssh -X solaris_server
        solaris$ matlab -nosplash -nojvm
        Welcome to Matlab v. ...
        >>

        The plot windows etc will still be rendered, but you do away with slowly pushing the entire GUI over the network.

        If you don't open plot windows and things, you don't even need an X-server.

        Connect with Putty or Cygwin from MS Windows, Terminal from OSX.

        X11 forwarding on Mac: try 'ssh -Y solaris_server'
        (... after installing X11 from the OSX install DVD ...)

        Mathematica replacement: http://maxim [sourceforge.net]
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lm317t (971782)
      Well I've been a matlab and octave user for 10 years and I think I used the matlab GUI once, but its so much slower than vim that I ditched it.

      Octave needs a gui like python or bash does.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Gerzel (240421)
      Yes. Sure. Lets base judgment of an entire paradise on a single relatively small bit of software in that paradime.

      Just like closed source, open source has some lemons too.

      I mean after 5 years of development by the biggest software company in the world Vista shows that closed source isn't that great either.
    • 11 Years no GUI, and no JIT and only partial MATLAB support. Tell me again why GNU FreeSoftware is a better development model if you don't mind.

      There is fairly little effort going into Octave. Why? Because MATLAB isn't worth cloning; MATLAB sucks. Even if more effort were going into it, Octave could never catch up with MATLAB, simply because it takes 1-2 years to clone MATLAB features after a MATLAB release.

      The real comparison is with the true open source alternative to MATLAB: SciPy. SciPy is where all
    • OK, I'll tell you. (Score:3, Informative)

      by hey! (33014)
      Well, if that's how you judge a development process, to be honest you also have to include the failed commercial products -- of which there are countless. I myself use open source (and certainly non-proprietary) systems as much as possible because I've been burned by products that were "repositioned", the feature sets, pricing and licensing all radically altered. This is often a first step, not to revitalizing the business of supporting the product, but the product going away entirely.

      The open source mod
  • This will be a good thing. That company really doesn't treat its customers very well at all.
    • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @10:11PM (#21794680)
      Define not "not treating customers well."

      I've called them with a fairly high level support problem. I got patched directly through to an engineer and within 7 hours (we had been pounding our heads against the wall for a week) we had a solution.

      I've heard numerous other stories of similar fate (which is where I got the idea to call).

      While Octave is fine for supporting *most* of the features of Matlab. There is a segment of the market that Octave is never going to touch. Simulink, most of the extra toolboxes, direct from Simulink to ECM Flash software. Some of the high level Power Sim blocks, hardware in the loop stuff (From dSpace). "Matlab" is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Mathworks software. We even have people writing S-Functions, I'm picking up MEX to speed up some data routines.

      I live and breathe on Matlab and for most of the stuff I do, Octave won't touch it. For 'us' Octave will never be competitive.
      • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @10:44PM (#21794870)
        Okay, I'll define it. The math man at our company only uses Matlab intermittently (the occasional R&D project) and for the past few years it was decided that we couldn't justify buying support or upgrades. This year he was asked to look into what it would cost to upgrade. He was told that we'd need to make up all the money that Matlab didn't get all those years first, before we could even be considered for an upgrade, and conveniently just purchasing a new copy would be even more expensive. Now this was in spite of the fact that they had provided no support or services in that period. Ended up being about fifteen grand for one seat. Let me tell you, that's a sense of entitlement with a vengeance, one that even the RIAA could appreciate. In other words, play our game and pay us our yearly juice money or we'll shove it up your ass.

        I know Matlab is a complex product that took decades to develop, but demanding money for services not rendered, just because you know the customer has nowhere else to go, is usurious at best. I presume you've never had to deal with them in that vein because you've obviously bought into their system and it's worth it to you to keep paying them. I have no problem with that. But their attitude left a very bad taste in our corporate mouth, and given that our needs are simplistic compared to yours, we'll be evaluating what else is out there. Their behavior in this regard is not what I expect of a truly customer-oriented operation, but it is what you expect when a single company achieves a de-facto near monopoly.
        • $15k for ONE seat? What the hell else did you buy?

          From: http://www.socialtext.net/researchcomputingtest/index.cgi?matlab_site_license [socialtext.net]
          * What is the cost of simply increasing our current licenses to 50/100/250 seats for concurrent use with all 50 toolboxes? How does that compare to the site license?

          100 seats of concurrent licensing at the 50 toolbox level would be about $100,000; for the 250 seat level, about $300,000. The site license will be less than half the cost of the 100 seat level.

          From Yahoo Answers:
          "
        • Ended up being about fifteen grand for one seat.

          I don't buy that for a second. Even if you bought every single toolbox available (which no one would do because they cover such a broad set of tasks), it wouldn't add up to 15 grand per license.

          I've only dealt with Matlab on the academic side, but I can say I've had good relations with their customer service. The last time I interacted with them, I had to buy new licenses for our research group; I had read through the various options and thought I had
          • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @11:15PM (#21794984)
            I didn't say it was the price for one seat. It was the cost to pay for the software maintenance that we had chosen not to pay for the past few years. I wish people would read what I post instead of just the first line. And there was no negotiation involved: just a simple email request for current pricing. I saw the response from Mathworks. We were all kinda surprised at the amount.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            I call bullshit. Check out the price list, which I have only picked items that make sense for tasks that I do regularly (and hence this is not too broad of a scope):

            The bare minimum for signal processing stuff:
            MATLAB: $1900
            Simulink: $3000
            Signal Processing: $800
            Signal Processing Blockset: $1000
            Subtotal: $6,700

            A few more helpful tools that almost every engineer can make use of, not very extravagant:

            Control System Toolbox: $1000
            Filter Design Toolbox: $1000
            Subtotal now: $8,700

            I do a lot of RF comms stuff, so t
        • yes they are assholes, thanks for providing me a public forum to air my discontent...

          One year our purchasing department was slow in renewing our dozen or so Matlab licenses and we went 2-months beyond our expiration date. They jerks charged us for those two months (we have never used their tech support in over a decade) and still kept our renewal date as the original date. I explained to the salesman that we would be happy to pay for the 2-months support but i wanted the renewal date moved up since we paid
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        > Define not "not treating customers well."

        OK, I'll define it for you.

        I have been a Matlab user since my first graduate classes in control systems in the early nineties, when it ran on old PCs in our controls labs and didn't have the current integrated GUI. It was a revelation to be able to perform matrix and control system analyses in such a simple way, with the many built-in functions (lsim, step, bode, margin, etc.) There was nothing else like it and it taught me a lot.

        In my subsequent work as a contr
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by datan (659165)
          about your first point regarding the audit letter--it may or may not simply be a coincidence.
          but your second point you definitely have no grounds to complain. They allow only people who are on software maintenance to have a free trial of the toolboxes. That's one of the benefits of software maintenance. "we were getting poor value for money per year (a few .x.x upgrades for more than a thousand US dollars a year), " -- you're forgetting the ability to download free trials of toolboxes. If you need any tech
      • by steve_bedrick (715622) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @11:54PM (#21795240) Homepage
        I bought a license for Matlab for my old PowerPC-based PowerBook about a year ago, and was initially quite pleased with Mathworks- the times I had to call them for support, they were helpful and responsive. All that changed when I switched to an Intel-based Mac a month or so ago. While moving all of my software over to my new laptop, I observed that most software companies used one of two possible approaches to the software redistribution problem:
        1. Release an Intel-compatible binary of their product, and make it available to current license-holders free of charge; or
        2. Take advantage of the opportunity to do a new major-version revision of their product, which license-holders would have to pay to upgrade to.

        Each of these, to me, seem like reasonable solutions— if it's a major-version update, I'd have to pay for it anyway... and if it's just a recompiled version of the product I already have, it should be free to current users. It turns out, however, that there was a third possibility, which is what Mathworks chose:

        3. Release a new minor-version Universal Binary update, and then make all current customers buy a new full-price license in order to get it.

        So, in order to run Matlab on an Intel-based Mac, current PowerPC license holders have to re-purchase their expensive software from scratch. No upgrade path, no nothing— just a nice, loud, "screw you" from Mathworks to their users. And it's not like we could just use our PowerPC verisons under Rosetta- there was a workaround, but it involved disabling all of the graphing/visualization features. Basically, it was a "pay for a full new license or don't use Matlab on your new computer" kind of thing.

        I dunno, maybe it's not that big of a deal, but it still felt pretty crappy. From a customer service standpoint, it wasn't exactly a master-stroke- it wouldn't have really cost them anything just to let current license-holders have an Intel-compatible copy of the software they'd already paid for...

  • Good and bad news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mangu (126918) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @07:59PM (#21793958)
    The good news is that they are doing in a free way what the Matlab Co. has been charging (a lot!) for, which is distributing an API to use all those libraries the US Federal Government labs give away for free [netlib.org].


    The bad news is that they are wasting their time using the Matlab syntax, while there is a much better alternative [scipy.org] for doing exactly the same thing. Python [python.org] is universal, if there's anything you can do with a computer, the simplest way to do it is with Python, so why do it the hard way?

    • by macshit (157376)

      The bad news is that they are wasting their time using the Matlab syntax, while there is a much better alternative for doing exactly the same thing. Python is universal

      Er, sure matlab syntax sucks, but has any syntax inspired more flamewars than python's?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by mangu (126918)

        has any syntax inspired more flamewars than python's?

        I suppose you mean the spaces vs. tabs thing, maybe you're right, but no one can deny that Python has an extremely simple syntax.

        You can do anything with it, from HTML parsing [crummy.com] to a game physics engine [sourceforge.net] to 3d graphics [sourceforge.net] to Excel spreadsheets [markcarter.me.uk] to... you name it.

        Even if Python isn't quite enough for your needs, you can very easily link it with C language [swig.org] or Fortran [scipy.org] modules in a trivial way.

        If I have an alternative that is, at the same time, simpler and more powe

        • Ah, but can it give me a larger penis and a rolex? Not that I need either, but I certainly wouldn't turn down the chance to get them.
          • by temcat (873475)
            Well, if you don't buy Matlab and its toolboxes, you'll have plenty of money left for penis enlargement and Rolex purchase.
        • by CaptainPinko (753849) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @09:45PM (#21794544)

          I suppose you mean the spaces vs. tabs thing, maybe you're right, but no one can deny that Python has an extremely simple syntax. You can do anything with it, from HTML parsing to a game physics engine to 3d graphics to Excel spreadsheets to... you name it.
          You've also just described Lisp/Scheme (i.e. simple syntax and (a) languages(s) you can do anything with))... but switching to their syntax would be quite contentious. If you are gonna argue for a syntax switch you are going to have to have better points than that, especially when the default is (near-)compatibility with a popular product with a large codebase out there.
    • by femtoguy (751223)
      Two reasons.
      1. I know how to code in Matlab. I have spent the last 13 years writing matlab code, and it works well. It is especially good at writing vectorized code without having to think about it too much.

      2. I have a lot of working, tested code that I don't want to have to re-write. Much of it is special-purpose stuff, and I don't want to have to re-write it and then test it to make sure that it gives the correct answers.

      3. Sometimes languages that are good for one thing are not good for another. Mos
      • by Verte (1053342)

        Two reasons.

        Fencepost error? :)

        I have spent the last 13 years writing matlab code

        There are a lot of people like you, and of course that is the point. I avoid matlab where I can, but considering the sheer number of lines of matlab code used in industry, you can't be rid of it completely. Besides, if your office is using matlab, you usually have little choice besides Octave and Matplotlib.

        It is especially good at writing vectorized code without having to think about it too much.

        Well, that's a good point. Python as a language does not have any inherent problem that prevents it from doing those sorts of optimisations in the background, but none of the curren

      • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
        ``Ironically, the lack of pointers, something that computer scientists think is terrible, is actually one of its strengths.''

        Err...well, maybe. I don't know the opinion of _all_ computer scientists, but I am one, and I think pointers are terrible. I mean, on a low level, you need them, but you really shouldn't be writing application code on such a low level. In a well-designed language, the only power pointers would add that you don't get without them is the power to access memory in ways you shouldn't be a
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by gbarta (139877)
          The comment about lack of pointers in FORTRAN made by the grandparent doesn't mean what you think it does. It refers to indirect access to values and goes for references just as well as pointers. It has nothing to do with garbage collection and little to do with pointer arithmetic. The statement that "computer scientists find the lack of pointers terrible" is likely to refer to the algorithmic benefits of indirection, not a desire to shoot themselves in the foot with pointer arithmetic or the like.

          The re
    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @08:32PM (#21794138)
      Matlab syntax is weird, but sometimes you are forced to work with other people who may be using Matlab. Python is not universal, 95% of the world's computers (that is to say, the ones running the most popular desktop OS) still do not ship with a Python interpreter, and many engineers are using Windows systems with Matlab and neither Python nor PERL environments.

      Like Windows, Matlab has become too popular for everyone to just drop and move on to some other platform. Python may be great, maybe even for scientific computing, but Matlab is just what people are used to. It is good that Octave exists as a free software clone of Matlab -- a great way to show people (my fellow engineers included) that it is entirely possible to live without proprietary software, and a great way to bring non-programmers into the free software movement.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mangu (126918)

        95% of the world's computers (that is to say, the ones running the most popular desktop OS) still do not ship with a Python interpreter

        Then I have great news for you, there's single package [enthought.com] that you can download for free and it will install everything you need to develop scientific programs in Python in a Microsoft computer.

        Even if you have years of experience in Matlab, try it, you have nothing to lose. Wherever possible, they made the function calls the same as Matlab's [sourceforge.net].

      • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
        ``Python is not universal, 95% of the world's computers (that is to say, the ones running the most popular desktop OS) still do not ship with a Python interpreter, and many engineers are using Windows systems with Matlab and neither Python nor PERL environments.''

        That's a weird line of reasoning. Python is "not universal" because "95% of the worlds [desktop] computers ... do not ship with a Python interpreter. And this is somehow an argument for using Matlab syntax...even though _100%_ of desktop computers
    • by samkass (174571) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @09:20PM (#21794382) Homepage Journal
      The good news is that they are doing in a free way what the Matlab Co. has been charging (a lot!) for

      But taking their time at it. Don't get me wrong-- I'm glad open source exists. But this project kind of supports the idea that open source can't really innovate, only follow (sometimes far) behind what proprietary companies invent. It would have been really interesting to see what some of the open source folks could do if their goal was to surpass MATLAB instead of be an almost-free version that's almost as good as something that people almost like to use.
      • by JanneM (7445)
        So go take a look at SciLab or other projects whose explicit goal is not compatibility with an existing closed system. Octave can by its very nature not innovate beyond what is possible within the restraints of compatibility (and for some inexplicable reason can't seem to drop gnuplot either, despite it being the cause of most of the remaining compatibility problems).
      • by Dr. Tom (23206)
        Octave actually fixes a lot of the brain damage in Matlab. If you (like me) are forced to work with old matlab codes, then it's actually nice to be able to write in a "cleaner" syntax. Not to mention that it works on my laptop at home for free.
      • Re:Good and bad news (Score:4, Interesting)

        by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @01:55AM (#21795862) Homepage Journal
        ``But this project kind of supports the idea that open source can't really innovate, only follow (sometimes far) behind what proprietary companies invent.''

        I don't know how _one_ open source project copying a proprietary project is supposed to support the idea that open source as a whole can't really innovate. Reasoning that way is completely bogus.

        ``It would have been really interesting to see what some of the open source folks could do if their goal was to surpass MATLAB instead of be an almost-free version that's almost as good as something that people almost like to use.''

        I agree with you, and a lot of open source development does exactly that. Or implements things that there is no proprietary software for. But Octave, like a lot of other GNU software, has a different goal, apparently: allowing users to take their MATLAB code and run it using only Free software. That's a worthwhile goal, too. Although it's not something I'm personally interested in - and, apparently, not something many people are interested in at all, or progress would be quicker (either in Octave or in a sister project fueled by developers who resent Octave's slow progress).
      • by insignificant1 (872511) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @04:00AM (#21796350)
        Wow. The leagues of uninformed.

        You think there are two things here, Matlab and Octave. Matlab is proprietary, and Octave followed it. It's as simple as that to you.

        But wait, where does much of the meat in Matlab come from? Netlib. OPEN SOURCE! HAHAHAHA (Some of the Netlib code has license restrictions, some does not.)

        http://www.netlib.org/ [netlib.org]

        What does Matlab use for optimized BLAS routines to run super-quick on your Windows/Linux/Mac? ATLAS. Check out the Sourceforge page:

        http://math-atlas.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

        The really important thing for me is that now that Octave is out there (actually, Octave has been around since about 1994), the explorations that I made in undergrad in Matlab can be done entirely in Octave now and forever. A good tool doesn't get worse as it gets old, it just gets used more.

        If there was once a patent on hammers, there is no less usefulness in (but much lower prices on) hammers after the patent expires. Now we get much of Matlab's functionality completely free. Congratulations John Eaton, et al., for giving all who follow another tool to use freely to build bigger and better tools.

        And as others have mentioned, if you don't like Matlab/Octave, use another tool that tried to accomplish the task of a high-level numerical tool in a different way. To me, however, I can code up an algorithm, test out concepts, and produce incredibly helpful visualizations in a matter of minutes using Matlab or Octave. Any tool this powerful has a learning curve to get over before it is so efficient, and I climbed that learning curve with Matlab, but I was able to use Octave immediately because I had already gone through that process using Matlab.

        If you made a completely innovative new tool, it likely wouldn't be worth it for me to use for a while because I am so fast at coding Matlab/Octave, and the whole point in these tools is to make the programmer's job easy (if I wanted fast code execution, C or Fortran could be used).
    • by timeOday (582209)

      Python [python.org] is universal, if there's anything you can do with a computer, the simplest way to do it is with Python, so why do it the hard way?
      The whole point of special-purpose languages like matlab is to make it easier to write certain kinds of programs. Is Python really better than Matlab for matrix manipulation?
      • by Verte (1053342)
        The short answer is yes.

        Python does not get the benefit of syntactical sugar purely for the purposes of matrix manipulation- for example, matrix multiplication in scipy/numpy is a = matrixmultiply(b,c). However, Python is far more powerful (especially with libraries such as scipy) and simple to use in general, and in any real world application it makes a big difference. Python is the sort of language you don't actually have to think about- you think about the problem rather than how to solve it using the pa
        • Well, that's a no then.

          Anybody who proposes a = matrixmultiply(b,c) for an interactive numerics package simply has no clue about numerics. There's a reason why real mathematics writes that expression as A=BC, it's so that the notation gets out of the way as much as possible. This is vital when you get to do _real_ computations instead of toy examples.

          Your python notation will fail miserably when it's time to write down an expression such as AB^{-1}Cu + DEFQF^{-1}v, which might be a matrix component of s

          • by Beetle B. (516615)

            Well, that's a no then.
            Actually, it's a yes [scipy.org]. Just specify your variable to be a matrix, and you can use your nice A*B syntax.
        • The short answer is yes.

          You spelled 'no' wrong. The parent of your comment had exactly the right point. Python may be great as a general scripting language, but for specifically math/statistical applications, Matlab is wonderful. You say that "Python is the sort of language you don't actually have to think about- you think about the problem rather than how to solve it", but that's exactly true for Matlab. Matlab syntax is completely intuitive, provided you bother to learn the syntax. I've known plen
          • by Beetle B. (516615)

            Matlab syntax is completely intuitive, provided you bother to learn the syntax. I've known plenty of people who came to Matlab, hated it, but then after a couple months started to love it.
            I came from the MATLAB world, and learned Python, and then NumPy/SciPy.

            The original poster is correct. Python/NumPy syntax is more natural than MATLAB's. Much more so.
          • by shura57 (727404) *

            Python may be great as a general scripting language

            Scripting has nothing to do with it. Python is a great language. True, it is not compiled, but then neither is MATLAB. I tried both for quite a while. In my opinion, Python beats MATLAB hands down. It is equivalent or better in purely numerical computations, and is actually sane for other programming as well.

    • by r00t (33219) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @09:54PM (#21794588) Journal
      Python is about equally bad as far as syntax goes. Python behavior also presents difficult obstacles to optimization; the Matlab system apparantly does not (one can convert to C).

      The LISP guy has a point, though that syntax is even uglier. (like being in a sensory deprivation tank)

      If you really do want to crunch numbers, you don't screw around with any of the above. You use FORTRAN. Maybe that isn't cool, trendy, hot, exciting, whatever... but it works damn well. Assuming your idea of the C language doesn't include heavy use of the "restrict" keyword, FORTRAN optimizes even better than C. FORTRAN has a genuine international standard; it won't suddenly change because Guido gets a random urge. For number crunching, the world is full of FORTRAN code. Really, you can't do better.
      • by Beetle B. (516615)

        Python behavior also presents difficult obstacles to optimization
        .

        It's quite easy to write the bottleneck in C/FORTRAN and incorporate that into a Python module.
      • by piojo (995934)

        The LISP guy has a point, though that syntax is even uglier. (like being in a sensory deprivation tank)
        Thank you, that was beautifully put. I have never been able to concisely describe why I hate scheme, but I think I'll be able to, now.
      • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @03:00AM (#21796132) Homepage Journal
        ``The LISP guy has a point, though that syntax is even uglier.''

        That's an old argument, but for the sake of people who haven't heard it before, I will enter the debate again.

        Lisp syntax is actually very beautiful for describing tree structures. And tree structures are very useful. For example, web pages have tree structures. And many types of relational data. And with the addition of references, trees can be used to describe graphs, and thus, all data and all relations. Oh! And lest I forget, computer programs!

        Now, why would you want to describe your program like a tree? Why would you want _everything_ to start with an open paren, then have a bunch of child nodes (which could be simple words or numbers, or could also start with an open paren, etc.), and finish with a closing paren? What is the advantage of this over having a bunch of curly braces, commas, semicolons, and infix operators thrown in for variety?

        Well, the advantage of Lisp syntax is that it is extremely regular. And this is good for analysis and transformations. And _that_ is what Lisp is all about.

        In most languages, you write your program in some complex surface syntax, which is then run through a complicated parser. The parser converts it into a tree (hey...wasn't there something about trees before?), and the compiler then performs all kinds of transformations on that tree. Transformations that are relatively easy to describe on trees, but not so much on the surface syntax of the programming language - that's why you generate the parse tree. Of course, this all happens behind the scenes. But not so in Lisp. In Lisp, your program already _is_ a tree the way you wrote it down. A convenient format for performing (and understanding!) transformations to be performed on the source code. And this is something Lisp programmers do all the time, and something that is rarely seen outside Lisp.

        I believe this is largely due to the difficulty of describing and understanding program transformations in other languages. Lisp has a very simple macro system; a macro takes a tree you wrote, and runs some Lisp code, and eventually returns a new tree. And then it is as if you had written that new tree instead of the old one. So, where in Java you will see code like...

        x.setFoo(y.getFoo());
        x.setBar(y.getBar());
        x.setBaz(y.getBaz()); ...in Lisp you will see something like...

        (copy-fields x y foo bar baz) ...which will be transformed into the code that actually does the copying. And where in Java you will see...

        FileInputStream stream = new FileInputStream("filename");
        try { // Do something with stream
        } finally { // Make sure stream is closed, even if an exception was thrown
            stream.close();
        } ...in Lisp you will see...

        (with-open-file (stream "filename")
            ; Do something with stream
            ) ...which is a macro that expands into the appropriate code.

        As it happens, the macro in the second example happens to be part of Common Lisp's standard library and the one in the first example doesn't. Of course, it can easily be written. What the macros have in common, however, is that they allow you to do the same things that the Java snippets do, but with less code, less repetition, and fewer weird characters. I don't know how you can not find that beautiful.
    • by rm999 (775449)
      SciPY already exists - we don't need two open source solutions for the same thing. Octave fills a huge niche for people who have matlab programs and want to run/modify them for free. Matlab syntax may be terrible, but it has been a standard in so many scientific and engineering fields for so long, you won't be able to replace it by wishing you could. Instead, we should just offer these people a reasonable alternative, and develop sciPY separately.
  • Help them (Score:3, Informative)

    by wikinerd (809585) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @08:04PM (#21793990) Journal
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 22, 2007 @08:10PM (#21794028)
    One of the reasons I haven't moved my students completely to Scilab or Octave is an excellent implementation of 802.11 in Matlab. It uses a bunch of toolkits and blocksets. I'm not even thinking of translating it.
    http://www.mathworks.com/matlabcentral/fileexchange/loadFile.do?objectId=3540&objectType=FILE [mathworks.com]

    I wonder how many other such applications there are.
  • 11 years? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @08:25PM (#21794108) Homepage
    It turns out that Octave is one of the lesser-known products of 3DRealms. Also, Duke Nukem Forever/Hurd will be out next quarter.
  • No way. MATLAB is notoriously slow with unvectorized loops. Actually, octave would be very useful even to MATLAB license payers if it's significantly faster with loops.

    • Matlab is short for MATrix LABoratory. There's a reason it sucks for loops and is slow. It's not what it was designed for. It'd probably be cheaper yet to hire an engineer that knew how to vectorize stuff.

      I was young and stupid once. I thought the Way was with for loops. Then I started to run into bad stuff. I ran profiler on a few of my scripts and found that loops suck.

      Say I have to find something with a hundred thousand or so data points. (We have .MAT files into the GBs).

      Say I need to find a certain con
      • Dang it, even though I had "Plain old text" it still is reading the < and >

        There are 2 ways to find times when RPM60 and clutch=on
        Slow:
        for i=1:length(speed)
        if rpm(i)<1200&&speed(i)>60&&clutch(i)==1
        coasting(j)=time(i)
        end

        OR the fast way
        coasting=time(rpm<1200&speed>60&clutch==1);

        Time savings enters the tens of seconds with large data sets.
    • Yes, that's why you vectorize your loops... it's what Matlab was made for. And if you can't (or don't want) to vectorize, your write a mex function and call it from within a matlab script (or the command line).
      • For heaven's sake, is it too much for you to read the symmary? It's not even like you have to click on a link.

        Quote:

        UI development is underway, but still no JIT compiling, which is a show-stopper for Octave newbies coming from MATLAB with unvectorized code

        MATLAB is notoriously slow at loops. So how is it a showstopper if octave is slow as wel? They both use C or FORTRAN for all the heavy lifting.

        "Yes, that's why you vectorize your loops" is not an answer because it MAKES NO SENSE given the question.

        And plea

        • For heaven's sake, is it too much for you to read the symmary? It's not even like you have to click on a link.

          No, it's not too much, I read the summary+TFA quite thoroughly. Is it too much for you to mentally parse responses to your comments before replying? My point was that if you code in Matlab correctly, you don't really need JIT. Hence it's absence should not be a showstopper for Octave.
  • by coryking (104614) * on Saturday December 22, 2007 @08:47PM (#21794216) Homepage Journal
    But it was under development the whole time.

    I know some people might disagree with me, but I'm beginning to think some open source projects would benefit from using a year for the public version number:

    Octave 2008 (3.0.x)
    Thunderbird 2006 (2.0.x)
    Firefox 2008 (3.0.x)

    FreeBSD 2006 (6.0)
    FreeBSD 2008 (7.0)

    PostgreSQL 2006 (8.1)
    PostgreSQL 2007 (8.2)
    PostgreSQL 2008 (8.3)

    While internally, the product could use the same version scheme it did before, I think many open source projects are far too anal about version numbers. The stubborn refusal to bump up the "big" version field doesn't help public image because if it never moves up people think the project is dead.

    The only version number that matters is the build number and repository version, the rest is marketing. Granted the year scheme isn't perfect in the early stages of a product when functionality is drastically changing every 3 months, but on mature products, I think we could all really benefit from number schemes that use the year the product was release.
    • by Aladrin (926209)
      Yeah, because so many non-OS products did well with that... Windows 95, Office... Wait.. Yeah, that was a fad. It went on to even more cryptic naming with letters and then full words so you -really- can't tell what order they came in after all.

      When you look at Octave 2.0 and 3.0, you -know- which one came out first. That's all that matters. The year means nothing at all, and even the numbers they -do- use are picked arbitrarily. There's no science, it's just what they feel like. For instance: "I fe
    • by JohnFluxx (413620) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @09:06PM (#21794312)
      For a lot of projects, the major number indicates binary compatibility.

      For example, in KDE 3, a KDE 3.0 app would run on the latest KDE 3.5.8 libraries, but not on KDE 4.

      The second number indicates new API. a program written for, say, KDE 3.5 might not work on KDE 3.4 if it uses any of the new functions.

      The third number is just minor patches and fixes, and shouldn't break anything.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by swillden (191260)

        The third number is just minor patches and fixes, and shouldn't break anything.

        To be very precise (at least for libraries that use this scheme):

        There is no compatibility across major number versions. Applications built against a library of one major version are not expected to run with libraries of any other major version. API changes of any sort are allowed. Interfaces may be changed, added or removed.

        There is forward compatibility across minor versions. An application built against library version x.y.z will run with any library with minor number y or greater. This means

  • by jpswensen (986851) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @09:34PM (#21794460)
    I have been using Octave heavily over the past few years (and done a little light development), and I can say for certain that development is accelerating. In the last few years, there have been several new large contributors. One of them has made significant improvements to getting the bleeding edge Octave running with all the bells and whistles and installers on Windows, another dedicated to putting out binaries for Macs. All the core distributions have fully optimized Octave packages available. Most of the handle graphics compatibility has been done in the last 12 months. I know there is a push by people who are not the core developers to make an IDE (some based on Eclipse, others on GtkSourceView/VTE, others on QT). There has been work to make the debugger better. I guess my point is that a lot of project like this can take time to develop critical mass and that I think Octave is well on its way. Just as an aside, I think the design and implementation of Octave is great. It is the first kindof big open source project that I have really been able to wrap my head around in terms of understanding the code base and where things are/how to hack on it.
    • The only thing I find Matlab useful other than it is the only thing my engineering students seem to want to bother to use is that it is a reasonably good Java scripting environment.

      You have to run javac from some other place (Eclipse, command line), but Matlab is a nifty substitute for the java command. You can construct Java objects from the Matlab command line or from inside M-file and function scripts, you can assign those objects to Matlab variables, you can invoke methods on that object using oname

  • cat gack (Score:3, Interesting)

    by epine (68316) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @09:35PM (#21794468)
    I was trying to preview my markup for this post, the preview function refused to work with a blank subject line, insulting me with "cat got your tongue?" so I'm posting under my working title.

    Math software shows up here fairly regularly. I keep taking notes, but never get around to using any. The R statistical package also gets frequent good mention, which I understand is accessible from within Sage.

    Where does Octave stand relative to Sage?
    • In short, Octave is part of Sage. Sage is a collection of math tools bound together in a single program.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mhansen444 (1200253)
      Octave does not come included with Sage, but Sage can make use of any installed version of Octave. There is a Sage spkg for Octave which can be installed by running the command "sage -i octave-2.1.73". With the new release of Octave, that spkg should be updated soon.

      For an interesting post by the lead developer of Sage (William Stein) on the relationship between Sage and Octave in terms of overall goals, see this http://sagemath.blogspot.com/2007/12/why-isnt-sage-just-part-of-octave.html [blogspot.com]

      --Mike (a Sa
  • Lack of JIT compilation is not a "show stopper"; MATLAB got along fine without it until fairly recently.
  • Compatibility (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dr. Tom (23206) <tomh@nih.gov> on Saturday December 22, 2007 @10:53PM (#21794906) Homepage
    The standard line is that Octave is as compatible with Matlab as Matlab is with itself. Every new release of Matlab breaks something. Porting your code to Octave is similar. But Octave fixes some of the brain damage in Matlab's horrible syntax, making it easier to write cleaner code. And they also fixed a lot of the weirdness surrounding the whole 'one function per file' thing. In Octave, you can not only write complex programs in a single file, you can make them executable scripts!
  • Last time I checked, Octave could only directly manipulate arrays with 2 dimensions at the most. A show stopper, unless you went into arrays of arrays but that got old very fast. Has it been improved ?
    And about the tech support from Matlab, yeah it sucks. I've had their DRM crash on boot for the last 6 months and they've done jack shit about it. Fortunately I didn't need Matlab no more so I just gave up on it, but still, the site license costs a few newborns. Way to go.
  • by agw (6387) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @05:28AM (#21796592)
    as it will take another 11 years for a Debian version to be released which then includes Ocatave 3.0.
  • by Realistic_Dragon (655151) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @07:22AM (#21796850) Homepage

    Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2002 11:14:42 -0400 Subject: Re: Case ID: ****** other

    This is in response to Case ID: ******

    Dear ******,

    Thank you for the additional information, unfortunately, MATLAB Student Version is only available for the Windows platform for our International customers.

    For more information about the Student Version please visit us online at: http://www.mathworks.com/products/studentversion/ [mathworks.com]

    Sincerely,

    /Removed/
  • SciPy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nguy (1207026)
    Octave is a great effort, and it is very useful for being able to be able to run Matlab code freely. However, most of the effort in open source numerical computing is happening with NumPy and SciPy (www.scipy.org). For most applications, SciPy is already far superior to even the commercial version of Matlab, and SciPy is the de-facto standard in several scientific communities. There are a few areas where Matlab still has toolboxes that have no good equivalent for SciPy yet, but that's going to get fixed.

    So
  • by edwinolson (116413) on Sunday December 23, 2007 @08:54AM (#21797134) Homepage
    I think that Matlab's biggest strength is how it easy it is to visualize and manipulate plots. Matlab plots can be easily tweaked, enough so that they can be used as figures in academic papers. In contrast, Octave's previous use of gnuplot always felt clunky-- it was hard to get it to do exactly what you wanted, and the results were often ugly.

    I will check out Octave 3's improved "graphics handle" support-- I hope it closes the gap. But for my own part, I care much less about language compatibility and more about making it really easy to visualize and explore your data.

    -Ed

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