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RE: [Axiom-developer] A Canonical Axiom GUI

From: C Y
Subject: RE: [Axiom-developer] A Canonical Axiom GUI
Date: Sun, 10 Sep 2006 22:36:06 -0700 (PDT)

--- Bill Page <address@hidden> wrote:
> I do appreciate the sentiment in Kai's remark, which he indicates
> we should take as humour. But I am worried that some people who are
> potential contributors to this discussion might well perceive it
> as fact. If so, I think that is very unfortunate. Axiom is a very
> small project in terms of the number of active and vocal developers
> so it is easy to give the wrong impression. My opinions about Axiom
> development differ from other people on this list on a number of
> points and I don't feel shy about saying so. Is that setting an
> example or reinforcing the feeling that there is no more room for
> other opinions? :(

I doubt that is a problem.  If there is reluctance, it is probably
because many of the contributors here are skilled and senior
professionals at this game, and the newer arrivals don't feel qualified
to contradict them.  I myself should probably be less vocal in these
discussions until I have code to back up my ideas, as I am by no means
an expert.
> Perhaps we need to do more to make sure that people feel like there
> is room here for differing opinions and that we would really like to
> hear them.

It never hurts to assert that.

> While I would welcome anyone interesting in working on Axiom at the
> level of the Lisp code, I seriously doubt whether compatibility of
> Axiom with other open source Lisp libraries would make Axiom more
> "friendly" to such developers. Or did you have some specific
> libraries in mind that would have immediate application and mass
> appeal?

I doubt there are any that would have "mass appeal".  The most
immediately useful might be CFFI (for interfacing with numerical
libraries, for example.) There are a variety of somewhat longer term
possibilities - Femlisp, for example.
> About ANSI lisp and licensing Aldor as open source, I agree that
> indeed these are pressing problems - even "mission critical"
> problems! If we don't solve these soon, I have little hope for the
> immediate future of Axiom let alone the next 30 years.

I agree about the immediate future.  The long term is another matter,
but the amount of work required to get there will be higher without a
free Aldor.
> I am afraid that I have to agree with Kai. We should not be tempted
> to try to use Axiom as a fulcrum on which to lever renewed interest
> in Lisp. To do so would almost certainly crush Axiom. In contrast to
> the situation when most of Axiom was designed and implemented, there
> are many other programming languages available today that are capable
> of supporting Axiom and this is especially true when it comes to GUI
> development.

I expect it is a bit of a moot point if we are not going to have a
default GUI in the main Axiom tree.  Probably in the end there will be
many interfaces in many toolkits.  I take it there would be no
objection to the development of a Lisp based GUI as long as no move was
made to make it "the default"?
> > > Do you really want to recreate that effort for the sake
> > > of purity? I don't.
> > 
> > On September 8, 2006 12:24 PM C Y wrote:
> > 
> > Eventually, yes I do.  Existing work should be used as a guide,
> > but I think the eventual goal should be a plotting library so
> > good/robust/capable that it makes no sense to use anything else.
> No! This is open source and it's the 21st century. We should *never*
> be thinking about re-writing other people's code. We need to be able
> to collaborate with other projects and make direct use of other
> people's work whenever we can. This is a philosophy that is deeply
> embedded in the Sage project and I think it is largely responsible
> for why it has become a major new computer algebra project is less
> than two years - about the same amount of time we have been
> discussing this GUI issue... The sooner we understand this philosophy
> the more likely it is that we can save Axiom from the ghetto.

I agree we should make use of available resources in the short term,
which does mean reusing work.  The really long term (maybe even beyond
the 30 year horizon) is I suppose not especially useful to think about
at this time.

>>> What assumptions is GAP making that Axiom doesn't know about when
>>> it solves a problem, and are those assumptions ones that are
>>> compatible with the ones we would make?  Does a function name or
>>> even a property name mean the same thing between the two systems?
> In principle this sounds like a really hard problem and it has even
> given rise to a really big attempt at a general solution in the form
> of OpenMath, but Sage ignores almost all of this and is a successful
> demonstration that in practice this is not such a big problem.

I think it depends on what one wants to do.  In full formality of
proving a result, as I understand it, every last step has to hold up -
I just don't see how potential differences in environment assumptions
can be avoided as a major problem in such a case.  For most uses I
agree that it is not likely to come up, but I am still extremely
dubious that such an approach can scale cleanly to all of mathematics. 
One of Axiom's strengths and main attractions is that it may actually
have the potential to scale enormously and cleanly.  

> ??? GAP already provides some tools for proving algorithms written
> in GAP. Obviously the thing to do is to make use of these tools
> where they exist.

That's just it - I would eventually like to see Axiom reach the point
that any mathematics included in it is backed by proving the algorithms
formally, and be able to generate proofs for its results.  While some
projects might have some of this done, many (to my understanding) don't
go to that extreme.  That then means incorporating the ideas behind the
existing code into Axiom, and providing whatever is needed in the way
of proofs, research paper citations, theory discussions, what have you.

Anyway, I'm not yet qualified to be arguing for such a position,
really.  Kai and I are trying to put our heads together and come up
with something a little more useful to do than argue about GUI issues,
so I at least will turn this discussion back to the real experts :-).


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