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Re: Octave popularity

From: Ian Searle
Subject: Re: Octave popularity
Date: Sat, 11 May 1996 09:41:18 -0700

address@hidden wrote:
> The current "Linux Journal" has an article about "rlab" another
> free Mat*ab implementation, that doesn't look half as good as Octave
> (IMHO). 

I'm glad that is only your humble opinion :-)

> I don't think it's a good thing to split the few freeware
> programmers in this field between, rlab, octave, and SciLab.  Without
> outside developer interest the project will burn out the
> orig. author. (jwe has done 99% of the work!) 

I don't agree. How the freeware programmer's split their time is outside
of anyone's control. I have been contacted at least several times over the
years about using Rlab in a commercial venture. I have even been warned
that certain parties were violating the GNU Copyleft (my team of laywers
was busy with other matters that week :-). Anyways, the point is that
these commercial ventures must compete in a commercial software world that
is certainly more flooded with competing programs than the freeware world.

Also, as freeware users, you should realize that nobody can make a lifetime
commitment to a software project. Personal factors (employment and family)
and factors outside of our control (OS and hardware evolution for example)
make it tough to guarentee anything. I am sure John is committed to providing
support and improvements for Octave for as long as he can, as am I for Rlab.
But, I suspect that in 10 years you will not want to use either anyways

> The Linux community,
> which seems to be the largest current consumer of free software, seems
> largely ignorant of Octave and heavily leaning toward the other two.
> The "Linux Journal" has mentioned rlab, and Scilab many times and
> don't know that they EVER mentioned Octave.  

I disagree again (this is getting to be a habit :-). If I had to venture a 
guess, I would say that Octave probably has more users than Rlab, but less 
than Scilab. Probably the most significant factor in usage levels of any of
these programs is Matlab compatibility. Both Scilab and Octave offer more
Matlab compatibility than Rlab (at least at first look).

> Also, it seems from the
> article that many rep. people (Univ. profs) are contributing
> "toolboxes" to rlab.  Those are toolboxes that could of been written
> for Octave.  Of course, since it's all GPL we could still "port"
> them. I personally, would like to see more users and developers use my
> favorite, Octave.  Therefore, I propose two things: (1) a new official
> version is released soon (it has so many nice features now and it's
> been so long!) (2) jwe and/or some us other people write an article
> for the "Linux Journal".  My impression is that they're always
> desperate for new material if you write it they'll put it in the next
> issue.  (Of course, anything anyones writes should be checked with
> jwe, first, to be polite. :)

I would like to see more toolboxes written for Rlab... I could look 
at each Octave mfile as something that wasn't written for Rlab, but that 
would be self defeating. Motivation and happiness are key factors that 
are often overlooked. I did not embark upon the Rlab project to write 
the dominant scientific high level language of the 20th century... I did
it for the education, and my own technical needs (this was in 1989/90).
The fact that others have benefited is great, but it was not my original
motivation. I expect the same is true with many other authors (I know a
few, so that helps), they start a project to fufill some personal need, and
it often grows into something else altogether.

I agree (first time :-), you ought to write an aritcle for the Linux Journal. 
However, they are not that desparate. They have a very competent editor, who 
will not take just any slop that comes along. I spent significantly more effort 
on the article than I thought I would. Far more than on technical paper I have 
ever written (I usually publish at least once a year at AIAA/SPIE/ASME

However, I don't think Rlab, Octave, and Scilab authors, or users should get
into any sort of competition. All are usefull tools, with their own niche. I
believe we can all co-exist, and even derive benefit from each other without
any unpleasantness. 

> What does everyone think?  Of course, no one but jwe can decide a release
> date, but it's just a suggestion.

Ian Searle

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