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[Axiom-developer] Re: axiom for windows

From: root
Subject: [Axiom-developer] Re: axiom for windows
Date: Fri, 7 Jan 2005 13:50:55 -0500


The axiom version that exists on windows is still in alpha form and
is somewhat behind the linux version. Some of your difficulties are
due to this and some are just things we need to fix and document.
In particular,

> I have had some difficulties with getting the program working properly, 
> which may or may not be attributable to me. Here are some issues that I 
> encountered. Some reflect my own stupidity, but I think in general the 
> information on Open Source software tends to be written with a certain 
> user in mind - who is very much not typical of people who use windows as 
> their exclusive OS.

We're trying to address this issue with documentation. We have split
the book up into 4 volumes (tutorial, programming, reference, developer)
in order to focus the information for the target audience. The new book
volumes are still in development and should address this issue.

Once we get the documentation stable we can publish it. We have found
a "print on demand" website ( which will allow people to order
hard copies of the documentation so people do not have to work from the
online versions. Of course, the online versions will still be there.

We're also experimenting with "installer" programs. I'm not sure when
you got the windows version but there have been a couple iterations
at improving the installer scripts so they work smoothly. Any feedback
you have is most helpful.

> To begin:
> I downloaded the current windows version of axiom. The one clearly 
> highlighted as "recommended." Although TexMacs is mentioned 
> prominently,  nowhere does it state that TexMacs is a separate program 
> that the user must download independently of axiom.  Why not come out 
> and say it, instead of assuming the user will infer that from the 
> discussion or be sufficiently knowledgeable of the open source world to 
> understand how the pieces interact with each other?

Ah, well, that's actually been a point of discussion. I'm in favor of
packaging TeXmacs with the install script but the developers are not
all of the same mindset about this. I've forwarded this comment to 
the developers list and we'll address it with documentation and
possibly combining TeXmacs into the install.

> Ok - so now I realize I have to get texMacs. Not a big deal. Being 
> intimidated by the installation process for cygwin, I opted for the beta 
> version of the native windows release. It seems pretty nice, so I want 
> to get started using axiom. I open the tutorial in the axiom package ( 
> hard to read on screen using acrobat reader) which tells me that to open 
> an Axiom session you click on the "Text" menu in TexMacs, and then 
> Session - Axiom.  This is an error. It should be the "Insert" menu. It 
> is a little discouraging when you have trouble  getting started.

This is just a mistake which we'll correct. I understand that it is
discouraging to have trouble getting started but it's very hard to
know where the tripwires are for new users. I'm nearly blind to these
kind of things because I'm too involved in the process to see them.

> I tried some of the CAS stuff, and it worked nicely - lovely looking 
> output. I'm not sure the strong typing is something that beginning 
> students can handle, but that is an educational issue.                
Yes, it's certainly a difference between axiom and the other systems
like maple and mathematica. Axiom is much more tailored to the 
computational mathematician. Maple and Mathematica are "engineering"
systems. The downside is that Axiom's type system does make learning
the system harder. The upside is that Axiom is better both in terms
of its mathematical structure and its programming structure. In the
long term Axiom is where all of these system need to go.

In terms of student use Gilbert has defined a project to simplify
the use of Axiom considerably (the so-called "zero learning curve"
interface) which we are just beginning to work on. It is in the
axiom--zlc--1 branch and is nowhere near ready to use. Myself and
two graduate students in CAISS are working on it.
>                                                        Continuing with 
> the tutorial, I wanted to use the Axiom browser. The tutorial says to 
> click on the button in texmacs that says "Axiom Browser", but there 
> isn't any such button, nor any item in any menu that seems to address 
> that option. Maybe the beta verison of texmacs for windows is deficient 
> - any clues?
> I then tried to do some simple graphics. I had to look in the Axiom book 
> to find the basic commands. The tutorial only discussed graphics in the 
> context of plotting solutions of ODEs. I think it could use a brief 
> chapter on elementary graphics. The Axiom book was fine in that regard. 
> So I tried
> draw(x^2, x=-2..2) and draw(sin(x), x=0..6), but after compiling the 
> expressions, and reporting that the data was being sent to the viewport 
> manager, both the texmacs interface and the native axiom command window 
> reported the following error messages:
> system error: SOCK-SEND-INT is invalid as a function
> protected-symbol- warn called with <NIL>
> Can you clarify what's going on and if possible put me back on the road 
> to wisdom?. BTW I am using Win-XP, professional, if that is of any 
> importance.

I can clarify what's going on but it isn't on the path to wisdom :-)

The windows branch does not yet have the graphics or the browser ported.
Currently that code uses X11. We're looking at numerous ways to get that
code running in a more portable manner but it hasn't happened yet.

The February 2005 release of Axiom on Linux will have the full graphics
and browser (which just came to life over christmas vacation) available.

Gilbert is looking to develop a linear algebra course that uses the
browser technology with axiom as an experiment. That is also "in
process" and not yet ready to show.


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