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Re: [Axiom-developer] point-sets and help systems

From: Bob McElrath
Subject: Re: [Axiom-developer] point-sets and help systems
Date: Wed, 29 Jun 2005 13:33:35 -0700
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.6+20040523i

Page, Bill address@hidden wrote:
> > How can I find this out for myself, aside from poring through
> > the code/axiom book?
> >
> > For comparison, it took about 5 minutes to construct this
> > in maxima:
> >
> >    makelist(float([x*%pi/100,sin(x*%pi/100)]),x,0,200);
> What part of the maxima user interface contributed to making it
> possible for you to find the necessary information? 

'describe(makelist)'.  In particular, there is no equivalent in axiom to
answer the question "what does this function/class/domain *do*"?

However the user is presented with several opportunities which might
seem to lead to an answer by the right combination of )what op, )display
op, etc. that are totally opaque.

Can someone replace the default help page for the next release?
How about:

    There are no library operations named $input.

    For help start the hyperdoc browser with )hyperdoc, read the axiom
    book at /usr/share/axiom-doc/book.pdf or visit the mathaction wiki


    You have specified incorrect arguments to the function $input.
    Possible alternatives are:
        ... list ...

    For help start the hyperdoc browser with )hyperdoc, read the axiom
    book at /usr/share/axiom-doc/book.pdf or visit the mathaction wiki

Do not tell the user that )what op (etc) even exist, as they are not
helpful to new users.  Advanced users will find them.

> > After 3 hours I finally figured out how to do it in axiom. 
> > (I don't give up that easily...)
> >
> >    [[sin(i*%pi/100)$Float, i*%pi/100] for i in 1..200]
> You should get an "A" for that solution, but I'll give you an "B"
> (: You'll get the rest of your mark when you add a paragraph to
> the wiki site explaining how it works. See something near:

It's not a stream...I replaced AxiomGraphics instead.

However the code in chapter 7 of the axiom book also
fails...'makeGraphImage' fails with an odd error claiming that the
function doesn't exist!  When it is coerced to a GRIMAGE (why must
'makeGraphImage' be coerced to a 'GraphImage'?!?) it fails with "index
out of range".

Also I seem to have triggered some output parsing bug on mathaction too:

> from the Linux shell I do get hyperdoc right up front. You mean
> you also need a reminder from the Axiom command line?

Yes.  When I get an error I am given a hint as to how to fix it.  That
hint is totally useless except for experts.  I suspect there are 3 axiom
experts.  I suspect they're all on this list.  ;)

> I would be nice if typing
>   )help
> actually launched hyperdoc, instead of the other way around.

It does not seem possible to launch hyperdoc from the command line,
right?  I could not find how.

> > Would it be possible to hide all that and not present it to
> > the user as if it was a working help system?  The 3-hour wild
> > goose chase I just went on will deter 99% of users right off
> > the bat.
> I agree with this. In fact I think this is one reason why the
> AxiomUI project should have such a high priority. Hyperdoc is
> not available for the Windows users of Axiom - where a lot of
> these sort of questions are most like to be asked - and even
> on Linux the old hyperdoc browser (useful though it is!) looks
> old, unapproachable and basically just ugly by today's standards.


> One thing that I always wanted to do but never found time was
> to extract just the HTML-able and LaTeX-able parts of the hyperdoc
> pages and make them available as essential static pages on the
> Axiom web site.

I was under the impression Kai was going to attempt this as part of his
AxiomUI project?

I think the contents of input/ could be imported to the mathaction wiki
with trivial transformation.  e.g. wrap text in \begin{axiom} and make
-- a wiki paragraph.  This, at least, would provide a searchable
database of working examples.  (though they are poorly commented)  My
lisp is poor but I could do it in perl or python in an hour.

The relevant info seems to be in browse.daase.  Also the hypertex format
seems to be relatively simple.  It shouldn't be too much work to convert
it to a wiki format so that it can be dumped on mathaction.  (or into a
tiddlywiki ;)

Rather than lauching hyperdoc we could launch a web browser...

> BTW, when you were spending your 3 hours learning this lesson,
> did you happen to think of doing a search on MathAction?

Of course, but there are multiple resources:
    pamphlet documentation
    axiom book
which I tried in that order.  For a self-described "literate" system,
finding the answers to my questions in the first 2 resources (e.g. the
"literate" part) is woefully difficult.  We've got to fix that.

Bob McElrath [Univ. of California at Davis, Department of Physics]

    "One of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen
    these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding
    fathers used in the great struggle for independence." --Charles A. Beard

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