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[Axiom-developer] Building on Axiom... funding Axiom...

From: root
Subject: [Axiom-developer] Building on Axiom... funding Axiom...
Date: Fri, 14 Oct 2005 00:46:17 -0400

(posted with permission)

Brian Kennedy wrote:

> Tim,
> On the Axiom Community wiki, you state:
> > Clearly I have no creative new ideas about how to get money. However 
> > if you take the "30 year view" of computer algebra it is clear that we 
> > need to build on the current systems rather than start from scratch. 
> > For one thing there is already 30 years of funding investment in Axiom 
> > which shows just how expensive it can be to develop a "real" system. 
> > For another it is clear that no-one is going to support another 30 
> > years of funding just to achieve the same level as Axiom has reached.
> How about the way the Mac OS X effort helped fund and develop the free 
> Darwin Unix kernel?

I'm not familiar with this effort.

> If you could find a commercial system that needed a CAS at its core, 
> AND was willing to fund development of a free CAS rather than 
> developing yet-another-CAS on its own nickel...  would the Axiom 
> development community be interested?

Actually I gave a little hint in that direction. KOffice has a 
math-based front end. The thought was that we could use it as
a generally available front end for axiom that would then be
distributed with KDE. Still a lot of work just to get this to go.

> On that note... what is the state of Axiom development?  How many 
> developers are working on it?  And are they working on it full time, or 
> just part time?  Is there any funding right now?  (Sorry, but I've just 
> started perusing the Axiom site... so, there's some basics that I 
> haven't uncovered yet.)

There are probably a dozen active developers although the actual 
number of registered developers is about 80 or so. People come and
go as time and interest allow.

> Let me introduce myself.  My company is currently developing a Product 
> Development system targeted at engineers.  It is not at all a CAS... 
> but at its core, it could leverage a subset of CAS functionality.  I 
> can develop what I need incrementally... not a problem... a small 
> subset will do for a while, and I can gradually build out the rest that 
> I need.  But I HATE re-inventing wheels!  And given Axiom has 30 years 
> of development on it, even if light development, it would be very nice 
> to start with that!  Long-term, I'm sure some of that other well-tested 
> functionality will come in quite handy.

If you're only looking for a small subset of a CAS I would point out
that there are about 80 that already exist.I put together a "Rosetta"
CD years ago that contained some of them. They are quite easy to find.
Most people who like the idea of writing a CAS end up making the seemingly
novel connection between operator overloading and polynomial arithmetic.
They end up with a project that takes about 6 months and generate a
library of polynomial manipulation code, freely distributed, that others
can use, which rarely happens. 

If you only want simple functionality you probably want to look at
what is already available that might suit your needs.

> Two big drawbacks to just building on the free Axiom code:
> 1) I'm sure there will be a huge learning curve in figuring out how to 
> best leverage / integrate Axiom into my system (I don't think there's a 
> nice .NET library for Axiom);
> 2) The additions that I make to Axiom will be hacks for my purpose, 
> rather than being made such that they can benefit all users of Axiom.
> In fact, it would probably be quicker and easier (for the first year or 
> so) for me to throw together the minimal subset I need in C# than to 
> try to understand how to get that subset implemented in Axiom and all 
> the other interfacing and so on.  Unless, perhaps, if I have some Axiom 
> experts helping me out.

You're free to use Axiom any way you like. We don't require that you
give code to the project although that's always welcome. Axiom has a
steep learning curve and there are hardly anyone that claims "expert"
status, including myself.

> While my system won't be a CAS, a subset of my users would benefit from 
> a CAS to help them develop the equations that they need to input into 
> my system.  Via MathML cut n' paste, they'll be able to use any of  the 
> "3M's" to do that.  But packaging up a free alternative for that could 
> open the door for a much more integral solution in the future... and 
> would bring more users to Axiom.

There has been some discussion of MathML and Axiom. When Axiom was a
commercial product the interface used to work. The library is still
there but has not been re-integrated. I don't have anything that will
display MathML so I haven't felt the need to raise the priority of
the task as I can't test the result.

> Anyway, before I fill your email box any further, I should ask:
> Would there be any interest from the Axiom developers in working with a 
> commercial software company to develop out some functionality to make 
> Axiom usable as a core to that commercial system (funded, of course)?
> If so, would there be any capacity to do so near-term?
> If not, when would there be capacity? what timeline should I have in 
> mind?

I can't answer for the community. For myself I'm busy with tasks that
are so very far behind the scenes that no-one will notice. We had a
student funded by Google for the summer to work on a user interface
and the idea of purpose-directed funding seems to have worked out well.
If you wanted to sponsor someone to work on MathML or any other 
well-defined task that could probably be arranged. We also have a
fund for specific tasks managed by a committee (of which I'm not a

> More specifically, is there interest in adding the following to Axiom:
> 1) Support for units (somewhat like Maple has)?
> 2) Support for content MathML, both in and out?
> 3) .NET interfaces to allow it to serve as the core of a .NET app?

Units are a very hot topic this month. See the mail archives for notes
from CY Student and William Sit.

MathML seems to have become another active interest. Bill Page and
Camm Maguire have recently discussed this (some time in the last few
days if memory serves).

So far no one has mentioned .NET

> If the community has no interest in those things, then it wouldn't be 
> much of a win to have a company funding the development of such things.
> Thanks for listening,
> Brian

So far the only funding Axiom has received is either donations or
Google funding.

I've copied the mailing list to see what other people think (this is,
after all, a community project).


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