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Re: [Axiom-developer] New blood in Axiom (was: Community)

From: Martin Rubey
Subject: Re: [Axiom-developer] New blood in Axiom (was: Community)
Date: 20 May 2007 09:03:39 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.09 (Gnus v5.9.0) Emacs/21.4

Dear Alasdair,

"Alasdair McAndrew" <address@hidden> writes:

> 1)  Axiom gives the impression of being more difficult and abstruse than
> other systems; the moment you get started you are inundated with information
> about categories, domains and operations.  This has enormous strength, but
> nonetheless makes Axiom appear bewilderingly complicated.

As you noticed, Axiom contains many many more algorithms and concepts than
Maxima.  Not sure, but I guess that in Maxima skew polynomial rings are just
not there.  And very likely, it is difficult to consider matrices of symmetric
functions.  If you implement all these things in Maxima, things will become
quite complicated, I'm sure.

> 2)  The online documentation is very poor.  HyperDoc (which is itself
> incomplete) under unix, and some confusing system commands such as ")d op
> differentiate", ")wh th int" which produce output meaningless to the
> beginning user.  There are the books, but they are no substitute for good
> online help.

> 3)  There is not much in the way of a decent user interface.  I think
> TeXmacs and console is about it?  And HyperDoc isn't obtainable from
> TeXmacs.

I agree about )d op differentiate, but I disagree about )wh th int.  In any
case, I'd advice you to use HyperDoc (from wh-sandbox), and forget about )di op
and )wh th.  

Do you think you could fix TeXmacs to fire up HyperDoc?  The only thing that
needs to be changed is the call to "AXIOMsys" (Bill said that TeXmacs calls
AXIOMsys rather than axiom) Maybe it's sufficient to replace "AXIOMsys" with
"axiom".  A colleague said a few days ago that he believes that TeXmacs is by
far superiour to the native interface of Mathematica or Maple.  I cannot judge
this, but it might be a hint that one could tweak this or that.

Very unfortunately there is some disagreement about HyperDoc in the axiom
community.  I believe it's great, once you are used to it, especially after
Waldek fixed most of it's bugs.  Apart from that, I implemented a rudimentary
replacement, but I didn't get any feedback yet from the Windows folks, whether
my approach works.  If you are on Windows, maybe you could try it?

> 4)  It doesn't seem to be particularly cross-platform.

That's quite true.  It's a shame that graphics and HyperDoc doesn't work on
windows.  Help is needed here.  The algebra runs on all major platforms now, I
think.  (i.e., Linux, Mac, Solaris, Windows)

> 5) There seems to be some lack of cohesion amongst the Axiom developers as to
> the direction in which Axiom should go.

I think there are two and a half streams:

+ Improvement of the Axiom system per se, i.e., excluding the algebra.  Gaby,
  Tim and Waldek do a great job there, in my opinion.  Axiom is much larger
  than Maxima, I guess that's the main reason that things develop slowly.

+ Improvement of the Algebra.  Apart from Ralf (species project), Waldek, Greg,
  William Sit, and many other's I may have forgotten (sorry!) that's mainly my

- Improvement of the Documentation and the Documentation tools.  This
  intertwines with the other two efforts.  I'd count Alfredo, Bill and Cliff

> I must admit that my main interest is in mathematics education, in which I
> think a GPL CAS has enormous potential.  But at the moment I think Maxima is
> ahead of Axiom on all the points I have mentioned.

Yes.  But as soon as you want to do something more complicated (like
combinatorial species or symmetric functions for example), you are out of luck
with Maxima (or Maple, Mathematica).

Finally, note that I was somewhat active in the Maxima project before I
switched to Axiom.  At that time I had the impression that the project was
badly organized, unfocused and followes - in my opinion - silly ideas, like
rendering output in postscript.

It takes a few years to develop a good community.  I hope that Axiom will soon

And, as I said before, I highly appreciate you and all the others being around.
It's only us that can help ourselves to become "focused".


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