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[Axiom-developer] Re: [Axiom-mail] Axiom v. Maxima

From: Zach
Subject: [Axiom-developer] Re: [Axiom-mail] Axiom v. Maxima
Date: Fri, 16 May 2008 11:58:44 -0600

None of this is meant in a negative way, I just want to add my experiences as a Maxima user coming to Axiom.

So, I am extremely new to Axiom, in fact I pretty much don't know how to do anything I want with the system, even after reading the introductory materials.  But I just want to say that Alasdair has some good points from my point of view.

When I was searching for a free CAS I found Maxima first (around 6 years ago?) and stuck to it.  I was not aware of the existence of Sage and Axiom until 6ish months ago.  This is odd considering as far as I can tell, Axiom's plan for the future might be the best among the options.  Granted, I am from an engineering background, not mathematics.

>   3. Maxima seems streets ahead in its involvement with the mathematical
>   community.  Currently there are at least two major book writing projects
>   using Maxima: "Maxima by Example" on and
>   another on  There
>   are lots of other tutorials and documents (including one by me!) on the
>   Maxima page.  But where are the user-written Axiom books and introduction
>   documents?  The biggest one - in fact the only one available from the Axiom
>   page - seems to be Martin Dunstan's tutorial from 1996!

This is really big, but perhaps not for the reasons one might think.  I have read some of Prof. Woollett's chapters and they leave something to be desired for anyone not brand spanking new to the system.  In fact, for any advanced usage information, nothing seems to replace the mailing list which is perhaps 10 times as active as axiom-developer and axiom-math put together.  What this does show is that Maxima has a user base that cares about it.  Archaic languages such as C survive because they have a large user base, which creates more development/ease of use/portability/efficiency, which draws more people to the language.  The fact that more people seem (are?) interested in Maxima makes it seem that the project is healthier than Axiom.

Perhaps some public relations work would help?

>   5. The various forks: Axiom, FriCAS, OpenAxiom, also must make it hard
>   for the new user - which one to choose, and why?  The many many
>   distributions of Linux make choosing one awfully hard for the beginner -
>   even I, who've been using Linux exclusively for over 15 years, get confused
>   on the rare occasions I have to install a new system.  Axiom has the same
>   problem.

Once again, this seems to point to an overall relative unhealthiness in Axiom as compared to Maxima.  When projects fork, it necessarily applies stress to the users (and I assume developers).  But more importantly, it makes the choice more complicated for new users.  As a newcomer, it looks like rats leaving a sinking ship, but should you trust a rats assessment of the ships status?  As sad as it may be, people, in my experience, do not like choices.  Tell me, is there any bad blood behind the forks?

> Future releases will have a primitive Firefox front end to Axiom,
similar in spirit (but not design) to the MMA, Maple, and Sage  notebooks.
> I'm working on various tools in _javascript_ but they are not ready for
> release yet. I'm also in design discussions with a graphics designer
> to try to maximize the user viewpoint. This will take a few release
> cycles to fully emerge.

Tim, please tell me that Firefox will not be the only way to interface with Axiom.  It will still be possible to write an Emacs mode for it, something like IMaxima?  Also, why only Firefox, why not any browser?


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