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Re: [Axiom-developer] Re: AMS Notices: Open Source Mathematical Software

From: root
Subject: Re: [Axiom-developer] Re: AMS Notices: Open Source Mathematical Software
Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2007 18:21:49 -0500

> True, you can't.    But honestly I really don't see the 4M's as the
> enemy.  

"Enemy" is used in the metaphorical sense. You have chosen these
systems to be "the competition", thus, the "enemy" in the
metaphor. That does not imply that the (n)Ms are evil in any way.
I quite like the fact that they are keeping these useful ideas alive.

The point I was trying to make is that what you choose as your strategy
defines everything. You've chosen the nMs as your "competition" and
that focus will shape your efforts. Unfortunately it appears to me
that your strategy cannot achieve the goals you set, only serving
to make the situation worse.

I've chosen to focus on building a "best of breed", fully literate,
proven system that can be easily extended with fully open literature
and conforms to a set of mathematically well-defined standards.
What the nMs actually do is of little interest. My goals are also
unachievable but I still find them of interest.

Either choice is fine. We're clearly not competing and I'll do 
everything I can to help Sage along. In fact, I'd really like it
if Sage tried to become literate.

>No they don't.  Sage is GPL'd.  Any improvements or changes they make
>to Sage must be given back.

They won't improve Sage, they will use Sage as a sales tool to find
people who might be interested in computational mathematics.

Sage is an excellent idea and may become the lingua-franca of CAS
systems. But vital sections of its capabilities will still be black
box since they are commercial. Your strategy is useful but won't ever
succeed in gaining on the competition since every "sale" you make
becomes another "prospect" for the nMs.

In fact, come to think of it, this might make a useful argument to
try to get corporate funding :-) "We're your best sales tool!"

>Whether or not a system can compete is determined by what actual real
>people really want and can afford when teaching or doing research.

Actually not. From my experience the nMs offer site licenses at 
Universities (and, I believe "all of France" in some cases). The 
"cost" is overhead (your 55%) and has nothing to do with what you
can afford. I'd bet you have MMA and/or Maple and you didn't spend
project funds on either one. The NSF, INRIA, and others cover it.
These are the same people who won't fund Axiom because "it competes
with commercial software". Which shows that they don't understand
that Axiom is NOT trying to compete; and that funding competition
to commercial software implies funding BOTH sides of the effort.

>It's not at all clear to me that actual research mathematicians, teachers
>and engineers  want what you're describing above more than the
>other options they will have available.  In fact, I think it highly unlikely.

In the long term (think next century) does it benefit computational
mathematics if the fundamental algorithms are "black box"? It may
benefit teachers, engineers, and other professionals. But does it
benefit the computational science? How much damage will be done to
progress in the field as each "fundamental" commercial system
eventually dies on the corporate deathbed? Suppose someone creates a
closed, commercial, really fast Groebner basis algorithm, does not
publish the details, and then the code dies. It can happen. Macsyma
had some of the best algorithms and they are lost.

Way back in history there are stories of people who found algorithms
(can't remember any names now) but they didn't publish them. In order
to prove they had found one you sent them your problem and they sent
you a solution. How far would mathematics have developed if this 
practice still existed today? Well, I ask how far computational
mathematics will develop if we continue the same practice. Define
the practice as outside your interest and ignore those who do it.

Anyway, this is all "angels on pinheads" debate. 

The chances of funding Axiom are exactly equal to the chances of me
winning the lottery. I play the numbers 3 14 15 92 65 35 religiously :-)

I did appreciate your publication though. Hopefully someone will read
it and show up with funding for Sage.


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