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Re: How does Octave shine?

From: Alexander Barth
Subject: Re: How does Octave shine?
Date: Thu, 21 Sep 2006 16:40:14 -0400
User-agent: Thunderbird (X11/20060913)


Another advantage of octave over matlab is portability. In my group, we needed 
to run matlab code on
an Itanium 64-bit machine. However, this architecture is not supported by 
matlab. We succeeded to
run the 32-bit version of matlab but we were unable to compile some mex-files 
(gcc cannot create
32-bit binaries on Itanium unlike on AMD x86_64). With minor changes to the 
matlab scripts and after
writing equivalent mex-files for octave (by the way, this is the octcdf toolbox 
in octave-forge), we
were able to run our programs on the Itanium machine.

In general, mex files in matlab are a pain, especially for larger projects 
(unless you have exactly
the same version of gcc and external libraries used for compiling matlab). 
There is no such problem
with octave since octave is compiled with the system compiler and linked 
against the system libraries.

Currently, only Fortran 77 is supported in matlab but most new scientific 
Fortran applications are
written in Fortran 90/95. Some Linux distributions (if not most) use now a 
Fortran 90 compiler
(gfortran or g95) as the default Fortran compiler for octave. Therefore it is 
quite simple to call
Fortran 90 code from octave. And, yes, Fortran is still by far the most widely 
used programming
language in my field.

With octave, I am sure that the code that I write today can still be used in, 
say, 10 years. Not all
institution use matlab, some maybe use IDL or something else. It is not 
uncommon for scientists to
change institution and they are expected to bring their expertise (including 
code) to the new

And, as mentioned previously, open-source fosters scientific collaboration 
while the dependence on
proprietary software impedes it. A crucial characteristic of scientific results 
is the ability of
other to reproduce them. This aspect is partially lost in the case of 
proprietary software.

>From the technical side, I'm convinced that the new package manager will make 
>the distribution and
management of 3rd party software packages much more easier in octave than in 

But there are also areas where matlab has still the lead, in particular 
visualization and speed of
non-vectorized code.


Cameron Laird wrote:
> I'm helping put together a presentation on the potential of open-source
> software in engineering situations; I'd love one or two or three very
> pointed examples of work Matlab effectively can't do but Octave makes
> easy.  Although I've used Octave occasionally over the last year, I'm 
> not current or expert with it.  What shows Octave off to best 
> advantage for a Matlab-using audience?  Is it the ODE or nonlinear
> algebraic solver?  Variable-length argument- and result-passing?  Who's
> good at Octave advocacy?
> _______________________________________________
> Help-octave mailing list
> address@hidden


  Alexander Barth

  Ocean Circulation Group
  University of South Florida
  College of Marine Science
  140 Seventh Avenue South
  St. Petersburg, Florida  33701

  Phone: +1-727-553-3508     FAX:   +1-727-553-1189


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