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Re: Problems with QtOctave

From: pathematica
Subject: Re: Problems with QtOctave
Date: Thu, 2 Sep 2010 15:49:47 -0700 (PDT)

Please excuse another long post. I wish to offer some thoughts as a user of
Octave working in a non-IT and non-mathematical environment. 

The discussion prompted by the question about the choice of editor has been

The arguments in favour of using Emacs and Vim rather than mimics of word
processors are undeniable. 

As noted by others, the knowledge of eigenvalues and their value implies an
ability to code at a prompt in a terminal. I am sure that I could learn how
to use Emacs or Vim (it would seem sensible to make a choice of one of them
and learn that well). It is an aspiration that is unlikely to materialize.

The problem comes down to experience and available time. How does someone
know their name? Because it is used often and rehearsal leads to
familiarity. I work in a field in which I have no choice but to use
proprietary word processors (and other proprietary software) to support what
I do. I have learned mathematics in my own time (through the Open
University) and I want to use it to improve certain aspects of the field in
which I operate, which (even though it is nominally based on scientific
principles and is allegedly evidence based) is largely populated by well
educated people with surprisingly little insight into the most basic of
mathematical models. 

I know that I could learn to use Emacs or Vim. I have limited time to code
(squeezed into gaps between other commitments in a busy job that consumes
much more time than the 40 hour week). I know what I want to code to
illustrate certain principles to my colleagues. I consider that I can do
this most efficiently by picking up a text editor that behaves in a way that
responds to the instincts forced upon me (not through choice) by the
routines of my "day job". All the while I feel saddened that I do not have
the time to become proficient in one of the powerful development editors
(or, rather, it would not seem an efficient use of my time to do this).
However, without (time available for) rehearsal, every precious coding
session would include a period remembering infrequently used escape
sequences. At least I live in the world of GNU Linux and Octave in my own
time. I can see how much better things are compared with the proprietary
world I am forced to endure at work. It saddens me but I have no choice. 

I think another problems lies with various Higher Educational
establishments. I wish the Open University would use open source tools. When
I took my degree (quite recently) the various maths and statistics courses
used Mathcad (the main tool - old versions were circulated, presumably to
make it cheaper) and, on some modules, student versions of minitab, SPSS and
Genstat. WinBUGS was used on one course so maybe there is some hope. Written
work was expected from a word processor (rather than eg LaTeX) even in
mathematics. The use of "MathType" was encouraged for equation setting,
which is very frustrating. 

I suspect that, at least for the present, the best use of my time would be
to learn the syntax of Octave (and other open source gems such as R) to
exploit the knowledge obtained using various proprietary products (for
example to find eigenvectors!). 

Anyway, thank you for Octave. I am entirely happy with the current available
front ends and anything that makes mathematical doodling "easier" would be
nothing more than a bonus.  Perhaps one day I will have the opportunity to
become proficient in Emacs or Vim. 

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