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RE: [Axiom-developer] browser front end, statement of plans and progress

From: Bill Page
Subject: RE: [Axiom-developer] browser front end, statement of plans and progress
Date: Sun, 28 Jan 2007 23:01:57 -0500

On January 28, 2007 3:28 AM Tim Daly wrote:
> ... 
> Bill Page writes "...I think you should not be overly concerned
> about Tim's proposal since it seems to me that there is near
> zero likelihood that any of this work will be completed...".
> ummm, ok. I'll accept that insult and move on.

Sorry Tim, I did not mean any insult to you. I just think you are
being terribly unrealistic. If I had announced that I intended
to learn Ocaml and re-write all of Axiom in my spare time, and
someone replied: "Surely I must have misunderstood you!" then I
would expect a similar response.

> "...
> as Tim should continue to so badly miss-direct his efforts..."
> Before the first release of the Axiom source code I decided that
> documentation, both of the existing code and the new code, the
> way to interact with documentation, documenting the algebra
> hierarchy and documenting the algebra theory were vitally
> important. Since that time most of my efforts have been directed
> toward documentation. Several years ago I recreated the original
> book and about 13 months ago I completed and published the first
> volume of axiom documentation. Most recently, and soon to be
> released, is a several chapter booklet documenting the quaternion
> domain. I'm not sure what you think my efforts are directed toward
> but I've been pursuing this goal for years and plan to continue.

Great. I think your efforts to document Axiom are VERY worthwhile
and I appreciate all of the time and effort that you have put into
this. When I referred to miss-directed efforts, I meant things
like rewriting Boot and C source code into Lisp and combining
separate source modules into awkward single monolithic "volumes" -
time that could be devoted to documenting Axiom internals. After
all Tim, you are one of the only remaining vocal members of this
project who actually worked on the original Axiom project at IBM
and wrote some of this code.

I am not too excited by documentation for the quaternion domain
but it might have some value if it serves as a model that other
people can follow for documenting more Axiom's algebra. But the
problem here is motivating other people to do this sort of thing.
I don't see that happening at all and it worries me.

> "..I am very much in favour of Andrey's recommendation to re-
> consider the use of TeXmacs...". Axiom has been available for
> 5 years or so. TeXmacs has also been available for that time.
> Both have been connected for several years. Name 3 people
> worldwide who develop Axiom code on TeXmacs. I'd bet you do
> not.

The original Axiom interface for TeXmacs was written when Axiom
was a commercial product. I ported the NAG Axiom tutorial to
TeXmacs as one of the first things I did with Axiom and I wrote
a new Axiom interface for TeXmacs on Windows. There have been
several people asking about TeXmacs and Axiom since then, but
yes 3 or 4 might be the right number. I might use TeXmacs if I
found a need to actually use Axiom for some printed publication
but out of familiarity I prefer the Axiom Wiki (mathaction) web
interface for most things I want other people to see. For Axiom
development usually I use only Axiom and a text editor in a
console session.

The reason why I favour an effort directed toward improving the
existing Axiom interface for TeXmacs is a strategic one - I think
there are people who would be motivated to learn more about Axiom
because they like the idea of WYSIWYG mathematical document
processing with access to computer algebra tools. Some people
certainly learn about Maxima this way. I think the interest in
Axiom would be greater if the Axiom interface for TeXmacs was

> "...Sage supports browser-based worksheets...which allow Axiom...
> to be used both "natively"..." and from this you conclude that 
> having a browser front end to Axiom is miss-directed?

No I am still very much also in favour of the type of browser front
end for Axiom that Kai Kaminski worked on almost two years ago.
I do think a browser front end for Axiom is a good idea -
particularly if it scales easily from desktop to public web server.
My point in part was that this has already largely been done, at
least in so much as the Sage interface to Axiom exposes Axiom to
the Sage Notebook interface. None of this involved re-writing any
existing Axiom source code. I think it makes good sense to continue
to build on this work.

I definitely don't think it makes good sense for the Axiom project
to proceed in the manner outlined in your statement of plans. But
this is a volunteer open source project and you have your own
interests and agenda, so my opinions need not have much impact on
how you actually spend your time. Anyway I think you have already
done the greatest possible service just by making Axiom available
as open source. What's next is up to all of us.
Bill Page.

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