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The future of Octave

From: John W. Eaton
Subject: The future of Octave
Date: Thu, 7 Dec 2000 16:41:25 -0600

Since there was some discussion on these lists a while back about a
possible "merger" of Octave with guile, I thought people here might be
interested in the message that I've appended below and that I posted
to the Octave mailing lists today.

Besides that connection to guile, I'm not sure that designing a new
language from scratch is the best approach to take for the future and
I'm almost certain that implementing a new interpreter from the ground
up is probably not wise.  Although nothing is certain, I see guile as
a likely candidate for the core of future tools that I might be
involved in.


Subject: The future of Octave
From: "John W. Eaton" <address@hidden>
To: address@hidden
Date: Thu, 7 Dec 2000 13:30:27 -0600
Message-Id: <address@hidden>

I've now worked on Octave for almost nine years.  During most of that
time, I have enjoyed the challenge of working on a relatively large
project.  In the beginning, I wasn't at all sure that I could manage
it (and maybe that is even more true now!).  Watching Octave grow to
become a widely used and reasonably successful contribution to the
free software community has also been rewarding, and I am grateful to
all those who have helped with its development.  But now I believe
that it may be time for me to move on and do something else for a
while.  I'm not yet sure what that will be.  It may involve a similar
system for numerical computing, or it may be something completely
different, but I do feel that I am no longer able to maintain my
current level of involvement with Octave's development.

I did not arrive at this decision hastily, nor is it in direct
response to any messages that were posted in the last few days.
Making a change like this is something that I have been considering
for quite some time now.

What will happen to Octave?

  Because Octave is free software, it will continue to be available.
  By sometime early next year (perhaps by Octave's ninth birthday,
  February 20, 2001) I will release a new "stable" version (based on
  the 2.1.x sources), which I will continue to maintain to the extent
  of fixing serious bugs.  I don't plan to work on any new features,
  though I may accept well-written patches that include documentation
  and ChangeLog entries.

  Although I plan to continue fixing serious bugs in Octave, if
  someone (or perhaps a small group) is interested in taking over
  maintenance of Octave, you should contact me so we can discuss it.

Why are you considering leaving?

  There are a number of reasons, but one of the most important is that
  working on Octave is no longer the challenge for me that it once
  was.  Much of what I set out to do with Octave has been done.  I am
  pleased with what we have accomplished so far, but ready to take on
  something new.

  I never intended Octave to be a Matlab clone, nor am I really
  interested in creating such a thing, but that seems to be what many
  users of Octave want.  It is not very interesting to me to simply
  reimplement all the features/bugs of Matlab.

  I am finding it too constraining to try to maintain almost any level
  of compatibility with a proprietary product for which there is no
  standard.  It stifles any creativity by the threat of future
  incompatibility.  I see this is as a real problem, not just an
  imagined one.

  Free software needs a vision beyond reimplementation of existing
  proprietary tools.  Those of us who are interested in free software
  tools must become leaders rather than followers, and I am optimistic
  that this can happen for numerical software.  But I don't believe it
  can happen if Octave continues down its current path.

What will you do?

  I believe that we (users of numerical software tools) could benefit
  greatly from a freely available, high quality, high level language
  for solving numerical (and possibly symbolic) problems.  Octave has
  been an interesting experiment, and has shown that, within the free
  software community, it is possible to do a lot with limited

  I think now is a good time to step back, examine what we have done,
  and decide what is the best course for the future.  I'm looking
  forward to helping to define and implement the next generation of
  free software tools for numerical problems.


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