Tuesday, May 22, 2007

S-Plus 8 emerges from Beta

Back in April 2006, I wrote about S-Plus 8 going to public Beta and predicted therefore that it would be out in Q4 2006.

Well it has finally appeared in May 2007. With such a long release cycle one might expect dramatic changes, but the new features list is largely as I described a year ago:

- Improvements to the Eclipse based Workbench (debugging and profiling)
- New graphic enhancements
- A new package mechanism
- "Over 100 new functions" in the S language

Since there is no information on their site about exactly what is in any of these changes, I can say no more!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Mathematica 6 released

Wolfram Research have released a new version of Mathematica with the claim that "Mathematica's been reinvented."

This is certainly a huge upgrade with around 500 items on the new features summary, all of which (from a quick scan) appear to have substance.

To get a sense of the major directions, you are better off with the marketing version which summarises the most exciting things on the interface side as new application building tools with a free "Mathematica Player" which is some kind of runtime version. Depending on the details, this may be important for deploying tools developed in Mathematica.

On computation, the most important seem to be related to data (I/O, and built in data sources), and new optimization tools.

There is a lot of new visualization stuff which seems to cross over from computational features to interface features.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Labview adds Vista support

Story title says it all, LabView is now Vista compatible.

I was amused by two paragraphs of the press release. First was the hint of resentment at Microsoft for the way Vista works...

"...this version of Windows requires 64-bit hardware drivers. National Instruments has invested considerable time and energy in providing updates to existing 32-bit drivers to support Windows Vista and in creating new 64-bit hardware drivers for Windows Vista x64 Edition, the 64-bit version of Windows Vista."

And second...

" “National Instruments continues to be among the first to market with compatibility for the latest PC technologies, including Windows Vista,” said Tim Dehne, NI senior vice president of R&D. "

Obviously Tim doesn't read my blog where I listed some of the first to market over a month ago.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Link: The death of computing

Here is a link to a very well considered piece "The death of computing" from Neil McBride at the British Computing Society, which deserves to be read. I suspect that much of his arguments also apply to scientific computing.

If you can't be bothered to read the whole article, settle for this snippet: "If the gap between public knowledge and academic curriculum isn't large enough, the gap between academia and industry practice is a gaping hole. While academic departments concentrate on developing new computer systems in an ideal organisational environment, a lot of industry has moved away from in-house development to a focus on delivering a service."

Monday, April 02, 2007

O-Matrix sales shake-up

Developers Harmonic Software have decided to give up selling their product, and will have someone else do it for them. Exclusive world wide distribution rights have been granted to TecPlot.

Lots of software companies choose to use partners to distribute in fields our regions outside of their expertise, but it is a bold decision to hand over the entire world.

TecPlot certainly seem a competent outfit, but the problem is that the product is a bit too close to their own. Just looking at the front page of www.tecplot.com at the side-by-side listing of products finds that O-Matrix is for "analyzing data, creating simulations, visualizing results" while TecPlot 360 is "Simulation Visualization Software... analyze and explore complex datasets, arrange multiple XY, 2D and 3D plots...".

It is pretty hard to imagine TecPlot will push O-Matrix too hard against their own products.

It looks like it is not good news for the customers either. As far as I can tell O-Matrix has jumped in price from $365 (as listed at www.sciencesoftware.com) to $950 on the TecPlot site. The developer kit from $420 to $2500.

Friday, March 23, 2007

MathCAD drops Maple

I have finally confirmed what a reader pointed out to us a couple of weeks ago. The new MathCAD 14 has dropped the Maple engine which previously powered its symbolic calculations.

I wrote about plans to do this back in Jan 2006, though I predicted the wrong replacement. The MathCAD gig goes to Mupad. PTC's only explanatory comment was this "improves robustness". While anyone who reads comp.soft-sys.math.maple knows that Maple bugginess is a recurrent theme, the truth is probably more likely to be a cost cutting exercise.

Mupad also replaced Maple as the engine in Scientific Workplace a few years earlier and one must speculate that Mupad will now have its sights set on the one remaining Maple OEM deal, the Matlab Symbolic Toolbox. Perhaps this helps to explain Maplesoft's recent re-implementation of the toolbox, to put it under their own control?

Stable income from this deal will be a much needed boost to Mupad, who had seemed in trouble a year ago. Likewise, this must represent a significant loss to Maplesoft. A few weeks ago I wrote a piece called "Maple loses three million users" which was a dig at press release bullshit. But now, it seems, it was partly true. If PTC is to be believed, this will remove Maple technology from between 1.4 and 1.8 million desktops, over the upgrade cycle.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

FORTRAN developer dies

John Backus, who lead the IBM team that developed FORTRAN in the 1950s has died at the age of 82.

While I am no fan of FORTRAN (probably because I had already learned some more recent languages before I was taught the (then current) 1977 version), there is no doubt that it revolutionized computing and has had a long lasting effect on scientific computing.

With a more subtle effect, he also worked on early functional programming languages FP, and FL.

The NYT obituary can be read here.