Wednesday, August 30, 2006

IDL to include IMSL

ITT Visual Information have been working with Visual Numerics Inc to embed the IMSL libraries into IDL.

While both parties presumaby consider this a win-win deal, it is hard to see who is doing best out of it.

ITT are a business monster with sales in the billions (of other products) and presumably could afford to build whatever features they want to into IDL. But instead this sales 'might' has allowed the development to stagnate. IDL was once quite advanced but now its feature list reads like the features that you take for granted on other products. This is a quick fix for that.

Visual Numerics have been more active in development but the market for libraries that you have to write your own code to connect must be diminishing so this is potentially a good OEM sale (depending on the price they got). But the potential cost is boosting a competitor to their main application product PV Wave. The press release makes reference to that, explaining that they are in different markets. Perhaps.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Maple 10.05 maintenance update

It is usually a good thing when software companies produce maintenance releases to fix bugs in a shipping product. But news that MapleSoft are shipping a sixth release of Maple 10 does make you wonder if perhaps it could have been tested and finished a bit better before it was released.

If you look back over the releases, there is a general theme-- improvements to display, editing and interpretation of 2D math and document mode, appear in every update. It seems that a lot of work is being focused on getting the new interface, created for Maple 10, right.

A clue may be in a recent poll on the user group site, where nearly half of users are not using the new interface at all, most preferring the obsolete Maple 8 interface. And 1/3 of those that do use it, are not using any of the new features, preferring to put it in plain text mode.

It looks like MapleSoft think that quality is what is holding back adoption.

[[Update 6 Sept 2006- In a significant change in policy from Maplesoft this maintenance release is only available to subscribers to their EMP program.]]

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

New Six Sigma product from Minitab

Minitab Inc are working to cement their position in the Six Sigma market with the release of Quality Companion 2.

While you wouldn't know it from the way that it is presented (apart from the "2" in the title) this is an upgrade to an existing product released around 2003 which provides tools to improve quality processes - mapping processes, reporting and communicating processes etc.

I couldn't tell you what is new in this version, as their presentation of it doesn't tell you, and it's not a product that I have used, but they must think it is a major upgrade as you can find Quality Companion 1 listed for sale on the web at $149 but with version 2 the price has jumped to $450. No upgrade options are mentioned on their site.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Round up of new products

National instruments have released LabVIEW Toolkit for LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT.

I am sure that there are lots of professional uses for controlling the LEGO robotics platform from LabVIEW. But all I can think of is what a cool toy this would have been when I was a kid.

Mostly this week has been upgrades to existing software...

webMathematica 2.3 - Adding 64 bit and multi-core support to Wolfram Research's web server product.

BlockBuilder 1.1 - Linux support, bug fixes and making it work with their Dynaflex Pro product.
Dynaflex Pro 2.3 - The other half of the fix above.

PoochMPI Toolkit for Mathematica - Add on from Dauger Research to support gridMathematica use on their HPC platform.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Labview 8.20 released

National Instruments released a signficant update to Labview today.

There is an extensive and diverse set of enhancements covering programming tools (.net and dll integratation), web based access, UI improvements with OpenGL support and touch screen control support, and improvements to real time data flow.

The subhead to the press release was interesting "LabVIEW 8.20 Delivers General Compatibility with The MathWorks, Inc. MATLAB® Software, FPGA-Based Rapid System Prototyping and New Modulation Toolkit" because it was hard to find what compatibility with MATLAB meant.

At first I thought it was going to be a friendly link, in the way that Maplesoft are trying to be closer to Matlab. But it looks more like a good old fashioned migration package. You can take your old Matlab .m files, throw away Matlab and run them in the NI "Mathscript" module.

There is no shortage of Matlab clones already but I think they mostly miss the point. Matlab is at its heart a bit old fashioned, its success is really about the Simulink graphical programming environment. Here NI stand out already the only serious competitor to Simulink, so adding .m code support is quite significant.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Four new control systems tools

You go weeks without anyone releasing new control system design tools and then four come along at once...

National Instruments entry is NI Motion Assistant 2 for prototyping single and multi axis motion control systems.

Mathworks goes for top dollar with its $2000 tool (System Test) for checking if its other tools are giving the answer that you expected.

Wolfram wins the prize for most technical press release with lots of big words that I don't know anything about, for Polynomial Control Systems - a Mathematica add on that does what it says on the box.

Finally, Maplesoft wins the prize for niche product of the week with a Tire design add on to their Dynaflex add on to Maple. If you design tires you might find a use for it. But it did give them a chance to say "for use with Simulink" in a press release again!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Genstat 9.1 released

With a modest change in version number, VSNI have provided a fairly broad set of improvements to the respected statistics package Genstat.

Once (in the 1960s) a leading (they claim "first") statistics package, Genstat has been completely overshadowed by newer packages.

But since a change of management a couple of years ago, the company seems to be getting itself sorted. With a steady development effort and a better attitude to marketing, illustrated by its recently redesigned website, they may start to regain some market share.