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.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Upgrade: Quality Companion 2.2

Minitab have released an upgrade to their Six Sigma product, Quality Companion.

The upgrade is a modest collection of interface improvements, (new toolbar actions, auto-filling forms etc), new import export options (always good to see) and increased flexibility (better search and editing tools, use of images within documents etc).

There is nothing that you won't already be used to seeing in other products, but they are filling out the regular feature space at a rate that seems fair for the 9 months that have passed since Version 2 was released.

I did like "Automatically Convert 2.1 projects to version 2.2 projects". A self fulfilling feature that would appeal to people who like to have a car so that they can drive it to the gas station!

The full list is here.

Oddly it looks as if Minitab skipped a version as I never noticed, and can't find any information on Quality Companion 2.1. It must have existed though as there were maintenance releases to 2.1.1 and 2.1.2.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Maple NAG connector - a link to the past

I was going to pass on commenting on the new Maple NAG connector because adding the ability to call NAG C subroutine libraries directly from Maple seemed a quaintly old-fashioned idea.

I didn't realize how old fashioned until I was reminded of Intercall. I Googled InterCall and it looks like exactly the same product except connecting Mathematica to the NAG libraries. The entertaining fact being that Intercall was something that was created at least 10 years ago!

Compare elements of the press release for the "new" Maple NAG connector with an eight year old Intercall page in the NAG website:

Maple:"Easy access to the powerful NAG C Library numeric routines from inside the Maple environment"
Mathematica:"easy access to all the routines in the NAG subroutine library."

Maple: "Appropriate default values for many parameters are provided automatically"
Mathematica: " straightforward declaration of default settings for arguments in external routines."
Maple: "NAG C Library documentation is integrated into the searchable, indexed, Maple Help System, and includes hundreds of examples coded in Maple"
Mathematica: " a detailed TeX manual describing how to use InterCall with Notebook examples"

As far as I can tell, Intercall is no longer available. I can't particularly see any reason why it should appeal to Maple users more than Mathematica except that Maple's home grown numerics are weaker than Mathematica's and Maple already has some NAG libraries included (for the same reason).

But I don't really see the appeal. O think that one is either a C/FORTRAN libraries and subroutines kind of person, or an application using person. Bridging the gap technically, doesn't bridge the gap psychologically.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Vista support in scientific software

Here is a quick survey of the current state of Vista support, in scientific software, based on information on suppliers web sites.

Where Vista did not appear on the supported platforms page, I have taken that to mean that it is not supported, though it is quite possible that the product works, but that the supplier has not yet formally tested it.

Supporting Vista:
Comsol Multiphysics
Origin (32 bit only)

Not supporting Vista:
O Matrix
Scientific Word
Scientific Workplace

And in a special category of its own, Endnote, which works under Vista, but you have to follow some manual steps listed in their support pages to make it work right.