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MathGroup Archive 1999

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Re: Re: incompatibilities between releases of Mathematica (was: Mathematica Link for Excel and Excel 2000)

  • To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
  • Subject: [mg19393] Re: [mg19376] Re: incompatibilities between releases of Mathematica (was: Mathematica Link for Excel and Excel 2000)
  • From: David Withoff <withoff at wolfram.com>
  • Date: Mon, 23 Aug 1999 13:57:10 -0400
  • Organization: Princeton University - CIT/IS/ASIG
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at wolfram.com

> "P.J. Hinton" wrote:
> >
> > Perhaps you could help us out by describing in precise terms exactly what
> > you mean by "broken."  The likelihood that you will get your code working
> > to your satisfcation will increase if you can post specific, minimal
> > examples that reproduce the problems you've been running into.
>
> Actually, I'm not talking about custom code, although that would also
> be affected by the changes in v4. You can just see by the latest addition
> to the WRI website regarding free updates to application packages that v4
> is *NOT* backwardly compatible. Lots of notebooks that worked in v3 also
> are "broken."
>
> Other software packages take pains to insure backwards compatibility, MS
> Office, etc, so that you can read documents written in prior versions.
> When a class or method is deprecated in Java, you can still use it with
> warning flags generated so that you can update the code at a later time.
> There is a gradual process of "improvement" instead of things just breaking.
>  
> Now, I expect more from WRI because I have a higher opinion of the company
> than let's say Microsoft. It would be helpful to have, instead of just a
> list of imcompatibilites between versions, an explanation of why those
> changes were made, wordarounds for them, etc. Maybe they are there in the
> documentation and I just haven't found them yet. I'm all for progress and
> enhancements but been a programmer for 20 years, I know the importance of
> legacy systems. We may like to get rid of them but they are going to be
> with us for a long time. And programmers hate going back to fix legacy code.
> 
> Joe Yoon

I believe your criticism about backwards compatibility is misdirected,
and I second P.J. Hinton's suggestion that you provide specific examples.
A single example is more likely to be an anomaly rather than a foundation
for broad criticism, but at least it would be a start.

All of the true backwards incompatibilities that I know about with
Version 4 of Mathematica are listed in Appendix A.13.4 of The Mathematica
Book, and none of them have led to much trouble.

All of the changes that have led to trouble are things like errors
in Mathematica, and undocumented behaviors that were changed or removed
and that some people were apparently using in their programs.  It seems
misleading to describe such things as backwards incompatibilities.
If someone exploits an error in Version 3, for example, it doesn't seem
quite right to describe it as backwards incompatibility if that persons 
program breaks because Wolfram Research fixed the error.

If you *do* have an example of a significant backwards incompatibility
that isn't already documented, it would be useful if you could report
it so that we can work to avoid such problems in the future.

Dave Withoff
Wolfram Research


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