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Re: Choosing between Mathematica for Windows and Linux

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  • Subject: [mg36778] Re: Choosing between Mathematica for Windows and Linux
  • From: "John Jowett" <John.Jowett at>
  • Date: Wed, 25 Sep 2002 01:50:56 -0400 (EDT)
  • Organization: CERN
  • References: <amh36l$9f8$>
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at

        I have been running Mathematica regularly on both Windows and Linux
(or other Unix) for some years so perhaps my experience could help with your

Most of the time I run on Windows (2000, not yet XP) because:

1. The Front End is more stable.
2. The Front End is more "comfortable" in the sense that the keys for
deleting, copying, pasting etc. are the ones my fingers expect them to be.
3.  Command completion via Ctrl-k, which I use all the time, does not work
properly on Linux.  Neither do other extremely useful operations such as
"Copy Input From Above".
4. Generally speaking it takes more mouse clicks and keystrokes to do things
on Linux.  Many things that you can do with a keyboard shortcut on Windows
require a sequence of mouse-clicks on Linux.

I think these are general differences between the user interfaces on these
operating systems rather than something specific to the Mathematica
implementations.  I have tried to overcome them at various time without
success.  Since I switched from Windows 95 to Windows NT several years ago,
I have never seen any sign of less "stability" of the Kernel on Windows.

Nowadays, I run Mathematica on Linux in the following situations:

1.  I need to run other Linux programs from my Mathematica session.
2.  I need to have access to certain files created on that system by other
3.  I want to run long calculations on additional CPUs, leaving my desktop
computer free for other things.  You can do this between Windows machines
too but in our lab there happen to be clusters of Linux machines available.

What I do then is  run the Front End on Windows and connect to a Linux
kernel via Mathlink.  This is very simple and more reliable and robust than
running purely on Linux.  You get all the comfort and speed of the Windows
Front End and it is easy, say, to transfer input or output "betwen systems"
within a single Front End.   I should add that in our lab we can access the
(AFS) file system used by our Linux clusters directly in Windows.  So I have
the additional convenience of being able to save a notebook from the Windows
Front End in the same directory as other files the kernel may be working
with.  You may not have this option and, of course, you need Mathematica on
both systems.

These are my personal opinions based on practical experience, I really do
not want to enter into any controversy about operating systems.

John Jowett

"Sidney Cadot" <cadot at> wrote in message
news:amh36l$9f8$1 at
> Hi group,
> One of these days the company I work for will buy one Mathematica 4.2
> license. Now we will have to choose between either the Linux or the
> versions of the product.
> Our Linux systems are Debian based, running 2.4.19 kernels, and the KDE-2
> window manager. Our Windows systems are running on top of VMWare in
> XP Professional.
> In testing using an evaluation version I found that the VMWare/XP version
> performing pretty well so that wouldn't be an issue.
> My main concern (and probably the grounds on which we will base our
> decision) is the quality of the front-end. The Windows frontend works
> flawlessly; however, in test-driving earlier versions of Mathematica (3.0
> and 4.0) on Linux, I found that the front-end was working a lot less
> satisfactorily. I didn't spend much time to hunt down the source of the
> problem, but it is probable that some X key-mapping was wrong making, for
> example, keyboard shortcuts for 'Copy' and 'Paste' malfunctioning. On the
> whole, I'd say the Linux front-end simply felt less robust than does the
> Windows frontend.
> Can anybody please tell me whether they got the Linux 4.2 Front-end
> to full satisfaction? I'd be willing to spend a couple of hours to fix
> settings, but only if I'm sure it could be done. The bottom line is that I
> would much prefer to run Mathematica on Linux instead of VMWare/Windows,
> not if that would mean putting up with a quircky front-end.
> Best regards,
>   Sidney Cadot

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