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Re: Re: v.7.0 issues

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg93943] Re: [mg93910] Re: v.7.0 issues
  • From: Murray Eisenberg <murray at>
  • Date: Sat, 29 Nov 2008 04:30:59 -0500 (EST)
  • Organization: Mathematics & Statistics, Univ. of Mass./Amherst
  • References: <gggqff$31i$> <> <gglsmu$8ai$> <>
  • Reply-to: murray at

You're just cheating yourself by foregoing version 7.

Re point 2), below, on documentation: the documentation is getting 
better and better and, more importantly, the overall usability has 
improved greatly, especially for novices.


* Terrific Welcome Screen with links to all sorts of ways to get
started, including links to...

* On-line screencasts (although some of these are version 6-centric and
need to be redone for 7) and to...

* First Steps with Mathematica hands-on tutorial (an extended version of
the Mathematica 6's "First Five Minutes..." tutorial.

* Cleaner organization of Documentation Center home page.

* Built-in "Virtual Book" (as eventually appeared in 6)

* Classroom Assistant and Basic Math Assistant palettes, which include...

* Pasting of prototypes into a notebook that included named arguments,
not just placeholders.

* Easy to find out what's new in version 7 and, for any function of
interest, what's changed.

There are now so many ways to get into Mathematica that I just hope a
beginner is not overwhelmed by which one to use to start!

One thing missing seems to be a single list of all the changes to
existing function in a single list. However, I suspect that such a list
would be so unwieldy as to have limited utility.

The best bet for a version 6 user concerned about changes in 7 would be,
I should think, to run version 6 code on test cases with known results
and see if the results are different; if so, begin to isolate the pieces
where the results are different and then consult the specified changes
in the corresponding function reference page(s).

There are of course some 3rd-party books on Mathematica 6 already in 
print or about to appear, as for example a search at will 
reveal.  There is no printed "The Mathematica Book", and others have 
explained adequately in this list why there won't be such a thing. But 
we do have the electronic equivalent, and the more I use it the less I 
miss the printed version -- yes, I admit it!

Re 3), about cost:

I'm not sure who the "average user" is who's mentioned. Surely for
professionals in business, industry, and government, the cost need not
be an impediment.

At universities, the smart thing is to get a site license.

For students, today at even my own public university most students now
bring their own computers to campus.  A one-semester license for just
$45 is hardly astronomical (provided that one compensates by selecting
textbooks with price as a factor!), and likewise the $70 annual license.

Re 5): I hardly think that this anecdotal evidence bolsters the views 
expressed. Not even the guy's NAS and NAE credentials; not even if he 
were a Nobelist, too. Just because one other user had trouble porting 
from 5.2 to 6 is no good reason to prevent lots of other folks from 
moving to the newer or newest version.  After all, there are lots of 
scientists and engineers around still using decades-old FORTRAN code; if 
it does what they need to get done, well and good.

AES wrote:
> On Nov 25, 7:18 am, " at" < at>
> wrote:

> ...1)  M7 brings another massive set of changes in old routines or new and 
> increasingly complex capabilities that one presumably has to learn or 
> adapt to, before the dust has even settled on the massive (and massively 
> disruptive) changes associated with M6.
> 2)  And yet, _still_ no adequate user documentation, at least for new or 
> occasional or "ordinary" users of these changes and new capabilities -- 
> the same as was the case when M6 emerged....
> 3)  Beyond this, as a working engineer, long-time university faculty 
> member, and educator, I'm fully in accord with the response that says
>       > Like all [recent] versions of Mathematica, version 7.0 is 
>       > ridiculously expensive for the average user...
> "Ridiculously and impossibly expensive" might be more like it.
> 4)   And so I expect I'll be going along with another recent response 
> that says:
>       >  Probably, I am not upgrading anymore for this and the 
>       >  reasons below, despite that I have been a loyal customer 
>       >  since the earliest v2.1 and upgraded most of the 
>       >  subsequent releeases. 
> In my case, it's been "loyal customer __and active proponent__ of 
> Mathematica since the earliest v1.0."  Just dug out of my files acouple 
> of memos dating back a decade or more ago, from me to deans of schools 
> and to IT people in my university, urging major university support for 
> widespread adoption of Mathematica across my university.  Where 
> opportunity presents, I'm voicing exactly the opposite views today.
> 5)  I might be a bit more restrained in expressing these highly negative 
> views, here and elsewhere,  had I not had an accidental encounter a few 
> weeks ago with a senior colleague in my department whose multi-year 
> academic involvement with Mathematica up through v5 has included doing 
> very extensive analyses and numerical calculations of complex quantum 
> phenomena; writing several memos and reports for his graduate students 
> and colleagues on the techniques he's developed for this work; and also 
> developing, teaching and writing class materials for an undergraduate 
> course titled "EE141M  Engineering Electromagnetics with Mathematica".  
> (He also happens to be a member of both NAE and NAS.)
> I discovered that, totally without any contact with my own views and 
> rants, he had purchased multiple copies of M6 when it came out, and 
> installed them on his home and lab computers.  After wrestling with M6 
> for some period of time, he then removed and trashed all his copies of 
> M6; dug out his old installation CDs for M5 and reinstalled it on all 
> his machines; and doesn't plan to worry further about MX where X>5.
> I've also had private email responses to some of my early posts on this 
> group following the emergence of M6 that have been supportive of of my 
> criticisms of M6.
> Bottom lines:  
> *  I absolutely don't pretend to understand Wolfram's product and 
> marketing and branding strategy for Mathematica, and especially who they 
> view as their customer base.  But at this point, it doesn't include me, 
> or any groups I can think of; and I sure as hell wouldn't invest in 
> Wolfram myself, or advise anyone I know to buy Mathematica.
> *  And as an entirely separate issue, I don't understand Wolfram's 
> strategy or tactics so far as user documentation is concerned.  Their 
> approach simply seems utterly crazy to me, and has since the arrival of 
> M6.
> *  But I also retain a great admiration for the technical capabilities 
> and the immense knowledge base embedded in Mathematica -- post M5 
> included -- which means the two preceding comments are sources of 
> sadness, not gladness.  I'm just not going to ride the Wolfram train any 
> further myself.

Murray Eisenberg                     murray at
Mathematics & Statistics Dept.
Lederle Graduate Research Tower      phone 413 549-1020 (H)
University of Massachusetts                413 545-2859 (W)
710 North Pleasant Street            fax   413 545-1801
Amherst, MA 01003-9305

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