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Re: Re: Mathematica 7.0.1.0 and some General Comments

  • To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
  • Subject: [mg97316] Re: [mg97262] Re: Mathematica 7.0.1.0 and some General Comments
  • From: George Woodrow III <georgevw3 at mac.com>
  • Date: Tue, 10 Mar 2009 05:39:16 -0500 (EST)
  • References: <goqphr$lt2$1@smc.vnet.net> <200903090607.BAA09472@smc.vnet.net>

Regarding:
> "Types of elements typically supported include:"
>
> What does the word "typically" mean? Presumably it means that the  
> author
> could not be bothered to obtain a definitive list - even as of some
> particular version. To make matters worse, since the elements are
> specified as strings, there is absolutely no way to discover the
> elements that the author happened to forget (or, indeed the
> corresponding functionality!).

I complained to Theo Gray about this very topic when Mathematica 6  
came out. There has been no movement as far as I can tell. As a  
programmer, I'd really like to know exactly what all the options are,  
and, if possible, have them available with a simple command.  
(Options[] does not provide a complete list.) I found that trolling  
the demonstrations for code written by Wolfram people often turns up  
interesting things.

As for the electronic format: other than the above problem, I'm pretty  
happy, especially with the new stuff. I sent an e-mail to Wolfram  
suggesting one of their free seminars to cover just documentation,  
since a lot of things -- task specific screen-casts, for example --  
are not easy to discover.

I also see the need for a short introductory book, similar to Gray and  
Glynn's Beginner's guide, now hopelessly out of date. I started an  
unofficial update to V6 some time ago, but got bogged down. There is  
simply so much stuff that a guide is necessary, particularly for  
beginners. Wolfram seems to think that this is a third party  
opportunity, but I think that whoever wrote such a book would really  
need to have inside information.

Let's hope that Wolfram follows the lead of Apple with their Snow  
Leopard for the next version: NO NEW Features, just optimization and  
fixes.

george woodrow

On Mar 9, 2009, at 2:07 AM, David Bailey wrote:

> David Park wrote:
>
>> One other requirement to make a breakthrough is the necessity of  
>> anyone to
>> be able to freely read an active and dynamic Mathematica notebook.  
>> It should
>> be something like the model of the free Acrobat reader. PlayerPro  
>> would do
>> the job but it is too expensive. I know there are problems here. I  
>> wouldn't
>> care if the reader couldn't print or save the notebook. Perhaps  
>> dynamic
>> InputFields could be limited in the total number of typed  
>> characters for the
>> notebook. Anyway, if it is so easy to hack PlayerPro in a usable  
>> way, why
>> don't some people just pay the $200 and do it? A free general  
>> Mathematica
>> reader would do more to smash the old technology and advertise the  
>> power of
>> Mathematica notebooks than anything else I can think of.
>>
>
> Just to concentrate on one of your issues - that of documentation, I  
> am
> sure that the people at WRI who decided to move to paperless
> documentation used arguments such as:
>
> 1) We can redirect all the effort that went into a finished book into
> providing more and better information.
>
> 2) Virtual documentation is so much better because it can be updated  
> so
> easily.
>
> In reality, what has happened is a retreat from quality  
> documentation in
> the belief that whatever is wrong can always be fixed at the next  
> pass.
> Thus for example, we find the following phrase in the help for Import:
>
> "Types of elements typically supported include:"
>
> What does the word "typically" mean? Presumably it means that the  
> author
> could not be bothered to obtain a definitive list - even as of some
> particular version. To make matters worse, since the elements are
> specified as strings, there is absolutely no way to discover the
> elements that the author happened to forget (or, indeed the
> corresponding functionality!).
>
> The documentation of new or enhanced features is littered with
> phraseology of this sort. Compare, for example, the documentation of
> 'Import' with an old favourite like 'Map'.
>
> Furthermore, I don't think people learn a new package well by just
> invoking the help system. The help system is more suitable for people
> with at least some experience, who know what they want to look up.
>
> I learned Mathematica from the old book. People laughed at it  
> because of
> its size, but it gave me a clear idea as to what was important, and  
> what
> to read first - and of the overall scope of the software. As an  
> example,
> I doubt if any newish Mathematica users think they need a clear
> understanding of the frontend/kernel architechture - so they never  
> read
> about this, and suffer from a variety of misconceptions as a result. A
> book spoon-feeds the information in roughly the right order.
>
> David Bailey
> http://www.dbaileyconsultancy.co.uk
>
>



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