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Re: Mathematica and some General Comments

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  • Subject: [mg97478] Re: Mathematica and some General Comments
  • From: mike.honeychurch at
  • Date: Sat, 14 Mar 2009 05:36:22 -0500 (EST)
  • References: <goqphr$lt2$> <gp5fou$9nr$>

On Mar 13, 4:47 am, "Dr. David Kirkby" <david.kir... at>
> mike.honeychu... at wrote:
> > Other than people who use pencils and paper, or blackboards and
> > chalk*, everyone is "chained" to commercial products in their
> > workplaces. We need to "free" our minds a bit from the idea that
> > software should somehow be an exception to everything else that occurs
> > in our workplaces. Or alternatively perhaps someone can explain to me
> > why software should be any different to scientific equipment, cars,
> If a car gets you from A to B, in reasonable comfort, you probably don't
> care too much exactly how the car works and so you are unlikely to need
> the source code to prove it got you to B. You *know* it got you there -
> there is no uncertainty of that fact.
> > dishwashers...
> If the plates are clean, the power consumption is not too high, and it
> does not make too much noise, I doubt anyone cares. There is little
> point in having the source code for a dishwasher.
> > I cannot use an open source mass spectrometer,
> You have a point with the mass spectrometer. People should be more
> critical with a mass-spectrometer. Unlike the case of the car and
> dishwasher, it is not so obvious if the results are wrong.

and for mass spectrometer substitute any number of specialized
scientific and engineering equipment

However, I
> suspect is is easier to detect problems with a mass spectrometer than
> with a result from Mathematica. Read the archives of sci.math.symbolic
> and you will find many examples where commercial computer algebra
> systems give incorrect results.

To me that means the "system" is working. i.e. people are not blindly
accepting output from software they are checking it ...and in any
case, in the context of where this thread has headed, are there no
bugs reported from open source software?

> One obvious problem, even if the source to Mathematica was available, is
> that few people would be able to make use of it. However, I suspect it
> would improve the quality of the software, as some people will be able
> to check it.

it is one million lines of code or something isn't it? Of course
people wouldn't make use of it.

> Solaris has improved since Sun took it from a closed source system to an
> open-source one. They have stopped selling Solaris, but of course charge
> for support on it.
> Is it any wonder that the most trusted encryption techniques are open
> source? Connect to your bank to make transactions, and you will be using
> SSL, the source to which is open for all to see.
> It would never surprise me if more and more companies or governments
> insist on the source of software being available. Far too many people
> are concerned about the issues of closed source software, and this
> awareness is growing steadily (not just with mathematical software).
> However, I can't see too many companies or governments wanting the
> source for the dishwashers or cars they or their sub-contractors use.

The other thing that has been ignored is scale. A model in which a
company releases software as open source and charges for support/
consulting may be viable for mass market stuff like office suites or
database software. There is not the scale in computer algebra.

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