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Re: Another point about Mathematica 8.0

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  • Subject: [mg116422] Re: Another point about Mathematica 8.0
  • From: AES <siegman at>
  • Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2011 04:28:12 -0500 (EST)
  • References: <iiten7$jl5$> <ij0e3s$992$> <ij8d09$370$>

In article <ij8d09$370$1 at>,
 P_ter <petervansummeren at> wrote:

> It seems to me that a very peculiar business model streams
> Mathematica.  As a consequence: now and than a kind of trauma bubbles up
> in this math group.

Some of these peculiarities stem from the fact that a software app is 
basically, in fact, a _tool_.  Users buy this tool, just like they buy a 
hammer, or a table saw, to _do_ things -- make and build things -- with 

But there is a problem with this: unless constrained somehow, a user can 
buy this tool, then make and give away unlimited copies of the tool to 
others at essentially zero cost.  This is understandably poorly received 
by the vendors of the tool.

So, we've gotten into in all this "licensing" idiocy with software: we 
users allegedly don't "buy" the app, we "license" it, and can only use 
it to make things that the vendor has licensed us to make.

This is, of course, garbage -- legal garbage, but garbage.  Imagine 
going to the hardware store to buy a table saw, or vacuum cleaner, or a 
paint sprayer, and being asked by the hardware store to sign a several 
thousand word license saying just what you're allowed to do with those 
appliances, for whom, and where.  (Maybe you buy a vac with a "Home 
License"; you can then vacuum your own house, but not loan it to the 
local nonprofit to vacuum their premises, or carry it around and use it 
in a small home cleaning service you operate.)

A second problem is that Wolfram, Inc., is in some ways a very peculiar 
organization.  It makes an absolutely superb and more or less unique 
product, but a product that has an immense impact on the intellectual 
and academic and scholarly life of our society.  Yet, it's a totally 
private organization, with very little public reporting, very little 
public guidance, very little regulation, very little transparency -- and 
in some ways very little direct competition for what it does.

My solution?  It's long past time that we have a true _open source_ 
competitor for Mathematica (it might be called "Wikimatica").  One can 
only hope that the academic and scholarly and IT communities will 
eventually get around to going at this task.

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