Re: [dev] a suckless computer algebra system

From: Kris Maglione <>
Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2009 19:51:31 -0500

On Thu, Nov 19, 2009 at 02:23:35PM -0600, A.J. Gardner wrote:
>I'm interested in math and CASs, but my opinions on available software
>are ill-formed and mostly ignorant. Does anyone else here have an
>interest in this topic, broadly speaking? If so, do you have any
>preferences for one package over another? Have you found any math
>software that seem to follow the worse-is-better design model?

Don't be silly. There's nothing like a "suckless" CAS, at least
nothing remotely approaching the simplicity of
software. Computer algebra and calculus are complex and
computationally intensive. They can't (and arguably shouldn't)
be simplified beyond a point.

>How is gnuplot? gmp bignum library? Maxima? Sympy? Octave? Ever used
>any of these?

Maxima is pretty much the gold standard among open source CASs.
Sage is a bit more featureful in some areas, but it's a
ridiculously huge, self-contained distro including an entire
Python runtime, and it pretty much requires that you use the web
interface to do anything useful. Sympy is the basis of Sage, and
it works, but it's a bit slow and lacks a few features.

gnuplot is not a CAS, it's a plotting system. It's generally
pretty god awful, but it's usable with Maxima as a frontend. gmp
is just what you've labeled it as: a bignum library. It handles
arbitrary precision arithmetic, not algebra.

Scipy and Numpy are useful for certain CAS features, and will at
the least replace Matlab (which really isn't that useful,
anyway). The TI and HP calculators have decent CASs, too, if
you don't need anything too fancy. I know that there are a few
other simple CASs laying around, but they're generally pretty
weak, and probably won't do what you want them to (for pretty
much any realistic value of 'what you want them to').

There are also some nice libs in Haskell, which have the benefit
that Haskell is pretty much tailor made for mathematics, but I
really can't speak to their full-featuredness.

Use Maxima, try Sage, but if you want suckless, prepare to be
disappointed by the latter.

>I'm too much of a n00b (and I'm still trying to wrap my mind around
>what it means for software to suck less) to actually tell if some code
>does, in fact, suck less.

Maxima's code is more or less brilliant, but it's Lisp, which is
a completely different world.

Kris Maglione
Organizations which design systems are constrained to produce designs
which are copies of the communication structures of these
organizations.  (For example, if you have four groups working on a
compiler, you’ll get a 4-pass compiler)
	--Conway’s Law
Received on Fri Nov 20 2009 - 00:51:31 UTC

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