## Sage Math 4.0 released

While catching up on all of the news I missed while on Vacation, I discovered that the world’s best open-source Maths package saw a new release at the end of May. I haven’t had chance to download it yet but the breadth and depth of new features is astonishing. Check out the comprehensive feature-tour here (note to commercial software developers I have bugged in the past – when I say that I’d like a detailed change-log for your latest release, this is the kind if thing I mean).

Scanning through the changes I note that they have dropped Maxima for core symbolic manipulation in favour of a package called Pynac. Apparently, one practical upshot of this is that finding the determinant of symbolic matrices can be up to 2500 times faster! very impressive. I wonder how this change will affect symbolic calculus (if at all).

Unfortunately, it looks like a full, native Windows version is still some way off which is a shame because one of my jobs this month is to prepare a load of maths applications for deployment on my University’s teaching clusters which run Windows. Putting SAGE next to Mathematica, MATLAB and Mathcad would have been cool and a great way to encourage undergraduate users at Manchester University to try out the software.

Finally, some eye candy shamelessly stolen from the SAGE website. The plot below demonstrates the new** implicit_plot3d** function.

Although Pynac is now meant to be the core symbolic manipulation engine, Sage 4.0 still ships Maxima. This is because there are heaps of symbolic features in Maxima that are not yet in Pynac. As for symbolic calculus like limits and series manipulation, these can still be done using Maxima. As Sympy is also shipped with Sage 4.0, limits and series can also be performed using Sympy.

Of course, constricting the students (and the university) by relying on the proprietary Microsoft OS is more of a shame than the developers of the open source SAGE project not supporting their package on Windows.

Hi Tom

I couldn’t agree more and some departments in the University have dual-boot open-access teaching clusters that allow students to use both Linux and Windows. Various flavours of Linux are used depending on the needs and desires of various schools (maths, engineering, etc). Of course this then upsets the Mac fans who feel that they should be represented too…where will it end?

The work that I will be doing this month, however, is to put Mathematical applications on the University-wide Student ‘Windows image’. This image is then put on most (but not all) open access student clusters at Manchester and I am but a small cog in a large machine that puts this Windows image together.

I have no control (nor should I have) over which operating system is used across the entire University – that’s for a combination of academics and senior IT staff to decide. The student image is Windows and I must live with that, despite being the world’s biggest Linux fan (by my own reckoning of course).

What I DO have some control over, is what mathematical applications get included on this student image. I MUST include things such as Mathematica, MATLAB and Mathcad because we have site licenses for these and they are used in both teaching and research.

Once these are done, and if I have time, I have been given management support to help make other mathematical applications available at my discretion. Or, put another way, if I put in the (unpaid) overtime (since I never have time to do this sort of thing 9-5) then I can make things such as Scilab, Octave, Maxima etc available on this student image as long as they don’t break anything.

So, if SAGE had a viable Windows version then I could do it for them too. I am aware that the SAGE team have a lot of demands on their time and I know I am asking a lot of them. I am also aware that if one never asks then one never gets.

For anyone who says ‘You have access to the source code, why not just port it yourself’ my reply would be ‘I’d love to, if only I had the time or the expertise’. I have neither so I am reduced to asking as nicely as I can.

Micheal,

My remark was rather flippant… I follow your blog regularly and I am at least somewhat aware of your honorable plight. That being said, thank you for clarifying the dynamics of the situation you are faced with. At the end of the day the priority is to expose students to as many options as possible, and when options seem not to exist – work hard to create the opportunity (which is what you do everyday).

Hi Tom

No problem – I was being rather over-sensitive anyway for reasons that I won’t bore anyone here with.

I’ve been thinking about your original comment though and I think it raises a serious point. One of the reasons I took it so seriously and over-reacted is that I have seen it (and others like it) many times before from various members of the open-source community. Sometimes I have had such comments directed at me with a lot of venom and I (usually) just led it slide. Other times they are said with a wink and a smile and I over-react ;)

I find myself wanting to say rather a lot on this subject all of a sudden :)

It might be better to make it a blog post though so thanks for the inspiration and I’m glad you find enough of interest here to follow it regularly.

Cheers,

Mike

Hi.

I have just started exploring/learning sagemath and use the VMware image under MS Windows. Maybe you could try that route, using the free VMware player.

-Asad

Hello Asad

It’s a nice idea but for many reasons, it is just not feasible for us to do that on an institutional level. Until there is a good quality native Windows installation of SAGE then it isn’t going to be appearing on our clusters en-masse.

Cheers,

Mike