[Beowulf] Teaching Scientific Computation (looking for the perfect text)

Joe Landman landman at scalableinformatics.com
Tue Nov 20 16:09:04 PST 2007

Jim Lux wrote:

>> Octave: http://www.gnu.org/software/octave/
> Octave is nice, but.... the graphics are MUCH better in Matlab, and 

Agreed.  Octave uses Gnuplot which is OK.

> there's all those toolboxes full of cool stuff (signal processing, 
> control systems, maps, etc.)

Octave has quite a few as well, though they are not identical to the 
Matlab versions.

> And, an academic license for Matlab is only $100.  That's less than the 

Anyone need an adjunct ... :) I was under the impression that the 
license fees were much stiffer than that.  For a cluster, $100*N for N = 
16 .. 32 is not bad at all.  Or am I missing something.

> textbook likely costs.  Granted Matlab isn't quite as cool as the 
> symbolic manipulators.  It's sort of like a procedural programming 
> language in an interpretive/JITcompile environment with a HUGE and 
> useful subroutine library.

FWIW:  I played around with Matlab the first time in 1988.  It was quite 
nice, though it was slow.

> I also ran across an interesting Matlab program/application that did 
> *symbolic* manipulation of the matrices in linear circuit theory.  
> Matlab isn't the most pleasant environment for string manipulation, and 
> this was an amazing work of art and craft in many dimensional arrays of 
> characters.


Give someone a good, powerful, flexible tool, and get out of their way. 
  Lower barriers to use.  This has become somewhat of a mantra with me 
as of late.

>> After taking students through the joys of programming, I showed them
>> how to do masses with springs on Octave.  What a difference.  As Jim
>> Lux noted, you spend less time dealing with the vagaries of the
>> language and more time helping them articulate a solution (though this
>> particular example is bad in that you have many signs you need to
>> correctly and carefully account for ... sign errors are a bear in any
>> language)

Joseph Landman, Ph.D
Founder and CEO
Scalable Informatics LLC,
email: landman at scalableinformatics.com
web  : http://www.scalableinformatics.com
phone: +1 734 786 8423
fax  : +1 866 888 3112
cell : +1 734 612 4615

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