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

Jim Lux james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Wed Nov 21 17:18:53 PST 2007

Quoting "Robert G. Brown" <rgb at phy.duke.edu>, on Wed 21 Nov 2007  
06:47:16 AM PST:

> On Tue, 20 Nov 2007, Joshua Baker-LePain wrote:
>>> You do raise an interesting question.  Would one student running   
>>> an application on N machines need N copies under their academic   
>>> student license?
>> Almost certainly yes.
> Raise that to certainly yes.  I have a student who is using matlab this
> semester for an extensive project, and this was an issue we looked at.
> At Duke it doesn't much matter as students are site licensed for
> unlimited copies IIRC, but it mattered very much on the toolbox issue.
> My student somehow managed to "acquire" toolboxes for some of the stuff
> he was working on -- NNs and GAs -- and I simply have avoided inquiring
> too closely into how.  By the time you add a couple of $80 or so
> toolboxes to that $100, you're starting to talk real money, and a LOT
> more than textbooks for any course.


> What's even more absurd is that we're training these students to use
> matlab so that one day they'll go out and buy in a corporate
> environment.  So we're paying matlab -- a lot -- for the right to teach
> students to use their product.

A strategy pioneered by IBM, and later used by AT&T with Unix  
(although the license cost for Unix was quite low, as I recall...  
reproduction cost or similar.)

The same problem shows up with kids learning PowerPoint(r) in school.   
There was a great article in "the American Scholar" about 15 years  
ago(or maybe more) about this.  Same for typing classes...

> Grrr, I say, Grrr.
> I personally would say SCREW their product and require students to only
> use Octave and if anything devote a matlab site license's worth of FTE
> labor to contribute to the octave project to get it to where it too has
> toolboxes and perhaps better graphics.  If ten or twenty Universities
> did this, in two years matlab would be all done and a few thousand
> universities would save a bundle.

An excellent idea.  Except that getting 10 or 20 Universities to do  
this and agree on what to do is like the proverbial herding cats..


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