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Re: 64-bit transition deadline (Re: Etch in the hands of the Stable Release Managers)

Tshepang Lekhonkhobe <tshepang@gmail.com> writes:
> On 4/10/07, Jean-Christophe Dubacq <jcdubacq1@free.fr> wrote:

>> For example, CPlex (a mathematical programming optimizer) is considered
>> much better than any free (even free as beer) program, having no
>> equivalent for e.g. quadratic constraints problems.
>> Maple is also considered much more advanced than Octave especially
>> toolboxes available only in Maple.
>> I may have exaggerated by saying 20 years, but I will not settle for
>> less than 10. And we need those anyway to compare results obtained by
>> one software against the other.

> This is interesting. I often hear people citing pros and cons of FLOSS
> and commercial stuff, but don't remember anyone stating such
> extravagant development gaps as 10 years or so. I'd like to hear
> opinions of others who have also used those Cplex Maple, and whatever
> else you may have in mind. This however brings to mind libre CAD stuff
> which truly lags behind.

I'm not sure I agree with 10 years.  R caught up with its commercial
competitors in less time than that, to a degree that some of our users who
used to use S or Splus are now using R instead by preference.

However, I agree that there's currently no free equivalent for CPlex/AMPL,
which is a real shame given how useful it is.

This general area (high-end computational and mathematical software) is a
difficult area for free software to compete; it requires specialized
knowledge, there are often a lot of advanced techniques involved that are
specific to narrow fields of interest, there are well-established and
well-entrenched commercial systems available, and the programs solve
problems that aren't normally free software developer itches.  It's a
little like the Peoplesoft/SAP/Oracle Financials space that way.

There are a few signs of progress, but except for a few standouts (R, for
instance), people who use free software in these spaces are more often
using it specifically because it's free, not because it's better.  And
it's hard to build critical mass with only those users in niche software

Russ Allbery (rra@debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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