Thursday, September 8, 2011

MATLAB alternatives

Okay, so I like MATLAB -- it's interactive, expressive, handles a lot of tedious math, and draws nice pictures. It's a little arcane (which can be fun in a sort of puzzling way) and it makes you think about everything in a sort of vectorized way to get decent performance (which can be fun in a sort of challenging way).

I used to have an old crusty copy for 32-bit Windows on some previous laptop from some previous job.  These days I'm using a MacBook (and 64-bit Windows when I have to) so I figured I'd go see about getting an updated copy for personal use...

$2,100.00 for a single, personal use license.  Are you f-ing kidding me?  I could buy a really nice bass for $2,100.00.  Y'know, for $200.00 I would have just bought MATLAB right away.  For anything up to $500.00 I probably would have just bought it after some serious thought...  For $2,100.00 -- no way!

I want to post snippets of mathematical code here from time to time, and I'd like students and non-millionaire-hobbyists to be able to conceivably grab those and play with them.  So to heck with MATLAB.  Started looking into free and/or open-source alternatives, and few that I played with were not that bad:

SciLab (

Octave (

NumPy / SciPy (

I'll comment more on these soon after I've had a little more of a chance to play around with them.  I'm probably leaning towards NumPy / SciPy, since so many people seem to be familiar with Python these days.

The most immediate weakness of all three of these seems to be the lack of a fully developed 3D polygon patch visualization system like MATLAB has (damn you, MATLAB!) so I guess I'll be looking elsewhere for that.

1 comment:

  1. Thx for post.

    Here is an example of converting code from Maple to Octave :