Re: ed borasky and his second favourite programming language

Dear Matthew,

you are running into open doors there - I did not write my last
email to criticize anybody, but to ask why Ed Borasky likes
to use R - that’s what the link Ara posted was promising
to tell me - and I have no answer for that yet.
That question is of course different from the question,
“Why does Matthew S. like to use R?”, “Why do I use R?”

Your statement

I can’t speak for Ed, but for me (I use it as well), it does
precisely what it needs to do, and it does it succinctly and well.
Which, not coincidentally, are the same reasons I use Ruby for the
things I use Ruby for, and the same reasons I use Prolog for the
things I use Prolog for.

does not tell me what ordering of preference you would
give to R, Ruby, or Prolog in any application nor for what reason.
That sentence is just no more informative than saying,
“I use language X”. That obviously means that you’ll have a
reason for that - it could be “it’s the easiest/ the most
convenient tool for doing task …, because …/I know of no other
language (to do this task properly)/I’ve used that language for
so-and-so
many years and
I’m too old to change now/it can output ‘hello world’ faster than
language
Y”,
but you’ll have to tell me, because I don’t accept all of those on an
equal
footing.
I have talked to people who gave me any of those reasons for choosing
their preferred language - maybe with a slight bias towards the “I’m
too old
to change now” argument, which I personally don’t find acceptable at
all.

Hearing those reasons might be interesting because one could then profit
from
other people’s experience with any of these languages for a future
project.

Regarding R, I’d like to hear how it compares to Gnuplot for plotting in
other people’s
opinion.

For scientific computations, I use the language kan/sm1.
You can do Groebner basis calculations in differential ideals in it,
(that’s to do with algebra) not so much because I like its syntax so
dearly,
but I prefer it over Maple and Mathematica, because I like their syntax
even less and they don’t have an efficient implementation of a
b-function,
which
is something I need quite dearly ( and am too lazy to implement
myself).
I also use Ruby to put together programs for kan/ms1, and when I say
that
Ruby is “more general” than R (notice the quotes!), I mean that it has
been
designed as a general
computer language, not just for one particular field of applications, as
statistical evaluations. That’s no criticism of R, though.

This generality implies that you can use bindings for R from Ruby, and
thus
use R without having to learn R’s syntax from scratch (maybe just for
one
dataset evaluation - which could be as far you can tell when you first
use R).

If you use Ruby and kan/sm1, there are several packages on Rubyforge
to let you define multivariate polynomials in Ruby and calculate with
them
in Ruby, so
Ruby’s possibilities go beyond invoking some external program and
reading
out that program’s output, but you can treat that result in Ruby.
That would not be possible for R for this particular task, so R is less
general
than Ruby. But I don’t mind - that language wasn’t designed for this
purpose. R does statistics and plotting, and it’s good at that - but I
still have no
answer to the
question we started with.

Best regards,

Axel

[email protected] wrote:

Regarding R, I’d like to hear how it compares to Gnuplot for plotting in
other people’s
opinion.

I’ve never used Gnuplot – as I noted in an earlier post, the main thing
R did well when I adopted it was boxplots. All the other stuff had
little meaning at the time, although it does now. Gnuplot is just a
plotting engine, though, isn’t it? You still have to do the analysis in
some language, right?

For scientific computations, I use the language kan/sm1.
You can do Groebner basis calculations in differential ideals in it,

Hmmm … a hard-core algebraist. Have you looked at Singular?

but I prefer it over Maple and Mathematica, because I like their syntax
even less and they don’t have an efficient implementation of a b-function,
which
is something I need quite dearly ( and am too lazy to implement myself).

Maple and Mathematica are also neither free as in freedom nor free as in
beer. I don’t know about kan/sm1, but Singular is open source. As are
the “more general” algebra packages, Axiom and Maxima. Both will do
Groebner bases, but the Singular package is probably a lot faster –
they put a lot of effort into tuning it.

Are there Ruby bindings for Singular?

M. Edward (Ed) Borasky

http://linuxcapacityplanning.com

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