Feeds

back to article Wolfram's new equation: Mathematica+RPi=child geniuses everywhere

Los Bros Wolfram have thrown their weight behind the Raspberry Pi and its mission to get more kiddies coding, by offering up their signature product Mathematica as a free inclusion in future versions of Raspbian. Pi Daddy Eben Upton has offered up predictable praise for the offering, saying Wolfram and his mates in the computer- …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
Silver badge

Mathematica for children?

I always thought Mathematica was a university-level piece of software like MatLab.

4
0
Silver badge

Re: Mathematica for children?

Personally I like Maple.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Mathematica on a Pi????

As mentioned by the previous poster Mathematica is a complex piece of mathematical software... it may be bundled with the PI... but as far as being practically usable by kiddies and on the PI - I am very much in doubt...

Ok Mathematica can be used as a teaching platform by using educational packages... but that's not teaching the kids to use mathematica as a tool !

What Wolfram has also announced is that they will port a version of the "Wolfram Language" which is supposed to be a revolutionary high level but simple symbolic programming language onto the Raspberry Pi.

That - on the other hand - might be an interesting teaching tool.... The specs of the language are barely out of wraps at : http://reference.wolfram.com/language

But don't expect the kiddies to launch real time finite element modelling of turbulent misinformation flow on the internet any time soon.... :-)

1
2
Headmaster

Re: Mathematica on a Pi????

Straight from the horse's mouth: "Today I’m pleased to announce a step in that direction: working with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, effective immediately there’s a pilot release of the Wolfram Language—as well as Mathematica—that will soon be bundled as part of the standard system software for every Raspberry Pi computer." ~ Stephen Wolfram (my emphasis).

Personally I'd be happier if they bundled Sage instead, which is not only Free Software (in the important sense), and thus is far more suitable for an educational environment, but is also written in Python, the programming language that was supposed to be the Raspberry Pi's entire raison d'être in the first place.

But then that probably wouldn't satisfy Broadcom's Upton's predilection for proprietary technology.

3
4
Bronze badge

Re: Mathematica on a Pi????

Some people are never satisfied; you offer them a free box of tools, and they complain that you didn't give them the whole tool-making factory.

10
2
Gold badge
WTF?

Free Sage?

"Personally I'd be happier if they bundled Sage instead, which is not only Free Software (in the important sense), and thus is far more suitable for an educational environment, but is also written in Python, the programming language that was supposed to be the Raspberry Pi's entire raison d'être in the first place."

You want them all to learn an Accounts package?

9
2

Re: Free Sage?

@John Smith

I hope that you're being facetious. The Sage app previously referred to is Open Source & is for Mathematical uses (i.e. similar uses as for Mathematica). It is free. It has no connection to the Accounting package. BTW there is an app called R (for Statistics use), also open source & free, which is equally as good as the commercial ones.

3
0
Facepalm

Re: Free Sage?

Well Johnny, I'm sure you could probably do your accounts with it too, but more generally it's a "free open-source mathematics software system", just like it states on the page you didn't read.

2
2
Childcatcher

Re: "free box of tools"

The problem is, unlike real property, the "intellectual" variety is neither given nor sold, it's only "licensed", which is more like a lease than a purchase.

That's fine until the "rental" company goes titsup, or suddenly decides to withdraw the tool you've spent time, money and effort learning to use, at which point the fact of this tool being rented for "free" will be of little comfort.

Call me old fashioned, but I'm disinclined to be grateful for being shafted.

I don't want "rented" software, I want software I can be sure of using and maintaining in perpetuity (potentially on new platforms and architectures). That's especially important in an educational environment, where there's a curriculum that requires long-term planning and execution. It's also important that student have software they can learn from by reading the sources, not merely learn about by using it, which is not exactly an unreasonable expectation in a computer science class, after all.

We already have classes where students only learn to use other people's software, mainly populated by budding secretaries, pointy-hairs and marketeers, and we already have more of those than should be legal in civilised society. What we need now is engineers, and for that we need more than mere tools, we need to see the guts of the machinery.

6
0
Silver badge

Re: "free box of tools"

Tell you what... if you buy as Raspi which comes with this stuff installed and disagree with some aspect of it's licence, or closed sourciness, or similar, DON'T USE IT.

There, all your objections negated in three words.

As for SAGE, good but not as good as Mathematica. If you want it on a Raspi, install it. It's not in the repo, but I am sure you can download the source and build it yourself. Go on - make a contribution rather than whining about how all this free stuff you are getting isn't 'free' enough.

Grrrr. I'm as much a fan of OSS software as anyone, but you zealots do yourself no favours with this constant whining. Would you like to know how much money the Raspi foundation have pushed into the OSS community this year? On both Raspi specific stuff AND more general stuff applicable to OSS as whole? $1.5M. How much have you done?

6
3
Silver badge

Re: Mathematica on a Pi????

"But then that probably wouldn't satisfy Broadcom's Upton's predilection for proprietary technology."

Cockwomble. Everything you use has some sort of proprietary tech in it. So you single out a charity to vent your anger. Perhaps aiming it at more deserving companies might be appropriate? Or even better, just don't use anything with proprietary tech, don't get a Raspi (which has a fairly minimal amount of it compared with your Smartphone or TV for example), and please just stop whining. Richard Stallman is happy enough with the Raspi as it stands. Why not agree with your hero?

5
3
Anonymous Coward

Re: "free box of tools"

Would you like to know how much money the Raspi foundation have pushed into the OSS community this year? On both Raspi specific stuff AND more general stuff applicable to OSS as whole? $1.5M.

---

Now thats a story which el reg should cover. Or perhaps its cockwombling BS?

3
0
Childcatcher

Re: "free box of tools"

Throwing money at people doesn't impress me in the least, in fact I find it offensive that anyone would believe that's an acceptable substitute for open access to knowledge in education.

Your "don't use it" advice seems reasonable enough, but is sadly misdirected, since I am not the one who's going to be subjugated by this lack of access.

The fact that proprietary restrictions are common, as you conceded in your other comment, means that those who are subjugated by it don't really have much choice, so upon reflection your "don't use it" comment is rather disingenuous.

That's like holding someone hostage, feeding them nothing but gruel, then telling them that if they don't like it then they don't have to eat it, they can starve to death instead.

This dichotomous choice may be an accurate reflection of reality, but that doesn't make it right, and it shouldn't be tolerated.

Generally speaking, the first thing one should probably do when refusing to tolerate an unacceptable condition, is complain about it.

I realise that some of the more apathetic types may find that a somewhat radical notion.

The RPF has made a number of highly questionable decisions regarding the inclusion of proprietary technology in this supposedly educational tool, none of which were actually necessary, and all could easily have been avoided. Today's decision is merely one of them.

Whereas most people might tend to be impressed by what they perceive as a free gift, I see it for what it really is: a bowl of gruel.

1
2
Silver badge

Re: "free box of tools" @Oh Homer

Not withstandaing you seem to be completely mental, you arguments make no sense whatsoever.

Here are people, giving you stuff for free. You don't need to use it, you don't need to become reliant on it. And you cannot stop complaining.

You seem to this the Raspi foundation has made questionable decision ? Like what? Every decisioon I can think of that they have made has been entirely pragmatic. They may not be the best way if you want OSS, but then, they have never claimed they are an OSS platform - just that they use OSS stuff. But, can you show me a completely OSS platform, that can be made for $25, that can do as much as the Raspi can? No you cannot - the decisions made have enabled the Raspi to become the very popular device it is. It may be news to you , but almost every device being used, in education as well as everywhere else, has propritary tech in it. WIthout proprietry tech, many products we use day to day probably wouldn't not exist. It really REALLY doesnt matter if an educational device has prop tech in it, as long as it does the job its intended to do at an acceptable price. Arging it doesnt make a good eduicational dev ice becuase it has some closed source components is a straw man, and easily disproven given the strides already being made.

As for the money the Raspi Foundation is pushing in to OSS, would you prefer it WASNT being spent - would you prefer it being spent on closed source effecots? Your comment on this is one of the most stupid shortsighted comments I've ever seen on here, and that's saying something.

Since you obviously feel so strongly about his, I think you should be starting your own charity, deisgning a fully OSS board, spend a $mill or so on software for it, and compete in the educational sector. Or do you think, just maybe, that that would not be possible?

6
0
Gold badge
Coat

Re: Free Sage?

"I hope that you're being facetious."

Well it was too good a misunderstanding to pass up.

Now for a bit less ambiguity you could have chosen SciLab. :)

1
0

Re: "free box of tools" @Oh Homer

I find it amusing that you think I must be "mental", just because I have the entirely reasonable expectation of being "allowed" to continue using my own legally purchased property in perpetuity, without that use being essentially revoked by the manufacturer. But that's exactly what you get with proprietary drivers: hardware (i.e. real, physical property) that only works as long as the manufacturer "allows" it.

Sorry, but that's just a scam.

It's a "sale" that isn't really a sale, that turns the idea of property ownership into a farce, by transforming real, physical property into something that can only really be "rented", even though it's supposedly being "sold", because the essential part required to actually use it isn't sold, it's only "licensed".

Frankly that should be illegal. It certainly should never be tolerated in education.

And that's just the first problem with the Raspberry Pi. Next we have the dubious decision to encumber it with proprietary video codecs, even though the purpose of this tool is supposedly to teach children how to program in Python, not waste time watching cartoons.

The fact that Broadcom's VideoCore GPU supports hardware acceleration of unencumbered codecs like WebM wasn't even considered by Upton, apparently, which is quite extraordinary considering that he helped design the damned thing. Nor was the possibility of simply omitting codec support entirely, given that it isn't needed for the purpose it was designed for. Either choice would also have further reduced the cost, thus satisfying one of the core goals of the project, which it missed by £10 per unit.

But no, for some unexplained reason it was deemed absolutely crucial to syphon money into the MPEG-LA racketeering operation, even though it could have been completely avoided, especially as the enforceability of software patents in the UK is highly dubious, and this was a tool made specifically for British schoolchildren.

And now we have this proprietary application, included by default, which only serves as a sort of black-box calculator, not a tool to actually learn about creating software, which is after all the whole purpose of a computer science class. It may have been a few years since I attended school, but I'm fairly sure they already have a separate maths class, so I'm not sure why they'd need another one.

You defend these questionable decisions on the basis that they make the Raspberry Pi more "popular", but popularity is completely irrelevant, and moreover this "popularity" hasn't been of any benefit to British schools, almost none of which are actually using the Raspberry Pi, for its intended purpose or otherwise.

If the goal of the Raspberry Pi had been to satisfy the mindless cravings of "consumers", who merely want to play games and type "lol" fifty times a day on Farcebook, then that would be bad enough, it'd be the sort of scam indicated above, but at least there are Free alternatives, and it wouldn't have had a negative impact on education.

But as it stands the Raspberry Pi is nothing but a hobby kit for middle-aged kids who don't mind being shafted at some point in the future, when their property is "revoked" by the manufacturer. As such, if it ever does make it into the classroom, the learning experience won't be substantially different to that other class that merely teaches children how to use other people's software: the glorified secretarial course called "ICT", and any opportunity to reintroduce real computer science back into schools will have been lost.

This is "OK", apparently, because "it's only 25 quid", after all. It's far more important that this toy should be "popular", than promote computer science and uphold consumer rights. Principles be damned.

1
0

Re: "Richard Stallman is happy enough with the Raspi"

Even if that's true, which I find very hard to believe, then it's of no interest to me, since I am not Richard Stallman, nor is he my "hero" as you falsely presume.

Although, actually, I suppose it isn't that hard to believe, as Stallman apparently supports non-Free licensing in the form of the GFDL, which contains a so-called "invariant section" (just another way of saying "unmodifiable"), a direct violation of Stallman's own "Four Freedoms" principle. I suppose that makes him a hypocrite, or at least rather ambivalent.

That's just one of the reasons Stallman can't possibly be my "hero". I'm afraid his stance on proprietary licensing simply isn't strict enough for my tastes, and his position on patents is one of utter denial, which isn't at all helpful.

0
0
Bronze badge

Cheap version?

Home version of Mathematica is listed as $299. At say $150 for a working rpi, this looks like a good deal.

0
1
Silver badge

Re: Cheap version?

I've got a couple of Pi's if you are willing to pay that amount. They cost me $35ish, but I'm willing to let them go for $100.

5
1
Gold badge

Re: Cheap version?

I'm sure he's referring to the fact that you have to add a keyboard, mouse and screen before the system is useful and not everyone has those lying about spare. Most families now have laptops rather than old-fashioned desktops with discrete parts and before you mention the TV as a screen, consider how many families would be happy to give up the evening's television because their offspring wanted to use the RPi for homework.

0
1
Bronze badge

Re: Cheap version?

"Most families now have laptops...how many families would be happy to give up the evening's television because their offspring wanted to use the RPi for homework"

Well, apparently these days most people watch streaming video now instead of linear TV. It said so in an article on El Reg :-)

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Cheap version? @Ken

I know exaclty what he is talking about. But that is not a fair comparison, since the OP was about the price of the mathematica stuff only - no PC, no screen, no keyboard. But I guess if you had no kit AT ALL, then $150 or so for a complete system is still cheaper than the base price of mathmatica. If of course you already have a monitor or TV....

2
1
Bronze badge

Re: Cheap version? @Ken

So it's not a fair comparison when I make the comparison, but it is when you make the comparison?

When I first read your post, I thought you were trolling.

Now I've changed my mind. I've realised that while you are happy to have uncased electronics lying around, you have no idea how much it costs to pick up another monitor.

0
0

Re: Cheap version?

If you have a computer already, you could connect to the RasPi over ethernet, via ssh or X windows. Then you don't need an additional keyboard, mouse, and screen.

The Mathematica for RasPi supports remoting the UI via X.

0
0
Stop

A programming nightmare

Mathematica is a truly weird programming experience it is only tangentially related to more standard programming systems. Learning Mathematica will be of very limited use when it comes to learning "proper" programming.

2
1
Gimp

Re: A programming nightmare

Actually, once you accept what it's for, it makes a great programming language for math subjects. You don't have to fiddle with memory allocation, define what type of data a variable holds, or whatever - you just concentrate on your problem, write that into mathematica, and hey presto.

4
0
Bronze badge

tangientially related to standard programming systems

Like learning Fortran77 at Uni rather than Perl or C.

No wonder I'm an infrastructure monkey and not a code hero.

0
0
Gold badge
Meh

As in "Mathmatica, the monster resources hog" Mathmatica?

Only I thought the Pi is fairly low powered in absolute terms.

Such tools can be wonderful if you have a)Imagination b)Guidance.

I wonder how many children have the first and how many teachers can provide the second?

0
0

Re: As in "Mathmatica, the monster resources hog" Mathmatica?

I remember Mathematica ran just fine on a NeXT pizza box or cube, those had similar memory and computing power to a Rpi. sure you can use lots of resources but you don't have to.

7
0
Bronze badge

Re: As in "Mathmatica, the monster resources hog" Mathmatica?

"NeXT pizza box or cube, those had similar memory and computing power to a Rpi."

Wow! That puts things into perceptive. I used to *dream* of getting a NeXT cube. At the time it seemed so powerful and cool looking.

I'd not looked at it that way before.

4
0

jonhendry_orders@mac.com

In fact the Raspberry Pi has significantly better specs. The NeXTStation pizza box's base configuration had a 25MHz 68040, 8MB of RAM, and a 105MB disk.

And, remember, while Mathematica was running, the NeXT OS was drawing the entire UI by generating and interpreting PostScript code on the fly.

0
0
Silver badge

If you're interested in maths education...

although somewhat limited in scope, for those parts of the curriculum where it can be used Geogebra is extremely good.

0
0
Silver badge

On the other hand....

If you wanted to do mathematica, you would get a proper PC

If you want to do introductory programming, you get the RasPI.

A Finite State Automaton simulator might be more useful.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: On the other hand....

Actually it's quite a neat way of making Mathematica available to kids without cannibalizing its own market because their parents will use it. Don't cripple the product, just put it on very low-powered hardware. For the sort of uses that a non-genius schoolchild will make of Mathematica, an RPi will be OK. For the sort of uses that a university-graduate parent is likely to want to make of it, an RPi mostly won't be.

As to whether letting a kid use Mathematica before he knows any pure mathematics, I'll reserve judgement. I'm certain that giving schoolkids calculators has rendered them number-blind (eg incapable of telling that whatever 3547+2974 might be, it's not 4xxx or 5xxx). There's a danger that Mathematica might blunt any true mathematical insight that they might be trying to develop, rather than the opposite.

1
2
Gold badge

Re: On the other hand....

"(eg incapable of telling that whatever 3547+2974 might be, it's not 4xxx or 5xxx)"

I think it has always been true that most of the population is incapable in that sense. :(

Kids today have separate maths tests where they are or aren't allowed to use calculators. In the ones where they aren't, they get tested on the kind of numeracy that you refer to. In the others, they get to show that they know what operations ought to be performed on larger calculations, without being held back by the tedium of performing them.

I'm a big fan of mental arithmetic and estimation skills, but I still think calculators are a good thing. In fact, I think the solution to the endemic innumeracy problem is to split "maths" into the elegant stuff and the practical stuff and let those who aren't keen on triangles and quadratics equations drop them and concentrate on areas and averages. (For similar reasons, I'd like kids to be able to drop English Lit and concentrate on the English Lang skills that might let them put a coherent document together, or understand one written by someone else. I do think that one of the more damaging tendencies in education in recent decades is ministers who think the solution is to broaden the core curriculum year on year until there's no room for the "lesser" subjects that might actually interest 80% of the teenage population. Yes it would be "nice" if everyone knew a little physics and biology, but it would also be "nice" if everyone knew how to read music and knew that there *were* such things as the rudiments of harmony even if they didn't understand them, had some idea of the last 500 years of European history, some idea of the artistic movements that had accompanied it, some idea of where it took place, and some idea of the religious certainties that had motivated almost everyone until at least 1800 and a whacking majority until very recently. The moon on a stick would be nice, too. But no. We have to study triangles and quadratic equations and Chaucer and poetry.)

1
0

Re: On the other hand....

Considering that the RasPi version of Mathematica will support all of its parallel processing functionality, a network of RasPi units running Mathematica would be a cheap way to experiment with parallel computing.

0
0

Re: On the other hand....

"For the sort of uses that a university-graduate parent is likely to want to make of it, an RPi mostly won't be."

As noted by another commenter, the RasPi is more powerful than the NeXT Computer which came with Mathematica bundled, back in the early 90s. I'm quite certain people were doing serious university-level work in Mathematica on 25MHz 68040 NeXT Computers with 16 MB of RAM. People like scientists at CERN bought NeXTs to run Mathematica.

I think it will be possible to do quite a bit of serious work with a 700 MHz ARM chip and 512 MB of RAM.

0
0

I'm happy with this!

I will be trying this out over the holidays.

1
0
This topic is closed for new posts.