back to article Raspberry Pi fans up in arms as Mathematica disappears from Raspbian downloads

Knickers have become ever so twisty over the last few days as fans of the diminutive Raspberry Pi computer and its Raspbian operating system noted that Mathematica had been "removed". The conspiracy theories kicked off when users noted two simple words in the release notes for the latest and greatest version of Raspbian: * …

  1. Mike Shepherd

    Just another pre-installed program

    Mathematica (like Cortana in Windows) was just another pre-installed program that I didn't use. If I want it, I can download it. Until then, it doesn't pollute my Pi.

    1. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Just another pre-installed program

      Seconded. I'm glad Mathematica remains available, but like Mike, I don't use Mathematica on Pi, so pre-installing it does not help matters. But I guess some form of comms before this change would have been much more appreciated than the post-oops scramble.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just another pre-installed program

      What many commenters here don't seem to realize is that the grumbling was not about removing it from the default image (so it's no longer a "pre-installed program") but removing it entirely from the Raspbian repos. For a few days, it was gone for good. It was not possible to install it *at all*. I believe that most of us who need it would be quite happy to install it manually, but that possibility was removed too.

      Given how quickly Wolfram reacted when people started to complain, I wonder if the Raspberry Pi foundation talked to them at all before removing it. I understand that the contract expired, but the reasonable thing for RPi foundation would have been to ask in advance, "Hey Wolfram, are you planning to extend the contract or is this the end?". Of course, we don't know what happened behind the scenes, but the impression they're giving is that they "quietly" removed Mathematica entirely "because no one uses it anyway" without consulting Wolfram at all, and left all RPi/Mathematica users high and dry.

    3. Oh Homer Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Just another [proprietary] pre-installed program

      I always found it odd that the RPi Foundation championed open source and yet chose to bundle proprietary maths software instead of SageMath.

      Yes it's a nice gesture by Wolfram, but still it seems contrary to the whole RPi ethos, a bit like the proprietary VideoCore IV graphics driver (a problem which has since been resolved, unlike the proprietary codecs problem, a.k.a. the MPEG-LA tax).

      Anyway, I'm not suggesting that nobody should be allowed to run proprietary software if they want to (I do), but on the other hand there's a difference between end users choosing to do something, and an organisation founded specifically to reintroduce real computer science back into the classroom (and education in general requires open access to information) actually promoting something that restricts access to information.

      /end Stallmanistic rant

      1. LeftBlank

        Re: Just another [proprietary] pre-installed program

        Go to http://www.sagemath.org/, look at the second sentence of the first paragraph:

        "It builds on top of many existing open-source packages: NumPy, SciPy, matplotlib, Sympy, Maxima, GAP, FLINT, R and many more."

        This _bundling of many packages is what the Mathematica design philosophy is trying to avoid_. The creator of Mathematica, Stephen Wolfram spent more time trying to get various math packages to work together than doing actual physics.

        So he designed a 'kitchen sink' math program (Mathematica) where typically you just needed one download to do everything you needed.

        How this ties into the Rasberry Pi philosophy of getting people started in computers? You just need a _single_ download to do everything (or a lot) and you don't have to worry about version conflicts within/between supported math libraries.

        Mathematica (can be used as 'training wheels' for math (and also now for other scientific fields))

        SageMath (if a person is further along in math and wants to continue in their own very specific direction.)

  2. nematoad Silver badge
    Unhappy

    A question.

    What's the difference between the likes of MS, Oracle et al and the Raspberry Pi Foundation?

    "That said, there's been lots of grumbling, so we might end up putting it back."

    With the first group take what you are given and be grateful.

  3. James Hughes 1

    TBH, there has't been that much grumbling. Engineering preference is to have it in the repos rather than installed by default, as it's a huge chunk of the image that a large percentage of users don't need. As a user of Raspbian, but non-user of Mathematica, if you don't remove it, then when an update appears its takes a load of time to download and install it.

    Having it in the repo means those that want it can download it. Those that don't save 700MB of bandwidth.

    1. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

      Those that don't save 700MB of bandwidth.

      Unless your Internet access is provided by barbarians (the sort who impose usage caps on fixed-line access, duh), that's just a question of (a sizeable amount of) time, possibly as long as (calculates) seven or eight seconds.

      Yes, I'm yanking your collective chains. At 1 Gbit/sec (my ISP just raised my fibre access to 1 Gbps down / 300 Mbps up for no extra money), it is, indeed, about that. At a megabyte per second (reasonable expectation for "up to 20" ADSL2+), it's more like 12 minutes or so.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Here in Spain, if you're unlucky enough to not live in one of the major cities your best expectation is a 1Mbps ADSL line. That's 90 minutes for you.

        Also, just a thousand and a half downloads are already 1TB of transfer server-side. This also costs money.

      2. James Hughes 1

        It's not just the download time. When doing an update it can take ages to install, so much so that people have thought the device had locked up.

        If you add up all the extra 700MB over all the Raspbian downloads from the last 5 years, (100 million? Dunno, might be worthwhile finding out) that adds up to, er, quite a lot of wasted bandwidth.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "If you add up all the extra 700MB over all the Raspbian downloads from the last 5 years, (100 million? Dunno, might be worthwhile finding out) that adds up to, er, quite a lot of wasted bandwidth."

          So why was it ever included in the download? Why was it not made an external package sooner?

          It was great to have it included in the download. It is great to not have it included in the download.

          Having cake and eating it is the new normal.

          1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
            Childcatcher

            Cake?

            Having cake and eating it is the new normal.

            What the hell good is cake* if you can't eat it? What a ridiculous idiom!

            * I know someone is going to make a comment about other kinds of cake. Don't.

            1. HolySchmoley

              Re: Cake?

              >What the hell good is cake* if you can't eat it? What a ridiculous idiom!

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_can't_have_your_cake_and_eat_it

              1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

                Re: Cake?

                @HolySchmoley

                I just had to follow the link. It's compulsive. Anyway, what struck me was the Greek equivalent of this idiom...

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Cake?

                Quantum cake can be both had and eaten at once. But it's the smallest piece of cake imaginable, so you'll always down loads. A piece of quantum pi OTOH stays a-round forever and never...

        2. Richard Plinston Silver badge

          > that adds up to, er, quite a lot of wasted bandwidth.

          It is only wasted if you _don't_ use it.

      3. Shadow Systems Silver badge

        At Steve the Cynic, re: downloading 700Mb.

        Now imagine downloading it over a flaky dial up connection at a miserable 300Baud via an acoustic coupler, joystick port mounted, piece of crap modem. Through AOL. During a storm that causes so much lightning strike interference that you spend +50% of the time resending line noise mangled packets.

        *Shakes a palsied fist*

        Danged whippersnappers anyer newfangled fiber optics. Why, back in MY day the only fiber we got was from eating granola, and that's the way we LIKED it, dagnabbit.

        *Brandishes a cane menacingly*

        Now get off'n my laaaaawn!

        =-D

        1. bish

          300 baud!? You were lucky...

          ... There were a hundred and sixty of us living in a small shoebox in the middle of the road, cueing up once a week for a chance to use the village carrier pigeon.

          1. James Hughes 1

            Re: 300 baud!? You were lucky...

            To answer the quesions above, it was included in the download becuase that what our agreement with Wolfram said.

            As for the percentage of the download taken up by it, over 30% of the compressed file.

          2. Jame_s

            Re: 300 baud!? You were lucky...

            luxury!

          3. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ
            Childcatcher

            Re: 300 baud!? You were lucky...

            "... There were a hundred and sixty of us living in a small shoebox in the middle of the road, cueing up once a week for a chance to use the village carrier pigeon."

            at least you had a shoebox, we only had the lid..... and there was 500 of us taking it in turns for the carrier snail....

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: 300 baud!? You were lucky...

              Replacing it with a menu line which would then go and install it might have been nicer than just vanishing it. Or is that what they did ? I don't know.

              The problem for Mathematica is that while it is a very fine piece of work and in many ways a superior product especially with symbolic, everywhere I go seems to have standardised on Matlab. So GNU Octave tends to be more wanted on Pi. And now Python with mathematical and scientific libraries is right round the corner on the road map.

          4. fidodogbreath Silver badge

            Re: 300 baud!? You were lucky...

            cueing up once a week for a chance to use the village carrier pigeon

            You had pigeons?!? We used to dream about having pigeons!

          5. Richard Plinston Silver badge

            Re: 300 baud!? You were lucky...

            > cueing up

            Was that billiards or snooker ?

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: 300 baud!? You were lucky...

              Was that billiards or snooker ?

              or your signal for your part in a theatrical production?

          6. timrowledge

            Re: 300 baud!? You were lucky...

            Please don’t expand upon what you were going to use it for...

    2. Chris Evans

      Missing info

      "700MB of bandwidth". Knowing what percentage of the download it is would be useful.

      Optional download gets my vote!

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Missing info

        "Knowing what percentage of the download it is would be useful."

        The "lite" download is about half that size, for the entire OS. The full fat version is over 4GB.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Missing info

        right, as long as you can do "sudo apt-get install mathematica" I'm good. No need to bundle it if only a percentage of people actually care if it's there [thereby saving 700Mbytes in the SD image which to me is more important].

  4. frank ly Silver badge

    Cross Distro?

    Am I right in assuming this will only work on the Raspberry Pi, even if you did try to install all dependencies? (I had a quick look at the installation script.)

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Cross Distro?

      It would certainly be reasonable to assume that it is only compiled for ARM, not AMD64/Intel.

    2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: Cross Distro?

      It will also work in QEMU on Linux or Windows, e.g.:

      http://linux-mitterteich.de/fileadmin/datafile/papers/2013/qemu_raspiemu_lug_18_sep_2013.pdf

  5. bob, mon!
    Unhappy

    Free, but compiled for ArmHF (32-bit)

    Sadly, it fails on my 64-bit devuan installation.

  6. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge
    Pint

    On the other hand...

    ...I get the arguments about pre-installed apps and bandwidth wastage. The appropriate implementation would have been a .pdf on the Desktop instructing users downloading an 'educational' image how to install Mathematica. Or, have an image for download optimized for secondary- and post-secondary education that has Mathematica installed. Problem solved.

    We need to remember that a primary goal of the RPi Foundation is the creation of a computer that is cost effective enough for even extremely poor school districts throughout the world. I think the theory is that we will build global wealth and address income inequality by helping others get the tools they need to build up themselves and their societies. Will it work? Who knows ... but I sure think this is a more decent and ethical approach than hand-outs and whatnot that just build dependency and help the richer people maintain a degree of smug superiority. AND we get and outstanding piece of kit; what's not to like?

    To that end Wolfram Research (Mathematica) contracted to provide free access to Mathematica. This tool is absolutely fantastic for the physical sciences, theoretical and applied mathematics, and electrical engineering. I've used it for all three and one of my organizations spends literally tens of thousands of $ annually on contracts with them and does so gladly. My first exposure was on a NeXT Workstation (remember those?) at university in 1992, at which time we were told it would revolutionize pure mathematics. It did. And now Wolfram (the man) wants to share his creation, I say let's raise a pint but also eliminate the download pain.

    Sure, offering this free on educational kit is kind of like offering hits of an addictive substance ... the marketing hope is obviously that students will get hooked on Mathematica and when they are in a position to purchase software later in life will tilt the scales in Wolfram's favor. Worked for Apple back in the day. But I'm just happy if we get disadvantaged students to the point in life where they are making software decisions.

    Disclaimer: Yes I'm a major fan. But I also use MathCAD, Matlab, GNU Octave, Maxima ... basically whatever tool will make a specific job easier. I am a software polygamist.

    1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: On the other hand...

      Hint: Sage exists. Free (as in FOSS) and very impressive indeed!

      1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

        Re: On the other hand...

        @GrumpenKraut, well please have an upvote and pint on me. The Sage tool looks very interesting and I will definitely explore this.

        This is why I love the ElReg forums... people know stuff and we all learn!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Idle thought, at what point does fedex's bandwidth beat your ISPs?

    If I buy a card with 700M of something like Mathematica on it, and it ships overnight, how slow does my ISP have to be that the former gets me the software faster? All these comments about old 300 baud modems make me wonder where the crossing point is. Let's see, 700M/24h is about 8K/sec? I don't remember get much over 8K sec even in the 28.8K modem era.

    1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

      Re: Idle thought, at what point does fedex's bandwidth beat your ISPs?

      "Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway." -Tanenbaum

      "Well, go on then, get this disk pack to Norfolk! Step on it!" - my boss, long ago

      1. tmz

        Re: Idle thought, at what point does fedex's bandwidth beat your ISPs?

        Ah, you've just reminded me that I used to take the train from Bristol to Reading once a month with a RL01 5 MB DEC hard disk in a suitcase to sync sourcecode across our offices.

  8. ThomR

    Push it down!

    This is, sadly, another example of everyone, people and companies alike, pushing down responsibility for their formerly-featured work to those using the result. It's endemic, everywhere around us.

    It goes like this: at product introduction, some added feature, at some acceptable internal cost, is added. In cases like this, where a partnership is involved, the motivation is around future business. Over time, market fluctuations and normal product evolution, that value pull-through is seen more and more as an expense and less as a valuable investment. At some point, the decision is made that the feature "isn't that widely used", and "it's better separated", and responsibility is pushed to the user. For the organization, it's a simple cost-cutting event, and it works wonders. What they don't realize is that they have just spawned a required set of actions that take time and effort on the part of their entire user base. Regardless of how few a percentage of all users have to do the work, N-users minus one (the now-fired worker) now have more work. The effort spent by the whole of humanity is exploded in huge amounts by that one decision.

    Sure, for this one decision it's not "that much" extra labor across the earth. But, look around you these days, and you'll see companies and people doing this everywhere, pushing responsibility and effort to the user. A "safe, clean and secure" storage company that won't pay to control the rat population so you can't store food, bedding, clothing, cardboard boxes,....? A rental-car agency that makes you clean the interior in addition to filling the gas tank? Still taking your shoes off at airports? How many shoe bombings have been thwarted? Um...likely zero? Yet the human effort expended for zero benefit continues.

    I'm not saying there's a solution, I'm just saying it's getting annoying. Put the thing back in and deal with your licensing issues without wasting our time giving a d@mn about it. Did we all have to work through the license terms way-back-when? No! If we had, we'd have not set it at just 5 years, duh. So why do we have to even care now?

    Just sayin....

  9. makseo

    Mathematica (like Cortana in Windows) was just another pre-installed program that I didn't use. If I want it, I can download it. Until then, it doesn't pollute my Pi.

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