|Re: OT: Mathematica Home Edition|
Message #3 Posted by Howard Owen on 28 June 2009, 1:13 p.m.,
in response to message #2 by Quan
That's right. There are restrictions on the license that say you can't even think about making money while using the home edition. I suspect listening to coins clinking while running the program might violate the license as written. :)
I first saw Mathematica back in 1988 when it was introduced. It was a flashy application then, and the physicists I worked for seemed to like it quite a lot. It was more interactive, powerful and nice looking than Maxsyma, which was the standard tool my customers had used up until then. I remember taking a tour of the program and being impressed with its capabilities, so much so that I've wanted a copy ever since.
Based on a day or so of use, my quick impression of Mathematica 7 is that the software differs from freely available alternatives in two respects. First, the program is a lot easier to use than Maxima et. al. It's not a given that free software should be inferior in this regard, but it seems to be so for this particular program. Second, and more important, Wolfram has an unbelievable support system behind Mathematica. It's not just the depth and breadth of the documentation, which is marvelous, it's the enormous body of supporting material, from video and interactive tutorials, to source code for applications to high quality scientific databases. Free software alternatives no doubt have similar resources available, but not from one source, and therefore not as accessible or well organized.
I come to a similar judgment when comparing GIMP to Photoshop, for example. I've used GIMP since 1998, early in its life. It's a very powerful program that will do practically anything you want a 2D graphics editor to do. Finding out how to do things can be challenging though. If I had to start from scratch learning it today, I'm sure I'd have a tough time. Photoshop on the other hand comes with huge resources, both from Adobe and third parties, which make learning the program much easier. I find the UI differences to be not so significant with these two programs, but that may be due to my 10+ years of experience with GIMP.
Of course the other big difference, for both these programs as compared to their Free alternatives is the cost..