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Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010, 4:11 pm

Octave Packages – The Free Software Candy Store

Octave packages

Octave packages - window

THIS POST is part of a series that I do about my incursions moving from MATLAB to Octave, which has so far been a pleasant experience. QtOctave looks better and is easier to install than MATLAB (on GNU/Linux with KDE at least). For those who experienced being a customer/user of MATLAB, it can really be a pain in the butt, licence-wise. The parent company, MathWorks, can be very aggressive when it comes to licensing (it pays the BSA after all), so people are kept tied to particular IP addresses and must renew something to remove artificial limitations. Moreover, the toolboxes that MATLAB sells separately are a case of artificial scarcity and they can be expensive. Octave resolves much of this by centralising a lot of software as shown in the screenshots above (also separating free/libre from proprietary). Rather than waste time with paperwork and bank transactions, any QtOctave user can simply and quickly click away to receive anything s/he desires. It’s truly like a candy store.

Why ever go through the trouble presented by MATLAB, Maple, Mathematica, or IDL? Some people may need these for collaboration and consistency (as in monoculture), but it is better to start without any proprietary software dependency.

I will report on more aspects of this comparison as I go along. At the moment I’m exploring the GPLv3-licensed BioSig project, which allows me to deal with DICOM datasets of the heart (images acquired just recently — ones that I picked up at the hospital yesterday). Speaking of which, I’ve learned that some scanning machines that traditionally used Windows are now moving to GNU/Linux. How exciting times are coming…

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