
Work on Basic Mathematica Stephen!
Posted:
May 12, 2013 3:28 AM


(I've renamed this and started a new thread because my reply is not exactly to the question.)
Oh, what a wonderful Wolfram blog! Earlier Stephen hinted at Mathematica as an iPhone app. Now it's data mining Facebook data (Gee I wonder if Zuckerberg has thought of that? He might be able to develop a great business model.) Can Twitter be far behind? There are many significant mathematical equations that will fit into 64 characters  or whatever the limit is. Ramanujan would probably have done well on Twitter. And women are more interested in personal relationships and men are more interested in sports? Who would have thought? The average person on Facebook has 342 friends! Well there are friends and there are friends. Montaigne wrote that his friendship with Etienne de La Bo=E9tie was such that "So many coincidences are needed to build [it up] that it is a lot if fortune can do it once in three centuries." One might say, ephemera in ephemera out.
For the dwindling few of us who still have desktop computers and large screens, or maybe two large screens, who are interested in learning or doing some extended mathematics, and the even fewer who would like to write literate Mathematica notebooks as technical documents, I wonder if Stephen could find some time to attend to basic Mathematica, fixing its problems and fulfilling its vision?
Mathematica lacks stability. Things that worked fine in one version don't work in the next. Especially troubling to me is the basic user interface. This got much worse in Version 9 with outright bugs that are in your face all the time. For example: often if I click in an existing Input cell and do a line return the Messages window opens with a contact WRI if this happens message. Or if one clicks after a word in a Text like cell and uses Ctrl+K for spell checking the message window again opens with a similar message. I like to use spell check a lot so this is especially annoying to me. I don't see why WRI couldn't have fixed these problems by now. (Or introduced an actually useful feature to spell check a selection such as a Text cell or a Section.)
The Version 9 command completion feature, which used to be great, no longer works well. I have turned off the auto completion feature but what is left still does not work as well as the Version 8 behavior. For example, if one types:
Carm
and then uses Ctrl+K to complete the command, there is only one choice, CarmichaelLambda. In Mathematica 8 the symbol would be automatically completed and the cursor would be left at the end of the word. But now it brings up a menu, even though there is only one choice, and one must click the menu. But you are not finished yet! No there is another menu (somewhat displaced so you may miss it), which is the equivalent of Ctrl+Shift+K and which we could have done if we wanted, so one must bypass that by clicking at the end of CarmichaelLambda to get back to the normal typing entry. That's two extra clicks added. You might say that's not much, but when it's at the basic entry point for material in a notebook it is a lot.
One has to wonder how many parsers there are in Mathematica for kernel, front end, packages, workbench and how their behavior shifts around between versions? Can one copy and paste an expression without its underlying representation changing? I suspect this may be a nagging underlying source of instability.
I realize and appreciate that WRI continues to add new capabilities to Mathematica and this inevitably results in learning and stability problems. There could be better design efforts on these things and more professional testing so the designs would stick and work well. Progress might be slower but it would be surer.
Doing mathematics is not social media. It's not done that well on an iPad. And iPhone, iPad technology is not necessarily appropriate for Mathematica. People do not want to scroll two 25" screens with their hands. Just ask Microsoft.
Mathematics and Mathematica are intrinsically difficult enough as it is. That makes it all the more important that WRI present users with a stable, robust, easy to use basic interface. WRI had not done the best job they could at this and not what one would expect for a relatively expensive product.
David Park djmpark@comcast.net http://home.comcast.net/~djmpark/index.html
From: r.b.nachbar@gmail.com [mailto:r.b.nachbar@gmail.com]
I'm interested in making word cloud graphics, as demonstrated in the recent Wolfram Blog post http://blog.wolfram.com/2013/04/24/datascienceofthefacebookworld/ (near the end of the post). Does anyone have a function that will do this?
Thanks,
Bob

