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Which: Matlab, Mathematica, Mathcad

Discussion in 'CAD' started by Jim Thompson, Jun 8, 2005.

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  1. Jim Thompson

    Jim Thompson Guest

    Clients are starting to shovel data at me in
    Matlab/Mathematica/Mathcad formats.

    Can some regular users guide me in choosing which to purchase?

    Thanks!

    ...Jim Thompson
     
  2. Chuck Harris

    Chuck Harris Guest

    That's an easy one, Octave. It's free, it runs under Linux and 'doze,
    and does a nice jobe of emulating Matlab. There are some slight differences,
    but no show stoppers. The author is trying to eliminate as many of those
    differences as possible.

    Google Octave Windows download

    You'll find a source.

    -Chuck Harris
     
  3. Jim Thompson wrote...
    It'll have to be the same format that's being shoveled at you.
     
  4. Guest

    1) Matlab

    Excels at matrix-based numerical computation. Will crunch through
    large data sets easily. Lots of specialized toolboxes (cost extra
    unfortunately) for things like signal processing, financial operations,
    neural networks, etc. They've integrated Maple's symbolic computation
    abilities as a separate toolbox so you can (kinda) do symbolic
    integration, etc. as well as numerical computation, but the latter is
    really where it excels. Matlab has several clones (Scilab, Octave being
    the ones that come to mind first...both are Open Source) but IMHO
    Matlab is superior enough to actually be worth purchasing.

    2) Mathematica

    Excels at symbolic computation. Steep learning curve. Others can
    fill in more details.

    3) MathCad

    Dreck.

    Does symbolic computation like Mathematica, but not nearly as well
    nor as extensively. Does numeric computation like Matlab, but not
    nearly as well (just try importing a 50000-element vector from a text
    file...I dare you) nor as extensively.

    Mostly, it's a toy meant for educational use (which it is suitable
    for...mostly, though it tends to make students lazy such that they will
    fire up MathCad to solve a linear equation in 1 unknown...pathetic).

    The user interface will drive you nuts.
     
  5. Tim Wescott

    Tim Wescott Guest

    When was the last time you used MathCad? I've never used Mathematica,
    but I've been using MathCad for years, for computations far more serious
    than solving 1st-order linear equations, and it works pretty well for me.
     
  6. Tim Wescott

    Tim Wescott Guest

    MathCad and MatLab use two markedly different formats, once you go
    beyond comma-delimited files to store arrays they are totally
    incompatible. I haven't used Mathematica so I can't comment on it.

    Chuck's suggestion was spot-on: I started using Octave when I started
    the business, with the intention of buying Matlab when I had to.

    I'm still waiting.
     
  7. artie

    artie Guest

    As others have mentioned, Mathematica does have a steep learning curve,
    but excels at symbolic mathematics. It's also extensible into pretty
    much any realm you want.

    There are also free Mathematica notebook readers available from
    Wolfram, so if all you need to do is read and print, that's the way to
    go.
     
  8. Tim Wescott

    Tim Wescott Guest

    MathCad (and I would hope Mathematica) is what a spreadsheet should be.
    You define functions & variables in a freeform manner, interspersed
    with comments where applicable and graphs where needed to illustrate
    your points, and the tool takes care of all the computations. I use
    MatLab (well, Octave or SciLab) for heavy number crunching, but for real
    math I use MathCad.
     
  9. Bob Monsen

    Bob Monsen Guest

    I'll second Octave, but, again, the input language isn't exactly the
    same as Matlab. If you have hundreds of files to parse, this may be an
    issue.

    Also, I found it a bit tricky to get gnuplot working with it under
    windows for some reason. Gmuplot is used to do any plotting of results.
    My desire to use it to study digital filters was one factor that
    prompted a recent move from XP back to Linux.
     
  10. Joel Kolstad

    Joel Kolstad Guest

    This probably doesn't work for Jim, but educatoinal use versions of Matlab are
    cheap -- something like $99... although you don't get any of the various
    toolkits with it.

    I think Matlab is great, but the full version really is spendy -- many
    thousands of dollars!
    No it's not! MathCAD is certainly limited relative to Matlab (or anything
    else :) ), but it's often the fastest way to just "mess around" with some
    data and graphs. As soon as you need to write some reasonably programmatic
    functions, though, it becomes somewhat painful and Matlab is often the better
    choice.
    Meant for educational use... mmmm, yeah, I suppose. A toy? No. It's used
    everyday by folks doing Real Engineering Work, including the likes of Hans
    Camenzind (inventor of the 555).

    MathCAD is quite cheap relative to the rest...
    It is pathetic, but I'd have to say it's often due to the students never being
    required to learn how to do it by themselves. Technology is so complicated
    these days that you want to ask students to do things like solve very
    difficult differential equations, build fancy convolutional encoders, perform
    FFTs, etc., and there's no time (and often no reason) to teach them the
    mechanics of doing so themselves, so instead you teach them how to solve the
    problems using readily available tools.

    The disservice occurs when students are "given" (meaning, "required to
    learn!") so few "core" tools that they end up being helpless if they don't
    have a perfectly round hole for their round pegs. This happens at the lower
    (high school) levels where the emphasis is all on passing some standardized
    tests rather than actually learning what's going on.
    I think it's OK...

    ---Joel Kolstad
     
  11. Well, tastes differ. Below there are some my observations about
    Mathematica.

    I have been working with Mathematica for the last 5 years and I like
    it.

    1) Fast symbolic calculation and since Mathematica 5.0 fast numerics as
    well. Now numerical linear algebra is done with the same speed as in
    Matlab.

    2) A very consistent functional programming language. I should say that
    functional programming is very important feature for scientific
    computing.

    3) A nice working environment. A project is a single file, so called a
    notebook. You can even find books written within Mathematica.

    4) webMathematica gives you a smooth transition to the Web.

    We have a collection of functions in Mathematica related to MEMS
    simulation, you may have a look

    http://www.imtek.uni-freiburg.de/simulation/mathematica/IMSweb/

    If to speak about free tools, I think Python is not bad. There are many
    add-ons to Python for scientific computing now.

    Best wishes,

    Evgenii Rudnyi
     
  12. J. B. Wood

    J. B. Wood Guest

    Hello, and hey! I still use my ancient MathCad 6.0 Pro (it runs fine
    under Win XP) for electronics engineering work. It easily handles matrix
    algebra with complex numbers as matrix elements. I've also included
    MathCad pages containing text and formulas as-is into technical reports.
    As stated above you can easily "mess around" with MathCad much in the same
    way as you would a handheld scientific calculator or a spreadsheet. You
    can put MathCad away for several months or longer and pick right back up
    on it without significant relearning. Again, I'm speaking about my
    antique version. My .02 worth. Sincerely,

    John Wood (Code 5550) e-mail:
    Naval Research Laboratory
    4555 Overlook Avenue, SW
    Washington, DC 20375-5337
     
  13. Chuck Harris

    Chuck Harris Guest

    Yes, but Python is a general purpose programming language. I really
    doubt that we will be turning Jim Thompson into a Programming Wonk
    in this lifetime.

    -Chuck
     
  14. Rob Young

    Rob Young Guest

    Also "Scilab". There is a newsgroup for Scilab, comp.soft-sys.math.scilab
     
  15. Chuck Harris

    Chuck Harris Guest

    Scilab is an excellent program, but I don't like the terms. They only offer
    the free license to non commercial entities. That leaves consultants out
    in the cold. They want something like $500 for the license for commercial
    use. Might just as well use Matlab and Mathematica. At least
    with them, there is a paid staff to provide maintenance.

    I'll continue to use Octave. It is a very powerful, and well done program.
    And, the price is right.

    -Chuck Harris
     
  16. John Hudak

    John Hudak Guest

    Hi Jim:
    FWIW, I have used Mathematica, Matlab, and Octave. I like Mathmatica
    for symbolic manipulation/solutions of equations. It has (in my
    opinion) a steeper learning curve than Matlab/Octave. I have not used
    Mathcad. Being an engineer who does ckt design as well as control
    systems engineering, as well as signal and image processing, I like
    Matlab. The toolboxes contain all the functions that can be applied to
    heavy duty applications. The programming paradigm in basic Matlab
    carries over directly to the toolboxes. If interfacing to the realworld
    for realtime analysis (signal processing and control), Matlab does a
    very good job.
    From my usage, Octave is very similar to Matlab in the analysis
    portion, but I never tried to use it in a real-time mode. I must admit,
    it is great for the price.

    There is another tool that I really like, and depending on your needs,
    may be a better fit. Its IDL. IDL is: a mathematical analysis library
    (similar to matlab in both programming paradigm and functionality),
    programming language, and the ability to embed/integrate your analysis
    programs into your application for very good time response.
    IDL has been around for a long time, has good support, and runs on MANY
    operating systems (WinX, Linux, UNIX, VMS) and you can develop
    GUIs/applications that are truly portable (X, Win, web). If a function
    you need is not in it, or, you want to craft a display, or interface to
    a DAS, you can write your own functions to do it...there is also a user
    area that ppl contribute their functions. It does cost a bit (don't
    recall, its been a while since I bought it but, it can be cost
    competitive with Matlab..
    http://www.rsinc.com/
    Good luck
    John
     
  17. Joel Kolstad

    Joel Kolstad Guest

    Hey, can anyone out there who's familiar with Mathematica compare it to Maple
    in terms of symbolic manipulation?
     
  18. Hi Jim,
    Mathcad got me through grad school, so I have to recommend it, although
    that was (mumble) years ago, and the program has changed quite a bit
    since then.

    Pluses: WYSIWYG interface, so nice for equations and such, decent
    import/export capabilities.

    Minuses: Learning the user interface (Oh, you have to enter the limits
    for the integration... Here, not there, OK, so, why do I have that
    little box there?...)

    Charlie
     
  19. John Hudak

    John Hudak Guest

    Hi Joel:
    I used Maple probably 5-7 years ago...at that time, Mathematica was much
    better...but a lot has changed.
    John
     
  20. Chris Carlen

    Chris Carlen Guest



    Mathematica is the most advanced symbolics package available.

    There was a time when I was learning to analyze circuits, by writing the
    time domain differential equations. I wrote out the whole system
    equations for a full wave bridge rectifier including transformer
    inductance, diode models, ESR of the filter caps, and the filter C.
    Mathematica could solve this system (numerically), but Maple couldn't
    even deal with the equations. Ultimately I discovered that SPICE was
    much more effective at solving these sorts of things due to being
    optimized for this form of system. But it was very educational to solve
    the equations in a general purpose math package.

    The ability to combine symbolics with numerics makes it much more useful
    to me than Matlab, since I am often seeking to avoid pages of tedious
    algebra in deriving some relation. But then I wish to immediately apply
    my new function to data or generate data, which it can do as well.


    Good day!

    --
    _______________________________________________________________________
    Christopher R. Carlen
    Principal Laser/Optical Technologist
    Sandia National Laboratories CA USA

    NOTE, delete texts: "RemoveThis" and "BOGUS" from email address to reply.
     
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