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Math Linux Technology

Ask Slashdot: Replacing a TI-84 With Software On a Linux Box? 254

yanom writes "I'm currently a high school student using my TI-84 for mathematics courses. It has all the functionality I need (except CAS), but saying that the hardware is dated is putting it nicely. Waiting 4-5 seconds for a simple function to be graphed on its 96x64 screen just makes me want to hurl it at the wall. Recently, I've begun to notice the absurdity of doing my math homework on a 70's era microchip when I have an i7 machine with Linux within arm's reach. I've begun looking for software packages that could potentially replace the graphing calculator's functionality, including Xcas and Maxima, but both lack what I consider basic calculator functionality — xcas can't create a table of values for a function, and maxima can't use degrees, only radians. So, does anyone know of a good software package to replace my graphing calculator (and maybe provide CAS to boot)?"
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Ask Slashdot: Replacing a TI-84 With Software On a Linux Box?

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn@gIIIm ... inus threevowels> on Friday December 14, 2012 @05:13PM (#42293281) Journal
    If you're not afraid of programming (and it sounds like you're not): R. Gimme more details if you want to know what packages to use for graphing and stuff but installing R is incredibly easy []. At the risk of tooting my own horn, you can read through this post [], the corresponding story and the replies to it. There are a ton of packages for producing graphs. Are you going for accuracy? Beauty? Speed? What?

    Lastly, please don't hate on the TI-84. I still have mine as well as a TI-89 and while they were both expensive, they are beautiful and trustworthy devices. Both have outlasted countless other computing machines that have passed through my usage.
  • try these (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 14, 2012 @05:14PM (#42293335)

    and bc

  • Octave (Score:5, Informative)

    by mjvvjm ( 1003135 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @05:17PM (#42293381)
    Octave - a matlab work-alike
    easy plotting, extensive libraries for linear algebra, stats, etc.
  • Mathematica (Score:4, Informative)

    by michael_cain ( 66650 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @05:20PM (#42293485) Journal
    It's not free, but a student license isn't much more than the high-end calculators (at least at local bookstore prices) and it will do just about anything you can imagine needing up through at least calculus. Even the mobile or browser front ends that use a Wolfram server are damned good, so long as you have network connectivity.
  • Sorry About That (Score:5, Informative)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn@gIIIm ... inus threevowels> on Friday December 14, 2012 @05:41PM (#42294021) Journal

    The requested URL ( was not found.

    This is the correct link []. Man, first a major typo from a Wikipedia article and now this, I think I'm done with Slashdot for today. Not even sure how that happened ...

  • Re:How about... (Score:4, Informative)

    by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @05:45PM (#42294111) Homepage Journal

    Someone should mod a ti89 with newer chipset and android OS.

    Would this [] be equivalent?

    Caveat: I am not a "math person."

  • by cheesybagel ( 670288 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @05:51PM (#42294215)
    I also give my backing to R. There are other packages which look more like integrated though like Octave [] or Euler []. You can even get Mathematica [] for Linux but it is somewhat expensive.
  • Qalculate! (Score:4, Informative)

    by BlackPignouf ( 1017012 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @06:21PM (#42294927)

    I loved my TI 89 before I left outside one rainy night.
    qalculate-gtk is my go to calculator on my linux boxes : []
    Don't let the website design scare you, it's a pretty decent calculator, and handles units very well (e.g. "10kWh to MJ")

  • Re:Sorry About That (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 14, 2012 @06:23PM (#42294983)

    This annoyed me so much I dug through Firefox's about:config until I found browser.urlbar.trimURLs. Set it to false and gain functionality.

  • by jones_supa ( 887896 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @06:40PM (#42295291)
    I assume you are looking for a Linux solution, but Microsoft Mathematics [] really deserves a mention. It's a free-as-in-beer software which has nice graphing features and a smart equation solver. Something between a basic calculator and hardcore tool like MATLAB.
  • Re:R is easier (Score:5, Informative)

    by LourensV ( 856614 ) on Friday December 14, 2012 @07:32PM (#42296291)

    I've got an MSc in CompSci, and I'm now doing a PhD in a biology department. I teach a programming course using Matlab, and I've recently started using R to do my own analysis stuff, mainly because it's popular and I'd like to stay compatible with the rest of the field, as well as use some specialised software that works with it. I have to say, being used to real programming languages (such as C++, I'm not counting Matlab here, although see below) I'm quite frustrated with R. Function names are generally different from other languages and to me at least unintuitive, and the documentation is too often extremely vague and difficult to search.

    For example, the function match() returns the offsets of entries in a vector that match a given object. But what exactly constitutes a match, well, according to help(match) that is "to some extent a matter of definition". It goes on to give an example or two, but that definition remains elusive. Or look at this gem from help(as.vector):

    Value: For ‘as.vector’, a vector (atomic or of type list). All attributes are removed from the result if it is of an atomic mode, but not in general for a list result. The default method handles 24 input types and 12 values of ‘type’: the details of most coercions are undocumented and subject to change.

    First, a "vector of type list" is actually just a list. In R, a vector is an ordered collection of elements all of the same type, while a list is an ordered collection of elements of (possibly) different types. So, by the normal Liskov rules, one could say that a vector is a kind of list in which the types of the elements are all identical. According to the R language definition however, a list is a kind of vector. In practice, lists and vectors are used in rather different ways so their exact relation is not so relevant, and it doesn't make much sense for the help page to throw them together like this. Second, apparently attributes are removed for atomic vectors, but not "in general" for lists. This is a somewhat arbitrary inconsistency, and it leaves the reader to wonder if there are specific attributes or lists for which this doesn't count. But the kicker is in the last sentence: not only are the exact workings of this function explicitly undocumented, they are also subject to change without notice! Note that these are not functions from some obscure package that I pulled off of somebodies blog. They are core language functions, and unfortunately these examples are not exceptional. A colleague of mine recently had his whole analysis suddenly return weird results after a routine update of an add-on package, because someone decided to swap the order of the longitude and latitude arguments to a function for no particular reason.

    That's not to say that R is not usable, but in my opinion is is unsuitable for any kind of programming, and perhaps unsuitable for programmers. R is a powerful, extensible system for statistical analysis, with a command line interface. If you consider your text files with R code as reference notes rather than as source files, and if you use R interactively, copy-pasting lines from your notes and checking after every couple of operations that it's actually doing what you think it is, then you can do useful things with R. Looking around me, that is in fact how most people use it, and what I've taken to doing as well, although I can't resist attempting to automate things here and there.

    Comparing R to Matlab, in my eyes there's no contest in terms of ease of use. The Matlab help files are professionally written and tell you what you need to know in enough detail to be useful, and that difference alone makes it a lot better. The language itself is also a bit more sensible, at least to me, being designed as an easier-to-use alternative to FORTRAN, where R is based on LISP. I was originally considering moving my course to R from Matlab, since I don't like to teach proprietary software, but now that I have some experience with R I'm pretty sure

  • Re:R is easier (Score:4, Informative)

    by HuguesT ( 84078 ) on Saturday December 15, 2012 @07:56AM (#42300471)

    I'm somewhat surprised by this comment.

    The R language and associated libraries is completely described by these free books:

    In fact the reading of the short document by Bill Venables is enough to cover over 90% of what most people will ever need.

    R is an implementation of the S language by John Chambers [], for which he got the 1998 ACM Software System award. It is *not* based on LISP in any way even if the FAQ mentions that one difference between the way R and classical S treats global variables can be compared with the way LISP does it. Even if it were, I don't see any problem with this. Your comment relating to people copy-pasting code in the R console mirrors the way I see people use Matlab every day, so I don't see how one can conclude anything from it.

    The S language predates Matlab by a few years. It is perfectly fine. Yes it has some quirks compared to C or Java or indeed Matlab, but it has some definite advantages like named arguments for functions, and vector/matrix/data frame handling capabilities that indeed Matlab does not match.

    Matlab definitely has a speed advantage but on the other hand R has a fabulous graphics engine. In fact it is in my opinion unmatched except by Splus, another, commercial implementation of S. In fact it is really not fair to compare R, which is a grassroot, free software implementation of a complex language, which is proprietary (and *expensive*)

    Matlab has a much more comprehensive library of useful routine for signal and image processing. S has a much more comprehensive library for statistics. This is because it is used by professional statisticians every day.

"Life begins when you can spend your spare time programming instead of watching television." -- Cal Keegan