MATLAB to drop Maple for Symbolic Toolbox

June 30th, 2008 | Categories: applications, Maple, math software, mathcad, matlab | Tags:

If you are a user of MATLAB’s Symbolic Toolbox then you are a user of the Maple 10 kernel since this is what MATLAB uses ‘under the hood’ in order to perform symbolic calculations. As of Septemeber 28th 2008 the Mathworks will be switching the kernel of the Symbolic Toolbox from Maple to Mupad. So should you care?

The answer is almost certainly yes. Mupad is completely different from Maple with a different set of abilities, behaviours and, inevitably, bugs. For example, things that didn’t work in Maple versions of the symbolic toolbox will start to work in the Mupad version. On the flip side, some things may stop working where there was once no problem.

I have been through this before when Mathcad switched from the Maple kernel to Mupad and there were a few issues but I support a much larger number of MATLAB symbolic toolbox users and so I am fearing the worst, but then I always do when something major changes like this.

An example of the kind of issue I came across when dealing with the Mathcad change included things like equation solvers changing their behavior due to using different algorithms internally. This sort of thing cropped up in problems that had multiple solutions such as when you try to find the roots of certain equations. Lecturers notes suddenly started disagreeing with the output because, for a given starting value, Mathcad converged to a different solution. No big deal in a class situation (in fact it might be a good learning experience) but not good if you have legacy code that depends upon that result.

Other bugs were a lot more embarrassing.

I’ll be honest – I do not know enough about either Maple or Mupad (I don’t even have access to Mupad in fact) to be able to decide if this change is going to be a good thing or not but one thing is for certain – it will be different and that will need to be managed.

The practical upshot is – when you upgrade, you should check all scripts that depend on the symbolic toolbox

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