## A Mathematica user installs Maple

February 17th, 2009 | Categories: Maple, math software | Tags:

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am into mathematical software in a big way and that I have got access to pretty much all of the big commercial names – Mathematica, MATLAB, Mathcad, the NAG library and Origin to name just a few.

One conspicuous omission from this list is Maple since my University doesn’t have a site license for it and I can’t afford my own copy right now.  Thanks to the kind people of Maplesoft, however, I have been sent a review copy and so will be able to play with it, discuss it and hopefully be of some use to the Maple community.

I’m going to start slowly and just talk about installation today but Maple seems to be a great program so there will be a lot more to come.

Unboxing

I was sent a copy of Maple 12.01 and, like many software applications these days, it came in what appears to be a seriously oversized box!  Unlike many other applications though – the box for Maple is oversized for a very good reason.  It contains manuals! For the benefit of younger members of the audience – manuals are books that used to come with computer software but over the years they have been dropped in favour of on-line help systems.

Maybe I am showing my age but I have always lamented the passing of good quality paper-based manuals and so I was overjoyed to find that not only does Maple come with a nice little ‘Getting Started’ pamphlet but it also comes with a 400 page ‘user-manual’, a 388 page ‘Introductory Programming Guide‘ and a 442 page ‘Advanced Programming Guide.’ Truly, this must be documentation Nirvana.  Other software vendors should take note!

I have never really used Maple before and simply flicking through these books gave me a flavour for what was coming and before long I was itching to get started.

Installation

I installed my copy of Maple onto Ubuntu Linux version 8.10 and, like many new users, I didn’t even glance at the installation documentation.  I spend some of my professional life writing installation documentation and I find that bashing my way through an install without first consulting the docs allows me to pre-empt most of the problems that new users face.

Once the CD had auto mounted at /media/cdrom1/,  I installed Maple by typing the following at a bash prompt

sudo /media/cdrom1/installMapleLinux

and a nice Graphical User Interface started up which lead me through the process.  All very nice until it asked where I wanted to install Maple 12.  The suggested directory was

/root/maple12

Now opinions on this may vary but personally I don’t want to see anything get installed in the /root directory – ever.  I assume that the installer was picking up on the username I was using and, since I had used sudo, that username was root.  Still, I would much rather see the default directory be /opt/ which is used by many other commercial packages.  I am being picky here though..it is only the default directory after all.

The rest of the install was very straightforward and went without incident.  There comes a point where you have to be connected to the internet in order to activate the product but this is in line with many other packages of this type these days.

For those of you in user support – the problem will come when your Linux newbie user finishes the install and tries to actually run the thing.  It hasn’t been integrated with the GNOME or KDE menus in any way and typing

maple

at the command prompt rewards you with

Of course if you have had a bit of experience with Linux then you will know that the fix to this is quite trivial but if you don’t know Linux at all then this will lead to a support call to your IT department or at least a bit of goggling.  Even once this issue has been fixed, a new user may be surprised to find that the maple command rewards them with nothing more than a command line.  The actual command you need to use is xmaple.

Experienced users of Maple may be rolling their eyes at this point as they think something along the lines of ‘Why is Mike worrying about this stuff – it’s all so trivial.’ but I support applications like MATLAB and Mathematica at a large UK university and I find that experienced users rarely have the need to contact me.  Beginners, on the other hand, contact me all the time and this is the sort of stuff that bogs them down in the early stages.

Despite these minor issues, the install went fine and Maple is working just fine.  It is a very nice package and has many great features that set it apart from its competitors – expect to hear more from me about all of this soon.

update – how to fix the error message

Someone recently pointed out to me that if you google the error message

bash: maple: command not found

then you get this page and yet I didn’t give details on how to fix it. The reason for this error message is that the maple command has not been added to your system’s PATH which prevents your system from finding and executing it.

To fix this, edit your .bashrc file (which should be in your home directory) and add the following two lines to the end of the file

PATH=\$PATH:/opt/maple12/bin
export PATH


You’ll need to change /opt/maple12/bin to wherever you actually installed maple.

1. Hmmm. Thinking about it, the only Linux apps I’ve used that *do* integrate with the KDE/GNOME menus are the ones I’ve installed from repositories using tools like apt. Maybe the slew of different potential window manager configurations make it less appealing for software not packaged for a specific distribution to integrate with the desktop better.

Sorry, it’s not a very maths-y comment.

Hang on, I can fix that… errr… Euler’s identity, man. It’s awesome :)

2. Hi Paul

Mathematica integrates with GNOME (on my Ubuntu machine at least) and inserts an extra item in the ‘Applications’ menu. It also associates .nb files with the program so you can double click on a Mathematica notebook to open it.

The only problem is that I don’t like where it puts the menu item by default and the installer didn’t give me a choice so I had to move it manually.

So, it is possible for a commercial vendor to do this :)

Of course, not everyone will want a menu item so the installer should offer to put one in but not force you to go through with it.

3. Hi Mike,

Mathematica also installs menu items and sets associations in KDE (3 and 4). Also I think pretty much all programs you’d install via (for example) apt-get don’t give you the choice of where to put the menu item.
(Although it’s probably a property of apt, not the programs)

btw, I’m sure that there’s some appropriate comment to make about your destiny, the ‘dark side of the force’ and you installing Maple….

4. Hi Simon

Thanks for the KDE info. You are right – most (all?) standard Ubuntu applications don’t give you the choice but at least they are co-ordinated in some way so the Applications menu doesn’t get impossibly long when you open it (like it inevitably ends up on any windows machine I use).

Mathematica creates its own Wolfram category and then puts Mathematica inside this. If every commercial application I use on Linux did something similar then the Applications menu would become ‘mahoosive’ (as one of my friends might put it).

I much prefer to have it in the standard menu entry ‘Education’ next to Octave but your milage may vary.

As for my destiny…isn’t the darkside supposed to be ‘Quicker, easier…more seductive’? Sounds like good marketing spiel for any piece of software to me ;)

5. The problem with Maple is the lack of design. It is a big mess of different grad student projects. Some of them very good, some of them not. But it is very hard to learn the whole system as it is so inconsistent.

It looks quite good at first and if all you need it for is calculus homework it is fine. But every time you think you are “getting” Maple and try and learn something new, you feel like you are starting over again.

6. Maple is a cool math program. But I do agree with Pete, everytime I start something new it feels like I’m starting all over again. However that’s the beauty of it, there’s multiple ways to achieve the same thing and that makes Maple extremely versatile, while in itself a bit challenging in some ways to get it to do what you want.

Hard copy manuals is a definite plus. But the big negative of software these days is that you must be connected to the internet for activation, terrible news for anyone not on the internet or disconnecting themselves from it. Hopefully Maplesoft can assist anyone who does not have a connection with the internet to activate their product. But anyone most likely using Maple has a computer (obviously) and is most likely connected to the internet.