Interviews with scientists who are using or developing free and libre open source software
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In episode 22, we interviewed Robert Dodier from the Maxima project. After a brief introduction and a presentation of Robert's current uses for Maxima he introduced what is Maxima and what can be achieved with it. We discussed some core concepts of Maxima's language as well as how to access the documentation within the software to help users. Then discussion went on about the interesting origin story of Maxima and its origin as a tool for AI. We then talked about the current state of the project and how can someone provide help. As well as our usual quick questions, we had an interesting discussion about the social aspects within FLOSS and other self-organized projects.
00:00:26 Presentation of Robert Dodier
00:02:01 The scope of Maxima and its application for Bayesian inferences
00:02:57 Why not use R or another programming language for Bayesian inferences?
00:05:03 When did he discover Maxima?
00:05:29 Maxima's core features stability since 2003
00:06:04 His 30 seconds elevator pitchfor Maxima
00:06:43 Reference manual and Maxima's documentation
00:07:52 Accessing Maxima's documentation
00:08:41 Comparison with Maple and Mathematica
00:10:50 The concept of "code equal data"?
00:12:54 Maxima's language complexity/simplicity
00:15:13 User interfaces for Maxima
00:16:24 Console interface for Maxima
00:17:12 Presentation of the resulting equations or results
00:17:46 Integrating Maxima and LaTeX
00:19:08 The origin story of Maxima
00:25:17 Licensing status before the relicensing to GPL
00:26:00 Maxima for undergrad students and researchers
00:28:33 Robert's contributions to the project and its self-organized structure
00:31:39 How many people are involved in the project
00:32:13 Communication channels for the project
00:32:52 Underlying technologies in Maxima
00:34:27 Ressources for newcomers
00:35:47 Robert's vision about FLOSS in science
00:36:26 Negative impacts of FLOSS on science
00:37:25 The most notable scientific discovery in recent years
00:39:22 Robert's favourite text processing tool
00:40:04 The social aspect of FLOSS
00:42:34 Anything else he wanted to share with us?
00:43:39 How to contact Robert
In episode 21, we interviewed Juan Pablo Carbajal, an Argentinian physicist currently working as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Urban Water Management at the ETH domain in Switzerland. We had a great discussion about GNU Octave and how it can help scientists. We compared its core functions and its expandability through packages to its commercial equivalent Matlab and its toolboxes. An interesting feature of GNU Octave that we explored with Juan is the possibility to migrate code from Matlab directly to GNU Octave and to a certain point maintain code compatible with both. Juan shared with us that since the introduction of an integrated GUI in 2015, he noticed a continuous growth in popularity for the project. We then discussed about a few of the reasons why companies are interested by GNU Octave and why universities should teach using free/libre software. Before asking our usual quick questions, Juan talked with us about the reasons why FLOSS is important for science and the importance of exposing non-FLOSS users to the benefits of FLOSS.
00:00:00 Message to our listeners
00:00:45 Introducing Juan Pablo Carbajal
00:01:32 30 seconds elevator pitch for GNU Octave
00:02:20 How does the Octave programming language compares to other common programming languages
00:03:23 Compatibility between GNU Octave and Matlab
00:06:29 Matlab's toolboxes compared to GNU Octave packages
00:07:31 Simulink models with GNU Octave
00:09:06 Parallel processing with GNU Octave
00:10:40 The issue with CUDA in GNU Octave
00:11:48 How GNU Octaves differs rom other open source Matlab equivalents
00:13:34 Syntax compatibility to ease transition and reusing code from Matlab
00:15:11 Resources to start using GNU Octave
00:16:40 GNU Octave's graphical user interface and the old QT Octave GUI
00:20:14 GNU Octave's graphical user interface compared to Matlab
00:22:11 Why GNU Octave and not simply Octave
00:23:06 GNU Octave licence
00:24:01 How often he uses GNU Octave
00:24:18 Juan's numerous contributions to the project
00:25:27 GNU octave for companies
00:27:45 Arguments for teaching with GNU Octave instead of Matlab
00:29:32 How many are involved in the project?
00:30:37 Communication channels within the project
00:31:34 Is the project actively looking for developers?
00:32:11 Skills required to contribute
00:33:14 The two-level language dilemma
00:34:59 Juan's vision about FLOSS and its importance for science
00:37:09 Possible negative impacts of FLOSS and converting non-FLOSS users
00:40:17 The most notable scientific discovery in recent years
00:41:46 Juan's favourite text processing tools
00:42:38 Things we forgot to ask about
00:43:57 Anything else to share?
00:44:25 How to contact Juan
In episode 20, we interviewed Arfon Smith, Editor-in-chief of the Journal of Open Source Software (JOSS) and Head of Data Science at the Space Telescope Science Institute. We talked with him about the creation of JOSS and its role in peer reviewed publications of research software. He described to us how to start a peer reviewed scientific journal and the challenges and competition that he faces. We chatted about how, by using automation, reusing existing tools and staying nimble, JOSS manages to publish with low operational costs. We also discussed about the submission process and what is reviewed during the peer review. Finally, we had a discussion about the importance of FLOSS and in science and how science and FLOSS could inspire each other.
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