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FLOSS for Science

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Interviews with scientists who are using or developing free and libre open source software


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EP022 Symbolic Calculation with Maxima
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. 00:00:17 Introduction 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 00:43:57 Outro
EP021 High-level Scientific Computing with GNU Octave
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 00:00:29 Intro 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 00:44:50 Outro
EP020 Peer-reviewed Publication of Research Software
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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Podcast Details
Jan 12th, 2018
Latest Episode
Sep 4th, 2019
Release Period
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Avg. Episode Length
44 minutes

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