The latest upgrade to Wolfram Research's Mathematica puts into place some critical features for a technical computing package, especially for firms and public sector institutions wanting to deal with multi-core processors and networked compute hardware. Over 500 new functions have being added, as well as built-in image processing, and additional curated data stored on Wolfram's web servers, downloadable for use for analysis and application development.
Addresses multi-core processors and parallel processing; comprehensive feature set; many new curated data sources added.
Expensive, except for students.
£ 2,035 - Single license. Network license server version costing £2,645. Volume discounts apply. Student version £80
Version 7.0 of Wolfram Research's Mathematica, launched last November, lets users develop, model, simulate and visualise algorithms in a single integrated package, provided they can learn how to program in the rather idiosyncratic language syntax.
We installed the package on XP Professional and Red Hat's Workstation 4.0, after downloading .exe and .sh files from Wolfram's servers. Licensing for Mathematica 7.0 is either standalone or using a network licence server for specific user groups.
A long overdue feature in Mathematica is the ability to operate in parallel high performance computing environments, so the Mathematica engine, normally called the 'kernel', now has the ability to process complex computations and distribute them over multiple cores.
As chip manufacturers bring out core-packed processors, this ability is a must-have, as is the ability to compute on multi-core systems clustered together. In fact, a couple of weeks before Mathematica 7.0 launched, Wolfram announced an initiative with compute specialists Nimbis Services and R Systems to develop a 'cloud' computing service.
To enable the parallel and clustered system integration users first have to discover the available kernels on their local network, then interface to the cluster management package and then enable the remote kernels.
In version 7.0 Wolfram has added 500 new functions and support for 12 new application areas. Operating system support includes Linux x86, Mac OS X, Windows 2000/XP/Vista, Windows Server 2003/2008 and Solaris UltraSPARC/x86. All 64-bit versions of Windows and other 64-bit operating systems are supported.
One area where Mathematica has been enhanced significantly is the image processing facilities, which are now more comprehensive and built in, rather than having to rely on an imported package. Importing and painstakingly retouching images is maybe not Mathematica's natural environment, and users requiring such features, for instance on production desks, have alternatives like Adobe's Creative Suite.
Where Mathematica scores is in allowing users to create dynamic image processing tools on-the-fly, and its capacity for image processing algorithm development.