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Promoting the Wolfram Language on the RPi

Posted 7 years ago
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Recently one of the Wolfram blog posts that showcases the very exciting geosciences tools available from the Wolfram Language appeared on the Raspberry Pi website. I am always happy to see how people use Wolfram on the RPi (because I use it frequently and I hope there are enough users out there to encourage continued support of the platform), but this post got me wondering: how much of this code actually works on the RPi? I am a huge fan of Vitaliy's work, and he's done some great demonstrations, but I was a bit suspicious as to whether or not anyone checked to see if the code he posted in this blog entry actually runs on the RPi.

It turns out that there's a good bit of the code that can't run, since the post uses several functions (TimeListPlot and WordCloud) that were introduced in v10.2, and the RPi version hasn't caught up yet. Additionally, while it is not prohibitive, the first code block, displaying the track of the solar eclipse from earlier this year, takes over a minute to render. I don't think this is terribly unreasonable, but it made me wonder, is this an effective method of promoting the use of the Wolfram Language on the Raspberry Pi? The question is a bit rhetorical, and I think a well-intentioned presentation of some cool coding will ultimately end up turning people away from the Wolfram Language rather than embracing it.

I put together my own blog post of what I think is a step in the direction of encouraging WL-RPi usage. Rather than bedazzle the audience with a bunch of features, we focus on just a few (essentially the first part of Vitaliy's post), walk through a few of the elements, and then propose some ways in which the code could be changed. It encourages readers to refer to the documentation (which is very good in my opinion) and helps readers think about Wolfram Language coding in general (for example, why did Vitaliy use a With block in the first example but a Module in the second?). My post could be improved - I don't address the long-rendering time issue, and I would be interested in hearing other people's ideas about how to introduce WL to the RPi masses. I'm particularly interested in how one approaches education to non-computer-science students. I, for one, am trying very hard to get science students, many of whom have zero programming knowledge, to utilize Mathematica in their data acquisition and analysis routines. I think it is possible to use Mathematica as a students first programming language, but it is going to take some serious thought about what type of content should be delivered and how.

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