REDUCE

20 Maintaining REDUCE

Since January 1, 2009 REDUCE is Open Source Software. It is hosted at

http://reduce-algebra.sourceforge.net/

We mention here three ways in which REDUCE is maintained. The first is the collection of queries, observations and bug-reports. All users are encouraged to subscribe to the mailing list that Sourceforge.net provides so that they will receive information about updates and concerns. Also on SourceForge there is a bug tracker and a forum. The expectation is that the maintainers and keen users of REDUCE will monitor those and try to respond to issues. However these resources are not there to seek answers to Maths homework problems - they are intended specifically for issues to do with the use and support of REDUCE.

The second level of support is provided by the fact that all the sources of REDUCE are available, so any user who is having difficulty either with a bug or understanding system behaviour can consult the code to see if (for instance) comments in it clarify something that was unclear from the regular documentation.

The source files for REDUCE are available on SourceForge in the Subversion repository. Check the "code/SVN" tab on the SourceForge page to find instructions for using a Subversion client to fetch the most up to date copy of everything. From time to time there may be one-file archives of a snapshot of the sources placed in the download area on SourceForge, and eventually some of these mat be marked as “stable” releases, but at present it is recommended that developers use a copy from the Subversion repository.

The files fetched there come with a directory called “trunk” that holds the main current REDUCE, and one called “branches” that is reserved for future experimental versions. All the files that we have for creating help files and manuals should also be present in the files you fetch.

The packages that make up the source for the algebraic capabilities of REDUCE are in the “packages” sub-directory, and often there are test files for a package present there and especially for contributed packages there will be documentation in the form of a LATEX file. Although REDUCE is coded in its own language many people in the past have found that it does not take too long to start to get used to it.

In various cases even fairly “ordinary end users” may wish to fetch the source version of REDUCE and compile it all for themselves. This may either be because they need the benefit of a bug-fix only recently checked into the subversion repository or because no pre-compiled binary is available for the particular computer and operating system they use. This latter is to some extent unavoidable since REDUCE can run on both 32 and 64-bit Windows, the various MacOSX options (eg Intel and Powerpc), many different distributions of Linux, some BSD variants and Solaris (at least). It is not practically feasible for us to provide a constant stream of up to date ready-built binaries for all these.

There are instructions for compiling REDUCE present at the top of the trunk source tree. Usually the hardest issue seems to be encuring that your computer has an adequate set of development tools and libraries installled before you start, but once that is sorted out the hope is that the compilation of REDUCE should proceed uneventfully if sometimes tediously.

In a typical Open Source way the hope is that some of those who build REDUCE from source or explore the source (out of general interest or to pursue an understanding of some bug or detail) will transform themselves into contributors or developers which moves on to the third level of support.

At this third level any user can contribute proposals for bug fixes or extensions to REDUCE or its documentation. It might be valuable to collect a library of additional user-contributed examples illustrating the use of the system too. To do this first ensure that you have a fully up to date copy of the sources from Subversion, and then depending on just what sort of change is being proposed provide the updates to the developers via the SourceForge bug tracker or other route. In time we may give more concrete guidance about the format of changes that will be easiest to handle. It is obviously important that proposed changes have been properly tested and that they are accompanied with a clear explanation of why they are of benefit. A specific concern here is that in the past fixes to a bug in one part of REDUCE have had bad effects on some other applications and packages, so some degree of caution is called for. Anybody who develops a significant whole new package for REDUCE is encouraged to make the developers aware so that it can be considered for inclusion.

So the short form explanation about Support and Maintenance is that it is mainly focussed around the SourceForge system. That if discussions about bugs, requirements or issues are conducted there then all users and potential users of REDUCE will be able to benefit from reviewing them, and the Sourceforge mailing lists, tracker, forums and wiki will grow to be both a static repository of answers to common questions, an active set of locations to to get new issues looked at and a focus for guiding future development.