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Worth it to buy MATLAB student version?

  1. Sep 3, 2009 #1
    I'm a physics major in my junior year. I'm taking Diff. Eq. right now and after this semester I'll be in nothing buy upper-level physics and math courses. Would it be worth it to buy the MATLAB student version?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 3, 2009 #2
    buy it? a simple google will get you to trial, demo, or something else.

    plus, you prolly won't use it as much. For little usage, you prolly could do with those installed in your school's computers.
  4. Sep 3, 2009 #3
    I'd rather have it in the convenience of my own home. lol.

    Would a trial or demo be enough to cover some problems from my textbook?
  5. Sep 3, 2009 #4


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    Is Matlab used in one of your courses?
    If so there is a chance that you will get a student license for free.
    Some universities buy a site licence for Matlab that includes the right for students (and sometimes staff) to install Matlab at home.

    Also, not all universities use Matlab; some use e.g. Mathematica instead meaning you might be better off getting that instead.

    It is perhaps worth pointing out that Matlab is primarily a tool for NUMERICAL calculations; it can handle some analytical problems as well (at least if you have the right toolbox installed) but if you want a piece of software that can be used to simplify expressions, plot formulas etc you should probably get something else (Mathematica, Maple, Mathcad etc).

    Btw, there are some free "almost Matlab" programs available and some of them are actually quite good. GNU Octave is a good example.
    The programs are so similar to Matlab that you can quite often run code intended for Matlab directly in Octave; there are some minor differences (e.g. the way you write comments) but nothing too confusing.
  6. Sep 3, 2009 #5
    There are some MATLAB assignments in my Diff. Eq. course I'm in currently. As of right now, I believe we can go to the Math computer lab on campus. I'd rather just do my assignments here. I've also never used MATLAB either.
  7. Sep 3, 2009 #6


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    Personally I use MATLAB quite often (I'm a medical physicist).

    Getting intimately familiar with it, beyond the occasional assignment for a class will give you a marketable skill if you ever seek employment outside academia and will certainly be of help if you end up doing any numerical work in graduate studies or research.

    As F95toli pointed out, programs like Octave are freely available and therefore may provide another good option for a financially challenged student.
  8. Sep 3, 2009 #7
    I plan on graduate school.

    The student version is only $99. I could afford it. I just want to know if it would be a good investment.
  9. Sep 3, 2009 #8


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    I've just been looking at the freeware python with its numpy & scipy add-ons which looks pretty good & does a lot of the plotting & linear algebra that Matlab does, with some DE stuff around for it

    has the added advantage of being an actual prgramming language which can interface with other components and languages (C++ fortran etc.)

    not sure if people have thoughts on it?
  10. Sep 3, 2009 #9
    Let's see. You have MATLAB assignments and you refuse to do them on the campus computers and prefer to do them at home...hmmm...I wonder if that means you should buy it.
  11. Sep 4, 2009 #10


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    Then buy it. Just be prepared to spend quite a loot of time learning how to use it, it is likely that you will only be given a short introduction to Matlab so if you want to learn how to really use if you will need to spend some time with t on your own (and maybe buy a book). My guess is that you will be using Ode23 or Ode45 to solve and plot some differential equations, which is quite easy if you have a "well-behaved" problem and to not need to understand all the details.

    I was a lucky in that we were told essentially from day one (Matlab was part of the intro course) that we would be using Matlab for just about every course (and we did) meaning it was quite obvious to everyone that it was worth spending some time learning how to use it.
    I've now used if for almost 15 years and I wouldn't be able to do my job without Matlab, I use it for everything from theoretical calculations to analysis of experimental data. In more recent versions of Matlab the handling of plots/graphs have improved a lot so nowadays I also use it for preparing graphs for papers and presentations (instead of using e.g. Origin).
  12. Sep 4, 2009 #11
    i have something else, for both maple and matlab (latest versions) and they have full features.

    well...i don't think you'll be using it that much right now. When it comes time to use it, you'll probably have to upgrade to a newer version (which probably costs)

    anyway, if you insist on buying, get it for cheaper price. I think amazon has it for $70 or so.
  13. Sep 4, 2009 #12
    My textbook set came with a MATLAB book:

  14. Sep 4, 2009 #13
    The $70 one is a 2007 version. The new one is only $99. Does it have everything I'll need?


  15. Sep 4, 2009 #14


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    Yes, those toolboxes should cover just about anything you are likely to encounter in a course. There are some other toolboxes that are sometimes nice to have (e.g. the curve fitting toolbox) but those are more specialized and often just add a nice used interface to functionality that is already included in the basic version of Matlab.

    Also, don't worry too much about how old the version is (within reason); at the moment I am using 3 or maybe 4 different versions (on different computers) and I can hardly tell the difference. Matlab has been around so long that very little changes from one version to the next. If you buy the latest version now you will certainly be able to use if for at least 3-4 years before there is any reason to upgrade. Most of the main changes over the past few years have been to the user interface; the actual program hasn't changed much.
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