Wolfram Computation Meets Knowledge

Vista Seems to Be on Everyone’s Mind This Summer

As someone who works with university software groups to maintain Mathematica site licenses, I’m not surprised that Windows Vista compatibility is such a common topic of conversation. After all, this is the season for setting up computer labs for the upcoming academic year, and Windows is quite the popular platform.

What does surprise me is the tone of these conversations. The questions during Vista testing started pouring in during the spring and fall semesters, and continued this summer.

Inquiries have a slightly weary, mildly suspicious tone and start with questions like, “What’s the story with Mathematica on Vista?” Or, “When will Mathematica be compatible with Vista, and what limitations should we keep in mind?” A few schools even asked the exact same questions about compatibility twice in consecutive weeks!

Clearly a complicated answer is expected here.

But the answer, for Mathematica at least, has been very simple since Vista’s early-spring release.

Mathematica 5.2, which campuses had for the 2006-2007 academic year, works well on Vista. And Mathematica 6.0, released May 1, was fully supported on Vista from day one.

Here it is:

Mathematica 6 on Vista

This level of support doesn’t really surprise me; Wolfram has always had a history of quick platform support. I’ve worked here for years and remember the Mathematica 4.1 release, which was the first major computational software system to support Mac OS X (when OS X was first released). Our quick support isn’t just limited to desktop platforms, either. We supported the new Itanium Linux, for example, when that was first released in 2002.

But my colleagues in campus software licensing, always diligent, anticipated some issues with Vista compatibility–probably with good reason. Sometimes they repeat their questions with different phrasing. Sometimes there is a pause—almost as if schools are waiting for me to change my mind!

Why is a complicated answer expected about support for a very popular operating system? Well, a quick web search shows almost half of the common scientific software packages used at universities either aren’t compatible with Vista yet or just added support recently. I would imagine, as labs are upgraded to Vista, and new computers are purchased with Vista bundled, that this might be pretty tough to navigate.

So, a bit of parting advice: there’s no need to spend time worrying about how Mathematica will work on Vista. Spend your time instead talking about the new and interesting aspects of Mathematica 6, or go download and create some Mathematica Demonstrations!