Issue 56, 22 August 2006

In this issue:


Top Story - Three Decades of NAG Ltd - from 0 to 30 in a flurry of achievements!

In March 2006 NAG celebrated 30 years since the formation of NAG Ltd - quite an achievement in the fast moving and uber-competitive software market. NAG's commitment to the research and development of high quality numerical and statistical algorithms began in 1970, six years before its incorporation as a company, and this commitment continues right through to the present day.

During the three decades that followed NAG Ltd's business formation, many great product and project triumphs have been witnessed by the experts that develop NAG's products, by our customers in industry and academia, and by the software press. In this and future editions of NAGnews, we will focus on the early years at NAG, the three decades that followed and the future as we see it.

The early years (1970-1976)

  • The NAG project, led by Brian Ford (http://www.nag.co.uk/about/fordbathdegree.asp launched in the UK as a collaborative, inter-university activity in May 1970, coordinated from Nottingham University
  • Funding support came from the Computer Board, a UK government body
  • Ambitious standards set for designing, documenting and testing numerical software
  • NAG Algol 60 and Fortran Libraries, Mark 1, released in October 1971, for specific ICL mainframe series
  • Steve Hague (http://www.nag.co.uk/about/shague.asp) joins as first, full-time employee in October 1971
  • The Library continues to grow - three more Marks (major editions) over next five years
  • First non-ICL Library implementations appear - a ground-breaking event in portable numerical software
  • Interest in use of Library grows from industry and outside UK
  • Pioneering use made of software tools in numerical software development
  • NAG moves from Nottingham to Oxford in August 1973 (and “N” in “NAG” becomes “Numerical”, rather than “Nottingham”)
  • NAG formed as an incorporated, not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee, in March 1976

The next issue of NAGNews will feature accolades from the first decade following incorporation.


General Information - NAG User Survey 2006 - Technical Computing Trends

In May 2006 NAG undertook its largest user survey to date. Over 4000 worldwide users were contacted to request the completion of an online survey to help NAG gain further insight into various issues such as software and hardware use, functionality usage and future requirements.

The results of the survey illuminated many popular areas of numerical libraries including Optimization, Solution of nonlinear equations, Numerical Integration, Linear Algebra and Random Numbers. The numerical areas of Global Optimization, Nonlinear Regression and Wavelets are functionality that NAG users would like to see to be added to future library releases.

Unsurprisingly, NAG users program most commonly using Fortran and C/C++, with Java, Python and Microsoft .NET languages all showing expected increasing usage over the next few years. Just under half of the survey participants reported use of HPC environments.

In terms of platform use trends among the respondents, 53% cited Windows as their primary technical computing platform, with Linux following closely at 51%. Twenty-four percent of survey participants plan to begin using 64-bit platforms in the near future.

To read the recently published report on the survey findings, please see http://www.nag.co.uk/about/Survey2006.asp.


General Information - Herefordshire LEA licences NAG Schools Excel Add Ins

The Local Education Authority (LEA) in the UK county of Herefordshire recently licensed the NAG Schools Excel Add-in (N-SEA) software to aid the teaching of mathematics, statistics and information communications (ICT) for all its secondary schools throughout the county. After seeing the software in action and learning of the extensive additional functionality that N-SEA brings to Microsoft Excel, the Herefordshire Secondary Mathematics Consultant recommended countywide use of N-SEA.

N-SEA is the perfect tool for the teaching environment because the majority of teachers and students have some familiarity with Excel, and so users do not have to spend valuable time learning a new software package. N-SEA is used in conjunction with Excel and will enhance learning techniques helping teachers and students achieve excellent results.

To learn more about N-SEA and how it can enhance the teaching of GCSE, A'Level and higher education level students, visit our website http://www.nag.co.uk/n-sea/index.asp


People News - W3C Math Working Group rechartered

The World Wide Web Consortium's Math Working Group has just been rechartered to work on MathML3. Once again David Carlisle, Senior Technical Consultant at NAG is serving on the Group as an Invited Expert. The Charter for the new group is available to view here http://www.w3.org/Math/Documents/Charter2006.html.

Key areas of extension planned for the new MathML standard are extending Content MathML to cover areas of mathematics used in educational contexts, and extending MathML's support for other languages, specifically Arabic.

NAG uses MathML internally in several of its XML file formats and recent releases of the library documentation are available as a prototype in XHTML+MathML format which may be read with a suitable browser. See for example the recently updated documentation of the NAG Fortran Library, which has links to the XHTML+MathML files and to instructions for enabling MathML support in Internet Explorer and in Mozilla/Firefox (http://www.nag.co.uk/numeric/FL/FLdocumentation.asp).


NAG in the News - “Is your software trustworthy?”

The following is an introduction to an article entitled “Is your software trustworthy?” written by Rob Meyer, CEO of NAG and was published in the May/June issue of Financial Engineering News.

While visiting one of our customers a while back I learned that their new financial modelling application, using some of our code, would soon be in the hands of hundreds of retail account managers. I found myself alternately proud that they had the confidence to use our code in this high-profile application and slightly uneasy that someone other than a financial engineer was about to make decisions worth substantial sums based upon the answers. I have the utmost confidence in the abilities of our mathematicians, statisticians and software engineers but I have spent enough years around mathematics and technical software to appreciate a few of the things that can go wrong. The experience made me think about trends in financial applications, the esoteric realities of numerical software quality and the implications for how our organization (and yours) develops software.

In an era where organizations are putting increasingly sophisticated financial modelling software in the hands of employees and customers, it is critical to build in the quality that inspires trust from users who will never see a line of code or a mathematical formula. In the rest of this article I'll talk about trends I see in the development of financial applications and why code quality is increasingly important. I'll also outline some of the steps our organization takes to ensure quality.

To read the article in its entirety please visit our website http://www.nag.co.uk/IndustryArticles/meyerfen49.asp


Tips & Hints - N-SEA - What do I do if my data is stored in rows, rather than columns?

N-SEA expects data to be stored in rows, rather than columns. That is, N-SEA assumes each row is an observation, and each column is a different variable. If your data is stored the other way around, that is the observations are stored in rows, and the variables in columns you will have to make some changes. For example, if the first row is continent, the second row is gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, and each column corresponds to a different country then in order to use this data within N-SEA, you will need to first transpose it, that is, swap the rows and columns over. The easiest way to accomplish this within Excel is via the Paste Special command.

  1. Select the data you wish to transpose.
  2. Copy the data, either using the Ctrl+C key combination, or by clicking on Edit and then clicking on Copy.
  3. Select a single cell in an Excel worksheet. This cell will be the top left hand corner of the transposed data (Q1 in the example below). It should be noted that Excel will not generally issue a warning if the pasting processes will overwrite data on already on the spreadsheet. Care must therefore be taken when selecting this cell to ensure that any required information will not be overwritten.
  4. Click on Edit and then click on Paste Special. The following dialog box should appear: Make sure that the All option in the Paste section and the None option in the Operation section have been selected. Tick the Transpose check box.
  5. Click on OK. If you get a warning message saying that the “selection is not valid”, it is probably because the data you are trying to paste will overwrite the data you are copying. If this occurs you will need to return to step 3 and select a different cell. The data should now have been transposed. For example: the continent variable is now in column Q and the GDP per capita in column R. Each row now corresponds to a different country.

All previous Tips & Hints can be found in the NAG Tips & Hints Repository


Events - UK
  • CETL-MSOR Conference 2006 - 11th September 2006, University of Loughborough
    NAG is delighted to be attending the Continuing Excellence in the Teaching and Learning of Maths, Stats and OR Conference in September. Experts from NAG will be available to discuss the use of NAG software in Education http://www.nag.co.uk/main_education.asp

Product News - New Implementations

NAG is committed to offering new implementations of its broad range of numerical and statistical software, compilers and tools. Since the last edition of NAGNews, platform availability has increased as detailed below.

The NAG Fortran Library, Mark 21 is now also available for the following platform:

  • x86-32 Windows using the CVF v6.6 Compiler

The NAG SMP Library, Mark 21 is now also available for the following platforms:

  • IBM Power 4+ AIX 32-bit using the XLF v 9.1 Compiler
  • IBM Power 4+ AIX 64-bit using the XLF v 9.1 Compiler
  • Itanium Linux64 using the Intel Fortran v8.1 Compiler
  • AMD-64 Linux64 using the pgf90 v6.1-1 Compiler
  • Sun SPARC Solaris using the Sun f95 v8.0 Compiler
  • Sun SPARC Solaris 64 using the Sun f95 v8.0 Compiler

The NAG Parallel Library, Mark 3 is now also available for the following platform:

  • Itanium Linux64 using the Intel Fortran v9.1 Compiler

The NAGWare f95 Compiler, Release 5.1 is now also available for the following platform:

  • Sun SPARC Solaris

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