Monday, December 21, 2015

Maxima in Common Lisp via ASDF

I have previously used Lisp code that ran in Maxima. This is fairly straightforward if you know Common Lisp. Basic instructions can be found in Chapter 37.1 of the Maxima help files (look for Contents link at the top of any of the help pages). But, how about the other way around—Maxima from Lisp side?

I recently looked into running Maxima inside Common Lisp using ASDF and found this. That gave me hope that it was possible and a little insight into what it was trying to do. I have sometimes wanted to create a user interface in some other environment (such as LispWorks) and call upon Maxima to do some computations for me.

To get yourself set up to access Maxima from Common Lisp you need:
  1. The source, including the maxima.asd file.
  2. Some idea where to put stuff and, perhaps, a few tweaks to the maxima.asd file.
  3. Some file search variable set up to allow Maxima load statements in your common lisp code so you can access functionality found in the share packages or your own packages.


I put the source under my common-lisp directory so that a simple call to (asdf:load-system :maxima) would work.

I found that I needed to edit the maxima.asd file. I don't want to tell ASDF where to put the result or interfere with its "normal" operation. "ASDF, you're in charge!" is basically how I look at it. Accordingly, I commented out the output-files :around method. I suppose you could change the *binary-output-dir* here as well, if you would like to—perhaps to suit whichever Lisp you are compiling to.

Fig. 1. I'm pretty sure I don't need this code for my purposes, so I have it commented out.

Accessing Shared Packages

You might not realize how much stuff is in the share packages if you have been using the wxMaxima interface only. It appears that a number of widely used share packages are automatically loaded in wxMaxima, but maxima.asd only loads the core components. This is not a serious impediment—you can determine which packages to load from the Maxima help files.

But before you can use the Maxima load command, you need to set the file_search_maxima and file_search_lisp Maxima variables. I combined a call to asdf:load-system with the setting of these variables in a file under my common-lisp directory. I called this file load-max.lisp and it looks a bit like this (note how hairy it gets if you scroll right):

So, if I want to use Maxima in my Lisp session, I just need to call (load "~/common-lisp/load-max.lisp"). I can move to the Maxima package by calling (in-package :maxima).

Try out the diff function:

MAXIMA> ($diff #$x^2$ #$x$)

Note the syntax for referring to the diff function ($diff) and the syntax for an entire maxima expression (#$expression$). There's also some lower to uppercase switching to watch out for, but see chapter 37 of the Maxima help documentation for more about this.

Suppose I want to use something in a share package or one of my own custom Maxima packages. I can use the Maxima version of load, namely, $load.

MAXIMA> ($load "stringproc")

MAXIMA> ($parse_string "x^2")
((MEXPT) $X 2)

One more example, to show how to deal with Maxima-specific features that are beyond the scope of Common Lisp. In general, use the meval function as in:

(setf n (* 3 4 5 6 7))
(maxima::meval `((maxima::$divisors) ,n))

((MAXIMA::$SET MAXIMA::SIMP) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 18 20 21 24 28 30 35 36 40 42 45 56 60 63 70 72 84 90 105 120 126 140 168 180 210 252 280 315 360 420 504 630 840 1260 2520)

(If you're interested, see Maxima-discuss archives. HT Robert Dodier.)
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