Software Development and
The University of Wisconsin-Madison
121 0 West Dayton Street
Madison, WI 53706
(608) 263-9484 or 263-9864
Price: $90. Student version: $40.
Requirements: IBM PC/XT/AT or
compatible: 256 K RAM. DOS 3.0 or
later. Comes with a version that uses
a math coprocessor and a version that
Solver-Q is an interesting addition to the solver market. It is more of a specialist product than the Big Three. Designed by an academic as a "total environment for thinking" Solver-Q is ideologically similar to MathCAD, but less polished. The program, although rough around the, edges, is powerful and imaginative.
The author, Fernando Alvarado, has a background in power engineering, and Solver-Q reflects the concerns of this particular discipline. Since power engineering requires considerable mathematical sophistication, the program is also quite suitable for a variety of scientific and technical problems. Solver-Q will handle nonlinear optimization, as well as differential equations and the more common math manipulations. It does not have as extensive a library of built in functions as the Big Three pro- grams, but it does have good documentation and extensive onscreen interactive tutorials.
Like Eureka, Solver-Q has a four-window screen. The windows are for Messages, which includes command menus and other items requiring user action; Status, which lets you know whether the program is really working on your problem or has gone out to lunch; Equations, where you enter the actual equations and data to be used in solving; and Results, which displays the solution of the equations in window 3. Unlike Eureka, the windows cannot be shuffled or resized, although you can change the colors.
Solver-Q can manipulate and solve up to 1,000 simultaneous nonlinear equations, depending on the structure of the equations. While not as good as TK’Solver Plus or MathCAD, this is much better than Eureka. The program is fairly slow, but will handle problems of considerable complexity. It allows a high degree of user definition in its action. In fact, it requires a certain amount of programming, in the form of IF-THEN statements, for some problems.
This is not a program for the general public or for students. A paragraph from the documentation reads: “Because a discontinuity in the derivative often occurs when using if-THEN functions, problems with if-THEN statements may converge better when the incremental method for Jacobian computation is selected. You may expect some oscillatory behavior around some discontinuities before final convergence.” If you don’t un derstand this paragraph, don’t buy Solver-Q.
Ease of use and ease of learning are only fair. The 27 tutorials are helpful, but they take considerable time to wade through. The documentation, while brief and complete, is clearly intended for professionals already familiar with complex mathematical techniques and usages. Report generation is essentially nil. You can write your results to a file, but after that, you have to edit the file with an external text editor. Oddly, the program lacks any plotting capability.
Support is a little iffy, insofar as the main support person is the individual who designed and authored the software. Solver-Q is supported through the University of Wisconsin software center, which distributes it. This center supports some 60 software packages, all designed by university faculty and staff. The center employs some technical support people, but not many, and they’re not all qualified to answer questions on all packages.