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rjbs (4671)

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I'm a Perl coder living in Bethlehem, PA and working Philadelphia. I'm a philosopher and theologan by training, but I was shocked to learn upon my graduation that these skills don't have many associated careers. Now I write code.

Journal of rjbs (4671)

Sunday July 01, 2007
09:55 PM

why would anyone use soulver?

[ #33654 ]

I acquired a license to Acqualia's "Soulver" application from a MacZOT bundle a few months ago. The idea is that you can do math in "plain English." As any programmer can predict, this is a total joke.

Q: What is $30 a month for 12 months?
A: $360.00

Q: You owe me 50 dollars and 0.62 cents.
A: $50.62

Q: M = half a million
   What is 10% of M?
A: 50,000

Wow! Fantastic! As their website says (emphasis theirs): It just knows what you mean.

Let's try some more...

  Q: 2 to the power of 2
  A: 4
  ?: right!

  Q: 2 squared
  A: 2
  ?: wrong!

  Q: square root of 2
  A: 1.414...
  ?: right!

  Q: cube root of 2
  A: 1.414...
  ?: wrong!

  Q: average of 1, 2, and 3
  A: 6
  ?: wrong!

  Q: sum of 1, 2, and 3
  A: 6
  ?: right!

  Q: 1, 2, and 3
  A: 6
  ?: right!

  Q: quotient of 9 and 3
  A: 12
  ?: wrong!

  Q: minimum of 1 or 3
  A: 13
  ?: mind-bogglingly wrong

  Q: 1 or 2 or 3
  A: 123
  ?: wtf

Some of these are extremely fundamental errors. It seems pretty obvious that when Soulver isn't sure what to do, it guesses, and it is willing to be wrong all the time for the sake of making the contrived demos on the web page work.

The idea that some poor sap paid $30 for this is depressing.

I reported these bugs. I have received no response, and there have been no new revs. I guess the definition of snake oil is that if it's selling, it's working.

(I have corrected a mistake or two that I made when transcribing things above, since posting.)

The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
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  • Just goes to show though, when it's an Open Problem, the best way to solve the problem is commercially.

    i.e. It still sucks, but because nobody could maintain the energy to do an Open Source solution, the commercial version lives on, while any Open Source attempt dies :)

    Of course, it will still suck...
    • What's really weird is that Soulver uses bc behind the scenes to do its math. I don't really know why. Possibly for high precision, or to take care of variables. It seems like a weird decision, but maybe there's a good reason. This makes me think that this works by applying a series of naive transformations to every line to convert it to bc.
  •   Q: sum of 1, 2, and 3
      A: 6
      ?: wrong!

    What would you expect the sum of those numbers to be?

    • Six! Whoops. I clearly zoned out while writing this. Here are some more stupid "plain English" examples:

        Q: sum of 5, 6, and 7
        A: 18
        ?: right!
        Q: sum of five, six, and seven
        A: (none)
        ?: useless
        Q: sum of five, 6, and seven
        A: 6
        ?: wrong
        Q: sum of five, s1x, and seven
        A: 0.8414709848
        ?: okay, I typoed; what happened?

      What did happen there? s, 1, x, and s1 are all (no reply). 1x is 1. s1x gets that small nu

      • Googling revealed that 0.8414709848 = sin(1)
        • Wow... just...

          Q: s1
          A: (no answer)
          Q: sin 1
          A: 1
          Q: sin(1)
          A: 0.0174524064
          Q: s1x
          A: 0.8414709848
          Q: s2x
          A: 0.9092974268
          That's the right sin(2) for s2x, there. The answer for sin(1) is for 1 degree. The one you gave is for one radian.

          No idea.
          • This was good for a good out-loud laugh this morning. Thank you. :)

            J. David works really hard, has a passion for writing good software, and knows many of the world's best Perl programmers
  • By the way, you *can* define functions, like: cube root(x) = x^(1/3)

    This is annoying because not all transformations are visible as built-in functions. Some are "word operators," like "root" which becomes the sqrt operator, leading to the "cube root of 9" resulting in sqrt(9) instead. Word operators are displayed in global prefs. Function defs are on the document window, but they're still global: my finger slipped and I deleted a built-in function and I can't see a way to get it back, short of reinstalli
  • It's kind of funny. If some Perl developer used to the CPAN/Acme conventions wrote such a software, that he admittedly knew that didn't work right but that was supposed to be amusing, it would be appropriate for an Acme module. Instead, they sell it. Wow! that's making money of an amusement (only pleasing for commercial owner's sake and not for user's sake).