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Michael J. Johnson

Spring 2008

Octave Installation and Documentation

Octave is a standard package in most linux installations. If you’re using Windows XP,
then you can download the file from the course repository,
rename it as octave-4.1.73-1-inst.exe, and then install it. The repository also contains
some supplementary octave functions in files like supp octave function?.tar.gz which
is a gzipped archive (good luck extracting that!). The ascii text files contained in the
archive have been converted to Dos format (the line endings in Dos are different than
Unix), so if you are using Linux, you’ll have to convert them to Unix format with the
unix command dos2unix (eg. dos2unix *.m). You can also download the Octave manual
octave.pdf from the repository, but keep in mind that you can get help on any particular
octave command by typing
help commandname
at the octave prompt.

Getting Started
I suggest that you have the Octave manual along with an octave session both running
simultaneously on your machine. In order to start Octave under linux, you should open a
terminal (or console) and type the command
I suggest that you read the sections Preface and Introduction and work the suggested
examples so that you can get some quick experience. In the introduction, you can skip the
part about integrating diffierential equations and obtaining graphical output.

Getting familiar with important commands

As a first task, I suggest that you try to learn how do plots. For this you’ll need to read
about the Octave commands linspace and plot. You can find linspace in the function
index of the Octave manual. The command plot can be found in the section Plotting. For
a quick and short explanation, you use the Octave command help linspace or help plot.
Here’s a sample to give you a quick idea (but be sure to read the documentation!):

Typeset by AMS-TEX

plot(x,y); (Note: using N=1000 will give you a more accurate plot)
I suggest that you try to become familiar with the following Octave commands (see
function index of manual):
linspace, plot, rand, size, length, zeros, ones, eye, abs, max, min, sort, who
After this, have a look at Expressions -> Arithmetic Operators to understand the


The first four operators above are straightforward; while the last four are very useful, but
require some thought and experimentation to understand. As an example problem, try to
plot the function

sin(x3 )
f (x) = , 0 ≤ x ≤ 2π ( in Octave, pi = π).
1 + cos2 (x)

Next, have a look at the Polynomial Manipulations section of the Octave manual with
special attention given to the Octave commands polyval, conv, polyderiv, polyinteg.
You can try the following problem:
Example. Let f (x) = x3 − 2x + 1 and g(x) = 3x + 2, 0 ≤ x ≤ 2.
a) Plot f
b) Construct and plot h = f g. R
c) Construct and plot k = f 0 + g.
d) Find 1 f (x) dx.
e) Construct and plot p = f + g (be careful: f and g have different degrees!)
Note: you’re supposed to use Octave to do everything here; don’t multiply, integrate, or
differentiate by hand.

Lastly, please read Functions and Scripts -> Script Files to learn how to write script
files. When you use Octave to solve homework problems you’ll have to write your solution
as a script file and give it to me on a diskette or via email. Under Linux, I suggest the
text editor gedit which is similar to Bill Gate’s program notepad. You start it at the
command prompt (ie inside a terminal) with the command:
gedit &
(the optional & keeps your terminal alive while gedit is running)
CS-543 3

Using diskettes with Linux

In order to use a diskette under linux, you first insert the diskette and then give the
mount /mnt/floppy
To copy the file hw1.m from your current directory to the diskette, use the command
cp hw1.m /mnt/floppy
To copy the file script1.m from the diskette to your current directory, use the command
cp /mnt/floppy/script1.m .
To remove the file hw2.m from the diskette, use the command
rm /mnt/floppy/hw2.m
Before removing the diskette, you should give the command
umount /mnt/floppy
to ensure that the computer is finished writing to or reading from the diskette when you
remove it.