7R4. Simulating, Analyzing, and Animating Dynamical Systems: A Guide to XPPAUT for Researchers and Students. - B Ermentrout (Dept of Math, Univ of Pittsburgh). SIAM, Philadelphia. 2002. 290 pp. Softcover. ISBN 0-89871-506-7. $63.00.
Reviewed by A Mahajan (Dept of Mech Eng and Energy Processes, S Illinois Univ, Carbondale IL 62901).
The book is a hands-on tutorial for a software package called XPPAUT. This software package is used for simulating, analyzing, and animating dynamic systems. Essentially, the software package provides numerical methods for the solution of a variety of equations, including ordinary differential equations, delay equations, integral equations, functional equations, and some partial differential equations, as well as boundary value problems. It introduces many modeling techniques and methods for analyzing the resulting equations. Other software packages that do the same are MATLAB, MAPLE, and MATHEMATICA. According to the author, the numerical integration in XPPAUT is faster than all of the other packages, but the most compelling reasons to use the software seem to be that it is free and provides an interface with AUTO, a continuation package. The intended audience for the book is researchers, system modelers in industry, instructors, and students.
This reviewer routinely uses MATLAB and has on occasion used MAPLE and MATHEMATICA, but had never come across XPPAUT. Hence, using a new software package, particularly because it was free (a copy can be downloaded from the author’s website, which is given in the book), was exciting. But before one can run the software in the Windows environment, one has to install an X Windows Emulator. The book does a good job in pointing the readers to a few sites for demo versions that last for a few days or 30 minutes a session, after which one needs to buy one of these (the cost is quite nominal, from $25 to less than $250). This reviewer still had a few problems in getting the display to show up in the X window, but finally got it to work. A compiled version is also available for download that bypasses the need for X windows. Once XPPAUT is working on the desktop then it is fairly easy to follow the book. One of the strengths of the software package and the book is the easy and simple way to create input files that contain the differential equations. Printing can only be done through a PostScript printer or one has to go through a program called GhostView. This reviewer worked through quite a few examples and found the book well written and easy to follow. The animations were fairly easy to set up and were fairly well presented in the book. The book has a very good subject index, though the first chapter on installation could be better, especially for the Windows-based users who have never worked on UNIX systems or X Window Emulators. Further, for people used to working on Windows-based packages like MATLAB, navigating through the DOS-based XPPAUT could be fairly tedious.
Simulating, Analyzing, and Animating Dynamical Systems: A Guide to XPPAUT for Researchers and Students definitely lives up to the author’s aim in providing a comprehensive tutorial for the XPPAUT software package in addition to the documentation that comes with the software. It would definitely help people who use the software package or would like to use it. The book is a softcover edition and is reasonably priced at $63. This reviewer would definitely recommend that libraries and serious individual users of the software package purchase the book.