Experiences with Simulink’s Communications Toolbox

April 4th, 2008

Simulink is a companion to Matlab which purports to be a time-flow simulation package. This post is going to get quite technical, so if you’re not into either communications system design or Simulink in general, look away now.

I’ve used Simulink before, in my third year at York, but that was following a well-structured lab script where the lecturer had partially set up the models in advance. This time I’ve been doing a course (I’m obliged to do one of Leicester’s engineering MSc modules in my first year) simulating communications systems in Simulink, and the lab script is much vaguer. I’ve spent a lot of time banging my head against a brick wall in Simulink, and here are some important gotchas that might save other people going through the same level of auto-cranial damage.

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MathWorks update

February 20th, 2008

I finally have my Matlab package, it arrived yesterday, by DHL from Dublin. I thought the saga was over, but little did I realise what was in store for me this morning. David (the head of Engineering) appeared in my office with a printout of Monday’s blog post about Matlab. It turns out that the post was picked up by someone in MathWorks’ head office in the USA, and went all round their management before being sent to the UK office. They admitted fair comment on their customer service, but objected to my giving away the level of discount they offered us on the product, which should have been confidential. I’d not been told this, but had I been less frustrated and more rational that day I’d have realised that suppliers’ prices are jealously guarded things. Anyway, I’m shortly going to remove the offending figures from that post.

I am now, apparently, quite well-known within MathWorks…

Matlab progress

February 16th, 2008

Shortly after writing that last ranty blog post, the MathWorks salesman emailed me back saying that he could grant me temporary access to the software whilst the sale went through. It would have been helpful to know this six weeks ago! Anyway, I’m now able to get going on some RF simulation work, for which I’m profoundly grateful…

The MathWorks, Inc are a Bad Railway

February 11th, 2008

You may have come across MATLAB, the matrix-manipulating maths package that’s widely used by engineering academics. It’s published by an American firm called The MathWorks, whose slogan is “Accelerating the pace of engineering and science”. This appears to be, in the immortal words of Douglas Adams, a load of dingo’s kidneys. I’ve been trying to buy a copy of their software (MATLAB, Simulink and the various Communications add-ons for them) since before Christmas, and they’ve now wasted over a month of my time in failing to supply it.

The complicating factor is that MATLAB is extraordinarily expensive. The list price for my combination of options, as a single-user licence (that is, a licence for just me to use it on my computer) is over £6000! However, MathWorks have always given huge discounts to universities, which is why it’s so widely used in academia. BAS have been negotiating with MathWorks for about a year to get the academic price on the software (which would seem reasonable given that we’re a government-funded academic research institution) and just before Christmas I was told that the team had negotiated for a significant discount. I promptly raised a purchase order before the Christmas holidays set in, then came back to find nothing had happened. I’ve spent all of January chasing Steve (the purchasing officer) who has in turn been chasing MathWorks by phone and email and even refaxed the purchase order to them, and still no answer. Today I return to work after being on holiday for a week (Skiing in the French Alps, marvellous!) and find that a) nothing has happened and b) Steve is on holiday. I get a copy of the correspondence from one of Steve’s colleagues and chase the firm myself. Their salesman and I play voicemail tennis this morning and I eventually get a message from him saying that we need an invoice number to qualify for the discount. I go and see David, the Head of Engineering, who’s been doing the negotiating. He calls the salesman, who promises to email us more details of what hoops we need to jump through.
The saga continues.

In the mean time, I would like to say that The MathWorks, Inc, are a Bad Railway. If anyone else is planning on buying their products, I would seriously reconsider it!