PREP - Professional Enhancement Programs of the MAA

Exploring Multivariable Calculus Using Maple

A PREP Workshop

Computer Requirements


In order to prepare for the workshop we ask participants to install and test free software on their computers in advance. This will typically mean asking a colleague to install the software on a second machine in the department and testing the connectivity locally. We will do connectivity checks the week before the workshop and can provide technical assistance, but if there are problems with settings or security on a local network, the fix may involve help from high IT officials. It is easiest to fix those kinds of problems if they are known with some lead time. An additional advantage of prior installation is that several pieces of the software we use can be used in other settings. Participants are more likely to explore those other uses if they try the software out with a local colleague.

The software needed for the workshop consists of 4 pieces:
  1. Chat software used for instant messaging;
  2. Screen sharing software (VNC) allowing the particpants to see/share the instructors screen in real time;
  3. Quicktime software to allow the particpants to see (and more importantly to hear) the instructors during the sessions;
  4. Maple, a commercially available computer algebra package.
All of the software is available for the three major platforms (Linux, Macintosh, and Windows). The first three components are for the online facet of the workshop. Maple is commercial software, and its use is the content of the workshop. These components should be easy to download from the web and install.

Free Software - Components 1, 2, and 3

Participants will need the following freely available software. We recommend updating to the latest versions even if earlier versions have worked well on the computer before.

AOL Instant Messenger (AIM)

Of the four components, the chat software, AIM, is the easiest to obtain and install. The instant messenger software is used to communicate with participants and for participants to communicate with the workshop leaders. It will also be used to transfer files during workshop sessions.

Links for AIM

The software can be tested by having a colleague download the software on a second machine, obtain a second screen name, and have an online chat. Instant messaging has become so common among students that any student can probably give technical support for installation. (The workshop leaders on the other hand needed to install the software for the workshop. It may get turned off on our machines when the workshop is over.) AIM also allows two users to easily transfer files over the chat. Macintosh users can use iChat, once they have an AOL screen name.

Screen sharing - VNC

VNC is used to share our computer screen with remote users. Participants are able to see the Maple input and output as it occurs on the workshop leaders' computer. Instructions for connecting to the VNC server are provided to participants via email and/or AIM.

Screen sharing is one of the components that has potential for use by mathematicians outside the workshop, allowing colleagues in separate locations to share a computer screen. Thus it seems worthwhile to ask participants to install both the client (software to allow a user to see someone else's screen, and the server (software that allows someone else to see the user's screen). Workshop participants will only need the client software for the workshop.

Links for VNC clients:

Links for VNC servers:
There's a nice explanation of VNC with detailed installation instructions at New York University. (These instructions are now mirrored locally.) For Macintosh users the instructions are to launch the OSXvnc and click the start button. Record the IP address of the server and transmit it to the person with the client. The client user should launch "Chicken of the VNC", and put that IP address in for the host.

To do the local test we ask participants to download both the client and server to their machine and to a colleague's machine and to try sharing screens between themselves. (Note: we don't recommend both users in a test running both the server and client at the same time; this produces an infinite loop of receding windows on both computers.)

Local testing should reduce the number of problems that remain to be solved during the connectivity testing the week before the workshop.

Streaming Video and Audio

Streaming Video and Audio are provided via Quicktime Streaming of an MPEG-4 video stream (Note: we are considering upgrading to an H.264 stream, which Quicktime will handle). This allows participants to hear and see the workshop leaders.

Links for streaming video/audio

In testing this software, the issue will be whether or not your computer or your IT people have a firewall installed that blocks the ports used by the software. In our experience a number of institutions have firewalls that block live streams, but not movie files. Thus this can be tested in two pieces.


Maple is a commercially available software package for a wide range of mathematical, symbolic and scientific computation.

Links for Maple:

Participants are expected to have Maple available to work with during the workshop. We will be using Maple 10, the newly-released version. The methodology used can easily be adapted to other versions of Maple and participants will be able to use Maple, version 6 and higher. Maple has agreed to provide participants with a free time limited copy of Maple 10 that can be used during the workshop. Faculty members who use Maple in a course can obtain a free copy vie the Maple Adoption Program.

Hardware and Network Requirements

Participants will need: During testing with each participant we occasionally find that a participant needs to ask that firewall settings be adjusted at their institution to allow the appropriate internet feeds to reach them.

During previous workshops, participants found it useful to work with two computers at a time, with one to view the workshop and a second to work Maple problems on a second screen. Several participants used computers in labs rather than their office computers for the workshop.

For further information, please contact Russell Blyth ( or Mike May (

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This PREP workshop is made possible by the NSF grant DUE: 0341481

Workshop generously co-sponsored by Maplesoft