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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wolfram CDF Player and Chrome Browser

Wolfram Computable Document Format (CDF) is a way to embed interactive documents into web pages, in particular those that perform calculations in response to a user changing the parameters. For example you can create graphs of functions that will change as the function is modified. It is an extension of the Wolfram Mathematica software.

It looks really promising for some applications and you should check out their demonstrations - some impressive, some not so much.

You 'play' CDF files using a browser plugin - just like Flash - and these are available for all the current browsers.

I'm running it on Google Chrome on Mac OS X on a fairly recent laptop. It performs OK depending on the specific application and the amount of data it is asked to push around. But when you close that window or move to another page the CDF player process continues to run. In my case that was taking 5% of my cpu and 66MB of memory and it continued to do so for perhaps 10 minutes after the page was closed.

This sort of drain on your cpu, due to the plugin, is fairly common - just look at everything going on in Activity Monitor when you are browsing an 'active' web page with ads, etc.

In Chrome you can go to Window -> Task Manager, select a process and End it - but that didn't appear to do anything in my case.

CDF looks very interesting but if it requires too many resources, and then fails to release them properly, then it is not likely to be broadly adopted. It is something to keep an eye on, for sure.

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