There is a vast amount of Matlab-based software for neuro-imaging and psychological research. For various reasons, such software has not been considered for integration into Debian in the past. However, recent advances of the Octave project allow running a significant number of Matlab tools without the proprietary environment.
To ease the transition to a completely open-source research environment, we are following a two-fold approach. On one hand we start packaging all relevant Octave-compatible software for Debian. On the other hand we work on a proper integration of (still) Matlab-only software.
The latter shall be achieved by providing a support Debian package that can represent local Matlab installations to the Debian package management system. Moreover, this package provides helper tools that ease building MEX extensions from source during package installation with a local Matlab and therefor allow for inclusion of such packages into Debian ‘contrib’ suite (given an appropriate licence).
The goal is to provide researchers with fully functional Matlab software, that can be used with Matlab on Debian systems, while benefiting from all advantages of Debian integration. However, at the same time researchers should have the possibility to seamlessly switch to Octave whenever possible or necessary (e.g. a laptop being out of reach of a university’s license server), and eventually completely migrate to Octave when full compatibility for a particular software is achieved.
This effort includes talking to upstream projects about the possibility to run with Octave, as well as developing patches to achieve such compatibility.
A Matlab-support package is available starting from Debian 7.0 (wheezy) and Ubunty 11.10 (oneiric). Backports for older releases can be obtained from NeuroDebian.
Packaging of individual Matlab-based software has started. An SPM package is ready, and a preliminary package of EEGLAB is available from NeuroDebian. An upcoming Fieldtrip package is work-in-progress (see references for more packages). Further expansion of the coverage is planned.
Integrating Matlab-based software