Phaser 3.0: Frequently Asked Questions
This is the FAQ page for Phaser 3.0, where you can find answers to the most common questions we receive. You are invited to send us your own questions for inclusion. This page will be frequently updated.

What is Phaser? And for what audience is it indended?
Phaser is a specialized application of educational and scientific software, with an inviting computing environment, specifically crafted for the graphical and numerical simulations of dynamical systems (based on ordinary differential and difference equations). Phaser is designed to be utilized by science professors, instructors, students, researchers, or by anyone with a passionate interest in mathematical modeling, analysis and visualization of dynamical systems. Please see our welcome page for a more detailed description of our intended audience, or take a tour to find out more about the scientific software computing environment of Phaser.

What is the current version of Phaser? What's changed since the previous version?
The current version of Phaser is 3.0, released in April 2007 (and updated in March 2009). The previous version of Phaser was 2.1, released in December 2003. Phaser 3.0 is a major upgrade. The changes are documented in the Phaser 3.0 Release Notes.

Will files created in earlier versions of Phaser work in the current version?
Yes. Phaser Project Files (.ppf) and Phaser Gallery Files (.pgf), and any Custom Equations created in Phaser 2.1 will work in Phaser 3.0. The current version is backwards compatible with earlier file versions. However, the converse is not true; that is, files created in 3.0 will not necessarily work in 2.1.

On which platforms does Phaser run? Installers for which platforms are available?
There are specific Phaser installers for the Windows (XP/Vista), Mac OS X (Tiger), Linux (with Gnome/KDE), Solaris (Sparc), and generic UNIX platforms. The Windows, Linux, and Solaris installers come bundled with Sun's Java 6 Runtime Environment. In theory, Phaser should run on any platform for which Java 5 Runtime Environment or greater is available.

What are the minimum/recommended system requirements for running Phaser?
Minimum hardware requirements: a single 1.5 GHz processor, 1.0 GB RAM, a 64MB video card that supports 1028 x 768 screen resolution, and 100MB of available disk space. Minimum software requirements: an operating system that supports the Java 5 Runtime Environment. Recommended hardware configuration: one or preferably multiple 2.0 GHz dual-core processors or faster, 2.0 GB RAM or more, and a 256MB video card that supports 1280 x 1024 or a much higher screen resolution. Recommended software configuration: an operating system that supports the Java 6 Runtime Environment. Phaser should run reasonably well even on a system that does not meet the minimum configuration requirements -- so do not be shy about trying it out. Phaser includes its own performance benchmark application; if your system scores a Phaser Performance Index (PPI) of 1.0 or greater, your system should be up to par for running Phaser and running it well. Please note that as Phaser is a numerically and graphically intense application, its runtime performance is dependent on the combined performance of a machine's processor, memory, graphics, and Java Virtual Machine (JVM) subsystems - the more resources available and the better each of those subsystems perform, the better Phaser will run.

How do I obtain an indivdual copy of Phaser? Are site licenses available too?
A free and fully-functional 30-day evaluation version of Phaser is available as a download from this website. To license and permanently activate full functionality in your downloaded evaluation or reader copy, an individual-user license may be purchased at a cost of US$89.99. Yes, site licenses are available too for wider installation usage (in your university/company/agency); for more information (including pricing), please refer to our site-license page.

What is the Phaser Reader (using Phaser without a purchased license)?
There are two ways Phaser can be used without a purchased license: [1] under fully functional evaluation during the initial 30-day trial period, and [2] after the trial period has ended, Phaser will automatically convert itself into Phaser Reader mode. This mode of operation permits the software to be used without a license and free of charge for an indefinite period of time. Phaser Reader can read but not write. The intent is that this mode will help to promote the use of Phaser software for the free exchange and sharing of academic research, ideas, and knowledge related to the exploration and study of dynamical systems, a fundamental rich branch of theoretical mathematics with far-reaching pervasive applications in nearly all scientific disciplines (physics, biology, chemistry, astronomy, and economics, to name several). Essentially, Phaser Reader allows its non-licensed users to freely read, run, and view projects and galleries created in Phaser by licensed users of Phaser.

How does Phaser compare to Maple, Mathematica, or Matlab?
To be sure, they all have overlapping capabilities. However, Phaser is designed specifically for bringing out the dynamics of equations rather than creating static pictures. In Phaser one can watch the evolution of thousands of trajectories in real-time. Unlike the others, Phaser has completely graphical point-and-click controls at one's fingertips; no mastery of specialized syntax is required for even complicated tasks. In addition to being a scientific computing and visualization environment, Phaser is a resource for specific differential and difference equations; Equation Libraries contain nearly one hundred equations exhibiting a wide panorama of dynamical behaviors and their explanations.

Is Java too slow for scientific computations/visualizations?
No. The Java byte-code and virtual machine concept has been criticized as sacrificing speed for platform independence and safety. However, clever advancements and implementations are continually closing the gap between virtual machine based languages and natively compiled codes - notably Just In Time (JIT) compilation and Hotspot optimization. As important as the numerical computation time is the efficiency of the graphics subsystem displaying the computation results. The Java graphics system has received a great deal of attention and its efficiency is constantly being improved by Java implementors, the introduction of Swing, and improvements in thread scheduling and memory management. We believe that this steady progress in interpretation speed and graphics efficiency has made Java a leading platform for scientific computation and visualization. Further information on Java and scientific computations can be accessed from the Links page of this web site.