MATLAB is software tool providing a high-level language and interactive environment for numerical computation, visualization, and programming. It is not open source and has a costly licensing structure making it impractical for the casual experimenter.
There are free open source alternatives, one of which is FreeMat. “FreeMat is an interpreted matrix-oriented development environment for engineering and scientific applications, similar to the commercial package MATLAB. FreeMat provides visualization, image manipulation, and plotting as well as parallel programming.”
Via Linux Journal.