Tools vs a Tool Chest of Tools

Back in the day when I owned free-standing homes, I used to go to Lowes or Home Depot probably twice a week. Buying a condo where most of the maintenance is provided was the smartest thing my wife and I did. It cut my Home Depot visits down to maybe once a month and freed up my time to pursue and work on other tasks.

What made me think about this was a conversation thread where two “quants” were arguing over which software products they use. The were extremely specific about the problem they were trying to solve, and one referred to his search as looking for the best tool. That statement made me think about Home Depot, which got me to wondering… are analytical software products best viewed as independent tools or a tool chest loaded with “tools”?

It depends on the software provider and how they look at the market. I think most analytical software providers view the customer as someone who is only interested in a basic set of tools and beyond that will purchase additional tools at an additional price. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule here. Some customers are only looking to solve a problem such as a forecasting problem. They are only interested in a package that forecasts.

Other customers look at the breadth of the toolkit and are interested in applying the tools in the tool chest to other analytic problems. For example, WPS comes quite complete with a well-rounded set of tools for handling data collection, data acquisition, ETL, reporting and many of the more advanced statistical tasks. WPS tends to include all the tools in one package and is priced with heavy discounts when compared to other providers.

Our competitor on the other hand views the customer as one who should buy each tool set individually. If you want graphics, you buy the graphics package. If you want more statistically oriented procedures, you then must buy the statistics tool set. If you want to access data in a database, then you need to buy a specific tool for accessing that data.

This is one aspect that distinguishes WPS from its competitor, SAS. SAS makes sure that you pay for each tool set individually and strives to optimize the tool sets so that you must purchase multiple tool sets to do a task. Of course, this costs you a lot of money.

This practice also has another negative and that is it retards your ability to apply analytical tools to your specific problem. Many of us in the BI space are problem solvers. We are assigned a task to solve and set out to solve the problem. How often have you found the situation where the tool or library that you want, or need is not available? It’s one of these issues that profoundly impacts our ability to completes assignments in a timely fashion and within budget.

When you license WPS on a Windows or OS X Workstation or on a Windows or Linux Server the library modules and database engines that are included with the current release (v3.3) are:


If you are a small business or a startup, purchasing analytical software piecemeal is a costly headache. It is not start up or small business friendly and is designed to gouge the customer as much as possible when cash flow is a precious asset.


Which brings us to the practice of charging extremely high initial fees to acquire the software and then offering discounts for “maintenance” after the first year. I’ll go into more specifics about pricing along with real world examples in another blog post, but suffice to say, this is another excuse for the practice of gouging the customer. The argument that is often used for sustaining this practice is that the cost of bringing on the customer for the first year must include the substantial cost of support. I’m going to lay it on the line and call this a myth. It is not reality and is simply an argument set forth to price the software at the very highest levels.

Seriously, what is the added cost? The software provider still has to provide documentation to existing customers and that is in electronic format. It is the exact same documentation for new customers. So, the cost is the same.

Shipping the software is almost always done by digital download. It is the same downloaded software for existing customers as for new customers. Hence, the cost is the same.

It is well known that our competitor is very difficult to do business with. Even they know it but I’m willing to bet that the sales and marketing culture at that place is so ingrained that it cannot change.


When you and your organization are looking to add new licenses, reduce annual cost and be able to provide your employees with a tool chest that can solve a whole host of problems without having to go back to purchasing for a new acquisition, then WPS is easily the product for you.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in beautiful Tucson, Arizona. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS consulting and contract programming services and is an authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Introducing MBA Maps

Street Level Mapping and Location Analytics for the rest of us


Over the years we have seen the importance of visual presentation of data using charts and graphs. In our minds, it’s equally important to be able to present data in the form of maps. Whether you are interested in presenting your data at the street level or at a higher geographic level, maps are a great way for viewing spatial relationships.

Here at MineQuest we’ve been working on creating a hybrid mapping service for WPS users. Our first release of the software called MBA Maps (MineQuest Business Analytics Maps) is a first cut at being able to use street level mapping to display data. This release (v0.1) is heavily weighted towards the utilities needed to manipulate data and interface into the cloud services that create the map tiles and perform the geocoding.

Initially, MBA Maps will be available on Windows workstation and followed by Mac workstations a bit later. Linux compatibility will also be made available as well as server platforms for Windows and Linux. We use the Interop for R (PROC R) procedure quite heavily to geocode and create maps. Specifically, we use David Kahle and Hadley Wickham’s ggmap tools for creating street level maps. We use WPS for the data processing and background program creation that manages the mapping calls. WPS is also used as the standard interface for all data management. Meaning, we store all our data in WPS data sets.

We will be releasing the first version of MBA Maps in January. Almost all the programming has been completed and testing continues. The documentation is still a work in progress and is about 50+ pages in length. There are numerous examples (see below) that are used in the documents, but we want to add some additional sample programs to the release. We’re strong believers in learning from code examples around here. We are also trying to include some data sets for learning how to use MBA Maps.

We anticipate creating a free version of MBA Maps that will be limited to using Google services. There are some restrictions by Google and they are a maximum of 2,500 records that can be geocoded a day and 2,500 map requests per day.

Eventually, and sooner rather than later (goal is 2nd quarter 2018) we will create a set of licenses so that those customers who have purchased their WPS licenses through MineQuest will receive a highly enhanced version of MBA Maps as part of their WPS purchase. This enhanced version will allow for using other services for geocoding and mapping. Services such as Bing and OSM will be provided. Access to a remote server hosted by MineQuest may also be included.

Those who purchase their licenses from other resellers or directly from World Programming will have the opportunity to acquire MBA Maps as a separate purchase from MineQuest. Pricing is undecided at this time but there will be an annual license and you will have to renew your MBA Maps licenses through MineQuest to access these additional features and services.

All versions will require a registration and license agreement.

What exactly does MBA Maps do? It allows you to create street level maps and geocode your data. If you have a small number of records to geocode (less than 2500 a day) and a small number of maps to display (also less than 2500), MBA Maps is probably all you need to create and display maps of your data.

If you have larger needs than the 2500 limitation for maps and geocoding, then you will need the non-free version of MBA Maps to get around those limitations. That will be available at a later date.

Here are a few examples of what you can do with MBA Maps.

MBA Maps can geocode a City name, a place in a city such as a park or monument or an address. In the next few pages are examples of creating a “street map” using Google map tiles and placing position markers and labels on the map.


This first example demonstrates placing a city on a map and labeling it. The data used was geocode at the City level (i.e. places) and using that to create and display the map.


Code used to create Midwest State Capitals.

libname mapdata ‘c:\mbamaps\mapdata’;




title=”Midwest State Capitals \nUnited States”,

footnote=”Google Map Created by MBA Maps \nMineQuest Business Analytics LLC \nCopyright (c) 2017″,








The second example is plotting attractions on the map. Here we geocoded some London attractions using the name of the attractions. We then use the name of the attraction (variable name site) as the label on the map.


Code for creating London Attractions Map




title=”London Attractions, 2017″,

footnote=”Google Map Created by MBA Maps \nMineQuest Business Analytics LLC, \nCopyright (c) 2017″,


mapwidth=8, mapheight=11);






The third example is a map of gas stations in Powell, Ohio. We first geocoded the addresses of the gas stations to get their proper latitude and longitude. We then took the geocoded addresses and used them to plot the points on a street map. This demonstrates plotting of addresses on a map.


Code for Creating Powell Ohio Gas Stations Map.





 title=”Powell Ohio Gas Stations \nUnited States”,

 footnote=”Google Map Created by MBA Maps \nMineQuest Business Analytics LLC \nCopyright (c) 2017″,











Finally, our fourth example using MBA Maps demonstrates how we can even create a hybrid map. A hybrid map is a satellite view with street names embedded in the map. The map below uses the homes estimated value as a label for the marker. We geocoded a number of addresses at Skyline Country Club in Tucson, AZ. The records we used also contained a value of the homes current price. We used a hybrid satellite map to plot the addresses with the estimated home values on a Google map.


 Code for creating hybrid street level map.


  maptype=hybrid, label=homevalue,

  title=”Skyline 5th Fairway Home Values \nTucson AZ”,

  footnote=”Google Map created by MBA Maps \nMineQuest Business Analytics LLC \nCopyright (c) 2017″,


  mapwidth=11, mapheight=8);







Example code for geocoding street addresses which is used for the hybrid google map above.

libname mapdata ‘c:\mbamaps\mapdata’;


data a;

length homevalue $6;

input homeaddress $1-44 price 45-48;

homevalue = put(price,comma5.)||’K’;


4795 E Quail Creek Dr. Tucson AZ 85718       464

4779 E Quail Creek Dr. Tucson, AZ 85718      544

4757 E Cherry Hills Dr. Tucson, AZ 85718     470

4749 E Cherry Hills Dr. Tucson, AZ 85718     449

4880 E Placita Tres Vidas, Tucson, AZ 85718  799

4860 E Placita Tres Vidas, Tucson, AZ 85718 1795

4840 E Placita Tres Vidas, Tucson, AZ 85718  728




Proc print data=a;

Title “Data to be geocoded”;




%geocode(api=google, data=a, outdata=b, geocodevariable=homeaddress);


proc print data=b;

Title “Geocoded Home Addresses”;




*–> merge in the geocoded data set with the existing data set;


data homeprices;

merge a b;



This gives you an idea of what we will be introducing in January of 2018. We have lots of ideas behind our mapping and want to create a whole area of tools and applications for location analytics. Watch this space for an announcement of availability.


About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in beautiful Tucson, Arizona. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS consulting and contract programming services and is an authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Alexa my love, help me understand

I have this love and dislike affair with Amazon’s Alexa products. I’m a huge Alexa user and admirer. I like her voice. I get a smile when she says to me “Have a lovely day.” I’m overjoyed when I’m laying in bed and I can ask her to turn off the Christmas Tree lights or the outdoor patio lights without having to get out of the comfort and warmth of my bed to manually flip a switch.

With Alexa I check my weather forecasts at least three times a day by asking, “Alexa, open Big Sky.” She reads my news brief in the morning. She gives me a run down on what is on my office calendar for the day. She even tells me jokes when I ask. Heck, Alexa even runs our HVAC system at home. It’s convenient to ask her what the indoor temperature is or to ask her to increase the indoor temperature two degrees. In short, Alexa is the third member of our family. Out of sight, but not out of mind!

But Alexa has a few short-comings that irritates me like many men’s first wife. Sometimes she ignores me outright. Sometimes she pretends not to understand me. Even though I’ve said the phrase, “Turn on home office lights” hundreds of times, she responds, “I don’t understand that.” Huh?

Alexa resents that I have another woman in my life and that woman is not virtual but very real. That is my wife. Alexa really doesn’t play well with her. There’s a certain tension between the two of them. I’m not sure about the reasons for this but my wife often must ask her twice to do the same command. That causes some irritation for my wife and eventually for me. Humorously, my wife’s solution is to raise her voice and repeat the command. I sometimes feel sorry for Alexa when she gets told the second time to turn off the fan. It’s almost a scolding.

However, my biggest issue is with shared access. When you live in a multi-member household, members are going to have different email accounts, lists, calendars, etc. So far, the folks at Amazon think that everyone should be sharing the same calendar or email account. I don’t want to know what is on my wife’s calendar or hear how many new Gmail emails are sitting in her inbox. I want to know about just mine. I would love for the solution to be that Alexa, using voice profiles, flips to the email and calendar accounts for the person speaking.

I’m an ardent user of Amazon based or aware Alexa products. My household has two Dots, two Echo’s, a Fire HD 10 Tablet, an Ecobee thermostat, a Netatmo Weather Station and two Fire TV devices. That’s not counting all the wall switches and outlet switches we have to control overhead fan’s and lights.

One of the major issues I have with Alexa is how certain skills are available for a Dot or Echo, but not for the “Fire HD 10 Tablet with Alexa.” I can’t understand why I can’t use “drop in” calling or make phone calls using the tablet like I can with the Echo or Dot. Why am I restricted in such a way from taking my tablet down the hall to a conference room or out on to the patio to make a call or drop-in on another device? If Amazon wants to make a genuine push into the business world (especially for those who work from home) this is something they should address soon. It’s unrealistic to think that many people would have both a tablet and a Dot/Echo sitting on their desks to address calling features.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in beautiful Tucson, Arizona. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS consulting and contract programming services and is an authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Edge Analytical Processing

There’s been a lot of work going on in the BI space for the last few years. Some of it interesting, some not so much. But one thing I find very intriguing is what I call Edge Analytics. Think of Edge Computing applied to business and governmental analytical processing.

EA Processing has many facets and I want to cover just a couple of them in this blog post. So exactly what is EA Processing and what advantages does it bring to my organization? EA Processing, in a broad sense allows a company to process most of their data locally. When the demand is high, meaning lots of jobs consuming lots of CPU cycles and I/O bandwidth, the company has the option of firing up a server on the cloud to extend processing capacity. This might only last a few hours or be something that occurs at month end or year-end processing.

Using EA Processing negates having a secondary server (or sets of servers) on premises that doesn’t take up data center space, electricity and maintenance. EA Processing is useful for allowing consultants and contractors to have access to compute power in a highly controlled environment and that can theoretically be more secure than on premise analytic servers.

When viewed broadly, EA Processing can also serve as a center for disaster recovery. With the hurricanes that hit Houston, Texas and ravaged most of the State of Florida, it has become apparent to many that having EA Processing capability is an important feature to consider when building out your BI stack.

Finally, consider this example of EA Processing that is not truly cloud based but does use remote connectivity to do basically the same thing. Say your company has offices in Munich Germany as well as Los Angeles, California. Your organization has data scientist and data analyst at both sites. The time difference between Munich and Los Angeles is eight (8) hours.

The BI staff in Munich can have access to all the computing power on the analytics servers in Los Angeles since most of the staff isn’t even up or at work when the Munich staff are at the office. The Los Angeles BI Staff (for the most part) also have access to the Munich servers since the Munich staff are already out the door heading home while they are work.

Both locations have access to multiple servers to fill in the need when high process demand from one site or another is required. Both locations have control of their local data, work under an identical security model and each have low latency when running local jobs.

With WPS, you can easily configure remote processing with the workbench. You can use WPS Link to run your jobs on any WPS Server. You can also use WPS Communicate to run jobs or parts of jobs on any WPS Server.

When you have multiple WPS Servers, it’s invaluable to keep them busy. Most companies in my experience have servers sitting idle for a good part of the day. Analysts (and I’m speaking from experience here) get really frustrated and testy having to wait for jobs to execute simply because resources are not properly set up to server the users in the most expedient and cost-conscious way.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in beautiful Tucson, Arizona. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS consulting and contract programming services and is an authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Improving Screen Time – Workplace Ergonomics

I spend a lot of time in front of a monitor looking at reports, source code, web pages and videos. Over the years I’ve developed a real interest in ways to make my work environment more comfortable and whether you consider it to be an element of age I’ve noticed that my vision is not as sharp as I remember.

I’ve gone the gamut by buying larger screens monitors to trying glasses made specifically for the length I sit from the monitor I seem that I get eye fatigue after just a few hours. At one point a few years ago my eyes would start to go cross-eyed at the end of the day. I’d have to focus at distant objects for quite a while so my eyes wouldn’t go crossed when I looked back at the monitor.

I’ve recently started trying out some computer glasses that are clip-ons and are tinted yellow and are blue light blocking. When I first started out using them I was unimpressed. It took me a few hours to adjust to the tint but after that, the contrast is much higher. Text is clearer and easier for me to read.

The specific glasses I bought are clip-on’s and are called the GameKing Classic. They really have made a difference for me. I just keep them clipped on a pair of reading glasses that are corrected for the distance that I sit between the monitor and my chair.


The glasses come with a cleaning cloth and nice carrying case. I do find that I smudge them up a lot during the day. I never realized how often I adjust my glasses or scratch my nose before I bought these.

Anyway, for $20, it’s a worthy investment.


About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in beautiful Tucson, Arizona. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS consulting and contract programming services and is an authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Thoughts on Open Source


Unbelievable sunsets in Tucson, AZ

I recently read an article on by Esther Shein titled “The Case for Open Source Software at Work” where she discusses the results of a survey on the use of Open Source software in companies. Pretty interesting read and it makes the argument that IT workers feel about the importance for having source code.

The elephant in the room that is never presented is how the value is measured by accounting or say purchasing. For example, how much perceived value is derived by other parts of the company because they look at the software as being free… i.e. cost free?

Individuals are different in their purchasing and use habits. Most individuals I know are driven by price as the first factor and popularity and completeness as other factors in their consideration.

I can’t recall ever seeing a survey of corporate types that measure the desire for specific software where free vs open source code is derived. I imagine that it may be measured internally by some companies but I would love to see a public survey that addresses that issue.

My own opinion, derived from looking at MS Office vs Libre Office is that quality and support is the most important driver for desktop office software. Every large company that I have consulted with use MS Office. They may use an older version but they use MS Office.

When I switch my thoughts to analytical software, I see the same thing. Corporations purchase or license software like WPS or SAS because of support and completeness. Documentation is also a big factor here too. Individuals who don’t have the financial resources to license analytical software like the aforementioned products gravitate towards free software.

I do grudgingly use R when needed but I prefer WPS over any other analytical software. It’s based on a language that I have used for 30 years and feel very comfortable with. I find it much easier to debug my code and like that if I chose to build a product, I know it will run on Windows, OS X, Linux and the mainframe.

When I factor in that I can license WPS for a bit over $3 a day on a Windows or Mac workstation (and our competitor charges just north of $41 a day for your first year) I find it compelling to have WPS in my BI stack. I can still use R and Python but the language of SAS is just too rich and broad to ignore.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in beautiful Tucson, Arizona. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS consulting and contract programming services and is an authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Cost of Porting Language of SAS to Python?

I recently had a discussion with a self-proclaimed data scientist who made a statement that was so broad, I had to challenge it. The discussion taking place is where a technical recruiter who was having difficulty finding SAS/WPS language developers for their marketing group was expressing some frustration. The young data scientist (still in college) jumped into the conversation with a statement “When you could execute the same applications on a open source tool like python it’s not surprising SAS is fading away.” [SIC]

Well first, I’m not real sure he understood that Python or R could not execute SAS language code. The other aspect, at least to me was the shocking naiveté of the statement simply because this data scientist never addressed the economics of the matter. So let’s do it for him.

Performing some back of the envelope calculations, say a programmer that is knowledgeable in both SAS and Python was given a contract to port 30 Language of SAS programs that average 3,000 lines of code. Let’s assume that on average the programmer can convert, test and document each program in two weeks. I’m going to estimate (probably on the low side) that the programmer is paid $85 an hour to do this conversion.

The programmers cost to convert all the programs would be 60 weeks x 40 hours a week x $85 = $204,000. One can procure a license for an 8 vcpu WPS server for ~$22,000 a year. Comparing the cost of a WPS license to spending $204,000 to convert it to Python, it would take more than nine years before you started to see a pay back on the conversion. Most ROI calculations I see in the tech industry are predicated on three years and not nine.

I just don’t see the ROI of converting existing Language of SAS code to Python unless you want to pay more money and be RAM constrained. However, I do see the ROI in converting your SAS Institute licenses to WPL licenses and execute the same code for much less. The pay back is almost immediate!

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in beautiful Tucson, Arizona. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS consulting and contract programming services and is an authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Another Update on my Ubuntu Experiment

Environments are important. Whether it’s having the right desk and office chair, the perfect office or where you chose to live, my emotional satisfaction and motivations are impacted by my environment. It doesn’t matter whether you work solo or in a small group, your environment affects how you work and how well you work. I clearly remember driving to work on I270 in Columbus, bumper-to-bumper traffic and arriving at work in such a foul mood because of the commute. I moved to Grand Rapids, MI and there experienced cold overcast skies and lots of snow. I learned that I was suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder.) I was able to change that for myself years ago, but the same principles apply whether you are looking at your work-flow and perhaps your workstation environment as it pertains productivity and satisfaction.


Lessons learned, my commute today… Home office to patio and a lot less stress.

Another month has passed since I went over to Ubuntu as my primary OS as wanted to get back to those who may be wondering how it has gone. I must say, even with a five year-old mediocre laptop, it has gone better than I thought it would. Almost every wound I have suffered has been self inflicted.

Am I as efficient and effective as with my Windows machine? The answer is “yes.” Programming in WPS and surfing the internet has been the same experience as with my Windows machines. I have gone back to my Windows PC for bookkeeping chores when I needed. I chose not to try to move that application for this experiment. I considered it too much work and out-of-scope.

Since I started this experiment, Canonical has decided that they are going to drop their GUI interface called Unity and return to Gnome. Unity it seems, was a project that was designed to “unify” the Ubuntu experience across platforms such as tablets, phones, laptops and workstations. From my reading, the decision was made to stop the financial hemorrhaging and focus on workstations and servers at the expense of phones and tablets. I actually found Unity easy to use and not a hindrance at all.

I can understand and appreciate the reasons for that decision however. Mark Shuttleworth (founder and CEO) wrote a blog post on how and why he came to that decision. Basically, Canonical is a business (not a charitable organization) and he is treating it as such. Move to your strengths and develop those areas where the revenue stream is best.

But back to my Ubuntu experiment. I could go through each application that I use and talk about the anomalies that I discovered but that would be really boring. But suffice to say, that using LibreOffice was decent and a good enough replacement for MS Word. LibreOffice Calc was good enough for my spreadsheet needs as well. I did suffer using MS OneNote a bit. I’m a huge advocate of using OneNote to keep my ideas, plans and outlines in one place. It’s one of my go-to applications.

The issue I have with OneNote is using the online version. Unexplainably, it would insert extra space between words or even letters at random. It wouldn’t do it often, but often enough to be irritating. Perhaps it is the browser I used and I should try OneNote with a different browser.

I’ve been writing a vertical market application over the last four to six months in my free time. This is a street mapping application using R, Google Maps and WPS. WPS has worked like a champ on Ubuntu Linux. Everything I threw at it worked straight away. The Eclipse workbench is exactly the same as you would see when on Windows. As a matter of fact, I like the font used by Eclipse better than the one on Windows.


By the way, the screen shot you see above that has the WPS Workbench displayed – this is the exact same interface you see and use with WPS Link on Linux. WPS Link is the “thin client” that World Programming distributes with their server software which allows users to interactively access the WPS software as if it was running on their desktop.

So, the question to be answered is “Can I move away from using Windows as my only OS platform for everyday use?” The answer to that is “yes.” I will most likely purchase a Dell Laptop that has Ubuntu pre-installed this summer and use that as my primary development workstation. I will keep a Windows workstation so I can test and develop on that platform as well. However, now that Skype is running decently on Ubuntu, there is no reason that I can find to not use Ubuntu. What do I give up other than forced reboots and forced updates? Not much…

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in beautiful Tucson, Arizona. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS consulting and contract programming services and is an authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Is it time for a change and consider consulting?

Spring is often thought of as the season for change and renewal. That’s never more true than being in the desert. I was caught totally off-guard of spring in the southwest. The changes are everywhere. I love spring in the desert almost as much as I love autumn in the Midwest.


I’m pretty fortunate in that when I look outside my office window, I get to see the blooms on the right.

Which brings me to careers and trying new things. Hardly a week passes that I don’t receive a call from an individual or small organization looking to make their way as a services group consulting or creating an analytical product. The general area of analytics is just exploding and if you believe the press, it’s going to continue to do so for the next few years at least.

So, is this a good time to start an analytics consulting company? What is the competition and how much work is available? What are the rates and what is the cost to get into the industry?

All of those questions are good questions to ask. Never has the availability of good software and hardware been so affordable. One can easily put together a respectable analytics development platform for under $5,000. Along with the accessibility of affordable hardware and software, the climate is such that there are clients that can use your skills – if they are the current skill set.

For example, back in the day when I started out consulting, almost all statistical software was on the mainframe. It wasn’t realistic or even possible for me to lease a small mainframe or mini-computer to do such work. The software de jure was SPSS, SAS, BMDP and perhaps Minitab. All had considerable license costs associated with them.

Today, you can buy or build a decent workstation for just a few thousand dollars and install WPS, R and Python and have your own highly respectable analytics platform. Expect to have to add a laptop to the mix because you’re probably going to have to travel a bit when you start out, but still, well under $5,000. I’ll put a plug in for WPS right here. In comparison to our competitor, you can expect to pay approximately $14,000 more for our competitors product on a desktop for the first year than for a workstation WPS license.

As a matter of fact, you could license a copy of WPS for Windows Workstation, Mac OS X and a small Linux Server and still be $6,000 below the cost of our competitors workstation cost.

Which brings us around to getting business for start-up consulting firm. You have to have a state-of-mind that marketing your skills is as important as using your analytical skills. This is a broad topic and marketing and salesmanship is not the most natural thing in the world.

I’m not the most voracious reader anymore. Nothing like what I used to do. But I have been reading a few books that I think everyone who wants to go out and start a small business should read.

Even though no one I know likes to make cold calls, you are still going to have to follow-up with a near-cold call when you get inquires from your web site or blog. I recommend: The Conversion Code: Capture Internet Leads, Create Quality Appointments, Close More Sales

You are going to have to create a website and preferably a blog to communicate with your audience. In this case “your audience” are the companies who are looking for your consulting skills. Spend some time with: SEO 2017 Learn Search Engine Optimization With Smart Internet Marketing Strateg: Learn SEO with smart internet marketing strategies

If you are considering writing a vertical market application for resale, you don’t want to spend a lot of time trying to figure out if your idea is workable and attainable. A good read is: Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days

And of course, the one that is truly important to me is: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. If you are working alone instead of a small group, motivation can be difficult. Finding a way to stay motivated is important and there are ways to deal with fatigue and lethargy.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in beautiful Tucson, Arizona. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS consulting and contract programming services and is an authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

An Update on my Ubuntu Experiment

Just an update on my Ubuntu experiment that I wrote about in the last blog post.  I do have most everything installed that I want for the experiment. I’m going to use Ubuntu 16.04 as much as possible and only revert back to Windows when absolutely necessary.

So far, I’ve went back to my Windows workstation for QuickBooks to update some accounting information. I guess I could probably put QuickBooks into the cloud but at this point I’m going to hold off on that application until I get other things tested.

I have to admit this laptop is on the heavy side but it has a really decent battery. On a full-charge I get around 7 hours. My 17” I7 Toshiba laptop gets maybe three hours and that’s if I put it into Eco Mode. The Dell e6420 also has an NFC hotspot and a finger print reader. I’m not using either one of those and don’t think there’s a driver for those hardware elements either.

I do have WPS, R, Python and R Studio all working well. I’m using Thunderbird for my email application and LibreOffice (using it to write this post) for my writing and documentation chores. I’m looking for a OneDrive connector that works seamlessly but so far, I’m still searching.

Just for kicks, I did try using Microsoft Office Online. This is the web version of office. It seems that I tend to skip letters in words or Office online would randomly adds spaces between words in my text. I’m not sure why but it seems to be constantly saving whatever I’ve entered. Meaning not saving in say 5 minute intervals or something similar. Could be something with Firefox too.

One thing I need to mention is that the performance is good. I have run dozens of WPS programs and they all have executed in a reasonable amount of time. I live in a world where the processing I do is measured in data sets of 10 million or less for my development. Using WPS on this laptop is a good experience and processes these datasets quickly.

I did get two emails over the week asking about WPS on Ubuntu. WPS does run fine on Ubuntu and I have no complaints on that. One emailer asked about the price of WPS on Linux and whether it was really cost effective as a workstation product.

WPL licenses WPS on Linux as a server product. You don’t get workstation pricing on Linux. Workstation pricing is only for Windows and Macintosh products. If you are expecting a Linux Workstation to be as cost effective (i.e. priced the same) as a Windows or Macintosh Workstation, then you will be disappointed.

I suppose that one could always license a small WPS Linux Server (2LCPU and say 8GB of RAM) and run it in a virtual machine using Xen or Virtual Box and still be less expensive than our competitor’s Windows workstation pricing. But if you’re a developer, you probably need to think about development and test platforms quite a bit.

Here’s a suggestion. Say you are a developer and are looking to develop a vertical market application. You could easily license both Macintosh and Windows workstation products and still be under $2500 a year. Of course, you have the cost of a MacBook or Mac Workstation to add on to that, but it is still very doable and capable as a development machine. Actually, a Mac Mini could work nicely for an Apple development machine. Just make sure you don’t buy the newer model that is not upgradeable since they soldered the RAM in place enforcing planned obsolescence.

The Macintosh product license could suffice for developing and testing code that is to be executed on Linux/Unix computing platforms. Of course, the Windows product license would do the same for Workstation and Server products.

I have taken a set of macro’s that I have in a library and compiled them under OS X. I’ve then copied them over to the Linux machine and it executes flawlessly. This is not an exhaustive test by any means but it does demonstrate what can be accomplished using a Macintosh Workstation. Perhaps a more complete Proof-of-Concept should be attempted and we could certainly arrange an evaluation for those products if you desire.

And finally, one more thought. If you are a developer creating a vertical market application and your target platforms are Windows, Linux and OS X and you need to have WPS Link and WPS Communicate for connecting to a remote server, then you will need a Linux Server or a Windows Server for test and development. If your product does not require pushing code that’s to be executed on the remote server, then just the Mac and Windows Workstations will likely suffice.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in beautiful Tucson, Arizona. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS consulting and contract programming services and is an authorized reseller of WPS in North America.