Category Archives: Windows

Technical Document – Post Installation Steps for WPS Workstations

We just finished updating a document for WPS users, specifically those on the Windows Platforms entitled, “Configuring Your WPS Workstation after Installing WPS v3.3.” This document helps those who are evaluating the WPS product on Windows learn about and install some features that is specific to WPS.

The document is short, only 14 pages but touches on modifying the WPS.CFG file as well as installing R and Python to get the greatest amount of utility out of WPS. If you have installed WPS on a Windows Workstation and are looking to get additional utility out of your WPS software, this document is for you.

To download the file, click here or download at:

http://minequest.com/downloads/Post-Installation-Steps-for-WPS-Workstations.pdf (1008KB)

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.

New Software added to the Stack

 

Here is some cool software that I’ve started using during 2015.

Places

Here is a cool tool if you find yourself pushing data all around. From server-to-server, cloud-to-server or anything in between. CoffeeCup software has a nifty utility called Places. It can read and write to Amazon Cloud Services, OneDrive, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, Instagram and Flickr. I picked it up on a weekend sale for $9. Well worth it.

CrashPlan

Crashplan is one of the best pieces of software we have at the house. We back up our Windows tablets, PC’s and Mac’s onto a small PC with a large hard drive. It’s very easy to install and there are options that allow you to back up the target PC on to a portable drive or even to the cloud (which is an additional expense, but still quite reasonable.)

Microsoft Office 16

I use Office all day long. I love it and Office 16 has raised the bar even further. I’ve been loathe at using OneNote but have finally started to use it since it syncs so well across so many of my devices. I use Word and Excel extensively and really don’t see a single issue since I upgraded from the previous versions.

Skype – Skype is just about the best communications system I use. I make phone calls, video calls and text. Buying a subscription with a phone number gets you one step further towards being able to work remotely and not having to use a damn cell phone.

Skype is improving and becoming more robust with each iteration. New features seem to be aimed at the enterprise market but I suspect we will see some of these trickle down to the small business market very soon. The ability to do a web conference similar to Webex will be a big boon for small business customers and software developers working from home.

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

Macro Catalog Compatibility

Here’s something rather interesting that I discovered earlier today. If you create and compile a macro catalog on say Windows, you can simply copy that catalog onto Linux or Mac OS X. The compiled catalog is now accessible on all the x86 WPS supported platforms.

Think about how important that can be. If you are a developer and want to be sure that your catalogs are portable across x86 platforms, then you are in good shape with WPS. Think of the cost savings. With WPS, you could create compile and distribute on x86 systems. In contrast, our competitor would require you to purchase a Linux and Windows version of there software to do the same.

‘nuff said!

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

Some thoughts on a rainy Monday

The more I use Linux, the more I come around to understand just how much I can do with it. As a matter of fact, I could easily do without Widows and switch 100% of the way over to Linux if I wanted. The desktop(s) and business applications have really gotten that good.

Windows 8 just soured me on the whole MS ecosystem. When they bolted on the Metro interface on a server OS — that was the last straw for me. Who ever made that decision to strap on a touch interface to a server should be let go. Shown the door. Asked to leave…

I have Apple hardware here in the office, and it runs well, but I just have not been able to embrace it like so many others have. Apple makes some fine hardware and there’s a load of support for Office productivity applications as well as analytical apps. WPS runs quite well on OS X as well as R. As a matter of fact, I see a lot of R users who work on OS X as there preferred platform.

But Linux, and specifically Ubuntu 12.04 and 14.04 have been especially good. I don’t have memory issues when I run large simulations in R that require a lot of RAM. With Windows, that is often a problem, trying to allocate a large block of memory and there’s not sufficient contiguous memory to hold a large array, vector or data frame. The memory management is significantly different under Linux than under Windows.

Use of NVidia’s CUDA framework seems to be predominantly used on Linux and not Windows. I’m not sure why that is to be honest.

I’ve been reading a lot of articles stating that MS is working feverishly trying to get Windows 9 out the door. No doubt (at least in my mind) it has to do with the terrible Metro interface and people staying away in hoards. Of course, you can slap Start8 by Stardock on Windows 8 and it makes it useable by implementing the start button, and kudos to Stardock for doing such a thing, but I still can’t find a way to embrace MS on the desktop any longer.

An interesting phenomena that I have been witnessing is how much analytical and scientific development has been happening over the years on the Linux platforms. There are a lot of tools out there that are helpful if you are a data scientist or working with “BIG DATA” as it pertains to Linux. My experiences in reselling WPS is that there is an equal amount of interest (perhaps more) in using Linux on servers than in running Windows servers. Cost is one factor but performance is also a factor. Linux often out performs Windows Servers dollar for dollar and CPU second to CPU second.

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

Integrating WPS and Skype

One of the things I like to do in programming is integrating other tools with WPS. I don’t know why I find that so fun to do, but I just find it rewarding for some reason. Every once in a while, I stumble across a problem to be solved and it just seems like it should be something that is easy, simply because it’s so useful. That is rarely the case as we all know.

I always wanted to have some way for an interactive WPS job or a WPS batch job to notify me of an error when it reaches completion or to notify me that it has reached a certain point in the job process. One of the main requirements is that the notification be sent by text message so that I could be notified if I wasn’t sitting directly in front of the monitor of the machine that the code was submitted on.

We have been able to send text messages for years (see “Sending SMS Text via WPS”) but that was kind of clumsy because as far as I could tell, it would only send the message to my cell phone. I want more! Give me more!

Skype is the logical choice for me because I sit in front of a PC most of the day that has Skype running. I also have Skype installed on Skype is the logical choice for me because I sit in front of a PC most of the day that has Skype running. I also have Skype installed on mobile Apple and Android devices so I can receive messages through those devices pretty easily.

All I needed to do is install Skype on a Windows Server. The Server I installed it on is running Windows Essentials 2012 R2. Getting Skype on that platform can be a chore but it can be done. I ended up installing the Windows 8 version of Skype on the server and after getting it to run properly (i.e. sending and receiving messages) I installed the classic Skype for Desktop on the machine. If you are running a previous version of Windows Server… well good luck on getting it to install.

Usage

%WPS2Skype(SkypeID=minequest_llc,

                         category=-U,

                         SkypeMsgTxt = “Your job reached the halfway point you awesome guy!”);

 

Where

SkypeID is the ID of the recipient of the message

Category = -U or –CC

SkypeMsgTxt =”Your message text here.”

 

If you are a WPS programmer or are familiar with the macro language, then the above should be self-explanatory with the exception of Category. Category can take one of two options, either –U or –CC. If we want to send the message to an individual user than we use –U. If we want to send the message to a list of contacts then we use –CC. A contact list is somewhat similar to a group and you should read up on what a contact list is and how it can be created in the Skype documentation.

Running the following code:

%WPS2Skype(SkypeID=xxxxxxxxxx,

                         category=-U,

                         SkypeMsgTxt = “Your job reached the halfway point you awesome guy!”);

 

We see in the WPS log the output when the message was sent:

 

2         %WPS2Skype(SkypeID=xxxxxxxxxx,

3         category=-U,

4         SkypeMsgTxt=”Your job reached the halfway point you awesome guy!”);

 

NOTE: WPS2Skype returned execution to WPS.

 

And what I see in the Skype message window on my workstation is:

 

 

 

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Of course, this will show up on all the devices that I have logged in to Skype using my Skype ID.

 

I also extended the Skype interface into the RunWPS.CMD file. The RunWPS.CMD is a Windows command file that allows you to run WPS as a batch job. With the integration of Skype with RunWPS.CMD, I catch all return codes from WPS and send out a Skype message if the return code is greater than zero. This is easily modified but I’m not personally interested in getting messages when jobs complete properly. I’m only interested when jobs terminate abnormally.

 

The WPS2SKYPE utility will be available in our next release. There are a few more utilities that I want to add to the package and I still have documentation that needs to either be written or cleaned up.

 

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

I’ve Grown Weary of Windows

This blog post is going to be a rant.

I’m so frustrated with Windows Server 2012 R2 that I can spit nails. Who in their right mind at Microsoft thought changing the interface on a SERVER to what is used in Windows 8 was a good idea? If you want to do any real administrative work on the server it is just a nightmare.

I’ve played with Windows 8 on a desktop and didn’t care for it and decided that Windows 7 was so much better for productivity. The mixture of a tablet OS and a desktop OS is just a disaster. In my opinion, MS not only missed the boat, but continues to ignore the market place as it centers on business users.

Going forward, I’m going to start recommending that clients use Linux on their servers and just forget about using Windows Server products. It just isn’t worth the hassle and with the number of talented Linux users and administrators growing every day, there isn’t any upside anymore to using Windows on the Server. There are incredible cost savings in both dollars and time using Linux instead of Windows.

My own thoughts on the server is that Linux is faster than Windows. You don’t have all that eye candy eating up resources. Linux is faster, more robust and has virtually the same number of databases available that you have under Windows. The exception being SQL Server. If you have to run SQL Server than put it on the smallest box possible and minimize your exposure to Windows. There are many databases that you can use on Linux that will fill the void of SQL Server. For example, DB/2, Oracle, MySQL, MariaDB, PostgreSQL, Teradata, Vertica, Sybase, SAND, Netezza, Kognitio, Informix, and Greenplum all run on Linux x86. And the kicker is that all of the above DB’s are supported and accessible from WPS.

I’m also starting to review and reconsider my position of Windows on the desktop. If Windows 9 is the abortion that Windows 8 (and 8.1) continues to be, then you can bet that I will start using Linux on my desktop or (God forbid that I’m saying this…) OS X. I talk to a lot of analytics users and this is something that we all agree on. I need to be productive at work and I’m more productive with Linux and OS X than with Windows 8.

That’s the bottom line.

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

Servers and Power Savings

We run a few servers here at MineQuest for developing WPS applications and we are always looking for ways to reduce cost and our carbon foot print. Running a server is not necessarily cheap but not all that expensive either. For example, our Windows Server which is a Six Core machine with 32GB of RAM and filled with 11 hard drives and a few SSD’s uses about 115 watts of power while turned on. That works out to about $10 a month. When we put the server into sleep mode, the power used is about 4 watts.

In reality, we only use the servers for about 12 hours a day during the week and maybe four hours a day on the weekends for doing maintenance. By putting a server into sleep mode when it’s not being used it lowers our estimated bill to about $3.40 a month.

We use a software product called Lights Out on our Windows desktops and Servers that do all the work for us. It also calculates the cost to date for the server in terms of energy usage and the amount of money saved by putting the server into sleep mode.

The product we use, Lights-Out-Green IT for Windows Server Solutions is so reasonably priced. I strongly suggest that anyone running a Windows Server and wants to save some money on their electrical bill take a look at the product. They have a free 30 day evaluation of their software. You can’t ask for much more than that!

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

Analytical Data Marts

Recently, there has been a conversation on what defines “Big Data”. It’s my position (among others) that Big Data is data that is so large that a single computer cannot process it in a timely manner. Hence, we have grid computing. Grid computing is not inexpensive and is overkill for many organizations.

The term “Huge Data” has been bandied about as well. In the conversations regarding what is Big Data, it was sort of agreed that Huge Data is a data set that sits somewhere between 10GB and 20GB in size. (Note: In about two years I will look back at this article and laugh about writing that a 20GB data set is huge for desktops and small servers.) The term Big Data is so abused and misused by the technical press and even many of the BI vendors that it’s almost an irrelevant term. But Huge Data has my interest and I will tell you why.

The other day I read a blog article on the failure of Big Data projects. The article talks about a failure rate of 55%. I was not surprised by that kind of failure rate. I was surprised that there were not solutions being offered. In the analytics world, especially in finance and health care, we tend to work with data that comes from a data warehouse or a specialized data mart. The specialized data mart is really an analytics data mart with the data cleaned and transformed into a form that is useful for analysis.

Analytical data marts are cost effective. This is especially true when the server that is required is modest compared to the monsters DB’s running on large iron. Departments can almost always afford a smaller server and expect and receive much better turnaround time on jobs than most data warehouses. Data marts are more easily expandable and can be tuned more effectively for analytics. Heck, I’ve yet to work on a mainframe or large data warehouse that could outrun a smaller server or desktop for most of my needs.

The cost for a WPS server license on a four, eight or even sixteen core analytics data mart is quite reasonable. With WPS on the desktop and a WPS Linux server, analyst can remotely submit code to the data mart and receive back the log, listings and graphics right back into their desktop workbench. But the biggest beauty of running WPS in your data mart platform is that WPS comes with all the database access engines as part of the package. If you have worked in a large environment with multiple database vendors, you can see how this can be very cost effective when it comes to importing data from all these different data bases into an analytical data mart.

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

WPS on Windows 8

Today is a big day for Microsoft. The company released Windows 8 to the public and depending who or what you read, it’s either really great or something you don’t want.

I went ahead and bought the $39.95 upgrade but have yet to install it. I will put it on my main workstation but I need a long weekend in case there are problems.

For those who use WPS, let it be known that WPS runs fine on Windows 8 as long as you download a current maintenance release. I’m not privy to what is involved in writing an application that is Windows 8 compatible but it’s nice to know that you can be running the latest and greatest if you want.

Also, if you have Windows Server 2012 and want to run WPS on that platform, you will also need to download and install the current maintenance release of WPS.

Taking WPS 3.01 for a Quick Spin

I’m writing this today from the testing facilities at MineQuest Business Analytics, the center of the BI Universe. Haha! I’ve always wanted to write that as an opening line.

Anyway, I finally installed the latest GA release of WPS v3.01 on all the machines here. It took me a little while to setup all the configuration files so that WPS will use the optimal disk array for work among other things. Just thinking about this, it’s probably the first time I’ve ever had the exact same release on all the desktops and servers.

I wanted to test out the WPS Link technology more thoroughly. For those folks who are unfamiliar with WPS Link, it allows your workstation version of WPS to link to a Linux server for the purposes of submitting WPS code. So, basically you need WPS on both the desktop and on the Linux server. I have WPS on a Mac, a desktop, laptop and a VM running XP. My desktop host is running Vista x64.

One thing that I do like when I’m on the Mac is that the fonts just seem nicer than on Windows. It’s just a bit more aesthetically pleasing to me. The Eclipse Workbench is available across all the platforms except for z/OS as far as I can tell. On Linux, the fonts are similar to the Mac in style but seem a bit heavier. I imagine a lot of that has to do with the platform and font support from Apple on OS X versus the Linux Open Source Community.

Interestingly, I can submit my code on to the Linux Server from all these clients and it works amazingly well. The server is a small box with four cores and only 8GB of RAM but lots of disk space. I ended up setting some options such as setting MAXMEM and SORTSIZE to a reasonable level so that everyone will play well together. Small jobs are almost instant. I’ll start testing with some large jobs next week.

I’ve stated before that sizing a server for a workgroup isn’t always easy. But with 16GB of RAM and four cores of compute power, you can run four to eight simultaneous users quite readily. When you think about the compute power you get with WPS on a server, factoring in the price versus our competition, it’s just so small business friendly and startup friendly.

Don’t forget there’s still time to get into the action to win a Google Nexus 7 Tablet. If you register to take out a WPS evaluation before September 30th, 2012, you will automatically be registered in the drawing for the tablet. Certain conditions apply so read the the earlier blog post for all the details. You can request a WPS evaluation by going to the MineQuest Business Analytics website at the WPS evaluation page.