Category Archives: Web Conferencing

New Software added to the Stack


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


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 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.

Software We Use and Love on a Daily Basis

WPS – World Programming System from World Programming LTD. WPS is a SAS Language compatible software system that implements many components of the SAS language on many platforms. WPS starts at just over $1,206 on a desktop. Check out the MineQuest website for more information.

R – R Project for Statistical Computing. The 64-bit port is definitely the way to fly if you are using R. R has amazing graphics and Hadley Wickham’s ggplot2 is worth the effort of learning R.

Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010 – Microsoft Office is the standard for writing documentation, use of spreadsheets and email on both Windows and OS X platforms. I probably use Excel, Word and Outlook more than any other office productivity too.

Skype – used a lot for both domestic and foreign phone calls and text messaging. Skype is easy to use and can provide your company with the ability to do business overseas at reasonable costs. Also, for a mere $5 a month, you can have group video calling as well as calls to any phone in the US and Canada.

MeetingBurner – MeetingBurner is relatively new and since we have such few users on a web conference (typically five or six) this makes perfect economic sense. We’ve not used it much but it is fast and is free for organizations that will have fewer than 15 attendees in a meeting. One great plus is that it integrates Skype for audio.

Oracles Virtual Box – We use this to reduce our exposure to running multiple physical servers. Oracle’s VirtualBox saves a lot of money for testing software because it can dramatically reduce your power consumption by not having individual servers.

Nuance Paper Port – It’s amazing how much paper we scan here. Bills, invoices, checks and all kinds of business related materials. With both a Canon MFC printer and a Brother MFC printer, we just throw documents into the hopper and scan away. You can learn about Paper Port by going to their website here.

UltraEdit – UltraEdit from IDM is the standard for programming editors. We use it on the Linux and Windows desktops. Soon we will be using it on the Mac desktop to port the Bridge to R over to OS X.

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

Links for Friday, June 12th, 2009

Here are two interesting open source applications that you may want to take a look at for your business or use in your consulting business. I can see both of them being effective and money saving applications for both the consultant as well as the client.

First, DimDim is a web conferencing application that is open source. You can use DimDim in a virtual machine as well. They do have a VM that is downloadable (so does JumpBox). That’s rather interesting because you can run DimDim on Amazon’s EC2 only when you need to have a conference and at a cost of about twenty cents an hour. Compare that to WebEx’s price of close to $500 a year.

Another interesting tool that I expect to play with over the weekend is SnapLogic. SnapLogic is a data integration application that is open source also. There are VM’s available for SnapLogic so you can play around with it and not worry about corrupting your system. This would be a good application to start with if you have been thinking about SAS Institute’s DI Studio. If you need to perform a lot of ETL type of work, these kinds of apps save a lot of time and SnapLogic could also save your company a lot of cash.


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Random Monday Night Thoughts

I thought that I would share some findings with my loyal blog readers.

VirtualSUG is a Virtual SAS Users Group.  Andrew Karp of Sierra Information Services offers training (paid and non-paid) through this facility. I think that Andrew has done an excellent job putting together the VirutalSUG. VirtualSUG is implemented in a WebEx type of environment and can handle 1,000 attendees for each class. He offers numerous classes at different times so be sure to check the VirtualSUG website for dates and times.

Speaking of WebEx type of software, I recently started using Lotus Sametime Unyte for sharing desktop screens and applications. This has proved quite handy as I’ve been doing a fair amount of work with companies that are quite a distance from me. I cheaped out and bought a yearly five user license for $100. They do have a free product that many people could use but you are restricted to two users, a client and a host. Compare the pricing of Lotus Sametime Unyte and WebEx and you can easily save yourself $300 to $350 dollars a year. I’ve used this software at least a half dozen times and I can say that it does work well. The only problem I’ve had is with a client who was using a notebook and the resolution on the notebook was 1280×800. My desktop’s screen was set to 1280×1024. This caused some of my screen to be clipped on her display.  The problem was overcome but it took me a few minutes to try to figure out what was going on.

There’s a new video conferencing service that is being offered and it’s called ooVoo. I’ve not used it yet but I’ve read some reviews on the web and it looks promising. It’s still in beta so I suppose that the quality of service will improve shortly. What is most intriguing is that you can have five participants in a video conference. Frame rates are reported to be around 15 FPS. In reading the knowledge base articles at ooVoo, they do state that you can increase frame rates up to 30 FPS. In comparison, SightSpeed is 30 FPS but modifies the window size to try to maintain a high frame rate. Note that SightSpeed now charges you $10 a month for the multi-party service. If you visit the ooVoo web page, let me know if Linda has that expression on her face like she just saw something she was not expecting.

Consulting from a Home Office

Keywords: Consulting, Home Office

Recently, there’s been a flurry of reports and surveys about the virtues and issues of working from home. One article will state that it is the future and the time is now for more flexibility for working from home, and the next article states that companies are now pulling the plug on home workers or that home workers are not really all that happy. It’s really a mixed bag on what you read and what conclusions you can draw from these articles.

I used to have an office in an office building. That office space costs me almost $1,000 a month in rent. Add in a business phone line and business internet service and the cost was over $1,100 a month. In the years that I had that office, I think I had maybe five clients come pay a visit. All the rest of the time, I was onsite with the client or in my office working by myself. It was truly a waste of time and money for me to have an office outside of my home.

With more independent consultants working together in virtual teams, it should be obvious to even the most casual observer that worker flexibility can be the key to getting a project done on time and on budget. I’ve heard from recruiters that they cannot find talented SAS programmers to work for them. I have turned down very promising contracts myself because the work environment is just not flexible enough to meet my demands. What is even more amazing to me is that many of these companies that cannot find the “talented SAS staf” that they desire have no desire to even begin to negotiate work being done off-premises. You have to wonder if any of these project managers have heard of the term VPN or know what Webex, Gotomeeting or Persony is all about.

My prediction is that with the rise in the cost of gasoline and energy that is needed to heat and cool large offices, companies will become more interested in placing that burden on the employee instead of absorbing that cost themselves. Companies that want to attract the best talent (and keep this talent) will offer such incentives. The baby boom generation is entering the retirement age and there will soon be a dwindling pool of employees to choose from. Forward looking organizations will develop and embrace virtual employees and work hours very soon.



Keywords: Persony, Web Conferencing, Screen Sharing

In my previous post, I discussed SightSpeed and how I wish it had screen sharing or application sharing functionality. This has become even more important to me know because my service provider who I was using for web conferencing closed up shop! I had been using Coitalk and have rudely found out that they had too many network issues (and I suspect money issues) and decided to close shop.

Searching for a new service provider for web conferencing on the net, I discovered a new provider/software application called Persony. If you are interested in or have a need for inexpensive web conferencing, check out Persony at

You don’t pay a monthly fee; you just buy the software and use either their web server (which is free) or your own web server. Depending on the features and number of clients needed, Persony costs $99 to $299. Over the weekend, I have been testing both setups and using my own web server, it’s just a little bit quicker.

Installation is pretty easy and took only 20 minutes for me to get it setup. The software works, but I have two problems that seem to be related. I can’t take a snapshot of the screen and upload it, nor can I upload a picture. I seem to have permission problems on my web server that is preventing me from doing that. I need to talk to tech support to resolve this issue. Screen sharing, text messaging, audio conferencing, record a conference, all work. They do have a 30 day trial so you can play with it if you want.