Linux, Open Source and Analytics

I spent part of the weekend at a beer tasting party and the other part brushing up my skills on Linux. The beer tasting party was much more rewarding and is almost embarrassing how well we do each year at this thing. I’m proud to say that we are experts in identifying domestic beers!

So how did the Linux research/testing go? Not bad really. I created a couple of Virtual Machines (VM’s) using SUN’s VirtualBox in both Ubuntu and Fedora 11. After struggling for about an hour in how to get the VirtualBox add-ins to work in Fedora so I could change display resolutions and work in seamless mode, the rest was pretty straight forward.

I built an analytics VM that I think is pretty nice… especially if you are a student or a professional who wants to test and expand their knowledge of some Open Source Software . I installed a number of Open Source analytical applications in the Fedora and Ubuntu VM’s. These include:

  1. R – Open Source Statistics
  2. Rcmdr – A front end GUI for R
  3. Rattle – a data mining application for R from Togaware
  4. Eclipse – a GUI/Workbench framework
  5. StatET – an Eclipse plugin that allows you to run R – from Walware
  6. Open Office – Office Applications
  7. BIRT – a reporting suite which integrates into Eclipse
  8. PSPP – an open source (and unfinished) SPSS clone


What’s nice about using a VM is that it doesn’t corrupt your current installation. It’s also handy in that you can simply copy the VM onto a DVD or another storage medium and regain the space that the VM is using.

The downside to using a VM is that it slower than running in native mode. This is especially true when you are doing a lot of disk access to read and write data. The two things that I do like about SUN’s VM’s is that I can easily assign a number of CPU cores to the VM and secondly run the VM in seamless mode. Running in seamless mode takes away a lot of the negative views and pain that I have when using Linux at this stage.

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.