Tag Archives: Linux

Why Microsoft? Why?

As a business user and knowledge worker, I am extremely dependent upon my workstation and laptop. Like many of my readers, we spend a great deal of time developing a work-flow for analytics as well as business processes for running our business. When I am forced to accept updates and my systems go south, I must spend time fixing this. That’s why I get so frustrated with Microsoft.

The other thing that has really gotten my goat is that ads are now starting to appear in my OS. There are ads in the file explorer window! I want a clean, non-cluttered interface and OS. I don’t want to be hampered by an OS that makes me lose concentration of crap popping up to distract me.

So, I have decided to embark on an experiment. I’m going to setup a used Dell laptop to use as my primary machine running Linux. If after 60 days or so, I will decide if I make the permanent move away from MS for my full-time machine and only use the Windows workstation for testing code.

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.

Richmond, CA Hackathon – Meeting of the Minds

On the weekend of October 17-18th the Meeting of the Minds Civic Hackathon will take place in Richmond, California.  Amongst the various tools and facilities that will be available for the Hackathon, World Programming will be providing WPS software (www.teamwpc.co.uk/products/wps ) and support for any SAS programmers taking part in the event who would like to create and run programs in the language of SAS. The WPS software will be available on a server provided by Cisco and also for installation onto your own workstations running Linux, OS X or Windows.  Teams who use WPS software at this event will be given a license at no cost, and can use the product and all of its features for an additional 6 months after the event.

There will be data sets that can be used to create civic oriented applications and the data is categorized into Economic Development, Public Spaces, Health and Environment, Sustainability, Digital Divide and Education. So there is plenty of data available for a myriad of subject matter experts to use.

There is a $5,000 cash prize from Qualcomm awarded to the winner.

More information on the Hackathon can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/p6ymuot

 

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.

A Summer Project

One of my summer projects is building and performance tuning a relatively inexpensive analytics server. Many of the parts that are being used have been scavenged from another server or two that have been retired. One thing I want to do this summer is report on what I have discovered in performance tuning a modest server.

The server consist of a six core AMD processor and 16GB of RAM to start out with. I would like to experiment with different combinations of RAM, hard drives, hard disk controller cards and perhaps an SSD or two. The OS will be Linux, Ubuntu 14.04 specifically.

My baseline build has just two work drives in RAID-0 and use the SATA 3 ports on the motherboard. I will use the Workstation Performance Assessment Program that I wrote about back in 2012. I’ve slightly modified that program so that it doesn’t spew output in the listing with the exception of the actual performance benchmark.

One thing I have already learned is that you need to make sure that you have the Write Cache enabled. In Ubuntu, you would do this by going to Disks and clicking on the options button at the top right of the dialog box and then selecting Drive Settings. Simply select the Write Cache and click on Enable Write Cache. You will need to do this for each disk in the raid array.

ubuntu_disk_cache

When I enable the write cache, my timings for the PROCs and data steps that took place on data sets that existed on the work array dropped 35%. That’s a big improvement!

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.

Thursday Ramblings

Does anyone do comparisons of graphics cards and measure performance in a VM? Specifically, do certain graphics cards boost performance when running VM’s on the desktop? I like to see my windows “snap” open when I switch from VM to VM. As a developer, I often wonder if spending an additional $150 on a popular graphics card will yield a perceptible performance boost.

Speaking of graphics cards, we recently bought a couple of used Nvidia Quadro graphics cards from a local CAD/CAM company that is upgrading their workstations. I got these at about 5% of their original retail price so I’m happy. We were having problems getting a couple of servers to go into sleep mode using Lights Out and we discovered that we needed a different graphics card to accomplish this. The plus side is that these are Nvidia cards with 240 CUDA cores and 4GB of RAM. So we now have the opportunity to try our hand at CUDA development if we want. I’m mostly interested in using CUDA for R.

One drawback to using CUDA, as I understand it, is that it is a single user interface. Say you have a CUDA GPU in a server, only one job at a time can access the CUDA cores. If you have 240 CUDA cores on your GPU and would like to appropriate 80 CUDA cores to an application — thinking you can run three of your apps at a time, well that is not possible. What it seems you have to do is have three graphics cards installed on the box and each user or job has access to a single card.

There’s a new Remote Desktop application coming out from MS that will run on your android device(s) as well as a new release from the Apple Store. I use the RDC from my mac mini and it works great. I’m not sure what they could throw in the app to make it more compelling however.

Toms Hardware has a fascinating article on SSD’s and performance in a RAID setup. On our workstations and servers, we have SSD’s acting as a cache for the work and perm folders on our drive arrays. According to the article, RAID0 performance tends to top out with three SSD’s for writes and around four on reads.

FancyCache from Romex Software has become PrimoCache. It has at least one new feature that I would like to test and that is L2 caching using an SSD. PrimoCache is in Beta so if you have the memory and hardware, it might be advantageous to give it a spin to see how it could improve your BI stack. We did a performance review of FancyCache on a series of posts on Analytic Workstations.

FYI, PrimoCache is not the only caching software available that can be used in a WPS environment. SuperSpeed has a product called SuperCache Express 5 for Desktop Systems. I’m unsure if SuperCache can utilize an SSD as a Level 2 cache. It is decently priced at $80 for a desktop version but $450 for a standard Windows Server version. I have to admit, $450 for a utility would give me cause for pause. For that kind of money, the results would have to be pretty spectacular. SuperSpeed offers a free evaluation as well.

If you are running a Linux box and want to enjoy the benefits of SSD caching, there’s a great blog article on how to do this for Ubuntu from Kyle Manna. I’m very intrigued by this and if I find some extra time, may give it the old Solid State Spin. There’s also this announcement about the Linux 3.10 Kernel and BCache that may make life a whole lot easier.

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.

Creating a WPS Launch Icon in Ubuntu

I use Ubuntu for my WPS Linux OS and it’s pretty easy to install. However, unlike the vast majority of people out there who run it in batch mode; I like to run it in interactive mode using the Eclipse Workbench. Hence I want an icon that I can click on to start WPS. Here’s how to do it.

On the Ubuntu desktop, right mouse click on an empty part of the screen and you will get a little option menu. Click on “Create Launcher…” You will see a dialog box pop up that looks like:

clip_image002

On my Ubuntu Linux Server, I installed WPS into a folder named wps-3.0.1. The directions below use that folder name as our example. You may have installed WPS into another folder so be sure to consider that when performing the tasks below.

Name: WPS 3.01

Command: /home/minequest/wps-3.0.1/eclipse/workbench

Comment: WPS 3.0.1 Linux

Click on the icon on the upper left hand of the Create Launcher Dialog Box (the little spring) and you will get a choose icon list box. Simply go to the WPS install folder and go into the eclipse folder. There you will find a file named icon.xpm. Click on icon.xpm and then click Open and then click OK.

That’s all there is to it. You should have the WPS icon installed and available from your desktop.

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.

test, Test and TEST

I’m always amazed and somewhat peeved about how much error checking one has to have in their SAS language program. Even for the simplest things. So today’s mantra is test, Test, and TEST!

I was writing some code the other day to copy a WPS data set from my PC to a server share. The basic code is really quite simple, only three lines using PROC COPY. But what if the user has misidentified the source libname or the destination libname? Do you just let it blow up and hope the user looks at the logs? And then you have the data sets to be copied if you are using the SELECT statement. Do you check if the data set already exist and if so, just overwrite the file?

Although it was trivial, albeit time consuming to write the code to check for these conditions, it is well worth it. I purposely decided not to automatically overwrite an existing data set on the server. And that is good for two reasons. First, I want the user to be forced to make the decision to overwrite the data set by use of a PROC DATASETS or PROC DELETE before the copy takes place. That makes it their responsibility to delete the data set.

Secondly, I found out that writing the data set with the same name can sometimes create problems under Windows when the server folder is shared. I have had some experiences where Windows locks the file on the server and the copy never takes place. The copy procedure just hangs with a .lck extension on the file. So something is going on where it’s just not reliable.

One interesting thing to note, I don’t seem to have the problem with a lock on Linux. The copy takes place without issue every single time.

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.

 

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.

Try WPS and Enter to Win a Google Nexus 7 Tablet

Have you ever found yourself interested in exploring and evaluating the capabilities of WPS (pronounced whips), a SAS language compatible software application? Whether you are looking at ways to save money on reduced license fees or expand your BI infrastructure, WPS is a high value, low cost alternative for many organizations who are currently using the SAS System.

WPS implements the BASE language including old and new style macro’s and the data step with functions, formats and informats. WPS also includes the most popular BASE PROCS and some graphics including GCHART, GPLOT and GREPLAY.

WPS Core supports 41 Base Procedures.
WPS Engine Modules supports 24 database and access engines.
WPS Statistics contains 15 Statistical Procedures.
WPS Graphics supports GCHART, GPLOT and GREPLAY.

Remember, WPS is priced inclusively, meaning you don’t pay separately for each module. You can learn more about WPS by visiting  our web site at: http://www.minequest.com/WPS.html. Also, available for download is a brochure that describes WPS in more detail including a list of supported PROCS and database access engines at: http://www.minequest.com/downloads/WPS_General_Overview.pdf.

As they often say, the best way to learn about something is to try it. Between August 10, 2012 and September 30, 2012, you can become eligible to win a Google Nexus 7 tablet by taking out a free 30 day evaluation copy of WPS on Windows (desktop and/or servers), Linux on x86 or Mac OS X. You must request your evaluation from MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC, an authorized WPS reseller. See Rules for drawing for more information.

Rules for drawing: Only one evaluation request per person. Must be a resident of the United States or Canada. Must not be a current WPS license holder or have taken out an evaluation in the last nine (9) months. Requests for evaluations must be made through MineQuest at: http://www.minequest.com/ReqEval.html . Drawing to be held on October 3, 2012

 

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 is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.