Tag Archives: Ubuntu

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.

I’ve always been a fool for a bargain…

My last blog post, I was pretty incensed with Microsoft and Windows 10. I just don’t understand some of their decisions as it pertains to professional developers who use their tools and have to struggle with how they force upgrades and perform reboots. I’m still upset so I’ve decided to try a little experiment.

I recently came across a five or six-year-old Dell laptop that was priced (I thought anyway) on eBay at an incredible price. This laptop is a Dell E6420 with an Intel I7 CPU and 4GB of RAM laptop for sale at $150 or best offer. Doing a quick perusal online, this laptop has a screen resolution of 1600×900, an NVidia graphics card and with a 9-cell battery which can get (supposedly) up to 10 hours of battery life. Hoping I was not making a rash decision, I decided to give it a try and make it part of my collection.

This little machine was missing a power adapter and a hard drive. It did power up on battery power so I know it works. I found a power adapter on eBay for $20 and I have an older 500GB HDD sitting in a file drawer. I think I might have a couple of 4GB SODIMM’s somewhere that I tore out of a Mac Mini. If I can’t find those SODIMM’s, then I will buy some RAM online. I may also discard the DVD drive and replace it with a small SSD down the road. I can’t remember the last time I used a DVD in a computer so it’s easy to let that go.

If you are like me, you probably have hundreds of cables, plugs and other accessories laying around and at least 20% of it you have no idea what it belongs to. Yet, you’re afraid to get rid of it because it might be something you need down the road. I guess that is one of the few advantages of being a hoarder. i.e. being able to talk yourself into almost any purchase!

So, being the Froogle individual consciousness consumer I am, I ended up winning this machine at best price of $80. It sounds so counter-intuitive to spend money on five-year-old piece of technology but it does give me the opportunity to try an experiment that I’ve wanted to do for the last year. Now motivated by Microsoft, I decided to just do it.

I’m sure many of you have seen the Dell XPS 13 laptop running Linux. It’s fairly pricey bit of kit but it does get rave reviews. It’s obvious that the XPS 13 is also more powerful. I’m also intrigued by the thought of trying to setup an environment where I’m not using OS X or a Windows environment at all. So right now, I’m not concerned with getting a machine with the ultimate in performance. I’m also a bit concerned with working on such a small screen for long periods.

I’m not at all confident that all the programs exist that I want (or need) to use are available on Linux. But, this is an interesting experiment non-the-less.

The idea behind this concept is to see if I can set up an everyday working environment for writing, programming and performing desktop analytics. I want to be able to plug this into a large monitor and use it as a typical workstation when I’m not lugging it around.

Also, I am not adverse paying money for software. I’m not a believer that everything I put on a PC or laptop with Ubuntu must be free or open source. I do expect to purchase a fair amount of software including UltraEdit.

Initial Software

I’m jumping ahead here because I’m going to have to solve some issues with the Ubuntu Install. I want to make sure the trackpad and power options work. Probably be wrestling with the webcam as well. These seem to be issues I found when Googling the internet. Update: the only thing I can’t get to work properly is the sound from the laptops speakers. I can get sound via Bluetooth, HDMI and the headphone jack. I am not sure how much time I want to spend on the sound issue since I typically use a Logitech USB headset or Bluetooth headset from SoundPEATS. Specifically, the model QY7 if you want some quality sound out of a set of ear buds.

I will post back on how this works out. In the meantime, if you have not yet downloaded WPS v3.3, I strongly suggest you grab that release and step up your game!

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.

Ubuntu 16.04 Released and Quick Test Drive

In the last week, Canonical has brought forth a new release of Ubuntu and it is pretty nice! Version 16.04 has a number of great features that should be of value to those who use Linux. One thing that Ubuntu has at this point is a vertical line of products. I can’t think of any other vendor who has an OS that runs on Phones, tablets, notebooks/workstations, servers and mainframes.

I decided to give it a try on one of my workstations running it in an Oracle Virtual Machine (Virtualbox to be specific) to see how WPS runs on this new release. Just to cut to the chase, it runs quite well. As a matter of fact, once I got the VM to use all of its allotted storage, WPS ran like a charm.

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A couple of things that might be of interest to potential Ubuntu upgraders. First, Ubuntu 16.04 supports ZFS. That might be important to a few sites. The second is the support for LXD 2.0. From the Ubuntu website –

LXD 2.0

Ubuntu 16.04 LTS includes LXD, a new, lightweight, network-aware, container manager offering a VM-like experience built on top of Linux containers.

LXD comes pre-installed with all Ubuntu 16.04 server installations, including cloud images and can easily be installed on the Desktop version too. It can be used standalone through its simple command line client, through Juju to deploy your charms inside containers or with OpenStack for large scale deployments.

All the LXC components – LXC, LXCFS and LXD – are at version 2.0 in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS.

In addition to trying Ubuntu 16.04 in a VM, I have also tested it on a small server (6 LCPU with 32GB of RAM) running WPS. Although I have not benchmark tested this exhaustively, it does appear that using v16.04 with WPS 3.3.2 (which is the latest release) provides a modest performance increase. This is easily observed with multi-threaded Procedures such as Means and Summary.

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 and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is an 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.

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:

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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.

Cool and Useful Software

I always enjoy reading other folks blogs on how they work and the tools they use most every day. It’s a great way to learn about new tools and how to work more efficiently. I have to rave about the phone system we use here at MineQuest. We use VOIP and our provider is VOIPO out of Texas. The quality is tremendous as well as the support. The cost is amazing for what you get. The benefits of VOIPO are numerous for a small business, but the one I like the most is a softphone. I can travel and still be able to use my phone system almost as well as if I was in the office. You can visit the VOIPO web site to get pricing and view all the features that they offer.

Of course I use Skype. I can use Skype to call overseas and to text message with friends, family and business contacts. I have contacts that are almost always on Skype and the number of Skype contacts that I have just continues to grow. If you want or need to do business overseas, then Skype maybe the only way you can do so cost effectively. I hope to see more integration of Skype into other products and services and the availability of an easier to use API. If you don’t have at least a free Skype account, you should visit the Skype website and get Skype today.

I recently started to use a new Linux distribution called ZorinOS. I have version 6.1 and essentially, ZorinOS is Ubuntu Linux with the coolest GUI interface. With ZorinOS, you can change the interface to mimic Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Mac OS X and the Ubuntu Unity Interface. If you are a Windows User and want to start using Linux with minimum fuss and frustration, ZorinOS is something to try. Check out the ZorinOS website to learn more.

I also signed up for Microsoft’s Office 365. There are a number of plans available and you can see all of them at the Microsoft web site. But if you have multiple machines like I do, desktop, laptop and a Mac, Office 365 gives you five simultaneous installs for $100. This is an annual license and I love that I get Outlook on all my desktop machines. I love the simplicity and the fact that I get cloud storage to store my documents so I can access them from anywhere.

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.