Tag Archives: WPS

Another Update on my Ubuntu Experiment

Environments are important. Whether it’s having the right desk and office chair, the perfect office or where you chose to live, my emotional satisfaction and motivations are impacted by my environment. It doesn’t matter whether you work solo or in a small group, your environment affects how you work and how well you work. I clearly remember driving to work on I270 in Columbus, bumper-to-bumper traffic and arriving at work in such a foul mood because of the commute. I moved to Grand Rapids, MI and there experienced cold overcast skies and lots of snow. I learned that I was suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder.) I was able to change that for myself years ago, but the same principles apply whether you are looking at your work-flow and perhaps your workstation environment as it pertains productivity and satisfaction.

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Lessons learned, my commute today… Home office to patio and a lot less stress.

Another month has passed since I went over to Ubuntu as my primary OS as wanted to get back to those who may be wondering how it has gone. I must say, even with a five year-old mediocre laptop, it has gone better than I thought it would. Almost every wound I have suffered has been self inflicted.

Am I as efficient and effective as with my Windows machine? The answer is “yes.” Programming in WPS and surfing the internet has been the same experience as with my Windows machines. I have gone back to my Windows PC for bookkeeping chores when I needed. I chose not to try to move that application for this experiment. I considered it too much work and out-of-scope.

Since I started this experiment, Canonical has decided that they are going to drop their GUI interface called Unity and return to Gnome. Unity it seems, was a project that was designed to “unify” the Ubuntu experience across platforms such as tablets, phones, laptops and workstations. From my reading, the decision was made to stop the financial hemorrhaging and focus on workstations and servers at the expense of phones and tablets. I actually found Unity easy to use and not a hindrance at all.

I can understand and appreciate the reasons for that decision however. Mark Shuttleworth (founder and CEO) wrote a blog post on how and why he came to that decision. Basically, Canonical is a business (not a charitable organization) and he is treating it as such. Move to your strengths and develop those areas where the revenue stream is best.

But back to my Ubuntu experiment. I could go through each application that I use and talk about the anomalies that I discovered but that would be really boring. But suffice to say, that using LibreOffice was decent and a good enough replacement for MS Word. LibreOffice Calc was good enough for my spreadsheet needs as well. I did suffer using MS OneNote a bit. I’m a huge advocate of using OneNote to keep my ideas, plans and outlines in one place. It’s one of my go-to applications.

The issue I have with OneNote is using the online version. Unexplainably, it would insert extra space between words or even letters at random. It wouldn’t do it often, but often enough to be irritating. Perhaps it is the browser I used and I should try OneNote with a different browser.

I’ve been writing a vertical market application over the last four to six months in my free time. This is a street mapping application using R, Google Maps and WPS. WPS has worked like a champ on Ubuntu Linux. Everything I threw at it worked straight away. The Eclipse workbench is exactly the same as you would see when on Windows. As a matter of fact, I like the font used by Eclipse better than the one on Windows.

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By the way, the screen shot you see above that has the WPS Workbench displayed – this is the exact same interface you see and use with WPS Link on Linux. WPS Link is the “thin client” that World Programming distributes with their server software which allows users to interactively access the WPS software as if it was running on their desktop.

So, the question to be answered is “Can I move away from using Windows as my only OS platform for everyday use?” The answer to that is “yes.” I will most likely purchase a Dell Laptop that has Ubuntu pre-installed this summer and use that as my primary development workstation. I will keep a Windows workstation so I can test and develop on that platform as well. However, now that Skype is running decently on Ubuntu, there is no reason that I can find to not use Ubuntu. What do I give up other than forced reboots and forced updates? Not much…

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.

Is it time for a change and consider consulting?

Spring is often thought of as the season for change and renewal. That’s never more true than being in the desert. I was caught totally off-guard of spring in the southwest. The changes are everywhere. I love spring in the desert almost as much as I love autumn in the Midwest.

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I’m pretty fortunate in that when I look outside my office window, I get to see the blooms on the right.

Which brings me to careers and trying new things. Hardly a week passes that I don’t receive a call from an individual or small organization looking to make their way as a services group consulting or creating an analytical product. The general area of analytics is just exploding and if you believe the press, it’s going to continue to do so for the next few years at least.

So, is this a good time to start an analytics consulting company? What is the competition and how much work is available? What are the rates and what is the cost to get into the industry?

All of those questions are good questions to ask. Never has the availability of good software and hardware been so affordable. One can easily put together a respectable analytics development platform for under $5,000. Along with the accessibility of affordable hardware and software, the climate is such that there are clients that can use your skills – if they are the current skill set.

For example, back in the day when I started out consulting, almost all statistical software was on the mainframe. It wasn’t realistic or even possible for me to lease a small mainframe or mini-computer to do such work. The software de jure was SPSS, SAS, BMDP and perhaps Minitab. All had considerable license costs associated with them.

Today, you can buy or build a decent workstation for just a few thousand dollars and install WPS, R and Python and have your own highly respectable analytics platform. Expect to have to add a laptop to the mix because you’re probably going to have to travel a bit when you start out, but still, well under $5,000. I’ll put a plug in for WPS right here. In comparison to our competitor, you can expect to pay approximately $14,000 more for our competitors product on a desktop for the first year than for a workstation WPS license.

As a matter of fact, you could license a copy of WPS for Windows Workstation, Mac OS X and a small Linux Server and still be $6,000 below the cost of our competitors workstation cost.

Which brings us around to getting business for start-up consulting firm. You have to have a state-of-mind that marketing your skills is as important as using your analytical skills. This is a broad topic and marketing and salesmanship is not the most natural thing in the world.

I’m not the most voracious reader anymore. Nothing like what I used to do. But I have been reading a few books that I think everyone who wants to go out and start a small business should read.

Even though no one I know likes to make cold calls, you are still going to have to follow-up with a near-cold call when you get inquires from your web site or blog. I recommend: The Conversion Code: Capture Internet Leads, Create Quality Appointments, Close More Sales

You are going to have to create a website and preferably a blog to communicate with your audience. In this case “your audience” are the companies who are looking for your consulting skills. Spend some time with: SEO 2017 Learn Search Engine Optimization With Smart Internet Marketing Strateg: Learn SEO with smart internet marketing strategies

If you are considering writing a vertical market application for resale, you don’t want to spend a lot of time trying to figure out if your idea is workable and attainable. A good read is: Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days

And of course, the one that is truly important to me is: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. If you are working alone instead of a small group, motivation can be difficult. Finding a way to stay motivated is important and there are ways to deal with fatigue and lethargy.

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.

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.

The Application Economy

I pretty much finished up my Christmas shopping two weeks early this year. Even the wrapping and delivery completed thanks to Amazon this year. I’ve never had my shopping done so early in December and I’m darn happy about that!

That gave me time to watch some TV this weekend and since much of College Football is over for the season I ended up cruising over to Bloomberg TV. I watched a program called “Hello World” on the Russian Tech scene and it was fascinating to learn about what was being created in Russia.

The sponsor of the show was CA (aka Computer Associates) and they had an interesting and entertaining commercial titled “The Front Porch” which is about the Application Economy. We as analytical developers rarely think about software as an application the same way as consumers do. Our customers are often different departments or divisions in the corporation we work at. We don’t work at creating an application product that meets the needs of tens-of-thousands of users, or even millions. We mostly develop products used for tens of people or if we are lucky, hundreds.

A lot of the reason for that is that many of us don’t see what we do as developing an application that is consumed by users outside of our organization. The cost of commercial software is often so high that it makes it cost prohibitive to invest the hundreds of hours needed to create the application. The other issue many run into is the availability of data that can meet the needs of the consumer and is not protected by agreements.

The market has responded with software such as Python and R. However, the problem with both is the amount of data that can be processed. We live in a Big Data world and expecting data to fit into available memory is often not practical. Many of us are also dependent on using the Language of SAS for processing and displaying of data.

Obviously, WPS is a better choice than SAS when it compares to pricing, especially on the desktop. If you create an application that requires, say, WPS on a workstation, it is much easier to make a sale (your application and a WPS license) when the first-year cost is one-tenth the cost of the SAS system.

In future articles, I want to touch on creating applications for resale using WPS. I want to talk about “applications” for such things as Smart Cities, Marketing, Credit Scoring and Fraud Analytics.

We truly live in an era where we as analysts and statistical developers can contribute our skills starting a business, providing a product and doing it all with minimal cash outlay. The internet is a money pipe into the home and business. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.

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.

Introducing WPS Express

Today, World Programming LTD announced the availability of WPS Express. WPS Express is a product for those interested in learning the Language of SAS. WPS Express comes with all the database drivers and other modules of the Standard desktop version of WPS.

What separates WPS Express from the Standard Edition desktop experience is the number of records that can be processed. Currently, WPS Express processes 100 records.

What WPS Express is meant be is a free product that allows you to learn the Language of SAS. As such, 100 records are probably sufficient to learn to program in the language, connect to many different databases, and run R.

One other caveat is that WPS Express is licensed to an individual and not to any organization. Again, it’s worth noting that this is a product to learn how to write code in the Language of SAS. Also, WPS Express is licensed on an annual basis so you will have to renew your license every year.

You can find WPS Express by going to the World Programming website and taking a look at: https://www.worldprogramming.com/try-or-buy/wps/editions/express

If you are interested in a more formal WPS training, especially on how to use the WPS Workbench, I recommend that you reach out to Art Tabachneck. Art has a placement company called Analyst Finder that helps companies and recruiters find analytical talent. Art also has a one-day training seminar and he can do the training online. I’ve seen the syllabus and slide deck and think it’s quite complete with regards to getting a thorough understanding of the power of WPS. Interested parties can reach out to Art at: art297@rogers.com

WPS Express, due to its 100 record limitations is not a practical product to use for evaluating whether to swap out SAS for WPS. Every organization would need the standard edition to process an unlimited number of records so that they could compare output of the products.

MineQuest Business Analytics is able and willing to help you and your organization with your evaluation of WPS. We can arrange for a free 30-day evaluation of the workstation products, both OS X and Windows as well as on all supported server platforms.

Interested in a quote or a free 30-day evaluation of the standard edition of WPS? If your organization is located in North America, simply fill out the Evaluation Request from our website.

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.

CleanWork for Windows

Recently, we decided to go back through some of our older programs and take a look at them and see if they could be updated and/or made open source. We wrote Cleanwork years ago and we often provided it to organizations that used our consulting services as a freebie and a way to say “Thank You.”

CleanWork does pretty much what the name says. It is a WPS program that when run, will clean out the work folders of old and orphaned directories that are no longer used. WPS comes with a cleanwork program for Linux and Mac but not for Windows. The version written by MineQuest will run on Windows Workstations running Vista, 7, 8, 8.1 and 10. It will also run on Windows Servers such as Windows Server 2008, 2008 R2, 2012 and 2012 R2. Basically, it will run on all Windows Servers except 2003 and before. It also runs on all Windows Workstations except XP and before.

Cleanwork is packaged in a zip file that contains the source code, the Usage Document, License and a sample program. Cleanwork has been tested to execute only on the WPS platform.

If you are running WPS on a Windows Server you may want to set cleanwork to run on a schedule. This is a perfect utility to automate and run on a regular schedule. For busy server installations, I could see setting a scheduler to run cleanwork every few hours.

The zip file contains five files. These are:

clean.sas – a sample program for running the cleanwork utility.

cleanwork_source.sas – the actual source code that implements the utility.

CleanWorkUsage.docx – a Microsoft Word document that explain how to use cleanwork.

SASMACR.wpccat – a compiled version of the macro that  is ready to run.

license.txt – The license agreement for use of the source code and user document.

You can find the download by going to the bottom of the page here.

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.

 

 

 

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.

Why WPS needs to be part of your Corporate BI Stack

Recently, I’ve been talking to a few customers about why they decided to bring WPS into the company. After all, these firms have lots of money and talent. They can pretty much license any software they feel they need as long as it gets the job done. Of course, there are constraints due to pricing and training, but for the most part, these companies have free reign.

Below are the four major topics that everyone has touched on. Remember, these are large firms that are stalwarts in the analytics field offering products and services that are dependent on their IT and business staffs to generate revenue.

Innovation

WPS is rapidly growing and introducing additional procedures to the product. The customers that I have spoken with have all stated that WPS contains all the PROCS that they need to access, analyze and report on the data. Remember, we are talking about Fortune 500 companies here so that says a lot about how fleshed out the product is at this point.

Efficiency in Licensing

If you are a large corporation, it is likely that you have offices overseas. Licensing WPS is a dream compared to our competitors. There’s no multiple sales teams to have to work with and no differentiated licensing.

Also mentioned was that ALL the library modules are included in the price. There is no longer any confusion on what is part of the product.

Cost Reductions

It’s well known that WPS is a high value low cost alternative to the SAS System. Whether considering expanding the footprint with workstations or servers, WPS is an extremely competitive proposition. This is especially true on the server side. Since WPS is priced so competitively, even small workgroups can easily afford a server for their department.

Sole Source provider

One of the most interesting responses I received, and one that caught my attention (especially from a risk mitigation perspective) was that they didn’t want to find themselves beholden to a single source supplier of the language. I asked why they were concerned about that issue specifically. The three major points brought up are:

  1. They lacked flexibility in how they could use the product to deliver data, analytics and reports to their customers.
  2. They could take advantage of new concepts and features as they are introduced across two platforms.
  3. Fear that they would be held hostage in pricing negotiations. With a multiple providers, they felt they had leverage if they chose to not expand their footprint with the sole source provider.

 

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.

SAS Increases Prices for Workstation Product

Just noticed that SAS raised their prices for desktops. The 2014 price for a single workstation was $8700 for the first year and has increased to $9,000. This is for the Analytics Pro product and only available on Windows Workstations. Note that SAS does not sell workstation licenses for Apple’s OS X operating system because it doesn’t support OS X natively. SAS also increased the license fees for individual access engines from $3,000 to $3,100 USD.

The $9,000 price also does not include any Access Engines used to interface into databases such as Oracle, MySQL, DB2, etc…

The price increase is 3.44% and when you factor in annual inflation for 2014 (.76%) it seems rather odd that they would have an increase. Actually, by the time you get done adding two access engines (say ODBC and one other) you are looking at first year fees of $15,200. That’s a lot of money!

Our product pricing for 2015 for the WPS Workstation product here in the US has held steady. There are many reasons for this including currency issues and obtaining scales of economy are some of the reasons behind this. Remember, I’m only referring to US pricing.

If you are interested in what WPS has to offer in v3.1 on Windows and Mac Workstations, take a look at the document WPS for Workstations v3.1 to see what a bang for the buck that WPS is for any organization.

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.

Post Installation Steps for WPS Workstations

We recently wrote a short technical document on a set of post installation steps that MineQuest Business Analytics recommends after you install WPS on your workstation. We are often asked what needs to be done after WPS is installed to get the greatest performance out of WPS without too much hassle.

The document walks you through modifying your WPS configuration file, moving your work folder to another drive, why you want to install R (for using PROC R of course!), creating an autoexec.sas file, turning out write caching and a few other pointers. You don’t need to to all of the suggestions, after all they are just suggestions, but they are useful modifications that will enable you to get more out of WPS on your workstation.

You can find the document “Post Installation Steps for WPS Workstations” in the Papers Section of the MineQuest website.

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.