Using Two Operating Systems for RATTLE, #Rstats Data Mining GUI

Using a virtual partition is slightly better than using a dual boot system. That is because you can keep the specialized operating system (usually Linux) within the main operating system (usually Windows), browse and alternate between the two operating system just using a simple command, and can utilize the advantages of both operating system.

Also you can create project specific discs for enhanced security.

In my (limited ) Mac experience, the comparisons of each operating system are-

1) Mac-  Both robust and aesthetically designed OS, the higher price and hardware-lockin for Mac remains a disadvantage. Also many stats and analytical software just wont work on the Mac

2) Windows- It is cheaper than Mac and easier to use than Linux. Also has the most compatibility with applications (usually when not crashing)

3) Linux- The lightest and most customized software in the OS class, free to use, and has many lite versions for newbies. Not compatible with mainstream corporate IT infrastructure as of 2011.

I personally use VMWare Player for creating the virtual disk (as much more convenient than the wubi.exe method)  from http://www.vmware.com/support/product-support/player/  (and downloadable from http://downloads.vmware.com/d/info/desktop_downloads/vmware_player/3_0)

That enables me to use Ubuntu on the alternative OS- keeping my Windows 7 for some Windows specific applications . For software like Rattle, the R data mining GUI , it helps to use two operating systems, in view of difficulties in GTK+.

Installing Rattle on Windows 7 is a major pain thanks to backward compatibility issues and version issues of GTK, but it installs on Ubuntu like a breeze- and it is very very convenient to switch between the two operating systems

Download Rattle from http://rattle.togaware.com/ and test it on the dual OS arrangement to see yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

R for Analytics is now live

Okay, through the weekend I created a website for a few of my favourite things.

It’s on at https://rforanalytics.wordpress.com/

Graphical User Interfaces for R

 

Jerry Rubin said: “Don’t trust anyone over thirty

I dont trust anyone not using atleast one R GUI. Here’s a list of the top 10.

 

Code Enhancers for R

Here is a list of top 5 code enhancers,editors in R

R Commercial Software

A list of companies and software making (and) selling R software (and) services. Hint- it is almost 5 (unless I missed someone)

R Graphs Resources

R’s famous graphing capabilities and equally famous learning curve can be made a bit more humane- using some of these resources.

Internet Browsing

Because that’s what I do (all I do as per my cat) , and I am pretty good at it.

Using R from other Software

R can be used successfully from a lot of analytical software including some surprising ones praising the great 3000 packages library.

(to be continued- as I find more stuff I will keep it there, some ideas- database access from R, prominent R consultants, prominent R packages, famous R interviewees 😉 )

ps- The quote from Jerry Rubin seems funny for a while. I turn 34 this year.

Interview Ajay Ohri Decisionstats.com with DMR

From-

http://www.dataminingblog.com/data-mining-research-interview-ajay-ohri/

Here is the winner of the Data Mining Research People Award 2010: Ajay Ohri! Thanks to Ajay for giving some time to answer Data Mining Research questions. And all the best to his blog, Decision Stat!

Data Mining Research (DMR): Could you please introduce yourself to the readers of Data Mining Research?

Ajay Ohri (AO): I am a business consultant and writer based out of Delhi- India. I have been working in and around the field of business analytics since 2004, and have worked with some very good and big companies primarily in financial analytics and outsourced analytics. Since 2007, I have been writing my blog at http://decisionstats.com which now has almost 10,000 views monthly.

All in all, I wrote about data, and my hobby is also writing (poetry). Both my hobby and my profession stem from my education ( a masters in business, and a bachelors in mechanical engineering).

My research interests in data mining are interfaces (simpler interfaces to enable better data mining), education (making data mining less complex and accessible to more people and students), and time series and regression (specifically ARIMAX)
In business my research interests software marketing strategies (open source, Software as a service, advertising supported versus traditional licensing) and creation of technology and entrepreneurial hubs (like Palo Alto and Research Triangle, or Bangalore India).

DMR: I know you have worked with both SAS and R. Could you give your opinion about these two data mining tools?

AO: As per my understanding, SAS stands for SAS language, SAS Institute and SAS software platform. The terms are interchangeably used by people in industry and academia- but there have been some branding issues on this.
I have not worked much with SAS Enterprise Miner , probably because I could not afford it as business consultant, and organizations I worked with did not have a budget for Enterprise Miner.
I have worked alone and in teams with Base SAS, SAS Stat, SAS Access, and SAS ETS- and JMP. Also I worked with SAS BI but as a user to extract information.
You could say my use of SAS platform was mostly in predictive analytics and reporting, but I have a couple of projects under my belt for knowledge discovery and data mining, and pattern analysis. Again some of my SAS experience is a bit dated for almost 1 year ago.

I really like specific parts of SAS platform – as in the interface design of JMP (which is better than Enterprise Guide or Base SAS ) -and Proc Sort in Base SAS- I guess sequential processing of data makes SAS way faster- though with computing evolving from Desktops/Servers to even cheaper time shared cloud computers- I am not sure how long Base SAS and SAS Stat can hold this unique selling proposition.

I dislike the clutter in SAS Stat output, it confuses me with too much information, and I dislike shoddy graphics in the rendering output of graphical engine of SAS. Its shoddy coding work in SAS/Graph and if JMP can give better graphics why is legacy source code preventing SAS platform from doing a better job of it.

I sometimes think the best part of SAS is actually code written by Goodnight and Sall in 1970’s , the latest procs don’t impress me much.

SAS as a company is something I admire especially for its way of treating employees globally- but it is strange to see the rest of tech industry not following it. Also I don’t like over aggression and the SAS versus Rest of the Analytics /Data Mining World mentality that I sometimes pick up when I deal with industry thought leaders.

I think making SAS Enterprise Miner, JMP, and Base SAS in a completely new web interface priced at per hour rates is my wishlist but I guess I am a bit sentimental here- most data miners I know from early 2000’s did start with SAS as their first bread earning software. Also I think SAS needs to be better priced in Business Intelligence- it seems quite cheap in BI compared to Cognos/IBM but expensive in analytical licensing.

If you are a new stats or business student, chances are – you may know much more R than SAS today. The shift in education at least has been very rapid, and I guess R is also more of a platform than a analytics or data mining software.

I like a lot of things in R- from graphics, to better data mining packages, modular design of software, but above all I like the can do kick ass spirit of R community. Lots of young people collaborating with lots of young to old professors, and the energy is infectious. Everybody is a CEO in R ’s world. Latest data mining algols will probably start in R, published in journals.

Which is better for data mining SAS or R? It depends on your data and your deadline. The golden rule of management and business is -it depends.

Also I have worked with a lot of KXEN, SQL, SPSS.

DMR: Can you tell us more about Decision Stats? You have a traffic of 120′000 for 2010. How did you reach such a success?

AO: I don’t think 120,000 is a success. Its not a failure. It just happened- the more I wrote, the more people read.In 2007-2008 I used to obsess over traffic. I tried SEO, comments, back linking, and I did some black hat experimental stuff. Some of it worked- some didn’t.

In the end, I started asking questions and interviewing people. To my surprise, senior management is almost always more candid , frank and honest about their views while middle managers, public relations, marketing folks can be defensive.

Social Media helped a bit- Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook really helped my network of friends who I suppose acted as informal ambassadors to spread the word.
Again I was constrained by necessity than choices- my middle class finances ( I also had a baby son in 2007-my current laptop still has some broken keys :) – by my inability to afford traveling to conferences, and my location Delhi isn’t really a tech hub.

The more questions I asked around the internet, the more people responded, and I wrote it all down.

I guess I just was lucky to meet a lot of nice people on the internet who took time to mentor and educate me.

I tried building other websites but didn’t succeed so i guess I really don’t know. I am not a smart coder, not very clever at writing but I do try to be honest.

Basic economics says pricing is proportional to demand and inversely proportional to supply. Honest and candid opinions have infinite demand and an uncertain supply.

DMR: There is a rumor about a R book you plan to publish in 2011 :-) Can you confirm the rumor and tell us more?

AO: I just signed a contract with Springer for ” R for Business Analytics”. R is a great software, and lots of books for statistically trained people, but I felt like writing a book for the MBAs and existing analytics users- on how to easily transition to R for Analytics.

Like any language there are tricks and tweaks in R, and with a focus on code editors, IDE, GUI, web interfaces, R’s famous learning curve can be bent a bit.

Making analytics beautiful, and simpler to use is always a passion for me. With 3000 packages, R can be used for a lot more things and a lot more simply than is commonly understood.
The target audience however is business analysts- or people working in corporate environments.

Brief Bio-
Ajay Ohri has been working in the field of analytics since 2004 , when it was a still nascent emerging Industries in India. He has worked with the top two Indian outsourcers listed on NYSE,and with Citigroup on cross sell analytics where he helped sell an extra 50000 credit cards by cross sell analytics .He was one of the very first independent data mining consultants in India working on analytics products and domestic Indian market analytics .He regularly writes on analytics topics on his web site www.decisionstats.com and is currently working on open source analytical tools like R besides analytical software like SPSS and SAS.

Choosing R for business – What to consider?

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Additional features in R over other analytical packages-

1) Source Code is given to ensure complete custom solution and embedding for a particular application. Open source code has an advantage that is extensively peer- reviewed in Journals and Scientific Literature.  This means bugs will found, shared and corrected transparently.

2) Wide literature of training material in the form of books is available for the R analytical platform.

3) Extensively the best data visualization tools in analytical software (apart from Tableau Software ‘s latest version). The extensive data visualization available in R is of the form a variety of customizable graphs, as well as animation. The principal reason third-party software initially started creating interfaces to R is because the graphical library of packages in R is more advanced as well as rapidly getting more features by the day.

4) Free in upfront license cost for academics and thus budget friendly for small and large analytical teams.

5) Flexible programming for your data environment. This includes having packages that ensure compatibility with Java, Python and C++.

 

6) Easy migration from other analytical platforms to R Platform. It is relatively easy for a non R platform user to migrate to R platform and there is no danger of vendor lock-in due to the GPL nature of source code and open community.

Statistics are numbers that tell (descriptive), advise ( prescriptive) or forecast (predictive). Analytics is a decision-making help tool. Analytics on which no decision is to be made or is being considered can be classified as purely statistical and non analytical. Thus ease of making a correct decision separates a good analytical platform from a not so good analytical platform. The distinction is likely to be disputed by people of either background- and business analysis requires more emphasis on how practical or actionable the results are and less emphasis on the statistical metrics in a particular data analysis task. I believe one clear reason between business analytics is different from statistical analysis is the cost of perfect information (data costs in real world) and the opportunity cost of delayed and distorted decision-making.

Specific to the following domains R has the following costs and benefits

  • Business Analytics
    • R is free per license and for download
    • It is one of the few analytical platforms that work on Mac OS
    • It’s results are credibly established in both journals like Journal of Statistical Software and in the work at LinkedIn, Google and Facebook’s analytical teams.
    • It has open source code for customization as per GPL
    • It also has a flexible option for commercial vendors like Revolution Analytics (who support 64 bit windows) as well as bigger datasets
    • It has interfaces from almost all other analytical software including SAS,SPSS, JMP, Oracle Data Mining, Rapid Miner. Existing license holders can thus invoke and use R from within these software
    • Huge library of packages for regression, time series, finance and modeling
    • High quality data visualization packages
    • Data Mining
      • R as a computing platform is better suited to the needs of data mining as it has a vast array of packages covering standard regression, decision trees, association rules, cluster analysis, machine learning, neural networks as well as exotic specialized algorithms like those based on chaos models.
      • Flexibility in tweaking a standard algorithm by seeing the source code
      • The RATTLE GUI remains the standard GUI for Data Miners using R. It was created and developed in Australia.
      • Business Dashboards and Reporting
      • Business Dashboards and Reporting are an essential piece of Business Intelligence and Decision making systems in organizations. R offers data visualization through GGPLOT, and GUI like Deducer and Red-R can help even non R users create a metrics dashboard
        • For online Dashboards- R has packages like RWeb, RServe and R Apache- which in combination with data visualization packages offer powerful dashboard capabilities.
        • R can be combined with MS Excel using the R Excel package – to enable R capabilities to be imported within Excel. Thus a MS Excel user with no knowledge of R can use the GUI within the R Excel plug-in to use powerful graphical and statistical capabilities.

Additional factors to consider in your R installation-

There are some more choices awaiting you now-
1) Licensing Choices-Academic Version or Free Version or Enterprise Version of R

2) Operating System Choices-Which Operating System to choose from? Unix, Windows or Mac OS.

3) Operating system sub choice- 32- bit or 64 bit.

4) Hardware choices-Cost -benefit trade-offs for additional hardware for R. Choices between local ,cluster and cloud computing.

5) Interface choices-Command Line versus GUI? Which GUI to choose as the default start-up option?

6) Software component choice- Which packages to install? There are almost 3000 packages, some of them are complimentary, some are dependent on each other, and almost all are free.

7) Additional Software choices- Which additional software do you need to achieve maximum accuracy, robustness and speed of computing- and how to use existing legacy software and hardware for best complementary results with R.

1) Licensing Choices-
You can choose between two kinds of R installations – one is free and open source from http://r-project.org The other R installation is commercial and is offered by many vendors including Revolution Analytics. However there are other commercial vendors too.

Commercial Vendors of R Language Products-
1) Revolution Analytics http://www.revolutionanalytics.com/
2) XL Solutions- http://www.experience-rplus.com/
3) Information Builder – Webfocus RStat -Rattle GUI http://www.informationbuilders.com/products/webfocus/PredictiveModeling.html
4) Blue Reference- Inference for R http://inferenceforr.com/default.aspx

  1. Choosing Operating System
      1. Windows

 

Windows remains the most widely used operating system on this planet. If you are experienced in Windows based computing and are active on analytical projects- it would not make sense for you to move to other operating systems. This is also based on the fact that compatibility problems are minimum for Microsoft Windows and the help is extensively documented. However there may be some R packages that would not function well under Windows- if that happens a multiple operating system is your next option.

        1. Enterprise R from Revolution Analytics- Enterprise R from Revolution Analytics has a complete R Development environment for Windows including the use of code snippets to make programming faster. Revolution is also expected to make a GUI available by 2011. Revolution Analytics claims several enhancements for it’s version of R including the use of optimized libraries for faster performance.
      1. MacOS

 

Reasons for choosing MacOS remains its considerable appeal in aesthetically designed software- but MacOS is not a standard Operating system for enterprise systems as well as statistical computing. However open source R claims to be quite optimized and it can be used for existing Mac users. However there seem to be no commercially available versions of R available as of now for this operating system.

      1. Linux

 

        1. Ubuntu
        2. Red Hat Enterprise Linux
        3. Other versions of Linux

 

Linux is considered a preferred operating system by R users due to it having the same open source credentials-much better fit for all R packages and it’s customizability for big data analytics.

Ubuntu Linux is recommended for people making the transition to Linux for the first time. Ubuntu Linux had an marketing agreement with revolution Analytics for an earlier version of Ubuntu- and many R packages can  installed in a straightforward way as Ubuntu/Debian packages are available. Red Hat Enterprise Linux is officially supported by Revolution Analytics for it’s enterprise module. Other versions of Linux popular are Open SUSE.

      1. Multiple operating systems-
        1. Virtualization vs Dual Boot-

 

You can also choose between having a VMware VM Player for a virtual partition on your computers that is dedicated to R based computing or having operating system choice at the startup or booting of your computer. A software program called wubi helps with the dual installation of Linux and Windows.

  1. 64 bit vs 32 bit – Given a choice between 32 bit versus 64 bit versions of the same operating system like Linux Ubuntu, the 64 bit version would speed up processing by an approximate factor of 2. However you need to check whether your current hardware can support 64 bit operating systems and if so- you may want to ask your Information Technology manager to upgrade atleast some operating systems in your analytics work environment to 64 bit operating systems.

 

  1. Hardware choices- At the time of writing this book, the dominant computing paradigm is workstation computing followed by server-client computing. However with the introduction of cloud computing, netbooks, tablet PCs, hardware choices are much more flexible in 2011 than just a couple of years back.

Hardware costs are a significant cost to an analytics environment and are also  remarkably depreciated over a short period of time. You may thus examine your legacy hardware, and your future analytical computing needs- and accordingly decide between the various hardware options available for R.
Unlike other analytical software which can charge by number of processors, or server pricing being higher than workstation pricing and grid computing pricing extremely high if available- R is well suited for all kinds of hardware environment with flexible costs. Given the fact that R is memory intensive (it limits the size of data analyzed to the RAM size of the machine unless special formats and /or chunking is used)- it depends on size of datasets used and number of concurrent users analyzing the dataset. Thus the defining issue is not R but size of the data being analyzed.

    1. Local Computing- This is meant to denote when the software is installed locally. For big data the data to be analyzed would be stored in the form of databases.
      1. Server version- Revolution Analytics has differential pricing for server -client versions but for the open source version it is free and the same for Server or Workstation versions.
      2. Workstation
    2. Cloud Computing- Cloud computing is defined as the delivery of data, processing, systems via remote computers. It is similar to server-client computing but the remote server (also called cloud) has flexible computing in terms of number of processors, memory, and data storage. Cloud computing in the form of public cloud enables people to do analytical tasks on massive datasets without investing in permanent hardware or software as most public clouds are priced on pay per usage. The biggest cloud computing provider is Amazon and many other vendors provide services on top of it. Google is also coming for data storage in the form of clouds (Google Storage), as well as using machine learning in the form of API (Google Prediction API)
      1. Amazon
      2. Google
      3. Cluster-Grid Computing/Parallel processing- In order to build a cluster, you would need the RMpi and the SNOW packages, among other packages that help with parallel processing.
    3. How much resources
      1. RAM-Hard Disk-Processors- for workstation computing
      2. Instances or API calls for cloud computing
  1. Interface Choices
    1. Command Line
    2. GUI
    3. Web Interfaces
  2. Software Component Choices
    1. R dependencies
    2. Packages to install
    3. Recommended Packages
  3. Additional software choices
    1. Additional legacy software
    2. Optimizing your R based computing
    3. Code Editors
      1. Code Analyzers
      2. Libraries to speed up R

citation-  R Development Core Team (2010). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing,Vienna, Austria. ISBN 3-900051-07-0, URL http://www.R-project.org.

(Note- this is a draft in progress)

Better Data Visualization in WordPress.com Stats

WordPress.com Stats is the analytical software which helps bloggers on WP.com hosted blogs. It recently underwent a revamp in design-

Note a simple change from Line to Histogram charts, and added Tabs can add so much value to data.

However WP.com really needs to addin Geo-Coded Stats (Visitors from where) and Some level of Campaign Tracking (similar to Goals in Google Analytics)

Earlier WP Stats

Now WP Stats

Towards better analytical software

Here are some thoughts on using existing statistical software for better analytics and/or business intelligence (reporting)-

1) User Interface Design Matters- Most stats software have a legacy approach to user interface design. While the Graphical User Interfaces need to more business friendly and user friendly- example you can call a button T Test or You can call it Compare > Means of Samples (with a highlight called T Test). You can call a button Chi Square Test or Call it Compare> Counts Data. Also excessive reliance on drop down ignores the next generation advances in OS- namely touchscreen instead of mouse click and point.

Given the fact that base statistical procedures are the same across softwares, a more thoughtfully designed user interface (or revamped interface) can give softwares an edge over legacy designs.

2) Branding of Software Matters- One notable whine against SAS Institite products is a premier price. But really that software is actually inexpensive if you see other reporting software. What separates a Cognos from a Crystal Reports to a SAS BI is often branding (and user interface design). This plays a role in branding events – social media is often the least expensive branding and marketing channel. Same for WPS and Revolution Analytics.

3) Alliances matter- The alliances of parent companies are reflected in the sales of bundled software. For a complete solution , you need a database plus reporting plus analytical software. If you are not making all three of the above, you need to partner and cross sell. Technically this means that software (either DB, or Reporting or Analytics) needs to talk to as many different kinds of other softwares and formats. This is why ODBC in R is important, and alliances for small companies like Revolution Analytics, WPS and Netezza are just as important as bigger companies like IBM SPSS, SAS Institute or SAP. Also tie-ins with Hadoop (like R and Netezza appliance)  or  Teradata and SAS help create better usage.

4) Cloud Computing Interfaces could be the edge- Maybe cloud computing is all hot air. Prudent business planing demands that any software maker in analytics or business intelligence have an extremely easy to load interface ( whether it is a dedicated on demand website) or an Amazon EC2 image. Easier interfaces win and with the cloud still in early stages can help create an early lead. For R software makers this is critical since R is bad in PC usage for larger sets of data in comparison to counterparts. On the cloud that disadvantage vanishes. An easy to understand cloud interface framework is here ( its 2 years old but still should be okay) http://knol.google.com/k/data-mining-through-cloud-computing#

5) Platforms matter- Softwares should either natively embrace all possible platforms or bundle in middle ware themselves.

Here is a case study SAS stopped supporting Apple OS after Base SAS 7. Today Apple OS is strong  ( 3.47 million Macs during the most recent quarter ) and the only way to use SAS on a Mac is to do either

http://goo.gl/QAs2

or do a install of Ubuntu on the Mac ( https://help.ubuntu.com/community/MacBook ) and do this

http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1494027

Why does this matter? Well SAS is free to academics and students  from this year, but Mac is a preferred computer there. Well WPS can be run straight away on the Mac (though they are curiously not been able to provide academics or discounted student copies 😉 ) as per

http://goo.gl/aVKu

Does this give a disadvantage based on platform. Yes. However JMP continues to be supported on Mac. This is also noteworthy given the upcoming Chromium OS by Google, Windows Azure platform for cloud computing.