Making NeW R

Tal G in his excellent blog piece talks of “Why R Developers  should not be paid” http://www.r-statistics.com/2010/09/open-source-and-money-why-r-developers-shouldnt-be-paid/

His argument of love is not very original though it was first made by these four guys

I am going to argue that “some” R developers should be paid, while the main focus should be volunteers code. These R developers should be paid as per usage of their packages.

Let me expand.

Imagine the following conversation between Ross Ihaka, Norman Nie and Peter Dalgaard.

Norman- Hey Guys, Can you give me some code- I got this new startup.

Ross Ihaka and Peter Dalgaard- Sure dude. Here is 100,000 lines of code, 2000 packages and 2 decades of effort.

Norman- Thanks guys.

Ross Ihaka- Hey, What you gonna do with this code.

Norman- I will better it. Sell it. Finally beat Jim Goodnight and his **** Proc GLM and **** Proc Reg.

Ross- Okay, but what will you give us? Will you give us some code back of what you improve?

Norman – Uh, let me explain this open core …

Peter D- Well how about some royalty?

Norman- Sure, we will throw parties at all conferences, snacks you know at user groups.

Ross – Hmm. That does not sound fair. (walks away in a huff muttering)-He takes our code, sells it and wont share the code

Peter D- Doesnt sound fair. I am back to reading Hamlet, the great Dane, and writing the next edition of my book. I am glad I wrote a book- Ross didnt even write that.

Norman-Uh Oh. (picks his phone)- Hey David Smith, We need to write some blog articles pronto – these open source guys ,man…

———–I think that sums what has been going on in the dynamics of R recently. If Ross Ihaka and R Gentleman had adopted an open core strategy- meaning you can create packages to R but not share the original where would we all be?

At this point if he is reading this, David Smith , long suffering veteran of open source  flameouts is rolling his eyes while Tal G is wondering if he will publish this on R Bloggers and if so when or something.

Lets bring in another R veteran-  Hadley Wickham who wrote a book on R and also created ggplot. Thats the best quality, most often used graphics package.

In terms of economic utilty to end user- the ggplot package may be as useful if not more as the foreach package developed by Revolution Computing/Analytics.

Now http://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/foreach/index.html says that foreach is licensed under http://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0

However lets come to open core licensing ( read it here http://alampitt.typepad.com/lampitt_or_leave_it/2008/08/open-core-licen.html ) which is where the debate is- Revolution takes code- enhances it (in my opinion) substantially with new formats XDF for better efficieny, web services API, and soon coming next year a GUI (thanks in advance , Dr Nie and guys)

and sells this advanced R code to businesses happy to pay ( they are currently paying much more to DR Goodnight and HIS guys)

Why would any sane customer buy it from Revolution- if he could download exactly the same thing from http://r-project.org

Hence the business need for Revolution Analytics to have an enhanced R- as they are using a product based software model not software as a service model.

If Revolution gives away source code of these new enhanced codes to R core team- how will R core team protect the above mentioned intelectual property- given they have 2 decades experience of giving away free code , and back and forth on just code.

Now Revolution also has a marketing budget- and thats how they sponsor some R Core events, conferences, after conference snacks.

How would people decide if they are being too generous or too stingy in their contribution (compared to the formidable generosity of SAS Institute to its employees, stakeholders and even third party analysts).

Would it not be better- IF Revolution can shift that aspect of relationship to its Research and Development budget than it’s marketing budget- come with some sort of incentive for “SOME” developers – even researchers need grants and assistantships, scholarships, make a transparent royalty formula say 17.5 % of the NEW R sales goes to R PACKAGE Developers pool, which in turn examines usage rate of packages and need/merit before allocation- that would require Revolution to evolve from a startup to a more sophisticated corporate and R Core can use this the same way as John M Chambers software award/scholarship

Dont pay all developers- it would be an insult to many of them – say Prof Harrell creator of HMisc to accept – but can Revolution expand its dev base (and prospect for future employees) by even sponsoring some R Scholarships.

And I am sure that if Revolution opens up some more code to the community- they would the rest of the world and it’s help useful. If it cant trust people like R Gentleman with some source code – well he is a board member.

——————————————————————————————–

Now to sum up some technical discussions on NeW R

1)  An accepted way of benchmarking efficiencies.

2) Code review and incorporation of efficiencies.

3) Multi threading- Multi core usage are trends to be incorporated.

4) GUIs like R Commander E Plugins for other packages, and Rattle for Data Mining to have focussed (or Deducer). This may involve hiring User Interface Designers (like from Apple 😉  who will work for love AND money ( Even the Beatles charge royalty for that song)

5) More support to cloud computing initiatives like Biocep and Elastic R – or Amazon AMI for using cloud computers- note efficiency arguements dont matter if you just use a Chrome Browser and pay 2 cents a hour for an Amazon Instance. Probably R core needs more direct involvement of Google (Cloud OS makers) and Amazon as well as even Salesforce.com (for creating Force.com Apps). Note even more corporates here need to be involved as cloud computing doesnot have any free and open source infrastructure (YET)

_______________________________________________________

Debates will come and go. This is an interesting intellectual debate and someday the liitle guys will win the Revolution-

From Hugh M of Gaping Void-

http://www.gapingvoid.com/Moveable_Type/archives/cat_microsoft_blue_monster_series.html

HOW DOES A SOFTWARE COMPANY MAKE MONEY, IF ALL

SOFTWARE IS FREE?

“If something goes wrong with Microsoft, I can phone Microsoft up and have it fixed. With Open Source, I have to rely on the community.”

And the community, as much as we may love it, is unpredictable. It might care about your problem and want to fix it, then again, it may not. Anyone who has ever witnessed something online go “viral”, good or bad, will know what I’m talking about.

and especially-

http://gapingvoid.com/2007/04/16/how-well-does-open-source-currently-meet-the-needs-of-shareholders-and-ceos/

Source-http://gapingvoidgallery.com/

Kind of sums up why the open core licensing is all about.

Using VM Player and Chromium OS on a PC

Here is a short presentation tutorial including screenshots I made of using VM Player and playing with Chromium OS. Note- Its like a Machine (light weight linux) with a Chrome Browser. The real computing is when you use Chrome Extensions and/if you have a underpowered legacy PC.

or you can see the file here if the above does not work 15 Clicks to a Cloud OS

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.

Protected: Analyzing SAS Institute-WPS Lawsuit

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Open Source and Software Strategy

Curt Monash at Monash Research pointed out some ongoing open source GPL issues for WordPress and the Thesis issue (Also see http://ma.tt/2009/04/oracle-and-open-source/ and  http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/switching-things-around/).

As a user of both going upwards of 2 years- I believe open source and GPL license enforcement are general parts of software strategy of most software companies nowadays. Some thoughts on  open source and software strategy-Thesis remains a very very popular theme and has earned upwards of 100,000 $ for its creator (estimate based on 20k plus installs and 60$ avg price)

  • Little guys like to give away code to get some satisfaction/ recognition, big guys give away free code only when its necessary or when they are not making money in that product segment anyway.
  • As Ethan Hunt said, ” Every Hero needs a Villian”. Every software (market share) war between players needs One Big Company Holding more market share and Open Source Strategy between other player who is not able to create in house code, so effectively out sources by creating open source project. But same open source propent rarely gives away the secret to its own money making project.
    • Examples- Google creates open source Android, but wont reveal its secret algorithm for search which drives its main profits,
    • Google again puts a paper for MapReduce but it’s Yahoo that champions Hadoop,
    • Apple creates open source projects (http://www.apple.com/opensource/) but wont give away its Operating Source codes (why?) which help people buys its more expensive hardware,
    • IBM who helped kickstart the whole proprietary code thing (remember MS DOS) is the new champion of open source (http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/opensource/) and
    • Microsoft continues to spark open source debate but read http://blogs.technet.com/b/microsoft_blog/archive/2010/07/02/a-perspective-on-openness.aspx and  also http://www.microsoft.com/opensource/
    • SAS gives away a lot of open source code (Read Jim Davis , CMO SAS here , but will stick to Base SAS code (even though it seems to be making more money by verticals focus and data mining).
    • SPSS was the first big analytics company that helps supports R (open source stats software) but will cling to its own code on its softwares.
    • WordPress.org gives away its software (and I like Akismet just as well as blogging) for open source, but hey as anyone who is on WordPress.com knows how locked in you can get by its (pricy) platform.
    • Vendor Lock-in (wink wink price escalation) is the elephant in the room for Big Software Proprietary Companies.
    • SLA Quality, Maintenance and IP safety is the uh-oh for going in for open source software mostly.
  • Lack of IP protection for revenue models for open source code is the big bottleneck  for a lot of companies- as very few software users know what to do with source code if you give it to them anyways.
    • If companies were confident that they would still be earning same revenue and there would be less leakage or theft, they would gladly give away the source code.
    • Derivative softwares or extensions help popularize the original softwares.
      • Half Way Steps like Facebook Applications  the original big company to create a platform for third party creators),
      • IPhone Apps and Android Applications show success of creating APIs to help protect IP and software control while still giving some freedom to developers or alternate
      • User Interfaces to R in both SAS/IML and JMP is a similar example
  • Basically open source is mostly done by under dog while top dog mostly rakes in money ( and envy)
  • There is yet to a big commercial success in open source software, though they are very good open source softwares. Just as Google’s success helped establish advertising as an alternate ( and now dominant) revenue source for online companies , Open Source needs a big example of a company that made billions while giving source code away and still retaining control and direction of software strategy.
  • Open source people love to hate proprietary packages, yet there are more shades of grey (than black and white) and hypocrisy (read lies) within  the open source software movement than the regulated world of big software. People will be still people. Software is just a piece of code.  😉

(Art citation-http://gapingvoid.com/about/ and http://gapingvoidgallery.com/

Linux for busy people

For people who always wanted to try out Linux but never had the time or the energy ( or courage to risk  moving to a Linux only environment) here is a great application which allows you to keep Linux as well as Windows for double booting environment . You need 256 mb ram and 5 gb hard disk and you are good to go. It is a single click download and install to try out Ubuntu Linux and it preserves your Windows too.

If you wanted to try out R with Linux , then it is an easy way out for you ( and me).

Saves quite a lot of money per desktop per OS and per office productivity software.

Sounds good to be true well the site is http://wubi-installer.org/

Here are some screenshots courtesy of the site itself-

Ubuntu Desktop Preview

And if you need to install your favorite applications (like R , Subversion) and don’t want to command line your way the solution is quite simple It is called Synaptic and it is free and downloadable here

http://www.nongnu.org/synaptic/index.html

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