R – first steps

I talked a little while ago about downloading R. Time to update you on progress since I ran through some of the sample code in the Introduction to R.

Well, I couldn’t quite believe how simple the syntax is, it feels quite strange using < - all over the place, and not a proc in sight (R exposes functionality through functions).
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SAS user groups

icosHow many SAS® users do we have? Looking at the number of licenses we have tells only part of the story, the tip of the iceberg. I work for a company that is a national subsidiary of a continental division of a global parent company. After a fair amount of merger and acquisition activity recently, there are many new business units (siblings, cousins, etc. in the corporate hierarchy) who have brought licenses with them.
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Wolfram|Alpha goes viral

I passed the note about Wolfram | Alpha to a friend who is a very highly respected academic linguist with a mathematical background, and he passed this on a friend who is very much into AI stuff.

I showed him this website and he was shocked, because he says that given this guy’s record (unbearable genius, but genius nevertheless), he might actually be able to deliver what he promises, and this would be mind-boggling – at least so my friend believes.

So let’s wait till May… I think the whole thing is fascinating, and wonder if there is a hardwired answer to “what is the question who’s answer is 42″ and similar. I’m itching to know what questions people will be asking.

I hope that Wolfram is set up to cope with the volume of requests. If people start to take notice, if Wolfram | Alpha goes viral, they may be deluged with a huge flock of browsers.

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SAS and R

Ajay Ohri posted part 2 of his interview with Anne Milley.

It was interesting to read about SAS’s use of open source software:

Open source software provides many options and benefits. We see many (SAS included) embracing open source for different things…we plan to do more with open source in the future.

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I’m not sure if I’m on the same planet as Stephen Wolfram, founder of Wolfram Research – the people behind Mathematica – but I’d like to be.

In his recent blog post Stephen Wolfram tries to answer some of these questions:

What is Wolfram|Alpha, then?

It’s going to be a website: www.wolframalpha.com. With one simple input field that gives access to a huge system, with trillions of pieces of curated data and millions of lines of algorithms.

What does that mean?

…one would be able to ask a computer any factual question, and have it compute the answer…
I’d always thought, though, that eventually it should be possible. And a few years ago, I realized that I was finally in a position to try to do it.

But that’s never going to work is it?

I wasn’t at all sure it was going to work. But I’m happy to say that with a mixture of many clever algorithms and heuristics, lots of linguistic discovery and linguistic curation, and what probably amount to some serious theoretical breakthroughs, we’re actually managing to make it work.

Wow! Google, your days are numbered!

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Anne Milley on DecisionStats

Great to see part one of Ajay Ohri’s interview with Anne Milley on decisionstats.com today.

Yet with our annual subscription licensing model, SAS cannot rest on its laurels. Each year, customers vote with their checkbooks: if SAS provided them with business benefits, results and a positive ROI, they renew; if not, they can walk away. Happily for SAS, the overwhelming majority of customers keep coming back. But the licensing model keeps SAS on its toes, customer-focused, and always listening and innovating based on customer feedback.

Is an interesting take on it. Read More »

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A well trodden path?

With R, I thought I had stumbled on something quite niche, just in its gestative stages.

And then I read that R is the most popular statistical package at Google. Clearly not so bijou, after all. Read More »

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R for Reflections

(… or R for a quarter, but I’m not sure that my grasp of US English idiom is good enough to tell if that works.)

After posting about charting a route through a rolling biblioscape yesterday, my mind turned to the route I’m treading at work. Is SAS® the high-point? I hope so, but the recent interest in R got me thinking.
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Powerpoint, presentations and design

There has always been something difficult about PowerPoint. Blank slides just seem so desparately blank; surely cheery, colourful, dramatic slides would be perfect to hang words on: a source of inspiration should one dry up mid-spiel.

Well, whilst they may help, I think Edward Tufte has identified some of the key issues in his paper on the Cognitive Style of PowerPoint. I’m a great fan of Tufte and devoured his books on long commutes: the only time a fellow commuter has ever taken an interest in what I have been reading was after they had been admiring his rich pagination over my shoulder – I was too engrossed to notice.
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Back on track?

After a horrible month (if it can it will) normality is returning. I’ve not yet planted my potatoes, but once they’re in the ground we can start to wonder if spring is in the air.

Hotfixes for both clients and server are now in, and the number of reported errors in the server’s event viewer have dropped dramatically.
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