Everything

5月 162013
 

SGF2013logoI’ve already written about one highlight of SAS Global Forum 2013: the SAS Web Editor. Here are some more features that I think deserve mention. Please note that I make no claims about the comprehensiveness or completeness of this list.

SAS 9.4 and Enterprise Guide 6.1 are scheduled for release in June and bring some important new features.  Here are a few:

ODS POWERPOINT destination  The usefulness of this destination is obvious.  There will be two new styles designed specifically for PowerPoint: one with a white background and one with a black background.  You can use other styles too, but these new styles have the advantage of being fully compatible with the PowerPoint theme selector.  Any graphs you create using ODS Graphics will be embedded in this destination.

ODS LAYOUT  If I remember correctly, the first time I ever heard about the ODS LAYOUT statement was at SUGI 28 in 2003.  I don’t know why it has taken so long to move to production, but I’m glad it’s finally here. If you need custom reports that combine results from multiple procedures, then you will probably love ODS LAYOUT.

PROC ODSLIST and PROC ODSTEXT  These new procedures allow you to create bulleted lists and formatted blocks of text in reports. The content can be static or dynamic (based on a data set).

ODS Graphics  The SG procedures continue to mature.  When I attended Dan Heath’s super-demo on SG procedures, members of the audience repeatedly said “Oh, good, I need that.” New features include a SORT= option in SGPANEL, insets in SGPANEL, split characters for tick and axis labels, and PERCENT and MEDIAN options for STAT=.

Enterprise Guide  For a long time, one of the problems with Enterprise Guide was that it kept evolving so quickly that users felt like they had to learn it all over again with each release. EG users will be glad to know that EG 6.1 uses the same basic layout as EG 4.2 and 5.1.  Improvements in EG 6.1 include sticky notes and a log summary to help people who write code.  Developer Casey Smith said there will be better integration with the ODS Graphics Editor.  I am glad to hear that ODS Graphics is being supported in EG, and I would like to see this dramatically increased. EG users should have the best graphics that SAS can offer.

SGF is finally global  28 percent of attendees were from outside the US.  I have attended SGF and it’s predecessor SUGI for decades, and most of that time I didn’t see a single attendee from outside the US. It’s exciting to see SAS Global Forum living up to its name.

Finally, if you didn’t get to attend SGF (or even if you did) there were some great presentations that you should watch.  I know these have been mentioned by many other people, but they are surprisingly hard to find online. So here are the links:

Opening Session The Opening Session was informative and included an amazing performance by the dance troupe Les Ombres.

Roger Craig’s talk about how he used analytics to train to be a contestant on Jeopardy! was fascinating.


5月 162013
 

SASwebEditorSAS Global Forum ended two weeks ago.  I thought by now someone would have written about SAS on the Mac and saved me the trouble, but since I don’t see much discussion of this in the blogosphere, here are my belated two cents.

If you have been using SAS as long as I have, then you probably know that running SAS on a Mac is nothing new.  SAS Institute released SAS for the Mac lo these many years ago, but then dropped it just a couple years later because there weren’t enough users (read licenses) to justify it. And since then, of course, Mac users have gotten several different products that allow them to run Windows software.  So anyone who really wants to run SAS on a Mac has had that ability for a while.

Given that history, the last thing I expected to see at the Opening Session was a demo of SAS on the Mac–much less on the iPad.

Of course, this is not the same SAS for the Mac that was dropped so long ago.  This is the SAS Web Editor.

The SAS Web Editor is a nimble version of Display Manager that runs in a browser (any HTML 5 compliant browser).  I learned about it just over a month ago when my husband mentioned to me, as we ate dinner, that he had read an interesting blog describing the SAS Web Editor.  Thank you to AnnMaria deMars for getting the word out!  Here is an official press release from SAS Institute dated March 6, 2013.  The SAS Web Editor is a client-server application.  The editor is the client.  To use it, you must have SAS running on some server. That server can be local or remote.  Considering how aggressively SAS Institute has promoted cloud computing over the last decade, it is perhaps surprising that it has taken this long to come up with Display Manager for the Web.  The SAS Web Editor feels like a missing link.  It makes a lot of sense.

Here are some specifics from the Opening Session.  They used the SAS Web Editor in a browser on the Mac to access VMware to run SAS for Linux on the same Mac.  Then they demoed the SAS Web Editor on an iPad (pictured above) which also used the Mac as its server.  (Currently academic users of the SAS Web Editor use SAS Institute’s servers.  Maybe for the opening session they were concerned about slow connection speeds to Cary.  Given the complaints I’ve heard about the internet service at the Moscone Center, this is easy to believe.)

Of course, you can use the SAS Web Editor on Windows (which is what I am doing).  So I find it interesting that they chose to demo it on Apple hardware.  Not only did they show Macs and iPads in the Opening Session, but I saw a lot of iPads being used by SAS staff at the conference.  I think this was a smart move for SAS Institute.  Firstly, there is an undeniable Cool Factor associated with Apple hardware that can only help SAS’s reputation.  At the present, SAS is loosing the battle for the academic market.  Maybe this will help turn the tide.  Secondly, this is a good time to distance oneself from Windows.  This fact was underscored for me by an article in last week’s Economist magazine titled Microsoft blues: Windows 8 is only the beginning of Microsoft’s problems.”

A few other interesting tidbits about the SAS Web Editor:  It is not exactly the same as Display Manager, but the developers showing it in the Demo Room made it clear that they are working hard to get the kinks out. It is currently available only for academic use, but in the Opening Session it was said that it will be available as a free download–no mention of when. They also mention that it will be available for Android platforms.

You can still view the Opening Session online. The SAS Web Editor demo starts around 1 hour in.

SGF2013OpeningSession


5月 142013
 

The Little SAS Book: A Primer, Fifth EditonOne of the problems that Lora Delwiche and I face as authors of two books with similar titles (The Little SAS Book and The Little SAS Book for Enterprise Guide) and multiple editions (five of LSB and three of LSBEG) is explaining how the books are different.

The two books are totally different–and complementary.

So I was delighted to see that someone at SAS Press has written a great summary comparing the various editions.

Did you know that the title The Little SAS Book was originally a joke? We explain that and give a little history on sasCommunity.org.


4月 262013
 

Green Stink BugMost people think that all insects are bugs, but, in fact, only species belonging to the order Hemiptera are considered by scientists to be “true bugs.”  There are about 932,000 species of insects, but only 82,000 species of true bugs.  Fortunately for us, there are a lot fewer species of SAS bugs.

SAS bugs can be classified into three general types: syntax, data, and logic.

  • Syntax errors result when your program fails to follow SAS’s rules about the way keywords are put together to make statements.
  • Data errors happen when you have a program that is syntactically sound, but the data values do not fit the program as it was written.
  • Logic errors happen when you have a program that runs, and data that fits, but the result is wrong because the program gave the wrong instructions.

Debugging is one of my favorite topics.  I  believe that debugging your programs is not only necessary, but also a good way to gain insight into how SAS works.  Once you understand why you got an error, a warning, or a note; you’ll be better able to avoid problems in the future.  In other words, people who are good debuggers are good programmers.

I’m looking forward to talking about bugs (both the SAS kind, and some of the creepy-crawly kind too) at SAS Global Forum next week.  If you will be at there, maybe you can catch my presentation.

Errors, Warnings, and Notes (Oh My!): A Practical Guide to Debugging SAS Programs

Tuesday, May 30, 3:30-4:20 Moscone Center Room 2008

I hope you can come to SAS Global Forum, but if you can’t, there are still a lot of great ways to learn and share the excitement.

You can view my paper here.

You can view the proceedings for all SGF 2013 papers here.

You can view some great presentations on SAS Global Forum Take-Out.

You can even view much of the conference live.


4月 252013
 

Three Things I Learned As a SAS Local User Group LeaderI recently had the privilege of speaking at a meeting of the Toronto Area SAS Society.  It was a great meeting, and, honestly, I’m not saying this just because I was one of the speakers.  TASS is the best run local user group I have seen.  They have found the right balance of SAS Institute and user involvement so that they can all pull together without getting in each other’s way.  I was impressed by the high level of enthusiasm and professionalism displayed, especially by Art Tabachneck and Matt Malczewski.

Attending TASS brought back memories for me, memories of the eight years that I led the Sacramento Valley SAS Users Group.  I’m proud of my record.  My goal was to have three meetings a year, and, with the help of many local SAS users, I met that goal.  We had a perfect record, in fact.  Under my leadership we held 25 successful meetings in a row.

It was fun, I worked with some great people, and, of course, I learned some things.  However, some of the things I learned surprised me.  So for all LUG leaders and for everyone who is thinking about becoming a LUG leader, I present

Three Things I Learned As a SAS Local User Group Leader

1) There is a vacuum of leadership in the world. 
Lots of people want to be followers; few want to lead.  If you have any interest in being a leader, you will find abundant opportunities.  And you don’t have to start a group (although that is not a bad idea).  There are lots of organizations (PTAs, clubs, RUGs, LUGs) just waiting for you to step into a leadership role.  Don’t make them beg.  Go ahead, volunteer!

2) You should never start anything without having an exit plan.
I hope this doesn’t sound negative because, honestly, it’s not.  It’s just a fact. The default exit plan is “I will do this for the rest of my life.”  That’s not a bad exit plan.  In fact, it’s an excellent exit plan if the thing you are starting is a marriage or, say, parenthood.  However, most people don’t want to be a LUG leader for the rest of their life.  Therefore, it behooves you to have a plan in place for passing the reins to the next leader of your LUG before you take charge.

3) You need to give yourself credit because other people might not.
For some people this comes naturally; for others it doesn’t.  If you are a modest person, then it’s time to learn how to toot your own horn.  You’re working hard. Let everyone know it!  I understand now why the governor has his picture splashed all over the state website. He’s good at giving himself credit.  You can be too.

SAS has an amazing network of users groups–international, regional, local and in-house–all of which provide great opportunities for networking and learning.  SAS Global Forum is, of course, the ultimate SAS users group, but if you can’t attend SGF, there are lots of others.  The SAS Support site lists many groups.  Why not get involved?


4月 252013
 

Three Things I Learned As a SAS Local User Group LeaderI recently had the privilege of speaking at a meeting of the Toronto Area SAS Society.  It was a great meeting, and, honestly, I’m not saying this just because I was one of the speakers.  TASS is the best run local user group I have seen.  They have found the right balance of SAS Institute and user involvement so that they can all pull together without getting in each other’s way.  I was impressed by the high level of enthusiasm and professionalism displayed, especially by Art Tabachneck and Matt Malczewski.

Attending TASS brought back memories for me, memories of the eight years that I led the Sacramento Valley SAS Users Group.  I’m proud of my record.  My goal was to have three meetings a year, and, with the help of many local SAS users, I met that goal.  We had a perfect record, in fact.  Under my leadership we held 25 successful meetings in a row.

It was fun, I worked with some great people, and, of course, I learned some things.  However, some of the things I learned surprised me.  So for all LUG leaders and for everyone who is thinking about becoming a LUG leader, I present

Three Things I Learned As a SAS Local User Group Leader

1) There is a vacuum of leadership in the world. 
Lots of people want to be followers; few want to lead.  If you have any interest in being a leader, you will find abundant opportunities.  And you don’t have to start a group (although that is not a bad idea).  There are lots of organizations (PTAs, clubs, RUGs, LUGs) just waiting for you to step into a leadership role.  Don’t make them beg.  Go ahead, volunteer!

2) You should never start anything without having an exit plan.
I hope this doesn’t sound negative because, honestly, it’s not.  It’s just a fact. The default exit plan is “I will do this for the rest of my life.”  That’s not a bad exit plan.  In fact, it’s an excellent exit plan if the thing you are starting is a marriage or, say, parenthood.  However, most people don’t want to be LUG leaders for the rest of their life.  Therefore, it behooves you to have a plan in place for passing the reins to the next leader of your LUG before you take charge.

3) You need to give yourself credit because other people might not.
For some people this comes naturally; for others it doesn’t.  If you are a modest person, then it’s time to learn how to toot your own horn.  You’re working hard. Let everyone know it!  I understand now why the governor has his picture splashed all over the state website. He’s good at giving himself credit.  You can be too.

SAS has an amazing network of users groups–international, regional, local and in-house–all of which provide great opportunities for networking and learning.  SAS Global Forum is, of course, the ultimate SAS users group, but if you can’t attend SGF, there are lots of others.  The SAS Support site lists many groups.  Why not get involved?


11月 202012
 

Cover of The Little SAS Book: A Primer, Fifth EditonFive editions is a lot!

If you had told me, back when we wrote the first edition, that some day we would write a fifth; I would have wondered how we could possibly find that much to say.  After all…it is supposed to be The Little SAS Book, isn’t it?

But those clever folk at SAS Institute are constantly hard at work dreaming up new and better ways of analyzing and visualizing data.  And some of those ways turn out to be so fundamental that they belong even in a little book about SAS.  That’s especially true of this edition.

SAS 9.3 introduced several fundamental changes.  So we rewrote the book to reflect these.  One of the new defaults is that output is rendered as HTML instead of text.  That meant that almost every section in the book needed to be updated to show the new default output.  And since text output still has its uses, we added a section on how to send output to the good old LISTING destination.

In addition, ODS Graphics has matured a lot since it was introduced with SAS 9.2.  It has new default behaviors, and is now part of Base SAS.  The fourth edition of our book included a few sections on the SG procedures (SG stands for Statistical Graphics), but these procedures have developed so much that we felt they now deserved their own chapter.

In addition, here and there we split sections in two or added new ones to expand on features that were only mentioned before.

Here’s a short list, in no particular order, of new or expanded topics in the fifth edition:

  • Linguistic sorting
  • Concatenating macro variables with other text
  • AGE argument for the YRDIF function for computing accurate ages
  • LISTING destination for text output
  • PROC TTEST
  • PROC SGPANEL
  • Graph legends and insets
  • Graph attributes such as lines and markers
  • Image properties such as DPI
  • Saving graphics output
  • Many new graph options such as NBINS= for bar charts

Along the way, we removed topics or sections that had begun to feel dated or out of place.  For example, we took out the appendix on Coming to SAS from SPSS because it is now available as a free download that is both better and more complete.

So even though we have added a lot to this edition, it is still a little book.  In fact, this edition is shorter than the last—by one whole page!

To order a copy of this book, or view the table of contents or a sample of the book, visit the SAS Press web site.


11月 202012
 

I’m not normally a fan of graffiti. But I have been quite taken with one particular instance of graffiti that appeared in my neighborhood a few months ago. Here it is:

Sign saying "Yield to Traffic in Circle of Life"

I don’t know who wrote this, but I like their way of taking something ordinary and injecting it simultaneously with humor and profundity.

For a while now you might say that I have been yielding to traffic in the Circle of Life. But the traffic seems to be thinning out these days, and I have a backlog of half-written posts. With a little luck, I hope to be moving along in the Circle of Life and have more to say in the future.


12月 012011
 

As a SAS programmer, the idea of Big Data is nothing new to me.  Decades have passed since I first wrestled with the special challenges of making sense out of huge data sets. Some things have changed, of course.  A million records doesn’t seem as remarkable now as it did 20 years ago, but the basic principles involved are still the same; we just have a lot more computing power at our command now.  So it’s interesting to me to see that the idea of Big Data has finally–even suddenly–hit the mainstream.

Here’s a prime example from National Public Radio: The Search for Analysts to Make Sense of Big Data.

I don’t agree with every claim this journalist makes. (Math and Statistics are not the only routes to success in data analysis. What you need is a logical mind and you’re just as likely to find that in someone majoring in Home Ec or Art as in Math and Stats.) And no discussion of Big Data is complete without mention of the fact that SAS Institute practically invented the field.  Despite those shortcomings, the fact that Big Data has attracted this much attention is good news for SAS programmers everywhere.


6月 022011
 

…about something

…and it’s up to you to figure out what.

At SGF I had the honor of participating in a panel discussion titled “So You Want to Be a SAS Press Author!”  The panel was organized by Nancy Brucken, moderated by Michael Raithel and included authors Art Carpenter, Cynthia Zender, and Mike Molter.

During the discussion, the topic of reviewer comments came up.  I mentioned that when Lora Delwiche and I first sent our proposal for The Little SAS Book to SAS Institute, one of the reviewers said, “It’s not possible to write a book like this, and if you do, then you will be doing a disservice to readers!”  That was a pretty strong statement, and it stung—a lot.  I mentioned this to make the point that you can’t let negative comments derail you from following your dreams.  However, I now realize that I may have left people with the impression that they can safely ignore any comments they don’t like.  On the contrary, I have learned the hard way that

There is something to be learned from every reviewer’s comment.

Those comments you don’t like…they’re the ones you should pay the most attention to.  Maybe, just maybe, that reviewer knows something that you don’t.  And maybe, just maybe, that reviewer is even right.  If that is the case, wouldn’t you rather find out before your book goes to press?  Yessiree, that reviewer might be doing you a favor.  Maybe you should (politely!) ask that reviewer for more information.  At times like this, it is important to set aside all defensiveness and listen because there is something to be learned from every reviewer’s comment—although it is not always what the reviewer intended.

For example, you will likely get some comments that are just factually incorrect.  When you do, it’s tempting to think, This reviewer doesn’t understand!, and then ignore the comment.  However, when you get such comments, you should ask yourself, Why doesn’t this reviewer understand?  If the reviewer didn’t understand, then perhaps readers won’t understand.  Can you make your writing more clear?  Did you fail to explain something?  What does this reviewer need to know in order to understand?

So what was the lesson to be learned from the reviewer who said that it was impossible to write The Little SAS Book, and that if we did, we would be doing a disservice to readers?  The lesson I learned is that some people will react very negatively to a book that is small and friendly.  Of course, Lora Delwiche and I never imagined that we were writing a book that would appeal to everyone and that would meet every SAS programmer’s needs.  But we also never imagined that some people would react so violently.  Honestly, I do think that some people need to get a life.  It’s just a book, for goodness sake.  But even so, this reviewer did us a favor by warning us.