Friday 23 July 2010

NOTE: SAS Global Forum Call for Papers

I just noticed that the Call for Papers for SAS Global Forum 2011 has opened. Details are available from the SGF Blog.

Submitting a paper (or poster) and presenting it at SAS Global Forum is a great way to share your knowledge of SAS. You have until October 25th to get your submission completed.

Tuesday 13 July 2010

The internet: Everything you ever need to know

A colleague of mine pointed-out a most thought-provoking article from the Observer newspaper (my colleague knew I'd not have seen it because he knew the Observer was too erudite to be on my reading list!). The article author, John Naughton, offers nine key steps to understanding the most powerful tool of our age – and where it's taking us.

  1. Take the long view
  2. The web isn't the net
  3. Disruption is a feature, not a bug
  4. Think ecology, not economics
  5. Complexity is the new reality
  6. The network is now the computer
  7. The web is changing
  8. Huxley and Orwell are the bookends of our future
  9. Our intellectual property regime is no longer fit for purpose

The article isn't short, but it's worth taking the time to read it. It doesn't cover everything there is to know about the internet, but it covers enough, in a well-considered and insightful manner, to have left me feeling more open-minded and keen to learn more about something I thought I knew well.

NOTE: SAS UK at Wittington House

Remarkably, I've never visited SAS's global HQ in Cary, North Carolina. From what I've seen and read, it's quite some place. I've driven past it whilst visiting clients in the Research Triangle Park (RTP) area, so I have some conception of the size of the estate.

SAS UK's HQ is not as large, but it's pretty grand. Take a look at this PDF to see some nice pictures and to understand the history of the Thames-side, 110 acre estate, located west of London. Originally owned by Lord Devonport who made his fortune from tea, the house features its own ghost: the "grey lady".

I'm told that part of the deal to buy the adjacent land in 1997 was a promise to retain the cricket pitch and its availability for the local village cricket team. True to their word, SAS have restored the pitch, built a new pavilion, and made all of this available to SAS staff, the local cricket team, and the local Scout group.

In SAS's care since 1985, a visit to Wittington house is always a pleasure.

Monday 12 July 2010

NOTE: Maintenance & Hotfix, Backup & Recovery Policies

Talk in the office today led to a discussion on hotfix policy. SAS encourage their customers to apply maintenance releases when they become available, but I err on the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" side of the fence. Any change to your production systems must necessarily involve planning and testing - and that all takes time and money.

SAS V9.2's third maintenance release shipped in May. If you're tempted to deploy it, don't forget to test it first. No matter how much testing SAS have done, it does not equate to testing at your own site.

Plus, give a second thought to backups and disaster recovery. The complexity of SAS deployments increased significantly between V8 and V9. If you have a SAS system problem, or an environmental problem, do you know how you would individually recover your data, your metadata, your WebDAV data, etc? And do you know how you would recover them so that they are synchronised with each other? SAS Global Forum 2008's paper entitled "Backup and Disaster Recovery: When Disaster Strikes, What Will You Do? What Will You Do?" is a must-read for those planning their first SAS V9 deployment. If you've already deployed V9, read the paper quickly and review your deployment!

Wednesday 7 July 2010

NOTE: What program is running? aka Who am I? (SAUSAG Tips)

Having mentioned SAUSAG recently, it's worth highlighting the tips at

Three of my favourites are:

  1. What Program is Running?! - It can be useful for your SAS program to know its own name and location
  2. PUT it _ALL_ out to the Log - in style - Here's an easy way to make that PUT _ALL_ a lot more readable
  3. No more macro variable litter - Using macro variables extensively can get messy, and start to chew up memory. Since V8.2 CALL SYMDEL has enabled macro variables to be deleted


One of my current responsibilities is to project manage a UK government procurement for statistical software. One of the software requirements is for compliance with the UK's Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). I was interested to see SAS's ACCESSIBILITY graphics option. In specific circumstances, GOPTION ACCESSIBILITY instructs SAS/GRAPH to generate descriptive text and data that is relevant to the graph, such as the summary statistics that are represented by a bar chart.

The intriguing aspect of this option is that the accessibility information that SAS/GRAPH writes to the graph's output HTML file and footnote is not visible in the output HTML file, but both are detected by an accessibility aid, such as a screen reader. The graph footnote has an "invisible" link to the chart data. Check-out the link, run the sample code and see for yourself.

I'm sure this option has uses beyond accessibility. Any thoughts?

Tuesday 6 July 2010

NOTE: ...And There's a SAS Analytics Facebook Page - Should I be Excited?

It took me some while to appreciate the merits of Twitter; I'm now a fan. But I still fail to see the benefits of Facebook. If you can shed some light on it for me, please let me know. However, I feel compelled to report that I discovered that there's a SAS Analytics facebook account.

So, come on, explain to me why I should become SAS Analytics' new best "friend"! I don't get it.

I do have a Facebook account of my own, but only so I can politely accept infrequent friend-requests from friends and colleagues.

NOTE: SAS Talks Has It's Own Twitter Account!

I'm a keen fan of SAS's series of web seminars named SAS Talks. I just discovered that it has a Twitter account (@SAStalks, of course) so now I have no excuse for missing the next instalment in the series: CSSSTYLE: Stylish Output with ODS and SAS 9.2 on July 22nd.

NOTE: SAS Take World Programming to Court - Verdict Awaits

A tweet from @PhilRack alerted me to the fact that a verdict is imminent for the court case between SAS and World Programming Ltd (WPL). If you're a regular reader of NOTE: you'll already know that i) WPL's World Programming System is a SAS work-alike that appears to offer a cheaper alternative to the licensing of SAS/BASE and other specific modules, and ii) SAS filed a lawsuit in the High Court in London against World Programming Ltd in November 2009 for breach of license and copyright infringement.