In case you don’t know – SAS On-Demand is the “cloud-based” version of SAS for teaching and research at universities. That’s a fancy way of saying it runs on the SAS servers and it’s free.
Lately I have been happily working with SAS On-Demand for academics so I was a bit surprised speaking with someone at a different university who said,
“I’m probably not the best person to talk to about it because I think it is an unbelievable pain. SPSS, yes, Stata, fine but SAS On-Demand, well it’s been a headache.”
We’re supposed to have lunch sometime in the next couple of weeks and catch up, so I don’t know the details, but since I am starting teaching in two days using SAS On-demand, this was enough to cause some concern. While I was on campus today, I went into one of the classrooms and tried SAS On-demand and it was exactly what I feared – it was so slow as to be almost useless. I had seen this before and it got me to thinking perhaps this semester won’t be as problem-free as I had hoped.
One possible reason SAS On-Demand is so slow in computer labs may be that you have 30 or 40 people all trying to access the server at the same time. I know that when I was using the wireless connection in the classroom where I tested SOD there were probably 200 students in the building using the wireless at the same time. Unfortunately for me, there is no computer lab available, and even if there was, I’m pretty sure that a lot of computer labs use wireless connections, even though the computers are literally locked down. Also, only one classroom in the building has an instructor station and I’m not scheduled for that classroom.
There is an ethernet connection in the classroom so I can bring my own ethernet cable and plug my computer into that and see if it is faster. It should be.
I tried to break down all of the differences from my office set-up, which works fine, and the classroom, which did not.
1. In the office, all of the computers have an ethernet connection, not wireless.
2. In the office, I primarily use SAS O-D on a Windows 7 computer.
3. In the classroom, I was running it on a virtual machine with Vista on VMware. I ran a couple of procedures and timed how long it took on the Windows machine versus the virtual machine. I have a pretty old PC because about all I use it for is to run SAS. I did a cross-tabulation of two variables, computing the frequencies and column percentages for each cell and a chi-square. For the menu to come up for the table analysis wizard and the analysis to run took, in total 30 seconds. That is longer than I would like but not unacceptable. It took about 10 seconds for the menu to come up and another 20 seconds for the procedure to run.
On the Virtual Machine, it took a minute and a half. Ninety seconds is a long time to just stand in front of 20 or 30 people and stare at a screen doing nothing. I know that other procedures, like characterize data or factor analysis will take a lot longer.
…. & so on.
The rocket scientist thinks Windows 7 plus the ethernet connection should solve it, I think that’s the right track but that creating a dual boot Windows system will work better
BUT there are other problems:
Downloading SAS On-Demand took just a few minutes over my connection in the office but when I tried it over the home wireless network it took nearly an hour. This was in the evening when there were two other people in the house making heavy use of the network.
When I installed the client on my laptop and desktop it took just a few minutes. That was because the first step is to VERIFY SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS and on the two computers that I use very frequently everything was up to date. The same was not true of the test machines though, and there were several things that needed to be downloaded and updated, which took a good 15 minutes or so.
SO … what took me a few minutes in my office could take an hour or two in the classroom. Not good and that explains why my colleague may be so frustrated.
The rocket scientist doesn’t think I can install Windows 7 on boot camp, install SAS on-demand and get it working in 2 days. I think he’s wrong but since he is often right I backed up everything just in case.
What I am going to try to do ….
- Install Windows 7 in boot camp and boot up as a Windows machine.
- Bring my own ethernet cable and use that to connect in the classroom
- Have all the screen shots and output just in case it is too slow to be usable. I actually had most of the powerpoint done already being the overprepared type that I am.
- In the first class have students get a SAS profile and register for SAS On-demand accounts. Both of those should happen very quickly.
- Walk them through the process of downloading and installing SAS on their computers so that they can (hopefully) do it at home
- Cover all of descriptive statitistics
I think that’s enough for the first day.