Global Maps In R

The folks at Sharp Sight Labs show how to create high-quality map visuals in R:

Maps are great for practicing data visualization. First of all, there’s a lot of data available on places like Wikipedia that you can map.

Moreover, creating maps typically requires several essential skills in combination. Specifically, you commonly need to be able to retrieve the data (e.g., scrape it), mold it into shape, perform a join, and visualize it. Because creating maps requires several skills from data manipulation and data visualization, creating them will be great practice for you.

And if that’s not enough, a good map just looks great. They’re visually compelling.

With that in mind, I want to walk you through the logic of building one step by step.

Read on for a step by step process.

dplyr Basics

Kevin Feasel



Gerald Belton shows off the main functions and operators in dplyr:

The pipe operator

The pipe operator is one of the great features of the tidyverse. In base R, you often find yourself calling functions nested within functions nested within… you get the idea. The pipe operator %>% takes the object on the left-hand side, and “pipes” it into the function on the right hand side.

Click through for the rest of the story.

Using Azure Data Lake Store With Hadoop

Amit Kulkarni shows how to make Azure Data Lake Store the default file system for a Hadoop cluster:

So to give a concrete example, if the default file system was hdfs:// then the /user/filename.txt would resolve to hdfs://

Why does the default file system matter? The first answer to this is purely convenience. It is a heck lot easier to simply say /events/sensor1/ than adl:// in code and configurations. Secondly, many components in Hadoop use relative paths by default. For instance there are a fixed set of places, specified by relative paths, where various applications generate their log files. Finally, many ISV applications running on Hadoop specify important locations by relative paths.

Read on to see how.

That 53rd Week

Jens Vestergaard notes that you can sometimes have a 53rd week in the year:

There are a lot of great examples out there on how to build your own custom Time Intelligence into Analysis Services (MD). Just have a look at this, this, this, this and this. All good sources for solid Time Intelligence in SSAS.
One thing they have in common though, is that they all make the assumption that there is and will always be 52 weeks in a year. The data set I am currently working with is built on ISO 8601 standard. In short, this means that there is an (re-) occurrence of a 53rd full week as opposed to only 52 in the Gregorian version which is defined by: 1 Gregorian calendar year = 52 weeks + 1 day (2 days in a leap year).

The 53rd occurs approximately every five to six years, though this is not always the case. The last couple of times  we saw 53 weeks in a year was in 1995, 2000, 2006, 2012 and 2015. Next time will be in 2020. This gives you enough time to either forget about the hacks and hard-coded fixes in place to mitigate the issue OR bring your code in a good state, ready for the next time.

Dates and currency are hard problems.

Gloom Indexes

David Smith points out an interesting use of R:

Radiohead is known for having some fairly maudlin songs, but of all of their tracks, which is the most depressing? Data scientist and R enthusiast Charlie Thompson ranked all of their tracks according to a “gloom index”, and created the following chart of gloominess for each of the band’s nine studio albums. (Click for the interactive version, crated with with highcharter package for R, which allows you to explore individual tracks.)

Do click through for Charlie’s explanation, including where the numbers come from.

Natural Earth In SQL Server

Jeff Pries shows how to use the Natural Earth data set in SQL Server:

But what about when you need more flexibility in your geographic display?  Some examples of this may be wanting to display something that you can’t find a shape file for (maybe all the states and provinces in North America) or maybe you want to dynamically draw the geography based on some property of the dataset.  Geospatial data queries to the rescue!  Using SQL Server’s native geospatial support, a geospatial query can be created to return something as simple as a point or rectangle, or complex as the geography of an entire country and all of its rivers.

Getting all of the latitude and longitude coordinates to create a useful geospatial query could potentially be an enormous amount of work.  Fortunately, that work has already been done in a freely available resource, thanks to Natural Earth and Laurent Dupuis.  SQL Server 2012 or greater is recommended for this process.

Click through for a walkthrough as well as some introductory queries to get you started with using the data set.

Thoughts On Cost-Based Optimizers

Joe Chang has the makings of an academic paper on the shortcomings of the current SQL Server cost optimizer model:

It might seem that given the pace of hardware change, such old model cannot possibly valid, resulting horrible execution plans. Around 1995 or so, the high-performance HDD was 7200RPM with a sequential bandwidth of 4-5MB/s. The mean rotational latency for 7200RPM is 4ms. An average seek time of 8.5ms seems reasonable, though I have not kept any documentation from this period. This would correspond to 80 IOPS per disk at queue depth 1 per HDD. So, it seems curious that the SQL Server cost model is based on the random IOPS of 4 disks, but the sequential IO of 2 HDDs.

Performance HDDs progressed first to 10K RPM around 1996, and then to 15K around 2000, with corresponding rotational latencies of 3 and 2ms respectively. Average seek time was reduced over time to 3ms with developments in powerful rare-earth magnets. The 10K HDD could support 125 IOPS and 200 IOPS for the 15K HDD. But no further progress was made on HDD rotational speed. In same time period, hard disk sequential IO phenomenally quickly exceeding 100MB/s in the fourth generation 15K HDD around 2005.

In other words, the SQL Server cost model is based on a 1350/320 = 4.2 ratio. But 15K HDDs in the mid-2000’s were 100MB/s × 128 pages/MB = 12,800 pages/sec sequential to 200 IOPS random for a ratio of 64:1. It turns out that achieving nearly the sequential IO capability of HDDs from SQL Server required a special layout strategy, as outlined in the Fast Track Data Warehouse Reference Architecture papers, which few people followed. This was due to the fixed, inflexible IO pattern of SQL Server, which required the disk configuration to match that of SQL Server instead of being able to adjust the IO pattern to match that of the storage configuration.

It’s worth taking the time to read.  I like Glenn Berry’s idea in the comments of building relative CPU/IO/memory measures and applying them rather than using the same values that were good for twenty years ago.

Remote Docker Administration On Windows Server 2016

Andrew Pruski shows how to perform remote Docker administration:

Continuing on my series in working with Docker on Windows, I noticed that I always open up a remote powershell window when working with Docker on servers. Nothing wrong with this, if you want to know how to do that you can follow my instructions here.

However what if we want to connect to the Docker engine remotely? There’s got to be a way to do that right? Well it’s not quite so straightforward, but there is a way to do it involving a custom image downloaded from the Docker Hub (built by Stefan Scherer [g|t]) whichs creates TLS certs to allow remote connections.

Let’s go through the steps.

Read on for the steps.

Waffle Charts

Devin Knight continues his Power BI custom visuals series with the waffle chart:

In this module you will learn how to use the Waffle Chart Power BI Custom Visual.  The Waffle Chart visual is most useful for presenting a percentage of data. This chart is a great option to choose over other visuals like Pie Charts, which are not great at showing proportions of data.

Waffle charts are infographic-friendly visuals; they’re easy to read and as long as you don’t have too many categories, easy to compare.

Gaps And Islands: Call Center Edition

Kevin Feasel



Kathy Kellenberger solves an issue with tracking contiguous calls within a call center:

To come up with a solution, I first thought about how to solve it with a traditional cursor. I won’t provide a cursor solution here, but it would involve looping through the rows in order and finding the first and last employee rows. When the last EmpID doesn’t match the next EmpID, then the previous row is the last call for the previous EmpID and the current row is the first call for the next EmpID.

NOTE: The solution to this problem assumes that there are at least two calls per shift.

In 2012, four T-SQL window functions became available that let you look at expressions from different rows: LAG, LEAD, FIRST_VALUE, and LAST_VALUE. For this puzzle, LAG and LEAD seemed to be the answer.  In this case, I used the optional default parameter to replace any NULLs with -1.

This is a particular solution for the Gaps and Islands problem; here’s Itzik Ben-Gan on the topic.


February 2017
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