Gye Greene's Thoughts

Gye Greene's Thoughts (w/ apologies to The Smithereens and their similarly-titled album!)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The long way around

Similar to how there are Mac users, and there are Windows users (and several other, less-encountered flavors like Linux and BeOS), when you're analyzing data sets, there's Stata and there's SPSS (and SAS, and R -- but mostly Stata and SPSS).

At the place where I'm a part-time Research Assistant, everyone else seems to use SPSS. I use Stata -- partly because it suits the way I work, and partly because (IMO) it's just better. (SPSS's syntax/scripting language isn't as elegant; it handles missing values in a clunky manner; and it doesn't have the range of analytic tools [e.g. various flavors of regression] available.)

There's a beautiful piece of software called StatTransfer, that can convert pretty much any data type into any other data type, with about three mouse clicks and a minute or two for processing. But, here's the nuisance bit: They don't have it at work; my only installed copy is on a machine that's pre-USB, and pre-CD-burner; and I can't find the installation CD to install it on the PC that **does** recognize USB devices (two household moves, and five office moves ago, I knew where it was...).

Thus, to get the data onto the machine with StatTransfer, I need to get it on to a Zip disk; to get it on a Zip disk, I need to get it onto the machine with both a Zip disk and working USB ports.

So: Here's what I did.

1) Data in SPSS format is on USB key (what I call a USB flashdrive).

2) Copy it to PC#1 (with keyboard 1 and Trackball 1), which runs WinXP, and thus recognizes a wide range of USB devices.

3) Using PC#1, send it to an external hard drive; un-mount the external HD.

4) Plug external HD into PC#2, and import data from external HD to PC#2 (with keyboard 2 and trackball 2). (PC#2 runs Win98, so it only recognizes USB devices if you load the specific drivers -- which I've done, for this specific external HD.)

5) Copy it from PC#2 to a Zip disk

6) Switch the KVM box so the monitor displays PC#3, rather than PC#2. (It's an older KVM switch, so the mouse ports are serial and the keyboard ports are AT; rather than dink with a zillion adaptors, I just use it for the monitors (to save space), and plug in individual mice/trackballs and keyboards.)

7) Fire up PC#3 (with keyboard 3 and mouse 3), and put in the Zip disk containing the data. Copy the data to the HD.

8) Use StatTransfer to convert the data from SPSS format to Stata format.

9) Copy the data from the HD back to the Zip disk; eject Zip disk; shut down PC.

10) Use the KVM switch to change the monitor connection from PC#2 to PC#3.

11) Insert Zip disk into PC#2; copy data onto external HD.

12) Un-mount external HD from PC#2; plug external HD to PC#1; copy data to PC#1's hard drive.

13) Use PC#1 to copy data to my USB key.

14) Plug USB key into the laptop, which has Stata; **finally** manipulate and analyze data.

The whole process took about 45 minutes... but most of that was setting up PC#3, and hooking up the KVM switch between the monitor, PC#2, and PC#3.

All said, it wasn't **that** horrible.

Some folks might say that I need a local network. I s'pose.

But the easiest solution would just to have a PC that takes USB keys and has StatTransfer installed.



At September 13, 2007 6:57 AM, Blogger slag said...

Way to McGyver your way around your stat program issues, GG! You do have patience and fortitude, that's for sure.


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