Tuesday, May 26, 2009

PyMathProg new website on Sourceforge

PyMathProg has a new website on the open source code sharing repository Sourceforge. The website is well designed with documentation and examlpes of implementing the optimization modeling code. This was announced on the GLPK mailing list forum by the developer.

Currently PyMathProg is at version 0.1.1. PyMathProg is a python implementation of the free software optimization solver kit GLPK. PyMathProg connects via PyGLPK. PyMathProg gives the option of installing via Windows or Linux.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Operations Research recent software releases

Here is an aggregate of software stories of some tools that have been released to the Operations Research community lately.

Gurobi free trial
As pointed out by many blogs (Yet Another Math Programming blog and OPSRES blog) Gurobi has released their free trial version 1.1 for download.

OpenOpt updates
OpenOpt, the python optimization tool kit, has updated their Global Solver kit with PSwarm 4.1 solver which will help with some minor optimization speedups.

MiniZinc released
Hakank of the Constraint Programming Blog announced the release of MiniZinc version 1.0. MiniZinc is a constraint programming modeling language which is free software released under a BSD-style license. Hakank does a complete write-up of all the features of MiniZinc and its derivative software packages.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Operations Research in a word

Wordle: Operations Research academic titles

The DFW INFORMS chapter had a interesting meeting last week at Sabre Headquarters in South Lake, TX. The topic of discussion was "Applying OR in Brazil to solve real world challenges with OPTMODEL and SAS." Mary Grace Crissey of SAS did a wonderful job of showcasing SAS projects and how the challenges in Brazil were tackled. We had great side discussions throughout the evening. One such side discussion, that is nothing new, is the ambiguity of the "name" Operations Research. This is and will be the defining discussion of our profession in Operations Research.

One idea in the evening was to look to academia for a naming solution. Well that discussion quickly fell into disarray because Operations Research has its roots in Mathematics, Engineering, Management, Supply Chain, Computer Science and the list seems to go on and on. After the meeting I thought about it for a while. I remembered a post on Michael Trick's blog about using wordle for data visualization. I thought of using the INFORMS ORMS Education programs link site to create a wordle of Operations Research programs in the U.S. The picture on this post is a result of that wordle exercise.

So what do we learn from this wordle? Well its interesting to note the neither the word Operations nor Research are the most pronounced words. The biggest words are Engineering, Management, and Industrial. So is Operations Research really Engineering Management? Would it help if Operations Research were an accredited program by ABET or something similar? How does managment and engineering work together? Those terms almost seem polar opposites. Well I'm not sure we really solved a whole lot but it is interesting to look at how the education programs in the U.S. view Operations Research.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wall Street looking to Open Source Analytics software

Wall Street is looking to Open Source software amid the current financial crisis. In this article from WallStreet and Technology titled Wall Street Opens Doors to Open Source Technologies the author Ivy Schmerken explains the merits of using Open Source software on business. Of course it comes as no surprise that the motivating factor is cost. Yet interestingly in the article the author explains that companies are also looking beyond cost and saying the community driven efforts are helping the bottom line as well. Often times the community is providing a technical support relationship and even goes as far as getting support from competitors.

One Open Source project that is featured is the R-project being used by a predictive analytics user. There is belief that Open Source will surpass proprietary projects in shear volume of contribution and evolve more quickly with technological advancement. From the article...

"People realize now that the open source project -- which really has worldwide buy-in from top experts from whatever field -- is perhaps a more secure and future-proof method of development than going with a proprietary vendor who can never keep with the worldwide community," says Colin Magee, VP sales and marketing at Revolution Computing
Open Source software will have a large impact on how the economy rebounds. The cost is hard to compete. The support from the community is very difficult to replicate. Now the article does mention there are skeptics to Open Source success as there could be hidden costs. I find the argument could be made the same for proprietary projects. I only see Open Source to continue to make an impact in the business market place.

New blog in IEOR Tools Blog List: Paul Jensen's ORMM Blog

Paul Jensen has created a new Operations Research blog for his Operations Research Models and Methods studies using Microsoft Excel and VBA. Jensen has a great website devoted to instructional Operations Research Modelling Methods developed using the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and VBA. His main website, Jensen's Operations Research Models and Methods, is very well laid out with modeling tools and instructional descriptions on a number of Operations Research models.

Now you may be wondering why I would endorse Paul Jensen as someone who advocates Open Source software. My main focus it to promote tools for the Operations Research community. Paul Jensen provides these tools to the public domain. His website is full of Operations Research instruction and detailed case studies. Dr. Jensen is doing a great service to the field of Operations Research and I hope he continues to provide wonderful resources.

As an aside I would love to see the same type of devotion to OpenOffice Calc as Paul Jensen has to Excel. I hope someone with the same spirit could start a similar project.

Operations Research free informational videos

There is a bunch of great free video resources on the web for Operations Research. I'm sure everyone has heard of YouTube. Well there is plenty of great videos that give insights into Operations Research. YouTube, and sites like it, have given the public domain a useful repository for learning. Sometimes pictures can explain a concept better than the written word, especially in the field of Operations Research.


Some of my favorites include:

Professor Leon Lesdon, The Importance of Operations Research - a good introductory video and an interesting case study.

Operations Research - by bnet. a great overview of the field of Operations Research even if it is a promotion.

Learn about OR and the Edelman Award - I'm sure this was developed for an INFORMS conference. Offers a great look at Operations Research and the award for excellence in Operations Research.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Let Simon Decide the tough questions

While perusing through one of my favorite blogs Lifehacker I came upon an interesting post about difficult decision making. The post was about a website that helps in the difficult decision making process. The website is called Let Simon Decide. Its an interesting concept for a website. The premise is that it will ask questions and help you along on the process for an answer. Let Simon Decide seems to be a tool for decision making.

What I find interesting about the concept of the Let Simon Decide website is its possibility in the field of Operations Research or more simply the science of decision making. Perhaps a similar website could be created for business rules. Perhaps there can be simplified tools that can help one find the right path to the answer. From an organization and business rules process perspective there could be limitless scenarios. Can "Simon" decide the optimal transportation network? Can "Simon" decide the best resources to meet the given task?

Finding answers to life's questions can be difficult but maybe the process itself need not be complex. Sometimes we get so bogged down trying to find the answer that we lose sight of the process. I find myself in that trap a lot. The process to find the answer could be greatly simplified with the right tools in place. The medium of the Internet, I believe, can help greatly as a method for these decision making tools. Information is readily available in many different forms and many times freely. The right tools in place can help the decision maker point to a path that leads them to the answer with information gathered from anywhere in the world. Time will tell if we could simply go to a website and ask "What is the allocation of resources to maximize my time?" Now that would be an interesting website.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Open Source companies taking off

The Open Road blog at CNET has a post by Matt Asay on how Open Source companies are doing very well in this economy. Most of the companies he mentions are software and hardware vendors of varying types of applications. One of the most interesting mentions is Red Hat, a Linux server vendor and application company, is adding 600 new employees. In a time of rapid unemployment this is a great thing.

Its great to see that Open Source is providing a good niche for the slow economy. The Open Source price tag (i.e. free) especially does well for the bottom line of any IT organization. The Linux desktop has broken the 1% market share for the first time in its history. I feel that is only going to increase.

I would like to see more Operations Research companies be included in the future. IBM is definitely making their presence known with ILOG. I would like to see IBM use their Open Source prowess in the Operations Research realm. COIN-OR is a great place in the Operations Reserach community to showcase Open Source advancements.