Monday, March 30, 2009

Introduction to Open Source - o3 Magazine

o3 Magazine has a great informational article on an Introduction to Open Source. The author John Buswell does a magnificent job showing the process of implementing an Open Source project and getting to the end user. John does a great job of showing the benefits of the Open Source model and explaining the lack of benefit to the closed proprietary model.

Notice in the article the explanation of the Open Source lifecycle. For us Industrial Engineers it looks very similar to the Continuous Improvement process. In fact one could argue the the Open Source lifecycle is indeed a Lean Thinking process.

John also does a great job of showing the benefits of end user support for an Open Source project. This is often considered one of the drawbacks of implementing Open Source projects within an organization. John explains that the Open Source is not limited by a closed source model and that the end user can find new and different ways to solve their project implementation needs.

This article is a great read for those unfamiliar with Open Source.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

IEOR Tools Linux distribution update

I've decided to go along with the project of creating an operating system with a bent toward Operations Research, Industrial Engineering and Management Science. The name of the new Linux operating system will be IEORToolsOS. Not so very original but I wanted the name to be compact and easily remembered. I'm open to new suggestions.

Next I tried to get setup on an Open Source project hosting service. I first tried SourceForge since a lot of good Open Source projects are hosted on that site. They were not willing to comply with my request since a Linux distribution will take up a lot of space. I don't blame them. I probably would have said the same thing. Now I'm trying Google Code. I haven't heard back from them but I'm holding out hope since I know they have huge server farms that can accomodate the space.

The last update is on the development of the IEORToolsOS. I tried creating a custom variant of the Knoppix (homepage) Linux distribution. I used the latest version of Knoppix 6.01 stable. I removed some packages that I thought weren't needed such as gimp. Here are the packages I included

GLPK, OpenOpt, lp-solve, SciPy

I found that I didn't remove enough space because the final size of the project came out to be 1.3GB. I need it to be between 700-800MB to fit on a CD. Still some more work to do on that.

Yet I decided to give it a try and boot it on a PC emulation program called qemu. It did not go so well. I do not think I was able to copy all of the files over correctly. So there is much more work to be done.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Operations Research in Google Summer of Code

Currently the Google Summer of Code 2009 is taking applications from students at the college level. The Google Summer of Code is a sponsorship of Open Source projects that students can get a stipend for their work on those projects. Students must apply just like an internship and with an acceptance they can start to collaborate on any number of projects. This is Google's 5th year of sponsoring this program to promote Open Source software.

There are a couple of projects that are Operations Research related that I encourage students to review. The R Foundation for Statistical Computing is sponsoring several projects on statistical software implementations. These projects include informational portals to R packages, recursive partitioning algorithms, metrics analyzers and monitors. The Center for the Study of Complex Systems, Univ. of Michigan is sponsoring projects on grid computing and its use with complex mathematical models. The software projects include Gridsweeper enhancements, Tools for Analysis of Computational ExperimentS, and developing libraries for Agent-Based Models.

Here is a complete list of accepted Google Summer of Code organizations for 2009.

The Google Summer of Code program has done a great job of advocating Open Source software. I would like to see more involvement from the Operations Research community. I'm surprised to see very little involvement from IBM. Perhaps there is still more work to do in the Operations Research community to show the benefits of Open Source software.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Diagramming Tool "Dia" - Reviews

Diagramming tools can be a very useful tool to an Industrial Engineer. Explaining a process and procedure in a concise and standardized visual representation can help peers understand a problem quickly. One such Industrial Engineering tool that can help is the Open Source drawing application Dia.

Dia is inspired by the Microsoft application Visio. Dia can handle many different application formats including EPS, SVG, XFIG, WMF and PNG. Dia is very capable of handling flow charts, customized diagrams, networks, and many different types of drawing requirements.

Here is a very useful article from Free Software Magazine on explaining the use of Dia.

Using Dia Diagrams

Here is a fantastic review of using Dia as a replacement to Microsoft Visio from the Howto Geek blog.

Using Dia as a Replacement to Microsoft Visio

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

IEOR Tools Linux distribution?

There is a lot of talk about using Open Source tools lately in the Operations Research blog-0-sphere. I thought it would be a good idea to develop a Linux distribution variant that emphasizes Operations Research and Industrial Engineering tools. It seems it would be a natural progression for the IEOR Tools blog since my intentions are to spread and advocate the impact of Open Source software.

Yet before I start this undertaking I would like to find out if there is an interest. Would this be something the Operations Research community could use? Here would be my ideas for the uses of an IEOR Tools Linux variant

  1. Promote free software and Open Source to the Operations Research, Industrial Engineering and Management Science community
  2. Help in the development and advocacy of the free and Open Source projects in Operations Research
  3. Academic tool that is a "one stop shop" for software
Please comment if you think this would be a good project for the IEOR Tools blog. Also let me know if you like to contribute to this project.

Monday, March 16, 2009

OpenOpt releases version 0.23

On the sci.op-research usenet group the OpenOpt developers have announced the release of OpenOpt 0.23. OpenOpt is a python based optimization software framework. It's license is based on the BSD license. There are many solvers that can be used with OpenOpt including a few of its own. From the usenet article you can find links to OpenOpt at...

Our new homepage:

Introduction to the framework:

All release details are here:

Special thanks to Stepan Hlushak for writing GLP (global) solver "de"
("differential evolution").

OpenOpt developers.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ben Franklin, the first Open Source advocate

Benjamin Franklin is known in American history as a founding father and a inventor. One interesting fact is that he did not approve of patents. Martin Streicher of IBM points out in his article of 10 tips for sensible systems administration that Benjamin Franklin would more than likely approve of Open Source software.

From the article...

"As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously."(Benjamin Franklin)

Franklin was a prolific inventor, yet eschewed patents. This particular quote, in fact, was a response to the Governor of Pennsylvania's offer to patent Franklin's novel stove, thereby granting Franklin a monopoly on its manufacture for several years. (Until 1790, each state had its own patent legislation and issued patents independently. The Federal Patent Act passed in 1790 made patents the purview of the Federal Government, as mandated in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution.)

Sorry Richard Stallman but it seems Ben Franklin beat you to the punch. That does make for some good company.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Open CourseWare for Operations Research links

Here is a compilation of Operations Research related Open Courseware courses and resources that are available on the internet. I hope Open Courseware catches like wild-fire in the Operations Research community. This is a wonderful and valuable resource for new and continuing education.

MIT OpenCourseWare (link)
Optimization Methods in Management Science
Data Mining
Systems Optimization
Data, Models, and Decisions
Introduction to Mathematical Programming
Optimization Methods
Network Optimization
Nonlinear Programming

UC Berkeley Webcasts (link)
Discrete Event Simulation

AMSER (link)
Brief History of Data Mining
Optimization Resources

There is plenty of resources available on the internet for search Open CourseWare resources. Here are a couple of good links to help find a specific topic.

101 Killer Open CourseWare Projects from around the World
OCW Finder

Monday, March 9, 2009

Open CourseWare: Future of Operations Research continuing education?

Jim Orlin, in a recent blog entry, pondered what should Operations Research professionals know and (more importantly to me) how will they learn it? I stipulated on his blog that perhaps the Open Source movement could help in this endeavor. I had this to say as a comment to Jim...

1. Continuing Education - Get the tools to the OR community freely and openly without the restriction of licensing or proprietary copyrights. These need not be end-user type products. They can be simple as software development kits, theory abstracts, student projects, or maybe even journals.

2. Limit resources - Let there be no barrier to entry and provide the tools free of charge. Let the community own it and provide back to the community.

Jim brings up a great point in HOW are we going to get the tools and knowledge to the future Operations Research practitioners so that they will be able to apply those skills. Perhaps the education community has already started to begin this exercise. Right now there is a growing trend by academia to promote Open CourseWare (wikipedia). Open CourseWare has largely been a by-product of the Open Source movement. Sam Dean of OStatic shares my sentiments that this is a great resource for learning and that Open CourseWare is growing at a fast pace. Open CourseWare is not limited only to the University level. There are endeavors such as the Open Book Project which is aimed at developing and distributing education tools and textbooks freely. The Operations Research community can learn from these new innovative ways to share knowledge.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Michael Trick featured on - Sports Scheduling

For those who have not noticed, and I hope you have, Michael Trick, of Michael Trick's Operations Research Blog fame, is featured on Minnesota Daily. Michael explains his efforts to help remedy the problem of scheduling professional baseball franchises in the multi-billion dollar industry.

I love the way the article features Operations Research. It definitely brings more credibility to the field. Great job Michael.