EC2 Trials and Tribulations, Part 1 (Web Crawling)

Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is a service provided a Amazon Web Services that allows users to leverage computing power without the need to build and maintain servers, or spend money on special hardware. The idea is simple, the user “boots” up one or more machines and then accesses those machines as if they were logged into any other machine remotely. I used EC2 and Elastic MapReduce extensively for my M.S. thesis last spring, but mainly used its large memory capabilities rather than its potential for explicit parallelism.

Recently, I ran a crawling job on EC2 using a parellel crawler I wrote in Python with twill. Using EC2 poses its own challenges. Using parallel code poses more challenges. Combining these two facts with the fact that crawling is I/O bound can create some more interesting challenges. If you have taken a course in operating systems, you have heard this stuff over and over again. So have I, but I am stubborn. I tend to learn lessons from experience, and this was no exception. Through this series of posts, I want to point out difficulties and “gotchas” that are important to keep in mind when using EC2, and in this post, with […]

Location Tracking on Android, too!

This week it was revealed that the iPhone stores users’ locations, and this immediately caused a huge firestorm of commentary by tech geeks, panic among privacy advocates, and delight to data geeks like myself. Even better/worse, it seems that the iPhone caches location traces long-term, possibly back to the date the phone was activated.

I ditched my iPhone this past December (good riddance) in favor of the Droid X (Android). I figured, on such an open source OS, Google must be doing the same thing. After surfing through Hacker News, it turns out I was right.

Compared to the iPhone though, getting the data on an Android phone is not simple.

The data is stored in two files, cache.cell and cache.wifi in the directory /data/data/
First, the user cannot browse this directory by attaching it to a computer. I installed an SSH daemon QuickSSHD to allow remote access into my phone. 
Second, it is not possible to access this directory without getting a Permission denied error, even if logged in as “root” as Google has not made this directory readable.
Finally, for those (myself) that are still determined to crack this nut, you will need to root your phone. This makes the “root” user a real […]

Instructions for Installing 64bit SciPy, Python 2.7.1 on MacOS X 10.6

Numpy and SciPy are packages for numerical computation and scientific computing, for Python.

One wrinkle with NumPy/SciPy that needs to be ironed out is the difficulty of installation on certain OSes, and particularly, architectures.The SciPy SuperPack has done a good job of taking care of this issue, but it has not yet been updated for 2.7.1 and manually hacking away at its script has not worked for me.

I cannot take credit for the instructions in this article. A brave warrior, Jeremy Conlin, somehow managed to figure out how to install 64-bit NumPy and SciPy, with 64-bit Python 2.7.1 on Snow Leopard; he posted the directions to the SciPy User mailing list on February 24. I followed the directions, and miraculously they worked. I am reproducing them here for Google bait.

Install Python 2.7.1

1. Download the universal Mac 2.7.1 installer here (Python 2.7.1 Mac OS X 64-bit/32-bit x86-64/i386 Installer). Typically, Python will be installed to /Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.7/, but may be in other locations.

2. Verify that your new version of Python is 64-bit enabled. Note: Python installations typically do not get toggled as the default Python, so find the location of the 2.7.1 Python executable. On my machine, it is /Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.7/bin/python. python2.7 should also work.

Load […]

My First Few Days with RStudio

As most readers are probably aware, the free IDE for R, called RStudio, was recently released for general use and it immediately made huge waves within the R community. IDE stands for Integrated Development Environment. IDEs typically provides a rich set tools developing in some target language. For standard programming languages like C++ (VisualStudio) and Java (Eclipse or NetBeans), IDEs contain:

an editor tailored to the target language. The editor typically has tab/auto-complete for variable names, functions and class methods and properties and also features syntax highlighting.
a multiple document interface (MDI) where there may be several documents opened in different tabs.
a window that interacts with the compiler, or a panel containing the console to the language, a la MATLAB, and even vanilla R’s GUI.

a debugger
a file browser and language reference.

RStudio plays to this analogy very well, and makes modifications where appropriate. RStudio provides many features that are lacking in the standard R GUI, and improves on features that do not work properly in the Windows R GUI. Over the past few days, I have been doing all of my R analysis within RStudio, shortly with the Desktop version, and mostly with the Server version. I will discuss mostly the server version […]

40 Fascinating Blogs for the Ultimate Statistics Geek!

I am happy to report that ByteMining is listed on “40 Fascinating Blogs for the Ultimate Statistics Geek”!

Some of the ones that I frequently read, or are written by Twitter friends/followers (in no particular order):

R-bloggers, an aggregate site containing blog posts tagged as posts about R. High quality content.
Statistical modeling, causal inference and social science. This one is a no brainer, as it is the blog for Andrew Gelman‘s group.
FlowingData by Nathan Yau (@flowingdata), fellow Statistics Ph.D. student at UCLA. Focuses on the data and information visualization side of Data Science.
dataists by Hilary Mason (@hmason,, Vince Buffalo (@vsbuffalo, UC Davis),
Drew Conway (@drewconway, NYU), Mike Dewar (@mikedewar, Columbia),
John Myles White (@johnmyleswhite, Princeton) and others.
A new blog on several aspects of Data Science including Data Mining, visualization and uses of Statistics in current events. Heavy use of R and ggplot2.
Revolutions by Revolution Analytics provides a variety of content around R, Data Science and Statistics in general.
FiveThirtyEight by Nate Silver shares sophisticated modeling and analysis of elections and government happenings. It is in a different realm, as it attracts political news junkies (and the occasional extremist) rather than just Statisticians.
LoveStats by Annie Pettit, Ph.D. (@LoveStats) discusses Statistics as used in Social […]

My Day at ACM Data Mining Camp III

My first time at ACM Data Mining Camp was so awesome, that I was thrilled the make the trip up to San Jose for the November 2010 version. In July, I gave a talk at the Emerging Technologies for Online Learning Symposium conference with a faculty member in the Department of Statistics, at the Fairmont. The place was amazing, and I told myself I would save up to stay there. This trip gave me an opportunity to check it out, and pretend that I am posh for a weekend ;). The night I arrived I had the best dinner and drinks at this place called Gordon Biersch. I had the best garlic fries and BBQ burger I have ever had. I ate it with a Dragonfruit Strawberry Mojito, the Barbados Rum Runner, and finished off with a Long Island Iced Tea, so the drinks were awesome as well. Anyway, to the point of this post…

The next morning I made the short trek to the PayPal headquarters for a very long 9am-8pm day. Since I came up here for the camp, I wanted to make the most of it and paid the $30 for the morning session, even though I had […]

UCLA Statistics: Analyzing Thesis/Dissertation Lengths

As I am working on my dissertation and piecing together a mess of notes, code and output, I am wondering to myself “how long is this thing supposed to be?” I am definitely not into this to win the prize for longest dissertation. I just want to say my piece, make my point and move on. I’ve heard that the shortest dissertation in my program was 40 pages (not true). I heard someone from another school that their dissertation was over 300 pages. I am not holding myself to a strict limit, but I wanted a rough guideline. As a disclaimer, this blog post is more “fun” than “business.” This was just an analysis that I was interested in and felt that it was worth sharing since it combined Python, web scraping, R and ggplot2. It is not meant to be a thorough analysis of dissertation lengths or academic quality of the Department.

The UCLA Department of Statistics publishes most of its M.S. theses and Ph.D. dissertations on a website. It is not complete, especially for the earlier years, but it is a good enough population for my use.

Using this web page, I was able to extract information about each […]

Taking R to the Limit, Part II - Large Datasets in R

For Part I, Parallelism in R, click here.

Tuesday night I again had the opportunity to present on high performance computing in R, at the Los Angeles R Users’ Group. This was the second part of a two part series called “Taking R to the Limit: High Performance Computing in R.” Part II discussed ways to work with large datasets in R. I also tied in MapReduce into the talk. Unfortunately, there was too much material and I had originally planned to cover Rhipe, using R on EC2 and sparse matrix libraries.


My edited slides are posted on SlideShare, and available for download here.

Taking R to the Limit (High Performance Computing in R), Part 2 — Large Datasets, LA R Users' Group 8/17/10

View more presentations from Ryan Rosario.

Topics included:

bigmemory, biganalytics and bigtabulate
brief mention of Rhipe


The corresponding demonstration code is here.


Since this talk discussed large datasets, I used some, well, large datasets. Some demonstrations used toy data including trees and the famous iris dataset included in base R. To load these, just use the call library(iris) or library(trees).

Large datasets:

On-Time Airline Performance data from 2009 Data Expo. This Bash script will download all of the necessary data files and create a nice dataset […]

Hitting the Big Data Ceiling in R

As a true R fan, I like to believe that R can do anything, no matter how big, how small or how complicated: there is some way to do it in R. I decided to approach my large, sparse matrix problem with this attitude. But here I sit a broken man.

There is no “native” big data support built into R, even if using the 64bit build of R. Before venturing on this endeavor, I consulted with my advisor who reassured me that R uses the state of the art for sparse matrices. That was enough for me.

My Problem

For part of my Masters thesis, I wrote code to extract all of the friends and followers out to network degree 2 to construct a “small-world” snapshot of a user via their relationships. In a graph, nodes and edges grow exponentially as the degree increases. The number of nodes was on the order of 300,000. The number of edges I predict will be around 900,000. The code is still running. This means that a dense matrix would have size . Some of you already know how this story is going to end…

The matrix is very sparse.

Very sparse.

The raw data graph.log consists of an […]

Opening Statements on Markov Chain Monte Carlo

This quarter I am TAing UCLA’s Statistics 102C. Introduction to Monte Carlo Methods for Professor Qing Zhou. This course did not exist when I was an undergraduate, and I think it is pretty rare to teach Monte Carlo (minus the bootstrap if you count that) or MCMC to undergrads. I am excited about this class because to me, MCMC turns Statistics on its head. It felt like a totally different paradigm compared to the regression and data analysis paradigm that I was used to at the time. It also exposes students to the connection between Statistics/MCMC and other fields such as Computer Science, Genetics/Biology, etc.

I usually do not have much to talk about during week 1, especially if my class is the second day of the quarter. Today was an exception because I wanted to excite the class about this topic.

Some examples I discussed:

the general recipe for Monte Carlo methods
the bootstrap as an example of resampling, and R loops
computing and mention of Buffon’s Needle
scheduling/timetabling and occupancy/matching problems using stochastic search (simulated annealing, Tabu search etc.)
mention of genetic algorithms and swarm intelligence
PageRank as a Markov process
drawing a random sample of web pages using Random Walk Metropolis-Hastings
short inventory of fields […]