Use it, or Lose it! 10 Ways of Getting the Most SAS Value from my Retirement…

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To me retirement only means not earning a salary from my SAS programming, which will, from now, become a pure hobby. However, to program in SAS AND to be able to get access to all of its components, including Enterprise Guide, batch processing, and the Program Editor, the SAS licence has to be paid for. For me this would amount to paying around GBP 3,000 a year, and so I have drawn up a list of ways that you can contribute to that total, but at the same time benefit from my 40+ years of SAS programming, and 30+ years as an independent SAS consultant, working in the banking, insurance, IT, pharmaceutical, HR and marketing business sectors, and on IBM mainframe, OS/2, VAX, Unix, Windows and Linux.

Any excess income will be used to extend my SAS licence into the following year. I’m planning to use this income from September 2024, so we now have a few months to raise sufficient funds.

138Days remaining 21Hours 57Minutes 25Seconds

The following are grouped into group¹ (for companies or collaborating individuals) and individual² options:

For Companies or Collaborating Individuals¹:

No.1 = 1/2 day SAS training, including digital training materials, for GBP 1,800

No.2 = 1 month of confidential online support with unlimited questions for GBP 720

No.3 = 1 day of remote SAS programming for GBP 600

No.4 = 1 hour of 1-to-1 SAS video discussion for GBP 100

  • Book your hour of SAS video discussion.
  • Video discussions use Jitsi Meet, which is limited to 100 participants.
  • Topics include:
    • Base SAS syntax
    • Base SAS functions
    • Base SAS formats and informats
    • Base SAS procedures
    • Data step merging
    • PROC SQL syntax
    • PROC SQL merging
    • PROC SQL updating
    • Macro introduction
    • Macro syntax
    • Macro variables
    • ODS Graphics introduction
    • ODS Graphics procedures
    • Enterprise Guide introduction
    • SAS/Studio introduction

For Individuals²:

No.5 = 1 confidential remote question for GBP 72

No.6 = 1 ebook copy of course notes to one of my SAS courses from GBP 11

  • My SAS course notes are published as ebooks on Lulu.com, who, unlike Amazon, etc., do not take massive commissions, so I receive most of the published price.
  • See my Book Table for more details.

No.7 = 1 ebook copy of one of my SAS books directly from my blog site for GBP 12.50

  • “Saving Time and Money using SAS” is no longer sold in softback, but you can download the ebook directly from my blog site.
  • See my Book Table for more details.

No.8 = 3 months of subscription to the SAS Programming Forum, including access to my online SAS course collection, for 3 x GBP 5

  • Details of what the SAS Programming Forum is can be found here.
  • See how to subscribe to the SAS Programming Forum, including my online SAS course collection, here.

No.9 = 1 copy of one of my SAS softback books from a reseller from GBP 25

  • Although these options appear to be lower in the list than expected, I receive very little from softback books sold, because I received an advance when they were published.
  • See my Book Table for more details.

No.10 = 1 copy of one of my SAS ebooks from a reseller from GBP 3

  • Although these options appear to be lower in the list than expected, I receive very little from ebooks sold by resellers, because I received an advance when they were published.
  • See my Book Table for more details.

Holland Numerics Limited celebrated its 30th Anniversary in September 2022

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Way back in September 1992 I was working at CentreFile, a software subsidiary of NatWest Bank. Unfortunately, the financial environment at that time required NatWest Bank to bring much of the outsourcing done within CentreFile back inside the bank, so I was one of the 17% of the IT staff made redundant.

Undeterred I decided to become a freelance SAS programmer and landed a 3-month SAS contract at Janssen Pharmaceutica in Belgium in October 1992, where the financial environment was better. This contract was a fixed price contract for 9 weeks, but I finished all of the expected work in 7 weeks (which didn’t please the client!), so it was agreed that I “work” a further week in Belgium before completing my stay there!

There followed a 14-month contract at Euroclear, a securities bank in Brussels, where I was living in an apartment belonging to a hotel. This is where I really developed my love of finding new beers! I was not the only English-speaking SAS programmer there, as English, Australian and New Zealand programmers were also part of the various teams in Euroclear (and I am still in contact with them), and we would meet on Wednesday evenings for “Contractors Night Out”, starting the evening by watching Star Trek in my apartment (with a Belgian beer from my well-stocked fridge!), and then exploring the vibrant beer and food culture in the centre of Brussels. I will always be grateful for the beers in the supermarket GB Inno that I walked past on my way back to my apartment.

Returning to the UK I then worked on a wide variety of SAS programming contracts between 1994 and 2002, including pharmaceutical development for Glaxo and Praxis, HR systems for Asda and Zurich Insurance, marketing and risk databases for Barclaycard, Pearl Assurance and Ford Credit Bank, and fraud operations for Barclaycard.

My final contract before 9/11 was at Ford Credit Bank, where CNN was shown on screens next to the lifts. We watched in horror as 9/11 evolve in real-time on those screens. The effect on the finance sector was almost immediate, and SAS contracts in banking and insurance became extremely scarce. Fortunately Ford Credit Bank honoured my contract which ended in March 2002. Holland Numerics Limited then spent the rest of 2002 without any significant income, and I was temporarily employed by Bayer Vital in Leverkusen for 3 months later that year.

In 2003 the SAS contract market improved a little and I was able to work on an online campaign manager application for Proximity, before joining the Epidemiology team at GSK until 2005, when I started a 10-year spell at Amgen, where I was mostly involved in observational studies. It was during this period that I discovered the benefit of publishing SAS papers. I had written a paper on how to improve mainframe SAS and DB/2 performance back in 1997, which had been read by someone at the European Patent Office in 2004. They contacted me and I spent several days investigating on-site in The Hague, and then writing and presenting a paper explaining how to fix their problems for their senior management. This included adding a simple sort, which improved the elapsed time of a single step from 7 hours to 3 minutes! The fundamental truth I demonstrated was that developing on a Windows platform was OK, until you involved sorting, which is built into the mainframe operating system.

Following 10 years at Amgen I spent a year at Syne Qua Non, a brief SAS ODS Graphics remote contract with Astellas in Chicago, and then 5 years at Roche, before my current SAS contract with Veramed. This contract actually takes me back to 2002, where I shared an office with the now CEO of Veramed. The take-home from this contract is that you should keep good contacts with all of your business friends, because you never know whether they could help you in the future!

Now why would I be telling you this story about my company? Well, I am approaching retirement (I’m already beyond the statuary retirement age in the UK), but I have a lot of SAS-related knowledge that I am very keen to pass on to younger SAS programmers. My entire collection of SAS conference papers can be freely downloaded from this blog site. Registered members of my blog site can have free access to all the issues of VIEWS News since 1998, as they are stored on my blog site. My SAS licensing depends on earning enough in SAS contract fees to pay for it, so future SAS contracts will be helpful to maintain this site. Finally, if you would like to learn about how to be a good SAS programmer, performance analyst, or graphics designer, then I’ll be happy to spend time helping you (and your colleagues) using my appointment calendar.

I have spent 30 years working for Holland Numerics Limited. How long I continue to work will ultimately depend on you!

SAS training for home-workers: Keeping your mind active and your skills current

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I have been working from home on and off since 1996, so it now feels quite normal to start my work day by walking from my kitchen into my office. I know some of my colleagues have struggled with the many distractions that exist at home, so I suppose I’ve been lucky, but I still do not like doing nothing at all. To stop any boredom setting in I will look for ways to do something useful, and, over the years, I have taught myself many programming languages by reading books, running example code, and trying to write applications that will be useful day-to-day, for example:

  • Database applications for calculating hours left to work and printing invoices in Visual Basic.
  • Web applications to send me emails and SMS messages in Perl.
  • Smartphone apps for webOS (remember HP/Palm phones?) in Javascript and HTML5.
  • Smartphone apps for Android in Java.
  • Crossword puzzle word-finder scripts in LibreOffice Basic.
  • SAS Enterprise Guide custom tasks in VB.Net.
  • SAS Studio custom tasks in XML.

Each language presents a different set of problems and solutions, so each new solution will broaden your knowledge of the computer world. Not all language have been central to my day job, but my views on solving computer problems has been moulded by each new programming language I’ve used. In 1996 there was no significant online help, so you couldn’t easily ask anyone for help, but instead you had to rely on hints and tips in computer magazines. Later the online communities have become vital, but you will now have to ask your questions in the correct way, so that it will be understood by each community, as names are not necessarily consistent, otherwise your question is likely to be ignored. I’ve now found ways to improve the chances of my questions being answered, even if my problems are not always resolved:

  • Write a subject line that asks a question that could be answered, otherwise it probably won’t even be read.
  • Set the scene by describing the environment you are working in, such as operating system, and software language and version.
  • Describe in as much detail as you can what you are trying to do, what you have already tried, and any results/messages that you are getting, even if you don’t understand them.
  • Never assume that you’re problem can be solved, but work with anyone who offers you assistance.
  • Be humble and grateful, because there will be programmers out there who know more about this than you, and you might need to call on their skills again.

So what has all this got to do with SAS training? Well, thanks to COVID-19, there are now more home-workers than ever before, and in some cases the work available may not be filling your day, so what can you do to fill your spare time and improve your programming knowledge? I have gathered together some sources of SAS training and information which are either free or inexpensive, which you may find useful, and if you find out about any more, then post a comment and I’ll be happy to check them out:

  • Training courses:
    • My corporate SAS training courses are intended for large groups, but each course has an associated eBook that is much cheaper and available through the Training section on this site.
    • I have a low-cost forum with a monthly subscription called the SAS Programming Forum, which welcomes SAS programming questions, but also includes the SAS course with a growing number of SAS-related topics, such as Data Steps, SAS Macros and PROC SQL, either as individual posts or LMS courses.
    • If you prefer to learn from eBooks or Android apps, then the topics in the SAS course are also available as eBooks and Android apps (on Amazon Appstore and Google Play).
  • Papers and books:
    • The Conferences Paper section on this site is filled with papers covering a wide range of SAS-related topics, which can be downloaded for free.
    • Other SAS-related books can be bought through the Books section on this site.
    • The largest searchable collection of SAS-related conference papers is maintained by Lex Jansen, including papers from SUGI, SeUGI, regional SAS user groups and forums, VIEWS, PhUSE, PharmaSUG and SAS Global Forum.
  • Competitive learning:
    • Sasensei is a SAS-related quiz and learning site where the flashcards, questions and quizzes are contributed by the users, and you earn points and awards from contributions and correct answers, but you will always learn from your incorrect answers too.
  • SAS support:
  • SAS programming platforms for learning:
    • SAS University Edition is free for use as a learning platform, and can either be downloaded and installed on your laptop using VMware or VirtualBox, or accessed through the web on the AWS Cloud.
    • WPS Analytics Community Edition is a free version of WPS Analytics, which can be licensed from World Programming for 6 months at a time and installed on your PC, and can run SAS programs using quite a large subset of SAS programming features, and includes R and Python interfaces.

I think that should at least get you started on your SAS improvement projects!

How good are you at calculating in your head? Are you calculator-dependent?

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Improving mental arithmetic (calculating in your head) has been a long-term quest for me. My 3 daughters were subjected to numerical puzzle questions whenever we were on long journeys, and now none of them routinely use calculators, unless absolutely necessary.

I used to develop JavaScript-based apps for the webOS platforms in Palm and HP devices, and created a number of mental arithmetic apps. I’ve recently found the time to re-engineer some of them to work on Android devices, and the following apps can now be found on Google Play and Amazon Appstore:

  • Arithmetic Brain – 8 different levels of 10 randomly generated questions about addition, subtraction and multiplication. Here are the links to Google Play and Amazon Appstore.

Arithmetic Brain

  • Multiply Brain – 19 different levels of 10 randomly generated questions on multiplication from x2 to x20. Here are the links to Google Play and Amazon Appstore.

Multiply Brain

  • Decimal Brain – 8 different levels of 10 randomly generated questions about decimal addition, subtraction and multiplication. Here are the links to Google Play and Amazon Appstore.

Decimal Brain

  • Fraction Brain – 4 different levels of 10 randomly generated questions about fraction addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Here are the links to Google Play and Amazon Appstore.

Fraction Brain

Full details about what is included in each Android app can be found on each app page.

Would you like 1/2 day or 1 day SAS training at PharmaSUG China 2020?

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I was considering attending PharmaSUG China at the end of August 2019, but I’ve been told that a seminar held previously in China on SAS programming efficiency had a low attendance, as programmers there are relatively young, so they like to learn techniques on their own, or take classes on topics that they cannot learn from the internet. However, they prefer challenging topics, which are hard to learn on their own.

I have now decided to delay what could be my one and only visit to China until 2020, and use the extra preparation time to find out a little more about what SAS programmers in China would be most interested in.

Therefore, please could you help me by answering this quick poll about the 1/2 day training sessions I currently provide. The answers will guide me to the best package to offer to PharmaSUG China 2020. Links to most of the training courses can be found below the poll.

If you have not yet voted and can view the poll results, but the Vote button is grey, your IP address may already have been used to vote on this poll. This is in fact quite common when viewing blog posts from a company PC, so I would therefore recommend that you try voting using your phone or your home PC instead.

Thank you in advance………..Phil

I'm planning to go to PharmaSUG China in 2020. Which 1/2 day training courses would you be interested in attending there? (max 2)

  • Efficient SAS Programming (28%, 7 Votes)
  • Defensive SAS Programming (24%, 6 Votes)
  • Introduction to ODS Graph Templates (20%, 5 Votes)
  • SAS PROC SQL (12%, 3 Votes)
  • Enterprise Guide and SAS Studio (8%, 2 Votes)
  • Practical ODS Graphics (8%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 14

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Fancy a 1-to-1 chat about a SAS-related topic?

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Now that I have Mondays free from client-related contracts, I am able to do whatever I want, such as work in my garden, read books, write my own books and articles, develop apps and other software applications, or even give SAS training! So, to help you book 1-hour 1-to-1 training sessions with me to talk about the SAS topics of your choosing, I have created a SAS training session booking calendar.

Training sessions will be provided using Google Calendar and Hangouts, and cost GBP100.00 for each hour. The booking form allows you to copy in your chosen SAS-related topics from the list provided, and then we get together at the selected time for an hour of discussion around that topic, so you will be able to ask me any questions you need answering to learn more about SAS software. The topic selection allows me to prepare demonstrations and information specifically for the session, and other topics will be added to the list over time.

Note that I will only send out one Google Calendar invite, but, if you want to have some friends and colleagues around to join in, then that will be just fine.

Apologies to anyone who recently downloaded my SAS Training Course List, but a new one for 2018 is now available!

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Apologies to anyone who recently downloaded my SAS Training Course List, but a new one for 2018 is now available as a free download!

The significant updates in the 2018 list are:

  • The new 1/2-day PROC SQL course is now available.
  • A new 1/4-day Introduction to ODS RTF course is now included, which should be considered as an add-on course, rather than to be booked on its own. Note that a 1/4-day course costs half of a 1/2-day course. However, any travelling and accommodation expenses will be the same, of course.

Finally a quick reminder that course notes for some of the courses can be purchased separately as PDF eBooks or Android apps. See the training page in the Product Shop for all the available course notes and also the latest Training Course List.

Poll: How does your company create graphs?

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ODS Graphics has been around since SAS 9.1.3 (in 2006!), and yet it hasn’t yet taken over the SAS graphics world, even though it could create the vast majority of graphs.

With this in mind I thought I’d create a quick poll to see what is currently being used out there in the real world:

How does your company create graphs?

View Results

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If you think your company ought to be using ODS Graphics more, then download our SAS training course list for free.

If you would like to learn about ODS Graphics yourself, even if your company doesn’t want to pay for a training course for you and your colleagues, then you should read “Part III: Data Visualization” (chapters 9-14) in my book “SAS Programming and Data Visualization Techniques: A Power User’s Guide” instead.

There is a new SAS Training Course list for 2017Q4

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There is now a new Training Course list for 2017Q4, which can be downloaded from here. The courses available in 2016 and early 2017 are still there, but had added a new course to the list:

  • ½ day Defensive SAS Programming training

I’m also developing some new SAS-related courses, based on the SAS course, which you can accelerate to production status by requesting them:

  • ½ day SAS Data Step training
  • ½ day SAS PROC SQL training
  • ½ day SAS macros training

Your interest in any of these courses will result in them being developed as priority tasks!

My published Training Course list is for companies, the SAS course is for individuals

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I published a list of available training courses for 2017 in January this year, but this course list is actually intended for companies, and not for individuals, as the courses have a fixed price no matter how many people attend them. All the training materials are personalised and supplied in digital form, and so can be duplicated for that client to re-use internally.

Individuals looking for SAS training should subscribe to the SAS course in the SAS Programming Forum instead, which is specifically targeted at individual SAS learners and programmers, and is priced as a low-cost monthly subscription. However, the SAS Programming Forum is not just there for the SAS course, but can be used to get answers to any SAS-related questions you may have too, even if they are from homework or interview questions.

See “Making Graphs Easier to Validate – The Benefits of ODS Graphics” at SAS Global Forum in Orlando

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Are you attending SAS Global Forum in April this year? If you are then you have the opportunity to see me present “Making Graphs Easier to Validate – The Benefits of ODS Graphics” on Wednesday 5 April from 1100-1150hr. I’ll be in the Americas Seminar Room on Dolphin Level 5 at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida. In this presentation I’ll be talking about how to make your graphs easier to validate by using ODS Graphics and a lot of common sense!

However, maybe you are not going to be in Orlando in April, but you and your colleagues would still like to see me present on this topic. What can you do about that? Well it should still be possible, because I’m currently developing a 1/2 day training session which I’m calling “Defensive SAS Programming”. This will include “Making Graphs Easier to Validate – The Benefits of ODS Graphics”, but also “Writing Reusable Macros” and another new topic “The Art of Defensive Programming: How to Cope with Unseen Data”.

You’ll see from the link above that I don’t have to be in the room with you to present, therefore I could present through your company’s video-conferencing system from my own office at home to your conference room wherever you are instead. The “Available” and “Coming Soon” training sessions can all be booked in advance, but the “Coming Soon” training sessions will be developed specifically for you, if you are the first to request them.

Going back to “Making Graphs Easier to Validate – The Benefits of ODS Graphics”, this presentation and paper will be available for download from the Product Shop shortly after it is presented for the first time, but may also be available from the SAS Global Forum site before the conference too!

I’m looking forward to SAS Global Forum, and hope to see you there, or elsewhere in the near future!

There is now a new Training Course list for 2017

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There is now a new Training Course list for 2017, which can be downloaded from here. The courses available in 2016 are still there, but I’m developing some new SAS-related courses, based on the SAS course, which you can accelerate to production status by requesting them:

  • ½ day SAS Data Step training
  • ½ day SAS PROC SQL training
  • ½ day SAS macros training
  • ½ day Defensive SAS Programming training

Your interest in any of these courses will result in them being developed as priority tasks!