Your observations on what Excel is and what and analysis program is
are well put. Nice observations.
I do wish to take exception to what I think your point was here however.
R is free but only community supported. Matlab is comprehensive
Scott I think you are implying that while there are high quality open
source programs commercial software is *better*. I think this is
becoming less and less true. A bug found in a program 99% of the time
will be fixed as part of the normal release cycle read weeks or months
later. However a bug in an open source product is often fixed within
hours or days of it's discovery. More and more commercial software
support is only available via email with a standard disclaimer that
says something to the effect, 'we will try to get back to you in 72
business hours'. However a question to an active open source forum is
often answered in minutes. In addition when a commercial program (like
Excel) decides to drop a feature (like VBA) the users have no
recourse. With open source if a particular version is especially
valuable you can stay with it and if needed fix it, or hire someone to
fix it, should problems occur 20 years from now. Trying to get support
on commercial products more than 5 years old is futile. As I watch
industry trends the software industry is falling down in almost every
area especially, speed of response, long term support, etc.
There is one consideration regarding the selection of software I ran
into which seldom gets mentioned and that is this. Some scientific
work needs to be done on software that is acceptable to the customer.
For example statistical analysis for drug testing done with SAS is
generally acceptable to the FDA. However in the past I have worked
with home grown statistical packages which were of excellent quality
but when the results were submitted they were questioned by the FDA
because they were simply done on home grown software. It doesn't
happen often but if someone thinks their customer or agency has a
preference for a piece of software it may be worth while to use it and
avoid the hassle of defending something they aren't familiar with.
2) should I consider one of the many alternatives that have been
suggested in this thread?
Yes, this group always has excellent suggestions and the very best
I think this is especially true of what you and I write Scott. <g>
4) Could this be done in a relational data base program, using
report summary functionality?
Most of these have hooks for connecting to a database. You seem to
have very flat file data and a relational database may be overkill.
I'm not sure I understand your point. It would be my thinking the
reason for a database would be to 'buy' an interface (hooks) to
whatever analysis software is ultimately selected not because of the
features of the database software itself. In other words the database
is only a sack to throw your stuff in. People who by databases (sacks)
are probably overly enamored with the color, fabric, etc of sacks
(databases). The color and style aren't important but the interface
(drawstring, zipper, etc) through which you access that stuff is the
issue in this case.
“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where
they went.” -- Will Rogers
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