07 November 2008

Genstat crosses over?

One of the best statistical analysis packages around* is GenStat from VSN International (VSNi). It also has the most comprehensive data source support I have seen. Added to that is the company's enlightened approach to growing their market, with free products available to both developing world users (GenStat Discovery) and education (GenStat for Teaching).

Developing world analysis is a particular hobbyhorse of mine, so the Discovery edition raises thoughts about how this important provision of a (Windows) software package will coëxist with the UN's promotion of open, nonproprietary (particularly Linux based) systems in that arena. Education is another of topic on which I frequently bore people to tears, and there are increasing numbers of Linux equipped personal machines appearing in that market. Then again. we have the substantial minority of users (particularly, but not exclusively, in the arts) who swear by their Apple Macs. Me, I don't use a Mac but I approve of plurality – and, besides, Mac OS is UNIX compliant.

Rumour has it that use of GenStat on Linux platforms is in the pipeline. In the meantime, according to another rumour , a PhD student is successfully running GenStat Discovery on a Leopard Mac using CrossOver Mac. Although there is no official confirmation, a little bird close to the heart of VSNi tells me that both rumours are true.

Nearly four years back, a colleague (more determined and technally savvy than I) got GenStat Discovery running for me on a Linux machine using the WINE compatibility layer, which was good news but not as simple to repeat as I might have wished. CodeWeavers, writers of CrossOver Mac (and its sibling CrossOver Linux) have based their product in the WINE project, but a lot of work has been done in the past four years: while I haven't witnessed GenStat running on crossover, I can vouch for a smooth and effortless experience with a couple of other Windows application products. Like WINE, CrossOver is not an emulator but an open source Windows API implementation running your application under your chosen OS.

So, the best of all possible words would seem to be within reach: Discovery and Teaching versions of GenStat available to the user bases which can most benefit from them – on whichever platform they find most appropriate.

*I notice that somebody has described it as "One of the industry's most serious packages" ... on closer examination, that someone was me. By way of a disclaimer, I have no vested interest in VSNi or Genstat (in fact,for historical reasons, my own data analysis is usually done in another product entirely). I say that GenStat is superb simply because, objectively, it just is.

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