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st: re: building a 'dream' stata desktop setup

From   Kit Baum <>
Subject   st: re: building a 'dream' stata desktop setup
Date   Tue, 8 Jul 2008 06:57:47 -0400

< >
Paula wrote

I'm setting up an incoming faculty member with what I hope to be a "dream machine." I'm looking for your expert opinions regarding what you'd like to have given the following parameters:

- .25-3Gig routine data file sizes
- a small IT department with limited experience with stata and a strong desire for a standard desktop operating system on hardware they are familiar with (eg: MacPro & Dell optiplex minitower 755.)
- a one-time $10,000 USD setup budget

Obviously we're going to need a 64 bit OS and my incoming faculty person is Vista-averse. I'm inclined toward encouraging the MacPro hardware: quad-core processor (expandable to another quad-core & up to 32gig of ram, internal raid-array drives... it seems perfect for this application.)

My problems are twofold on the MacOS front - first, when will stata actually have the 64 bit Mac version? and second, my new faculty member is also Mac-OS averse.

Does anyone have experience to share with running large data files through the 32bit Stata on a MacPro quad-core? How does it compare with a 2 yr old dual-core 64 bit XP system with .. say, 8 gig of ram? Any guesses?

My sense of XP is that it's a dying OS and I'd hate to use his one- time startup funds on a relatively-soon-to-be-unsupported OS. And then there's the problem (from the point of view of my IT dept) of supporting 64bit XP. (Though it theoretically would run fine on the MacPro hardware - not in emulation mode - but booting directly into XP.)

On Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) with 32-bit Stata, you can access datasets of 2260 Mb with no problem. StataCorp has heard loud and clear that it is very important to get the 64-bit version of Stata out; their efforts to do that have been hampered by Apple's late announcement that a rewrite of the GUI in a different programming environment was necessary. This should not, IMHO, prevent StataCorp from releasing the 'console version' of Stata 64-bit for Leopard, and I hope that they will consider doing that ASAP. The 'console version' will run any Stata do-file as a batch job and as it does not rely on the GUI should not be sensitive to the GUI programming issues, as it is basically just a Unix program running in terminal mode.

I would strongly recommend the multicore MacPro. We have just purchased one for our department (4-core) and I have consulted with one of our research centers who are considering getting one (8-core) for their high-end needs. The default MacPro config is 8-core. The 8- core Stata/MP is pricey, but the 4-core version of Stata/MP is more affordable.

As for the faculty member's aversion to Mac OS, s/he should get over it. If you want the most bang for the buck on an Intel platform, run the best operating system available. That, IMHO, is some flavor of Unix, which will have as small of a memory footprint as possible and will be largely immune to all of the plagues of viruses, spyware, malware, and MS "upgrades". With Windows, you're choosing between what you describe as a dying OS, XP, which the vendor is trying to discontinue, and a replacement which has met massive resistance in the marketplace. Windows 7 may be the answer, but given how long it took them to crank out the flawed Vista, we have to regard that as vaporware.

So get a Mac Pro with the internal PCI raid card (3 or 4 equal-size HDs) on which you can run RAID 5, 4 or 8 Gb of RAM, and for datasets up to about 2.2 Gb, you're all set. If you need to access datasets larger than that prior to the 64-bit Stata for Mac OS X becoming available, install BootCamp and XP, and get a Stata/SE XP license for it (cheap enough at academic prices). But I would predict that StataCorp will try to deal with this gap in the capabilities of Stata for Mac OS X sooner than later; there's been enough discussion on this list recently about the importance of that step.


Kit Baum, Boston College Economics and DIW Berlin
An Introduction to Modern Econometrics Using Stata:

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