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st: Re: doc accessibility and updates

From   Christopher F Baum <>
Subject   st: Re: doc accessibility and updates
Date   Sat, 19 Jul 2003 09:26:18 -0400

On Saturday, July 19, 2003, at 02:33 AM, Renzo wrote:

A last concern for (at least some) graduate students is updates and add
ons. This is not manual related.
I don't know what stata can do about it, but administrators make the
Stata folder and the ado folder non user-writable and it looks like
there is no way of convincing them to type -update all- -update swap-
with the result that we are still using the version out of the CD.

I just found out that it is possible to add ado paths. I'll look into
this more, but I truly hope it is possible to download ado files to the
added path.
I would add two comments to Renzo's discussion of documentation, and the difficulties grad students (who may not be able to purchase the full doc set) may have. First, I think Bill Gould's proposal to considerably enhance the SMCL on-line help would be a very good idea. It will still leave the technical details -- the mathematics underlying the estimator, for instance -- only in the manuals, but if all other information could be placed on line (e.g. definitions of what is returned by each command) that would be most useful. Second, it is unfortunate that some key information is relegated to the Programming manual. Although I am sympathetic to Stata Corp's concerns for providing usable and portable documentation, most graduate students will not be using Stata efficiently if they do not know about -foreach-, -forvalues-, local macros, and matrices (not necessarily to do linear algebra, but to store and organize results for tabulation, etc.). Here again, better on-line help would perhaps close that gap. But fact of the matter is that not only the Users Guide and Ref Manual are needed to use Stata effectively.

Now to the point above. It is IRRESPONSIBLE for an I/T professional to ignore the necessity of applying patches to commercial software. In every I/T organization, the need to patch the operating system, the mail-handling programs, the web server software, etc. is recognized (often in response to security issues). You should have the faculty member who is a liaison with computing contact I/T management and INSIST that Stata be kept up to date on the central system. I do that task for our department's Unix server, and in reading the 'whatsnew' I am aware that many serious bugs have been fixed since the original CDROMs were made. (In addition, an entirely new version -- 8.1 -- is now accessible via that mechanism;why should they turn their back on a free major upgrade?) It is essential to perform the 'update query' on a central system onat least a monthly schedule, and I/T management should recognize that, just as they do for many other programs on a central computing system.

The adopath makes it possible for you to install anything (e.g. via the ssc command) in directories on that central machine which you control. The only down side is that if you install module ivreg2, for instance, it will be on your adopath, and not on your colleague's. But they can do the same thing. If a module is to be used by a large number of users, the managers of the central server should do the install, and it will then be placed where everyone can access it.

Kit Baum
Academic Technology Services
Boston College

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