Connect R with Myrrix - Mahout & Cloudera's real-time, scalable recommender system

Myrrix is probably more known by java developers and users of Mahout than R users. This is because most of the times java and R developers live in a different community. 

myrrix logo
If you go to the website of Myrrix (, you'll find out that it is a large-scale recommender system which is able to build a recommendation model based on Alternating Least Squares. That technique is a pretty good benchmark model if you tune it well enough to get recommendations to your customers.
It has a setup which allows you to build recommendation models with local data and a setup to build a recommender system based on data in Hadoop - be it on CDH or on another Hadoop stack like HDInsights or your own installation.
Very recently, Cloudera has shown the intention to incorporate Myrrix into it's product offering (see this press release) and this is getting quite some attention.
Recommendation engines are one of the techniques in machine learning which get frequent attention although they are not so frequently used as other statistical techniques like classification or regression.
This is because a recommendation engines most of the time require a lot of processing like deciding on which data to use, handling time-based information, handling new products and products which are no longer sold, making sure the model is up-to-date andsoforth. 
When setting up a recommendation engine, business users also want to compare their behaviour to other business-driven or other data-driven logic. In these initial phases of a project, allowing statisticians and data scientists to use their language of choice to communicate with, test and evaluate the recommendation engine is key.
myrrix r
To allow this, we have created an interface between R and Myrrix, containing 2 packages which are currently available on github ( It allows R users to build, finetune and evaluate the recommendation engine as well as retrieve recommendations. Future users of Cloudera might as well be interested in this, once Myrrix gets incorporated into their product offering.
Myrrix deploys a recommender engine technique based on large, sparse matrix factorization. From input data, it learns a small number of "features" that best explain users' and items' observed interactions. This same basic idea goes by many names in machine learning, like principal component analysist or latent factor analysis. Myrrix uses a modified version of an Alternating Least Squares algorithm to factor matrices. More information can be found here: and at the Myrrix website.
So if you are interested in setting up a recommendation engine for your application or if you want to improve your existing recommendation toolkit, contact us.
If you are an R user and only interested in the code on how to build a recommendation model and retrieve recommendations, here it is. The packages will be pushed to CRAN soon.
# To start up building recommendation engines, install the R packages Myrrixjars and Myrrix as follows.

install_github("Myrrix-R-interface", "jwijffels", subdir="/Myrrixjars/pkg")
install_github("Myrrix-R-interface", "jwijffels", subdir="/Myrrix/pkg")

## The following example shows the basic usage on how to use Myrrix to build a local recommendation 
## engine. It uses the audioscrobbler data available on the Myrrix website.

## Download example dataset
inputfile <- file.path(tempdir(), "audioscrobbler-data.subset.csv.gz")
download.file(url="", destfile = inputfile)

## Set hyperparameters
setMyrrixHyperParameters(params=list(model.iterations.max = 2, model.features=10, model.als.lambda=0.1))
x <- getMyrrixHyperParameters(parameters=c("model.iterations.max","model.features","model.als.lambda"))

## Build a model which will be stored in getwd() and ingest the data file into it
recommendationengine <- new("ServerRecommender", localInputDir=getwd())
ingest(recommendationengine, inputfile)

## Get all users/items and score alongside the recommendation model
items <- getAllItemIDs(recommendationengine)
users <- getAllUserIDs(recommendationengine)
estimatePreference(recommendationengine, userID=users[1], itemIDs=items[1:20])
estimatePreference(recommendationengine, userID=users[10], itemIDs=items)
mostPopularItems(recommendationengine, howMany=10L)
recommend(recommendationengine, userID=users[5], howMany=10L)


Popularity bigdata / large data packages in R and ffbase useR presentation

A few weeks ago, Rstudio released it's download logs, showing who downloaded R packages through their CRAN mirror. More info:

This is very nice information and it can be used to show the popularity of packages with R, which has been done before and criticized also as the RStudio logs might/might not be representative for the download behaviour of all useRs.
As the useR2013 conference has come to an end, one of the topics corporate useRs of R seem to be talking about is how to speed up R and how R handles large data.
Edwin & BNOSAC did their fair share by giving a presentation about the use of ffbase alongside the ff package which can be found here .
When looking at twitter feeds (, there is now Tibco who has it's own R interpreter, there is R inside the JVM, Rcpp, Revolution R, ff/ffbase, R inside Oracle, there is pbdR, pretty quick R (pqR), MPI, R on grids, R with mongo/monet-DB, PL/R, dplyr and useRs made a lot of presentations about how they handled large data in their business setting. It seems like the use of R with large datasets is being more and more accepted in the corporate world - which is a good thing. And we love the diversity!
For R packages which are on CRAN, the Rstudio download logs can be used to show download statistics of the open source bigdata / large data packages which are now on the market (CRAN). 
For this, the logs were downloaded and a number of open source packages which are out-of-memory / bigdata solutions in R were compared with respect to download stats on this mirror.
It seems like by far the most popular package is ff and our own contribution (ffbase) is not doing bad at all (+/- 100 ip addresses downloaded our package per week from the Rstudio CRAN mirror only). 
If you are interested in the code to download the data and get the plot or if you want to compare your own packages, you can use the following code.
## Rstudio logs
input <- list()
input$path <- getwd()
input$path <- "/home/janw/Desktop/ffbaseusage"
input$start <- as.Date('2012-10-01')
input$today <- as.Date('2013-06-10')
input$today <- Sys.Date()-1
input$all_days <- seq(input$start, input$today, by = 'day')
input$all_days <- seq(input$start, input$today, by = 'day')
input$urls <- paste0('', 
                     as.POSIXlt(input$all_days)$year + 1900, '/', input$all_days, '.csv.gz')
## Download
sapply(input$urls, FUN=function(x, path) {
  try(download.file(x, destfile = file.path(path, strsplit(x, "/")[[1]][[5]])))
}, path=input$path)

## Import the data in a csv and put it in 1 ffdf
files <- sort(list.files(input$path, pattern = ".csv.gz$"))
rstudiologs <- NULL
for(file in files){
  con <- gzfile(file.path(input$path, file))
  x <- read.csv(con, header=TRUE, colClasses = c("Date","character","integer", rep("factor", 6), "numeric"))
  x$time <- as.POSIXct(strptime(sprintf("%s %s", x$date, x$time), "%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S"))
  rstudiologs <- rbind(rstudiologs, as.ffdf(x))
rstudiologs <- subset(rstudiologs, as.Date(time) >= as.Date("2012-12-31"))
ffsave(rstudiologs, file = file.path(input$path, "rstudiologs"))

tmp <- ffload(file.path(input$path, "rstudiologs"), rootpath = tempdir())
rstudiologs[1:2, ]
packages <- c("ff","ffbase","bigmemory","mmap","filehash","pbdBASE","colbycol","MonetDB.R")
idx <- rstudiologs$package %in% ff(factor(packages))
idx <- ffwhich(idx, idx == TRUE)
mypackages <- rstudiologs[idx, ]
mypackages <-
info <- c("r_version","r_arch","r_os","package","version","country")
mypackages[info] <- apply(mypackages[info], MARGIN=2, as.character)
mypackages <-
mypackages$aantal <- 1
mondayofweek <- function(x){
    weekday <- as.integer(format(x, "%w"))
    as.Date(ifelse(weekday == 0, x-6, x-(weekday-1)), origin=Sys.Date()-as.integer(Sys.Date()))
mypackages$date <- mondayofweek(mypackages$date)
byday <- mypackages[, 
                    list(aantal = sum(aantal), 
                         ips = length(unique(ip_id))), 
                    by = list(package, date)]
byday <- subset(byday, date != max(as.character(byday$date)))

byday <- transform(byday, package=reorder(package, byday$ips))
qplot( data=byday, y=ips, x=date, color=reorder(package, -ips, mean), geom="line", size=I(1)
) + labs(x="", y="# unique ip", title="Rstudio logs 2013, downloads/week", color="") + theme_bw()


Massive online data stream mining with R

A few weeks ago, the stream package has been released on CRAN. It allows to do real time analytics on data streams. This can be very usefull if you are working with large datasets which are already hard to put in RAM completely, let alone to build some statistical model on it without getting into RAM problems.

Most of the standard statistical algorithms require access to all data points and make several iterations over the data and are less suited for usage in R on big datasets.

Streaming algorithms on the other hand are characterised by 
  1. single passes over the data,
  2. using a limited amount of storage space and RAM
  3. work in a limited amount of time
  4. be ready to use the model at any time


The stream package is currently focussed on clustering algorithms available in MOA ( and also eases interfacing with some clustering already available in R which are suited for data stream clustering.  Classification algorithms based on MOA are on the todo list.
Current available clustering algorithms are BIRCH, CluStream, ClusTree, DBSCAN, DenStream, Hierarchical, Kmeans and Threshold Nearest Neighbor.
The stream package allows you to easily extend the use of the models with different data sources. These can be SQL sources, Hadoop, Storm, Hive, simple csv files, flat files or other connections. It is quite easy to extend it towards other connections. As an example, the following code available at this gist ( allows it to connect to an ffdf from the ff package. This allows to do clustering on ff objects.
Below, you can find a toy example showing streaming clustering in R based on data in an ffdf. 
  • Load the packages & the Data Stream Data for ffdf objects

  • Set up a data stream
myffdf <- as.ffdf(iris)
myffdf <- myffdf[c("Sepal.Length","Sepal.Width","Petal.Length","Petal.Width")]
mydatastream <- DSD_FFDFstream(x = myffdf, k = 100, loop=TRUE) 
  • Build the streaming clustering model
#### Get some points from the data stream
get_points(mydatastream, n=5)

#### Cluster (first part)
myclusteringmodel <- DSC_CluStream(k = 100)
cluster(myclusteringmodel, mydatastream, 1000)

#### Cluster (second part)
kmeans <- DSC_Kmeans(3)
recluster(kmeans, myclusteringmodel)
plot(kmeans, mydatastream, n = 150, main = "Streaming model - with 3 clusters")

This approach is a standard 2-step approach which combines streaming micro clustering with macro clustering using a basic kmeans algorithm.
If you need help in understanding how your data can help you, if you need training and support on the efficient use of R, let us know how we can help you out.


bigglm on your big data set in open source R, it just works - similar as in SAS

In a recent post by Revolution Analytics (link & link) in which Revolution was benchmarking their closed source generalized linear model approach with SAS, Hadoop and open source R, they seemed to be pointing out that there is no 'easy' R open source solution which exists for building a poisson regression model on large datasets. 

This post is about showing that fitting a generalized linear model to large data in R <is> easy in open source R and just works.
For this we recently included bigglm.ffdf in package ffbase to integrate it more closely with package biglm. That was pretty easy as the help of the chunk function in package ff already shows how to do it and the code in the biglm package is readily available to do some simple code modifications. 
Let's show how it works on some readily available data available here.
The following code shows some features (laf_open_csv, read.csv.ffdf, table.ff, binned_sum.ff, biglm.ffdf, expand.ffgrid and merge.ffdf) of package ffbase and package ff which can be used in a standard setting where you have your large data, want to profile it, see some bivariate statistics and build a simple regression model to predict or understand your target.
It imports a flat file in an ffdf, shows some univariate statistics, does a fast group by and builds a linear regression model. 
All without RAM problems as the data is in ff.
  • Download the data

download.file("", "")


  • Import it (showing 2 options - either by using package LaF or with read.csv.ffdf using argument transFUN to recode the input data according to the codebook which you can find here)
## the LaF package is great if you are working with fixed-width format files but equally good for csv files and laf_to_ffdf does what it
## has to do: get the data in an ffdf
dat <- laf_open_csv(filename = "2010_BSA_Carrier_PUF.csv", 
column_types = c("integer", "integer", "categorical", "categorical", "categorical", "integer", "integer", "categorical", "integer", "integer", "integer"), column_names = c("sex", "age", "diagnose", "healthcare.procedure", "typeofservice", "service.count", "provider.type", "servicesprocessed", "place.served", "payment", "carrierline.count"), skip = 1) x <- laf_to_ffdf(laf = dat) ## the transFUN is easy to use if you want to transform your input data before putting it into the ffdf, ## it applies a function to your read input data which is read in in chunks ## We use it here to recode the numbers to factors according to the code book which you can find in the codebook x <- read.csv.ffdf(file = "2010_BSA_Carrier_PUF.csv", colClasses = c("integer","integer","factor","factor","factor","integer","integer","factor","integer","integer","integer"), transFUN=function(x){ names(x) <- recoder(names(x), from = c("BENE_SEX_IDENT_CD", "BENE_AGE_CAT_CD", "CAR_LINE_ICD9_DGNS_CD", "CAR_LINE_HCPCS_CD", "CAR_LINE_BETOS_CD", "CAR_LINE_SRVC_CNT", "CAR_LINE_PRVDR_TYPE_CD", "CAR_LINE_CMS_TYPE_SRVC_CD", "CAR_LINE_PLACE_OF_SRVC_CD", "CAR_HCPS_PMT_AMT", "CAR_LINE_CNT"), to = c("sex", "age", "diagnose", "healthcare.procedure", "typeofservice", "service.count", "provider.type", "servicesprocessed", "place.served", "payment", "carrierline.count")) x$sex <- factor(recoder(x$sex, from = c(1,2), to=c("Male","Female"))) x$age <- factor(recoder(x$age, from = c(1,2), to=c("Under 65", "65-69", "70-74", "75-79", "80-84", "85 and older"))) x$place.served <- factor(recoder(x$place.served, from = c(0, 1, 11, 12, 21, 22, 23, 24, 31, 32, 33, 34, 41, 42, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 56, 60, 61, 62, 65, 71, 72, 81, 99), to = c("Invalid Place of Service Code", "Office (pre 1992)", "Office","Home","Inpatient hospital","Outpatient hospital", "Emergency room - hospital","Ambulatory surgical center","Skilled nursing facility", "Nursing facility","Custodial care facility","Hospice","Ambulance - land","Ambulance - air or water", "Federally qualified health centers", "Inpatient psychiatrice facility", "Psychiatric facility partial hospitalization", "Community mental health center", "Intermediate care facility/mentally retarded", "Psychiatric residential treatment center", "Mass immunizations center", "Comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation facility", "End stage renal disease treatment facility", "State or local public health clinic","Independent laboratory", "Other unlisted facility"))) x }, VERBOSE=TRUE) class(x) dim(x)
  • Profile your data
## Data Profiling using table.ff
barplot(table.ff(x$age), col = "lightblue")
barplot(table.ff(x$sex), col = "lightblue")
barplot(table.ff(x$typeofservice), col = "lightblue")

  • Grouping by - showing the speedy binned_sum
## Basic & fast group by with ff data
doby <- list()
doby$sex <- binned_sum.ff(x = x$payment, bin = x$sex, nbins = length(levels(x$sex)))
doby$age <- binned_sum.ff(x = x$payment, bin = x$age, nbins = length(levels(x$age)))
doby$place.served <- binned_sum.ff(x = x$payment, bin = x$place.served, nbins = length(levels(x$place.served)))
doby <- lapply(doby, FUN=function(x){
  x <-
  x$mean <- x$sum / x$count
doby$sex$sex <- recoder(rownames(doby$sex), from = rownames(doby$sex), to = levels(x$sex))
doby$age$age <- recoder(rownames(doby$age), from = rownames(doby$age), to = levels(x$age))
doby$place.served$place.served <- recoder(rownames(doby$place.served), from = rownames(doby$place.served), to = levels(x$place.served))

  • Build a generalized linear model using package biglm which integrates with ffbase::bigglm.ffdf
## Make a linear model using biglm
mymodel <- bigglm(payment ~ sex + age + place.served, data = x)
# This will overflow your RAM as it will get your data from ff into RAM
#summary(glm(payment ~ sex + age + place.served, data = x[,c("payment","sex","age","place.served")]))

  • Do the same on more data: 280Mio records
## Ok, we were working only on +/- 2.8Mio records which is not big, let's explode the data by 100 to get 280Mio records 
x$id <- ffseq_len(nrow(x))
xexploded <- expand.ffgrid(x$id, ff(1:100)) # Had to wait 3 minutes on my computer
colnames(xexploded) <- c("id","")
xexploded <- merge(xexploded, x, by.x="id", by.y="id", all.x=TRUE, all.y=FALSE) ## this uses merge.ffdf, might take 30 minutes
dim(xexploded) ## hopsa, 280 Mio records and 13.5Gb created
sum(.rambytes[vmode(xexploded)]) * (nrow(xexploded) * 9.31322575 * 10^(-10))
## And build the linear model again on the whole dataset
mymodel <- bigglm(payment ~ sex + age + place.served, data = xexploded)
Hmm, it looks like people who got help by an Ambulance at sea or an airplane ambulance had to pay more.
  • That wasn't that easy or was it. Now your turn

RBelgium meeting on November, 16

rbelgiumlogo v1

Next week on Friday, November 16, the RBelgium R user group is holding its next Regular meeting in Brussels.

This is the schedule of the upcoming RBelgium Regular meeting:

* Graphical User Interface developments around R, including tcltk2 and SciViews - Philippe Grosjean (UMons)
* Using R via the Amazon Cloud - Jean-Baptiste Poullet (stat'Rgy)
* Literature review: R books - Brecht Devleesschauwer (UGent, UCL)

The meeting will take place on Friday 16 November, at 18h45, at the ULB Campus de la Plaine. Everyone is welcome to join!