# Setting Up and Customizing Python Environments using Conda

Typing ‘python’ into your command line launches the default global Python environment (which you can change by changing your path) that includes every package you’ve likely installed since the dawn of man (or since you adopted your machine).

But what happens when you are working between Python 2.7 and Python 3.x due to collaboration, using Python 3.4 because the last time you updated your script was four years ago, collaborating with others and want to ensure reproducibility and compatible environments, or banging your head against the wall because that one Python library installation is throwing up errors (shakes fist at PIL/Pillow)?

Creating Python environments is a straightforward solution to save you headaches down the road.

Python environments are a topic that many of us have feared through the years due to ambiguous definitions filled with waving hands. An environment is simply the domain in which users run software or scripts. With this same train of thought, a python environment is the domain with all of the Python packages are installed where a user (you!) is executing a script (usually interfacing through an IDE or Terminal/Command Prompt).

However, different scripts will work or fail in different environments  avoid having to use all of these packages at once or having to completely reinstall Python, what we want to do is create new and independent Python environments. Applications of these environments include:

• Have multiple versions of Python (e.g. 2.7 and 3.4 and 3.6) installed on your machine at once that you can easily switch between
• Work with specific versions of packages and ensure they don’t update for the specific script you’re developing
• Allow for individuals to install the same, reproducible environment between workstations
• Create standardized environments for seamless collaboration
• Use older versions of packages to utilize outdated code

## Creating Your First Python Environment

One problem that recent arose in Ithaca was that someone was crunching towards deadlines and could only run PIL (Python Imaging Library) on their home machine and not their desktop on campus due to package installation issues. This individual had the following  packages they needed to install while using Python 2.7.5:

• PIL
• matplotlib
• numpy
• pandas
• statsmodels
• seaborn

To start, let’s first create an environment! To do this, we will be using Conda (install Anaconda for new users or MiniConda for anyone who doesn’t want their default Python environment to be jeopardized. If you want to avoid using Conda, feel free to explore Pipenv). As a quick note on syntax, I will be running everything in Windows 7 and every command I am using can be found on the Conda Cheatsheet. Only slight variations are required for MacOS/Linux.

First, with your Command Prompt open, type the following command to create the environment we will be working in:

conda create --name blog_pil_example python=2.7.5

At this point, a new environment titled blog_pil_example with Python 2.7.5 has been created. Congrats! Don’t forget to take screenshots to add to your new environment’s baby book (or just use the one above if it’s not your first environment).

From here, we need to activate the environment before interacting with it. To see which environments are available, use the following:

conda env list

Now, let’s go ahead and activate the environment that we want (blog_pil_example):

activate blog_pil_example

To leave the environment you’re in, simply use the following command:

deactivate

(For Linux and MaxOS, put ‘source ‘ prior to these commands)

We can see in the screenshot above that multiple other environments exist, but the selected/activated environment is shown in parentheses. Note that you’re still navigating through the same directories as before, you’re just selecting and running a different version of Python and installed packages when you’re using this environment.

### (Installing Packages)

Now onto the real meat and potatoes: installing the necessary packages. While you can use pip at this point, I’ve found Conda has run into fewer issues over the past year.  (Read into channel prioritization if you’re interested in where package files are being sourced from and how to change this.) As a quick back to basics, we’re going to install one of the desired packages, matplotlib, using Conda (or pip). Using these ensures that the proper versions of the packages for your environment (i.e. the Python version and operating system) are retrieved. At the same time, all dependent packages will also be installed (e.g. numpy). Use the following command when in the environment and confirm you want to install matplotlib:

conda install matplotlib

Note that you can specify a version much like how we specified the python version above for library compatibility issues:

conda install matplotlib=2.2.0

If you wish to remove matplotlib, use the following command:

conda remove matplotlib

If you wish to update a specific package, run:

conda update matplotlib

Or to update all packages:

conda update

Additionally, you can prevent specific packages from updating by creating a pinned file in the environment’s conda-meta directory. Be sure to do this prior to running the command to update all packages!

After installing all of the packages that were required at the start of this tutorial, let’s look into which packages are actually installed in this environment:

conda list

By only installing the required packages, Conda was kind and installed all of the dependencies at the same time. Now you have a Python environment that you’ve created from scratch and developed into a hopefully productive part of your workflow.

The simplest way to utilize your newly created python environment is simply run python directly in the Command Prompt above. You can run any script when this environment is activated (shown in the parentheses on the left of the command line) to utilize this setup!

If you want to use this environment in your IDE of choice, you can simply point the interpreter to this new environment. In PyCharm, you can easily create a new Conda Environment when creating a new project, or you can point the interpreter to a previously created environment (instructions here).

For a good ground-up and more in depth tutorial with visualizations on how Conda works (including directory structure, channel prioritization) that has been a major source of inspiration and knowledge for me, please check out this blog post by Gergely Szerovay.

If you’re looking for a great (and nearly exhaustive) source of Python Packages (both current and previous versions), check out Gohlke’s webpage. To install these packages, download the associated file for your system (32/64 bit and then your operating system) then use pip to install the file (in Command Prompt, navigate to the folder the .whl file is located in, then type ‘pip install ,file_name>’). I’ve found that installing packages this way sometimes allows me to step around errors I’ve encountered while using

You can also create environments for R. Check it out here.

If you understand most of the materials above, you can now claim to be environmentally conscious!

# Job scheduling on HPC resources

## Architecture of a HPC Cluster

Modern High Performance Computing (HPC) resources are usually composed of a cluster of computing nodes that provide the user the ability to parallelize tasks and greatly reduce the time it takes to perform complex operations. A node is usually defined as a discrete unit of a computer system that runs its own instance of an operating system. Modern nodes have multiple chips, often known as Central Processing Units or CPUs, which each contain multiple cores each capable of processing a separate stream of instructions (such as a single Monte Carlo run). An example cluster configuration is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. An example cluster configuration

To efficiently make use of a cluster’s computational resources, it is essential to allow multiple users to use the resource at one time and to have an efficient and equatable way of allocating and scheduling computing resources on a cluster. This role is done by job scheduling software. The scheduling software is accessed via a shell script called in the command line. A scheduling  script does not actually run any code, rather it provides a set of instructions for the cluster specifying what code to run and how the cluster should run it. Instructions called from a scheduling script may include but are not limited to:

• What code would you like the cluster to run
• How would you like to parallelize your code (ie MPI, openMP ect)
• How many nodes would you like to run on
• How many core per processor would you like to run (normally you would use the maximum allowable per processor)
• Where would you like error and output files to be saved

This post will highlight two commonly used Job Scheduling Languages, PBS and SLURM and detail some simple example scripts for using them.

## PBS

The Portable Batching System (PBS) was originally developed by NASA in the early 1990’s [1] to facilitate access to computing resources.  The intellectual property associated with the software is now owned by Altair Engineering. PBS is a fully open source system and the source code can be found here. PBS is the job scheduler we use for the Cube Cluster here at Cornell.

An annotated PBS submission script called “PBSexample.sh” that runs a C++ code called “triangleSimulation.cpp” on 128 cores can be found below:

#PBS -l nodes=8:ppn=16    # how many nodes, how many cores per node (ppn)
#PBS -l walltime=5:00:00  # what is the maximum walltime for this job
#PBS -N SimpleScript      # Give the job this name.
#PBS -j oe                # combine error and output file
#PBS -o outputfolder/output.out # name output file

cd \$PBS_O_WORKDIR # change working directory to current folder

time mpirun ./triangleSimulation -m batch -r 1000 -s 1 -c 5 -b 3


To submit this PBS script via the command line one would type:

qsub PBSexample.sh


Other helpful PBS commands for UNIX can be found here. For more on PBS flags and options, see this detailed post from 2012 and for more example PBS submission scripts see Jon Herman’s Github repository here.

## SLURM

A second common job scheduler is know as SLURM. SLURM stands for “Simple Linux Utility Resource Management” and is the scheduler used on many XSEDE resources such as Stampede2 and Comet.

An example SLURM submission script named “SLURMexample.sh” that runs “triangleSimulation.cpp” on 128 core can be found below:


#!/bin/bash
#SBATCH --nodes=8             # specify number of nodes
#SBATCH --ntasks-per-node=16  # specify number of core per node
#SBATCH --export=ALL
#SBATCH -t 5:00:00            # set max wallclock time
#SBATCH --job-name="triangle" # name your job #SBATCH --output="outputfolder/output.out"

#ibrun is the command for MPI
ibrun -v ./triangleSimulation -m batch -r 1000 -s 1 -c 5 -b 3 -p 2841



To submit this SLURM script from the command line one would type:

sbatch SLURM


The Cornell Center  for Advanced Computing has an excellent SLURM training module within the introduction to Stampede2 workshop that goes into detail on how to most effectively make use of SLURM. More examples of SLURM submission scripts can be found on Jon Herman’s Github. Billy also wrote a blog post last year about debugging with SLURM.

# Installing EPA SWMM on a Mac using WineBottler

A while ago, I posted a video tutorial on how to use WineBottler to install some engineering software on a Mac that often only works on Windows. I just realized I never posted it here, so the video is embedded below! YouTube also has a more general tutorial on WineBottler that is linked here.

We have had some success using this for HEC programs and EPA programs, but sometimes there are issues that preclude this solution working for all programs. But it is nice when it does work!

# Evaluating and visualizing sampling quality

State sampling is a necessary step for any computational experiment, and the way sampling is carried out will influence the experiment’s results. This is the case for instance, for sensitivity analysis (i.e., the analysis of model output sensitivity to values of the input variables). The popular method of Sobol’ (Sobol’, 2001) relies on tailor-made sampling techniques that have been perfected through time (e.g., Joe and Kuo, 2008; Saltelli et al., 2010). Likewise, the method of Morris (Morris, 1991), less computationally demanding than Sobol’s (Herman et al., 2013) and used for screening (i.e., understanding which are the inputs that most influence outputs), relies on specific sampling techniques (Morris, 1991; Campolongo et al., 2007).

But what makes a good sample, and how can we understand the strengths and weaknesses of the sampling techniques (and also of the associated sensitivity techniques we are using) through quick visualization of some associated metrics?

This post aims to answer this question. It will first look at what makes a good sample using some examples from a sampling technique called latin hypercube sampling. Then it will show some handy visualization tools for quickly testing and visualizing a sample.

# What makes a good sample?

Intuitively, the first criterion for a good sample is how well it covers the space from which to sample. The difficulty though, is how we define “how well” it practice, and the implications that has.

Let us take an example. A quick and popular way to generate a sample that covers the space fairly well is latin hypercube sampling (LHS; McKay et al., 1979). This algorithm relies on the following steps for drawing N samples from a hypercube-shaped of dimension p.:

1) Divide each dimension of the space in N equiprobabilistic bins. If we want uniform sampling, each bin will have the same length. Number bins from 1 to N each dimension.

2) Randomly draw points such that you have exactly one in each bin in each dimension.

For instance, for 6 points in 2 dimensions, this is a possible sample (points are selected randomly in each square labelled A to F):

It is easy to see that by definition, LHS has a good space coverage when projected on each individual axis. But space coverage in multiple dimensions all depends on the luck of the draw. Indeed, this is also a perfectly valid LHS configuration:

In the above configuration, it is easy to see that on top of poor space coverage, correlation between the sampled values along both axes is also a huge issue. For instance, if output values are hugely dependent on values of input 1, there will be large variations of the output values as values of input 2 change, regardless of the real impact of input 2 on the output.

Therefore, there are two kinds of issues to look at. One is correlation between sampled values of the input variables. We’ll look at it first because it is pretty straightforward. Then we’ll look at space coverage metrics, which are more numerous, do not look exactly at the same things, and can be sometimes conflicting. In fact, it is illuminating to see that sample quality metrics sometimes trade-off with one another, and several authors have turned to multi-objective optimization to come up with Pareto-optimal sample designs (e.g., Cioppa and Lucas, 2007; De Rainville et al., 2012).

One can look at authors such as Sheikholeslami and Razavi (2017) who summarize similar sets of variables. The goal there is not to write a summary of summaries but rather to give a sense that there is a relationship between which indicators of sampling quality matter, which sampling strategy to use, and what we want to do.

In what follows we note $x_{k,i}$ the kth  sampled value of input variable i, with $1\leq k \leq N$ and $1\leq i \leq p$.

### Correlation

Sample correlation is usually measured through the Pearson statistic. For inputs variables i and j among the p input variables, we note $x_{k,i}$ and $x_{k,j}$ the values of these variables i and j in sample k $(1\leq k \leq N)$ have:

$\rho_{ij} = \frac{\sum_{k=1}^N (x_{k,i}-\bar{x}_i)(x_{k,j}-\bar{x}_j)}{\sqrt{\sum_{k=1}^N (x_{k,i}-\bar{x}_i)^2 \sum_{k=1}^N (x_{k,j}-\bar{x}_j)^2}}$

In the above equation, ${\bar{x}_i}$  and ${\bar{x}_j}$ are the average sampled values of inputs i and j .

Then, the indicator of sample quality looks at the maximal level of correlation across all variables:

$\rho_{\max} = \max_{1\leq i \leq j \leq N} |\rho_{ij}|$

This definition relies on the remark that $\rho_{ij} = \rho_{ji}$.

### Space Coverage

There are different measures of space coverage.

We are best equipped to visualize space coverage via 1D or 2D projections of a sample. In 1D a measure of space coverage is by dividing each dimension in N equiprobable bins, and count the fraction of bins that have at least a point. Since N is the sample size, this measure is maximized when there is exactly one point in each bin — it is a measure that LHS maximizes.

Other measures of space coverage consider all dimension at once. A straightforward measure of space filling is the minimum Euclidean distance between two sampled points X in the generated ensemble:

$D = \min_{1\leq k \leq m \leq N} \left\{ d(\textbf{X}^k, \textbf{X}^m) \right\}$

Other indicators measure discrepancy which is a concept closely related to space coverage. In simple terms, a low discrepancy means that when we look at a subset of a sampled input space, its volume is roughly proportional to the number of points that are in it. In other words, there is no large subset with relatively few sampled points, and there is no small subset with a relatively large density of sampled points. A low discrepancy is desirable and in fact, Sobol’ sequences that form the basis of the Sobol’ sensitivity analysis method, are meant to minimize discrepancy.

# Sample visualization

The figures that follow can be easily reproduced by cloning a little repository SampleVis I put together, and by entering on the command line python readme.py &amp;&gt; output.txt. That Python routine can be used with both latin hypercube and Sobol’ sampling (using the SAlib sampling tool; SAlib is a Python library developed primarily by Jon Herman and Will Usher, and which is extensively discussed in this blog.)

In what follows I give examples using a random draw of latin hypercube sampling with 100 members and 7 sampled variables.

### Correlation

No luck, there is statistically significant pairwise correlation between in three pairs of variables: x1 and x4, x4 and x6, and x5 and x6. Using LHS, it can take some time to be lucky enough until the drawn sample is correlation-free (alternatively, methods to minimize correlations have been extensively researched over the years, though no “silver bullet” really emerges).

This means any inference that works for both variables in any of these pairs may be suspect. The SampleVis toolbox contains also tools to plot whether these correlations are positive or negative.

### Space coverage

The toolbox enables to plot several indicators of space coverage, assuming that the sampled space is the unit hypercube of dimension p (p=7 in this example). It computes discrepancy and minimal distance indicators. Ironically, my random LHS with 7 variables and 100 members has a better discrepancy (here I use an indicator called L2-star discrepancy) than a Sobol’ sequence with as many variables and members. The minimal Euclidean distance as well is better than for Sobol’ (0.330 vs. 0.348). This means that if for our experiment, space coverage is more important than correlation, the drawn LHS is pretty good.

To better grasp how well points cover the whole space, it is interesting to plot the distance of the point that is closest to each point, and to represent that in growing order:

This means that some points are not evenly spaced, and some are more isolated than others. When dealing with a limited number of variables, it can also be interesting to visualize 2D projections of the sample, like this one:

This again goes to show that the sample is pretty-well distributed in space. We can compare with the same diagram for a Sobol’ sampling with 100 members and 7 variables:

It is pretty clear that the deterministic nature of Sobol’ sampling, for so few points, leaves more systematic holes in the sampled space. Of course, this sample is too small for any serious Sobol’ sensitivity analysis, and holes are plugged by a larger sample. But again, this comparison is a visual heuristic that tells a similar story as the global coverage indicator: this LHS draw is pretty good when it comes to coverage.

# References

Campolongo, F., Cariboni, J. & Saltelli, A. (2007). An effective screening design for sensitivity analysis of large models. Environmental Modelling & Software, 22, 1509 – 1518.

Cioppa, T. M. & Lucas, T. W. (2007). Efficient Nearly Orthogonal and Space-Filling Latin Hypercubes. Technometrics, 49, 45-55.

De Rainville, F.-M., Gagné, C., Teytaud, O. & Laurendeau, D. (2012). Evolutionary Optimization of Low-discrepancy Sequences. ACM Trans. Model. Comput. Simul., ACM, 22, 9:1-9:25.

Herman, J. D., Kollat, J. B., Reed, P. M. & Wagener, T. (2013). Technical Note: Method of Morris effectively reduces the computational demands of global sensitivity analysis for distributed watershed models. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 17, 2893-2903.

Joe, S. & Kuo, F. (2008). Constructing Sobol Sequences with Better Two-Dimensional Projections. SIAM Journal on Scientific Computing, 30, 2635-2654.

McKay, M.D., Beckman R.J. & Conover, W.J. (1979).A Comparison of Three Methods for Selecting Values of Input Variables in the Analysis of Output from a Computer Code. Technometrics, 21(2), 239-245.

Morris, M. D. (1991). Factorial Sampling Plans for Preliminary Computational Experiments. Technometrics, 33, 161-174.

Saltelli, A., Annoni, P., Azzini, I., Campolongo, F., Ratto, M. & Tarantola, S. (2010). Variance based sensitivity analysis of model output. Design and estimator for the total sensitivity index. Computer Physics Communications, 181, 259 – 270.

Sheikholeslami, R. & Razavi, S. (2017). Progressive Latin Hypercube Sampling: An efficient approach for robust sampling-based analysis of environmental models. Environmental Modelling & Software, 93, 109 – 126.

Sobol’, I. (2001). Global sensitivity indices for nonlinear mathematical models and their Monte Carlo estimates. Mathematics and Computers in Simulation, 55, 271 – 280.

# Creating shaded dial plots in python

I recently created a code for plotting shaded dials (figures that look like gauges or speedometers) in python and I thought I’d share my code here. The dials are well suited to plot things such as risk or maybe the probability of meeting a set of robustness criteria across a range of decision variables (shameless plug: if you’re at EWRI this week, come check out my talk: Conflicts in Coalitions, Wednesday morning at 8:30 in Northstar B for which I created these figures).

As hinted at above, I originally created the plot to show bivariate data, with one variable plotted as the location on the dial and the other as the color. You could also plot the same variable as both color and location if you wanted to emphasize the meaning of increasing value on the dial. An example dial created with the code is shown below.

Example custom dial. The above figure consists of two images, a dial plot (originally constructed from a pie plot) and a color bar, made as a separate image but using the same data.

The color distribution, location of arrow and labeling of the gauge and colorbar are all fully customizable. I created the figure by first making a pie chart using marplotlib, inscribing a small white circle in the middle and then cropping the image in half using the Python image processing library (PIL also known as Pillow). The arrow is created using the matplotlib “arrow” function and will point to a specified location on the dial. The code is created such that you can add an array of any length to specify your colors, the array does not have to be monotonic like the one shown above, but will accept any values between zero and one (if your data is not in this range I’d suggest normalizing).

Annotated code is below:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
from matplotlib import cm, gridspec
import numpy as np
import math
from PIL import Image
from mpl_toolkits.axes_grid1 import make_axes_locatable

# set your color array and name of figure here:
dial_colors = np.linspace(0,1,1000) # using linspace here as an example
figname = 'myDial'

# specify which index you want your arrow to point to
arrow_index = 750

# create labels at desired locations
# note that the pie plot ploots from right to left
labels = [' ']*len(dial_colors)*2
labels[25] = '100'
labels[250] = '75'
labels[500] = '50'
labels[750] = '25'
labels[975] = '0'

# function plotting a colored dial
def dial(color_array, arrow_index, labels, ax):
# Create bins to plot (equally sized)
size_of_groups=np.ones(len(color_array)*2)

# Create a pieplot, half white, half colored by your color array
white_half = np.ones(len(color_array))*.5
color_half = color_array
color_pallet = np.concatenate([color_half, white_half])

cs=cm.RdYlBu(color_pallet)
pie_wedge_collection = ax.pie(size_of_groups, colors=cs, labels=labels)

i=0
for pie_wedge in pie_wedge_collection[0]:
pie_wedge.set_edgecolor(cm.RdYlBu(color_pallet[i]))
i=i+1

# create a white circle to make the pie chart a dial
my_circle=plt.Circle( (0,0), 0.3, color='white')

# create the arrow, pointing at specified index
arrow_angle = (arrow_index/float(len(color_array)))*3.14159
arrow_x = 0.2*math.cos(arrow_angle)
arrow_y = 0.2*math.sin(arrow_angle)

# create figure and specify figure name
fig, ax = plt.subplots()

# make dial plot and save figure
dial(dial_colors, arrow_index, labels, ax)
ax.set_aspect('equal')
plt.savefig(figname + '.png', bbox_inches='tight')

# create a figure for the colorbar (crop so only colorbar is saved)
fig, ax2 = plt.subplots()
cmap = cm.ScalarMappable(cmap='RdYlBu')
cmap.set_array([min(dial_colors), max(dial_colors)])
cbar = plt.colorbar(cmap, orientation='horizontal')
cbar.ax.set_xlabel("Risk")
plt.savefig('cbar.png', bbox_inches='tight')
cbar = Image.open('cbar.png')
c_width, c_height = cbar.size
cbar = cbar.crop((0, .8*c_height, c_width, c_height)).save('cbar.png')

# open figure and crop bottom half
im = Image.open(figname + '.png')
width, height = im.size

# crop bottom half of figure
# function takes top corner &lt;span 				data-mce-type="bookmark" 				id="mce_SELREST_start" 				data-mce-style="overflow:hidden;line-height:0" 				style="overflow:hidden;line-height:0" 			&gt;&amp;#65279;&lt;/span&gt;and bottom corner coordinates
# of image to keep, (0,0) in python images is the top left corner
im = im.crop((0, 0, width+c_width, int(height/2.0))).save(figname + '.png')



## Other ways of doing this from around the web

This code was my way of making a dial plot, and I think it works well for plotting gradients on the dial. In the course of writing this I came across a couple similar codes, I’m listing them below. They both have advantages if you want to plot a small number of colors on your dial but I had trouble getting them to scale.

Here’s an example that creates dials using matplotlib patches, this method looks useful for plotting a small number of categorical data, I like the customization of the labels: http://nicolasfauchereau.github.io/climatecode/posts/drawing-a-gauge-with-matplotlib/

Here’s another alternative using the plotly library, I like the aesthetics but if you’re unfamiliar with plotly there’s a lot to learn before you can nicely customize the final product: https://plot.ly/python/gauge-charts/