Integrating Tableau Workbooks in Tableau Server

This post explains ways to pass information a web page to a Tableau Workbook on the server.  This web page can be anywhere.


Use cases

  • There are visuals in two separate dashboards that users want in one place,
  • A web page passes variables to Tableau Server, and
  • A visibility control mechanism that allows certain visuals for select people.

Note:  This is for Tableau and Tableau Server/Public 10.0 and above.

Embedding a Dashboard Within a Dashboard


Sometimes areas want to reuse visuals from one dashboard on another.  Usually this mean making a copy of the visuals and data.  The problem with this is that the visuals will slowly diverge as creators apply updates.  It may even come to the point where they will give different answers, even if both dashboard use the same data source.

To get around this problem, embed the dashboard.  This keeps the source the single version of the truth.

1. In IE 11, Chrome, or Firefox go to the dashboard you wish to embed




2. Click Share > Link

3. Copy the URL link

Note: At this point, web site designers can use this link to embed a visual into a web page if they wish to place the visualization in a Iframe.  However, a better idea would be to use the embed code for best presentation and more control.  This is useful on Microsoft SharePoint, Yammer, and blogs such as WordPress.


This is what it looks like when a Tableau Public dashboard is embeded into WordPress.  Sizing is a bit off with this view.  Full version


4. In Tableau Desktop, create a Dashboard page





5. Under Objects, select Web Page

6. Drag it to the canvas

7. In the Edit URL popup, paste the link (CTRL+V)




8. Click OK



Optional – Sizing

If the linked dashboard linked is larger than the source dashboard it might not fit the view.  To fix this you need to have Tableau adjust the size of the screen. 

Under Size > Fixed Size, choose Automatic  (easiest to use but developers should play with the fixed sized settings for best fit.)





Optional 2 – Look an Feel

Developers can also control the look and feel depending on the options sent via the URL.


Each of the colored items are options.  You can append as many as you need.

  • :embed=y  —– Turns off Tableau server header and only shows the dashboard
  • :tabs=no   —– Turns off tabs and only shows the linked page of the workbook
  • :toolbar=  —– Turns on and off download and edit toolbar at the bottom of the page
    • Yes
    • No
    • Top
  • :tooltip=no  —– Turns off tooltips
  • :showShareOptions=false  —– Stops people from being able to share the view
  • :format=png  —– Will turn the secondary dashboard to a picture.  Useful to prevent people from downloading the data. It also can be copied into presentations.

More Info: 

Note: These options only work with Tableau Server not Tableau Public.


Optional 3 – Filtering

Using Parameters

Developers can pass parameters from one dashboard to another through the URL.  This allows the main dashboard to filter items on the secondary dashboard.<Parameters.Districts>&:embed=y&:showShareOptions=true&:display_count=no&:showVizHome=no


In this example, the link in the main dashboard contains a parameter that passes along the agency to the secondary dashboard.  Since the test dashboard has a field or parameter called ‘Districts’, this filters the embedded dashboard.  The URL can contain multiple filter-parameters.

The parameter in the main dashboard does not need to have the same name as the field in the secondary dashboard, but it may help with passing variables

See this in action: Link


Hard Coding Parameters!/vizhome/SuperstoreSub-WorkbookExample/Overview?State=Iowa

Developers can also hardcode the filters.  This is useful when users need to see only a subset of the data.  In this example will display the state of Alaska.   Some developers will be able to use dashboard actions to finely control what is sent to the secondary dashboard.

See this in action: Link

Note:  This can be used as to filter data based on people’s ID or name.  For instance, a page a user ID via the URL to a dashboard embedded on an intranet site.  This provides good visibility protection for those non-technical users, but should not be on the public internet.


Multi-Filter Parameters

Developers can also pass more than one filter in the URL.!/vizhome/SuperstoreSub-WorkbookExample/Overview?State=Iowa,Illinois&Category=Furniture


Here, there are multiple filter values with State using multiple values.  This displays only career reps in both Alaska and Tennessee.

See it in Action: Link

Other Notes

  • Spaces in filters and valid values need to be changed to %20 (ex: Carol Stream –> Carol%20Stream) for them to work on the web.  Other escape characters may also need to be altered to fit in a URL.




Update #1: In checking with Tableau, it looks like embedded reports do not print to PDF.  This is by design as a security and visibility feature.   This also goes for graphics and web pages that are embedded.


    1. Add a toolbar to embedded dashboard to download it as a separate report.  In the URL string use toolbar=top or toolbar=yes.
    2. Take a screen shot (I use a program called Greenshot for picture perfect capture.)
    3. Make it an online only report and point people to it.  Developers can subscribe users to updates so they always get the latest version of the report when available through a periodic email.

Using Business Objects 4.x to Create Tableau Reports

Tableau Workshops - miso -While Tableau has a great visualization capabilities, getting data into it from other databases is a chore unless the schema is simple.  Joining tables is easily through the GUI, but if the request requires complex filters it soon requires custom SQL. 

When this happens, Tableau is no help making it easy to code the SQL.  There are no hints or prefills like modern code programs have.  Therefore, I leverage the work of my Business Objects Universe authors.  They took the time to create the correct database joins needed to build visualization fast.  While Business Objects doesn’t produce the cleanest SQL, it will nearly always work in Tableau.


1. In BOXI (Business Object web version,) create the query

2. On the Query Panel control bar, click View Script



3. In the Query Script viewer, click Use custom query script

4. Highlight the SQL

5. Right-click > Copy (CTRL + C)



6. In Tableau, connect to a New Data Source

I have tested this and it works for DB2, SQL Server, and Oracle.  While it can work for Access so long as their is no spaces in table and field names, though there are ways to get around it by switching the [] brackets with double quotes.



7. Enter your database server information and ID/password.

For this to work, you will need at least Read Only access to the database in question.



8. If necessary, choose the correct Schema.

Most complex databases will have this, but products such as Access will not.


9. At the bottom of the Table section, double-click New Custom SQL



10. In the Edit Custom SQL popup, right-click > Paste (CTRL + V)



The SQL should be displayed.  Now the SQL should be cleaned a bit before clicking OK. 

  • Remove anything after the WHERE or GROUP BY clauses such as FOR READ ONLY.  Most databases don’t like it.
  • If there is custom field formatting in the SELECT clause such as Date formatting remove it.  That is what Tableau is for.  If the SQL will be used in lots of workbooks, I like to give them a standard name.  This makes it easier to keep naming structures constant.
  • CASE as well as Min/Max statements work fine. 
  • If you want, clean the SQL to make it a bit more readable.  Things such as adding friendly field name helps when error checking is necessary.

11. Click OK

Hopefully there are no errors.



If there is an error click Show Details in the error box to see the problem (this examples show a missing comma after one of the variables.)  Unfortunately, Tableau only show the first error it encounters.

Increase Virtual Memory for Stat Programs

In my work, I run many models using gigabytes and larger datasets.  Even with 32GB of RAM, sometimes programs crash for lack of memory.  Since it is unlikely that my work machine will receive a memory upgrade in the near future, another option is to expand Windows virtual memory.  While this is unlikely to speed up the formulation of results, allows programs more memory space to run models.  

This workflow is for Windows 7.  It will work for Vista, but some of the steps are slightly different for 8 and 10.




  1. On the desktop, click Start
  2. Type control panel




  1. If the Control Panel looks like the above picture, click View by: > Small icons




  1. In the Control Panel, click System




  1. In System, click Advanced system settings




  1. In System Properties under the Advanced tab, click Settings…




  1. In the Performance Options popup, click Advanced tab
  2. On the Advanced tab under Virtual memory, click Change… button




Now there are various ways to change it.  This system has two drives. 

The C: drive is a smallish Solid State (SSD) drive.  While increasing the memory allocation here provides the fastest access time, there isn’t much space in a 256GB drive.  I normally either leave it as [System Managed] or remove it all together to increase space for programs.  If you are going to set it manually, try not to use more that 20% or so of the drive. 

The D: drive is a large traditional hard drive.  Because of its 2TB size and the fact that programs do not install here, it is a good place to store swap disks.  Again, the size should take up too much of the drive unless it is the only thing that will be on it.  Try 64GB to 128GB start and go larger if programs continue to crash.

  1. Click the drive name
  2. Click Custom size
  3. Enter the initial size (MB)
  4. Enter the Maximum size (MB)
    1. This don’t need to be the same, but I like symmetry.
  5. Click Set button
  6. Click OK to close the Virtual Memory Window
  7. Click OK to close the Performance Option Window
  8. Click OK to close the System Options window

Generally, Windows will ask for a reboot.  Do it at the first possibility to enable the suggestion.

Note:  For best results, if you use a traditional hard drive, defrag it first to give Windows a large contiguous block of space on the drive.  It may reduce thrashing.  This step is not necessary on a SSD.  Happy quanting

Building a Steam Machine

Sick of waiting for Valve to come out with their version of a console, I decided to build one myself to replace my Ouya that faithfully powers my viewing experience on my TV.   The Ouya itself is a decent piece of hardware and when paired with Kodi, a media player, it does a decent job playing music and videos.  The problem with it is that streaming sources are limited.  No Amazon, Netflix and Spotify unless you want to do some serious hacking to get it to work.

I had 5 main objectives going into it:

# Goal Result
1 Play saved/online media Better than expected
2 Play CD/DVD Slight better than I expected
3 Play blu-ray Awful.  I will never buy another blu-ray again.
4 Gaming Mixed, but decent
5 User experience Odd, but better than expected
  Overall Better than expected


Part 1:  Hardware is like an expensive jigsaw puzzle

After sinking a significant portion of my discretionary income on games and other software over the years, I wanted to enjoy them while sitting in front of my TV like a typical American would do.  After a few weeks of research, I finally had enough information on the hardware to use in building a Steam box and media center.


Case:  SilverStone RAVEN Series RVZ01B

What attracted me is what it isn’t, a full size box that looks like a computer siting on it side.  It met all of my criteria.

  • Black – Think thing is actually too black, it is like an invisible monolith when lights are turned low.

  • Holds a full sized discrete graphics card

  • Spot for a Blu-ray player

  • Sits horizontally on top of a audio receiver

In the end, this was the only case that fit the criteria as the box fills an odd middle point between ATX cases that are too big (and look like computers) and typical ITX boxes that are too small to fit a discrete graphics card.  In my experience during the build, the case is great so long as you carefully part out your equipment before the build.

An odd thing is that the case comes with spaces for three 120mm fans, but they only give your two slim styled ones.  I ended up purchasing an Antec TrueQuiet case fan and placing it over the CPU and relegated the ones that came with the case moved to support the graphics card.

During the build, I decided to make the machine use a positive flow, meaning all the fans blow inward.  The case has lots of holes to move air out.  With the graphics card helping fan with exhaust, the machine stays cool and quiet.  Even under stress testing, the machine ran cool (64C for the graphics card and 69C for the processor) with the only audible sound being the processor fan if it was under a heavy load.



2015-02-26 17_09_20-SILVERSTONE ST45SF 450W SFX12V 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply

Power supply:  SilverStone ST45SF 450W SFX12V

Upon ignorance of computer power needs, I originally worried that 450 watts wasn’t going to cut it this machine.  Later during testing I found it is actually too large.  The machine peaks at 166 watts at full load.  Oh well, at least it is energy star bronze certified.

I have no real complaints about the power supply outside the cost.  Because the case was small, I had to purchase a SFX based version, which was about 50% more than a typical ATX of the same quality.



Processor: Intel Core i5-4590S

After a few days of pondering, I choose this over low power Haswell i5 over a comparable high-end i3.  The main reason was I didn’t think a dual core i3 would have the oomph to traverse large directories of files and do complex multitasking functions.

However, this isn’t 2009.  An i3 would have worked fine it all but the most demanding tasks.  If I had it to do over again, I’d save the $50. 



Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-H97N-WIFI ITX

In most situations, I prefer ASUS boards.  They generally have better power user features I look for and having used their equipment for more than a decade, I understand the company’s idiocracies.  However Gigabyte has always been my second choice because their lower end boards are no-frills and stable.

Fortunately, I came across this motherboard in a previous build and loved it.  It is small, fast, and containing every port needed in a console computer, it pairs perfectly with the case.

I choose this board because:

  • Bluetooth 4.0 – few ITX board have it.

  • Has 802.11 AC – Fast wireless and makes pairing with other devices an easy affair.

  • 8 USB ports (6 USB 3.0 with 2 for the front of the machine)

  • Optical sound out for the 15 year old Sony receiver

  • Good power saving while sleeping (currently < 1.2 watts)

In use, it has never crashed.  The only stability issues were because of BIOS settings, which were solved by shifting the power savings and USB operations to the operating system.

If I fault the board for anything, it is that it only has 2 fan headers, one for the CPU and other for the case. The problem with this is that the case has spots for 3 fans. I ended up splicing them into the single remaining case fan header, but this never causes them to ramp up quickly fast since the power provided by the motherboard is too small.  Fortunately, the case is well vented and the components never go much above 40C in normal use.



Memory: Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2x4GB)

This machine doesn’t need 8GB.  2 or 4 would be fine.  But it was a $5 upgrade so why not. In real world use, it causes me to never close any program.  Once opened, programs stays that way until reboot since there is little to no overhead in using another half a gig of memory.

I chose this memory purely for the fact that is was cheap and approved by Gigabyte for use in the motherboard.




Drive:  Samsung 850 EVO

For this build, I went for speed and power savings.  So, no large spinning rust drive for storage.  This allowed the machine to only have a SSD.  Since I already use this model main machine, it was an easy choice.  It is fast, sips power, and stable in a low usage environment.




Graphics card:  Sapphire HD 5770 1GB – 100283-3L

A recent throw away from my main machine.   However, it still has life so it got a new home.  Having had this card for about 4 years now, it performs as expected.  1080p is no problem and most eye candy can be upped at the max.  The only reason it was demoted from my main rig was that it had a hard time handling two 1920×1200 monitors.

Originally, I purchased it because reviews highlighted its quiet running.  This is still the case.  During stress testing, the fan never goes above 45% @ 64C, which causes a barely audible hum in a quiet room but easily drown out by a furnace fan.  Wish I could say the same thing about street noise.

The only negative I give is that this card uses a bit too much power.  At idle or playing music, the machine uses 53 watts, peaking around 120 during games, which is low for computer standards, but I’d much rather it use under 40.  Taking the card out lowers usage drops to 30 watts.  My gaming usage patterns will dictate if it stays.



Blu-ray player: Panasonic UJ-265 Slot Load

This was the hardest part to source.  Because the case needs a slot-loading player, this is the only one that fits outside the SilverStone branded version that sells for three times as much (and is the same equipment, just rebadged. Unfortunately, it has led to buyer’s remorse since the entertainment industry hates people watching their content on unapproved devices (computers.)



Remote:  Rosewill RHRC-11001 Remote

The reason I chose this remote was that I already purchased it for my main PC.  Since I never use it, so it was repurposed.  I have little to complain about it.  Once plugged in, it just worked without software.  In Steam and some Metro apps it pairs fine, and Kodi allows find tuning controls and assign buttons to do specific functions.  Best part is it can make the computer go to sleep and wake quickly.

It replaced my PS3 Bluetooth remote.  There is nothing wrong with this remote, but few people code for it, therefore it tends not to work in many pieces of software.  The two issues I had with it is that caused havoc for other Bluetooth devices in the area.  The other issue is that it didn’t have a power button for the computer.



Keyboard:  Logitech K400

For the price, this is one of the best wireless keyboard integrated mouse combos out there.  Everyone I know has at least one of these hanging off their TV.

  • All functionality works out of the box.

  • It has multimedia keys

  • Has a computer on/off button

  • Good battery life (4 months later and it still has needed new ones)

  • 15’ use

The only negative is the mouse is a track pad, which is a poor substitute for an actual mouse.

This replaced a Fosmon Bluetooth keyboard/touch pad, which I like OK, but for the fact that the range was 8 feet.  To use it, requires the user to sit up and bend toward the screen to work.

Part 2:  Construction ahead

The biggest problem during the build was everything was too big or too long.  All of the parts are meant for larger systems so the ended up being extra lengths of cords everywhere. Where I could, the went around the edge of the case.  Others, I resorted to taping the extra cord to the book of the enclosure with electrical tape.

Installation steps:

  1. Power supply first
  2. Hard drive
  3. Attach the processor and fan to the motherboard
  4. Attach memory to the motherboard
  5. Install motherboard
  6. Attach cabling to motherboard
  7. Attach fan cabling to motherboard
  8. Install Blu-ray player to extra mount
  9. Install Blu-ray cabling
  10. Install graphics card and and cabling to extra mount
  11. Install extra mount to the case and to the motherboard
  12. Attach 4 feet to bottom of the computer to help with airflow
  13. Plug in USB parts as needed

Click pictures to enlarge.


Housing for the solid state drive.  The computer can hold 3.5” drives.  If you are going to use something smaller, make sure you have a 2.5” to 3.5” mount.  The one the drive is on was from and old OCZ drive.

Tip: When building, attach the power supply first otherwise you’ll waste time taking out the motherboard.



When adding a DVD or Blu-ray player, get Mini to Regular PCIe cord like the one at the top.  The at the bottom doesn’t fit.



Blue-ray player.  To use it, it is better to take off the basel (pictured at the bottom.)


When installing Blu-ray cabling route it between the graphics car and player.



Graphics card.  It doesn’t fit directly on the motherboard.  Instead the case comes with a small PCIe 16x hookup that attaches to the card,  Then the card attaches to the extra mount that holds the Blu-ray player and graphics card. 

Tip: Remember not to use a graphics card that is more than 10 inches long or it won’t fit.



The top of this is a picture shows how the extra mount attaches to the motherboard’s PCIe x16 slot. 

Tip: If you use a graphics card, you cannot use any additional PCIe slot if the board has one as their will be no room.



Antec fan that faces the processor.  It needs to be set at High to rotate fast enough to move air.



Inside the completed computer, minus the extension for the graphics card and blu-ray player that goes on the right.



Underside of the computer.  Note the 2 fans with dust grills.  At the top right shows where one of the feet should go to improve air flow.



Back side of the motherboard. 

Tip: If using a wireless keyboard, place the dongle near the PS3 port (top-left.)  This port is the first to initialize and will help you get into the BIOS.



Completed computer.  I taped the blue light of the machine with electrical tape because it is super bright.  The thing attached to the second USB 3.0 slot is an extra bluetooth dongle for to extend the range of bluetooth devices.  It is not needed if you use non-PS3 controllers.

Tip: The case is a finger print magnet.  Make sure you clean your hands before assembly.



Controls.  The most useful is the Logitech keyboard and Rosewill controller.

Tip: If you are going to use an RF controller like the Rosewill or Logitech Universal remote, place the receiver as close to the TV as possible.  Otherwise, you have to do funky calisthenics to move around the menus.



Installation with Kodi running.

Tip: Clean equipment before you take a picture.  Digital cameras are a harsh and unforgiving lot.


Part 3: BIOS, it thinks too much

Once built, I made numerous changes to the BIOS in an effort to make the machine work properly.  The biggest issue was after waking from sleep numerous parts didn’t wake with it.  In the end, I drew two conclusions:

  1. Turn off anything that wasn’t being used (e.g. serial port)

  2. Let Windows handle the power settings

This meant turning off most legacy ports, old technology compatibility settings, and anything non-UEFI.  This fixed all of the lingering power issues and made most user interface operations extremely responsive.  Any continuing problems at this point seem to be due to software issues.

Eventually I’d like to have the machine to power down to S6 or into hibernation to lower the 1.2 watt stand by power usage, but at this point the S5 lower power mode consumes less than 2 watts, so I can live with that.



Below are the settings I used.  The Blue lines indicate the BIOS user interface tab.  I documented any setting that I thought about.  If it is not on this list, it is set at the default.

Name Set at Why?
M.I.T. settings All at Auto Don’t care to overclock, want stability.
Advanced Frequency Settings All at Auto Don’t care to overclock, want stability.
Advanced Memory Settings All at Auto Don’t care to overclock, want stability.
Advanced Voltage Settings All at Auto Don’t care to overclock, want stability.
PC Health States    
–  CPU Fan Speed Control Quiet  
–  System Farm Speed Control Quiet Changing this to be more aggressive messes with my keyboard.  3 fans must draw too much power and affect the USB.
Miscellaneous Settings    
–  PCIe Slot Configuration Gen3 Graphics card is that generation
–  DMI Gen2 Speed Enabled Helps with bandwidth of parts in computer
–  3DMark01 Disabled Who cares?
CSM Support Disabled Have no old parts in the computer so not needed
BIOS Features    
Full Screen LOGO Options Disabled Who cares?
Fast Boot Disabled I will enable it once setting are finalized, but it only shaves a second or two seconds off the boot
Execute Disable Bit Enabled Anti-hacking tool
Intel Virtualization Technology Disabled Processor doesn’t support it
Intel TXT(LT) Support Enabled Anti-hacking tool
Dynamic Storage Accelerator Enabled Lets the hard drive control its own speed
VT-d Disabled i5 doesn’t support virtualization
Win 8 Feature Enabled Have Windows 8.  Didn’t want the use the WHQL setting as I have hacked drivers
–  Boot Mode Selection UEFI only Have modern hardware
– Storage Boot Option Control UEFI only Have modern hardware
–  Other PCI Device ROM Priority UEFI OpROM Have modern hardware
Initial Display Output PCIe Have graphics card installed
PCH LAN Controller Disabled There are two LAN controllers, but I only need one.  This one had the most problems so it was disabled.
XHCI Mode Disabled No old USB devices
Audio controller Disabled I use the HDMI to my TV for sound
Intel Processor Graphics Disabled Have graphics card installed and one display
Intel Rapid Start Technology Enabled Using a solid state hard drive
Legacy USB Disabled No legacy USB
XHCI Hand-off Disabled No legacy USB
EHCI Hand-off Disabled No legacy USB
Two layer KVM Disabled Don’t have one installed
SATA Configuration   Only changes I made is to disable ports that that are not in use
ISCT Support Enabled All ISCT settings are set to enabled for power savings.
Serial Port Disabled Not in use
Power Management    
Power Loading Enabled Just in case of under voltage to the house
Wake on LAN Disabled  
RC6 (Render standby) Disabled Have graphics card installed
Power On By Keyboard Enabled Ability to wake computer from the keyboard
Power On By Mouse Move Ability to wake computer from the mouse
Platform Power Management Disabled Problems with the computer on wake not recognizing USB equipment.  Causes the graphics card to crash.
ErP Disabled Want to computer to turn on with a controller or keyboard


Part 4:  Software, this is where the fun starts

Untitled 2

Tip: Pin programs to the taskbar or the Metro Start menu. Pressing the Windows key will allow usage of installed without much mouse/controller moving.

Operating System:  Windows 8.1 64-bit Home

With all the dislike of 8.1, why choose it over 7 or SteamOS?  I having been using since beta testing Windows 8, I learned it has several advantages in the living room:

  • Metro apps work well on large screens

  • Has native support for USB 3.0 and other peripheral drivers are built into the OS

  • Powers on quick (~3 seconds for this machine)

  • Many tweaks to the user interface make it useful without a mouse

The overall software settings of the machine are for media/game consumption, automation to keep software up-to-date, and power savings.  There is no creativity suites and if Windows had it built in, such as Internet Explorer, Windows Defender, or Reader it was used.


Software Use Comments
Notepad++ Text viewer Used to open configuration files and light coding
Greenshot Screen capture Good to do screen captures with a click of a button
Glary Utilities 5 Maintenance Full version automates defragging, software updates, cleaning up temp files and many other annoying maintenance items.
SpeedFan Hardware testing To check on temperatures and other metrics.
FurMark Stress testing  
Spybot Search and Destroy Security I don’t keep it resident.  It is just in case a program goes rogue.
Ad Block Plus for IE Ad Blocker Blocks ads and malware in Internet Explorer.  Also makes the Internet worth surfing.
TightVNC Remote control Allows access to the computer from tablets and other computers.
SCP Controller Driver PS3 software Allows PS3 controllers to work through bluetooth.
MotionInJoy works, but it corrupts other USB devices.


Fun software



When the computer powers on, it goes right into Steam Big Screen view.  While it focuses on games, it allows users to favorite non-game software.  This opens up other software to controller or remote usage.

It also allows access to a vast game library, of which about 1/4 are controller based.  In practice however, many of games had mouse only menus or some barrier that prevents pure controller only usage.  I wrote several programs to skip menus or install Xbox controller software for navigation.  However, I tired of writing patches so if a game doesn’t allow immediate play, I uninstall it.

Overall, this keyboardless system works well.  The user interface is fast and intuitive, doesn’t crash and opens up Windows programs to other ways of controlling them without a mouse.



Kodi attempting (and failing) to play a Breaking Bad Blu-ray.  This is why I needed to install PowerDVD.  You’d think that content providers would make it easy to consume (and purchase more of) their products.

Kodi (formerly XMBC)

This is the main reason I built the system.  Ouya spent about 95% of its time in this program.  It was vitally important that this program worked with a keyboard.  It is hard to describe what it does to those that don’t own a large media library.  It helps catalog the thousands of music, podcasts, video and pictures on servers and in the cloud. 

Every day, it pulls in a fresh batch of podcasts and web site RSS feeds to peruse.  It also scans Yahoo! to display the weather to satisfy the old man in me.  In addition, there is a large library of add-ons that add functionality.

Video and Music Add-ons

  • Funamation – A Netflix for anime
  • Crunchyroll – A Netflix for anime, manga, and Asian drama
  • PBS – American public television, need my Frontline fix to keep tab on Putin
  • Rooster Teeth – Funny, got hooked after watching RWBY
  • TED Talks – High minded people talk about changing the world
  • The Onion – America’s news source
  • Udacity – Get your learn on ppl
  • YouTube
  • Pandora – Music streaming, not as good as Spotify
  • NPR – Good for listening to WGLT blues
  • Fusion – A gray market add-on that allow access to nearly everything from Estonian live TV to first run movies.  Best part, no ads.


Software Usage Comments
Spotify Audio streaming Awesome audio steaming program
Media Player Classic HC Video player Best video player for desktops and laptops on Windows.  Installed with CCCP.
VLC Video player More for testing video connections.
Calibre E-book/PDF reader Perfect Viewer is so much better.  Too bad that it is Android only
Comic Rack Comic reader Perfect Viewer is so much better.  Too bad that it is Android only
Origin Game store Sometimes I want to play Mass Effect 3.  Despite what people say about the ending it is still an awesome game.
Cyberlink PowerDVD 9 Blu-Ray player It is an OK DVD and Blu-ray player but doesn’t work well with anything but a keyboard and mouse
Netflix Metro app Movie streaming Works well enough to watch shows with a game controller.


Failures or things left uninstalled

  • Amazon Music – I purchase music from Amazon.  I thought about adding it, but a server downloads them to a location that I can get to from Kodi.  It does have streaming, but Spotify has a better selection.
  • Amazon Prime – They do not have a Metro app to watch video, so I have to use IE (sigh.)
  • Controlling the mouse with a controller – Never found a good program to easily control the mouse without using a touchpad.  Using a controller is slow and imprecise.
  • Desura – A gaming platform for indie games.  The problem is that it that you cannot use a controller with it (and they want bankrupt.)

Tableau Confernce ‘14-Day 3


Let us recap day two’s festivities:image002

  • Most presenters talked about simplified visualizations better convey topics to non-data people.
  • There are few good programs to correct data file imperfections.
  • Most companies present dashboards without insight generalization.  Users need to draw their own conclusions from the visualizations presented.
  • Designers hate pie charts.
  • What is truly evil is the exploding pie chart (which I now know how to make, ha!)

Good morning Seattle!  I got up early today and went for a stroll around the downtown area just before sunrise.  I shot pic above down by the water.  I realize now that one does not simply stroll east-west as the rolling terrain make it more ascending mountains.  I was almost late to rendezvous with my colleagues at the hotel.  Again food at the conference had a high nom factor.


Session #12: Keynote: Dr. John J. Medina—The Business Brain

imagesI didn’t have a clue to who Dr. Medina, the author of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, was before the session and asked around to see if anyone else knew who he was to no avail.  I guess he wasn’t a contestant on Dancing with the Stars or Idol.  I first thought he’d going to go on about how people think or ways to excel at work or home, but instead the topic was sleep.  A great topic indeed.

  • Myth: People use <10% of their brain.  It is actually 50-60%.
  • Myth #2: There are left and right brained people.  There is no evidence of this.  Humans need both to survive.
  • Our brain evolved to survive outside.   We are wired to notice changes in weather, sensing motion, and looking for things that aid in survival.
  • Brain as two parts
  • Generator – Affected by mood, what we eat, sickness and sleep
  • Spotlight – Our attention and stimulus receptors
  • We need around 8 hours of sleep a night.  This occurs in 4 to 5 cycles a night.
  • Why so sleepy after lunch?  It is the brain telling you to take a nap because it is confused.  This happens when the circadian arousal and homeostatic sleep drives are nearing equilibrium.  Take a 26 minute nap. 
  • People who have bi-polar often have problems with the homeostatic sleep drive.  I see this in my mom.  At times, she does not sleep, leading to all sorts of problems.
  • Sleep helps people remember what they learn over the course of a day.  The brain replays the memories to aid learning.
  • Four levels of sleep depravation

    1. Irritability
    2. Worsening working memory
    3. Motor skills worsen
    4. Hallucinations similar to LSD

    Sleep deprived people don’t realize they need sleep in the first two stages, but those around them do.

    How we get sleep depravation

    • 5 days w/6 hours of sleep a night is like being up 48 hours straight (felt that when I was Seattle)
    • If someone is up 18 hours in one day, it takes 3 to 4 days to correct the issue.

    Takeaway:  Sleep is the best career move.  Get some.  Hopefully my boss will let me take naps after lunch, for my health…that’s the ticket.


    Session #13: 100 Years of Visualization Best Practices—It’s Time to Stop Making the Same Mistakes

    2014-09-17 17_38_47-Graphic presentation - graphicpresentat00brinrich.pdfAndy Cotgreave gave an interesting speech about Willard Brinton and his book, Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts, which can be read in its entirety online (thank you public domain.) 

    • When zero could be a real number in a visualization, start the axis at zero.  Otherwise the perspective can be distorted.
    • The title and images in the visualization tell their own story
    • Use a checklist to make sure visualization meet the needs of the user

    “Show me the numbers” – Stephen Few

    Keys to data visualization

    1. Data interactivity – Use over time, YoY or averages to give context
    2. Isotype – Use shapes that are similar to what you are measuring.  Like footballs for the number of catches a receiver makes.
    3. Don’t size by area, it is not effective.  Make the keys understandable.

    No, bad Economist, no.



    This was original.


    This is what Andy created using the same data.  Notice how the convey different a meaning.  The top one is more visceral, but the latter one really tells a positive story (well before ISIS hung is shingle in Iraq and Syria.) 


    Thanks Patty for the snaps.

    2014-09-17 17_43_28-Graphic presentation _ Brinton, Willard Cope, 1880- _ Free Download & Streaming

    Look! Pie charts even in 1914.  They’re eternal I tell you.

    Note:  This book has some great visualizations.  If you have the time, I’d recommend skimming the book for ideas.

    Takeaway:  The visualizations used can change how the reader perceives the insight.  Think about this when displaying data. Review the book, it is nearly as good as Edward Tufte’s, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, another one I highly recommend.


    Session #14: General Motors Design Center: Connecting a Data-Driven Business with a Visually-Driven Team

    I wasn’t expecting grandeur, after all this was a presentation by a GM, a company until recently was known as Government Motors.  My perception changed as Ben Pope took the mic.  He a affable, witty, and most importantly knew analytics.  He even built his presentation in Tableau and not PowerPoint, I true analytics deity.

    GM implemented a graphic view for their projects forgoing the horrendous UI of Microsoft Project and their other internal project systems. 

    • It is used in 10 design centers worldwide with 2,500 people
    • Built with strong IT and management support (which is needed for analytic project in my opinion)
    • Holds all data sources in one workbook.  The they can make changes centrally and push it to the server.
    • Have 3 analysts working and maintaining their dashboards.


    Picture doesn’t do it justice.


    2014-09-17 18_10_38-Sketch114142222.tiff - Windows Photo Viewer

    Rough sketch of the data workflow.  Missing the piece of pull from Microsoft SharePoint to Access (likely to get user information.)

    Takeaway:  It is important to get your stakeholders involved earlier and have a strategic direction to help analytics teams when creating visualizations.


    Session #15: Keynote: Hans Rosling—Future Global Trends: A Fact-Based View

    I was looking forward to Hans Rosling closing out the conference.  I am a big fan of, a organization he help to found.  A few years ago in the pre-Tableau and Excel 2013 days, I used the software his organization created to make a bunch of dashboards in Flash.  During that time, I got to play with the world data he showed to the audience.  Tableau has this data available natively in its products.

    He ask six questions to the audience.  Before proceeding, take the survey to see if you’re l33t enough to continue:

    Answers: (love the filename)

    Anyway, he was frank and funny, a great presenter.

    • Population in 2100: 5 billion Asia, 4 Africa, 1 Americas, and 1 Europe
    • Peak child will be in 2014 to 2016.  That means their will be only 2.1 billion people under 18 in the world each year from now to 2100.
    • The lack of gender equality lowers fertility in middle income and advanced countries (see China and Japan.)  It has no affect on those making <$1.25/day.  This is because of high child mortality rates, which in turn increase birth rates.
    • Two factors that have contributed most to the declining birth rate: vaccinations (sorry anti-vaxors) and globalization (sorry protectionists and greens)
    • Once families make more than $10/day, birth rate declines .  Children are healthier (survive) and don’t have to work.  They go to school and become more educated after which they make more than their parents and have even fewer children.
    • High-income earners have more children provided there is a high level of gender equality.
    • Most high income countries have a lower birth rate than the replacement rate (2.1 children/woman.)  This means their populations will stabilize and shrink (unless there is immigration.)



    I was inspired to draw again during the presentation.  I thought of a way to do rolling overtime with a YoY graphic programmatically directly from a DB2 data source.  When I have the time, I will implement it on a daily basis and make the DBAs cry.




    The conference let out early on the last day, so I went back to Pike Place Market while it was still open.  It is a cool scene when open with all the activity from locals and tourists.  Much of the food was fresh.  I spied an ostrich and emu eggs for sale.  I thought, briefly about taking one to take back.  Then I realized that I had no place to put it in my luggage.  Even if I could manage, the TSA would not keep it whole (like what happened to my jar of garlic spread, grrr.)


    Them are some big lobster tails.

    After poking around a bit, the group that I was with headed toward the bay to eat.  After some side treks, we heads to Anthony’s Pier 66, just north of the Seattle Aquarium, where we went to sit up so we looked down on the water.  I ordered swordfish, which was good, but I decided not my favorite type of fish.  It was too cooked.  Fish is better in its natural state–raw.  Overall, the food and service was decent and adequate enough for a bunch of tired convention attendees.

    After eating, everything that had happened hit my mind at once.  It was a zen realization that I was dog tired and only wanted to hit the pillow for a few hours before the early 7am flight back to the Midwest.


    The recap for day number three:

    • Sleep is more important than staying up all an finishing the next round of Civilization, get some and often.
    • Edward Tufte wasn’t the first person to think of how to display data.
    • There is no one way to get data into Tableau.  Most companies use CSV or Excel rather than go directly against data stores.
    • IT limitations will cause data analysts to do crazy things.  It is important to collaborate with IT to set up reporting systems correctly.
    • The population will stabilize and get older as the world gets richer.  That is a comforting thought for the future of humanity unless a big rock falls from the sky.

    About the Conference

    The conference overall was slickly produced and well run.  Things of note:

    • The TCC14-Data14 app was well produced and was built on Event Base technology.  It bridged nicely between the virtual and physical world.  Tableau added all of the sessions, happenings, maps, surveys and even a game in the app itself. More impressively, the kept it constantly up to date.  I think that it would be a useful tool for any company wanting to hold events with hundreds of people.
    • Tableau used the app and other technology during check-in to see what programs they needed to add during the conference.  The app was constantly pinging about sessions moving to larger venues or added to accommodate popular topics.
    • The lament the size of the lanyard, but it did have a map in the sleeve so you did have to pull out your phone/tablet to see where you needed to go.
    • Tableau offered nice touch services such as shuttle to and from the hotels and discounts of their stuff.
    • Offered a good brand of non-carbonated unsweet lime water in a can.  Wish I could remember the name of it.  It was weird to drink something flat from a can, but it grew on me in place a of black tea that I usually drink.

    Miscellaneous Stuff

    This is stuff I forgot to mention in the earlier posts or just plain didn’t know where to put it.



    Mount Rainier from the Air by Patty Walsh.


    Rainy Monday at the Fish Market by Patty Walsh.  The rest of the week was clear and sunny.



    Listening to Sir-Mix-A-Lot while staring upwards whilst eating a doughnut.


    Shiny buildings.


    Looking down from the 10th floor in the Seattle Public Library.  Gave me vertigo.  The place is awesome on the inside, but just pain ugly outside.


    Mount Rainier again.  This time from Safe Co field.  By Brian Welch.

    Note: Next time, bring a decent camera.


    Not sure where I snapped this.  Decent visualization though.

    Tableau Conference ‘14 Diary–Day 2

    Let us review day 1:

    • Most of the conference goers where relatively new to Tableau, few that I spoke with had more than a year or two of experience.  There are two reasons for this.  Firstly, Tableau has grown rapidly in the last year or two.  The other is the conference seems geared toward newbies.  It also doesn’t hurt that Tableau gives out free passes to new enterprise clients.
    • Many of the presentations to on day one focused on data presentation and little on how to get the data into Tableau.
    • There was little explanation on what insight people received from using Tableau.  Most dashboards created were around user self service.


    The conference started at 9 instead of 8 today.  I think this was to give marry makers some time to recuperate after last nights festivities. The breakfast was different today, but just as good.

    Session #6: Keynote:  Neil deGrasse Tyson –Science as a Way of Knowing

    Oddly, I wasn’t familiar Mr. Tyson.  I should turn in my geek card.   As co-creator and main host of the new Cosmos series I should have known who he was.  The original inspired me to get into the hard sciences as a kid.

    His presentation focused data should be used to explain the universe and how humans need to be open to new ideas that can challenge how we see the world.

    Source: Tableau blog

    • The tree of life doesn’t have humans at the top.  We are just one of thousands of species on its branches.  Also we are more closely related to mushrooms than to plants.
    • It is not a matter of if, but when we will be hit by a large asteroid.
    • We don’t have to destroy the asteroid to save the planet, only use the gravitational pull of a space ship to alter its course.

    Takeaway: It might not helped me use Tableau better, but it was sure entertaining.  Oh and Pluto is not a planet.

    Session #7: Making a Viz that Stops Traffic

    big_circle_zen_masterMy first real session of the day brought in three Tableau Zen Masters, Paul Banoub, Anya A’Hearn, and Dan Montgomery.  20 or so are chosen each year based on the knowledge of the software based on their contributions to the Tableau community, user feedback, and employee nominations.


    2014-09-15 19_37_17-

    2014-09-15 19_38_04-

    Thanks for Patty Walsh for snapping these.

    The three all had decent presentation styles focusing on data presentation over analysis.  As a fan of Edward Tufte, I wasn’t a fan of what they has built, but well-crafted.  I felt they were too over produced to be practical for users.  However, they all had great color sense and use of language.

    • Use your dashboards to tell a story
    • Pair down your charts using only ones that will enhance user understanding of the data
    • Match colors and fonts with company standards
    • If putting a visual online, use the Blog size, 650×650 canvas
    • Max number of colors should be 2 to 3
    • Use conversational language to explain visualizations
    • Add pictures where necessary
    • Tableau does not embed fonts, so you will have to screen print specialized fonts and add them as a graphics.
    • Learn by pulling data on topics you love and building visualizations.

    Useful links:

    Takeaway:  The is a trade off with visualizations.  Data heavy ones might be easier for analysts but management and casual users need simple visually pleasing visualizations.  Try to make your works look cleaner and less like Tableau.

    Session #8: Porn, Pokémon & Pop Culture: Using Data That Doesn’t Suck

    Similar to the previous session, a few more Zen Masters and a Tableau employee took the stage.  For whatever reason, I thought that Jewel Loree, Andy Kriebel, and Peter Gilks had a better presentation.  I think it was because they spoke less about their visualizations and more about how to get data into Tableau.

    • Cut and paste is king.  There are few tools that help clean data.
    • Cleaning data it the most time consuming part of creating visualizations (hear-hear.)
    • Excel is still comes before Tableau.  You still need to build the data sets somewhere.
    • KISS is the way to go as user engagement is the key to success.
    • Create your own data to hone your skills.  Use an app like Moves to capture what you do or last.FM to capture your musical life.

    2014-09-15 20_00_51-Paint By Numbers



    2014-09-15 20_04_06-Jewel Loree

    Note: since my pictures did not come out, I found the visualizations referenced in the presentation from from the presenter’s respective web sites.  Click on the visual to discover more.

    Useful links:

    Takeaway:  Tableau only makes data pretty.  It is still hard to get the data in a useful format.

    Session #9: Keynote: A Conversation with Michael Lewis

    200px-Michael_Lewis_2009I was looking forward to this keynote as I have read a number of his books.  I like how he brings the data users to life without getting into the gory details of the analytics they employ.  Personalities always come before numbers.

    This session was a Q&A that started off stiffly, but as he and Tableau’s Kelly Wright warmed to one another the conversation improved.

    • His stories focus on personalities over data.
    • Most of his stories are about outside or little guys fighting consensus in the marketplace.
    • He related better to people who use theirs instincts vs detached people like venture capitalists.  He finds it hard to connect with quants and entrepreneurs.  The are too detached.
    • He likes using a minimalist writing style and does not use jargon.
    • Pairs down is story and leaves part unsaid to to let the reader interpret.


    • Thinks that the right-left divide in the country was due in part to the financial crisis.
    • The financial sector is scared of change.  Many people fear technological change will cause them to loose their jobs.
    • Thinks there is a disconnect in capital markets.  Most people working on Wall Street are free agents and don’t hold allegiances to their employer of customers.  This is harmful.
    • He gets writing ideas from talking to people in his network.

    Books I have read w/Twitter reviews:


    Takeaway:  Work to pair away your data until you can see the story you want to tell.

    Session #10: Use Tableau like a Sith


    In the end, I am not sure what I got our of the Sith presentation done by Darth Flashypants, and Jinbar Nomix.  It focused on hacking Tableau desktop and server to bend it to the will of the user.

    Much of the time, I spent wondering if I would use anything they presented in real life.



    • Tableau employees hate pie charts.
    • Tableau Data Stores are in XML.  If one knows how to decode the parameters in the file, they can change a file saved in 8.2 to open in earlier versions, create pivot tables with more than 16 columns of data, change Excel connections to Access connections, and muck around to point at Internet URLs to pull in pictures rather than embedding them in the file.
    • There is a way to create exploding pie charts using dual axis charts.
    • There is a way to create gauges, but it is so complex why would you?
    • You can use a jitter function to show over-lapping data points.
    • There was a lot on how to improve Tableau Server performance, but since I am not a server admin, I didn’t bother to capture it.


    Takeaway:  Tableau uses XML, so it is possible to do some cool things if you know how to read it.

    Session #11: BI Reboot at Coca-Cola: Driving Sales with Tableau

    Chathura Manawadu was wonderful.  This was the best presentation of the day and a great note to go out on.  He created a dashboard called SalesPulse for the thousands of Coca-Cola distributors that interact with the local Walmart and mom and pop stores.

    2014-09-15 20_57_43-



    • Designed their metrics from the bottom up as they implemented Tableau.
    • Package the dashboard weekly by division.  3,500 users pick the packaged Tableau workbook off a file share and can use it when offline.
    • Use a consistent color schema for all dashboards they create.  Schema are color-blind friendly.
    • Track sales, volume, and R.E.D. score.Sketch1627410
    • In the back end, use Business Objects connected to Teradata or Microstrategy connected to MS SQL databases and Excel files.


    Takeaway:  Companies can use reader to distribute dashboard to field users. It just takes some effort to make it happen.


    At night we took Seattle’s light rail to see a baseball game.  I continue to be impressed by the cities transit.  Chicago’s pales in comparison.  There is little graffiti, it is cheap and it seems to connect bus, monorail (which I don’t think many ride,) and their funky trolley system well.


    Safeco Field and Century Link field, where the Seahawks play are right next to each other on the south side of the downtown.  Personally, I like the building aesthetic of the Seahawks field, but Safeco’s upper decks view has an unparalleled view of the city.  It is the best view from any park I have been to date.


    Garlic fries is a local Mariners fan favorite.  The first third was overpowering, the second third wasn’t too bad…the last part was more garlic than fries.  Vampires beware.


    In the upper deck, it was a cold clear and clam night.  The stars were out but the Mariners lost to the Astros.  I thought their pitching was decent, but their hitting line up was scattered and weak.  Luck is the only way they will sneak into the wild card playoff spot.

    Update: 10/21/2016: Sine spell corrections.

    Tableau Conference ‘14 Dairy–Day 0 & 1

    2014-09-14 16_02_58-Tableau Conference 2014 _ Seattle, Washington September 8–12

    This is a rambling account of how I experienced the Tableau Conference 2014 (TCC14) held in Seattle.  I will highlight the sessions as well as the city attractions attended adding color where necessary.

    Day 0

    Up at 4am, is there another 4? Why wasn’t I informed of this?! It started good, if you are leaving from anywhere, Bloomington airport is one of the best to go from, from parking to the terminal takes less than 30 minutes with security being a breeze.  The only place better is from Charlottesville, VA.  What makes that better is various historical artifacts at the terminal to peruse, otherwise they are similar. 

    4142382064_186593cfb4_z vs. airport

    One thing I’d change about the travel arrangements was the car.  I rented a Kia Sorrento.  A decent upgrade to my ride, an a upgrade to my Hyundai Elantra Touring, but was unnecessary.  The public transportation in the city is truly excellent.  I suspect the train from SeaTac to Seattle proper would only take 20 minutes and cost a few dollars. 

    Once checked in the Motif hotel, the car stayed parked as it was too expensive and a pain to drive around.  The hotel itself was good, living up to its name with weird colorful rooms and an open lobby with furniture chosen more for its modernist style than comfort.

    After dropping my luggage off at the hotel, some of my collogues and I went down to the waterfront and at ate at The Crab Pot, a local tourist trap.  While the salmon wrap was the worst food I ate during the stay, it still was tasty enough, I’d not recommend it for the price and so-so atmosphere.

    Then to check-in at the conference.


    Unfortunately, this initial start of the conference sucked.

    IMG_0648[1]Going up the escalator, the group I was with was treated to dub-step played by a DJ via his MacBook and Tableau employees milling around giving away stickers and other flair to adorn your clothing.  The check-in process was simple overall just walk up the some Apple tablets, enter your info and the cleric finished the process, 5 minutes tops.  The best part was the free self-styled Tableau backpack, which came in handy as when traveling the conference center and city itself.

    The main problem during this process was receiving the lanyard, which as the size of a 7 inch tablet, which made me feed dorky when wearing it outside the conference.  When you met someone for the first time, the lanyard caused them to stare at your navel.  My eye are up here, HERE!  Because they had RFID chips, vendors and those letting you into session poked your belly with wands.  I made me feel like to Poppin-in-Fresh Doughboy – he-he.


    Source: Wikipedia

    Session #1: First Timers; Field Guide to the Tableau Conference

    Uh, painful and by far the worst session I attended in the four days.  Matt Francis and Emily Kund did their best to pack in 10 minutes of content in an hour of presentation.  They tried and failed to explain what we were about to embark on in hipster-isque fashion.  Upon refection, their presentation style made sense, but just was poorly executed.

    Takeaway:  If you have been to any conference in your life, skip it if your going to TCc15 in Las Vegas.


    I does a choice of a network event with free beer and Seattle.  Of course I chose Seattle since I am uncomfortable in large unstructured gatherings.  So off to Pike Place Market, which I found that many of the shops were closed since it was after 5.  So a group of colleagues and II  walked to Etta’s, a Tom Douglas dinning establishment.  The overall décor make me feel out of place.  I’m much more confortable in jean wearing family establishments. Despite this I had an excellent salmon dish decked out in local farm grown vegetables and their specialty rub.  Included was some of the best calamari I have ever ate.  I wouldn’t eat there again, but it was a good experience overall.

    Day #1

    The first day we were treated to an excellent buffet-style breakfast instead of the usual carb filled donuts and coffee style spread, which I see the norm.  For those that didn’t like the fare of egg, meat, potato, and bagel combo they could go to the juice bar or refreshment stations place strategically around the center.


    Source: Tabeauza via Twitter

    Session #2: Keynote: Christian Chabot (CEO)  & Chris Stolte (CDO) – The Art of Analytics

    2014-09-14 16_31_14-Live Stream of Keynote _ Tableau Conference 2014 - Internet Explorer

    Tableau really came out the of the gate with a wow factor similar to an Apple product launch.  It was a high-energy affair that seemed to enrapture the audience.  It is not often that you see a CEO of a billion+ dollar company start off with a marijuana joke to get the crowd into what he’s saying.

    While topics at the sessions start were interesting, it was a typical affair about how visual analytics was going to change the world and how Tableaus power users will make it happen, so I won’t going in details.  You can go to the conference site and watch.  The more interesting things were about upcoming features.

    Terminology explanation is in order before going into the new features:

    Pills – These are the measures and dimensions when used in a visualization


    Shelf – Anything that holds pills such as Pages, Filters, Marks, Columns and Rows.

    Table with one measure

    Tableau Desktop

    • Enter measures on shelves.  This bypasses the Create Calculation popup. You can save them as measures too by dragging them into the Measures area.
    • Auto complete on the shelves.  This is similar to what Excel 2010+ does when you enter a formula into a cell on the taskbar.  Should be a great feature that will make simple calculations easier to enter. 
    • Analytic drag and drop.  Users will be able to drag, say Median pill onto a measure on a shelf and change the calculation on the fly. 

    Takeaway:  Expert analysts will enjoy them and the changes will make it easier for newer users to build out visualizations.


    • Search – Users will be able to type in say, Colorado, and have the map zoom into the correct location.  It will work with countries, states, counties and cities (and maybe more)


    • Circular and Lasso selection – Users will be able to select areas in anyway they choose. Right now you can only select in squares.

    Takeaway:  Great updates for power users, but casual users will not notice these feature.  They are not prominent on the UI.


    • Caching will make maps update quicker
    • Maps will pre-render in the background so there is no lag when moving around.
    • Calculation will now use more than one core.  Most systems have at least 2 to 4 so expect much faster results.
    • Calculations will persist once calculated.  This will help when opening a book to continue to work or switching between dashboards.

    Takeaway:  Minor but useful improvements.

    Data entry

    • Auto clean up Excel imports.  Can’t wait for this feature. I will no longer have to format Business Objects reports before entering them into Tableau.
    • Split on qualifiers.  If a column has something like this, Illinois-Bloomington, you will be able to separate it into two columns on import.
    • Web data connector.  This allow users to pull into content from web APIs.  This might be an awesome bridge to import data from Adobe SiteCatalyst or other could data API sources.

    Takeaway:  Not flashy, but these are the most important improvements.  Data cleaning takes up large portions of most analysts time.


    • Can control colors on the screen now.

    Takeaway:  There were other features talked about bit I didn’t write them down.  Storytelling is still worthless in an enterprise environment. 


    • Caching calculations.  Same as above
    • JavaScript API version 2
    • Infinitely scrollable views.  Finally, I never liked that it only displayed 10 workbooks at a time.
    • Cleaner interface with more meta data displayed on screen.
    • Easier to adjust security features on a per user/group basis.

    Takeaway:  Features will make finding work easier.  The server features should help infrequently updated workbooks run faster.


    • “Cloud 2 Cloud” login.
    • Push data from one cloud based software (such as Sales Force) to Tableau Cloud.

    Takeaway:  Only good for those using Tableau’s cloud instead of Tableau Server.


    • Caching calculations again.
    • Ability to favorite workbooks and to highlight
    • Web and mobile app will have more ways to edit.  Eventually Tableau wants parity with desktop and mobile operations.
    • Snapshot – Ability to save data to use when offline

    2014-09-14 16_32_37-Live Stream of Keynote _ Tableau Conference 2014 - Internet Explorer

    • Mobile workbook creation
      • Ability to pull in Excel files and create dashboards
      • Mobile app can zoom down to the record

          Takeaway:  In 5 years it could be a game changer, but most changes are minor or untested in real world scenarios.  I personally like this feature because it means my tablet will have more powerful editing features.

            Session takeaway:  Tableau says that they will invest more in research in the next 2 years than since the inception of the company.  If that is the case, expect great things when these upgrades arrive in the coming months.

            Session #3: DATA @ NFLX: Building a culture of Analytics Everywhere at Netflix

            Of all sessions on the first day, this was the one I wanted to see and it didn’t disappoint.  Blake Irvine and Albert Wong went into detail about the analytic strategy of  Netflix.  It turns out that they are going down the same path as Country Financial, just on a larger scale.


            Each division has its own analytic group.  The benefits are that the system engineers can become system experts rather than generalists.  This improves analytics expert response time to meet user needs.  Each area operates independently and therefore Netflix must own multiple reporting data stores.  To minimize duplicate reporting/metrics, analysis teams have frequent knowledge sharing meetings.

            My take: This is a good short run strategy as a company grows, but becomes burdensome as it ages.  All these process need experts to keep them running.  Knowledge is often lost when people move jobs so it becomes harder to maintain and upgrade.   Even with open-source technologies, which Netflix often uses, eventually the company will have a difficult time with maintenance and an nearly impossible time switching technologies when the need arises.

            Other things of note:

            • The company does a lot of A/B testing to improve user experience.  Tableau is used in some of these workflows.
            • Mostly reporting systems use open source technologies to gather and store data, though they still use Tableau for the front end and occasionally Teradata in the back.
            • Nearly all of their data is in the cloud using Hadoop and Amazon S3.


            • Have an OE department that uses Tableau through Hadoop and Teradata.
            • They are open to developer changes on the fly (empowerment) to reporting systems.  Many have access to the underlying database and can change code to meet their users insights need.
            • The IT is reluctant to remove reporting systems once built.  This is one of the reasons why I think their strategy will become unsupportable in a decade or so as people who build the systems leave.
            • There is little to no data governance.

            Takeaway: Data, analytic, and insight silos are common no matter if the company in the new or old economy.

            Session #4: Visualizing Unstructured Data with Tableau, Featuring Bill Inmon


            Honestly, I didn’t get much of out this presentation.  Bill was too detailed in his explanations of unstructured data using taxonomy created by Wand.  When pivoting to his Verizon and 1st American Tableau reports, I was unimpressed.  Having used unstructured data from call center and surveys before, this added nothing someone couldn’t do with R or Rapid Miner’s text analyst add on. 

            The main problem was there was no sentiment or context analysis, so you have to use qualitative or other data to indicate whether or not groups of calls were positive or negative.

            Takeaway: I still think that Tableau stinks for mining/displaying unstructured data.  It is better to use a specialized tool and the display the insight in Tableau.




            Food provided continues to impress.  The conference had a main place to eat near the vendors booths, but also stocked at least a dozen fridges with wraps, drinks, and salads so you never had to go far for vittles.  I am sure a few people left for lunch, I did for a bit to purchase some bottled tea, but if you weren’t picky as me, you could eat hardily, even if vegan. 

            The main problem with lunch was the wait.  With 5,500 and at least 1,000 Tableau employees going to each at once (all of the sessions ended at the same time) people could wait a half and hour to get to the buffet.

            Session #5: Zen Master Tips & Tricks Panel

            In this session, the there were three presenters, Kelly Martin, Craig Bloodworth, and Mark Jackson each with a different style they used to create visualizations.  Overall, the session was average, the best part was looking at the examples rather than the tips they offered.  This and the following session really helped stoke the design side of my brain.

            • There is no need to type if or case statements.  Tableau will handle the branching for you.  If used, I think this will make statements less clear to others.
            • There is an ability to do top ten (or any number) on by a category basis [link.]
            • There is an ability to do context filters [link.]
            • There are two API for Tableau Server.  Version 1 is undocumented and version 2, new to Tableau 8, is documented. To understand version 1, you can use Fiddler to discover it features by spying on the traffic between the computer and server.  It also helps to code by using Alteryx to code the API and pull XML data.
            • Use blank text boxes over data to prevent people from clicking on it.
            • The [+] in front of a dimension in a hierarchy is called the power key.

            Takeaway: Tableau is flexible. Most of the tips offered have multiple ways to accomplish the same thing.

            During this session, some of the examples helped me figure out ways to solve some of my problem dashboards.  During the session, I drew an updated design for the Agency Dashboard.  Hopefully, I will have time to integrate it in a few weeks. Note: I know my drawing sucks, bare with me here.


            Session #6: 10 Tips to Becoming a Tableau Jedi

            I was impressed with Marc Rueter’s presentation.  He was knowledgeable and went just at the right speed to explain his tips without having to hurrying like many presenters did with the limited time they had. 

            • You can drop dimensions and measures on top of existing pills to replace them.  The new pills will inherent the previous pills existing formats and display.  I use this trick when building dashboards.  Frist, I duplicate the worksheet and then make the change on the copy.
            • Create a Summary.  on the visualization, right-click > Summary
            • Create a source average or median.  Duplicate data source w/o connecting it to its parent and place the measure the chart.  For best results use dual axis.  I am not a fan because you have to use data blending and a duplicate source.

            2014-09-14 16_56_29-Trellis Chart with Linear Regression

            • You can create trellises
            • You can create drill downs on dashboard using actions (Country > State > County)

            The rest were too complex to explain or I already knew they existing so didn’t write them down.


            Not knowing the extent of food that would be on hand at the Data Nite Out, I went to eat at Elliott’s Oyster House out on Pier 56.  I think it had the best food I ate during my stay.  This might be because I didn’t eat much during the conference, but whatever, it was great.   Chowing down on their Sockeye salmon ruled and tasty spicy clam chowder while looking out on the harbor was awesome.

            Data Nite Out235px-Marge_vs._the_Monorail_(promo_card)

            Getting back to the hotel, I was soon on a bus to the Seattle Center that Tableau rented for their networking event.  This location is familiar to tourists.  It contains the Space Needle (which I had already been in on a previous trip) and the starting leg of the monorail built during the 1962 World’s Fair.

            I wasn’t prepared for this event’s scope.  With 8 to 10 bands and dozens of food and adult beverage locations, it was easily the most impressive part of the entire conference.  They did it in style.  Each area has a unique theme, food type, and activity.  After wandering around sampling every sugar, salt and, grease concoction I could find, Sir-Mix-A-Lot started.  I never been a huge fan, but the show was high energy helped in part by the free booze Tableau provided those in attendance.


            Ode to Sir-Mix-A-Lot

            I like big data and I cannot lie
            You other quants can’t deny
            A dataset comes in with a little bit of analysis
            And a pie-chart in your face
            You get insight


            Update #1: Spelling and photo sizing changes.  Added some graphics based on comments.

            Proving Simpsons Quality Slide

            I came across a neat web-based graph package by Kevin Wu called Graph TV.  It takes IMDb rating of all episodes of a show and displays plot them over the seasons.  The first show I checked out was The Simpsons, as it was one of my all time favorite shows of the 90s.

            Simpsons chart

            I thought the quality slid greatly after the 7th season, turns out many other people thought less of it too, coming to the realization a few season later. 

            It’s interesting to see that after season 10, there are few breakout shows. My take is that today’s Simpson serves conservative comedy compared to its edgy nature in the late 80s/early 90s.  Not even Bill Cosby or George Bush would complain about Bart and co. today…pity.

            JPMorgan Realizes Too Late Brand Reputation Important on Social Media

            If there is one thing that you don’t want to do in social media when you have a poorly regarded brand name is ask people to send questions for a online event.

            JPMorgan found this out the hard way yesterday with their #ASKJPM.

            2013-11-14 07_20_14-Relentless Twitter Mockery Forces JPM To Kill #AskJPM Q&A Session _ Zero Hedge

            Originally, it was suppose to be an answer session for one of the their Board members and soon be leader Jimmy Lee.  Instead, it was it became a litany of complaints on the bank recent illegal dealings and its lack of compassion for those going through foreclosure and loan modification processes.

            The Inevitable Twitter vs Facebook IPO Post

            Source: TwitterWith a big bang, Twitter is now a public company.  It is up 73% to about $45/share.  Now pundits, myself included, are comparing it to the other large social media IPO of recent memory, Facebook.  Most know that Facebook’s IPO was bad.  Glitches, insider sales and hype drove the stock price lower through May 2012.

            My hunch that Twitter would be big.  Not because of any technical reason, or the promise that it will be profitable in the near-term, but a simple fact: people like things they use.

            Just like has Apple its fanbois and Twitter has a strong following on Wall Street’s trading community because it is a rich source of breaking news.  This means most people who have the ability to buy stock were already familiar with how it works.  Many companies even build tweets into their trading algorithms, which causes panic from time-to-time.  Since it is a service they like, it is easier to bid up rather than short the stock.  Why hate on something needed for your job?

            This is unlike Facebook.  Its model is built around local networks that spread gossip, fads and local news.  While important to individuals, much of what is posted cannot be used for financial gain.  It is unlikely that many people in finance even use Facebook regularly. 

            I think Facebook’s model is more profitable than what Twitter built mid-term.  It is difficult to see great profit as much of what Twitter relies on is advertising.  Outside Asian languages that use hanzi, It is hard to advertise in 140 characters.  Maybe picture and Vine will help, though I am skeptical.

            The 4K Video Revolution Will Not Be Televised


            I am just getting used to Blue-ray and now tech company’s are pushing 4K video.  An odd rumor story on ArsTechnica about the yet-to-be released PlayStation and Xbox got me thinking about this new video format’s effect on the general TV viewer.  While I give better than even odds that one or both will support it, it is unlikely that people will care much in the end.

            Today’s video quality is good enough.  Blue-ray disk, the best quality available, are to video as CDs are to music.  Both are slightly better than what the majority of users desire.  We sit too far away from the tele to notice 4K’s better quality.  In addition, the most popular formats for HD viewing, cable and internet streaming, both have worse quality than Blue-ray, but that doesn’t seem to bother people.  These are good indications 4K is doomed to a niche market much like SACD and audio DVDs are to audio.

            If a company could get people to care, there is a need for yet another physical format (HD-Blue Ray anyone?)  4K doesn’t fit on a Blue-ray and even if it could, today’s hardware can’t read it.  Punters will need to shell out for both a new player and a TV to enjoy it.  Even if you ditch physical media, these two problems remain as well as the fact that cable and DSL internet pipes are too slow to accommodate the increased bandwidth.

            Despite my poo-pooing, I do want 4K to succeed, but not for television.  The quality of computer monitors as peaked because TVs and computer monitors use the same technology.  Better TVs will naturally lead to better resolutions for computer screens.