Newsletter

STEM 7.3 final release

31 July 2012

STEM version 7.3 is signed-off and ready to download.

This new version is not characterised by one central feature as much as a raft of subtle refinements all intended to make STEM more welcoming and easier to learn. It also lays a proper foundation for the modelling of aggregate demands (flows or operational events) and consumable resources (including suitable accounting for stock) and puts the automatic generation of Internet-enabled Web GUIs in the hands of regular STEM users.

The principal changes in functionality for STEM 7.3 compared to the previous version 7.2 are described in a standalone What’s new in STEM 7.3 guide. This is installed as part of the final STEM 7.3 software installation and may also be downloaded directly from the panel accompanying this article. (You will need to complete a one-off registration form if this is your first download.)

1. Core improvements

The priorities for this release have been driven by customer feedback – channelled through the Implied Logic ‘vision filter’ – into something which we believe will work better for everyone. Many of the changes are not about cleverness at all, but are simply changes in presentation – for the benefit of clarity and consistency – informed by various misunderstandings and wrong turns witnessed in the field with clients:

  • more consistent arrangement of data dialogs in the Editor
  • re-vamped transformation dialog layout
  • more units and the option to enter monthly or quarterly tariffs and costs
  • new time-shift function for modelling ‘time to build’
  • interaction and consistency with Windows Explorer
  • easier running … and better error handling
  • interaction with Excel and run-time models
  • views in the Editor and Results programs
  • complexity with quotients and collections and consolidation
  • compatibility with Windows Vista and Windows 7
  • improved clarity, consistency and generally ‘working as expected’.

These improvements alone provide a compelling reason to upgrade to STEM 7.3, but we have also pushed out the boundaries of what can be achieved with the other two significant development threads which have been mentioned in recent newsletter articles.

2.Aggregate demands (flows or events) and consumable resources

At over two years in the making, it is no overstatement to say that aggregate handling is one of the most significant developments in STEM functionality since the ability to run a model in months, quarters and years was added in 1998. It is therefore unsurprising that the current What’s new documentation is dominated by the explanation of this profound extension.

The breadth of this new material reflects the extent of the functionality added. Early reviewers have consistently described the text as ‘challenging’, so it may take you a little while to grasp the full implications. We have already delivered top-up training for some clients specifically to get to grips with how it all works (and what it all means) and we will be pleased to provide a similar service for your organisation.

All of the examples cited in the documentation have been independently tested and verified. Resource and service inputs to transformations are correctly classified as instantaneous or aggregate and aggregate demands are correctly matched to the supply of consumable resources. The new Time Factor transformation works as intended to switch between instantaneous and aggregate demands, and correctly flags any mismatch between the nature of its input and its intended Output Mode. The equivalent functionality is also available as an optional resource Capacity Period.

3. Automated generation of Web interfaces for eSTEM

New HTML-5 export functionality has been added to complement the Flash export advertised in recent newsletters. This is being developed with direct input from those clients who have already invested in our hosted eSTEM solution. A separate User Guide for Enterprise STEM is being updated on a frequent basis while this functionality remains in significant flux.

The June 2012 edition includes explicit set-up instructions for the website and associated software stack as well as all of the latest functionality. A separate newsletter article describes the process of generating HTML 5 interfaces from the Editor and Results programs through to publishing these on the server. It also provides an update on new features such as usage tracking and options for users to save input sets of their own and download template reports generated from those models.

4. Release notes

For the benefit of our newsletter readers and beta testers, we have also compiled the following list of material changes made since the STEM 7.3 Beta 2 system was released in early May.

4.1 Finishing off

  • The Input and Transformation dialog has been streamlined by removing the single-field Transformation group box for the Input-Output Mapping and Expression types and changing the larger group box in other cases to show the relevant Erlang B Formula, Time Lag or Time Factor type instead of the word ‘transformation’.
  • Added kW, kWh, MW and MWh to the set of built-in demand units.
  • New aggregate New Connections basis for service requirements and transformation inputs (which includes churn, as per the corresponding and longstanding result of the same name).
  • New Consumed Units result and new Consumption and Consumed Units bases for resource transformation inputs.
  • End-of-period consolidation for the original transformation Output result has been restored for the sake of backwards compatibility after consultation with beta testers.
  • The Editor no longer needs to warn about discarding an existing Multiplier input when promoting a Multiplier transformation to be an Expression transformation (after clicking on the green ‘plus handle’ with the Connect tool) because the Multiplier input is common to all transformation types in STEM 7.3.
  • All the checks for aggregate handling documented in the What’s new in STEM 7.3 guide supplied with the software are now implemented.
  • All of the material in the What’s new in STEM 7.3 guide has been consolidated into the full, final-release user guide and online-help files and we have added an Explore User Guide option to the Help menu in both the Editor and Results programs.

4.2 Bug fixes

  • Fixed the incorrect model name (spurious extra .dtm extension) which could arise if a model was opened by double clicking in Windows Explorer and some related issues when double clicking a file that was already open.
  • Re-instated ability for formula bar to expand to multiple lines in the Editor.
  • When entering a constant value directly on a time-series button, any previous formula on the constant ‘inside the button’ is now correctly removed.
  • Fixed a very longstanding bug (since sensitivities were first implemented in STEM 7.1) where selecting or de-selecting a sensitivity in the scenarios dialog in the Editor would invalidate all current results sets. Now they remain up-to-date as intended!
  • Fixed obscure issues running scenarios based on variant names starting with a digit.
  • Fixed bug where external links might not be updated when running a model from Excel.
  • Fixed a multiply-obscure bug which could report insufficient memory to load the results of a STEM 7.2 model with multiple scenarios and sensitivities when loaded and run unmodified for the first time in STEM 7.3.
  • Fixed an obscure bug in the Draw New dialog in the results program where a confusing but benign message would arise if the most recently drawn chart was a tornado chart but sensitivity results were now unavailable.

4.3 Incidental new functionality

  • Support for linking inputs from Excel 2007/10 (.xlsx or .xlsm) files was first released quietly in Beta 2 and has been made progressively faster and more reliable by addressing successive bug reports from beta testers.
  • Added a standard simulation of the error function, erf().
  • Scenarios may be specified to run from Excel either (i) with their ‘linearised’ name as used for StemGetResult(), or (ii) with the actual scenario ‘number’ (useful if you want to specify many, and now available via the Paste Scenarios button).

4.4 General enhancements

  • A multiple selection of icons can now be easily reduced to just the ‘current’ icon by clicking or dragging an empty selection box on the view background.
  • Row and column headings in data dialogs in the Editor now show tooltips with the full text if you hover over a heading which is too long to display in the dialog itself.
  • The Editor no longer warns about replacing existing data when you copy and paste onto a time-series button if it is currently a simple constant value which is visible and could have been entered directly on the button. The Editor still prompts if there is a formula at the constant level ‘inside the button’ or if the type is different to constant, e.g., an Interpolated Series.
  • The Editor also no longer warns about replacing existing data when you use the Connect tool to connect a market segment to a service if the corresponding Customer Base input is currently a simple constant zero such as would be set by selecting Unlink on a previous connection. The Editor still prompts if this input is set to any other value, and the same applies to all time-series inputs whose value can be defined by reference to a separate market segment, location or transformation element.
  • When you double click to Edit a pink transformation-input link in the Editor, the Basis field is now selected by default in the Input dialog rather than the element reference. (The usual reason to visit this dialog is to review or modify the basis, whereas the choice of element is more commonly made by connecting the corresponding icons.)
  • The shortcut keys for undo and redo are now displayed as <Ctrl+Z> and <Ctrl+Y>.
  • The warning which STEM issues if you try to use pre-run installation without enabling it globally is now only issued if the global Pre-Run Installation input is unset. If it is explicitly set to Yes, no warning is required; and if it is explicitly set to No, STEM assumes that you are using the flag to temporarily disable the mechanism and does not warn about it (so you don’t otherwise have to clear all the relevant per-resource inputs to avoid the warning).
  • The consolidation ‘mode’ for StemGetResult() in Excel can now be specified as a period, Year or Quarter (or even just Y or Q), as a simpler alternative to the current and rather clumsy (esp. for non-English speakers) Annual or Quarterly.
  • The D-STEM Create Run-time Model command now exports to a model.run-time folder by default (for consistency with the eSTEM Create Web Interface command which now exports to a model.web folder by default).

4.5 Additions for eSTEM

The list of specific changes is too long and detailed for general consumption and is more readily understood by reading the latest (late June 2012) edition for the User guide for Enterprise STEM. However, the highlights and very latest details include:

  • charts are now rendered using JavaScript and SVG directly rather than a 3rd-party library, so you can expect to see very STEM-like chart functionality as this evolves (proportional spacing on the category axis, orders of magnitude, precision and so on)
  • percentage symbols now indicate that values should be divided by 100 (e.g., 1% == 0.01), as well as indicating formatting when used in slider or spin-box settings
  • a note on the Label field of a sensitivity parameter is now appended to the field contents when used in HTML export
  • two or more sensitivities whose names differ only by a numeric suffix are merged to allow tabs with more than 20 inputs
  • if all exported results views have a numeric prefix (for ordering) then the prefix is removed from the resulting tab
  • recently reported bugs in Beta 2 and Beta 3 fixed.

Download
STEM 7.3d installer

Registered licensees with a current maintenance contract can download the appropriate C-STEM or D-STEM 7.3d installer.

Download now: C-STEM 7.3D-STEM 7.3

Download
What's new in STEM 7.3

Read all about the latest enhancements and learn more about aggregate handling.

Register to download now

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