Installing pandas, scipy, numpy, and scikit-learn on AWS EC2

Most of the development/experimentation I was doing with scikit-learn’s machine learning algorithms was on my local development machine. But eventually I needed to do some heavy duty model training / cross validation, which would take weeks on my local machine. So I decided to make use of one of the cheaper compute optimized EC2 instances that AWS offers.

Unfortunately I had some trouble getting scikit-learn to install on a stock Amazon’s EC2 Linux, but I figured it out eventually. I’m sure others will run into this, so I thought I’d write about it.

Note: you can of course get an EC2 community image or an image from the EC2 marketplace that already has Anaconda or scikit-learn and tools installed. This guide is for installing it on a stock Amazon EC2 Linux instance, in case you already have an instance setup you want to use.

In order to get scikit-learn to work, you’ll need to have pandas, scipy and numpy installed too. Fortunately Amazon EC2 Linux comes with python 2.7 already installed, so you don’t need to worry about that.

Start by ssh’ing into your box. Drop into rootshell with the following command (if you’re going to be typing “sudo” before every single command, might as well be root by default anyway, right?)

sudo su

First you need to install some development tools, since you will literally be compiling some libraries in a bit. Run the following commands:

yum groupinstall ‘Development Tools’
yum install python-devel

Next you’ll install the ATLAS and LAPACK libraries, which are needed by numpy and scipy:

yum install atlas-sse3-devel lapack-devel

Now you’re ready to install first all the necessary python libraries and finally scikit-learn:

pip install numpy
pip install scipy
pip install pandas
pip install scikit-learn

Congratulations. You now have scikit-learn installed on the EC2 Linux box!

Parallelize Pandas map() or apply()

Pandas is a very useful data analysis library for Python. It can be very useful for handling large amounts of data.

Unfortunately Pandas runs on a single thread, and doesn’t parallelize for you. And if you’re doing lots of computation on lots of data, such as for creating features for Machine Learning, it can be pretty slow depending on what you’re doing.

To tackle this problem, you essentially have to break your data into smaller chunks, and compute over them in parallel, making use of the Python multiprocessing library.

Let’s say you have a large Pandas DataFrame:

import pandas as pd

data = pd.DataFrame(...) #Load data

And you want to apply() a function to the data like so:

def work(x):
    # Do something to x
    # return something

data = data.apply(work)

What you can do is break the DataFrame into smaller chunks using numpy, and use a Pool from the multiprocessing library to do work in parallel on each chunk, like so:

import numpy as np
from multiprocessing import cpu_count, Parallel

cores = cpu_count() #Number of CPU cores on your system
partitions = cores #Define as many partitions as you want

def parallelize(data, func):
    data_split = np.array_split(data, partitions)
    pool = Pool(cores)
    data = pd.concat(, data_split))
    return data

And that’s it. Now you can call parallelize on your DataFrame like so:

data = parallelize(data, work);

Run it, and watch your system’s CPU utilization shoot up to 100%! And it should finish much faster, depending on how many cores you have. 8 cores should theoretically be 8x faster. Or you could fire up an AWS EC2 instance with 32 cores and run it 32x faster!

Amazon EC2 ssh timeout due to inactivity

Well, this applies to any Linux instance that you may be remotely connected to, depending on how sshd is configured on the remote server. And depending on how your localhost (developer machine) ssh config is done. But essentially in some instances the sshd host you’re connecting to times you out pretty quickly, so you have to reconnect often.

This was bothering me for a while. I usually am off and on all day on Linux shell on EC2 instances. And it seemed every time I come back to it, I’d be timed out, causing me to have to reconnect. Not a huge deal, just a nuisance.

To remedy this, without changing the settings on the remote server’s sshd config, you can add the following line to your localhost ssh config. Edit ~/.ssh/config file and add the following line:

ServerAliveInterval 50

And it’s as simple as that! It seems that AWS EC2s are set up to time you out at 60 seconds. So a 50 second keep-alive interval prevents you from getting timed out so aggressively.

Removing neighboring (consecutive-only) duplicates in a Pandas DataFrame

Pandas, the Python Data Analysis Library, makes it easy to drop duplicates from a DataFrame, using the drop_duplicates() function (

The problem with this is it removes ALL duplicates anywhere in your DataFrame. Depending on what you’re doing, you may not want to get rid of all duplicates everywhere, but only neighboring duplicates. That is, duplicates that are consecutive. But if there’s a duplicate after a non-duplicate row, that’s okay, for your purpose.

For example, you may have the following data:

1 2 3
1 2 3
1 5 5
1 2 3
1 5 5

You only want to get rid of consecutive duplicates (which in this case are only the first two rows), and get this result:

1 2 3
1 5 5
1 2 3
1 5 5

You can accomplish this using the pandas shift() function, which can be used to get the very next element, like so:

data = data.loc[data.shift() != data]

What this does is for every row in the DataFrame, it compares it to the next row. If all columns are equal to the columns in the next row, the row does not get repeated.

Note: this only works if you have simple elements in your DataFrame that can be checked to be equivalent (in the example above all elements are integers). Otherwise you’ll need to extend the type of element, and implement an equivalency function.

Get Apache to act as a gzip proxy

Let’s say you want to repeatedly get a large amount of data (text, or something not in an already compressed format) from a RESTful webservice. But the webserver doesn’t compress the data when transferred over HTTP, and you have a slow connection on your end machine (such as your development machine). And so it takes your end client a while to load the data on every iteration, thus slowing down whatever you’re doing.

In this scenario you can use a server in the middle which has a fast connection, to act as a proxy and gzip the data for you. This server could be hosted in the cloud somewhere.

First you’ll need to make sure that Apache is installed on this server, and the firewall allows access to port 80, or 443 if you’re going to be using HTTPS. You’ll need to make sure that the following Apache modules are installed: mod_proxy and mod_deflate.

Let’s say the data from the webservice you’re trying to get to is located at the URL, and returns a giant block of json data. The configuration for this would be simple. Edit /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf (or wherever httpd.conf is according to your system) and add the following:

<IfModule mod_proxy.c>
    ProxyRequests On

    <Proxy *>
        Order deny,allow
        Allow from all

    ProxyPass /compressed
    ProxyPassReverse /compressed

    <Location /data>
        Order allow,deny
        Allow from all
        AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/json

And voila! Now when you visit the /compressed path on your middle-man Apache server, it will proxy and compress the json data from the upstream server before it ships it to you. So if your servers’s IP is, you’d use the URL, and that will proxy to and return the data compressed to your end client with the slow Internet connection, which will load much faster. Let’s say it’s 1mb of regular json text data, which should easily compress to 200kb or so, which will load 5x faster!

Note: you’ll of course need to make sure that the HTTP client you’re using supports gzip compression. If you’re doing this programatically, whatever HTTP API you’re using may allow you to do this. Or you’ll need to manually add the “Accept-Encoding: gzip” header, so the middle-man server knows to compress the data, and whatever content you get back, you’ll need to first decompress manually.

Installing MongoDB on AWS EC2 and turning on zlib compression

At this time AWS doesn’t provide an RDS type for MongoDB. So in order to have a MongoDB server on the AWS cloud, you have to install it manually on an EC2 instance.

The full documentation for installing a MongoDB instance on an AWS EC2 can be seen at: Here’s a quick summary though.

First you’ll need to create a Linux EC2 server. Once you have the server created, log in to the machine through secure shell. Drop into root shell using the following command:

sudo su

Next you’ll need to create the repository info for yum to use to download the prebuilt MongoDB packages. You’ll create a file at /etc/yum.repos.d/mongodb-org-3.0.repo:

vi /etc/yum.repos.d/mongodb-org-3.0.repo

And copy/paste the repository:

name=MongoDB Repository

Save and exit from vi. And type in the following command to install:

yum install -y mongodb-org

And that’s it! Now you have MongoDB installed on your EC2.

Next, to turn on compression, you’ll need to edit /etc/mongod.conf

vi /etc/mongod.conf

Scroll down to the “storage” directive, and add in this configuration:

engine: "wiredTiger"
    blockCompressor: "zlib"

Now any collections you create will be compressed with zlib, which provides the best compression currently.

To turn on your MongoDB instance by typing in this command:

service mongod start

And of course you’ll want to custom configure your MongoDB instance (or not). You can find several guides and tutorials to do that online.

Sorting a JSON Array in Java

There are a number of approaches you can take. But a simple one is to first convert it to a Java Collection, and use Collections.sort() with a custom comparator.

The example I’ll follow consists of an org.json.JSONArray which is has (and only has) org.json.JSONObject’s. So a json array of json objects, which is pretty common. Say you want to sort the JSONObjects in the JSONArray, based on a key in the JSONObject.

Let’s start by converting a JSONArray to a Collection of JSONObjects, using the java List type:

List<JSONObject> myJsonArrayAsList = new ArrayList<JSONObject>();
for (int i = 0; i < myJsonArray.length(); i++)

Now you can use Collections.sort() with a custom comparator. Let’s say you have a key named “key” in each json object, which maps to an int, and you want to sort on int value. You would use the following code:

Collections.sort(myJsonArrayAsList, new Comparator<JSONObject>() {
    public int compare(JSONObject jsonObjectA, JSONObject jsonObjectB) {
    	int compare = 0;
    		int keyA = jsonObjectA.getInt("key");
    		int keyB = jsonObjectB.getInt("key");
    		compare =, keyB);
    	catch(JSONException e)
    	return compare;

That’ll do. Now, let’s take it a step further. Let’s say the values in the key field of each json object are Strings, and you want to sort based on the Strings, but in a particular order. You want the string “oranges” to come first, “bananas” to come second, “pineapples” to come third, and “apples” to come last.

An easy way to go about this is to create a HashMap, and assign these strings integer values. Then use those integer values to compare. Here’s what the code would look like for that:

Collections.sort(myJsonArrayAsList, new Comparator<JSONObject>() {
    public int compare(JSONObject jsonObjectA, JSONObject jsonObjectB) {
    	int compare = 0;
			HashMap<String,Integer> fruitTypeSorts = new HashMap<String,Integer>();
			fruitTypeSorts.put("orange", 1);
			fruitTypeSorts.put("bananas", 2);
			fruitTypeSorts.put("pineapples", 3);
			fruitTypeSorts.put("apples", 4);
			int valueA=fruitTypeSorts.get(jsonObjectA.getString("key"));
			int valueB=fruitTypeSorts.get(jsonObjectB.getString("key"));
			return, valueB);
    	catch(JSONException e)
    	return compare;

And voila! Now you have the List sorted based on the key value, with objects with key values oranges being first, then bananas, and so on.

To tie it all together, you want to convert it back to a JSONArray. To put the sorted JSONObjects back into your original array, simply:

myJsonArray = new JSONArray();
for (int i = 0; i < myJsonArrayAsList.size(); i++) {