Pages tagged “data”

02 Mar 2021

An escape room for developer teams

I can’t help it: I have an insatiable desire to program computers to do things. My latest hobby project pretty much assumes that others do, too. In response to covid-imposed remoteness, seeing dev teams struggle with coherence and the strain that teams get subjected to in such circumstances, I built a thing. I’d had the idea for a little while, and I might well have missed the boat here (lockdown has been full on, my coding time limited), but hey.

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29 Nov 2016

On wiggly lines and being normal

Not too long ago I found myself concentrating on breathing normally. Sitting at the end of a wire, a mask strapped to my face, listening to the hiss of the machine that was keeping me supplied with air, and trying not to be flummoxed by the two life-size glass heads that seemed to be staring at me, all I could think was “how do I breathe, normally?” If someone asks you to “walk normally” or “hold a smile” - or even enquires what you do with your thumbs when you’re running - a sort of macroscopic Heisenberg Principle comes into play.

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10 Jan 2015

Geeky review of 2014

From a purely personal point of view, I’d give 2014 about an 8 out of 10. 7.62, to be precise. At the beginning of the year, I began to “Beemind” myself into writing a few sentences about each day and, following the example of my great and wise friend Billy, I rated each day out of ten. Not out of some desire for constant improvement or obsessive measurement (I’m into both of those) but because I was envious of his ability to jump into Evernote and call up any of his “ten out of ten” days in an instant.

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01 Oct 2014

A load of gas

Why are ovo so bad at estimating my meter readings? This zig-zagging blue line shows my gas meter readings, estimated and actual (the red line joins the actual readings). I submit precise, steady readings once a month, a few days before my monthly statement. On their side, ovo are consistently estimating my gas consumption rate at nearly 20 times the true rate. They apply this during the intervening handful of days and draw up the statement.

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27 Oct 2013

On thermostats

Crawling into a cupboard with a headtorch and squinting at an LCD display while repeatedly pressing buttons isn’t much fun. Until recently, this was the only way we could control the central heating in our house. So it was with some pleasure that we upgraded our house’s thermostat. We now have a Heatmiser wifi thermostat, and we are truly living in the future. We can: reprogram the heating without needing a headtorch turn the heating on/off/up/down from any network-connected device tell the system we’re away for the next x days, and have it save fuel check on the system from anywhere Being able to “make fire” from miles away feels like such a step up from a caveman rubbing twigs together!

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15 Jun 2013

Pleasing taste, some monsterism

Advice about babies comes with large error bounds. It’s reassuring, up to a point. “Oh, that? Anything between three times a day and once a month is normal, yes.” “Aha, right - OK: sometimes there are three of them.” That sort of thing. Due to the “red book”, all parents know their child’s weight, and also know which percentile that puts the little blighter on. Slightly worrying to hear, though, that a health worker told a friend of ours “mmm, well, 99th percentile is quite high.

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06 Jun 2013

Their tables were stored full, to glad the sight

About a year ago I came across a great open source resource: the complete works of William Shakespeare, in an SQL database. I couldn’t resist tinkering with it and got a few things done. What I really wanted was to open up the database so that people could run their own queries on it. Thanks to Webfaction, I’m able to do this now. Click the link below to see what you can do.

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20 Apr 2013

Digitising books

Having acquired a new document scanner, I chomped through most of the paper in my life, scanning receipts, letters from the bank and so on. It took a few hours. To really put my scanner through its paces, I wanted to digitise a few books. Here are a few thoughts and pointers for future reference. It’s particularly useful to digitise reference books that you might want to refer to. This is a matter of opinion, but I think they are better suited to the illuminated screen, random-access type of reading/research that things like iPads are so good at.

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12 Apr 2013

Be careful on your birthday

I’ve long thought that this would be the case: you are statistically more likely to die on your birthday than any other day of the year. People do unusual things on their birthdays - drink more alcohol, push their front door open and get a shock from a surprise party, parachute jumps… Idly browsing the internet, I’ve just discovered that this has been studied, and the results show “the overall death excess on the day of birth was 13.

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26 Mar 2013

Not quite paperless

Going paperless is all very well, but there are some bits of paper that it makes sense to keep, or that you have to keep for legal reasons. Documents relating to tax, receipts, utility bills (for when you have to prove your address), and so on - all have to be kept for x number of years. David Allen, of GTD fame, recommends filing material like this in an alphabetical system.

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21 Mar 2013

A new toy for digitisation

I’ve crunched through scanning two carrier bags full of paper since getting a new Scansnap ix500 a few days back. The scanner is so quick that the rate-limiting step was not digitisation, but staple removal. Fujitsu should include branded staple removers with their machines.

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18 Mar 2013

Crunching the Cloud

The news that Google Reader is to shut down is disappointing. Anyway, it made me think: “what if Google closed down GMail?”. There’s no indication that they plan to, but I don’t like the idea that it might go away one day. So I checked out a few solutions and have downloaded my email using Gmvault. It’s a script that, once you authenticate it with your Google account, merrily churns away, saving your emails into files organised by month.

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26 Nov 2012

Google Refine and the Fotherington-Thomas issue

If you ever work with spreadsheets (!) you no doubt keep your data meticulously clean. I bet you never ever enter “n/a” into a column that’s otherwise full of numbers, or mix “U.K.” with “United Kingdom”. Today’s news flash: there are spreadsheets out there not created by people like you and me. People who, late at night, mistakenly copy columns and accidentally transpose the data, or make typos and don’t spot them.

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19 Sep 2012

Pricing a raffle

I’m selling our campervan. It’s not going to raise a lot of money. But Matthew at work suggested a novel way of selling it, which got me thinking. “Have a raffle,” he said, “two quid a ticket. Bet you could sell loads.” I’m not sure about the legalities, and I am sure it’d be tricky to achieve a few hundred, small-but-traceable transactions (without sitting in town selling tickets), so I’m going to stick to the more conventional methods.

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20 Jul 2012

Sodium Fluoride and Arctic Lichen

I sometimes wish it were my job to come up with the pseudoscience that is so prevalent on marketing material, especially for pharmaceuticals. Toothpaste that contains moss and lichen? Whether or not it actually helps, the juxtaposition of “moss” with calcium ions motivated me to grab this shot while brushing my teeth. I particularly like the chart to the right which shows pain varying over time. Here’s another example. I can safely show you this excerpt from one of my household bills, because it contains so little useful information, and the information it does contain is practically impossible to discern.

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24 Jun 2012

Over-egging the infographic pudding

This over-the-top infographic set off my geek alarm bells today. A one-dimensional time-dependent variable presented as six two-dimensional charts. For good measure, a trivial complementary variable has been calculated and included, along with the numerical value of both variables to an excessive degree of precision. The BBC website is brilliant at things like this. A couple of favourites from the past: BBC mistake computer game logo for UN Security Council symbol “if the government was a mouse this week, the psychedelic view inside its head might resemble that of a little hippy, addicted to LSD.

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