Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day: A few books that come to mind

Notes: a few books that come to mind when thinking about war and veterans:

With the Old Breed by E. B. Sledge
Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War by William Manchester
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles by Anthony Swofford

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Review: Thoughtful Machine Learning, by Matthew Kirk, O'Reilly Media

Unfortunately, the first edition of Thoughtful Machine Learning feels like a first edition.

The writing is nothing special, and at times, inconsistent. For example, "Neural Networks" and "Neural Nets" are used interchangeably. More importantly, some of the examples are confusing. The calculations and numbers used in the fraud detection example are not well explained.

Mistakes in the figures and tables are numerous (refer to the book's errata page). Some of the figures are overly simplistic and don't add anything. Describing a noisy party is enough, a diagram of 3 people standing next to a washing machine is overkill. To accompany the description of gradient descent, there is a figure of a person on a hill.

On the plus side, the ruby code examples for each chapter may be useful to some readers. To get them running, readers are largely on their own; only one chapter has a README.

Overall, I was disappointed. Perhaps the the second edition will be better.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Review: MySQL Cookbook, by Paul DuBois, O'Reilly Media

A solid reference for common MySQL problems.

Although the third edition (2014) is over 800 pages, the recipes are short and easy to understand, and most importantly, useful.

The beginning of the book covers how to interact with a MySQL database using the following common programming languages: Python, PHP (PDO), Perl, Ruby, and Java. The rest of the book deals mainly with queries that handle tasks like searching, sorting, joins, summarizing data, etc. In addition, topics related to database administration are well addressed.

I expect to refer to this book often, and would recommend it to others.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Dice Probability Calculator App

Calculate odds of sums and combinations for six-sided dice. For example, if you play Dice with Buddies or other dice games, you could use this app to compare strategies.

View Dice Probability in Apple App Store.

For a given sum and selected number of dice, the following probabilities are displayed: equality, greater than, less than, greater than or equal, less than or equal.

For combinations, the probability of a specific dice combination (ex: 3 ones, 2 fours) is displayed along with the probability for the same combination with any dice (ex: any full house).

Lastly, you can calculate probabilities for getting "at least" some number of dice. For example, the probability of getting at least two sixes using five dice.

The iPad version displays a bar graph of the relative probabilities.

No ads.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Review: Hands-On Programming with R, by Garrett Grolemund, O'Reilly Media

A Gentle Introduction to R and Programming in General.

By working through 3 projects (ex: slot machine simulation) over several chapters, Garrett Grolemund introduces good programming practices and some important R foundational concepts (ex: functions, scoping, S3). The book is appropriate for people new to programming or R users who are comfortable running R commands but not familiar with writing functions. Code challenges and examples are clearly explained and the corresponding R output is shown.

The book intentionally does not cover graphics and modeling. Other books exist for graphics that are very good, so Grolemund sees no need to cover the same ground. Regarding modeling, a companion book, Data Science with R, is forthcoming.

Overall, I think the book is a very good starting point for anyone new to R or new to programming. It covers the basics well and is a confidence builder.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: Communicating Data with Tableau by Ben Jones, O'Reilly Media

Ben Jones provides a great introduction to Tableau, a software tool used for working with a wide variety of data sources. The easy to follow tutorials cover some realistic scenarios for exploring and presenting data. Along with the Tableau specific content, Jones gives some general suggestions for how to approach data presentation, and tips for making the data more engaging.

I would recommend the book to anyone interested in working with data because it provides a feeling of how Tableau can be used for quick exploration and presentation. A programming background is certainly not necessary for enjoying this book.

The book is not intended to be a complete reference, but it does provide some additional resources (training videos, tutorials, blogs, etc.) for learning more about Tableau features.  

At this time, Tableau version 8.2 is available for download with a free 14 day trial period from Tableau Software.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Review: Just Enough Math by Paco Nathan; O'Reilly Media

Not Enough Math, Simple Examples.

In this video series, Paco Nathan attempts to relate how data can be structured to take advantage of advanced math and open source tools.

Although the videos touch on some useful areas of interest, the content didn't meet my expectations with respect to explanations of the math involved and the examples are overly simplistic at less than 50 lines of python code each.

After mastering the examples, it is hard to see how a business person would make the leap to implementing data workflow based on various open source tools without knowing anything about how the underlying math works.  

On the plus side, the videos list links to additional resources (books and papers) for more details. Also, the historical context to the math concepts is given in many cases.

The videos are divided into 4 sections: Abstract Algebra, Linear Algebra, Bayesian Statistics, and Optimization. A book by the same title is due out in the summer of 2014.

In summary, my preference would be for more information regarding the math and more realistic examples.