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.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Data Analysis Resources

A variety of resources for data analysis and machine learning. Additional suggestions are welcome.

R Package related blog posts and websites:
Books about the ggplot2 package:
Books covering the fundamentals:
Videos, Tutorial Sites, and Online Courses:
  • Quandl - searchable date based numeric datasets via website or Quandl r package

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Getting Started with Bluetooth Low Energy, by Kevin Townsend, Carles CufĂ­, Akiba, Robert Davidson, O'Reilly Media

Great for getting started.

The chapters are divided into 3 sections: Overview of BLE, Tools for Development and Testing, and Development Platforms. Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, you can jump around, but reading the book straight through is a good way to get an overall understanding before jumping into app or device development.

For app developers, there are separate chapters for Android and iOS that provide details of how to interact with BLE devices. In addition, the chapter on Application Design Tools lists several useful items that will make development much easier including: Bluetooth Application Accelerator, SensorTag, LightBlue for iOS, and nRF Master Control Panel for Android.

The last chapter, Embedded Application Development provides a starting point of what is involved with programming firmware for embedded devices.

Overall, a very good overview. I would recommend this book to anyone who is curious about the possibilities of Bluetooth LE. It seems like the combination of low cost devices and quality development tools will make for some interesting new uses.

View Getting Started with Bluetooth Low Energy in the O'Reilly Catalog.

Monday, April 21, 2014

New Game: Snow Blower App for iOS devices

Regardless of the time of year, enjoy the thrill (and challenge) of blowing snow. Clear as much snow as you can while avoiding falling icicles and a watermelon.

Available for iPad and iPhone devices from the App Store.

Snow Blower for iPhone

Snow Blower for iPad

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Mac OS X Productivity Tips for Developers, by Matthew McCullough & Tim Berglund; O'Reilly Media

This video series covers some useful tips for developers in 23 videos ranging in length from 3 to 22 minutes.

As you might expect, hotkeys, automation, and some third party apps are covered. For example, iTerm2 is presented as an improvement to the built in Terminal app. In addition, a fair bit of time is spent explaining configuration and package management tools such as HomeBrew and Boxen.  Boxen has 4 videos alone.

Personally, I liked the first videos more than the package management tool videos because there are some quick wins that can be taken advantage of right away. For instance, the different ways of using Spotlight filters could be useful for searching for things by date, etc.

The conversational delivery style is good enough. The rhetorical questions get a bit old, but I'm not sure what alternative would be better.

Also, being familiar with GitHub will make the videos easier to understand.

View Mac OS Productivity Tips for Developers in the O'Reilly Catalog.