Vegetarian data beef

I run marathons, I work full time as a data engineer, and I also study computer-science and statistics at Open University. I lift, I game, I read, I sashay.
British but not; Canadian as well.

Read this first

The Station Wagon Down the Freeway Problem

Growing up, one of the maxims my dad said to me was to never underestimate the transfer speed of a station wagon loaded with tape going down the freeway. Back then (the 1990s) it was a considerable transfer speed, but I wanted to see how quick it would be today.

Turns out people are still making and using tape, and tape got /good/. HP’s LTO tape offering gives us 1.6 TB of compressed storage in 432 mm3. Using Wolfram|Alpha, I also found out the storage capacity of a modern station wagon (the Chevrolet Bolt EV) is 0.4786 m3. Let’s say the freeway lets you hit 120 km/h and you travel 100 km. We now have a simple math problem.

Screenshot 2019-04-26 at 09.53.26.png

And the answer is…

4730 Tb/s.

Turns out today, you still can’t beat a station wagon loaded with tape.

(This is also a very similar approach to how they moved the data for the blackhole picture.)

Continue reading →


LaTeX, Minitab/SPSS Output, and Monospaced Sections

I’m in year four of six of my Open University Computing & IT (Computer Science) with Statistics undergraduate degree. As I can no longer write by hand for extended assignments, I have begun using LaTeX to submit my statistics coursework. One of the issues I encountered is how annoying it is to put SPSS or Minitab console output in the assignment.

My requirements are that it should be monospaced font, the monospaced font must support single character math symbols (e.g. \mu, \neq), and that multiple spaces need to be printed. First I tried \texttt, but that didn’t give me much control. Next I tried \verbatim, but then I lost \mu

Yay I have a new problem.gif

Turns out I needed something different. I successfully cobbled together a solution using \usepackage{mdframed} and a find\replace on the lowly space to a tilde.

First I created a style in the document header...

Continue reading →


Eurovision 2019 Song Tracker

Every year I attempt to create the authoritative playlist for Eurovision, obsessively searching for the songs. This year, I’m pushing this information to my blog as well. The biggest challenge this year was Germany, with their brilliantly SEO-poisoned act name ‘S!sters’.

So far my favourite is Zero Gravity by Australia’s Kate Miller-Heidke, with Storm by Victor Crone for Estonia is a bop. But I’m truly hoping that Norway’s Keiino wins though, as it pays out the best on my Eurovision betting habit.

You can find my Eurovision 2019 Playlist on Apple Music or on Spotify

Country Artist Song Link
Albania Jonida Maliqi Ktheju tokës Apple Music Spotify
Armenia Srbuk Walking Out Apple Music Spotify
Australia Kate Miller-Heidke Zero Gravity Apple Music Spotify
Austria PAENDA Limits Apple Music Spotify
Azerbaijan Chingiz Truth Apple Music Spotify
Belarus ZENA Like It
...

Continue reading →


My commute should be PAYG

The UK has a ticketing problem: there are numerous types and often users pay for tickets they need or don’t realise they should use (or the worst: try to use but can’t) until it’s too late. Nowhere is more evident that the system is broken than a commute by train.

My daily commute is a train journey from Sheffield to Manchester. Ticketing options the journey are an On-Peak Day Return, an On-Peak Any Day Return, an Off-Peak Day Return, an Off-Peak Any Day Return, a Super Off-Peak Return, a Super Off-Peak Single, an On-Peak Single, an Off-Peak Single, an Advance Single, a Week Season ticket, a Month Season ticket, and a Month Season ticket plus a day up to an Annual Season ticket. I have many options - each with different restrictions and prices.

I’m the kind of geek which likes working out unit prices in my head (or multiple unit prices via a spreadsheet). Knowing the terms and...

Continue reading →


Cousera kick in the teeth

I was taking the Data Science specialisation from Cousera. I started in December. When I started the price was £19+£30*9, either pay in bits with only one re-sit, or all in advance for two years of all you can stomach access to the entire course library.

Now it’s £19+£62*9. £577!

Cousera and/or John Hopkins have doubled the price of their most popular verified specialisation. With no notice. No communication. Not even an FYI to current students already started their specialisation that the price was going to increase.

I didn’t pay in advance because the way the payment page was written. It extolled the benefits of paying in advance (2 years worth of access) but also told students you can switch from PAYG to pay in advance with a reduced fee (the lump sum less what you already paid). I was confident the price would remain the same for those who have started.

It obviously didn’t.

...

Continue reading →


DRIP, we meet again. [Letter to my MP]

Hello again Paul,

Thanks for your measured response to my concern regarding DRIP earlier this year. Though I believe we didn’t see eye to eye on the matter with respects to DRIP, I’m writing to you again about the expanding surveillance culture in the UK. In your email you sent to me you characterised the Government’s rush-through of DRIP to be ‘an affront to parliamentary democracy’, that the government ‘should have come forward with proposals much sooner…’ the UK is now faced with yet another surveillance expanding rush job and I am calling on you to not vote unlike the last time.

This is a poorly considered bill which makes the unwieldy large, invasive security state larger still.

The bill expands the scope of DRIP, forcing telecoms companies to retain more information than previously required by RIPA and DRIP. This amounts to a further expansion of indiscriminate spying of all...

Continue reading →