Thursday, 29 March 2012

Ngram tracking words over time

Part of Google's mission in scanning millions of books is to extract the information and make use of the knowledge. The extraction and analytical process is well described in the video from TED "What we learned from reading five million books". There is a Google books service that allows public to make use of the scanning tools to look over the text of the scanned books.

Time to have some fun, and see how some trends move over time in the text of published books.

First we have cat (blue trace) and dog (red trace). Looks like "Dogs rule and cats drool" after all.

Next we have some moving trends that show the changing balance over time.
Here we have canary (blue) v goldfish (red). Big decline of Canaries in the 1950s for some reason.

Finally rat(blue) and mice(red). From the neon-zero trace all the way back to 1800 you just know these have been a persistent pair of pests. The big kick up in the 1980 possibly coincides with the fast food generation. In the last few years up to 2000 mouse starts to kick ratty ass. That change over may of course be the new more electronic meaning of mouse starting to have an influence.

Try it for yourself see what insight you can find at

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Dirty Disk - do some housekeeping please

This dirty disk was pulled from a JBOD that was screaming for attention. Screaming both literally and figuratively. The fan was screeching and the drives were getting warm.

This drive housing had been living in an office environment, over about four years carpet fluff had migrated via the airflow to the drive box.

All electronics with a fan will accumulate fluff in a carpeted environment. Be sure to check out the inside and back grills of your media servers especially Xboxes, Tivo and PlayStations once in a while before overheating smokes out the place.

If you want more DirtyPictures ( of the PC type of course ) check out The Register special feature.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

How to set the lock screen message on Blackberry Torch 9800

Click image to see how to set the lock screen message on a Blackberry Torch 9800.

Having a lock screen message was a major reason why my lost Blackberry found it's way home so quickly. Be sure to use a phone number with an answer phone and if travelling abroad use the international version of the phone number.

Having the password set and a pin coded sim reduces the likelihood of miss use. There is an option on the password setting that allows for calls to be made without the use of a password, that a compromise between convince and security.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

OMG, I lost my Blackberry

I have a Blackberry Torch 9800 supplied by work and its kind of OK. I don't love it but I do use it a lot. It hooks into the Email Exchange server at work so I can access email and calendar entries. Working on a global project, I have to sync up early in the morning with the Aussies and work with West Coasters in the late afternoon. Having the Blackberry means that I can checkin in seconds and see if any active email threads need attention. Loosing it did not give me heart pain but for sure losing that device would gives me head pain and promises a bureaucratic nightmare.

The main non-work Killer app for me is Runtastic for GPS tracking my progress against my fitness challenge for the the year. To make this easier I recently bought a handlebar and bracket to put the BB in plain sight as the miles pass. I guess I was not looking at the BB often enough cause after 4 miles or so I looked down and it was gone. You are allowed to swear when that happens :-) Later examination revealed that I had put the bracket upside down so the phone holder case must have just worked loose and popped off. Doh!

So what will maximise the chances of recovery ? The first thing was to backtrack to the house scanning for the phone. Previously, I had set a welcome message on the phone that says "Name and call +44nnnnnnnn to return phone." That's my office phone number with voice mail. So the next action was change the voice mail to mention lost phone and ask person to call house number. Geek moment here, knowing how to remotely access office voicemail and update the greeting message *81 Login, Password, 8 2 3 for temp greeting 5 is record, # and Kerpow! Done. The Blackberry was all pin coded and passworded so would have been of limited use in hostile hands.

Backtracking again from house into town following the same route, scanning the edges failed to locate the lost device. Just as I approached the local police station to report loss a call from her in doors said that phone had been handed in to police. Whoop ! some good luck there. Police station was active but had no public counter on the weekend. Anyway after calling phone on borrowed mobile bobbies head popped out of second floor window. "Are you here to collect phone ? Will be out in a minute." A second later another head emerges with a cheeky "Heres the phone, catch ..... Larf Larf." After a couple of "What can you tell me about this phone ?" checks the phone was returned. Yeah!! Also got the phone number of person who handed in the phone.

Back to the house with big sigh of relief. All the while Runtastic was tracking the phone location so a sneaky look shows the phone GPS track wander from the drop site, round and round the shops then off to the police station where it bounces round a lot before collection.

Final wrap is call to finder with big thanks and Amazon voucher heading to the most kind and done the right thing Mr Brian Hockin from North Devon. Thanks mate, you and the Bideford Constabulary, saved me a heap of pain.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Right reason, wrong thing - Rhododendron

Sometime people do the wrong thing for the right reason. Like sending on a "virus" warning to all the people in your address book that arrived from the internet friend that sends you LOLcat pictures and smutty jokes. Come on people put the phrases into goggle and see the scam/hoax warnings.

Another right reason, wrong thing, I saw when out walking the dog today, was a planting of invasive, non-native Rhododendron in a public open space. The open space is owned by the National trust. That would be the same Rhododendron that Dorset wildlife Trust that spent 50 years removing from Brownsea Island. Planting a tree in memory of a departed loved one is usually right reason, right thing, but a Rhododendron from the garden centre is a disease spreading weed that is just cheap and wrong.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Folding@Home - reaching final target soon.

Nothing makes my inner geek happier than saying "My hobby is computational chemistry." For the last few years I have been taking part in the distributed computation Folding@home project. This Stanford University project uses donated computer time to study protein folding. A better understanding of protein folding will advance medical research looking for solutions to diseases such as Alzheimers, Huntingtons, Parkingsons and many cancers.

I kind of fell into the project in 2008 when looking for a worthwhile activity for my Mac G5 that had the problem of crashing when waking from sleep mode. The folding@home project kept the system busy and the cause is worthwhile. The CPU donations don't come for free as a flat out computer (or two) adds noticeably to the quarterly electric bill, offset somewhat by a set of PV Solar panels on the roof.

One feature of the project is the donation stats generated from returning completed work units. Donors join teams and those teams compete for ranking and placement on the donation stats boards. These stats are post-processed by a couple of web sites ExtremeOverclocking and KoaoStats give a sense of community and competition. There are also a good set of forums to get help and support for running the work units.

Folding@home can be done on wide variety of machines and operating systems. Work units can also be done on higher spec graphics cards using a CUDA compatible folding client. Folding can use all or just part of a machine's capacity by setting values in a configuration files. When running on all CPUs the power supply, motherboard and cooling are throughly tested. At one stage I had Mac, Windows 7 and Ubuntu folding side by side with a GPU client. The best performance numbers from a single machine, with an Intel Gulftown Hexacore cpu was ...

NODE (s) Real (s) (%)
Time: 17278.673 17278.673 100.0
(Mnbf/s) (GFlops) (ns/day) (hour/ns)
Performance: 711.518 36.599 10.001 2.400

That kind of performance from a PC size machine in 2011 puts it along side a Cray T94 from the mid 90s.

There is lots to learn running a small group of high performance folding systems. Mostly that problems occur when your not looking or just after you left on holiday. Other issues that required some technical attention....
  • Software configuration control
  • Power supply reliability both domestic input supply and ACtoDC converter
  • PC System building, especially over clocking.
  • CPU performance and CPU cooling
  • Wine the PC on Linux environment
  • Remote access for administration
I have enjoyed my time with the folding crew at Team MacOS X but having reached 12,000 work units and 30,000,000 folding points it's time to move on to other research projects. Posted here are my folding stats graph showing monthly output.

If you have some cpu cycles spare be it on a Mac, PC or even a Playstation 3 check out the Folding@home project.