Python & Data Science

A fair warning to the readers: this blog post reeks of geek so proceed at your own risk.

With the explosion of the ways human beings are creating, collecting data these days thanks to ease of storage (storage media has been becoming increasingly affordable (in other words, cheaper and cheaper). Additionally it has become increasingly easier to generate and collect data from so many devices (smart phones, satellite systems, cameras, social media etc. et.c). So with this incredible amount of data (literally in the tera-bytes) there is a need to utilize to make sense of the data and to utilize it in useful ways (to make better predictions, make more money, avoid more crimes, design better medicine, create better products, sell more services etc. etc.). Companies (as well as universities) have realized how important it is to do science with data. As a result, the discipline that has recently become very popular is Data Science. Just do a Google search for Data Science and you’ll be amazed at how much information there is out there.

Data Science usually requires skills such as Mathematics, Statistics, SQL, Data Analysis, Business Domain Knowledge and Programming in R or Python. Python and R are the two most popular programming languages with the Data Science discipline these days. So if you’ve a solid Math background and love to do programming, this might be something you might want to look into. It seems like a really interesting field with a lot of opportunities for really meaningful work.

A data scientist typically works in one dedicated domain area: it could be anywhere or anything. For instance, you could be working in marketing, medicine, product engineering, urban design, smart cities, transportation, astrophysics or whatever else you’re into or find opportunities in. There are sure to be a lot of opportunities in pretty much any discipline. Exciting careers for bright students. Study your Mathematics well!

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Information Overload

Everyone knows there is way too much information. Both online and offline. There are way too many books and magazines to choose from. There is a dizzying array of electronic media to entertain anyone hours on end on a daily basis. There’s a lot of made up garbage that people ought not to consume but since its out there people do read it, listen to it or watch it. People mindlessly forward a ton of *crap* via Whatsapp (what the statistic I read the other day about Whatsapp handling 60 billion messages per day or something like that really must include).

Interpersonal relationships have suffered. People are not connected. Except virtually. Everyone’s connected via smart devices, social networks and ubiquitous global networks of wifi or cellular data connections. This includes children as young as two years old who can barely hold a smart device as well as seventy or eighty year old grandparents who have someone embraced technology in the form of smart devices so much so they too reach for their device at their bed side as the first thing upon waking up. And this is not just some people. This is the norm these days. A global norm.

Therefore there is a real need more than ever before for quality content that stands out (from the content creators’ perspective). And some kind of filtering mechanism that filters out the nonsense noise and only focuses on the good stuff (and I’m not talking AI (artificial intelligence) although that could very well lend a helpful hand. On a personal level, smart folks need to develop their own way of mind numbingly useless content from consuming their valuable time (I started deleting the majority of forwarded audio, video and image files. Also lengthy PDF attachments and forward paragraphs of text: who has time to go through any of those these days and yet people refuse to stop and think before forwarding).

Pardon my ranting. It’s a serious issue. We need solutions not whining 🙂

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Dictating On Voice Activated Devices

Dictating to a voice activated device is a novel experience for me. Sometimes you just don’t want to type your ideas but want to speak them out loud. The technology these days empowers authors like myself who are too lazy to type or just want to try out the technology for the sake of it. So I’m trying this out to see how it goes. I haven’t figured out everything yet. But I am pleasantly surprised that my voice is recognizable to the iOS software and without too many corrections I can get this thing done. The built-in software within iOS is pretty good at translating voice to text. It is far more challenging for me to get accustomed to dictating what I want to write to software. I have yet to Google how to delete my mistakes when I see them typed by voice commands. I would like this experience to be completely hands-free and smooth flowing. And it should not take too long to get to that stage.

So, in order to practice, I decided to test it out by dictating this article. Just to see if I can throw this thing off. So far it doesn’t seem to mind and types whatever I say as long as I say it in English intelligibly enough. I haven’t have to type any tongue twisters or easily misheard or misinterpreted words phrases or sentences. Abracadabra hocus-pocus this is truly magical, the thing ignores my coughing and sneezing and other noises from the background. While I cannot say that this software built into the device will work for everyone but it seems to work for me. So far so good. Now if I can only focus on the writing (dictating) it would greatly increase my writing speed and productivity. I do type pretty fast but naturally I speak faster.

Writing is an artform and it has come a long way since the days of pen and ink on manuscripts to typewriters and desktop PCs to small portable smart devices that support voice recognition so good that the writer can free himself or herself from the medium and focus on the content itself. It will take some time but it will truly be the way writers write in the future. I think. I’m loving this. I think.

I have to learn to use this dictation thingamajig properly before totally adapting it over typing. For instance I still pause, as it eight [hesitate], while I wait for it to type what I just said instead of just saying it because it does take a few seconds to process. I still have to figure out how to delete mistakes using voice commands.

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Gamifying Good Habits

Everyone wants to be more productive. Or maybe its just me. We have short life spans and limited time to do stuff and make an impact and leave a legacy. An example to follow for our kids, if we are so lucky to leave them a way of life that follows the Quran and Sunnah. A life fulfilled is a life lived in making this world a better place for generations after us.

The more you can focus on the most productive activities and the more you can invest your time in the activities that have the longest lasting impact, the better. That is why Dawah: inviting people to Allah is such a huge deed. If someone is guided to the right path and lives a good life because of us, all their good deeds and the good deeds of the people whom they influence will be in our account of good deeds until the Day of Judgment. That is the power of Dawah. But that’s a separate article in and of itself inshaaAllah.

I’m always looking for better productivity and the biggest bang for my buck so to speak. I watch the productivity space and try to become an early adopter of the new research and the ideas and products that become available in this category. This topic has been trending lately: habit formation using apps to form good habits and to get rid of bad habits. These apps, specially game like apps that encourage good behavior, reinforce good habits through competition and repetition. Even the simplest achievement of a continuous streak of activity for the past X number of days, weeks or months gives a sense of satisfaction and maybe enough motivation to keep going. Once the habit is formed, it is part of us. In Islam, we have the five daily prayers that also help to form the habit of punctuality as one of its aspects.

There are tons of apps nowadays that work on building habits this way. Perhaps it is not applicable to every learner and every type of learning, but it does seem to be in line with human psychology in general. I have seen it work with learning languages. I have also formed some habits this way that I struggled to form for a number years before. It does work for me and may well work for a lot of people.

We are a sum of our beliefs and actions. If they are correct and good, we are set for life on this blue planet and the eternity in the hereafter.

And Allah knows best.

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What’s up with this thing called Data Science

Data Science is the newest thing that has become popular for Math, Statistics & Computer Science geeks. This is a new area of study that has increasingly gained popularity over the last couple of years or more. This is evident from the many courses and numerous well paying jobs that turn up with a simple Google search. The courses available online for those who are interested in acquiring this new skillset. And there seem to be tons of jobs for Data Scientists as well. Mose of these jobs require an advanced degree (such as a Master’s or a Doctorate).

Data Science is a new discipline that includes various topics of interest such as Statistics, Data Analysis, R or Python Programming, Regression Models, Machine Learning and more. Usually, the courses demand that learners have Math/Stats & Comp. Sci backgrounds but there are people who have business degrees or humanities background that have ventured into this area because it is so attractive to people who crave creativity and challenge in their work.

A typical Data Scientist does a lot of different things, but primarily it has to do with making sense of data in a meaningful way that is useful for a purpose. That sounds vague actually. It really means extracting meaning from and interpreting data, analyzing it with tools (using pre-built software like Microsoft Excel or custom programming usually with R or Python). It requires the use of Mathematics and Statistics skills. First and foremost it requires acquiring the lots of data, cleaning, cleansing and formatting data and asking useful questions and getting really creative with the use of the data in some way that may be useful for medicine or policy making or urban development or whatever else might be the area you are interested in using Data Science for. In other words, Data Science has tons of applications.

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iPad Pro: Latest from Cupertino

The latest from Apple has me scratching my head. Steve Jobs may have taken the company in a very different direction from where Tim Cook seems to be taking it. True innovation seems to be present in the products anymore, just enhancements to the existing stuff.

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The new iPad Pro is a huge tablet that can be coupled with a Smart Keyboard and a Pencil from Apple. A keyboard and a Pencil with a touch device from Apple?! Starting at US$ 800  this bad boy looks like it wants to replace the need for a laptop (when you add a keyboard, you may as well). Online reviews seem to suggest that it’s not going to be replacing laptops just yet as there are limitations on iDevices that just don’t cut it for serious work to be performed on a full blown PC.

To me it doesn’t seem like innovation but rather the act of a follower. Microsoft and Google are coming up with new stuff these days and Apple is mostly following along. Sad to see this from Apple. The company needs to invent some cool stuff. The Apple Watch is also  mediocre at best.

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Slow Internet Connection

One of the blessings we have these days is an Internet connection in the form of fast reliable WiFi. WiFi is a technology that needs to be ubiquitous as it is essential to a lot of what we do almost similar to electricity and water. In other words it is becoming like a utility. For the most part, major modern cities around the world (at least those that I’ve travelled to) have WiFi readily available.

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Now the question is their speed and reliability. This is where most ISP (internet service providers) lack quality or ease of use. You could go to a good mall or a coffee shop or an airport or even an airplane and enjoy free WiFi but some places have to nickel and dime you to what is my number one pet peeve (well almost number one): slow Internet Connection. If you’re already shopping at a mall or paying, paying airport taxes, airline taxes just include the darned 4 dollars and change cost of the use of a lousy Internet connection for the duration (at most less than 24 hours at an airport or an airplane) a traveller is there. Let him or her be in communication with the family. Is that so difficult to understand and implement?

Google is working on what it calls Project Loon to provide wifi access via balloons. Let’s see how far that goes and how people manage to screw that up [have some confidence in the screwability of people].

Other places such as hospitals, government offices, banks and other such places should have free WiFi available to make things easy for folks. True 3G, 4G and LTE is often available on mobile devices but not everyone has it nor can travelers get it easily. So it behooves major modern metropolises to work on this and integrate it to their utility offerings of electricity, water and gas.

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Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

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I just finished listening to the audiobook version of this recently released biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. It’s a brilliant book that everyone should read or listen to.

Isaacson has a unique style of writing which is perfect for biographies. It’s easy to read, understand and follow along. He keeps you interested in the writing by keeping the suspense at just the right level without really making a big deal out of it.

He did a lot of research in writing this book which is probably typical of writing any historically accurate biographical book. However, what is fascinating about Isaacson’s method is his uncanny ability to ask the right questions of the right people making them open up to him.

Isaacson’s integrity to his writing mandated that he let his subject (Jobs) know from the get go that he would not stop at anything. This wouldn’t be huge with most personalities, but Jobs was notorious for secrecy. Granted Jobs had approached Isaacson to write the biography, still it’s a remarkable feat that Isaacson managed to accomplish with writing about Jobs’ personal life in such detail. The book, in my humble opinion, is a masterpiece, not just because of the quality of writing but because of the subject matter.

I would have loved for the book to have more about Jobs’ spiritual life, although there is a fair amount of information in it. I think Isaacson could have collected more material around that aspect of his life. If he collected it, it would have made a more wholesome read to have included more. The religious beliefs and actions don’t say a lot more about him than any other aspects of his life but they do offer a very interesting insight into their existence as a human being.

His background and his unwillingness to call his biological father (although having had a chance run in with him at a restaurant!), I will never understand. Why would he do that? Why do people do the strangest things that they do?

All in a all, Jobs was a fascinating personality we could all learn from. And not just from his positive qualities either.

 

 

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