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Tech Tips, Tricks & Trivia

by 'Anil' Radhakrishna
A seasoned developer's little discoveries and annotated bookmarks.

Search from over a hundred HOW TO articles, Tips and Tricks

Book Review: Microsoft Azure Machine Learning by @sumitmund

Sunday, June 26, 2016
Microsoft Azure Machine Learning by Sumit Mund is a good beginner level book that made Azure ML a little less daunting for me. I'll keep going back to it as I continue to learn & experiment more with Azure ML, the amazing predictive analysis tool that makes it easy for developers to leverage complex Machine Learning algorithms all within the web browser.

Having quickly read through the book to familiarize myself with Machine Learning jargon & tried some of the samples, I've realized it'll take me more reading and practice to achieve proficiency. This 200+ paged book whets your learning appetite by covering a breadth of topics with just enough information to get you started but not too much to make it too intimidating for newbies.

It helps that the author makes practical tips & recommendations rather than just pontificating. Sample -
Outliers are data points that are distinctly separate from the rest of the data... In many cases, it is a good idea to clip or remove the outliers.

As with anything related to the Cloud, most info has a limited shelf-life - a serious threat to books & documentation. As Azure ML Studio continues to evolve, some things have changed since the book was written. Therefore you'll find that some Modules described in the book have new names and it is an exercise for the reader to identify the differences.

A little more effort could have been spent in presenting the content better. While the author provides background context for most keywords before introducing them, there were a few instances where the author drops keywords without adequate explanation like in the case of "ports".

Despite the minor blemishes, this book is engaging and well-structured. It helped me appreciate the understated power of Azure ML.

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This Week I Learned - Week #168

Friday, June 24, 2016
This Week I Learned -

Microsoft Azure Machine Learning Algorithm Cheat Sheet helps you choose the right algorithm for a predictive analytics model.

* Microsoft Data Science Virtual Machine (DSVM) is an operating system image available in the Azure Marketplace with a host of popular data science tools pre-installed and pre-configured.

Azure SQL Data Warehouse can connect to Microsoft’s Azure Machine Learning libraries and Azure Data Lake.

Mark Zuckerberg covers his laptop camera. The taped-over camera and microphone jack are usually a signal that someone is concerned, perhaps only vaguely, about hackers’ gaining access to his or her devices by using remote-access trojans — a process called “ratting.” (Remote access is not limited to ratters: According to a cache of National Security Agency documents leaked by Edward J. Snowden, at least two government-designed programs were devised to take over computer cameras and microphones.) - NY Times

* Based on the data gathered from Trend Micro Mobile App Reputation Service, malicious apps related to Godless malware  threat can be found in prominent app stores, including Google PlayThe incident provides further evidence that users can't strictly trust official app stores to stay protected.

* Interesting facts from LinkedIn's Top Attractors list
- Half of CapGemini’s global workforce is based in India.

- Wipro (Western India Palm Refined Oils Limited) is one of India’s largest public companies and the seventh largest IT company in the world. Wipro has 170,000 employees on six continents and generates half of its revenues in the Americas.

- OYO’s founder and CEO, Ritesh Agarwal is just 22 years old and is the first resident Indian to win the Thiel Fellowship, a $100,000 grant from Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel.

- Cognizant was ranked #230 in the Fortune 500 list this year, up from #288 in 2015.

- Since 2012, Amazon has offered a program called "Career Choice," where the company pays 95% of tuition for its fulfillment and customer service center employees to take courses in non-work related fields, such as airplane mechanics, nursing, and medical lab technologies.

- Salesforce consulted monks when constructing areas for mindfulness in its offices. (Conservative Hindus swear by vasthu)

* The CEO of Goldman Sachs, a brand that for most of the world is the archetype of “Wall Street bank,” now tells anyone who asks that his company is actually a tech firm (and the fact that a quarter of its workforce is now engineers backs that up

* Dohaz.com does English translations of Hindi lyrics of mostly Bollywood songs

The average consumption per user on Google's broadband Wi-Fi network at 19 railway stations is 15 times the data (Source: IAMAI Data, Google Internal Data) they would consume on a 3G pack in a day, which today is the most dominant means of access to the Internet in the country. 

Venezuela has shown that even in a country with the largest oil reserves in the world, it is possible for people to riot because there is not enough food. Economists say years of economic mismanagement — worsened by low prices for oil, the nation’s main source of revenue — have shattered the food supply.

* Natural gas, the kind used to heat homes and fuel gas stoves, is actually odorless. A chemical, called mercaptan, is added to the gas to give it a scent... of rotten eggs. This is done so that if a gas leak occurs, (which could be dangerous) humans can detect even the slightest whiff and report it ASAP

*  Michael Phelps, aged 30,  is the most successful Olympian in history with 18 golds, two silvers and two bronzes in his four trips so far. In 2014, he went into rehab after his second D.U.I. arrest in September 2014 (his first occurred when he was 19) "having no idea what to do with the rest of his life".

* In the book Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl argues that we have an incredible power to shape our attitudes and responses to the challenges life presents us and that we inevitably grow thanks to these challenges. We inevitably choose to be who we are...if we choose wisely, we can triumph even in tragedy. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual

* "Stop saying learning to code is easy..."easy" sets folks up for failure and a lifetime of self-doubt" - Scott Hanselman 

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This Week I Learned - Week #167

Sunday, June 19, 2016
This Week I Learned -

* A web page I built with StupidTable jQuery plugin to sort a table was about three times lighter than the more feature-rich DataTables jQuery plugin

Nice code sample of an Azure Function that uses a blob trigger, sends the uploaded object to be analysed by Cortana Intelligence and stores the results in a DocumentDB collection.

It is possible to get data (from a relational database) into and out of a Google Sheet programmatically

Windows App Studio which makes is easy to build a Windows Phone app without coding now provides a REST API Data Source feature that allows users to integrate apps with third party APIs.

* Power BI is an evolution of the add-ins previously available in Excel: Power Pivot, Power Query, and Power View. You can use Power BI with or without Excel—you no longer are dependent on the version of Microsoft Office installed at your company. Power BI is not just a tool: it is an ecosystem that can integrate existing corporate BI with Self-Service BI - from the Intro of the free ebook Introducing Microsoft Power BI [PDF]

Downloading MeasureUp practice tests to virtual machines is prohibited.

Microsoft beat Apple to buy PowerPoint for $14 million (in cash) in 1987, its first significant acquisition. Robert Gaskins helped invent PowerPoint at Forethought Inc. in 1984. After the sale Robert reported directly to Bill Gates, heading up Microsoft’s business unit in Silicon Valley. He managed the growth of PowerPoint to $100 million in annual sales before his retirement in 1993.

* Kaggle hosts competitions provided by industry and academia to find machine learning solutions on different data sets. It also hosts publicly available datasets like the Enron email dataset (354.72 MB) which contains approximately 500,000 emails generated by employees of the Enron Corporation. It was obtained by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during its investigation of Enron's collapse.

Active noise canceling actually uses a mic to listen to ambient noise and then plays the inverse sound wave into the headset, "canceling" the ambient noise

* How drivers of cab aggregation services game the system to create artificial scarcity and trigger surge pricing - drivers concentrate in one location, switch off their app, and create artificial scarcity. They use the second phones to keep track on the rising prices. Once the surge begins, they log back again.

Locally grown food products are becoming more desirable than products sourced from far away...free-range livestock that are fed natural foods may be more desirable than cage-raised livestock that are fed a processed food

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) Chief Executive Officer Pawan Agarwal is tasked with improving food testing facilities and working with food businesses to improve manufacturing practices and hygiene standards. He feels it is wrong for Indians to expect international food safety standards as it is impractical

If you file your return on time, losses of this year can be set-off against gain of forthcoming years. Supreme Court of India rejected a petition of Ms. J Jayalalitha, Chief Minister of the state of Tamil Nadu against Madras High Court order to prosecute her for non filing of return of a firm in which she was a partner.

* A total of 28.7 million individuals filed income tax returns, of which 16.2 million did not pay any tax, leaving only about 12.5 million tax-paying individuals, which is just about 1 percent of the 1.23 billion population of India in the year 2013.  The Prime Minister of India urged tax officials — who are responsible for providing Rs 17 lakh crore to the government — to double the number of taxpayers to 10 crore from 5.43 crore (54.3 million) now. Google throws up 7 crore search results in response to the question 'How to pay tax in India' and 12 crore answers for 'How not to pay tax in India'.

* Labrador retriever is the most popular dog according to American Kennel Club which publishes an annual list of the most popular dog breeds in the United States, based on registration data for the nearly 200 breeds they officially recognize - WSJ

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Browsers give away device name through user agent - Et tu Browser!

Thursday, June 16, 2016
My mobile browser has been letting the websites I visit know what handset I use and I wouldn't have known this until I saw this targeted ad - an ad for case for Lumia 530

I knew about browser user-agent strings, but today I learnt that browsers give away device model name as well, through the user agent they expose -
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows Phone 8.1; ARM; Trident/7.0; Touch; rv:11.0; IEMobile/11.0; NOKIA; Lumia 530 Dual SIM) like Gecko

Cookies, prying sites like Google, Facebook, apps like TrueCaller know more about me than my friends and family. Good-bye privacy!

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The Dangerous National Obsession with Native Mobile Apps

Monday, June 13, 2016
Native mobile apps are being touted as the best thing since sliced bread by influential, ill-advised digital immigrants.  This is disappointing as they only consider the supposed coolness factor & ignore the minefield of issues that native apps present. Native apps are costlier to build than mobile web applications (websites that work on mobile browsers) and difficult to maintain. Native apps are useful only when they really utilize a smartphone's features for a good cause.

Examples of Native Mobile apps promoted by  top political honchos that should have been Mobile Web apps:

* Celebrating the World Health Day, the Health Minister today launched ..the ‘Swasth Bharat Mobile application’ ..and ‘India Fights Dengue’

* Umang (Unified Mobile App for New Age Governance) mobile app which will be available in 12 Indian languages "will give services of central government , state government and local bodies. On a click of button people will be able to scan 1000 services of government. We will start it in December with National student scholarships, women safety and health care", according to the Telecom Minister

work in progress...

A malicious mobile web app is more likely to be exposed faster than a native app by search engines & browsers. The seductiveness of a native app can cost its victims heavily:
Responding to a question in Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary also said Pakistan's spy agency was making efforts to trap ex-servicemen in the garb of providing job opportunities and financial aid for spying. "There are reports that Pakistani intelligence agencies are spying on Indian security forces by sending malwares in mobile apps such as Top Gun (game app), mpjunkie (music app), vdjunkey (video app), talking frog (entertainment app)", the minister said - NDTV