Ian Ozsvald picture

This is Ian Ozsvald's blog, I'm an entrepreneurial geek, a Data Science/ML/NLP/AI consultant, founder of the Annotate.io social media mining API, author of O'Reilly's High Performance Python book, co-organiser of PyDataLondon, co-founder of the SocialTies App, author of the A.I.Cookbook, author of The Screencasting Handbook, a Pythonista, co-founder of ShowMeDo and FivePoundApps and also a Londoner. Here's a little more about me.

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30 July 2008 - 15:53Learning Python via ShowMeDo

Every now and again it is useful to look back at what’s been achieved – ShowMeDo started three years ago and we considered ourselves lucky if 1 Python video was contributed a month.  Now we get several whole series each month!  Often each series is information-laden and created by a competent screencaster.  Viewers learn very quickly and they remember ‘seeing it happen’ after they’ve watched the video.

I figured that a look at some of the recent series might be useful.  In total we have over 330 Python screencasts, with 8 series alone for Django.  Over 150 of the screencasts are aimed at Beginner Python coders.

We’ve had several series which cover test-driven development (TDD), unit testing and coverage, as well as discussing the whole development process.  Seeing these hard-core videos teaching ‘a good way of coding’ is really nice, these skills are hard to describe and easy for a beginner to ignore.  Three that spring to mind are:

It is nice to see some web-framework series sprouting up:

In the Club (for paying users) we’ve been busy, currently we’re simultaneously publishing several meaty series.  They’re aimed at beginner/intermediate Python programmers, mixing Python background with useful worked examples:

In total we have 11 strong series in the Club which reduce the learning time for a beginner.  We’ve also commissioned some of our open-source authors to join us in the Club, two new series on ‘batteries included’ and ‘C+Python’ are in the works.

We welcome new open-source authors – each author’s contributions are special to us, we don’t stick ads on the pages or require ownership of any rights.  We just do our best to bring an author’s knowledge to a wider audience.

I guess the biggest thing that we’ve achieved is ‘recognition’ – it is nice mailing a project author to discuss a relevant series that we’ve had submitted and to have them say ‘ShowMeDo – yes, I was watching some cool stuff there just the other day…’.

No Comments | Tags: Life, Python, ShowMeDo

27 July 2008 - 17:45RoboChick – Emily’s first post

Emily has started blogging on RoboChick, she’s talking about the Herbie the Mousebot birthday prezzie I bought her (pcb + parts + motors == hours of fun), one of the two wheeled robots that I thought would make for cool projects.  I hope she gets the pictures up soon…Robot pictures in flickr.

No Comments | Tags: ArtificialIntelligence

9 July 2008 - 17:21Experimenting with eLance

I’ve posted a job into eLance for the first time – I figure it is time to experiment with remote web design and CSS implementation.  Now this might seem odd given that I live in web-designer-rich Brighton…

I’m a believer in building on-line marketplaces where we can remotely trade our skills rather than only doing business in person. I’m also well-aware that I’ve never really used the marketplaces that exist.

Since I’m rather likely to build more businesses like ShowMeDo which revolve around the idea of remote marketplaces, I need to get more involved with the dynamics of these sites.

Of course the easy thing to do now would be to turn to friends in Brighton and ask for a pointer to ‘the right person’ to solve my design needs…instead I’ll take the slightly scarier route to dealing with someone I’ll never meet in person.

What’s the site?  A few days back I finished a draft for my new professional-screencasting site.  I’ll use the site when I make contact with companies that I think could benefit from using screencasts to explain their software.  Given that I’ve produced over 100 screencasts in the last 3 years (and received some incredibly positive responses from viewers) I intend to scale up the activity.

I’m heartened by Patrick McKenzie’s experiences with eLance (and from there have opened a dialog with Gursimran) and the final design of bingocardcreator, whilst a bit too busy to my eye, is a serious improvement on his older site.  I shall report as I progress…

Addition – when I listed the project I provided a 4 paragraph text summary (which is shown in eLance) and a 3 page pdf proposal.  So far I’ve received 14 bids, many are cut/paste proposals, only a few have resulted in useful conversations.

I realise in retrospect that I’d probably receive more targetted bids back if I’d included pictures in my proposal pdf.  As it is I link to external sites but that puts more work onto the bidder which results in the cut/paste less-useful bids.  Since many proposals are (I believe) ignored, the bidder wants to do the minimum work to win a percentage of their bids.

So far I’m happy with the amount of effort required (about 5 hours including writing the proposal document) given the better bids that I’ve had back, I’m narrowing my search down to two providers now.

Addition – I’ve decided to go with Gursimran outside of eLance.  We’ve spokenly extensively over email via Patrick’s blog entry (above).  If it wasn’t for Gursimran then I’d have gone with Danet.Solutions through eLance.  User danetsol understood my requirements and quoted very competitively, I’d be happy to suggest that others invite his company to bid, his examples really were very good.

2 Comments | Tags: Entrepreneur, Life, ShowMeDo

9 July 2008 - 13:57£5 App Write-up (6 demos at our Demo Camp)

What a fab night!  I counted 46 people which makes this possibly the largest event we’ve thrown – thanks to all for attending.  Sponsored beer, live Qik video, 6 great talks and lively post-event pub conversation – who could ask for a better evening?  Josh made this rather excellent panoramic view of us all:

£5 App evening in full swing

Each of the 6 talks lasted 15 minutes and covered a wide range of geek and tech-business topics:

Ribot both sponsored the event (great beer – thanks!) and made live Qik video streams for the evening.  I believe these segments are correct:

  1. Video 1 – quick intro from John and myself
  2. Video 2 – Tristan’s Python Series 60 demo starts
  3. Video 3 – Tristan concludes, full talk for Simon and Matt (followed by break)
  4. Video 4 – Second half – Premasagar, Dave, Jon+Kev

The Ribots also sponsored the beer, they skinned the bottles to show three stages of the design process:

More images can be found tagged in flickr and via the fivepoundapp homepage.  If you’ve a question about the night then come join the FivePoundApp google group.  Finally – thanks to Danny for hosting and to John for yet more great cake.

Possible talks for the next event could include something about ClearLeft’s SilverBack, a Chumby demo and Seb’s postponed Arduino hardware hacking.  I’d love to see some more internal-company demos/start-ups/proto-projects, please ping if you’d be interested in talking.

Addition – great write-up at Ribot HQ, including discussion of how and why they branded their sponsored beer..

2 Comments | Tags: Entrepreneur, Life, projectbrightonblogs, Python, £5 App Meet

7 July 2008 - 13:36New PC + Ubuntu

I’ll jot these down as helpful notes for others.  I’ve just bought a new Mesh PC, it includes an nForce 610i chipset (with video and audio) and a separate GeForce 8500 GT graphics card.

Ubuntu Hardy installed without hitch, it found my nVidia and suggested the restricted driver, it was happy with the SATA 500Gb hd and ‘just worked’.  Installation took 30 minutes and was a breeze.  Prior to this I configured the partitions manually (in the Ubuntu installer) to keep my Windows XP partition for dual-booting (a bootloader is added automatically to let you boot into XP on startup).

Sound was a bit more tricky (isn’t it always?) – it turns out that the on-board card was doing just fine, the problem was that it has a choice of 2, 4 or 6 channel sound which are controlled by drivers.  This is fine if you have the Windows driver, for Ubuntu it looks like config-file hackery. I was plugging in speakers for 6 channels rather than just 2.

Under System->Preferences->Sound if I chose ALSA (rather than ‘autodetect’) then everything worked with 2 channels, I had to configure mplayer and VLC to see ALSA.

To avoid the config hell I put my old SoundBlaster Audigy into the machine.  This was detected under ‘Sound’ as ‘p16v’, but wouldn’t act as the default device.  It turns out that now the machine sees two ALSA devices and uses the nVidia one as default.

Installing asoundconf-gtk solved this (I chose the SoundBlaster to be the default) and it wrote .asoundconf and .asoundconf.asoundrc to my home directory. asoundconf-gtk appears in System->Preferences->Default Sound Card.

Now VLC and mplayer (also Flash in Firefox) all play sound just fine.

I also made a point of upgrading my nVidia drivers using EnvyNG to the latest (173.14.05).  With the default Ubuntu nVidia driver I had some tearing on full-screen (1680×1050) movies, with the new EnvyNG driver I get a clear, great picture.

Once again I have a snappy, stable Ubuntu box and I can mostly ignore Windows. Yay!

Oddly I didn’t have to refer to my old notes to get ALSA with the SoundBlaster working on this new PC – the External channel was enabled by default (it wasn’t on my last PC).

Addition – I noticed that in Firefox 3 my backspace key doesn’t take me back a page.  Thankfully this fix (backspace key for ubuntu firefox) solves the problem in just a few seconds.

No Comments | Tags: Life