Expressions of Gratitude

As this year ends, I realize just how much has happened and how much I’ve grown as a person. The turmoil actually began when my wife became ill over six years ago, but intensified when she died in April. Since that time I’ve had to answer a lot of questions about my life and how it would change without Rebecca in it. Some answers are coming, some are still unknown, and a few have been satisfied. The most important question I had is whether my friends would be there to support me during this trying time and they’ve been more than up to the challenge. It’s good to have people you can rely upon to help keep the blog posts written, the books and articles in process, and the new fields of endeavor in progress. It would be impossible for me to name everything my friends have done for me and I wouldn’t even try. All I can do is express my extreme gratitude for them and hope they know how much they mean to me.

I’ve talked many times about how self-sufficiency is more about trying to do things on your own in as much as possible, but then realizing that no one can make it completely alone. Self-sufficiency can and does go wrong when people think that it means living like a hermit away from all human contact. Yes, I’m self-sufficient in many ways, but I’m also smart enough to know that I depend on others for help when needed. Getting that help is one thing—ensuring they know how much their help means is quite another. Expressing gratitude, even for the seemingly simple things, is an essential part of the self-sufficiency experience. It’s not possible to go wrong when you’re grateful for the help you receive.

As this year ends, I hope that you’re truly grateful for all of the small ways in which people have helped you this last year and every year to come. More importantly, I hope that you’ll actually take the time to thank your helpers in person, through a phone call, or by sending them a card (or possibly all three). The people you can count on, those few true friends in your life, are more important than anything else here on earth.

With this in mind, I also want to take time in this post to thank all my readers.  Every purchase you’ve made has helped keep me in business so that I can continue helping others. Every question you’ve asked has helped me produce better materials. The gracious contributions of my beta readers have been appreciated most of all. Goodbye to the old year; happy new year one and all!

 

Sensors and Animals

I still remember my early days in the Navy, when accelerometers were relatively large and most definitely expensive. They also weren’t all that reliable at times. (An accelerometer measures the amount of acceleration in a specific direction.) However, they were necessary equipment components because they helped ensure that any measurements compensated for the ship’s yaw, pitch, and roll. In fact, accelerometers continue to have a high visibility role in performing this task as part of Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) used in all sorts of equipment. Fortunately, modern accelerometers are extremely reliable, quite small, and cheap.

You probably have several accelerometers on your person. For example, they’re used to change the orientation of the picture produced by your smartphone. In fact, accelerometers are one of the most common sensors in use today because they provide much needed information about the manner in which the environment is changing for a particular technology. There are all sorts of ways in which you could use accelerometers to determine how an object is interacting with the real world.

Using accelerometers with animals has gone on for a long time now. In fact, they’re used so often that there is an actual name for the practice, animal biotelemetry. Most uses for animal biotelemetry affect wild animals in some way, but you can find uses for domesticated animals as well. I recently read about a new use for accelerometers in working with animals, Moove it! Tracking the common cow. The title would have you believe the accelerometers are used to monitor cow movement, which is partly true, but the purpose is to determine when the best time is to breed the cow so that she produces offspring at the most efficient time for everyone (including herself).

The article points out that sensors are often used in ways that weren’t envisioned by their creator. In this case, the accelerometer is actually used for monitoring, rather than measuring direction. I look for continued new uses for sensors to come to light. These uses will help us overcome many of the issues that people face today in interacting with their environment. Let me know your thoughts about how accelerometers and other sensors might be used to track, monitor, and otherwise help both people and animals to lead better lives at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Python 2.7.9 Update

Beginning Programming with Python For Dummies is based on Python 3.3. However, I know that some of you are using Python 2.x installations instead. My book does discuss some of the differences between the two releases and makes you aware of examples that won’t work. However, if you do decide to use Python 2.x despite the limitations when it comes to the book, I highly recommend you get the Python 2.7.9 update. The update contains a slew of important bug fixes, many of which affect security, which is always an important issue when it comes to applications.

A reader recently sent me an InfoWorld Tech Watch article that highlights the updates in the 2.7.9 release for you. The most important thing to know from a book perspective is that the update doesn’t offer any new features. This means that if an example didn’t work with 2.x in the past, it won’t work with 2.7.9 either.

A number of readers feel that the Python 2.x releases are better and the bug updates simply mean that it remains popular. Because the 3.x release is the preferred release, I chose to focus on it when I wrote the book. Yes, you can use my book with the 2.x release, but I guarantee some examples simply won’t work with it.

Please let me know if you have any other questions about my book, the level of Python support it provides, or whether the Python 2.7.9 release will provide any book-related advantage other than ensuring your system will remain safe at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com. I want to ensure you have the best reading experience possible. However, there isn’t any chance at all that I’ll rewrite book examples to work with 2.x unless there is a significant number of readers who want this feature. Even then, some examples simply won’t work because there is no workaround to make them work (essentially the reason we needed the 3.x update).

 

Merry Christmas!

It’s Christmas Eve! I’m actually out of the office today and will be tomorrow as well. Taking time off to visit with family and friends, and to remember the real reason for the holiday, are important for me. I hope that you have an absolutely amazing holiday with family and friends. I’ll see you again the day after Christmas, on the 26th. In the meantime, take time to rest. It’s good for your health and your outlook on life.

More People Noticing that Green Technology Really Isn’t

A lot of people have sent me e-mail about my negative viewpoints on a lot of the supposedly green technology that we use today. The fact is that many of these green technologies simply move pollution to someone else’s backyard and may actually increase the amount of pollution created, rather than reducing it. My latest essays on the topic appear in A Discussion About Green Technology Pollution and A Discussion About Green Technology Pollution (Part 2). I’m most definitely not against technologies that really are green—I’m just against technologies that pose as green when they really aren’t. The consequences of pseudo-green technologies are real. We’ll eventually pay for the pollution we’re creating and spilling into the air, water, and land.

I’ve noticed that more people are starting to see the same things I do when it comes to pollution. The article I like best in this category is Study: Your all-electric car may not be so green from the Associated Press. Although the article doesn’t even begin to discuss the sources of pollution that electric cars generate (such as those rare earth mines in various parts of the world), it does point out that even the electricity is dirty. An electric car powered by electricity from a coal-fueled plant produces 3.6 times the amount of pollution as a gasoline car. If you absolutely must attack the problems created by gasoline fueled cars, use a hybrid instead. No, it doesn’t get rid of the pollution produced by materials used to build the car, but at least it actually does produce less pollution locally.

Some readers have pointed out that there is some speculation that the whole global warming debate is a fraud. There is even some discussion that governments are stepping in and simply telling anyone who works for the government not to tall about global warming at all. Yes, the debate has proven difficult and will remain difficult as some researchers begin to claim that we’re actually going to experience a cooling trend in the near future. The fact is that few people actually have the knowledge required to make a guess and my understanding is that no one has actually accumulated enough information to prove the issue one way or the other. What I do know is that it’s a bad idea to keep spewing contaminants into our environment. You can see the effects of pollution all around you.

This all leads me back to my basic premise about pollution. You need to make it personal. Deciding how pollution affects you personally can help direct your efforts in making our world a cleaner place to live. Doing things like turning off lights you don’t need, driving only when you actually need to, and lowering the thermostat a few degrees will all help. Your personal gain from such efforts is the money you’ll save and the health you’ll keep. Using fewer resources means having more money in your pocket for the things you’d like to have. Less pollution means that you’ll have a longer, healthier life.

What is your take on the claims to green technology that really isn’t? There currently aren’t any laws that specifically keep a manufacturer from claiming that a technology is green when it really isn’t. I’d like to see laws that place the burden of proof on the manufacturer. Before a product is sold as being green, the manufacturer should have to prove that it’s not only manufactured in ways that will produce less pollution (something that is nearly impossible right now), but that using the item will also produce less pollution and that the product’s eventual disposal will help keep pollution under control as well. Let me know your thoughts on the topic at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Winter Warmup

Winter weather in Wisconsin is anything but predictable. It’s not consistent either. In fact, the only true statement you can make is that the weather is interesting. Exciting might work as another term for it. So, I’m not at all surprised that November turned out quite cold with temperatures well below normal, and now December is turning out a bit warm. In fact, we’ve had a number of days that have been above freezing. From a personal perspective, I’m not complaining even a little. My wood pile continues to look nice too. In fact, the house got a bit too warm last night using the minimum amount of wood. I may not even start a fire this evening given that I used one this morning to dry my clothes (hey, driers cost money to operate—clothes racks are pretty much free except for the initial investment).

Just because I personally like the weather though, doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns. When the weather is like this, the ground doesn’t freeze completely. Bugs that are overwintering in the ground and on plants aren’t killed off when the weather is too warm. In fact, I’m thinking if the weather doesn’t get colder soon, I may end up with a bumper crop of tent caterpillars this spring.

Even though people don’t like the cold winds of winter, the plants need it to remain viable. Nature has evolved to require the presence of extreme cold in order to keep insects under control. When the insects aren’t controlled, the plants have a hard time surviving (normally it’s the plants you want most that die the easiest). For example, tent caterpillars can easily strip my plum trees and because the trees don’t get a second set of leaves, the trees are bald for the entire summer (resulting in their death).

Unfortunately, the weather can also get too cold. Last winter we experienced day after day of colder than usual temperatures. The result was that about half of my grape vines died. Interestingly enough, the grape roots survived and new vines came up from the root. I’ll still have to wait for three or four years to get my first batch of grapes from the new vines, but it won’t be as long as if I had to replant them using new plants. The point is that there is a range of temperatures that plants expect during the winter months and when those temperatures aren’t met, the plants die or the insects overwhelm them.

A number of people have asked where global warming is given the temperatures we’ve been having for the most part. Global warming is a technically correct, but misleading term. The more I read, the more I come to understand that the overall warming of the earth’s temperature causes wider variations in climate, not necessarily overall warming. While we have experienced colder weather here in Wisconsin, overall, the earth has continued to warm. I was reading about the effects of the warming in other areas of the world just this morning.

I’ll eventually provide some additional input regarding global warming because there seems to be a great deal of confusion about things. I do believe there is some level of global warming based on the weather I’ve seen personally. Whether global warming is due to natural climatic variations or the result of mankind’s mistreatment of the planet remains to be seen (although, fouling the planet’s atmosphere, water, and soil is a bad idea no matter what the effect might be). No matter the cause, I look for the effects to become more prominent in the future. Let me know your thoughts about our interesting winter weather at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Thinking About the Continuing Loss of Privacy

It’s easy to wonder whether there will ever come a time when humans will no longer have any privacy of any sort. In part, the problem is one of our own making. We open ourselves up to all sorts of intrusions for the sake of using technology we really don’t need. I’ve discussed this issue in the past with posts such as Exercising Personal Privacy. As people become more addicted to technology, the thinking process is affected. The technology becomes a sort of narcotic that people feel they can’t do without. Of course, it’s quite possible to do without the technology, but the will to do so is lacking.

A couple of articles that I read recently have served to highlight the consequences of unbridled technology overuse. The first, Getting Hacked Is in Your Future, describes the trend in hacking modern technology. Of course, avoiding getting hacked is simple—just stop using the technology. For example, people have gotten along just fine without remote car starts to heat their cars. Actually, it’s simply a bad idea because the practice wastes a considerable amount of gas. The point of the article is that hackers aren’t ever going to stop. You can count on this group continuing to test technology, finding the holes, and then exploiting the holes to do something horrid.

Wearable technology is also becoming more of a problem. The ComputerWorld article, Data from wearable devices could soon land you in jail, describes how police will eventually use the devices you use to monitor yourself against you. The problem isn’t the wearable technology, but the fact that many people will use it indiscriminately. Even though logic would tell you that wearing the device just during exercise is fine, people will become addicted to wearing them all the time. It won’t be long and you’ll see people monitoring every bodily function 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The use of cameras to view static locations on a street will soon seem tame in light of the intrusions of new technologies.

A reader recently asked whether I think technology is bad based on some of my recent blog posts. Quite the contrary—I see the careful use of technology as a means of freeing people to become more productive. The problem I have is with the misuse and overuse of technology. Technology should be a tool that helps, not hinders, human development of all sorts. I see technology playing a huge role in helping people with special needs become fully productive citizens whose special need all but disappears (or possibly does disappear to the point where even the technology user doesn’t realize there is a special need any longer).

What is your take on the direction that technology is taking? Do you see technology use continuing to increase, despite the problems that it can pose? Let me know your thoughts on the good uses for technology and the means you use to decide when technology has gone too far at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

The Importance of Finding Work

Readers sometimes show patterns in the questions they ask and, in some cases, the pattern shows across a number of my books. When I started to note that readers were interested in discovering just how to earn a living once they have developed a new skill and that they were interested in me providing that information, I started adding a new section to many of my books, such as MATLAB for Dummies, that describes what sort of industries could use the skills the reader has learned. However, I don’t want anyone to be bored to tears either, so I made a point of listing interesting vocations. It’s my feeling that readers want to be engaged in their work. Of course, jobs with less pizzazz are always available and you might have to accept one of them—at least in the short term.

I didn’t provide such a listing for Java eLearning Kit for Dummies. My thought was that Java jobs are so plentiful that readers could probably find a job they liked without too much trouble. However, even with this book, I’ve received more than a few queries about the issue. That’s why I wrote 10 Surprisingly Interesting Ways to Earn a Living Using Java recently for New Relic. As with all my other job listings, this article focuses on jobs that could be really interesting and most definitely rewarding. Of course, not every job is for every person out there—you need to read the article to find the kind of job you like best.

One reader actually did ask why I focused my efforts on interesting (or at least, unusual) jobs. It all comes down to my personal vision of work. I get up every morning with all kinds of cool ideas to try for my books. I actually like opening my office door, starting up my systems, and getting down to writing. For me, work is an enjoyable experience—so much so, that I often forget that it’s work. I’d like other people to have that experience—to have the joy of enjoying their work so much that they really hate to leave at the end of the day.

Of course, there are other languages out there and I have other books that lack lists of jobs. If you find that one of my books is lacking this sort of information, and you really would like me to research the kinds of jobs that are available, let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com. I’d like to hear which book should receive a listing of associated jobs next. In the meantime, be sure to enjoy the Java job listing. You might see your dream job listed, you know, the one you didn’t think existed.

 

NumPy and SciPy Update

As books age, some of the resources used to create them get abandoned or simply don’t work right. Such is the case with Professional IronPython. There has been an ongoing conversation about NumPy and SciPy support for the product. In fact, you’ll find the first signs of trouble in my NumPy and SciPy Support in IronPython 2.7 post, followed by an update in NumPy and SciPy Support in IronPython 2.7 – An Update. At the time I uploaded those posts, Enthought was still engaged in producing a NumPy and SciPy library for IronPython. Recently, a reader notified me that the support is no longer available from Enthought—a problem that I’ve since verified.

Of course, my posts alerted to you issues with the Enthought library and things have only gotten worse from what I understand. As a result, I can’t even recommend you download and try the Enthought library an longer, unless you’re running an older version of IronPython and just happen to find a compatible version. There is a version on the SciPy site. However, when you review the FAQ on this site, you see this information related to .NET installations:

Does NumPy/SciPy work with IronPython (.NET)?

Some users have reported success in using NumPy with Ironclad on 32-bit Windows. The current status of Ironclad support for SciPy is unknown, but there are several complicating factors (namely the Fortran compiler situation on Windows) that make it less feasible than NumPy.

So, the chances of the SciPy installation working are relatively small. There are some additional sites you could try, but given that I haven’t actually tried them myself, I can’t guarantee success. Please contact the site owners if you have questions about their software. With this caveat in mind, you can try these locations:

If someone has actually tried these extensions and used them successfully, I’d really like to hear from them. It would be nice to have a working solution for the book. In the meantime, there is a message thread at https://mail.python.org/pipermail/ironpython-users/2014-May/017067.html that could provide helpful information about the situation. Anyone with book-specific questions should feel free to contact me at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Missing Source Code Files for Beginning Programming with Python for Dummies

A number of readers have written to ask about the downloadable source code for Beginning Programming with Python For Dummies. At one point, the downloadable source was featured on the Extras page and I provided a link to it as part of the Getting Your Beginning Programming with Python for Dummies Extras post. The other extras are still in place, but the source code has moved location. You can now find it on the book’s main page immediately below the initial book description on the Downloads tab. I’m sorry for any confusion that the site setup change caused, but it actually took me by surprise as well and I had to research the actual location of the code. Those of you who asked me about the download through e-mail have already received a response.

I always want you to have the best possible learning experience with my books. That means having access to all the resources that the book has to offer. I’ll also keep providing required updates and tell you when others find errors so that you don’t have to work through it yourself. Please feel free to contact me with any book-specific questions you might have at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.