Warnings in Python and Anaconda

It seems as if Python developers are having more than a few problems at the moment from a number of sources. I recently wrote about the potential issues for readers of Beginning Programming with Python For Dummies and Python for Data Science for Dummies from Windows 10 (Python and Windows 10). However, some readers have come back afterward to say they’re still seeing warnings. It wasn’t until one of the beta readers for Machine Learning for Dummies also saw some of these warnings that it became apparent that some other problem is at work. A recent upgrade to NumPy 1.10.1 has created these warnings. You can see some message threads about the issue at:

The important thing to remember is that you’ll see warnings, not errors (unless there is a problem Luca, my coauthor for Python for Data Science for Dummies, and I haven’t seen yet). For now, updating all of the Anaconda components is the only way to actually get rid of the warnings, which can prove to be quite a pain. However, the warnings are just that, warnings. The code in the books will still run just fine. The best way to avoid a lot of work and potentially creating yet more problems is to ignore the warnings for now. In order to ignore the warnings, type the following two lines of code:

import warnings
warnings.simplefilter("ignore")

Obviously, the situation is inconvenient for everyone, but the various libraries will get in sync sometime soon and then the warnings will disappear until the next set of updates. Please let me know if you continue to see problems after making this fix at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Considering the Authentication of Credit Cards in Web Settings

While I was writing Security for Web Developers I considered a great many security scenarios that web developers (and those who work with them) have to face. It always seems as if the hackers are two steps ahead. Of course, one of the biggest problems is static technology. For example, the Credit Verification Value (CVV), a three or four digit addition to a credit card number, is supposed to help safeguard the credit card. It doesn’t appear as part of the card data accessible through the magnetic strip or the chip. The CVV is actually printed on the card as a separate verification for venues such as web applications. The only problem is that this number is static—it remains the same for however long you own the card. Therefore, once a hacker discovers the CVV, it no longer provides any sort of security to the card owner. Interestingly enough, some sites online will sell you both credit card numbers and their associated CVV. The hackers win again.

A solution to this problem is to change the CVV periodically. Unfortunately, trying to change a printed CVV is impossible without replacing the card. One possible way to overcome this problem involves the addition of an e-paper space on the back of the card that would allow the credit card companies to change the CVV, yet keep it out of the magnetic stripe or chip. A lot of devices currently use e-paper, such as Amazon’s Kindle. The technology provides a matte paper-like appearance that reflects light similar to the way in which paper reflects it, rather than emitting light like an LED does. The difference is that e-paper is often easier to read.

Oberthur, the inventor of the Motion Code technology used to create the updated CVV, isn’t saying too much about how the technology works. There must be an active connection between the card and a server somewhere in order to update the CVV once an hour as specified in the various articles on the topic. The only problem is in understanding how the update takes place. If the technology relies on something like a Wi-Fi or cell connection, it won’t work in rural areas where these connections aren’t available. Even so, the technology does promise to reduce the amount of fraud that currently occurs—at least, until hackers find a way to thwart it.

What is your feeling about credit card data protection? Does Motion Code technology actually provide a promising solution or is it another dead end? How do you deal with potential fraud when creating your applications? Send  your ideas to me at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

A Future Including Virtual Reality

Seeing is believing—at least, that’s how it’s supposed to be. However, seeing may not mean believing anything in the future. During the building of the PC for Build Your Own PC on a Budget, I investigated various new technologies, including virtual reality, where what you see may not exist at all. Of course, gamers are eagerly anticipating the Oculus Rift, which promises to transform gaming with a monitor into an experience where you really feel as if you’re there. This kind of technology isn’t quite available yet, but will be soon. Even when the hardware is ready and the drivers work as promised, truly immersive games will take time to create. Look for this experience to evolve over time to the point where the Holodeck featured in Star Trek actually does become a reality.

To attract attention and become viable, however, technology must answer specific needs today. It was with great interest that I read Marines test augmented reality battlefield. Unlike the Oculus Rift, this technology actually does exist today and it demonstrates some of the early uses of virtual reality that you can expect to see. In this case, the background is real—it’s an actual golf course. The virtual reality system adds the hardware of war to the scene, including tanks, mortars, and features, such as smoke. What the marine sees is a realistic battlefield that doesn’t exist anywhere but the viewer’s glasses. This is the sort of practical use of virtual reality that will continue to drive development until we get a holodeck sometime in the future.

Virtual reality for gamers and the armed services is nice, but it’s also becoming a reality for everyone else. Samsung and Facebook are introducing a virtual reality solution for movie goers. That’s right, you’ll be able to strap some glasses to your head and get transported to a comfy living room with a big screen TV where you can watch the latest movies offered by Netflix. The Gear VR device promises to change the way that people see movies forever. This particular device actually works with your smartphone, so you need a compatible smartphone to use it. In addition to movies, Gear VR also promises to let you play virtual reality game and become involved in other immersive environments. All you really need is the right app.

An immersive experience, where you eventually won’t be able to tell real from created, is what virtual reality promises. Using virtual reality, you could travel to other parts of the world, explore the ocean depths, or even saunter through the solar system as if you’re really there, but still be in your own home. Virtual reality will eventually transform all sorts of environments, including the classroom. Imagine children going to school, interacting with other students, learning from the best instructors, and never leaving their home. A student could get a top notch education for a fraction of the cost that students pay today.

Coupling virtual reality with other technologies, such as robotics, could also allow people to perform a great many unsafe tasks in perfect safety. A human could guide a robot through a virtual reality connection to perform real world tasks that would be unsafe for a human to perform alone. Think about the use of the technology in fighting fires or responding to terrible events that currently put first responders at risk. Virtual reality will eventually change the way we view the world around us and I hope that the experience is as positive as vendors are promising today. Let me know your thoughts about virtual reality at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Colorful Carrots

The carrots go by many different names, but the main idea is that they’re quite colorful. I have now tried two different kinds, Carnival and Rainbow. Both kinds produced yellow, orange, red, and purple carrots. The Carnival variety pictured below also produced white and, oddly enough, one green carrot. I’m pretty sure the green carrot was due to some oddity in the seeds (or possibly it was introduced to sunlight in some manner). They both produced tasty carrots where the color definitely affected carrot taste. Of the two packages, I obtained the largest carrots from the Rainbow packet, but a single season doesn’t truly provide enough testing time to say that this would always be the case. I may simply have had an exceptional year. I plan to buy one packet of each sometime and plant them in the same area of the garden in the same year so I can perform side-by-side comparisons.

Colorful carrots make for exceptional meals.
A Colorful Array of Carrots

The carrots weren’t just colored on the outside. Cutting the carrots showed that the white, yellow, and orange carrots were the same color all the way through. The red carrots were red on the outside and orange in the inside. The purple carrots proved the most interesting, with bands of purple, orange, and yellow. Eating the carrots raw proved to be a real joy because you got different flavors with each bite and adding a dip (such as ranch or blue cheese dressing) simply added to the variety.

Growing colorful carrots means seeing color both inside and out.
Carrots Can Vary in Color Inside and Out

Cooking the carrots will change the color of the red and purple carrots to a dark orange. The white carrots do take on an orange cast, but you can still tell they were originally white. The same holds for the yellow carrots—they grow a bit more orange, but are most definitely remain lighter than the orange carrots. Therefore, even when cooked, you end up with a colorful meal, but not quite as colorful as the raw carrots. The colorful carrots even can well. The taste differences between carrots tends to fade a little when cooked and even more when canned. I can still tell the difference between these carrots when canned and other, pure orange, carrots.

Even the canned version of the carrots are colorful.
Canned Carrots Retain Some Color Differences

Unlike many multi-colored vegetable choices, getting multi-color carrots will provide you with enjoyment throughout the year. I now have some colorful choices for a variety of uses this winter. Let me know your thoughts about colorful vegetable choices at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

 

Review of Shields of PHLEGM

Everyone likes a good laugh and Shields of PHLEGM provides plenty of them. I’m a sucker for a good pun and this book uses them without letup or apology. The author, G. Ernest Smith, also uses satire to effectively poke fun at many of our societies woes without actually addressing any of them directly. No, what you’re left with is a good mystery that takes place sometime in the future when the earth is surrounded by satellites (so there is a science fiction element too). The book isn’t clear on the technology and it doesn’t need to be. The goal is to have a great time and it excels in this area. I actually had to set it down after the first couple of chapters because I ended up with stomach ache (be warned not to read this in a place where you don’t want others to hear you guffaw).

The plot does seem to meander a bit, but really, I didn’t mind. I came to enjoy the character parodies so much that the plot almost became secondary (it does have a good plot, by the way). A few of the jokes became a little old, but not terribly so. The fashion police made nearly constant appearances, which is how they’d probably act, so the behavior wasn’t annoying—it just got a little old. The odd clothing combinations the author came up with really are amazing though and it’s hard to imagine anyone actually dressing that way. Then again, when I see the attire worn by some individuals in public and on television, I must admit the book really isn’t that far off.

I absolutely loved the insulting tone of the smartass phones that made an appearance in the book and have to wonder when such a phone might make a real appearance. Given the things that people are willing to put up with now, I would imagine that this type of smartphone could become a fad at some point—who knows for certain? The fact is that nothing is out of bounds. It sort of reminds me of Blazing Saddles—the author makes fun of everything and everyone with equal punniness.

Some people could possibly take exception to a few bits of language in the book. There isn’t any actual swearing or off color material—at least, it isn’t spelled correctly. That said, you probably don’t want to share this book with anyone underage (not that it was meant for them anyway). This is the sort of book that an adult will enjoy greatly and it truly is adult material.

Is this a good book? Yes, if you like your comedy a bit on the unsophisticated side and really do want a good laugh, then you’ll enjoy this book immensely. Unlike many bits of comedy today, the author doesn’t have to rely on anything unsavory or employ potty humor to get your attention. This book does it the old fashioned way, by viewing the world from a slightly skewed perspective and employing visualizations that really do have you laughing because it’s funny—not because you’re embarrassed. That said, I think the use of a quad ram to act as law enforcement in training was truly inspired. I really do hope this author writes more because I plan to read it. The only real negative about this book is that it was too short—I don’t know that I’ve actually ever said that before.

 

Web Apps and Outdated Software

A particular problem that developers face when creating web apps is that users are notoriously lax in updating their software. A problem piece of software may make it easy for a hacker to gain access to the system. In some cases, the user will blame your application because it depends on software that could be outdated on the user’s system. A recent InfoWorld article, 10 old, risky applications you should stop using, brings the issue to light. Many of these pieces of software see use in Web apps. You may think that the user will rely on the newest version of the software, but the user may, in fact, have a piece of software that’s several generations old, yet runs your web app just fine.

Most of my web development books at least hint at the issue of dealing with outdated libraries, APIs, and microservices. Security for Web Developers makes the strongest case for verifying that web apps rely on the latest third party products to ensure the web app is less likely to cause a security breach, but both HTML5 Programming with JavaScript for Dummies and CSS3 for Dummies discuss the issue as well. The point is that you need to know that a user is relying on the latest software if at all possible. Otherwise, you may find your web app blamed for a security breach actually caused by another piece of software, such as a web browser.

The fear that many users have is that your web app will stop working if they upgrade to newer software. This fear has a strong foundation in broken applications of all sorts in the past. The problem can become quite severe. Looking at the InfoWorld article, you find several interesting bits of information. For example, many existing applications rely on Microsoft XML Core Services 4.x, despite the fact that the software is no longer supported and represents a huge security hole that hackers are only too happy to exploit. If the user removes this software to keep their systems safe, they may also have to give up on one or more mission critical applications. Testing is the developer’s tool of choice in this case. Make sure you test your web apps with the lasted software and then publish the results online. Keep users informed of potential problems and your plan for fixing them so that they can continue making required updates to keep their systems safe.

It may not be entirely possibly to fix every security problem immediately. The fact is that software today is so interdependent on every other piece of software that even when your web app has fully supported underpinnings, the software you depend upon may not. The dependencies cascade in convoluted ways that make it entirely possible that a hacker will find a way to breach your application despite your best efforts. Consequently, you not only need to maintain a firm grasp on testing, but also of potential problems with the software used to reduce your development effort and make the application perform better. In short, you need to have a contingency plan in place for those times when a hacker finds a way to break your web app because a determined hacker will fine a way.

Outdated software is the bane of developers everywhere, yet users remain clueless as to how much damage they invite by not making required updates. One of the issues that I’m constantly striving to solve in my books is this whole concept of software dependency and how it affects application reliability, security, and speed. If you find that some of the materials I’ve put together are especially helpful (or possibly not helpful enough), please let me know about them at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com. I want to be sure that the security features of my books really do help you past the whole outdated software issue because users really won’t be much help at all.

 

Tip Error in Python for Data Science for Dummies

There is a small error on page 318 of Python for Data Science for Dummies. You can find it near the middle of the page in the Tip text. The current text on the second line of that paragraph says, “k as a number near the squared number of available observations.” However, the text should really read, “k as a number near the squared root number of available observations.” The word root is missing, which obviously changes the mathematical meaning of the text. Please accept our apologies for the typo. Let me know if you find any other errors of a technical nature in the book at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com and I’ll be sure to provide a blog post about it here. Thank you for your support!

 

Pullet Update – Current Egg Sizes

The fall brings a series of events that make for interesting visits to the coop looking for eggs. Because I have a mixed flock, there is a combination of pullets and hens out there. The hens haven’t been laying many eggs as of later because they’re molting. The pullet eggs are just now starting to get big enough to really count for something. I still get super jumbo eggs from my Buff Orpingtons. These eggs peg my scale and don’t actually fit well in the carton (even with jumbo cartons, I find I must exercise care in even trying to close it). The Buff Orpingons are the only birds who lay these rather huge eggs.

These super jumbo eggs don't quite fit most cartons.
Super Jumbo Eggs Peg the Scale

The Americauna eggs can get quite large too. The advantage of the Americaunas is that they produce more eggs and eat a bit less than the Buff Orpingtons. Plus, they have these really pretty blue eggs.

The Americaunas produce extra-large to jumbo eggs on a regular basis.
Americaunas Product Beautiful Blue Eggs

At this point, I’m getting eggs in every possible size. You can see the difference in sizes from small on the right to super jumbo on the left. The eggs are always measured by weight. In addition, I check my eggs individually, so a carton that is listed as having large eggs has all large eggs in it (when you buy eggs in the store, the eggs are measured by overall carton weight, which means that you might have a mix of medium, large, and extra-large eggs in a single carton).

Weighing eggs individually is the only way to get consistent carton size.
Eggs Vary Considerably in Size

Even though the medium egg (second from right) looks similar in size to the large egg (directly in the middle), they weigh differently. It’s not always easy to tell just by looking at an egg how much egg you’re actually getting. Of course, the size of your egg can affect the outcome of a recipe (which is why I’ve gone to weighing my eggs as described in Pullet Eggs and Cookies. Let me know about your experiences with various egg sizes at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Code::Blocks on the Mac

A lot of Mac users have written to complain about the stability of Code::Blocks 8.02 on the Mac. This is the version used for the 2nd Edition of C++ All-in-One for Dummies. My first recommendation is that you obtain a copy of C++ All-In-One for Dummies, 3rd Edition if at all possible. This edition of the book contains additional installation details, updated examples, and all sorts of extras that will make your C++ learning experience so much better. Of course, not everyone will want to make the upgrade, but I stick by previous posts saying that some examples won’t work as well as they might if you use a different version of Code::Blocks than specified in the books. However, I also feel your pain. I personally didn’t experience stability problems with the 8.02 release and I’m sure others didn’t either, but enough people have complained that I feel obliged to discuss the issue in a post.

The Code::Blocks 13.12 version used for the 3rd Edition book is considerably more stable than the 8.02 version used for the 2nd edition book. If you really must continue using the 2nd edition book with your Mac, I suggest that you update to Code::Blocks 13.12 if you find that the 8.02 version causes you problems. If you go this route, please be sure to read the Using Code::Blocks 13.12 with C++ All-in-One for Dummies post. It provides you with information you absolutely must have in order to use the updated version successfully.

I always want to hear your book-specific input at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com. Your input helps me create better books and it also allows me to provide posts like this one that help readers work around potential issues. Thank you for your continued support of my books!

 

Remembering to Rest (Part 2)

It’s important to rest—to stop working for a while and to do something different, something enjoyable. In Remembering to Rest, I talked about Wildcat mountain, a favorite place to go in the fall to unwind a bit after a summer of hard work in the garden. Once the work gets to that magic point where it’s possible to take a little break, reflecting on the summer is a good way to get ready for the rigors of winter. This year I went to Wildcat mountain a little later than usual because the weather has been warmer than normal and it takes me a bit longer now to get to that magic resting point.

Of course, my first stop after my picnic lunch is observation point. I went to Wildcat Mountain on a Tuesday, so I more or less had the park to myself. Yes, there were other people, but we all seemed to sense the need to respect each others’ privacy. I did ask one young lady to take my picture at observation point. As you can see, the fall colors are past their peak, but it’s still a beautiful view.

John standing at observation point in Wildcat Mountain.
Observation Point at Wildcat Mountain

I took my Old Settler’s Trail hike. It’s a 2.5 mile trail that I’m sure some people would consider a bit mundane, but I find it plenty exciting and more than a little exercise. The 1.5 to 2 hour hiking time only counts if you’re in shape and I definitely don’t recommend the trail if you have a fear of heights or any problems whatsoever walking. I finished the trail in one hour and 43 minutes this time—not my best time, but I took extra care because I was alone on the trail. Of course, the first thing you see on this trail are the steps down. I took this picture looking back up the steps once I got to the bottom.

Looking back up the first set of steps.
Looking back up the first set of steps.

Most of the hike is on uneven ground, but the trail is clearly visible. Staying on the trail is a good idea because you don’t really know what you’ll encounter otherwise. I saw quite a bit of wildlife, including a beautiful buck who refused to allow me to take his picture. One of my favorite places along the trail is the foot bridge over a creek. It’s a nice place to take a few moments to rest and just enjoy the gorgeous scenery.

This footbridge goes over a small creek and provides a wonderful view.
Footbridge Over a Creek

The trail does provide resting points. You do need to climb up to them. However, they do provide wonderful views of the countryside while you rest.

The resting places provide a beautiful view of the countryside.
Step Up to a Resting Place

For me, the highlight of the hike is Taylor Hollow Overlook. The view isn’t quite as amazing as those provided by some other Wisconsin parks, but you really can see quite a distance and when the colors are just right, the patchwork is really quite colorful. By this point in the hike, a lot of people are starting to get a bit tuckered out, so this particular bench doesn’t require any climbing. You can just sit and enjoy the view.

A place to sit down for a while and enjoy the view.
Tailor Hollow Overlook

It’s at this point where you might want to turn around if you suffer from any vertigo at all. The trail becomes steep and there are no handholds to speak of. The drop would likely result in broken bones or other injury. The point is that you want to take care to traverse this part of the trail with great care.

A combination of steep steps and no handholds makes this part of the trail difficult.
Step Steps and No Handholds

It isn’t long after you get past this part of the trail that you loop around and rejoin the trail you originally used to get down the steps shown in the first picture. This time you go up the steps. By the time you’re finished, you’ll likely be a bit out of breath and will definitely know you’ve had a workout. Still, what a place to workout! Let me know if you’ve ever been to Wildcat Mountain at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.