Early Season Canning

I’ve already been canning this season. A lot of people hear this claim and wonder just what it is that I’m canning. The first food I started canning is soup. I get the ingredients from my freezers. Anything that’s starting to get a bit old is fair game. I also save the larger bones from various meats, especially when I have the meat processed by someone else. The meat and vegetables made into soup can quite well and last a lot longer than they would in the freezer. Nothing is quite so nice on a cold winter’s day than hot soup. I usually get two or three servings out of each quart that I can (sometimes four if I add enough additional items). Given the cold winters here in Wisconsin, I can go through a lot of soup.

Once I can the soup, the freezers are less full, so it’s time to defrost them. It’s essential to defrost, clean, and reorganize your freezers every year. Doing so lets you create an inventory of what you have in stock so that you have a better idea of what you need to grow. In addition, you don’t want to keep items so long that they become unpalatable and visually unappealing. Freezer burned food is completely safe to eat, but you may not want to eat it. Some of the ways in which you can prevent freezer burn is to vacuum pack your food and to ensure you rotate it out before it sits in the freezer too long. In some cases, when food is mildly freezer burned, I’ll make it up into pet food (my animals don’t seem to mind as long as the food is prepared to their liking). However, it’s better to use the food up before anything actually does happen to it.

So far I’ve made 14 quarts of chicken soup and another 14 quarts of venison stew. Canning soup means using a pressure canner. Make sure you follow the instructions in a resource such as the Ball Blue Book and the book that comes with your pressure canner. Read Considering the Dangers of Outdated Canning Information for details on keeping yourself safe when using the Ball Blue Book.

It’s also time to can early garden items. For example, when canned properly, rhubarb makes a highly nutritious fruit dish that I eat directly from the jar. You can also make it into pie filling. So far, I’ve made up 7 quarts of plain rhubarb and 7 quarts of spiced rhubarb, both of which will be quite tasty this upcoming winter. Fortunately, you can use hot water bath canning techniques with rhubarb and other high acid foods.

In some cases, you need to mix and match items. The frozen green and wax beans in my freezer weren’t getting any younger, so I used them to make up four bean salad. Actually, it’s supposed to be three bean salad, but some of my recipes called for Lima beans, while others called for kidney beans. I decided to use both, hence four bean soup. I used up all the remaining beans and garnered 16 pints of four bean salad on my larger shelf. Doing so also used up the cans of kidney and Lima beans in my cabinets.

Finally, pickled asparagus can be quite a treat in the middle of winter. So far, I’ve only made up 8 pints of pickled asparagus, but I’ll make up more. I’ll also be freezing some asparagus for fresh use later in the year. In short, canning season has started—time to get going! Let me know about your current canning project at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Getting a Good Anaconda Install

Some people may have misinterpreted the content at the beginning of Chapter 3 in Python for Data Science for Dummies. It isn’t necessary to install the products listed in the Considering the Off-the-Shelf Cross-Platform Scientific Distributions section starting on Page 39. These products are for those of you who would like to try a development environment other than the one used in the book, which is Anaconda 2.1.0. However, unless you’re an advanced user, it’s far better to install Anaconda 2.1.0 so that you can follow the exercises in the book without problem. Installing all of the products listed in Chapter 3 will result in a setup that won’t work at all because the various products will conflict with each other.

Because Continuum has upgraded Anaconda, you need to download the 2.1.0 version from the archive at https://repo.continuum.io/archive/.There are separate downloads for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.  The chapter tells you precisely which file to download.  For example, for Windows you’d download Anaconda-2.1.0-Windows-x86_64.exe. The point is to use the same version of Anaconda as you find in the book. You can find the installation instructions on Page 41 if you have a Windows system, Page 45 if you have a Linux system, or Page 46 if you have a Mac OS X system.  Make sure you download the databases for the book by using the procedures that start on page 47.

Following this process is the best way to ensure you get a good installation for Python for Data Science for Dummies. Luca and I want to make certain that you can use the book to discover the wonders of data science without having to jump through a lot of hoops to do it. Please feel free to contact me at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com if you have any questions about the installation process.

 

Enjoying the Apple Blossoms

Depending on when the trees bloom, the results can be modest, abysmal, frosted, or luxurious. This year, the apple trees have really outdone themselves. The blooms are absolutely amazing because the weather was perfect for the trees this year. Just looking at the trees from a distance, you can see that they’re decked out in spring color that’s certain to please.

The apple trees are truly luxuriant with blossoms this year.
Apple Trees Decked Out with Flowers

It’s a warm spring day with just a slight breeze, so getting into the orchard is quite an experience. The flowers are quite pungent and walking around is delightful. Unlike many other years, there hasn’t been any hint of frost or strong winds to damage the flowers, so the clusters are nearly perfect.

The white blossoms are incredible and the odor is quite strong.
The Blossom Clusters are Beautiful

The bees and other pollinators were quite busy on this particular day. A count showed that there were at least fifteen different kinds of insects busy at their job of pollinating the flowers. They didn’t pay any attention to me, of course, and I paid little attention to them. I was simply taken by the absolute beauty of the flowers and wanted to share them with you. Let me know about your favorite sights, sounds, and smells of spring at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Continuing to Use Your Old Parallel Port Printer

A problem with building a newer system is that you may not always have the older ports needed to support older devices. In some cases, it pays to replace the device because you want to gain the added functionality that a newer device can provide. However, if you have a major investment in a device, such as a printer, that doesn’t necessarily provide additional support, then you need to find another solution. I cover all the major port types in Build Your Own PC on a Budget. However, in today’s post you discover a way around the whole issue of supporting an older, yet usable, parallel printer when all you have is USB ports on your new system.

One way around the problem is to connect the printer to an older PC that does have a parallel port. You can then share the printer through a network connection. Of course, this solution assumes that you have an older PC that you want to devote to print server duties and a network to use. However, it’s a solution that many organizations have used over the years with great success. As detailed by sources such as Marketbusinessnews.com, printing technology has rapidly evolved in recent years. If you are upgrading your PC, it is worthwhile to upgrade your printer at the same time to ensure that you are getting the best quality.

Another solution is to obtain a special connector cable, such as the Sabrent USB to Parallel printer cable shown in the following picture.

A USB to DB25F parallel port connector with 6 foot cable.
USB to Parallel Port Connector

It’s important to note that the parallel end of the cable is a DB25F. You need to ensure the parallel end of the cable is of the right type for the connection you want to make. The package contains just the cable with the appropriate ends. It also contains a tiny piece of paper with some contact information, but there isn’t any special software required.

Make the connection between the USB port and the printer with the system off. Power the system and the printer up and log in as normal. In most cases, the system will automatically detect the printer and install appropriate drivers for you (or ask you to supply the needed drivers). However, you may need to install the drivers manually on some platforms. The chance of successfully making the connection work do diminish when installing the drivers manually because it usually means that the printer and the system aren’t communicating properly.

The only complaint I had about this solution is that the female parallel connector has screws instead of nuts, which means that you can’t secure the male printer cable to the female USB cable. Yes, the connectors work just fine, but they aren’t screwed together, which means that they could become loose at some point and you’ll lose contact with the printer (probably at the worst possible moment). Even so, the solution does work well.

A side benefit of this solution is that it’s possible to use a longer cable. Depending on who you talk with, the maximum cable length for a parallel printer is between 15 feet for the older Centronics standard and 25 feet for the newer IEEE 1284 standard. Using this solution makes it possible to work with a longer cable. The length tested for this post was 31 feet and I haven’t noticed any glitches, misprints, miscommunication, or loss of speed. Let me know your thoughts about continuing to use older peripherals with newer computers at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Automation and the Future of Human Employment

It wasn’t long ago that I wrote Robotics and Your Job to consider the role that robots will play in human society in the near future. Of course, robots are already doing mundane chores and those list of chores will increase as robot capabilities increase. The question of what sorts of work humans will do in the future has crossed my mind quite a lot as I’ve written Build Your Own PC on a Budget, Python for Data Science for Dummies, and Machine Learning for Dummies. In fact, both Luca and I have discussed the topic at depth. It isn’t just robotics, but the whole issue of automation that is important. Robots actually fill an incredibly small niche in the much larger topic of automation. Although articles like The end of humans working in service industry? seem to say that robots are the main issue, automation comes in all sorts of guises. When writing A Fuller Understanding of the Internet of Things I came to the conclusion that the services provided by technologies such as Smart TVs actually take jobs away from someone. In this case, a Smart TV rids us of the need to visit a video store, such as Blockbuster (assuming you were even around to remember these stores). Imagine all the jobs that were lost when Blockbuster closed its doors.

My vision for the future is that people will be able to work in occupations with lower risks, higher rewards, and greater interest. Unfortunately, not everyone wants a job like that. Some people really do want to go to work, clock in, place a tiny cog in a somewhat large wheel all day, clock out, and go home. They want something mindless that doesn’t require much effort, so losing service and assembly line type jobs to automation is a problem for them. In Robots are coming for your job the author states outright that most Americans think their job will still exist in 50 years, but the reality is that any job that currently pays under $20.00 an hour is likely to become a victim of automation. Many people insist that they’re irreplaceable, but the fact is that automation can easily take their job and employers are looking forward to the change because automation doesn’t require healthcare, pensions, vacation days, sick days, or salaries. Most importantly, automation does as its told. In the story The rise of greedy robots, the author lays out the basis for an increase in automation that maximizes business profit at the expense of workers. Articles such as On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs tell why people are still working a 40 hour work week when it truly isn’t necessary to do so. In short, if you really do insist on performing a task that is essentially pointless, the government and industry is perfectly willing to let you do so until a time when technology is so entrenched that it’s no longer possible to do anything about it (no, I’m not making this up). Even some relatively essential jobs, such as security, have a short life expectancy with the way things are changing (see How much security can you turn over to AI? and The eerie math that could predict terrorist attacks for details).

The question of how automation will affect human employment in the future remains. Theoretically, people could work a 15 hour work week even now, but then we’d have to give up some of our consumerism—the purchase of gadgets we really don’t need. In the previous paragraph, I talked about jobs that are safer, more interesting, and more fulfilling. There are also those pointless jobs that the government will doubtless prop up at some point to keep people from rioting. However, there is another occupation that will likely become a major source of employment, but only for the nit-picky, detail person. In The thin line between good and bad automation the author explores the problem of scripts calling scripts. Even though algorithms will eventually create and maintain other algorithms, which in turn means that automation will eventually build itself, someone will still have to monitor the outcomes of all that automation. In addition, the search for better algorithms continues (as described in The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World and More data or better models?). Of course, these occupations still require someone with a great education and a strong desire to do something significant as part of their occupation.

The point of all this speculation is that it isn’t possible to know precisely how the world will change due to the effects of automation, but it will most definitely change. Even though automation currently has limits, scientists are currently working on methods to extend automation even further so that the world science fiction authors have written about for years will finally come into being (perhaps not quite in the way they had envisioned, however). Your current occupation may not exist 10 years from now, much less 50 years from now. The smart thing to do is to assume your job is going to be gone and that you really do need a Plan B in place—a Plan B that may call for an increase in flexibility, training, and desire to do something interesting, rather than the same mundane task you’ve plodded along doing for the last ten years. Let me know your thoughts on the effects of automation at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Beta Readers Needed for Amazon Web Services for Admins for Dummies

I still remember Amazon Web Services (AWS) when it was simply a method for getting information about Amazon products, making sales, and getting product status. The original web service didn’t do much, but people absolutely loved it, so it continued to evolve. Amazon has put a lot of work into AWS since that humble beginning and now you can perform all sorts of tasks that have nothing to do with buying or selling anything. You can create an entire IT structure for your organization that doesn’t involve any of the micromanagement, hardware purchases, software purchases, and other issues that kept IT from doing what it was supposed to do in the past-serving user needs in the most efficient manner possible.

There are a number of AWS books either published or currently in the process of being published, but these books don’t really answer the one question that everyone appears to be asking in the forums online, “How do I get started?” However, in recent years this has changed with more blogs talking about the subject. You can even check out this great AWS blog for more information. As for books, most of the titles out there right now answer questions for a specific group after that group has installed the product and gotten started with it. AWS is immense and is naturally intimidating. Unfortunately, the getting started documentation from Amazon is incomplete, outdated, and hard to understand. Amazon Web Services for Admins for Dummies helps administrators (the focus group) and others (such as DevOps and developers) get started so that they can actually make use of that next level up book. Here are the sorts of things you see covered in the book:

  • Part I: Uncovering the AWS Landscape
    • Chapter 1: Starting Your AWS Adventure
    • Chapter 2: Obtaining Free Amazon Services
    • Chapter 3: Determining Which Services to Use
  • Part II: Configuring a Virtual Server
    • Chapter 4: Creating a Virtual Server Using EC2
    • Chapter 5: Managing Web Apps Using Elastic Beanstalk
    • Chapter 6: Responding to Events with Lambda
  • Part III: Working with Storage
    • Chapter 7: Working with Cloud Storage Using S3
    • Chapter 8: Managing Files Using Elastic File System
    • Chapter 9: Archiving Data Using Glacier
  • Part IV: Performing Basic Database Management
    • Chapter 10: Getting Basic DBMS Using RDS
    • Chapter 11: Moving Data Using Database Migration Service
    • Chapter 12: Gaining NoSQL Access Using DynamoDB
  • Part V: Interacting with Networks
    • Chapter 13: Isolating Cloud Resources Using Virtual Private Cloud
    • Chapter 14: Connecting Directly to AWS with Direct Connect
  • Part VI: Getting Free Software
    • Chapter 15: Using the Infrastructure Software
    • Chapter 16: Supporting Users with Business Software
  • Part VII: The Part of Tens
    • Chapter 17: Ten Ways to Deploy AWS Quickly
    • Chapter 18: Ten Must Have AWS Software Packages

As you can see, this book is going to give you a good start in working with AWS by helping you with the basics. Because of the subject matter, I really want to avoid making any errors in this book, which is where you come into play. I’m looking for beta readers who want to use AWS to perform basic administration tasks, even when those tasks are related to a home office. In fact, I have a strong interest in trying to meet the needs of the small-to-medium sized business (SMB) because many of the other books out there cover the enterprise to the exclusion of these smaller entities. As a beta reader, you get to see the material as I write it. Your comments will help me improve the text and make it easier to use.

As you can see from the outline, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is actually a huge array of services that can affect consumers, Small to Medium Sized Business (SMB), and enterprises. Using AWS, you can do everything from back up your personal hard drive to creating a full-fledged IT department in the cloud. The installed base is immense. You can find case studies of companies like Adobe and Netflix that use AWS at https://aws.amazon.com/solutions/case-studies/. AWS use isn’t just for private companies either-even the government is involved. That’s why Amazon Web Services for Admins for Dummies has a somewhat narrowly focused audience and emphasizes a specific set of tasks that it will help you perform. Otherwise, a single book couldn’t even begin to cover the topic.

In consideration of your time and effort, your name will appear in the Acknowledgements (unless you specifically request that we not provide it). You also get to read the book free of charge. Being a beta reader is both fun and educational. If you have any interest in reviewing this book, please contact me at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com and will fill in all the details for you.

 

A Hurt Chicken Update

A number of people wrote to ask about my hurt hen after reading Dealing with Hurt Chickens. You’ll be happy to know that my hen is fully healed at this point and the infection is completely gone (without leaving any signs). Over the years I’ve found that hens are quite resilient as long as you get to the source of a problem quickly and provide at least a modicum of care. Getting the hen out of the coop when her mates can’t help her is the prime concern. Otherwise, the other hens will proceed to peck her to death.

Chickens aren’t particularly known for their long term memory. After almost a month, the other members of the coop had quite forgotten about the hurt hen, so I couldn’t just put her back into the coop and expect everything to work right away. The process involves putting the hen, cage and all, into the coop for a few days. Unfortunately, the addition of a relatively large cage made the coop seem amazingly small as I tried to get to the eggs. The hens took great delight in sitting on my shoulders and head while I tried to get past the cage. They also mumbled strange, dark chicken thoughts about how I’d be so much better off if I simply removed the stranger from their midst. I’m used to this little inconvenience because it happens every time I introduce new chicks to the coop.

What I hadn’t quite expected is the hen’s reaction to their new coop mate. Normally, the hens spend a good deal of time running around the cage, sitting on top of it, and attempting to peck the chicks. In other words, they’re active in their desire to be rid of the strangers at any cost. Not so this time! The hens took up a line around the cage and stared. Some sat, some stood, but all mumbled, and then mumbled some more. I’m not sure why a single adult hen should be different from five or six juveniles, but there is some point of chicken etiquette of which I’m most definitely not aware. After a while though, the hens simply started ignoring the cage and went about their business.

Because of the absurd initial reaction, I decided to leave the hen in her cage for an extra day, so the inconvenience of trying to get to the eggs lasted longer than I would have liked, which is where the trip comes into play. Imagine trying to get around in a coop that one wouldn’t normally consider spacious with a bunch of hens and a relatively large cage in your way. One day I went in and, as usual, put the eggs into my jacket pocket as I collected them. My sweatshirt jacket makes a fine place to put eggs most of the time, but not this time. Yes, I fell and did the Lucy act (see Lucy Does the Tango). Well, my jacket really did need to be washed anyway and a shower is always nice after working in the coop.

At this point, my hurt hen is no longer hurt. She’s running around with the other chickens, who have somehow suddenly remembered where she was at in the pecking order. Normally, when I introduce juvenile chicks, there is a lot of fighting until the new pecking order is established, but that didn’t happen in this case except for a little while on the first day. Otherwise, the coop has been quite happy. Let me know your thoughts on reintroducing chickens after they heal to the coop at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Review of Dodging Satan

Often, the best humor is found in tales with a real world basis, which is what you find in Dodging Satan by Kathleen Zamboni McCormick. Even though I’m not Catholic, I did attend a Lutheran school for much of my childhood and some of the events in the school scenes in the book rang all too true. (The scene where Bridget is given a guilt complex over eating too slow really did ring a bell.) Of course, school isn’t the focus of the book, Bridget is. Dodging Satan is a fictionalized autobiography that follows Bridget from about age 5 to about age 14. The book doesn’t follow a strict chronological flow, but uses short stories to tell Bridget’s tale (a format I really liked). Many of the stories started in the real world, but the author has changed names, embroidered the information a bit, and added the pizzazz that makes this book such a good read. Some things, like a time traveling St. Mary, really were part of the author’s life, but she tells the tale with humor, slightly askew of the real world events.

I’ve read many treatise on what makes for a good childhood—everything from upbringing to environment to recognizing a child’s gifts. However, Dodging Satan possibly brings up the most important element of all—a child’s imagination (although I doubt that it’s the author’s main goal to create a tale of child raising either). The book is funny because Bridget sees the world from a perspective that only a child who is trying to make sense of all of the conflicting inputs she’s receiving could possibly have. Trying to figure out how riding a bicycle can make one pregnant is just one of many conundrums that Bridget faces. There were times when I had tears rolling down my cheeks, such as when Bridget discovers the holy in the holy water. As you read the book, you see Bridget pondering various elements of Catholicism and I felt for her because I pondered at least a few of those same things as a Lutheran. (A fear that Satan was going to reach out and grab me was just one commonality.) It’s interesting to find that children commonly use all sorts of sources (religion in this case), often distorted, to explain the unexplained events in their lives.

The book does touch on a number of issues that were most definitely not talked about during my childhood, including abuse of various sorts and sexuality that we’re only now coming to grips with (for one thing, two of the aunts turned out to be lesbians). Some of these sections will most definitely make people uncomfortable, despite being told a bit tongue-in-cheek and with an eye toward a skewed version of the truth. It won’t surprise many people who grew up in poorer neighborhoods that abuse was, and still is, rampant. Bridget ends up coming to terms with these negatives in her life by inventing views that make them all seem plausible, if not entirely appropriate. The child view of these things is expertly written—in fact, this bit of writing is possibly the most fascinating part of the book because it really does present a significantly different perspective of events that shapes individuals and our country as a whole during the 60s and 70s (the book does avoid the use of dates because many of these issues are still taking place now). Bridget shows herself to be an amazing young lady because she does accept her lesbian aunts and comes to realize that they have a significant role to play in helping her come to terms with her own blossoming sexuality (not that Bridget becomes a lesbian, but I don’t want to give away the plot of the book either).

Is this a good book? Yes, I’m really glad I read it, but unlike many book covers, this one undersells the content. You will laugh, but you’ll also cry with Bridget a little and you’ll find yourself thinking about the odd events in your own childhood. In order to really get anything out of this book, you must be willing to step back and think about Bridget’s musings from an adult perspective. You see yourself when you were young from the perspective of having learned that the world really doesn’t involve things like time travel and no amount of imagination will make some things right. In short, if you’re looking for a good laugh and nothing else, then you probably won’t enjoy this book, but if you’re willing to give things a bit of thought, you’ll probably end up with more than you expected. Dodging Satan promises to be one of those books that will change you in ways you’ll never forget.

 

Is Your Car Green, Really?

It seems like I receive yet another brochure about the huge advances various government entities, enterprises, vendors, or energy companies making in protecting the planet every month. Everyone seems to think that their technology is going to be the next green thing, when the facts simply don’t bear them out. The previous post I wrote on this topic, More People Noticing that Green Technology Really Isn’t, discussed the issue that some informed people are discovering that all that green technology out there is really just designed to sell more products-not help the earth in any significant way. The problem is one of complexity, which is the case with the green car.

Driving an electric car might seem like the right way to reduce emissions. However, recent studies show that your electric car might actually be worse for the environment. I say might here because it all depends on how the electricity is generated. In some cases, your electric car actually is better than gas at the first level. That is, the manner in which the electricity is generated produces fewer pollutants than driving a car with a gas engine would be. For example, sunlight and wind are both plentiful in Nevada, so driving an electric car could make sense there. However, as I’ve noted in previous posts, solar and wind power both rely heavily on special materials, the mining of which actually produces a serious amount of pollution. The studies available right now also assume that the manufacturing processes for the supposedly green cars are actually no worse than the older technology they replace.

However, in reality, it is crucial to remember that there is always an element of chemical risk at each stage of production of a car regardless of whether the resulting vehicle is gas or electric powered. It is no secret that the manufacturing processes involved in producing engines, plastics, and various other elements of a car require the use of hazardous chemicals such as adhesives, acids, bases, and cleaning chemicals. Furthermore, the majority of these products are corrosives or irritants and most of these chemicals are handled in laboratories.

Put simply, whether a car is powered by gas or electric, there is thus a constant risk of projection and chemical spill during the manufacturing process. With all of this in mind, it is vital that car manufacturers make use of chemical storage solutions to prevent chemical spillages or leaks. To address this issue, most car manufacturers use bunded storage. Essentially, a bund is a secondary containment area in a tank or a drum that can collect any spilled liquid if the initial storage container is inadequate. Due to the diversity of chemicals used throughout the manufacturing industry, there are several unique bunded storage containment options available for industrial users. You can discover the benefits of these bunded storage and containment solutions by taking a look at this useful guide on the Storemasta website.

Consequently, even though it might appear that your electric car is a win, it may not be right now. There are many defectives that both non-green and green cars have in common. For instance, you may find that a green or electric car might not hold the same charge capacity. There are a few cars that have been reported to develop defects that may not appear in a brand new car, so if you decide to get an electric second hand, you may find you are dealing with a lemon. Luckily, if you find yourself in that situation, you can always make a lemon claim for a used car.

A problem with all the entities making the promises and telling you just how good they are at fulfilling them is that they lie. Sometimes they even get caught. For example, the EPA finally caught VW in the act of lying about its emission test results. The only problem is that those cars are still out there producing millions of tons of lung killing smog. In fact, it’s hard to tell whether any of those green technologies actually do anything at all, except make you pay a lot more when buying the vehicle, and to run and maintain it later. Add to this the fact that some people are now saying that the solar industry is dying (and would already be dead were it not for government subsidies) and you have to wonder just how long these green cars will even maintain the appearance of being green.

Some people are saying that we should simply get rid of cars, which is obviously not going to happen. Systems like adas are only growing as people have more and more need of a car in their life. If people really wanted to use mass transit, it would have happened already. In addition, there isn’t any evidence that mass transit actually reduces pollution either. The vehicles are often poorly maintained and spew a horrid amount of pollution out of their exhaust (as evidenced by the stench when you drive behind a bus). In addition, mass transit only works when you live in or around a major city, which won’t work for those of us who live in the country.

The best way to create a green car is not to drive it any more than necessary. I’ve taken to planning out my trips so that I drive the fewest possible miles. Because I’m self-employed, I don’t even start my car five days a week (getting everything done in just two days). Not only does my strategy save time, but I’ve reduced by gas bill by half in the last two years. Green often equates to not using a resource such as gas. Using the resource will inevitably produce some sort of pollution. Through careful planning, you can significantly reduce the number of miles you drive and you can drive more of them at once (a warm engine normally works more efficiently and produces fewer emissions). You also want to reduce gas waste by starting up slowly, stopping over a longer distance, and keeping your engine from idling. In fact, there are a wealth of tips you can find online for making your car more efficient (such as removing all that junk from the trunk).

You can make the world a cleaner place and still keep your car. All it really takes is planning and careful maintenance. This can be done better using websites like https://www.czokbrand.com to give guidance on proper car maintenance. Unfortunately, there is no magic that will just make the problems with pollution go away. Driving that electric car or paying more for a vehicle with dubious emissions extras isn’t going to do much. What it really takes is a bit of self control. Let me know your thoughts about green cars at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

IPython Magic Functions

Both Python for Data Science for Dummies and Machine Learning for Dummies rely on a version of Anaconda that uses IPython as part of its offering.Theoretically, you could also use Anaconda with Beginning Programming with Python For Dummies, but that book is designed to provide you with an experience that relies on the strict Python offerings (without the use of external tools). In other words, the procedures in this third book are designed for use with IDLE, the IDE that comes with Python. IPython extends the development environment in a number of ways, one of which is the use of magic functions. You see the magic functions in the code of the first two books as calls that begin with either one or two percent signs (% or %%). The most common of these magic functions is %matplotlib, which controls how IPython Notebook or Jupyter Notebook display plot output from the code.

You can find a listing of the most common magic functions in the Python for Data Science for Dummies Cheat Sheet. Neither of the first two books use any other magic functions, so this is also a complete list of magic functions that you can expect to find in our books. However, you might want to know more. Fortunately, the site at https://damontallen.github.io/IPython-quick-ref-sheets/ provides you with a complete listing of the magic commands (and a wealth of other information about IPython).

Of course, you might choose to use another IDE—one that isn’t quite so magical as Anaconda provides through IPython. In this case, you need to remove those magic commands. Removing the commands won’t affect functionality of the code. The example will still work as explained in the book. However, the way that the IDE presents output could change. For example, instead of being inline, plots could appear in a separate window. Even though using a separate window is less convenient, either method works just fine. If you ever do encounter a magic function-related problem, please be sure to let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.