Older blog entries for salmoni (starting at number 568)

So I guess this is the closest thing to an official announcement that I can make.

My business partner and I are going to form a company which will concentrate upon statistics software. Our product will be called Ecstatistics which is a seriously good update of my old project SalStat. It differs in that:

a) It will be able to read data from CSV files, databases (a whole range), and spreadsheets. We plan to import SPSS and SAS files too as well as any other format we can code for;

b) It will output to a range of formats (PDF, OOo, databases, MS Office, HTML). The HTML is interesting because it will allow online analysis;

c) It will have a nice range of tests;

d) It will have a great graphing / charting capability;

e) It will be modular and easy to upgrade;

f) It will be far more usable than existing programs;

g) And of course, it will be open source;

Our plan is to get the product working (the database browser does already quite nicely) and produce a version for the OLPC project. Some people have asked for a stats program that works there already and it makes sense to equip students with (possibly) the most useful tool in scientific research: statistical analysis. So far, it can import from a range of databases and analyse the data descriptively. Output is only text for now and interaction is via a custom interactive interpreter, but it's early days yet. From what we've read, the important thing is to get something released and we hope to do that very soon.

Ecstatistics is coded in Python with NumPy, SQLAlchemy, SQLite and lots of other stuff. Because of this, we can code the OLPC version down to about 200k which competes extremely well with the opposition like R, SPSS and SAS. The interface is designed not just to be useful but also to instill good statistical practice, so it's educational too.

The interface will be designed with non-expert users in mind, particularly students. We aren't aiming at calloused statisticians; they have their favourite tools (and often write them for themselves anyway). We are aiming at all those people who have to do stats but don't like it.

In other news, I saw a couple of laptops here in the Phils in a major chain of electrical stores. They came with Linux preinstalled which was nice to see.

Finally, but most importantly, my wife had her scan earlier this week - we're expecting a little baby girl! The due date is the end of July and we're both very excited.

It's fun. I've been coding a database exploration tool - it's a simple thing designed to explore databases in order to retrieve data for analysis. Python, wxPython & SQLAlchemy are the main bits used. It's fun to see the GUI fire up and pause as it downloads all the information from my remote DB. It does not have a clean GUI yet so there is a lot of work left in making it professional (or should that be presentable? I've seen an awful lot of poor professional interfaces in my time) but that is minor stuff now.

Right now, it's still in the mid-30s as far as temperature is concerned. It's mid-afternoon and a little too hot to work any more. I'll have a nap underneath a large fan and try to get back to work later. Did I mention that I have no air-con in my room? =:-O

I've been busy unit-testing the stats algorithms lately and using R to get "known" values. All seems to be going quite well though there is a modicum of error because mine have greater specificity. The testing showed that an error exists in one of the quantile calculations and the trimmed mean is borked (I mean really borked), but I had guessed that anyway. Still, it's good to have the accuracy of the tests documented.

It's extremely hot here in Laguna. The temperature is 33 degrees but more than that, it's extremely humid and still (little wind). It's hard to be bent over a laptop.

I've been here for 5 weeks now and am enjoying my time.

Strewth! One of my photographs was accepted at the Pentax Photo Gallery. That's surprising because I understand that an awful lot of very good pictures are declined.

And of course, I had 5 others declined too! ;-)

Anyway, this is it: a shot from Trondheim in Norway.

It's hot here in the Philippines - about 34 degrees all told. Everyone is out on the terrace chatting while I'm slaving over a hot computer trying to write an administrative database for a new (FOSS) program. I'll be able to release full details about it soon but it will take a bit of time to get it functional. Okay, that's not the purpose of FOSS, but I'm trying to get the design and architecture right first time.

I had fun on the weekend writing an event-handler from scratch which I managed to do in just a few lines of Python. Progress is going well and I hope to get something that works released by the end of May.

Still, it's a relatively peaceful though busy time. I'm working almost constantly on this software, but I have few other real pressures. It's a pleasure to be able to work full-time on a FOSS project and do it the way I want to do it. I'm happy because this whole time reminds me why I love programming so much - the constant challenges and beating them to take more steps toward a final goal of actually having built something worthwhile.

I'm taking on a lot of roles with this work: interaction design, programmer, tester, all-round monkey etc. I like the different colours and flavours that this work brings me - and if I ever get tired, relaxation here is good, honest and easy. I'm a lucky man indeed.

21 Mar 2008 (updated 21 Mar 2008 at 03:43 UTC) »

Looks like I've spent some time away from here! But I have been extremely busy.

So what's happened since my last entry? Non-FOSS, my wife came and lived with me in the UK for a few months, but we've had enough and are now both living in the Philippines together! I have my residence visa approved and should be picking it up soon (next week). Jell is pregnant too - the due date is the end of July. We're not sure if it's a girl or a boy yet, but should be having the scan soon to find out. My job contract finished which made things easier for parting so I'm no longer and academic. Life is good!

In FOSS stuff, I am revamping SalStat - or rather, I'm dumping it altogether and with a partner in New Zealand, we're launching a much better program. It will be open source and we want to make a business around it. The whole program is quite ambitious but quite possible. As always, we're using Python to code it. We're gunning for SPSS and SAS in a serious way. Investment ideas/leads are welcomed.

And how come I'm a master now? I still think of myself as a journeyer and probably will for ever ;-)

I'm back from PyCon UK which was probably the best conference I have ever been to. It was large enough so that there was always someone new to talk to (and new things to hear about), but not too large (unlike the med ed conference in Trondheim with ~1,800 delegates). People were friendly, it was well organised, interesting and varied, and I had a great time listening to things, having ideas and chatting away about my own stuff.

Isn't putting a business plan together really boring? I know this type of thing is usually done and it can help with the thought process of defining exactly what (and what not) a business should focus on; but it's a dry topic even then.

Somehow I think that passing around lots of hand-written notes to potential investors will not be too successful!

31 Aug 2007 (updated 31 Aug 2007 at 11:35 UTC) »

I'm getting back into Python! I have registered a place at PyCon UK and look forward to meeting Pythonistas there.

My reason for getting back in is because I'm going to set up a business dealing with open source software! I don't want to say too much at this stage but it should be great fun. The OS bit might only be partly - there will be dual licensing - but given my past, it's not hard to work out what field I will be concentrating upon.

flickr users are strange. I put up some pictures of a visit to Trondheim last week (a medical education conference), and my most viewed picture is a boring shot of some houses (first picture). My favourite photos though were the second and third (they look much better larger) and have been mostly ignored despite the dramatic sky. Still, I guess I have different taste to everyone else! :-P

The conference was good although KLM said that my suitcase was delayed until the next flight in. Huh! Lots of people did the same flight as me and didn't have that problem. They said that they would drop it over to my house later that day (yesterday) but I'm still waiting. Maybe it's been lost now. Shame because it has lots of clothes, my suit, my camera and favourite lens, and lots of work from the conference that I won't be able to retrieve again. Grrwwww!

Well, I'm married now! Jell will make an honest man of me I'm sure! All my parents and one brother came to attend the wedding with me which was fantastic, and I think they had a great time experiencing the Philippines for the first time ever.

Here is to the future. Cheers!

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