Just give Jason some money

This is the most important thing. Give Jason some money. You want to live in a world where people like Jason can make a living writing on the internet. The way to get that is to give him some money.

Do it.

Generating English village names with neural networks

Roll 13/02

I’m trying to wrap my head around the new generation machine learning tools: deep neural networks and the like. It feels like this technology is approaching where databases were 20-30 years ago: the tooling is getting easy enough that an idiot like me can have a stab at wiring something up, even if I don’t quite understand all the magic incantations that I need to type. And it’s pretty clear it’s going to be important.

The world seems to be settling on Tensorflow, for now, so I had a go at getting something stupid up and running. I ended up making an English village name generator, using a corpus from OS Open Names (with a healthy amount of awk and grep), and a character level recurrent neural network written in Tensorflow.

Like I was with SQL many moons ago, I think I understand some of the principles, what’s possible and what’s not, and I can make sense of someone else’s code – but it’s a bit of struggle getting all the words in the right order when I have to change anything.

Anyway, the results are quite fun – here’s 20 of them:

Allers Bottom
Culack
Swrarby
Fenwall St Eastake
Anbarth
St Ninhope
Thawkanham Water Green
Mige Lane
Up Maling
Firley Dinch
Lindlemere
Stan Hill
Hiddlesley
Pibley
Hunmastreet
Shenworth Strough
Hendrelds Hill
Scottedane
Crickines
Stranal Footh

And here’s another 980.

Update: I turned this into a Twitter bot, @urnowentering.

FaveJet

I’ve used Jason Kottke‘s Stellar for a couple of years now, and love it. If you’ve never tried it, it’s a stream of things your friends are favouriting, mostly on Twitter, but YouTube, Vimeo and other stuff too.

Favourites are quieter than retweets, and more nuanced. A little nod of acknowledgement, a gentle arm around a shoulder, or sometimes just a smile.

Stellar surfaced those in a way that always felt like a superpower: the ability to see a little further, beyond my immediate network, slicing through the fog.

And so when it went offline a couple of months ago, Twitter got a little less enjoyable for me.

To plug the gap, I’ve made a little thing called FaveJet, and you can have a go if you like.

FaveJet

Running this type of thing is hard. Pulling down everyone’s favourites every 30 mins and reconciling them into an activity stream is intensive as websites go. It seems fine for the 40 people using it at the moment, but it’ll look quite different at a thousand or five thousand.

But I’d like anyone to use it, and I don’t want it to be beholden to the whims of me and my rare free time. I’d like to find a model to support it, that doesn’t involve emptying my pockets alone, or losing precious family time.

Maybe that looks like a company with some people paying and using those proceeds to pay for work on it, or maybe that looks like some kind of co-ownership/co-op model, splitting the work between a few people. Or maybe a mix.

I’m not sure, but I’d like to find something that works, and hopefully an approach I can use to support other niche products in the future.

If you’ve got any ideas, you’d like to help or you’ve tried this in the past, please drop me a line.

Anyway, in the meantime, feel free to give it a go. It only works for Twitter at the moment, and I’ve capped sign ups to 20 per day for now. Happy faveing.

Offset, Onwards

Offset

I’m leaving Offset at Christmas.

It’s been fun, hard work, with a wonderful team, backed by a great organisation. I joined to invent and launch some stuff, and the course is charted to do just that. The rest of the year will be busy as we ready for a launch, and then it’s time to hand the baton on.

I’m not sure what’s next yet. I’ve got a few days spare before Christmas, and from January I’m looking for the next thing(s). So, if you think you need some product invention/prototyping/engineering/reckons, drop me a line.

VEL-O-DROME

I went to the Six Day at the Olympic Velodrome this week. Great atmosphere, lots of fun.

They’ve gone full Wipeout with it all. A DJ from Ministry of Sound watching the action and keeping tempo accordingly. Coloured flood lighting. Introducing all the riders one by one as they do laps. Very little hanging around between events, and you mostly knew what was going on.

And whoever had the Derny riders come out to Ride of the Valkyries deserves a bonus.

Velodrome

Derny Racing

Camera

Hey Thermostat

Alright then, that works.

Siri

I promise I’m never blogging about my thermostat ever again.

Not a Nest

Raspberry Pi Wireless Thermostat

As I wrote before, I’ve been hacking around with my wireless thermostat. Over the weekend I spent a couple of hours throwing together some code to act as a thermostat control loop, running from a Raspberry Pi. I’ve shared the code on GitHub.

There’s two bits: a little C executable using Wiring Pi, that sends the commands to the boiler, and a Go executable that watches the temperature from an attached digital thermometer (a DS18B20) and triggers the thing that sends the commands. (The whole thing was Go for a while, but Go is too unreliable for timing the transmission, so it seemed easiest to move that bit to Wiring Pi in C.)

To put all this on a schedule, I’m using cron to write the desired temperature into a file that’s being read every few seconds. If the monitored temperature goes 0.5°C over the desired temperature, the boiler turns off. And if it goes 0.5°C under, it turns on. It’s a simple little system, but it’s been running for a couple of days now, and hasn’t set the house on fire yet.

The thermostat is now marginally less convenient than it was when I started, so the next step is to do what I promised with a shared calendar (not everyone in the family wants to SSH in to turn the heating on).

And it’s not done until you’ve put it in a nice box and it doesn’t look like an improvised explosive device. I’ve always enjoyed watching Tom put things in boxes, so it might be time to get some advice.

For a stretch goal, I’d like to poke around with HomeKit integration: “Hey Siri, turn the heating on”, etc. And actually, thinking about it, that’s something you can’t do with a Nest.