New Toy: Meet the Wobbleometer(TM)

I’ve had my eye on the Raspberry Shake seismometer for a couple of years now. Last week, I finally succumbed and bought both a new Raspberry Pi (just a 4B 2GB RAM – cheap yet more than adequate) and a Shake 1-D.

The 1-D is a simple seismometer, responding only in the up/down direction. Other products are available…

Mine arrived as a kit, that even I was able to stick together in under half an hour (thanks to a youtube video showing what most of the screws and things were for).

I installed and levelled it on the downstairs windowsill and plugged it directly into the main ADSL router – when you’re uploading a hundred samples per second, minimizing latency is essential.

Obviously, being based in mainland Scotland, I don’t expect to see that many significant earthquakes. We get a handful of ~magnitude 2.5 around the country every couple of years if we’re lucky. However, recently YouTube has sent me down a rabbit-hole of geological analyses of goings-on in Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula – the recent sequence of volcanic eruptions alternating with tiny earthquakes as the magma chamber refills.

The very first night, I spotted a magnitude 3.6 quake in Iceland.

Since then, the live data stream has sadly been unavailable for about 5 days, but when it works, the ability to select a quake event and then click on a station and see the station’s raw data really rocks.

There was another magnitude 3.7 earthquake along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge offshore a few miles south-west of Grindavik yesterday. The live-data view is currently working in the mobile app, leading to this analysis – showing the P and S waves propagating from the event.

As monitoring equipment goes, I’m impressed. It’s a wonderful device, very sensitive yet easy to set up and works well. I’ll continue to watch for all quakes nearby and larger ones further afield, if only to be able to say “I saw it” 🙂

Now with added solar panels

The first thing I did on buying a new house in November was to have solar panels installed. Like, within 24hrs of having keys in hand I’d had two companies round to try and sell me their wares and made a decision.

The installation was not the easiest, as December 4 coincided with Storm Desmond and the house gets fairly battered by the wind at the best of times. That, and it’s taken another week to get everything wired-up and configured.

It’s also not been the best of weather – cloud, foggy, rainy and windy – for the past week as well. So today has been the first real day of generating electricity – with actual data-logging of some sort.

I’m well happy to have seen a clear couple of hours around lunchtime in which generation peaked at just over 200W.

Solar Panel output, first day

Solar Panel output, first day

Bring it on! 🙂

Too-Big Data? That don’t impress me much

On a whim, I spent the evening in Edinburgh at a meetup presentation/meeting concerning Big Data, the talk given by a “Big Data hero” (IBM’s term), employed by a huge multinational corporation with a lot of fingers in a lot of pies (including the UK Welfare system).

I think I was supposed to be awed by the scale of data under discussion, but mostly what I heard was all immodest massive business-speak and buzzwords and acronyms. A few scattered examples to claim “we did that”, “look at the size of our supercomputer”, but the only technical word he uttered all evening was “Hadoop”.

In the absence of a clear directed message, I’ve come away with my own thoughts instead.

So the idea of Big Data is altogether a source of disappointment and concern.

There seems to be a discrepancy: on the one hand, one’s fitbit and phone are rich sources of data; the thought of analyzing it all thoroughly sets my data-geek senses twitching in excitement. However, the Internet of Things experience relies on huge companies doing the analysis – outsourced to the cloud – which forms a disjoint as they proceed to do inter-company business based on one’s personal data (read: sell it, however aggregated it might be – the presenter this evening scoffed at the idea of “anonymized”), above one’s head and outwith one’s control. The power flows upwards.

To people such as this evening’s speaker, privacy and ethics are just more buzzwords to bolt on to a “data value pipeline” to tout the profit optimizations of “data-driven companies”. So are the terms data, information, knowledge and even wisdom.

But I think he’s lost direction in the process. We’ve come a long way from sitting on the sofa making choices how to spend the evening pushing buttons on the mobile.

And that is where I break contact with The Matrix.

I believe in appreciating the value of little things. In people, humanity and compassion more than companies. In substance. In the genuine kind of Quality sought by Pirsig, not as “defined” by ISO code 9000. Value may arise from people taking care in their craft: one might put a price on a carved wooden bowl in order to sell it, but the brain that contains the skill required to make it is precious beyond the scope of the dollar.

Data is data and insights are a way to lead to knowledge, but real wisdom is not just knowing how to guide analysis – it’s understanding that human intervention is sometimes required, and knowing when to deploy it, awareness, critical thinking to see and choose.

The story goes that a salesman once approached a pianist, offering a new keyboard “with eight nuances”. The response came back: “but my playing requires nine”.