Friday, 27 May 2016

Student? Expert Problem Solver? Win $2000 and a free trip to Glasgow

If you like coding and solving problems, and are a full-time student, you could win up to $2000 and an expenses-paid trip to a conference in Glasgow later this year.

All you need is a computer and some free software. The computer could be a Raspberry Pi (any model) or a laptop running Windows, OS/X or Linux. I'll tell you where to get the APL software further down this post.
First, though, a warning. If you enter this competition it could change your life!

I’m serious. Just under fifty years ago I had a chance to learn APL.

I did, and it shaped my whole career. I'm still using APL to research neural networks.

Now, if you want, it’s your turn.

The Dyalog APL 2016 problem solving competition 

Dyalog have just announced their annual APL problems solving competition. They want to introduce more people to this extraordinary, powerful language.

If you are a full time student you could win a big cash prize (up to $2000) and an expenses-paid trip to Glasgow later this year.

If you’re not a student, you can still enter, stretch your mental muscles, and have fun.

In a minute I’ll explain how you can enter, and how you can start getting familiar with the language. Before that I’d like to show you a little of what APL can do and why it’s so powerful.

Meet APL: the most productive programming language I know


Suppose you’re a scientist, or an engineer, or an entrepreneur and you need to crunch some numbers. Perhaps you’ve just done an experiment or got some sales figures in. Whatever the background, you have two sets of data:

    expected ← 10 15 13 27 30
  actual ← 9 12 15 25 28

How much do the actual figures differ from what you expected?

1 3 ¯2 2 2

What’s the total difference?


If you’re into statistics, you might ask for the average difference. You could start by writing a program to calculate averages:

    average ← {(+/⍵)÷⍴⍵} ⍝ divide sum by number of elements
    average difference

As you can see, APL is powerful and concise. If you want to find out more, and maybe win a cash prize, you should enter the competition today.

5 Steps to enter


  • Register for the competition here and click the purple ‘Start the competition’ button.You should get a confirmation email within 10 minutes. If you don’t, check your spam folder. If the email is not there, notify
  • Install Dyalog APL on your own machine. You can use a Windows, Linux or OS/X laptop or a Raspberry Pi. 
If you're using a Raspberry Pi you can find out how to install the free software here.

If you're using a laptop you will need to get a license from Dyalog; students can get a free educational licence, and anyone else can get a personal licence for a minimum charge. 
  • Work on the problems for phase 1 and phase 2. There's more information here.
  • When you’re ready, submit your entry.
Then wait to hear the results. Make sure you keep October 9-13, 2016 clear in case you win a trip to the Glasgow conference!


Free tips by email


I’ll be sending out a few tips about getting started (but no solutions!) over the next few days. If you want them, sign up below. I won’t spam you, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

I’m also working on an extra bonus which I hope to offer in one of the emails later this month.

Sign up for the email tips below.

Get Dyalog Competition Tips

Thursday, 19 May 2016

A new Raspberry Pi robot joins the family

Yesterday saw the arrival of a Raspberry Pi robot kit from The Pi Hut, and I'm finding it hard not to drop everything and have a play.

The Pi Hut has close links with CamJam. CamJam is, I think, the first Raspberry Jam, based in the Cambridge area.

Working with The Pi Hut they have created three excellent EduKits: inexpensive, fun kits which introduce Raspberry Pi owners of all owners to the fun of physical computing.

The earlier kits came with excellent instructions and the Robot kit does too. I'm sure I will succumb to temptation and start exploring the kit in the next day or two. Expect a progress report soon.

My immediate priority is more urgent. I'm talking at the BAA meeting tomorrow, and I need to make sure I'm properly prepared.

Dyalog Visit

I nearly blew it earlier this week. I went along to visit my friends at Dyalog to talk about my neural network research and show them APL running on the new Pi zero.

I thought I had taken everything I needed, but I forgot to take a USB hub. I won't repeat that mistake tomorrow, as I expect there will be a lot of interest in the newest member of the Pi family.

BAA meeting tomorrow - 19th May

If you're an APLer, current or lapsed, and can get to central London tomorrow, do come along to the meeting. I think there are a few places left. Go here to book.

Monday, 16 May 2016

The new Raspberry Pi zero is here - and it's snappy!

Spot the difference!
The new Raspberry Pi zero is out and it has a camera connector.

The picture on the right compares the new zero with its predecessor. They are very, very similar but the clever folks at Pi towers have re-routed the board to make room for a camera connector while keeping the size of the board unchanged.

I've had a chance to play with the new Pi for a few days now and I love it. You can read my plans below but the main thing is that the new feature has been added without sacrificing the zero's already awesome capabilities.

As you'd expect, existing software runs just as it did before.

The new zero is currently in stock at several dealers in the UK and the USA. Details are on the Raspberry Pi website. Dealer info is at the bottom of their post.

A camera has been one of the most-requested features for the zero. It opens up a huge range of new, exciting projects. There will be a huge demand for the new zero. Let's hope the stocks hold out for a while!

Share this post so your friends can place their orders quickly.
Tweet: The new Pi zero is here!

The new Pi zero as a mobile eye

If you want to give your mobile robot vision the new zero is a great solution. I can see it being used in wheeled robots, submarines and drones. Drones will need some fail-safe method of operator control for legal reasons but wheeled robots and subs can be completely independent if their software is smart enough.

Computer vision and neural networks

The zero has enough memory and processing power to run openCV. I'm working on experiments to add visual input my neural network software. I'll post about the project as it progresses.

If you're interested in neural networks I'm writing a tutorial series for beginners. Start here.

Stay informed

If you want more news about the Pi and the project, follow the blog on twitter.