Playalong for iPad is here!

March 17th, 2013

Supernifty is pleased to announce that Playalong for iPad is now available on the app store!

Here’s a screenshot:
Playalong iPad screenshot

Playalong helps you learn new songs on your guitar, ukulele or banjo with chords, lyrics, a beat and strumming sounds. Each song’s timing matches that of the original song.

It’s the easiest way to learn a new song, or play along to an old favourite.

There’s over 50 songs to choose from, with new songs regularly being added.

More cool features:

  • Easily transpose the song into any key
  • Speed up or slow down the song to suit
  • Easy to use chord finder for guitar, ukulele and banjo

Wanna learn more? Check it out on the app store.

Playalong on the app store

Don’t have an iPad or iPhone? Have a look at Playalong Online. It’s pretty fun, too.

Introducing MemShot – a Flashcard Spaced Repetition memorization system

March 9th, 2013

Supernifty is pleased to announce MemShot, a free, simple, web-based memorization system based on spaced repetition.

Memory masters like Dominic O’Brien use spaced repetition to memorize incredible amounts of information efficiently – now you can too.

Create your own set of flashcards, then MemShot tracks your progress and ensures that you work only on items that most need practice – much more efficient than traditional learning systems.

To get started, go to MemShot and start adding facts. Then click “Practice” to start learning.

Memory practice

The software includes many features to help you on your path to mastery; for instance:

Progress Reports! MemShot keeps track of your progress so you can see how well you are learning – are you progressing well or do you need to up the ante?

Memorization progress

Trouble Spots! MemShot keeps detailed records of your progress on every fact and you can easily see which items are causing you the most trouble.

Individual item status

Reminders! MemShot can keep your motivation ticking over by reminding you when it is time to practice.

Sharing! Although experts suggest that creating your own sets helps with the learning process, you can also share learning sets. If you create a set that may interest others, click the “share” button.

With just a few minutes each day with MemShot, you can look forward to memorizing an impressive amount of information.

Did you know – Jeopardy winner Roger Craig used Spaced Repetition as part of his training?

Feedback is welcome. We have many ideas for improving MemShot. If you have one, let us know.

What now?

Book Review – Python for Data Analysis

January 20th, 2013


Python for Data Analysis is primarily a reference for Pandas. Pandas is a Data Analysis library for Python.

Also covered in less depth are some other components in Python’s data analysis ecosystem. There are chapters on iPython and NumPy. A chapter on plotting and visualization provides a great rundown of matplotlib, along with mention of alternatives like chaco and mayavi.

Pandas is then presented in significant depth, with sections on data storage, data transformation, data aggregation and time series analysis. This forms the bulk of the book.

This is a well-written book that provides a good summary of Python’s data analysis capabilities, however, it will not teach you how to do data analysis. This book will show you how to use the Pandas library.

Note: This book was provided by O’Reilly Media as part of their blogger review program.

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program

Book Review – Programming Computer Vision with Python

September 18th, 2012


Programming Computer Vision with Python covers the foundations of computer vision along with numerous interesting and practical examples.

Topics covered include:

  • Basic image handling and processing in Python
  • Image descriptors and points of interest
  • Image mapping and homographies
  • Augmented reality
  • 3D scene reconstruction
  • Clustering, searching and classifying images
  • Image segmentation and
  • Interfacing to OpenCV

Python forms an integral part of this book and is used throughout the book. It is an ideal language for this purpose, being easy to understand and with excellent libraries. The scientific library numpy is used extensively.

This book is well-written, easy to understand and a lot of fun. There was a heavy emphasis on practicality which I appreciated.

Typically the theory would first be explained in text, then implemented in code. Finally a practical example would demonstrate how to apply the theory.

There are some great examples. This is where the book shines.

For instance, in the chapter on image classification, we are given an image of a Sudoku. The grid location is first determined, then the contents of each cell in the grid are classified into digits.

It was great to see some machine learning algorithms applied to real problems. PCA (Principal Component Analysis) is used extensively. SVM (Support Vector Machines) and the Naive Bayes Classifier are also used to solve real computer vision problems.

The author clearly knows his stuff, often pointing out pitfalls and demonstrating many handy tricks.

A very enjoyable and recommended introduction to the world of computer vision.

Note: This book was provided by O’Reilly Media as part of their blogger review program.

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program

Mastering a new skill and becoming an expert

August 20th, 2012

mastery comic

An oft-cited paper indicates that becoming the world’s greatest [insert dream skill here] is not strongly correlated with talent, lung capacity, IQ or any other innate trait.

Their study suggests that by far the most important factor in acquiring a skill is the time spent deliberately practicing the desired skill.

“Deliberate practice” simply means “no goofing around”.

The authors of the paper studied a bunch of different domains such as music, chess and the scientific endeavour. They found that roughly 10000 hours of deliberate practice is required to become the expert.

This is a lot of hours. For instance, at 20 hours a week this will take 10 years.

However, the great thing about this is that you are master of your own destiny. If you put your mind to it and put in the effort, the world is your oyster. Pursue your passion!

To help calculate your path to mastery, Supernifty has included a tool to figure out when you will be the next chess grandmaster or tennis world number one. Simply fill in the fields below:

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If you are serious about mastering a skill, consider trying the Hourly Time Tracker to see how you are really spending your time. A “mastery” column predicts which activities you are becoming an expert at.

hourly tracker with mastery column

You might be a little sad to discover that you are rapidly becoming an expert at “work” or “TV”. Think about the incredible human body that you have been blessed with. Is this truly what you want to spend your life getting good at?

Play Speed Scrabble in Spanish

July 26th, 2012

Spain¡Juego de velocidad scrabble en espanol!

Supernifty se complace en anunciar que ahora es compatible con la velocidad de Scrabble en español.

Si tu eres un nativo hablante de español, o si quiere practicar el idioma español, juega con velocidad Scrabble en españole!

Guessing words on the Spanish Speed Scrabble

To play Speed Scrabble using the Spanish dictionary:

  • Visit Speed Scrabble
  • Login
  • Click “Play”
  • Click the pencil next to “English”, to change it to “Spanish”
  • Click “Start game”
  • Make words in Spanish! ¡Excelente!

This is a new feature so if you encounter any problems, please
contact us.

Thanks Brunina for the Spanish translation 🙂

How to track your daily goals and form new habits

July 24th, 2012

For some time I have been trying to develop useful daily habits in a quest for self-improvement.

Things like:

  • exercising daily,
  • learning a new language and
  • finishing my masterpiece.

A bad way to learn a new skill or form a new habit is to have a short-lived exuberance of enthusiasm before returning to the old you. This has been my usual strategy.

This boom-bust cycle is deflating and makes the next effort even harder.

The solution!

Doing a little each day and tracking progress appears to be quite successful at maintaining motivation.

Supernifty’s habit-forming tool can help out with this.

Daily goals

Set your goals, then click in the appropriate day when you complete a goal. Simple.

If you’re like me, or Jerry Seinfeld, then you are well on your way to cementing some valuable habits.

Stars and Streaks and Jerry Seinfeld

The story goes that Jerry Seinfeld needed a way to keep himself motivated when writing, so came up with the “Don’t break the chain” method. Each day he would draw a line on his calendar to indicate that he had done a little comedy writing that day.

After a short time, the motivation became to keep the chain going.
Soon after, Jerry Seinfeld had created one of the most popular sitcoms of all time.

Supernifty’s goal tracking tool shows a “streak” statistic to emulate this idea. Keep the streak going! Be like Jerry!

Long Term Progress

One motivating factor in the habit-forming game is to try to maintain or improve my performance compared to previous weeks.

Click on “All weeks” to see how your habit-forming is progressing. It’s also easy to filter on a specific habit.

Goals analysis

Finally…

If you’ve had trouble forming new habits in the past, then this goal tracking tool could be the ticket.

This same web page includes a tool to track how you spend your time – just hide this if you are only interested in the goal tracker.

Feedback is always welcome. If you have ideas or thoughts, or it has helped you out, let us know!

Book Review – Fitness for Geeks

July 8th, 2012


Fitness for Geeks attempts to teach fitness principles via “real science, great nutrition and good health”.

The book includes sections on nutrition, eating habits, exercise, sleeping and other lifestyle decisions.

Many of the principles advocated in this book mirror those of the “paleo” movement, which is based on the diet and exercise patterns of humans from the paleolithic age. The theory is that the human body hasn’t had time to adapt to the modern life.

The author begins by describing why the human body is not well suited to the modern life. Sitting around all day eating a diet high in saturated fat is less than optimal. Makes sense.

The next section covers nutrition. This section of the book is informative and well written, first covering the “macronutrients” – carbohydrates, protein and fat, before moving onto vitamins and micronutrients. All very interesting and useful. Many useful resources are provided for analyzing what you eat and assessing your diet.

Next is a chapter promoting an idea not heard too often – the health benefits of fasting for significant periods. It’s an interesting idea – usual dietary advice is to have a good breakfast; this chapter advocates skipping breakfast.

The book progresses to exercise and the author recommends intense, short workouts – he cites the Tabata workout. Also recommended is variety in exercise regimes by using systems like crossfit.

The section on resistance training was good, however much of the fitness advice is simply the preference of the author and doesn’t seem to be based on any particular best practice.

This book reminded me of “The Four Hour Body“, which was primarily a book of ideas to investigate further, rather than advice provided by an expert in the field. Both books lack the scientific rigour to back up much of the supplied “wisdom”.

The connection to “geeks” was tenuous. For example in the section on sleep, there was, inexplicably, a page of source code to connect to the Zeo sleep monitor. A variety of gadgets for health tracking were reviewed in the book.

Overall, the sections on nutrition and resistance training were great, sometimes the rest felt a little patchy.

Note: This book was provided by O’Reilly Media as part of their blogger review program.

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program

What am I doing with my life? Track yourself for a week and find out

June 19th, 2012

“We manage what we measure”… so goes the old saying. Here is a new tool to measure how you spend your time.

The problem

For months I have felt like I have been too busy to spend time on the things I really care about. A lot of ideas seem to have been permanently “on hold” – my todo lists have seemingly been continually growing, and for months I have been feeling overwhelmed and time poor.

Sound familiar?

A solution

I decided to do some real measuring and find out what was consuming my time. This came about after reading an interesting article over at Quantified Self about how shocked and surprised students were after tracking their hourly activities for a week.

The idea was to track down where all that time goes and then to decide if these various endeavours were worth that kind of commitment. This would also be an opportunity to compare the reality to how I imagined I was spending my life.

Hence, Supernifty’s Hourly Tracker was born. This online tool provides an easy way to track what you do each hour of the day for a week.

You can add any activity you want to track. As you can see from the image, you get a decent overview of where the time goes, including some interesting analysis on the right.

If you track yourself for more than a week, there is Historical Analysis.

Check out an overall picture of how you are spending your time, or focus on a particular activity:

Outcomes

It’s been an eye-opening experience – I’d recommend everyone try tracking their time for at least one full week. Some things I learnt:

Sleep

First of all, it’s clear why many people try to find ways of living with less sleep – for instance the polyphasic movement – sleep takes up a huge chunk of anyone’s life, dwarfing all other activities.

It’s also clear why I often feel tired – I don’t get enough sleep. Using this tool enabled me to confirm this suspicion.

More time conscious

As with other tracking efforts – such as taking a photo of everything you eat – the act of recording makes you more conscious of how you spend your time. If I start wasting time on the internet I am reminded that I will be recording this.

I’ve become much more aware of wasteful activities.

Busy-ness

Finally, I discovered the cause of my constant feeling of too much to do: mornings. I’d spend mornings catching up on email, reading blogs and researching random items of interest – generally procastinating – before finally getting stuck into work. This would set the scene for a stressful remaining day.

By the end of the day, I’d still feel that I needed to get more work done. I’d have a late night and then be tired in the morning, thus repeating the cycle.

Using this tool I have learnt that I need to focus on having a productive morning.

What’s next?

Ideas for improvements are welcomed – please get in touch! Some things that are in the pipeline:

  • Recommendations – for example, exercising every day or getting more sleep
  • Daily Goals – a daily goal tracker is at the bottom of the page. It’s functional but the analysis is still in development

Conclusion

Try tracking your time, just for a week. I gained significant insights and confirmed things that previously were vague suspicions.

Making a decision – flowchart

June 5th, 2012

If you’re having trouble deciding whether or not you should do something, Supernifty’s new “Should I do it?” flowchart can help you out with many of life’s conundrums.

First, think of something that you are wondering whether or not you should do. For instance, accepting a new job offer. Then, follow the flowchart below.

Should I do it? Decision flowchart

Of course, sometimes making the decision is the easy part – especially now that you have this simple to follow flowchart.

Often it’s actually following through on your decision that is the challenge.