My note taking tags

I recently started using tags in square brackets to tag notes in meetings, or to capture ideas that come to me on the go. For example:

[Note] The server needs to be running…

[Action] Do a report that summarises…

I started out with just the [Note] tag but I’ve been adding to it and I now have 23 of them. As you can imagine typing the square bracket around these tags is a pain. Especially on an iPhone. 

Enter iOS and OSX shortcuts. If you don’t know about them, Shortcuts on iOS and OSX allow you enter a bit of text and an associated replacement gets put into the text you are writing. So to get [Note] I have the following setup:

sbnote -> [Note] 

I just type sbnote. And [Note] is inserted instead when I hit the space bar. Really handy. A nice thing is that the shortcuts sync between all my iOS devices and my Mac. You could also set these up in TextExpander. I did have them there but I like the simplicity of the sync between iOS and OSX for these. I use TextExpander for more complex things.

Here is the full list of tags in square brackets that I now use. I keep adding to it! Really useful for categorising quick notes in meetings, and capturing creative ideas on the go. Use in the notes app of your choice. 

sbaction -> [Action]

sbapplication -> [Application]

sbbook -> [Book]

sbcall -> [Call] 

sbchange -> [Change]

sbdate -> [Date]

sbexample -> [Example]

sbfix -> [Fix] 

sbform -> [Form]

sbinstance -> [Instance]

sbissue -> [Issue]

sbitem -> [Item] 

sblist -> [List]

sblyric -> [Lyric]

sbname -> [Name]

sbnote -> [Note] 

sbquestion -> [Question]

sbquote -> [Quote]

sbreport -> [Report] 

sbsolution -> [Solution]

sbsystem -> [System]

sbtest -> [Test]

sbthought -> [Thought] 




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You should still get to know your nuts!

It’s exactly ten years since I posted “Why you should get to know your nuts” here on the Soapbox. Turned out it was testicular cancer. A pure seminoma. Which is the type you want if you have to get it! Anyway, still here to annoy you all :)

Related: My Leslie Neilsen moment ;)

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Upcoming Chess tournaments #chess

I lifted this table from a post at Chess Vibes. It lists the upcoming chess tournaments we can look forward to now the World Championship Contenders tournament is over. Magnus Carlsen won the right to challenge Vishy Anand for the World Title.

Calendar: major events in 2013

FIDE Candidates London, England 14 Mar 2013
FIDE Grand Prix Lisbon, Portugal 17 Apr 2013
Alekhine Memorial Paris/St Petersburg 21 Apr 2013
European Individual Championship 2013 Legnica, Poland 4 May 2013
Norway Chess 2013 Stavanger region, Norway 7 May 2013
Sigeman & Co Malmö, Sweden 22 May 2013
FIDE Grand Prix Madrid, Spain ? 22 May 2013
World Rapid and Blitz Championships 2013 Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia 3 Jun 2013
Tal Memorial Moscow, Russia 12 June 2013
FIDE Grand Prix Berlin, Germany 3 Jul 2013
Biel Chess Festival Biel, Switzerland 20 Jul 2013
Sparkassen Chess Meeting Dortmund, Germany 25 July 2013
World Cup 2013 Tromso, Norway 10 Aug 2013
FIDE Grand Prix Paris, France 18 Sep 2013
Grand Slam Masters Final Bilbao,Spain Mid Sep 2013
European Club Cup 2013 Rhodes, Greece 19 Oct 2013
World Championship Match ? 6 Nov 2013
European Team Championship 2013 Warsaw, Poland 7 Nov 2013
World Team Championship 2013 Antalya, Turkey 1 Dec 2013
World Youth Championship 2013 Al-Ain, UAE 17 Dec 2013
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Chess boards with notation #chess

ChessBoardsMany chess teaching books say that you need to know the colour of each square on the board. Instantly. Without looking at the board. That f7 is a white square, for example. Knowing the colours of all the squares, and their coordinates, allows you to visualise positions in your head.

I’ve created two A3 sized chess boards with coordinate of each square shown. One board perspective is from the white side, and the other from the black side. May be useful for others learning the colours and coordinates on the board.

You can download as a PDF. These were created in OmniGraffle. The source files are available.

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Buy your chess books in bulk #chess

If you want to improve at anything then it helps to study and practice. Working on that premise I’ve ordered a pile of chess books. I want to be a competent player. No rush. Before I die will do :)


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New ultra beginners books for iOS development

I recently stumbled across a series of beginner books targeted at complete new starters looking to get into iOS app development. The series goes under the name of iOS App Development for Non-Programmers by Kevin McNeish. There are 3 books in the series so far, with more promised. Available on iBooks store, and Amazon Kindle has Book 1. Get the iBooks versions if you have an iPad to read them on. They have embedded videos and tap-through diagrams.

These really are for beginners. Book 1 doesn’t have any coding in it at all. It builds an app in Xcode using standard controls. Even with a map control. The 2nd book is a beginners guide to Objective-C. I like it a lot. The 3rd book is a deeper dive into Xcode. I haven’t read the 3rd book yet. I will soon. 

If you are looking to start iOS app development you could do a lot worse than get these 3 books (and the forthcoming ones when available) as a self-teaching course.

When you have read the McNeish books I’d recommend reading the iOS Apprentice. This is another beginners tutorial series. If you tackle it with the McNeish books under your belt you’ll get more from it.

After you have done both the McNeish and the iOS Apprentice tutorials there are lots of more advanced learning resources that will be accessible to you. 

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Simplified my computer choices

I sold two Apple devices this week. And bought one.

I sold my 4th generation retina iPad. A few weeks ago I decided to use an iPad mini, that I bought as a mobile device management testing device, for a week. Just to get a feel of how the smaller device handled real use. I had voiced the opinion that the lack of a retina screen would mean I wouldn’t like it as much as the larger iPad model. I was wrong. Ever since that week I have hardly used the retina iPad at all. The smaller form factor of the iPad mini gives the full iPad experience in a more portable, and easier to hold, package. The iPad mini may not be a replacement for a laptop, whereas the larger iPad could, and has, for many people. This doesn’t matter to me as I have a 15 inch retina Macbook Pro as my main computing device. If a retina iPad mini ships, and it doesn’t add a lot of weight due to a bigger battery, I’ll get one of those. Or even a 9.7 inch iPad that has the same case style and smaller bezels, like the iPad mini.

I also sold my 16GB iPhone 5. A few times recently I’ve come very close to running out of storage space on my iPhone. I’ve had to choose which podcasts to keep on the phone and also had to delete some multimedia rich apps. I want interesting content, and not storage availability, to be the arbiter of what’s on my iPhone. So I bought a 64Gb iPhone 5 to replace the 16GB one.

So my day to day computing arsenal is now:

I also have the following devices for use in testing mobile OSes and apps outside of iOS, and for mobile device management testing. I don’t use these day to day:

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Week 11 goals

Let’s set some goals for the upcoming week. Gotta set goals. 


Walk 20 miles for exercise.

Do 2 Fast Diet days.



Read chapters 11 to 15 of Maths For Chemistry.

Read chapter 2, ‘Thermochemistry’ of Chemistry (Housecroft & Constable). PDF available here. Chapter 1 PDF, ‘Some basic concepts’ available here, and Chapter 3 PDF, ‘Atoms and atomic structure’ available here. Maths tutor PDF to go with the book here. I have the paper edition of Chemistry. It’s great. Starting this OU course in a few weeks. Hence the maths and chemistry revision.

Finish reading ‘Flying with Objective-C‘. 

Read Chapters 1 to 9 of ‘Navigating Xcode 4.6‘.

Read Chapters 5 to 11 of ‘Programming in Objective-C 5/e‘.



Do 4 blog posts.

Add 2000 words to current SciFi project.

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Short Story: Mark II

Short story.


From the Office of the Executive AI.


It was with deep regret that we today shared news of the death of Mark Williamson. We have all known that this day would come. However, now that it has finally arrived, I share the loss that many of you feel. 

Mark enriched many lives. Directly in person, and much more widely via the technological progress he helped foster as CEO of Williamson Cybernetics. It is not an exaggeration to say that the work undertaken by Mark, and his father Jim, has changed the course of history for all sentient beings on Earth. And beyond. We all exist in a society that is very different from the one that Mark was born into.

Many of you will have studied in history classes about the continuous prenatal, infant, childhood, teenage and adult data capture that was a defining characteristic of Marks life. Every experience his mother Elizabeth had from the 2nd trimester of her pregnancy, was recorded and fed into an artificial intelligence system. This system was designed by his father, in co-operation with other scientists and engineers from Williamson Cybernetics. Sounds collected as part this data were adjusted to mimic what Mark as a foetus would have heard in his mothers womb. After Mark was born, sensors recorded every experience he had and this information was fed into the artificial intelligence system in real time. The goal, as you all know, was to try to create a machine intelligence that could learn and develop in a way that simulated how a human infant learns and develops. In addition to the continuous input of data from Mark, information from various databases and online knowledge stores were made available to the system without restriction. The project was a sweeping success and ultimately led to the introduction of the millions of machine intelligences that coexist with humanity today. Including those on the Moon, Mars and the three that are currently on route to some of our closest stellar neighbours. We can say with some validity that Mark helped open up the Solar System and the galaxy to colonisation.

Mark embraced the project from a young age. As soon as he was old enough to understand, he actively sought ways to provide new input for the system.  He was keen to try new physical and mental experiences so that the artificial intelligence systems could also experience them, and therefore learn and grow.  The stories of Marks broken bones, as a result of some escapade gone awry, are legend from this time. Ten years after Mark was born, Williamson Cybernetics built a dedicated campus outside Boston to hold the computers and support infrastructure required for the artificial intelligence system. At that time the computing power allocated to the system was doubling every 7 months. Advances in computational science have since reduced the space needed to house the system. Now the Boston campus houses thousands of copies of the original, and functions as the headquarters of Williamson Cybernetics.  It is also the main seat of the Earth-wide Government.

Mark was 23 years old, and studying for his Doctorate in applied mathematics, when the artificial intelligence system, into which he was still feeding data, was declared sentient by Williamson Cybernetics. Few people outside of the organisation accepted that this was the case. At this time Marks father renamed the artificial intelligence as Mark II. He did this to reflect the fact that it shared many experiences, and memories, with his son. It was another decade before it was generally accepted by other artificial intelligence researchers and the wider public that Mark II was sentient. Jim Williamson died around this time. He passed on full control of Williamson Cybernetics to his sons. Mark and Mark II. The legal discussions and public debates that resulted in response to this are well known. Mark campaigned for Mark II to be recognised as a citizen and able to be a legal joint owner of the corporation. In 2065 the Digital Citizenship Bill that Mark was an advocate for, was passed into law. This granted sentient artificial systems full equivalent rights as United States citizens. 

Mark spent much of his time after the passing of the Digital Citizenship Bill advocating for the rights of Sentient Artificial Intelligences, or SAIs as they became known. He helped ensure voting rights and helped get several of them elected to local, state and national legislatures. 

Mark is survived by his three children, Dale, Susan and Grant. Also by his 2nd wife Nancy. I’m sure you will join me in sending condolences to them all. Dale and Susan have followed in their fathers footsteps in Williamson Cybernetics. They are currently working on human augmentation techniques and life extension programmes. We have high hopes that this work will enable humans to live for a much longer lifespan in future, even if the immortality envisioned for Sentient Artificial Intelligences can’t be replicated.

Mark died today. But in a very real sense he lives on in me, and my siblings. But you all know that. 

I will miss him.

Mark II

Executive AI

19th April 2109


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Fast Diet Update 2 #fastdiet

Quick update on my fast diet progress. See the original post for more details, and fist update

Weight: 82.5 Kg. (down 5.3 Kg).

BMI: 23.3. (down 1.5).

Waist: 99 cm. (No change).

Surprised that my waist hasn’t reduced even though I’ve lost 5.3 Kg. Must be losing internal fat. Which is good if true. Want to get waist down to about 88 cm. Onwards.

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Summing an arithmetic sequence

This post is to test how Latex output from Mathematica appears via MathJax. It also shows a handy way to sum up a sequence of numbers that have the same difference between them.

Suppose you have a series of numbers that start with a number we call a. If the next number, and the ones after it, in the sequence differ by the same value, then the formula given below can be used to calculate the number of items in the sequence: 


where a = the first term in the sequence, L = the last term in the sequence, and d = difference between the terms in the sequence. d has to be non-zero and the same between each set of terms in the sequence.

Once you know the number of terms in an arithmetic sequence you can sum the terms using the formula: \(S=\frac{1}{2} n (2 a+ (n-1)d)\), where a = the first term in the sequence, n= the number of terms in the sequence, and d = difference between the terms in the sequence.

The embedded equations above show that the latex from Mathematica does work. Happy days. That’s both Mathematica and MathType I can use as required.

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Fast diet update #fastdiet

I started The Fast Diet about two weeks ago. As outlined in the first post my weight was:

Weight: 87.8 Kg.

Height: 188 cm.

BMI: 24.8.

What are the changes after about 2 weeks and 5 fasting days? Stats on Sunday morning:

Weight: 85 Kg.

BMI: 24.0

Waist: 99 cm. I started recording this today after buying a proper measuring tape.

A decrease of just under 3 Kg. That’ll do for a start. As outlined in the previous post it’s the blood biochemistry changes that are the real prize. Weight loss and waist measurements are just easy an tracking method that can be done at home.

I got my blood checked for cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose last week. These were non-fasting numbers but will do as a benchmark for checking again in 6 months. The numbers:

Total cholesterol: 5.63 mmol/L. This should be below 4.0 mmol/L for me.

LDL cholesterol: 3.45 mmol/L. This should be below 2.0 mmol/L for me.

Triglycerides: 2.18 mmol/L. The target for me for this is 2.26 mmol/L. Okay on this one.

Glucose: 8.4. This was non fasting measurement. Will get a fasting one done in 6 months.

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My current podcast subscription list

I recently pruned the number of podcasts I subscribe to in Downcast. I was deleting too many episodes without ever listing to them. Here is a list of what podcasts survived the cull, with links to the feeds to subscribe to them.

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Innovation as entertainment

Apple has changed the way I use technology for the better in 3 major ways. In the late 1980′s I first used a Macintosh. It was a revelation that changed the way I thought about and interacted with computers. There was no going back. I’ve been a Macintosh user, and evangelist, ever since. That was the first major change they delivered to me.

The 2nd was the introduction of the iPod. Coupled with iTunes it completely changed the way I listened to music. No need to go get a CD if I wanted to hear a song. Think of a track and boom, it’s playing in seconds. Apple devices are still the way I listen to music. I can’t foresee that changing any time soon.

The 3rd major change in technology they provided was the iPhone. This put a powerful computer in my pocket that I actually wanted to use. As a side benefit it was also a phone. iPhone is also my iPod now. I see iPad as an evolution of the iPhone technology. This does not mean I see the iPad as a big iPhone!

Those 3 major technology introductions were spread over the last few decades. Sure they have been tweaked and refined over the years, but the core ideas for the technologies were separated in time. There has been a lot of talk on the technology blogs of late about Apple having to come up with something new and groundbreaking in technology. It seems to me that most of the people talking about this see innovation as entertainment. They often don’t articulate what part of modern life they think Apple could innovate in. They just want something new to talk about.  The technology sector as soap opera.

If they do mention something it’s television that usually comes up. I’m not an avid watcher of television. My limited needs are met by current BBC iPlayer services and AppleTV, iTunes in the Cloud and iTunes Match. 

I can’t think of any need I have where Apple could make a major difference with a hardware/software solution that would sell the numbers required to make it worth their while. Something in the kitchen? Not really. Household appliances like cleaning robots? Cars? No. 

What I would like is more incremental improvements in the areas they currently play. Faster devices with better battery capacity certainly. Retina displays everywhere. Apps from 3rd parties on AppleTV would be good. Better software tools and services linking the devices. More push services based on location to tell me about things happening where I currently located. Better interaction with 3rd party household appliances and cars would be great. Dock my iPhone in my car dashboard and it sets the car up the way I like it if someone else has adjusted any settings. Plus logging my journeys and adding to my daily journal.

So the innovation that I think we need over the next 5 years is in software. Software on the devices, software in the backend systems linking various information sources together, and analytics software so that relevant information is pushed to me. 


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Started the Fast Diet

There is a new lifestyle and diet scheme in town. It’s called the 5:2 Fast Diet. Fast as in fasting, not as in speedy. Unlike most (all?) other diet regimens, this one does seem to have some science and data to back it up. The 5:2 bit of the name equates to the fact that you can eat normally for 5 days a week, and then on 2 days you restrict yourself to 600 calories. Thats for men. It’s 500 for women.

Extreme fasting, and its sibling prolonged calorie restriction, have been studied for a while. Current research is showing that the gentler, and more easily doable 5:2 Fast Diet can provide many of the benefits that extreme fasting does. 

Grab the book by Dr. Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer to get more info. Only a few quid in paperback and Kindle formats on Amazon UK. They also have a web site.

I’m making Monday and Thursday my fasting days. Starting today. Will fast from breakfast until dinner then until breakfast next day on those days. With the 600 calories allowed split between breakfast and dinner. That’s the same as what Michael Mosley does. Seems sensible. 

My current weight stats are:

Height: 188 cm.

Weight: 87.8 Kg.

BMI: 24.8.

Not overweight, but BMI close to entering 25+ danger zone. I know from when I was playing cricket regularly that I feel better when my weight is about 79 Kg. So I’ll make that my target.

Weight Target: 79 Kg.

BMI Target: 22.4.

It’s the biochemical changes, as outlined in the Fast Diet book that are the real prize though. 

Follow me on Twitter to comment or discuss. 

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