One of the main aims of data visualisations is to represent information or data in a graphical format. A picture can tell the story of a thousand words with a single glance and speak the same language to all people looking at the picture. It is hence always interesting to represent stories with a social and political side in terms of a single graph. In mid 2012 a tragic incident happened in South Africa, 45 people lost their lives during a strike by by miners working for Lonmin mine in Marikana1 2.. The miners were striking for a 22% increase in their wages. 22% is just one of the numbers that tell the story of Marikana. This post collects some of the numbers and represents them in a graph.
There are many opinions on the Marikana tragedy. The unions have blamed the mining company for the manner in which they handled the strike. The workers say the union leaders, particularly those belonging to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) have lost touch with the miners.
Social commentators point to the fact that South Africa is one of the highest ranked countries when it comes to the gap between the rich and the poor. It is not for me to say who is right or wrong but perhaps looking at the numbers will give some perspective state of salaries and expenditure surrounding the Marikana tragedy.
It will take a Lonmin rock driller – who earns on average R10 500 in a total-cost-to-company monthly package (working 8 hours a day underground) – almost a decade to earn what the company’s chief executive earns in a month3. The commission established to investigate Marikana will reportedly cost 75 million Rands 4. Its safe to say the lawyers and judges involved will make much more out of Marikana than the miners.
Working in Business Intelligence (BI), I write and execute SQL statements every day. Actually it is more like every other minute. The SQL tool I use is thus very important to me. Over the years I have mainly stuck to SQuirreL SQL Client and wandered off every once in a while to check out different tools. One thing is for sure, no one tool will every have everything you need. At some point in time you have to make a choice based on the features most important to you.
Different database vendors will each have their own frontend specifically developed for their database. Oracle has SQL Developer and Sybase has Interactive SQL and so on. I would advise any budding BI practitioner to probably start with the tool supplied by the vendor. In most cases you will have less compatibility issues and the user can start writing and executing statements from the onset.
For those who use more than one database at a time and want to use the same SQL frontend I would recommend SQuirreL SQL Client or my current favourite tool of choice SQL Workbench\J not MySQL Workbench as these are two totally different products.
Over the next few weeks I will do some blog posts to highlight features I find useful when using SQL Workbench\J and SQuirreL SQL Client. Here are some features technical and not technical that both tools have in common that have led me to use these two tools.
Both SQL frontends are very capable and the learning curve for both is pretty steep. This can be expected given the complex nature of working with SQL and working on different databases. Most decent SQL tools have some complexity and instead of learning many different tools I decided to invest time into learning how to effectively use SQL Workbench\J and SQuirreL SQL Client.
I would urge you too to take a serious look at these two tools because you will not get much better generic SQL tools. The alternative which I trailed for a couple of years is using different tools for different databases. For MySQL one could use a tool like HeidiSQL that runs on Windows. For Oracle one could use as TOra which is an OSS frontend primarily focused on Oracle. This would mean learning a different tool for each database once uses. This is okay if you don't change databases often but I find myself using different databases regularly.
Don't be fooled by the dated screen shots on both web pages, these tools look much better. Here are the home pages of the two tools:
Over the next year I will be writing some blog posts with in-depth step by step instructions on how to use some use functions in both tools. Do I have a favourite out of these two, not really. SQuirreL SQL Client is the one I have been using the longest and I really like what I see with SQL Workbench\J.
Just how did the writers of old manage to churn out so much material given that they did not have:
My take and I am probably not the first person to say this is we may have made technological improvements to make writing much "easier" but along the line we created more things to distract us. For someone working in IT, I have always regarded writing as unimportant and have always done it using a normal word processor such as MS Word or LibreOffice Writer. It never occured to me to use anything else. It was after an extended period of non-productivity I realised the reason I was not writing as much as I would have wanted to was because I was just too easily distracted.
Here is what typically happens, I start writing a piece of documentation, pause to look up a word or term I want to write about and before I know it I am immersed in a WikiPedia article on the history of Linux.
I am trying out two writers for now. I urge you to try them out, you will not turn regret it. After not being able to write a blog post for over a year suddenly I have managed to write two posts in a week and have finished countless work documents. Here are the ones I am trying out:
I have been able to use both applications concurrently without any difficulty. The main feature both provide is a blank screen with just you and your text. They both do have spell checkers and a few more nifty tools like pattern replacement.
Some articles to read with references to other distraction free editors are:
Do try out a distraction free editor, all your writing tasks will become much easier.
I might be an early adopter when it comes to software but I am old fashioned away from my computer. I like reading but in recent years I have not been able to read too many books. There just is not enough time in a day and some of the books I would like to read are just too bulky to carry around. I travel light so I will either carry a book around or my smart phone, I mostly chose the latter. At least with the smart phone I can read blogs online.
Enter the Kindle, I was given a Kindle as present by my lovely wife. After a couple of months using the Kindle I have to admit I don't care too much for good old fashioned paper books any more. They take up too much space, are cumbersome to carry around, can take days to be delivered when ordered online. I love the convenience of the Kindle. The Kindle is light, simple, understated but it reads exactly as a book would with no glare from the screen. I can read from it for hours on end.
Most people who ask to have a look at my Kindle initially try use it as a touch screen. I put the blame squarely on hype around the iPad for that :-). No the Kindle (at the time of writing) does not have a touch screen, it does not even have a colour screen and yet it does the job of replacing books well. I am able to load PDFs, MS Word Documents and saved web pages to the Kindle. I am able to read software manuals sitting on the bus without having to carry the printed the paper around, if I get tired of the Linux manual I switch to reading another book.
Yes there are disadvantages to ebook readers. The inability to share your books, if you are stuck in a desert and do not have a power outlet to recharge the reader (by the way I charge my Kindle once every 2 to 3 weeks, I turn WiFi off when I am not using it). I can live with the disadvantages. I putting all my paper books up for sale.
The Kindle is not the only ebook reader available. Just to name a few:
|Barnes & Noble Nook||US$139.00||2GB|
My parents have a desktop PC that is not connected to the Internet. They have had this PC for close to 4 years and 50% of that time the PC has been unusable. The PC runs Windows XP and viruses collected from memory sticks and cameras have constantly rendered it unusable.
I have now decided to install Ubuntu 10.10 on the PC. This is the experiment and several questions come to mind. Will my parents be able to use software packaged with Ubuntu? Will the software available cater for all their needs and will my life be much easier? Easier as in will I have less maintenance to perform on the home PC and less questions to answer about how to do certain things.
I will be making updates to this page about the experiences. The first update is I managed to buy a PC without any operating system and I have already saved some money not buying Windows. To be correct I have kept within the law by not pirating Windows.
EDIT: Apart from a document that "disappeared" as it was accidentally moved to another desktop I am happy to report that there have been no problems with the Ubuntu installation at home. The news is made even better by the fact that I am getting reports of people coming over to my parents' place to type documents as their computer is virus free.