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By BobArtner - TechRepublic ·
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Data mapping: strengths and weaknesses

by BobArtner - TechRepublic In reply to Bob's Blog

<p>Given the introduction of <a href="http://maps.google.com/">Google Maps</a>, and more importantly the API that others are using to build new apps on top of it, more and more people are finding creative ways to overlay data on maps. </p>
<p>Of course, this is not a new phenomenon. Recall the famous Blue vs. Red maps of the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:USA_2000_presidential_popular_vote_by_county_winner.jpg">2000</a> and <a href="http://www.realclearpolitics.com/Presidential_04/2004_County_Results_Final.html">2004</a> U.S. Elections, which show the winners at the county level.</p>
<p>My favorite is the <a href="http://www.popvssoda.com/countystats/total-county.gif">map which overlays the terms people use for soft drinks</a> in various parts of the United States. (Since I know you're curious, I say "pop," betraying the fact that my formative years were spent in Chicago, while my kids say "coke," reflecting their years in the South.</p>
<p>This kind of thing is fun for most of us, and critical for many professionals. Where I live, for example, people have tried and failed for years to create a comprehensive map of the country which overlays all the various cabling from all municipal utilities and telecom providers. The rise of web-based mapping systems makes such a project feasible for the first time.</p>
<p>So far, so good. </p>
<p>However, I do get worried from time to time about our increasing reliance on maps and graphics to convey information. It is certainly true that a graphical representation of data can reinforce a primary message in such a way that a column of figures can never hope to match. Further, a well-designed map or data graphic can also illustrate the relationships between two variables, relationships that you might miss when looking at a spreadsheet.</p>
<p>At the same time, we can't lose sight of the fact that data mapping of this kind almost always involves some kind of simplification. By definition, when we map something, we filter it at the same time we try to represent it. This doesn't imply some kind of paranoid conspiracy theory ("watch out for the mapmakers!"), but is just a fact of life.</p>
<p>Maybe it's my background in database design, but I like to be able to query the actual numbers myself. When I find the relationships that I'm looking for, I'll make my own maps. </p>
<p>Of course, one can argue that much data mapping saves effort - why reinvent the wheel, and force everyone to query the same data sets to produce the same maps?</p>
<p>I agree, and I'm not suggesting that the new web-based mapping services aren't terrific. I use them all the time. </p>
<p>I just don't want to people to think that clicking on the Zoom In and Zoom Out indicators on a Google Map is the same thing as designing a SQL query.</p>

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Data mapping: strengths and weaknesses

by dxmoody In reply to Data mapping: strengths a ...

Anyone who knows what an SQL Query is should know that clicking on the Zoom in and Zoom out indicators on a Google map is not the same thing as designing an SQL Query and those who do not know what an SQL Query is... well ..they CAN't think it's the same thing.

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Data mapping: strengths and weaknesses

<p>You're right, of course. I was trying to exaggerate to make a point.</p>

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Data mapping: strengths and weaknesses

by marc_pearl In reply to Data mapping: strengths a ...

<p>Download the free ESRI viewer, then you can drill down to your hearts desire on thousands of maps with detailed data attached.</p>
<p>Marc</p>

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More on Graphic Displays of Data

by BobArtner - TechRepublic In reply to Bob's Blog

<p>Last post, I was blathering on about my concerns about the increasing use of graphical data displays. While I love the power that web-based mapping applications from Google and others give developers to overlay data, I am concerned that people fail to understand that the image is NOT the data, but a representation of the data, and one that is simplified.</p>
<p>For me, these kind of discussions always go back to <a href="http://www.edwardtufte.com">Edward Tufte</a>, the guru of good data displays. If you've heard of him, it's probably in connection with his (deserved) rants about the <a href="http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/powerpoint">limitations of PowerPoint</a>.</p>
<p>Check out this thread on effective <a href="http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=000076&topic_id=1&topic=Ask%20E%2eT%2e">project management visual aids</a>.</p>
<p>Interestingly, I liked the comments on the use of sticky posts as a way to start the project management display process. This also ties into the notion that the best way to view a project management display is to be able to see the whole thing, so that each subroutine is viewed in context to the larger project. This means instead of looking at a piece of a Gannt chart on a computer monitor, that it is more effective to use a whiteboard or wall chart. Here is an example of how one PM did it:</p>
<p><img alt="Sticky post project chart" src="http://www.raintreehouse.com/images/et/tproc_chart.jpg" /></p>
<p>The entire thread is well-worth reading. </p>
<p>In fact, Tufte is worth studying in some detail.</p>

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Restricting Privileges in Windows

by BobArtner - TechRepublic In reply to Bob's Blog

A comment to a post of mine about TechEd asked <font size="2">
<p><em>"John Sheesley mentioned in todays Tech Pro Guild message that he'd been to a session entitled, "Tips and Tricks to Running Windows with Least Privilege". </em><em>Could you post an update on the options they recommended - I've been working hard to find a happy medium between security and functionality within a corporate environment... "</em>
<p>I asked John about it, and he shot off this quick response:</p>
<p>"The basic idea behind that session was that users should not be allowed to have Adminsitrator rights on their own machines in a network environment. Administrator rights give users too much free access to the underlying parts of Windows that can allow them to get in trouble. It's nothing against the users themselves. Spyware and viruses use the Administrator rights granted to users to insert themselves on a machine.
<p>"User-only privileges blocks access to changing Windows system files, stopping many viruses in their tracks. Without proper privileges, a user can't install software, and therefore viruses and spyware can't auto-install itself. </p>
<p>"Most of my notes are at home, but off the top of my head, the session recommended that users run only with User rights. Not even SuperUser, which is essentially the same thing as Admin. There were several suggestions for emergency Admin needs like using the RunAs command for times when a user HAS to run something as admin. There were also demos of Fast User switching in XP Home that gets around the same problem. There was mention that Fast Switching will be a part of Longhorn when it ships. There was also discussion of some third party utilities that may help.</p>
<p>"One of the biggest complaints about User Only mode as that users can't change Date and Time on their own machines. Longhorn will fix that restriction as well."</p></font>

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Computers achieve chess dominance

by BobArtner - TechRepublic In reply to Bob's Blog

<p>Even non-chess players heard when former World Champion Gary Kasparov was knocked off in a match by an IBM supercomputer a few years ago.</p>
<p>Since then, computer programmers have not rested on their laurels. There are now PC-based programs that can beat all but the best human players in the world.</p>
<p>Right now, Grandmaster Michael Adams of England is getting pasted by a computer program called Hydra. (You can follow the games <a href="http://www.playchess.com/">here</a>.) After three games, Hydra is ahead 2.5 - .5. Adams is no slouch - in fact, he's one of the top human players on the planet.</p>
<p>Will the future be more of the same? Probably. <a href="http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=2469">Chessbase</a> quotes an email from fellow Grandmaster John Nunn, with his predictions on the man vs. machine chess struggle:</p>
<ul>
<li><em>2005: Leading GM loses to Hydra </em>
<li><em>2007: Leading GM loses to his Pocket PC </em>
<li><em>2009: Leading GM loses to his mobile phone, which plays a rude ringtone every time he makes a mistake. </em>
<li><em>2011: Leading GM loses to his son's LEGO toy</em></li></ul>

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Computers achieve chess dominance

UPDATE:  It's getting worse - Adams dropped two more games, and the score is now Hydra 4.5 Adams 0.5

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Amazon Rankings = Sales?

by BobArtner - TechRepublic In reply to Bob's Blog

<p>Ever looked at a book's ranking on Amazon and asked, I wonder how many sales that book generates?</p>
<p>(Or is that just me?)</p>
<p>If you're curious, here are one author's estimates of how rankings relate to sales:</p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span>Amazon               Actual</span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span>Rank                 Books Sold per week</span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span>---------            -----------------</span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span>75-100               250-275/wk</span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span>100-200              225-249/wk</span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span>200-3001             50-200/wk</span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span>450-7507             5-100/wk</span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span>750-3,000            40-75/wk</span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span>3,000-9,000          15-20/wk</span></p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><span>10,000+              1-5/wk</span></p>
<p>
<p>I guess this author has never had a book ranked higher than 75th on Amazon. (These taken from a posting on the Computer Book Authors listserv.</p>
<p>I would have thought the sales would be higher - at least at the top of the list.</p>
<p> </p>

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