Sunday, December 31, 2023

Improving your Wordle performance


The wordle game is deceptively simple. However, I find myself tempted to cheat by employing outside resources when completing a game. There are many useful tools available such as the Merriam-Webster word finder which help in some situation, but none are explicitly built to help with Wordle. So I decided to write a little python utility called Wordle Cheat which aims to help Wordle players by providing a list of dictionary words which meet the clues they have been given

Since I released the project under an open source licence, it also technically meets my retirement goal of contributing to an open source project. I hope it is useful and please let me know if you find any issues with it. Of course if anyone wants to add a new feature(s), I would be delighted.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Playing Wordle

 


Everyone seems to be obsessed with the Wordle game so I decided to give it a go. The short summary is that I am not impressed.

The game rules are very simple. You have 6 attempts to guess a 5 letter word. Each time you guess, you are told if each letter in your guess is either a correct match, a correct letter in the wrong position or not in the word at all. However, this is tricky enough to play - this forces you to use your brain which is the general idea.

The good news is that it is an easy way to pass time. The bad news is the advertisements which are constantly popping up and they seem to be deliberately hard to dismiss.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Paying with your mobile phone - How does it work?

It seems like magic to me that it is possible for me to pay for stuff using my mobile phone.  I am not an expert in payment systems, but this blog post is my attempt to describe what happens behind the scenes to make this possible. Since I have an Android phone, I will describe how it works with Google Pay - I assume that the same principles apply to using Apple Pay if you have an iPhone. 


  1. The first step is to register all of your cards with Google Wallet. To make this easy Google Wallet allows you to simply take a picture of your credit/debit card(s) and it will save the card details without the need for you to type in the long card number manually. When you enter a card Google automatically communicates with your bank to ensure the card is valid and not reported stolen.
  2. When you are buying some goods or services, the merchant will type in the amount on their point of sale device.
  3. Assuming you are willing to pay the amount requested, you first need to pick which one of the stored cards you want to use for this transaction. With android, this is done by long pressing on the power on/off button and then swiping left and right to highlight the card you want. To make it easy for you, Google Wallet will display a small picture of what the original card looks like.
  4. Having activated your chosen card you hold your phone within 4cm of the POS terminal so they can use near field communication (NFC) to exchange details of your card. NFC is deliberately limited to only work at such short range to avoid accidentally paying for someone else's purchases.
  5. The POS terminal then checks with Visa/Mastercard who in turn contacts the banks which issued the card to verify that you are credit worthy.
  6. Occasionally the bank decides that they want to double check the identity of the person making the payment. If this happens, you will be asked to unlock your phone using a PIN code, unlock pattern or fingerprint reader. After this happens you need to return to step 4 above.
  7. When payment is successfully made, your phone will display a confirmation message with the last 4 digits of the card used (displaying the entire card number would be aa security weakness).
As I said, I am not an expert in payment systems. So if I got something wrong please let me know.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Retirement in practice

Before I retired I published a planfor what I would do with my time. 
Now that I have been retired for roughly 4 months, I thought I should review what I actually did:


  1. Cycling: I am still cycling most weekends, but I am surprised to find that I don't really have time to cycle mid-week. My Strava statistics show me doing more or less the same milage as before retirement.
  2. Lecturing: This is working out very well. I find it very rewarding and I am planning to possibly increase my hours next semester.
  3. Night classes: I attended all the planed classes, but I must admit I never practice guitar between classes - the usual excuse of being too busy.
  4. Age Action: This is working out very well. The gap in age is very small between me and the 'older persons' that I am teaching, but it is still good to be doing 'give back'.
  5. Open source: I haven't really gotten to spend time on this goal. I did identify a project that I might like to contribute to - a set of node-red nodes for iOT devices. However, I have not yet upskilled to the level that I might be able to make a contribution.
  6. Men's shed: I did not join a mens shed as such, but I joined a 'mens club' in my local community center. This has worked out great for me - I am making new friends and keeping very busy
  7. Book club: I found a book club in the local community center. Unfortunately I am the only male member of the club, but I don't let that interfere with my enjoying the club.
In general, I think retirement is working out more or less as I hoped and I have no regrets



Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Planning for my retirement


I recently had a pension review meeting with a pension expert who advised me that I had enough money in my pension plan to retire now. Even more significantly he told me that my pension payout would only increase by a very small amount if I continue working until I am 65. As a result I have decided to retire in August on my 61st birthday.

Deciding when to stop working is only part of what I need to plan. The more important part is to plan what I will do with my new free time. I have come up with the following ideas (more or less in descending order of priority):
  1. Cycling: At the moment I cycle every weekend. Once I retire I will start cycling during the week as well. 
  2. Lecturing: A few years ago I used to lecture to night students in Trinity College. I found this to give me a large amount of personal satisfaction. As a result I signed up to lecture in Independent College  2.5 hours per week. If this works out I  will increase my hours.
  3. Night classes: My local school offers a wide range of night classes and I intend taking some of these. Last year I took gardening, guitar and pilates. In the next academic year, I have signed up for follow on classes in badminton, guitar and pilates as well as a workshop entitled ready for retirement.
  4. Age Action run classes to teach basic computer literacy for older people. I intent to volunteer as a tutor. 
  5. Open source: I have always wanted to see what it is like to be an active contributor to an open source project. I have not yet decided what project to pick - suggestions are more than welcome.
  6. Men's shed: There is an active men's shed in Mulhuddart which is not too far from me so I plan to try it out. 
  7. Book club: I am a keen reader so I think I would enjoy being part of a book club. I am sure I will find one which is close by which suits me.
I don't think I will be bored with all of these diverse activities.

Monday, July 3, 2023

A new attitude to best before dates

When I was young I was thought to respect best before dates and never eat anything whose best before date has passed.

Now it seems that the advice has changed to be more of a suggestion. For example, look at the label on this carton of orange juice.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Nobody cares why you follow an influencer

The rise in popularity. of social networking sites in recent years has led to a corresponding growth in the number of influencers.

Some people follow influencers for positive reasons (e.g. they admire  their fitness/beauty regime). In other cases people follow influencers that they dislike (e.g. people might follow Andrew Tate so they can criticise his statements). However, the sponsors who pay the influencers don't care why you are following someone - they simply care that you read the influencer's posts.

You should be aware that if you read postings from someone like Andrew Tate, you are effectively paying his salary.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Pressure prediction analysis

Previously, I analysed how accurate various weather prediction services predicted the temperature a number of days in advance. Today I will look at their predictions for wind speed.

Here is the summary data

Here is a chart of the data for people who prefer visual:


Points to note
  • Openweathermap seems to be the most accurate by far.
  • Yr.no has similar accuracy openweathermap for one day in advance, but when predicting further into the future both darksky and yr.no are similar.
  • The error from openweathermap seems to be much larger than other services. I checked and this error is genuine.

Like the last time, this analysis lumps all cities together for an average result. I might do some analysis later on performance per city.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Moving desk


The office space at the IBM campus in Damastown is very much under utilized since the return from COVID. As a result IBM decided to consolidate people into a smaller number of buildings. This should save costs in lighting and heating and also save on our emissions.

Some of my colleagues were worried that we would have less natural light in our new area, but I found it to be quite bright. In addition a big plus is that we can walk to services like the canteen, gym etc. without having to go outside.

The move went very smoothly because I used the move as an excuse to dump many old documents from my filing cabinet. I hand carried my belongings from building 6 to building 3 without the need for assistance from facilities. Below you can see my nice neat new desk.

my new desk at work

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

First day back in the office feels strange

Back in April 2019 I switched from mainly working in the IBM office to working permanently from home. The switch from office to home working was sudden and felt strange. I was working from home one day (as I occasionally did back then) when I got an email from HR telling me that the IBM offices were closing with immediate effect and everyone was to start working from home until further notice. I didn't have a chance to say good bye to my familiar desk. In fairness there was a process whereby I could get my manager's approval to visit my desk and retrieve anything important, but I didn't feel the need to use this process.

I have been getting along OK working from home for the last 18 months, but when I got another notification that the IBM offices were opening again I was excited to get back to my old familiar working environment. I had to book a desk via an online tool which was configured to only allow 15% occupancy, but I was lucky enough to be able to book my desk.

When I got there it was eerily quiet and I realised that hardly anyone is taking the chance to work in the office. None of my direct team is here and a quick walk about the building I work in told me that I could count on one hand the number of desks which are occupied. A lunchtime walk around the campus revealed that the only building with more than 10 cars parked outside it was the building occupied by our digital sales organisation. This is strange because this team spend their time working electronically with clients in different countries. Obviously they see the benefit of having an in-person link with their colleagues even if they are very proficient in using online collaboration tools to connect with client's.