With a few days of interval I received two very different ways of reviewing data collected by users of “activity trackers”.
The first one came from Jawbone (although I don’t own the UP, I might have subscribed to one of their mailing-lists earlier) and is also publicly available here. Named “2013, the big sleep” it a kind of infographics of how public (and mostly American) events influenced sleep of the “UP Community”. Here data about all (or at least a lot of) UP users were aggregated and shown. This is Big Data! This is a wonderful and quantitative insight on the impact of public event on sleep! But this is also a public display of (aggregated) individual data (something that UP users most probably agreed by default when accepting the policy, sometimes when they first used their device).
The second way came from Fitbit, also via e-mail. There was written how many steps I took in total as well as my most and least active periods / days of 2013. At the bottom there was a link to a public page comparing distances traveled in general with what it could mean in the animal kingdom (see below or here). This is not Big Data (although I am sure Fitbit have access to all these data). But at the same time (aggregated) individual data are not shared with the general public (although here again I am sure a similar policy apply to Fitbit users).
Different companies, different ways to handle the data … I hope people will realise the implication of sharing their data in an automated ways in such centralized services.
This week, I nearly emptied my internet quota by downloading and seeding the new Fedora Core 11. For those who don’t know yet, Fedora is a Linux-based operating system that showcases the latest in free and open source software. What I particularly like in this GNU/Linux distribution is that its developers prefer to make changes to the original software instead of applying fixes specifically for Fedora ; in this way, all the other distributions may also take advantages of the improved software. You’ll find many reviews and “tours” on the web about this new Fedora. In the next paragraphs, I’ll just highlight some of the most interesting points I saw until now. Coming from a Fedora 9 also helps to pinpoint the major improvements (mainly from a user point-of-view).
The first nice thing I noticed was the reduced time to boot my ageing laptop (ok, 2 years is not so old) and its simplicity (just a progress bar in the bottom of the screen). I won’t give you numbers. Anyway, numbers would have been specific to my computer. But I can tell you it’s quite faster than with the Fedora Core 9. And anyway faster than Vista. In general, I think it’s a big improvement for the user experience: after all, most users just boot their machine to use it as a tool, not to wait with amazement that everything is loaded.
Another nice thing is to finally get new versions of some software. OpenOffice is in version 3.1, Netbeans is in version 6.5, Python 2.6, … One thing I was waiting since a long time is Istanbul, a screen recorder. Otherwise, all the other main software I use are also present: Gimp, Inkscape, vim, gthumb, xmms, etc. The only thing a little bit tricky was to add the ability to read two proprietary formats: mp3 and flash. For mp3, you have to add the fusion nonfree repository and it’s clearly explained here. For Flash, I was surprised that Adobe offers an installation procedure just identical to any other software on Fedora, based on yum. I was also pleased to see projects like bioperl and biopython already available at the installation step (along with XDrawChem and JMol which will allow me to read old molecules I drew a few years ago with proprietary software like Chemdraw). One last thing a was eager to see in action is the ext4 filesystem (Fedora being the first distribution to include it by default). To be honest, I don’t see the difference.
Finally, if I have to summarize the experience with this Fedora Core 11 so far, it will be: smooth installation, up-to-date software, no surprise, ready to work after 1 day (I had to play with nearly all the new toys inside). I think GNU/Linux is really ready for the desktop 🙂