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Stochastic Geometry

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Engineers IrelandAfter a fair amount of pushing, I finally applied for the Chartered Engineer (C.Eng) certification from Engineers Ireland (or the IEI if you’re old) late last year, managing to land in the middle of the largest group of applicants in a decade thanks to a change in the law regarding civil engineering requirements and a change in how you apply for the C.Eng title.

I mentioned the C.Eng a few years back on here, it’s not the most widely-recognised certification in the IT industry in Ireland (though abroad, it’s a different story as usual), it’s more common in the civil and mechanical engineering fields (though it’s not completely unheard of in IT anymore and the IEI is pushing it in that field). The basic idea is that it’s an accreditation from your peers in the industry to effectively say “yes, he knows the difference between gluteus maximus and distal humerus”. Or less facetiously, it’s saying that the holder has worked in industry long enough and with sufficient responsibility to prove they’re a safe pair of hands for a project. In that sense, it’s a nice thing to have in that it’s reassurance to non-engineers that you’re competent and to fellow engineers that you haven’t got the same year’s experience seventeen times over without ever progressing (there being a large conceptual gap between seventeen years of experience and seventeen years of working).

Qualifying is a little bit strenuous- and I’m simplifying here because they’ve just changed the format of the application process; for the full story read the regulations and the guidance notes and for the software world, the guidance notes for computer professionals, which is new and which I bloody well could have used at the start of all of this! Basically, it starts with you writing an EPR (Engineering Practice Report) which covers everything you’ve ever done professionally from graduation to application, specifically from the point of view of the IEI’s listed core engineering competencies (which aren’t technical competencies, but practice-oriented competencies). These boil down to (and I am seriously oversimplifying here): Knowing Stuff, Using The Stuff You Know, Running Stuff, Telling People Stuff, and Doing Good Stuff.

Okay, I think I turned the simplification dial up too high there :D The list I kept pinned to the wall while writing my EPR actually read:

  • Knowledge and CPD
  • Application of knowledge
  • Leadership (Technical, Managerial, Commercial)
  • Communications
  • Professional Standards

You have to read the docs above to get a better idea of what those categories translate to in the real world; there are quite a lot of sub-categories as well and it’d take pages to explain them all. And for every role you’ve had since graduation, you’re explaining what you did and how what you did demonstrated your competency in those areas — yes, in detail, and yes, it’s all strictly confidential because of NDAs and the like, and no you can’t see my EPR (but the essays were based off this and this), and no, all paper copies get shredded so there’s no library of these things). It’s like writing a CV only on steroids and for most engineers it feels even worse (seriously, you feel like you work in marketing by the end of the process). Your EPR also lists off how much CPD (Continuing Professional Development, aka training) you’ve done for the last few years – down to each of the hours spent. And that level of detail is a bit hard to sort out in the IT world, where formal CPD is (in Ireland at least) bloody rare and hard to come by, if not a fast way to get your boss thinking you’re incompetent (seriously, I’ve worked in places where taking time off to go do a training course would have red-flagged you on your return because you’ve been to college, didn’t you learn all you needed there?). In fact in the IT world, even figuring out what counts as CPD is tough (and there’s quite a lot that counts oddly enough). That’s a big part of what your sponsor is meant to be helping you with, by the way – more than half the time I spent talking to mine was on that one point alone. Yes, you need a sponsor, and he or she has to be a chartered engineer themselves (actually you need two, but the second generally doesn’t coach).

You also have to write two short essays on topics in your industry, but those are fairly small potatoes compared to the actual work covered in the EPR and the effort of writing the EPR itself (although you can no longer choose your own topic for the second essay, there’s a list now being provided for each application date). Once that EPR is done, it gets signed and sent in to the IEI. It gets reviewed and if it’s up to scratch, you get a call in for a Professional Interview, which is a strange beast – an interview normally centers on showing a potential employer you’re competent with technical tests and that’s straightforward enough, but this one is being interviewed by peers to see if the way you do the technical stuff is up to snuff. It’s a bit meta and I found it quite hard to gauge. You give a ten-minute presentation at the start on how your career to date covers the competencies, and you can include things you’ve done since the EPR was sent in because sometimes, as with me, significant projects get completed in the interim – normally there’s a few months of a gap, but in my case there was nearly ten months of a gap; that’s what you get for landing in a large group of applicants. Ten minutes doesn’t sound like much – and it really, really isn’t. In the end I chose five specific examples, one per competency, and butchered the original draft of what I was going to say until I felt like I’d left out all the really neat stuff, and left it all get filled in by the questions and answers that fill the remainder of the hour (and the presentation was just over nine minutes in the end).

And once that’s done you wait to hear back. If you fail, they’ll give you a rough idea of why and a timeframe for reapplying. If not, you get details of the conferral ceremony.

And I got the email this morning saying congratulations, you’re now a Chartered Engineer. So I’ve had worse days.

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windsandbreezes
2560 days ago
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Ireland
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Historical Map: Ghost Stations of the London Underground The...

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Historical Map: Ghost Stations of the London Underground

The Underground has been around so long, and its famous Diagram so ingrained in our heads, that we tend to think of it as an immutable object: always the same, never changing. That’s absolutely not so, as this fantastic reworking of the Tube Diagram shows.

Shown here are the 40-plus “ghost stations” of the London Underground — stations that once existed as part of the “Tube”, but no longer do, for varying reasons. Some stations have since been demolished, but others have been transferred to operate under different services like the Overground or National Rail and still exist as a part of London’s greater transit network.

What’s really striking about this map is the huge reach of the Underground outside London. While only ever operated as a special “excursion” service, the journey to Shoeburyness (at the mouth of the Thames) from Central London on the District Line was around 45 miles (or 72 kilometres)! Heading out the other way, the furtherest reaches of “Metro-Land” at Brill and Verney Junction are some 60 miles (95 km) from the centre of the city.

Here’s the complete list on Wikipedia of all the stations shown, giving the reasons for closure and whether the station is still extant or demolished. Good reading!

(Source: Us vs. Them via Taras Grescoe)

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windsandbreezes
2842 days ago
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Industrial applications – going postal in Portugal

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If you’re in certain bits of Portugal this Christmas and your presents arrive in the post on time, you’ve got a Raspberry Pi to thank.

We’re aware of dozens of big industrial applications of the Raspberry Pi, but generally the companies using them prefer us not to publicise what they’re doing, so they can continue to steal a march on their competitors. So I was really pleased to receive an email from Daniel Ramos at a Portuguese R&D company called Wolfd.com, with some photos of a really big industrial application that they’ve successfully deployed which we are allowed to talk about. When I say “really big”, I mean it. It’s really, really big. It’s the sorting mechanism for CTT, the Portuguese Post Office. (And we get to discuss it here because, as a monopoly, they don’t have to worry about competitors doing the same thing.)

Daniel says that they’ve been working with the Pi for over a year now, and says that given that it was designed for education, its robustness has surprised them. CTT needed some help because the old LCD displays on the sorting machines, which need to be read by humans, were fast becoming unusable with age, as you can see here:

Some of this stuff is neither human-readable nor machine-readable: a real problem when you’ve got hand-sorting going on.

Broken LCD panels aren’t the only problem – the old displays were hard to read in the position they were mounted in, and suffered from very low contrast.

So, in a first wave of replacements, a bank of 24 of these antiquated machines has been refitted with Raspberry Pis and TFT flat panels.

If you’ve ever wanted to watch 24 Pis booting in a row, now’s your chance:

This is a low-power option as well as being much more user-friendly; there’s no need to keep hard drives spinning at each station. The Pis sit behind each screen and are powered by its internal power supply, and are connected through an Ethernet network to a server that provides them with the information they need to display. The software is all written in Python and Pygame.

So if your family and friends in Portugal notice an up-tick in postal reliability, you know who to thank. Thanks so much for showing us what you’ve been doing, Daniel. I’ll refrain from asking you to keep us posted.

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windsandbreezes
2859 days ago
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This is fantastic....
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Upstagram – live photos from a tiny house floating over Paris

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This is just gorgeous. A hand-made, tiny version of the house from Pixar’s Up, a bouquet of helium balloons, a Raspberry Pi, and Paris.

This beautiful bit of hackery uploads photos to Instagram as it flies over the Paris skyline. Valentin Squirelo, one of the founders at HackerLoop, an innovation lab based in Paris and San Francisco, mailed me to let me know about the project; you can read more at the HackerLoop website. Meanwhile, here are some pictures of the build, and some more which the Pi sent to Instagram – look out for the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur.

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windsandbreezes
2898 days ago
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This is brilliant
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Historical Map: Diagram of Tube Services, 7:00am, September 28,...

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Historical Map: Diagram of Tube Services, 7:00am, September 28, 1940

Here’s a fantastic historical document — a tube map used by engineers in London to mark out the status of services on the Underground during World War II. By the look of it, this map was updated at least daily, if not even more often, as this date falls squarely within the Blitz — a period where London was bombed for 57 consecutive nights by the Luftwaffe.

The map itself looks like a modified hand-drawn version of H.C. Beck’s 1936 Tube Diagram, with all stations shown as circles and some main line track added as well. The use of the map is simple: a red line along track shows that there is no service along that segment, while a blue circle (seen between Belsize Park and Chalk Farm, for example) indicates the location of an exploded bomb. It would also seem that the circle for a station is also coloured red if it is substantially damaged or destroyed. Most horrifying of all, a red cross marks the location of an unexploded bomb. Notes written in a beautiful, precise hand add detail to these symbols where necessary — “unsafe buildings”, “single tunnel only available for traffic: SB tunnel damaged by bomb”.

Our rating: An incredible historical document that vividly recalls the dangers and horrors faced by Londoners during the Blitz. 5 stars!

5 Stars!

(Source: IanVisits/Flickr)

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windsandbreezes
2959 days ago
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Fascinating tube map from -1940
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Historical Map: Bank-Monument Tube Stations Cutaway (1990s?) Not...

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Historical Map: Bank-Monument Tube Stations Cutaway (1990s?)

Not a traditional transit map per se, but a stunningly beautiful technical illustration of the interlinking tubes and tunnels that form the connected Bank-Monument tube station complex in London. Built as separate stations, but linked by escalators in the 1930s (the depiction of which proved a permanent puzzle for H.C. Beck on his Tube Map), the complex is the ninth-busiest London Underground station,

What I love here is that we’re looking at over 100 years of infrastructure development: the original Monument station (first called “Eastcheap" and then “The Monument") opened in 1884; the “City" end of the Waterloo and City Line in 1898; Bank station (named after the Bank of London) opened in 1900. Over 100 years after the first part of the complex was opened, the deep station for the DLR was completed in 1991.

Compare to a similar cutaway of the Hudson River Tubes from 1909.

(Source: Original source unknown, image from skyscrapercity.com forum post)

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windsandbreezes
3014 days ago
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This is fantastic...
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