Mind Mapping

As I explore new fields of interest I realized that without a guiding map I might as well get lost. Moreover it is good to be able to check what are the common points between the area that you have already been working on and the area that you are about to explore. This includes same concepts mostly as they are in a meta-level that can be reused across multiple fields. But apart from the concepts in a field there might be more specific (less abstract) things in common like structures and algorithms and generally formalized ways of dealing with certain problems.

In order to start building something that would resemble with a personal knowledge base I started wondering on the web for such organizing tools. My problem is that I cannot be constantly aware of what I know and what I don’t and that a tool helping me quickly access such information would come in handy.

So I came across mind mapping. Mind mapping it self could consist a filed of interest on its own. However in this case I’ll be quite shallow and not get into much detail. In general mind mapping is the idea of expressing your self on a specific subject on a single piece of paper. Starting from a main idea we branch outwards to more specific elements of the idea. Overall we end up with a scheme that helps to get information in and out of our mind.

The five essential characteristics of Mind Mapping:

  • The main idea, subject or focus is crystallized in a central image.
  • The main themes radiate from the central image as ‘branches’.
  • The branches comprise a key image or key word drawn or printed on its associated line.
  • Topics of lesser importance are represented as ‘twigs’ of the relevant branch.
  • The branches form a connected nodal structure.

In the above image a mind map about time management is depicted. It is hand made and gives an idea of how a mind map can be made. However I am no artist so I decided to look for mind mapping software. In my case I found two programs that are quite interesting to use: One propriety called Xmind and one open source alternative called Freemind.For the using of the first one an account is needed to be created the other one is free.

Both application are developed in Java so Java JRE is needed. However I encountered similar problems to that with the eclipse. After installing eclipse (x64) the application couldn’t start as it could not find the JRE. The solution was to copy the JRE files in the eclipse folder, inside a folder called jre. It worked like a charm but only because the JRE I used was for 64-bit. I did the same with Xmind and there was no reaction there. I needed to install the x86 JRE to make it work. Finally the Freemind did not get me any errors at all. IN order to make it work I needed to se t some environment variables. So I got the JAVA_HOME variable to the x86 JRE path and the PATH variable to the x86 JRE bin folder part, \i.e. <x86 JRE>/bin path.

A note here, the PATH variable was previously being used by modelsim but as I don’t currently use it I had not problem changing the variable to the Java JRE path as needed.

So far with the mind mapping software. I plan to use both of them and find the one that suits me better. I believe that mind maps can help organize the information that I come upon on a daily basis as it is overwhelming to digest it in my mind at once. Finally a mind map as an image is much easier thing to remember than text.

The risk of the above though is that the easier the information becomes to the brain the less the brain does process it. Consequently we misconceive and misunderstand things. Moreover for the same reason the information is temporary. As the brain has not struggled to acquire the knowledge it is easily faded away. This is the reason why mind maps should not be used for educational cases. They should be use as a supplement for storing already processed information than as a means to pass information to other people.

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MatLab to Excel

Sometimes I have trouble visualizing some matrix structures that I create in MatLab. And when I get to see them in the MatLab command line or the matlab workspace it does not help much. A way to deal with that and seek and understand patterns easier is to export them in excel. MatLab supports this with the instructions:

xlsread (to read from an excel file) and

xlswrite (to write to one)

the parameters that follow are:

(filename, matrix(to be written max 2 dimensions), sheet, range)

by using the following one can create matrixes that contain both data and titles:

matrix1 = {‘Title1', Title2'; 1 423 ; 2 742; 3 192}

And to actually write in an excel file:

xlswrite('matrix1.xls', matrix1, 'Example Sheet', 'E1')

It is needless to point out the usefulness of this. One can either import data to MatLab from an excel (which amy be automated to produce desired data and easily editable) and once the simulation is done and the results are calculated they can be exported for further analysis in an excel too.

Both tools are very powerful mathematical tools each one with different properties. The combination of these both can really give solutions to many problems!

Benchmarking and statistics

Well I’m pretty sure that most of you out there like to compare hardware. The hardware you have, the hardware you will get, the hardware you had, the one your friends have, the neighbor’s and so on. The problem is that it is not easy to compare them if we don’t benchmark them. So, Passmark is a site that one can compare his CPU and GPU to any other CPU and GPU simply by searching for it! Or if you want to see how the new hardware racks up you can just visit the equivalent list.

I think that they offer a free 30days trial of their benchmarking tool as well if you want to check how you rig is doing. They also have a list of user benchmark (the 20 best and the 20 worst).

Apart from hardware other interesting statistics is operating system usage, browsers and so on. The classic flame wars that pop up in forums. Net Market Share offers real time data of the internet usage. ISPs , resolutions, operating systems, browsers, anything a curious guy wants to know. I found out this site when I was checking out that this August Windows Vista market share went lower than that of Windows 7. However Windows XP is still high.

So that’s enough to lose a couple of hours measuring stuff. I know you like it!