According to Investopedia: A quarterly report is a summary or collection of unaudited financial statements, such as balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements, issued by companies every quarter (three months). In addition to reporting quarterly figures, these statements may also provide year-to-date and comparative (e.g., last year’s quarter to this year’s quarter) results. Publicly-traded companies must file their reports with the Securities Exchange Committee (SEC).
Fortunately these quarterly reports are readily available on the investors relation page, and they are not that hard to read once you have seen a few.
Visualizing financial data
I was excited to see that Rackspace offered their financial performance in bite-sized bits to me as a laymen, through their usage of nice visualizations of the financial data.
Please take a moment to process the below copy of page 11 of their 2021 Q2 report:
Though… the longer I looked at these charts… the more my head started to hurt…
How can the growth line be about the same in the three charts Total Revenue (top-left), Core Revenue (top-right), and Non-GAAP EPS (bottom-right)? They represent different increments: 13%, 17%, and 14% respectively.
Zooming in on the top left: how does the $657 revenue of 2Q20 fit inside the $744 revenue of 2Q21 almost three times?!
The increase is only 13%, not 300%!
Recreating the problem
I decided to recreate the vizualizations of the quarterly report.
To see what the visualization should have actually looked like. And to see how they could have made this visualization worse.
OpenCV is open-source library with tools and functionalities that support computer vision. It allows your computer to use complex mathematics to detect lines, shapes, colors, text and what not.
OpenCV was originally developed by Intel in 2000 and sometime later someone had the bright idea to build a Python module on top of it.
Using a simple…
pip install opencv-python
…you can now use OpenCV in Python to build advanced computer vision programs.
And this is exactly what many professional and hobby programmers are doing. Specifically, to get their computer to play (and win) mobile app games.
In ZigZag, you are a ball speeding down a narrow pathway and your only mission is to avoid falling off.
Using OpenCV, you can get your computer to detect objects, shapes, and lines.
This guy set up an emulator on his computer, so the computer can pretend to be a mobile device. Then he build a program using Python’s OpenCV module to get a top score
You can find the associated code here, but note that will need to set up an emulator yourself before being able to run this code.
Kick Ya Chop
In Kick Ya Chop, you need to stomp away parts of a tree as fast as you can, without hitting any of the branches.
This guy uses OpenCV to perform image pattern matching to allow his computer to identify and avoid the trees braches. Find the code here.
Whack ‘Em All
We all know how to play Whack a Mole, and now this computer knows how to too. Code here.
This last game also doesn’t need an introduction, and you can find the code here.
Is this machine learning or AI?
If you’d ask me, the videos above provide nice examples of advanced automation. But there’s no real machine learning or AI involved.
Yes, sure, the OpenCV package uses pre-trained neural networks under the hood, and you can definitely call those machine learning. But the programmers who now use the opencv library just leverage the knowledge stored in those network to create very basal decision rules.
IF pixel pattern of mole
ELSE no whack.
To me, it’s only machine learning when there’s really some learning going on. A feedback loop with performance improvement. And you may call it AI, IMO, when the feedback loop is more or less autonomous.
Fortunately, programmers have also been taking a machine learning/AI approach to beating games. Specifically using reinforcement learning. Think of famous applications like AlphaGo and AlphaStar. But there are also hobby programmers who use similar techniques. For example, to get their computer to obtain highscores on Trackmania.
In a later post, I’ll dive into those in more detail.
Computerphile is a Youtube sister channel of Numberphile. Where Numberphile’s videos are about the magic behind match and numbers, Computerphile’s videos are all about computers and computer stuff. I recommend both channels in general, and have watched many of their videos already.
Yet, over the past weeks I specifically enjoyed what seems to be several series of videos on Cyber Security related topics.
What makes a good password?
One series is all about passwords.
What are strong passwords, which are bad? How can hackers crack yours? And how do websites secure user passwords?
The videos below are in somewhat of the right order and they make for an interesting insight in the world of password management. They give you advice on how to pick you password, and even a nice tool to check whether your password has ever been leaked.
Probably, you will want to change your password afterwards!
Hacking and attacking
If you are up to no good, please do not watch this second series, which revolves all around hacks and computer attacks.
How do people get access to a websites database? How can we prevent it? How can we recognize security dangers?
You might know of SQL injections, but do you know what a slow loris attack is? Or how ransomware works? Or what exploitX is?
TryHackMe started in 2018 by two cyber security enthusiasts, Ashu Savani and Ben Spring, who met at a summer internship. When getting started with in the field, they found learning security to be a fragmented, inaccessable and difficult experience; often being given a vulnerable machine’s IP with no additional resources is not the most efficient way to learn, especially when you don’t have any prior knowledge. When Ben returned back to University he created a way to deploy machines and sent it to Ashu, who suggested uploading all the notes they’d made over the summer onto a centralised platform for others to learn, for free.
To allow users to share their knowledge, TryHackMe allows other users (at no charge) to create a virtual room, which contains a combination of theoretical and practical learning components.. In early 2019, Jon Peters started creating rooms and suggested the platform build up a community, a task he took on and succeeded in.
The platform has never raised any capital and is entirely bootstrapped.
I don’t have any affiliation or whatever with the platform, but I just think it’s a super cool resource if you want to learn more about hands-on computer stuff.
Here’s a nice demo on an advanced programmer taking on one of the first challenges. I definitely still have a long way to go, but it’s fun to watch someone sneak into a (dummy) server and look for clues! Like a proper detective, but then an extra nerdy one!
There are many “hacktivities” you can try on the platform.
And if you’re serious about learning this stuff, there are learning paths set out for you!
If you like their content, do consider taking a paid subscription and share this great initiative!