Remarkable 2 Deep Dive – Paper Replacement Tablet


The Promise of Remarkable 2

Remarkable 2 is touted as a paper-like experience to replace notebooks and printed documents. This is a simple, sleek device trying to solve a basic problem.

The key features they call out are

  • eye-friendly screen,
  • paper-like feel,
  • conversion of handwriting to text,
  • organization across devices, and
  • taking notes or writing on documents.

It even highlights the lack of other functionality as a benefit – no distractions you might otherwise get from using a conventional tablet for similar purposes.

As an avid note-taker and adherent of paper-and-pen specifically, I was immediately interested in the possibility of converging on one device. Prior to this, I’ve been using the LiveScribe smart pen and its associated dot paper for most of my work, learning, and research note taking. This led to a proliferation of notebooks on my desk (or in my backpack) at any given time due to my using one notebook per topic and hand cramps due to the weight of the pen itself.

I also keep a paper bullet journal that I hope to digitize. I spend quite a bit of time setting up new pages at the start of the month. Having something where I can just duplicate the page and then erase would be fantastic. This journal is also a place I feel more creative – using colored pencils, decorative tapes, stickers, stencils, etc. Drawing is not my forte so we’ll see how this goes.

Review of the Remarkable 2

The Remarkable 2 writing tablet arrived about a week ago. The required marker/stylus is sold separately. I opted for the slightly fancier one that includes built-in eraser capability. That means $99 rather than $49 so I can flip the marker over to delete mistakes. I also got the book-style folio in grey, polymer weave. This allows me to quickly flip open the cover rather than trying to dig the tablet out of a pocket-style holder. Both of these seem worth it to me as I use this thing a lot and they provide some quality of life improvements over the less schmancy options.

The big question – does Remarkable 2 feel like paper? No. Sorry, I’m a purist. This is still too “smooth” to feel like paper to me. It’s good enough, I think, for my trying to take notes and retain information for reference.

The form factor is good. I’d prefer a slightly larger screen size, closer to Letter paper, if I could. Not a deal breaker. The marker is comfortable to hold. Its magnetic side allows it to easily snap to the side of the tablet for storage. That’s certainly helpful so you don’t lose a very expensive piece of the kit.

Getting started was pretty quick. The tablet is touchscreen or you can use the marker to navigate. Just press the one button on top to turn it on and start using it. First step is to connect to the internet. One con here is that it syncs to the Remarkable cloud host. This makes me a little nervous with respect to privacy. Could be my own paranoia at play but I’ll be cautious about sensitive information I write down on this.

Remarkable allows for folder structure, including nesting folders, with notebooks within them and pages within those. You can move notebooks, pages, or folders around if you need to later. When creating a notebook, you specify the default page template (lined, planner, grid, music staff, etc). You can change the template at any time for any page.

Creating a new page is as easy as swiping from the right. I will say that this has happened accidentally a couple of times as my hand rested on the screen while writing. The new page will inherit the last used page template and marker style.

Pages have the ability to have multiple layers even above the template. I’ve not played with this much just based on my usage pattern. Could see it being useful for diagramming and such.

The marker itself is not electronic. This is something I appreciate versus electronic pens such as Apple Pencil. In fact, my first encounter with an Apple Pencil was someone complaining that their Pencil was running out of charge. That’s not an issue here.

Writing is smooth but takes a little getting used to. The ink has a slight lag, which is initially off-putting. It took a couple of days to not notice. It’s also a little pixelated, even when using the paintbrush or calligraphy marker styles, and slightly off of where I feel the marker tip is. Not bad, but noticeable and seems worse at the bottom of the screen. Similarly, the eraser seems to have a larger footprint than I’d think based on where the marker touches the screen.

The device has 8GB of internal storage, only 6.4GB of which is available due to OS usage. In one week I’ve filled about 0.4GB of this. Not sure what happens when I run out… Guess I’ll come to that in a few months. Presumably I’ll need to convert some stuff to PDF and move it off to another service. I’ve not yet downloaded the desktop app to see how managing from there works. I can follow up if there’s interest on this.

A recap of sorts on features – available and lacking

Remarkable 2 Features I’m Enjoying (Available):

  1. Templates – The templates give you essentially a page layout. There are a bunch to choose from like grid, dot, lined, planner, checklist, storyboard, etc. Once you pick a template, it is automatically applied to subsequent pages generated in the notebook.
  2. Marker Style – You can choose how the ink appears when you write. For most marker styles, the pressure and angle of the marker will then vary the line. I’m not creative enough to use this well, but I like being able to pick the one I want.
  3. Organization Hierarchies – The ability to nest folders and notebooks and such and move them around is helpful given the inability to search within the handwritten notes. You can also move pages around between notebooks which can help if you put a bunch of stuff in Quick Notes and then need to classify.
  4. Send to Remarkable from Web – there’s a browser add-on that allows you to send articles from websites to the tablet as PDFs. This is a nice one for me as I tend to open a lot of tabs for articles I want to read eventually. I don’t prefer to read them on my laptop screen so this acts like a Kindle for articles.
  5. Convert to text and send – the handwriting recognition works pretty well. The ability to convert directly on the device and then send is a benefit over some others tools where you first have to open an app.
  6. Focus – when I look at the Remarkable 2, it does not try to remind me of things. There are no notifications. There are no messages coming in. It just takes the notes – and therefore keeps me more focused on the content at hand.
  7. Swipe to Create New Page – it’s super simple and vaguely mimics turning a physical page. Also nice that it remembers the last settings.
  8. Portrait vs Landscape – you can set the device to landscape rather than portrait mode (or just turn it and continue writing. This was helpful for me when quickly adding an architecture diagram in the middle of other notes.

Features I Wish Remarkable 2 Had (Lacking):

  1. Search within handwritten notes – you can search folder or notebook names, PDFs or eBooks on the device but not your actual notes. There is a feature to “Convert to Text and Send” but this means it’s no longer on the device to search.
  2. Name, label, or tag pages – I use this to capture notes on all sorts of things and like having similarly-themed notes in one notebook. However, I would also like to be able to quickly browse within the notebook for specific information. Being able to at least tag or name pages would help a ton, especially as the notebook grows.
  3. Specify default pen style – mine defaults to “Mechanical Pencil” whereas I prefer “Fineliner”. Once selected in a notebook, the device remembers what was last used and continues to use that until changed.
  4. Convert to text and leave on the device – there’s a feature to convert to text and send… but not one that just converts to text. Seems weird and limits searchability.
  5. Ability to tag a place in notes – I use certain symbols to denote things like outstanding questions, action items, or important notes. Being able to indicate where these are (since I cannot search for them) would be a big help.
  6. Sync with other tools – The only means of getting notes out of Remarkable is to send by email, convert to text and send, or convert to PDF, PNG, or SVG on the desktop app and then push to other tools (e.g. Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, OneNote, etc.)
  7. Back Button or Quick Link Assignment – the quick links menu in the top swipe allow for the creation of a new folder, notebook, or quick sheet or search for something else. I find myself often wanting to go back to a specific other notebook and wish there was a way to jump from here to “Last Opened” or assign a bookmark.
  8. Fully hide the nav button from screen – while in a notebook page, there is a little circle in the upper left corner that allows you to open the navigation and settings. That makes the corner unavailable for writing and often causes the nav to pop up when not needed.

Final Thoughts on Remarkable 2

This is a sleek way to take notes and I think that it will suffice to replace the standard notebooks I’ve had accumulating on my desk. The one paper notebook I will likely continue to keep is my journal – but in an altered fashion. I used to have all manner of information tucked into the journal like my pets’ vaccination info or my standard work trip packing list. These could easily migrate to the Remarkable 2. My monthly and daily journal pages, though, really do suffer without some color and pizzazz. I miss my pencils already.

If I were to have a rating system, I’d say the Remarkable 2 would get about a 3/5.

Talking Numbers: The Significance of Statistical Significance


Statistical significance XKCDStatistical Significance. It’s so basic a concept that many modelers and statisticians don’t look for it in simpler analyses such as marketing campaign comparisons, population distributions and so forth. Nevertheless, statistical significance can make all the difference (pun fully intended) in whether results are jaw-dropping or trash-worthy. And when speaking with the business-side of the house, you’d better know which is which.

Tip for Translation: Less Insignificant Info is More

First of all, check for significance. That could go without saying… but it doesn’t (see above). If the results are not significant then do not put them out there for the business to jump all over… which they will. If they are close to significant and you want to share them, add a caveat/footnote indicating that the results may be the result of random variation. Do not use technical terms here.

Two common times that analysts try to give flack about this:

“Yeah, but my tests always appear significant because I have enough data that even tiny differences get picked up due to the sample sizes.”
Try bootstrapping smaller samples for comparison and see what happens. If you are still getting significant results, good on ya’. If not, maybe the results weren’t as significant to start with.

“But the business impact of this minuscule difference is huge so therefore it doesn’t matter if the result is significant.”
This is actually even more reason to validate your results. Presumably, if the resulting teeny difference would cause a major upheaval for the business, so too would a minor variation due to natural fluctuation. Use a significance level that aligns with the importance of finding a difference. For a super-important analysis, go with an alpha of .01 or even .001 rather than the usual .05.

To Show or Not to Show Statistical Significance…

More often than not, business stakeholders only want to see results that are significant. They want to know how the analysis can be used to better effect. In general, that does not mean that you go around flaunting a p-value. Just state the results and how to use them and move on. On the other hand, it is usually informative and interesting to business users to see statistically insignificant results when it confirms or debunks a long-held hypothesis.

For example, let’s say that there is a “gut feel” that customers who buy diapers also buy beer. After doing some testing on purchase data, you find that there is no significant link between these two product categories. The business stakeholders (and holders of the gut feeling) would likely need to know that these two items are not correlated. It impacts store and display layouts for the future.

Got some great examples of significant results that really weren’t? Or times when instincts were proven right/wrong? I’d love to hear all about your adventures with statistical significance in the comments.

Fostering Customer Community: A Tale of Two Experiences


customers-talkingWhat happens when you’ve positioned your business as a trusted, community member, but your customer community goes elsewhere when it’s time to make a purchase?

This is the question plaguing two businesses in my area. Both are retailers who organize events around hobbies. Both face competitive pressure locally and online. They fall on two sides of the same basic question: cash or community? Continue reading

Talking Numbers: Presenting Analytics


Use FIRST to help you when presenting analyticsOne of the most difficult parts of any analyst’s job is packaging and presenting analytics work for a business audience. It’s a matter of showing the “So What” rather than just the “What” of the data. As someone who not only does a lot of presenting, but also coaches others on how to improve their deliverables, I found myself in need of a consistent way to structure results that minimizes the technical or mathematical description and instead focuses on the business implications.

Here’s my framework, along with a handy acronym: FIRST


You have to present the facts of the model or analysis. These are the numbers that came from all your hard work. Talk about the hypotheses tested, what fell out, what stayed in, results of tests, etc. Detail any rabbits you chased in the data (anomalies, unexpected results, iterations, etc). Include visualizations wherever able to succinctly illustrate what you saw. This section is of particular interest to other data scientists, model auditing teams, and the statistically-inclined.


Now read into the numbers or the model and weave the story. Describe what you learned from the analysis or model and, especially, what it means to the business. Explain what the findings mean in a broader context.


Document further analyses, follow-on projects, or deeper dives that you recommend pursuing. Also note any follow-up questions that your business stakeholders come up with based on the findings and insights. Build your own backlog of projects and then track them down. This is where you plan to tie up loose ends.


Describe what you think the business should do, or how it should change, to make use of the insights or models. If there are specific processes that would benefit from incorporating a model or API, indicate how this might be done (do not show code – just say how it would revamp the process). How does this help the business make better decisions about their initiatives?


This section details who is doing what coming out of this analysis. If there were specific expected actions to be taken based upon results, identify whom is needed to complete them. Any time frames necessary should also be outlined.

Presenting Analytics in Documents

Putting FIRST into a document is pretty straightforward. Set up the project at the top, laying out the key questions, expected actions, and the planned analysis steps. Then include the FIRST sections with the majority of the content. Document as you go along so that you capture the findings roughly as they occur. This helps to ensure that you present all of the permutations of analysis performed.

Presenting Analytics in Slides

Most of the time, when presenting analytics, we are called upon to use slides or a slide-like format for conveying information. Again, present the project overview and key questions. Then immediately put forward the key insights. Yes, this is out of order for FIRST. However, the next section is where FIRST comes into play. For each key insight, present the FIRST elements on a single slide.

An example might be that customers using discounts are more valuable over time. On a slide, show a graph comparing the spend patterns of customers with and without discounts. Provide a bullet point indicating that this is the key insight. Then outline additional steps for:

  • analyzing types of discounts or time periods of discount as a recommended follow-on,
  • using promotions to increase total basket size as a suggestion, and
  • planning an upcoming promotion as a takeaway.

Wrap up with a summary of next steps so that there is a clear list of actions to be done.

What methods do you use today for presenting analytics? If you give FIRST a try, please leave comments about how it goes with your key stakeholders.

Date Intervals in HiveQL


black-beehive-wigThis picture is definitely not me. But as this is my first post regarding Hive, I felt the need to include a photo of a ridiculous beehive hairdo.

As is the case with many other Data Scientists, I am being pulled increasingly into the world of Hadoop and all the technologies associated with it. Lately this has meant trying to sort out how to do certain functions in HiveQL that I’ve grown familiar and comfortable with in various types of SQL.

Today’s conundrum was trying to determine if someone is at least 18 years old based on their birthday. Normally, I would use one of the following:

date_of_birth <= current_date - interval('18 years') -- check for True condition OR extract(years from age(current_date,date_of_birth)) --check for >= 18

There are a few functions that can be used here: DATE_ADD, DATE_SUB, MONTHS_BETWEEN, or ADD_MONTHS.

The DATE_ADD and DATE_SUB are roughly synonymous except that one adds days and the other subtracts them. I suppose that you could add a negative number of days though, if you wanted to just learn one of the two. That might look something like this:

date_of_birth <= date_add(current_date,(-18*365))

The number of days being added is calculated using 365 as a nice round number for dealing with years. However, it does not take into account that there could a few leap years in the mix. The DATE_ADD function does not allow decimals in the number of days to add so it cannot be used as -18*365.25 or something. This is not my preferred method. I like more precision.

Next up is the ADD_MONTHS function, which is sort of like using the interval except that you have to calculate the interval based on months rather than years.

date_of_birth <= add_months(current_date,(-18*12))

I prefer this method because it accounts for the leap year stuff by ignoring the actual number of days and just changing the months.

Similarly, the MONTHS_BETWEEN could be used along with division to get to the number of years.

months_between(current_date,date_of_birth)/12.0 --check for >= 18

Inserting Multiple Rows into Netezza Table


access-denied-715x400This one has been irking me for quite a bit. If you have to insert multiple rows into a table from a list or something, you may be tempted to use the standard PostgreSQL method of…


Be warned – THIS WILL NOT WORK IN NETEZZA! Netezza does not allow for the insertion of multiple rows in one statement if you are using VALUES.

You have two options here: 1) create a file with your values and load it (see Loading Data into Netezza post) or 2) use individual INSERT INTO statements. With a small, simple set of records like the one above, the second method will do fine. It would look like this…


If you have larger sets of data to insert or more complex row structures, consider using an external table.

Official documentation for IBM Netezza INSERT command.

Loading Data into Netezza Using Create External Table


punch_card.75dpi.rgbNetezza is a super-fast platform for databases… once you have data on it. Somehow, getting the data to the server always seems like a bit of a hassle (admittedly, not as big a hassle as old school punchcards). If you’re using Netezza, you’re probably part of a large organization that may also have some hefty ETL tools that can do the transfer. But if you’re not personally part of the team that does ETL, yet still need to put data onto Netezza, you’ve got to find another way. The EXTERNAL TABLE functionality may just be the solution for you. Continue reading

Common Table Expressions versus Temp Tables in Netezza


keep-calm-with-or-without-youThis seems to be either a controversial or overly-technical topic: should you use WITH (a common table expression a.k.a. CTE) or a TEMP TABLE. Both can serve similar purposes but each has their own strengths and weaknesses in how they work with other aspects of your query or procedure.

So today we’ll take a look at both without going into crazy detail but covering at least the basics.
Continue reading

Epic Epoch Time in Netezza and PostgreSQL


EpochTimeBeganEpoch time is both a blessing and a curse. It is super-convenient for counting seconds (and doing calculations based on them) but can also be a pain to try to get into something readable as, or comparable to, a recognizable date. So today we’ll get into and out of epoch to show its flexibility without our brains having to be contortionists too. Continue reading