Steve's blog

A blog about what's going on in Analysis UK...

Dinner Timer Lite

I am pleased to announce the release of Dinner Timer Lite and the web site.

Dinner Timer Lite can be downloaded, for free from

Dinner Timer Lite is as the name implies a timer to help with the timing of cooking, although it doesn’t have to stop there, it can be used for any application that requires a count down timer.

Dinner Time Lite in action

Dinner Timer Lite is the first of a few Dinner Timer applications to come from Analysis UK, however these are still in development and there are more features to be added to Dinner Timer Lite as well so please keep an eye out on

Dinner Timer Lite features a flexible notifiers architecture, it currently ships with bubble and sound notifiers so you can get a pop up bubble from the system tray or play built in, or custom sounds on specific events.

A number of different events are supported when running the application, these naturally include start and end events but also a timer end close event, two timer over run events which can be configured to suite your own style of cooking.

A novel feature is the over run timer, when the time is complete the timer keeps running, telling you exactly how long over the completion time you have gone, no need to scramble around resetting the timer just to get an extra minute for the peas.

The transparency/opacity settings of Dinner Timer Lite can be used to allow the timer to be visible as well as what ever (TV on the PC?) happens to be underneath it, the transparency changes with the events of the timer, so when your dinner is cooked the timer is fully visible and when it’s not running it can be practically invisible.

You may well be asking why you need a PC based timer when you have a stand alone one. I have two stand alone timers and I still use Dinner Timer Lite regularly. Often I return to my PC to carry on working on the various projects and realise that I have not set the timer, Dinner Timer Lite is only a click away at this time and becomes very useful, especially as it would typically be 5-10 minutes before I got around to returning to the kitchen to set the timer and I would end up burning the dinner.

I wrote Dinner Timer Lite to solve the problems of me returning to the PC to carry on working and forgetting to start a timer, so I could easily see how the time was going and because I didn’t find the two normal timers I had to be particularly use friendly.

Even if you are using a normal timer, Dinner Timer Lite can still be very useful, it’s easy to see how long remains, or if you want to put something extra on a set time after you started dinner you can put Dinner Timer Lite into elapsed time mode.

Maybe like me, you’ve set the timer for your Pizza, returned to the PC to get a little bit of work done but you know full well you want to be back for the Pizza early, just start the timer, it will warn you just before the timer is complete (1 minute by default), you can also keep an eye on the time remaining with out having to be in the kitchen to watch the timer.

This is the first release of Dinner Timer Lite and I am keen to get feedback, so please use the support page or comments here to let me know what you think and what extra’s you think a timer should provide. I already have a big list of bits to add to the full Dinner Timer and Dinner Timer Lite.

NetFlix announces $1 Million prize.

In case you haven’t already heard, NetFlix has announced a competition with the grand price of $1 M USD (Convert) for a system that will improve it’s prediction of movies it’s customers would like to rent. (or as NetFlix put it “promote progress in recommendation systems”).

To help contestants NexFlix is providing a huge 100 million anonymous movie ratings (it’s a 665M download) training data set from its archives and they have very carefully updated the data to remove privacy issues (e.g. you can’t find out who actually borrowed what).

If you want a little help understanding why NetFlix would put up so much cash for a small (10%) improvement in their prediction have a read of Why better DVD recommendations are worth a million bucks from Chris Anderson over on the Long Tail (and don’t forget to have a look at his book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More).

Now if you want to enter the competition or learn some more about machine learning then you may want to have a check out of a recent Channel 9 video MSR Cambridge Tour: Machine Learning Group, Computer Vision and F# from Microsoft Research down the road here in Cambridge. If you are interested in what the future holds for games, video conferences, machine vision and learning then it’s well worth a watch. Also you may want to check out Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning by Christopher Bishop for a read to help you when your wading through all that NexFlix data.

BTW: Anybody having issues with dumprep.exe, I’ve had a few crashes recently and this thing takes forever to work and steals all my CPU. IE 6 just crashed when I was hunting round Channel 9 for a link to the video and now dumprep.exe has 133M of my memory and 92% of my CPU, and it’s been that way for a while.

Whilst I’m on a Channel 9 note could they make it any more horrible to navigate, they have some fantastic video’s on there, just you have to go hunting – and you should as there are some really interesting ones. Mind you theirs not even a nice link from MSDN to Channel 9 like their used to be so I guess we just aren’t meant to be watching them.

OK, rant over!

Anyway, the NetFlix competition looks like it’s going to be interesting, good luck to all those that enter.