Kevin Fox

I fight for the users.

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The best mistake I ever made

I originally wrote this as an answer on Quora to the question “How did one small decision change your entire life?”

In 1990 I was applying to colleges. I had a love of computers and writing, but I decided to abandon computers because being a geek in high school was so unrewarding. I applied to three ‘big name’ schools (Harvard, Stanford, and MIT), UC schools (Berkeley, UCLA, UCSD), and three small liberal arts colleges (Oberlin, Swarthmore, and Carleton). Carleton was far and away my first choice. I’d visited the campus and found the small but focused liberal arts culture to be exactly what I was looking for. Located about 40 miles south of Minneapolis/St. Paul in Northfield, Minnesota, I thought I’d also find an experience very different than the life I had in the San Fernando Valley.

I asked two of my favorite teachers to write my college recommendations. Teaching English and...

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Statistics, probability, and Nate Silver

In the last few days Nate Silver has become the third most talked-about man in politics, with pundits left and right saying he’s audaciously staked his professional reputation on an Obama win.

This is sad and shows how little we understand about the nature of statistics and probability, even the more educated among us. Nate’s electoral prognostications over the last several months have really been two separate things melded together:

First, they are predictions of the accuracy of the national polls, the tracking polls, the swing-state polls and those pollsters estimates of how registered voters will translate to likely voters. Polls use well-worn statistical models to give confidence intervals for those polls, but by merging several polls and increasing the sample size, Silver is able to reduce that confidence interval significantly, giving a more accurate model. Silver’s ‘now-cast’...

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Apple, thinking small

“We have a little more to show you.”

At the beginning of the year, Tim Cook said they were going to revamp every single product line this year, and this will almost certainly be their last media event of the year.

The event will start with a recap of the iPhone 5 launch, the phenomenal sales numbers and media praise.

Then they’ll move on to sales of the iPod nano and iPod touch. They’ll show the new commercial, and show some great numbers.

They’ll do a quick recap of iTunes 11, remind everyone that they said it would be out in October, and announce that it’s available as of now.

They’ll talk about how it’s in Apple’s DNA to make their products better over time, and how because of their experience and product volumes they can make products of a higher quality and precision than anyone else in history.

It also lets them make things smaller.

They’ll talk about the 15" Retina MacBook...

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