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Machine learning resources for .NET developers

Machine learning for .NET

Greetings friends and welcome to this article on Machine learning libraries for .NET developers.  Machine learning is a hot topic right now and for good reason.  Personally, I haven't been so excited about a technology since my computer used my 2800 baud modem to dial into a BBS over 17 years ago.  The thought that my computer could communicate with another computer was so fascinating to me.  That moment was the very moment that would forever change my life.  I learned a lot about DOS by writing batch scripts and running other programs that allowed me to visit and then run a BBS system.  It eventually lead me to QBasic.  I wanted to learn to write BBS door games and QBasic was included as a part of a standard DOS installation back then.

Fast forward 17 years and I'm still in love with computers, programming, and the concept of communication between machines.  The magic never disappeared.  So when i first learned about the concept of Machine learning, I felt like that 13 year old kid again.  The idea that a machine can learn to do things that it has not been programmed to do is now a passion of mine.  The concepts of Machine learning have an extreme learning curve, however, I believe that we as humans can do anything that we put our mind to.  So I began looking around for tutorials on machine learning.  I found many great tutorials and books, however, most of them involved using python.  I have nothing against python.  As a matter of fact, I find it ironic that I started with BASIC and now in this moment of "rebirth" I'm beginning to use python which looks a lot like BASIC in many ways.  The fact of the matter remains, I'm a .NET developer.  I've spent the last 9 years in the .NET framework and I love the technology.  C# is an awesome programming language and it's hard to imagine life without Visual Studio.  What can I say, the IDE has spoiled me.

While I scoured the internet looking for tutorials related to Machine learning resources for .NET developers, I wished that there was a one resource that would assist me in my search for resources to help me achieve my goal.

Well that's what this article is all about.  In this article, I will introduce you to some .NET libraries that will assist you in your quest to learn about Machine learning.

NND Neural Network Designer by Bragisoft

The Neural Network Designer project (NND) is a DBMS management system for neural networks that was created by Jan Bogaerts.  The designer application is developed using WPF, and is a user interface which allows you to design your neural network, query the network, create and configure chat bots that are capable of asking questions and learning from your feed back.  The chat bots can even scrape the internet for information to return in their output as well as to use for learning.  The project includes a custom language syntax called NNL (neural network language) that you can use in configuring your machine learning project.  The source code is designed so that the libraries can be used in your own custom applications so you don't have to start from scratch with such a complex set of technologies.  The project is actually an open source project in which I am a part of.  Some of the possibilities offered by this awesome project include predictions, image and pattern recognition, value inspection, memory profiling and much more.  Stop by the Bragisoft NND website and download the application to give it a try

 Screen shots of the neural network designer by Bragisoft

A DBMS for neural networks

A DBMS for neural networks

 

Mind map rand forrest

Machine learning

The chat bot designer and other tools

GUIs and debuggers

Accord.net

Here is a description from the Accord.NET project website 

Accord.NET is a framework for scientific computing in .NET. The framework builds upon AForge.NET, an also popular framework for image processing, supplying new tools and libraries. Those libraries encompass a wide range of scientific computing applications, such as statistical data processing, machine learning, pattern recognition, including but not limited to, computer vision and computer audition. The framework offers a large number of probability distributions, hypothesis tests, kernel functions and support for most popular performance measurements techniques.

 The most impressive parts of this library has got to be the documentation and sample applications that are distributed with the project.  This makes the library easy to get started using.  I also like the ability to perform operations like Audio processing (beat detection and more), Video processing (easy integration with your web cam, vision capabilities and object recognition).  This is an excellent place to start with approaching Machine learning with the .NET framework.  Here are a two videos that should whet your appetite.

Hand writing recognition with Accord.NET

 

Here is an example of head tracking with Accord.NET (super cool)

 

AIMLBot Program# AILM Chat bot library

AIMLBot (Program#) is a small, fast, standards-compliant yet easily customizable implementation of an AIML (Artificial Intelligence Markup Language) based chatter bot in C#. AIMLBot has been tested on both Microsoft's runtime environment and Mono. Put simply, it will allow you to chat (by entering text) with your computer using natural language.  The project is located here.

Math.NET

Machine learning algorithms are extremely math heavy.  Math.NET is a library  that can assist with the math that is required to solve machine learning related problems.

Math.NET Numerics aims to provide methods and algorithms for numerical computations in science, engineering and every day use. Covered topics include special functions, linear algebra, probability models, random numbers, interpolation, integral transforms and more.

DotNumerics

DotNumerics is a website dedicated to numerical computing for .NET. DotNumerics includes a Numerical Library for .NET. The library is written in pure C# and has more than 100,000 lines of code with the most advanced algorithms for Linear Algebra, Differential Equations and Optimization problems. The Linear Algebra library includes CSLapack, CSBlas and CSEispack, these libraries are the translation from Fortran to C# of LAPACK, BLAS and EISPACK, respectively.

You can find the library here. 

ALGLIB

ALGLIB is a cross-platform numerical analysis and data processing library. It supports several programming languages (C++, C#, Pascal, VBA) and several operating systems (Windows, Linux, Solaris). ALGLIB features include:

Accessing ‘R’ from C#–Lessons learned

Here are instructions to use the R statistical framework from within c#

ILNumerics

You can check out the library at http://www.ilnumerics.net

NuML.net http://numl.net

A nice site about the basics of machine learning in c# by Seth Juarez . NuML.NET is a machine learning library for .NET developers written by Seth Juarez.  I've recently tried this library and I'm impressed!  Seth has stated publicly that his intention behind the numl.net library is to abstract the scary math away from machine learning to provide tools that are more approachable by software developers and boy did he deliver!  I've been working with this library for a little more than an hour and I've written a prediction app in c#.  You can find his numl.net library source on github.

Encog Machine Learning Framework

Here is what the official Heaton Research website has to say about Encog:

Encog is an advanced machine learning framework that supports a variety of advanced algorithms, as well as support classes to normalize and process data. Machine learning algorithms such as Support Vector Machines, Artificial Neural Networks, Genetic Programming, Bayesian Networks, Hidden Markov Models and Genetic Algorithms are supported. Most Encog training algoritms are multi-threaded and scale well to multicore hardware. Encog can also make use of a GPU to further speed processing time. A GUI based workbench is also provided to help model and train machine learning algorithms. Encog has been in active development since 2008.

Encog is available for Java, .Net and C/C++.

Jeff Heaton knows a great deal about machine learning algorithms and he's created a wonderful library called Encog.  I was able to write a neural network application that solved the classic XOR problem in 20 minutes after installing the library.  What really amazes me is that he has an Encog Library for JavaScript which includes live samples on his website of Javascript + encog solving problems like the Traveling Salesman Problem and Conway's game of life, all in a browser!  This library can even use your GPU for the heavy lifting if that's your choice.  I would highly recommend that you at least check out his site and download the library to look at the examples.  You can find the Encog library here

 

Conclusion

This concludes my article on Machine learning resources for the .NET developer.  If you have any suggestions regarding a project that you know of or you are working on related to Machine learning in .NET, please don't hesitate to leave a comment and I will update the article to mention the project.  This article has shown that we as .NET developers have many resources available to us to use to implement Machine learning based solutions.  I appreciate your time in reading this article and I hope you found it useful.  Please subscribe to my RSS feed.  Until next time..

Buddy James



Comments (6) -

Seth Juarez
Seth Juarez
3/4/2013 11:11:59 AM #

Hey! I also made something: http://numl.net.

Buddy James
Buddy James
3/9/2013 4:22:53 AM #

Seth,

Thank you for contributing.  I'm going to add your project to my list.

The code looks great.  The site design is really awesome too!  Kudos!

Buddy James

terrell26
terrell26
3/21/2013 12:44:32 PM #

You seem to know a great deal about this subject

Buddy James
Buddy James
3/21/2013 5:33:28 PM #

I appreciate the compliment.  I'm very passionate about machine learning and I'm constantly learning.

Thanks again!

Buddy James

Don Syme
Don Syme
7/2/2013 4:46:37 AM #

Great links!

For F# developers (or C# developers adding an F# project to their solution) see also  

    http://fsharp.org/machine-learning

Buddy James
Buddy James
7/4/2013 8:37:45 PM #

Thanks for reading @Don.  I hear great things about F# and machine learning.  F# is on my list of languages to learn.  Thanks again!

Buddy

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About the author

My name is Buddy James.  I'm a Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer from the Nashville, TN area.  I'm a Software Engineer, an author, a blogger (http://www.refactorthis.net), a mentor, a thought leader, a technologist, a data scientist, and a husband.  I enjoy working with design patterns, data mining, c#, WPF, Silverlight, WinRT, XAML, ASP.NET, python, CouchDB, RavenDB, Hadoop, Android(MonoDroid), iOS (MonoTouch), and Machine Learning. I love technology and I love to develop software, collect data, analyze the data, and learn from the data.  When I'm not coding,  I'm determined to make a difference in the world by using data and machine learning techniques. (follow me at @budbjames).  

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Visual Studio Xamarin.iOS development integration are as follows.

Is the process 100% transparent?  No.  Though I don't believe it will ever be possible to make a completely transparent experience.  That would require running Visual Studio on OS X, or Apple removing their restrictions regarding iOS development.  EDIT It's been brought to my attention that since you will need to run a Mac system anyway, some people find it useful to run Visual Studio inside of a Virtual machine on the Mac.  This will make the integration even better.  You may also run the two machines side by side and use a program like VNC Server/Viewer to switch between the two environments. As I've stated earlier, you can also run the Mac build server in a virtual machine by using a service such as Macinthecloud.  If you find a useful combination that isn't mentioned here, feel free to share in the comments!

Is this the best option that .NET developers have regarding developing iOS applications using Visual Studio on in Microsoft Windows?  Yes.  If you are a .NET developer and you are interested in developing applications for iOS, download Xamarin 2.0 and give it a try.  Your mileage may vary.

Xamarin Studio — Its like MonoDevelop on steroids

One of the greatest parts of the Xamarin 2.0 release has got to be the addition of their new IDE, Xamarin Studio.  Xamarin Studio is a multi-platform IDE that is aimed specifically at mobile development using .NET.  The IDE is based on the older MonoDevelop IDE, however, there are new features that make this a completely different product.

MonoDevelop had a look and feel about it that suggested that it was aimed at Linux developers.  The new Xamarin Studio has moved the focus away from Linux developers and is geared more toward the Mac OS X crowd.  The motivation behind the new Xamarin Studio IDE was very much geared toward User Experience and productivity.

 

 

The IDE looks sleek and has a very minimalist design.  The IDE exposes its features based on the context of the current developers actions.  For instance, you don't see debugging buttons unless you are in debug mode.  You don't have useless windows hanging around when they are aren't usable in the current context.  IDE development has been geared toward developers so they've often tried to add more features at the price of sacrificing user experience.  Xamarin understands that developers are users too and that providing a perfect blend of UX and functionality is the best approach to use when designing an IDE.  I think that this was a brilliant move on Xamarin's part and I wouldn't be surprised to see some of the other well known IDEs following this design in future releases.  

 

The IDE's search bar is another great addition to the Xamarin Studio IDE.  The search bar can be found on the start screen as well as while developing an application.  The search offers an auto complete type of functionality which provides results for everything from key shortcuts to code specific namespaces and classes.

 

The search bar provides context specific search results based on your current location within the IDE.

The IDE offers other great tools such as:

When ran from an OS X machine, Xamarin studio offers iOS specific project templates with the ability to create, build, and deploy iOS applications.

Xamarin 2.0 also offers project templates for creating Android applications.  One of the great tools offered by the Xamarin Studio is an Android user interface designer that allows the developer to drag and drop Android user interface widgets to allow the developer to visually create the UI for the Android application.  The UI designer in Xamarin Studio is more intuitive and feature rich than the original designer included in the eclipse IDE!  You also get the same Android UI designer from within Visual Studio when using MonoDroid for Android application development.
 
 
Xamarin Studio was built with the user in mind.  The IDE is built to increase productivity by providing world class user experience.  I'm very happy with the Xamarin Studio and I believe that I will probably use it more than Visual Studio when developing mobile applications.

Component Store

The component store is a wonderful resource for developers using Xamarin to develop Android and iOS applications using C#.  The component store ties directly into the Xamarin Studio IDE and also has a web interface for obtaining components that will greatly increase your productivity in developing professional looking mobile applications.  The Component store offers controls, frameworks, themes, web services, and other components that will make your life as an Android or iOS developer much easier.  They offer free and paid components to assist in your mobile development efforts.  You can even create your own libraries and submit them to the component store for review to be included in the list of components.  I believe Xamarin's component store will be a great resource for anyone developing Android and iOS applications using Xamarin's development tools.

 

 

 


Starter Edition

In the past, Xamarin offered a free trial for developers to try out their product.  The free trial simply limited the functionality of the product.  One of the biggest limitations in my opinion was the inability to deploy to a physical device to test your applications.  When I first began testing Xamarin for Android development, this limitation was a show stopper for me.  I have had no luck with the Android emulator and this seems to be a problem with many Android developers.  The emulator is slow and unstable.  So when I heard that Xamarin had changed their licensing and now offers a free starter edition, I was thrilled.  The starter edition is free and allows testing an Android application on the developer's Android device.  You can even deploy the application to the Android App stores.  There are limitations on Android applications that are created under the Starter edition.  They can’t call to third party native libraries (i.e., P/Invoke) and they are capped in size at a max of 32k of IL code.  However, we as developers at least have the option to deploy to our devices and test the applications so we can make an informed decision regarding upgrading to their new Independent developer license which at $299 is the cheapest license that Xamarin has offered to date!  So if you are like me and you've put off trying Xamarin because of the restrictions that bound you to the horrible Android emulator, there should be nothing stopping you from giving the new Xamarin 2.0 release a try.

 

Conclusion

This concludes my review on Xamarin 2.0.  I'd like to say that I'm very excited about the possibilities that these enhancements provide for .NET developers that wish to develop applications for iOS and Android using C# and .NET.

The free starter edition provides a solution to my biggest issue with the Xamarin tool set, and that's the ability to test your applications built with MonoDroid on your device instead of the horrible emulator.

The Xamarin.iOS integration with Microsoft Visual Studio is the best option to allow developers to develop iOS applications while using their favorite IDE to do it.

The Xamarin Studio IDE is a beautiful, feature rich product that will change the way that we look at what an IDE should be.

If you are a .NET developer and you are looking into mobile development, now is the time to check out Xamarin 2.0.  I'm anxious to see what the next release will bring.  Oh and don't forget about the Xamarin Evolve 2013 world wide developer conference in Austin, Texas from April 14-17 2013.  I hope to see you there!

Thanks for reading!

Buddy James




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About the author

My name is Buddy James.  I'm a Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer from the Nashville, TN area.  I'm a Software Engineer, an author, a blogger (http://www.refactorthis.net), a mentor, a thought leader, a technologist, a data scientist, and a husband.  I enjoy working with design patterns, data mining, c#, WPF, Silverlight, WinRT, XAML, ASP.NET, python, CouchDB, RavenDB, Hadoop, Android(MonoDroid), iOS (MonoTouch), and Machine Learning. I love technology and I love to develop software, collect data, analyze the data, and learn from the data.  When I'm not coding,  I'm determined to make a difference in the world by using data and machine learning techniques. (follow me at @budbjames).  

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