Data … as usual

All things about data by Laurent Leturgez

Monthly Archives: April 2019

Playing with Python and Machine Learning in the Cloud … for Free

If you are interested by the Python language and Machine learning programming (which is usually linked), you will probably think about configuring an environment on your laptop or instantiate an environment hosted by a Cloud provider, which is a bit expensive especially if you want doing some very basic tests.

If you want to try (and build) those very trendy neural networks, you will need a GPU to speed up your programs (and some related boring stuff like installing and configuring Cuda etc.). Same thing if you want to play with spark (and specifically with pyspark)

That can be a boring stuff to do. But do you know that it’s possible to quickly set up an environment in the cloud for free … yes for free. So let’s have a look to two solutions : Google colaboratory (named colab) and Kaggle.

But before we start, we need to know what a notebook is, because these platforms use python notebook as playground.

What is a notebook ?

A notebook is a file which embed code, markup language (HTML) and equations. Each notebook is divided by cells and each cell can be executed individually inside a kernel.

When the code is python, the file extension is usually ipynb. Please note, that notebooks can run other languages than python, each kernel run a specific language for example, Python or Scala.

If you want to know more about notebook, follow these links: or


Google Colaboratory (Colab notebooks)

Google colab is a free notebook environment hosted by Google. To access it, you only need a free google account. Once you created your notebook, you have the possibility to save it on a Google drive file (with ipynb extension) and, optionally, export it on github.

To create your first notebook, you have to go to and then click the “File” Menu and Select “new Python 3 notebook” (or New Python 2 Notebook, if you want to deal with python 2).

Colaboratory Notebook 1

This will create a new folder in your google drive home root directory named “Colab Notebooks” with the file you created in it.


Once in your notebook, you can add some cells and write your first python lines.

But, what you have to know is that you are in a remote environment with packages installed (by default you have many python packages already installed), and once instantiated, you can even modify your kernel by installing new softwares etc.

For example, let’s say … we want to set up a pyspark environment. We first need to install pyspark with pip and then run a bunch of pyspark code to test everything is ok.

The notebook is available at this URL (I saved it on github):, and the result is represented below:


Colaboratory Notebook 2

You can even load files from your local disk to your runtime, and then run code on it. In the example given below (and integrated in the notebook linked above), I used the google API to do that:

Colaboratory notebook 3

Of course, this environment is for testing purpose only, you don’t have a lot of power behind but it’s useful if you want to start learning Python, or test a bunch of script without any local infrastructure and … it’s free.


The second platform to start playing python is more machine learning oriented. Indeed kaggle is a platform for data scientists who are allowed to share and find some data sets, build model, enter in datascience challenges etc.

Accessing to kaggle is free, you just have to subscribe at and then log in.

Once logged into the system, you have to go to and click on “New Kernel” and select your preferred style, and you will have access to a notebook with default packages loaded (like numpy and pandas) :


Basically, kaggle is not very different from Google Colaboratory … but kaggle is interesting because you can enable a GPU for your notebook.

To do that, you can go to the “settings” area (in the bottom right corner) and set “GPU” to “ON”.


This will enable a GPU (ok it’s not a farm πŸ˜‰ ) but this can help you to work on small workload and why not on a small neural network.

Below, a small bunch of code that use tensorflow and gives you the information about GPU enablement.


Please note that you can easily upload your datasets (or use datasets provided by kaggle) by clicking on the “+ Add Dataset” Button

That’s it for today πŸ˜‰



Colors identification for images stored in the Cloud with Python

I recently worked on some Python code to detect which are the main colors in an image.

To do that, my images were stored in an Oracle Cloud Infrastructure block storage bucket.

The process had to be done in 3 steps:

  • I had first to extract them by using the “oci” python package.
  • Then I had to convert the unstructured binary image to a structured numpy array.
  • And finally, I used an unsupervised ML routine (KMeans Clustering) to analyze the numpy array and detect which were the main colors in this image.

Reading Images stored in an OCI block storage bucket

To read images, or more generally, files store inΒ  an OCI block storage bucket. You need to have configured your client environment to access the OCI.

To do that, you will need various OCIDs (user, tenant), some keys (private and public). I will not develop this part because I already did it in a previous post … see here !

Once your configuration is ok, you have to load it into your python script, get an ObjectStorageClient object from the configuration, and request the namespace data of your ObjectStorageClient.

After that, it becomes easy to read an object (file) inside a bucket referenced inside the namespace.

This is done by the following code

compartment_id = config["tenancy"]
object_storage = oci.object_storage.ObjectStorageClient(config)
namespace = object_storage.get_namespace().data

my_object = object_storage.get_object(namespace,

print("type( = ",type(

As you can see, I printed the class type of the object content … and without any surprise, it’s a “bytes” class.

type( =  <class 'bytes'>

Note: If your images are stored by another cloud provider. They usually have a Python SDK in order to do the same things πŸ˜‰

Converting an unstructured binary image to a numpy array

Once I did that, if I want to process my image I have to convert it in a usable data structure. And, with Python, the best data structure to process images is a numpy array, so I had to find a way to convert my binary soap (Bytes) to a structures numpy array.

As I don’t want to use a temporary file to do that stuff, I used a BytesIO object to process them directly in memory. At the end of the stream, I used a pillow Image (new name for the deprecated PIL package) from the BytesIO stream.

After that, a conversion to a numy array was possible. Please note that I had to convert a bit my numpy array structure. As you may know, an image file is represented in a multi-dimension array.

The first two dimensions represent the pixels of your Image. Added to that, you have 3rd dimension which encode for Red, Green and Blue values of each pixel. Sometimes a fourth value is added for what is called “Alpha” which is intended in transparency encoding. As I don’t know how were encoded Images, and as I don’t need to process the Alpha layer, I converted my 3 or 4 layers array into a 3 layers array (R,G and B encoding only).

The following code do the stuff:

from PIL import Image
from io import BytesIO

This will produce the result below:

img.shape= (640, 1280, 3)

So my image is represented by a numpy array (ndarray). my image width is 640 pixels, height is 1280 pixels and each pixel is encoded by 3 values for Red, Green and Blue.

Using a clustering ML algorithm to detect colors

Next step, but not least. We have to choose a method to detect colors in the image.

First, I thought about getting the “average” color, but doing this is not a good way, because in the case of your image is equally colored by yellow, blue, red, and green … your average color will be a crappy brown which is not realistic.

The best way to get colors is to run a unsupervised machine learning algorithm (K-Means) to group all your colors into clusters based on R, G and B values. No matter the ML framework you will use to execute the KMeans, after execute your program you will get, the center point of each cluster which represent the color associated with the cluster and the differents labels for your clusters. Then you will be able to count the number of occurence of your label, and you will get the number of points inside your cluster.

It becomes easy to count the number of points in each color, this is for the most important thing in this algorithm. The other key point is how to structure your data as input for your KMeans.

This is simply resolved by flattening your image representation (in the numpy array). The array is flatten to a one-dimension list of triplets (reprensenting your RGB values).

In the following code, I used opencv (cv2 package) which is often used for image detection and capturing. This package is delivered with a kmeans algorithm that is optimized for image processing.

import cv2

# pixels is the 1D array, results of the img flattening process (made by reshape function)
pixels = np.float32(img.reshape(-1, 3))
print("Pixel shape = ", pixels.shape)

# Here is the number of colors we are trying to detect.
n_colors = 5

# Opencv kmeans parameters (See the following URL for more information: 
criteria = (cv2.TERM_CRITERIA_EPS + cv2.TERM_CRITERIA_MAX_ITER, 200, .1)

# palette represents clusters centers
# Labels represents the cluster labels.
#   As we have 5 colors, labels are 0,1,2,3,4 
_, labels, palette = cv2.kmeans(pixels, n_colors, None, criteria, 10, flags)
# And counts represents the number of occurence for each label
_, counts = np.unique(labels, return_counts=True)

# Our dominant color is the color that have the maximum number of occurence in the "counts" array
dominant = palette[np.argmax(counts)]
print("dominant color (RVB) =",dominant)

If you prefer to use tensorflow, the code below will do the stuff

import tensorflow as tf
# this is for removing all the tensorflow INFO and WARN messages

# pixels is the 1D array, results of the img flattening process (made by reshape function)
pixels = np.float32(img.reshape(-1, 3))
print("Pixel shape = ", pixels.shape)

def input_fn():
    return tf.train.limit_epochs(tf.convert_to_tensor(pixels, dtype=tf.float32), num_epochs=1)

n_colors = 5

kmeans = tf.contrib.factorization.KMeansClustering(num_clusters=n_colors, 

num_iterations = 20
for _ in range(num_iterations):
    print('Training ... score:', kmeans.score(input_fn))
    cluster_centers = kmeans.cluster_centers()

cluster_indices = list(kmeans.predict_cluster_index(input_fn))
counts=np.unique(cluster_indices, return_counts=True)[1]

dominant = palette[np.argmax(counts)]
print("dominant =",dominant)

Now we have our results, we are able to produce a nice plot with:

  • the initial picture,
  • the dominant colors gradient,
  • the main dominant color
  • the second dominant color (I did that because In the code I worked on, many pictures had a white background which was detected and the main color in 99% of the cases)

And to do that, I used the matplotlib library:

import matplotlib as mpl
%matplotlib notebook
from matplotlib import pyplot as plt

indices = np.argsort(counts)[::-1]  
freqs = np.cumsum(np.hstack([[0], counts[indices]/counts.sum()]))
rows = np.int_(img.shape[0]*freqs)

dom_patch = np.zeros(shape=img.shape, dtype=np.uint8)
main_patch=np.ones(shape=img.shape, dtype=np.uint8)*np.uint8(palette[indices[0]])
second_patch=np.ones(shape=img.shape, dtype=np.uint8)*np.uint8(palette[indices[1]])

for i in range(len(rows) - 1):
    dom_patch[rows[i]:rows[i + 1], :, :] += np.uint8(palette[indices[i]])

fig, (ax0, ax1, ax2, ax3 ) = plt.subplots(1, 4 , figsize=(9,6))

ax1.set_title('Dominant colors')

ax2.set_title('Main color')

ax3.set_title('Second color')

Please note that, this code was running inside a jupyter notebook … so adapt the code if you want to run it in another context.

This will produce that kind of result :