25 December 2012

Burgers in London

Burgers in UK seem to be medium to small compared to America. It seems the British burgers get a bit stingy in the way they make their order sizes but are still able to squeeze in a hefty ounce of beef. Unfortunately, if one really wants to enjoy a burger then may want to have a helping of two rather than just one burger in UK. For some strange reason, they also give side orders of skinny fries but why would any one want such a ridiculous size of fries. Chunky homemade fries are the real deal that go with a meaty scrumptious burger. Generally, one has several options to enjoy a burger meal in the big city like London. One can head out to a pub and get a full meal deal which are quite a bargain also at times can be quite tasty. Another, option is if one is really pocket tight then to head over to McDonald's or the Burger King. But, these places will make you sick later and the burgers are full of additives. Another, option is to head over to open markets where they make fresh burgers right there and then especially around the City of London. But, my favoriate places are the dedicated burger joints that truly provide flavor. Not a big fan of Fine Burger or Gourmet Burger. And, places like Hard Rock Cafe, Sticky Fingers, or Fuddruckers have really lost their touch on quality food with excessive waiting queues and misplaced orders. Some of my favoriate burger places in London, where they use quality meat, would have to be:

24 December 2012

Java Web Hosting

Java hosting has come along way as a result of cloud computing. As Java runs in a JVM it makes for appropriate language platform for large scale applications requiring several magnitudes of processing and load. The JVM also allows one to program in multiple alternative languages alongside Java such as Groovy and Scala. Java is also a very enterprise friendly language supporting a multitude of open source libraries and frameworks in a wide area of application domains. Java has always been a more expensive way to host an application on the web. However, the cloud has increased the possibilities for developers. There are quite a few cloud hosting providers that have started to provide Java support. A lot of them provide multiple language support.
However, one can always use a standard VPS or a dedicated server provider as an alternative for PaaS/IaaS for Java web hosting for which there are even more options available similar to Python.

Java Web Hosting
JSP Hosting

The following frameworks are often quite workable and supported on these cloud hosting platforms:

Rainy Days in London

It rains a lot in London. There are more rainy days compared to almost two months of sunshine. One would expect that a lot of people would be out with umbrellas handy which is often the case. It seems as soon as the first signs of drizzle appears people are magically able to bring out their umbrellas. Only the fact remains that so many of these people do not really have a clue about how to carry an umbrella let alone to hold one in their hands. A lot of these umbrellas have a pointy end to them. These people do not realize that the end is in fact a hazard to many people behind and around them and should be pointed vertically down and not horizontally up as it can appear to act like a concealed weapon. The chances of hitting someone are quite high especially if the individual with a brolly decides to circumnavigate and circumlocate their route to a certain angle. In a city like London where there are so many pedestrians the chances of causing grievous bodily harm from such carelessness are high. I have to admit I have been hit by brollies a lot in London and can say with experience that these people do not even have the manners to say sorry or the fact that they cannot even watch out as to how they carry an umbrella is a misdirection of its own. Maybe, they should start having etiquette schools for individuals with umbrellas in UK. 

22 December 2012

Indecipherable Requirements

These days in agile development teams there is more emphasis on design, implementation, testing towards delivery rather than the production of clear requirements. Requirements often times can become the stumbling block for either incorrect or slow implementation, as well as a complete misdirection in delivery. In agile principles communication is key between stakeholders and developers. However, such communication in requirements needs to be clearly written down and mapped out for clarity sake. Also, what is required needs to be translated into implementation. There is a translation step required here at point of functional and non-functional requirements. There are two critical points of communication failure in agile teams. One being between stakeholder and developers. And, another being between developers in the team. Often times the emphasis is on getting the correct information from stakeholders but not fully translating them between developers. These days the members of agile teams use various tools for such communication flows. In all fairness, development teams need to understand the fact that people cannot read their minds especially if such teams are working in distributed and co-located environments. And, without sufficient translation of clear requirements in written form it becomes very difficult for developers in the team who are tasked at implementation to manage and understand them. Furthermore, the speed with which the implementation is progressed can also suffer which impacts the delivery time scales.

Perhaps, a suggestion in such matters is to keep communication simple but clear. There should be no level of complications in the requirement translation and they should not read like a puzzle where the developer has to spend time trying to decipher what another lead developer or stakeholder has actually asked for in terms of implementation. In going forward there needs to be a set of work flow targets that are agreed between team members so the progress can be smooth allowing for less issues in communication and more clarity towards completed work. There are various ways in which such issues can be taken care of. However, it depends on the willingness of developers to allow for more clarity and understanding. Often times developers stress more on the technical aspects of their work rather than trying to improve their own effective communication skills.  In a lot of ways, BDD (Behavior Driven Development) improves upon such issues as it tries to relay more acceptance work from the get go of implementation and testing. In tools like JBehave, Cucumber, and Spock such approaches can further be integrated and automated with continuous integration tests. Even going further, the work flow can be outlined and mapped using agile tools. Additionally, elements of risk metrics and other methods can be incorporated in the process. JIRA is a very common project tracking application which comes integrated with other Atlassian tools. However, when a ticket is produced the actual verbiage that is added in as an issue or story needs to be defined clearly and synthetically. My proposed approach is to automate such requirements using specific keywords using a full work flow system where such issues and stories can be mapped and managed centrally with little effort. The specific keywords can be applied through script files and be modifiable based on team requirements of project work. For example, such keywords can be used in simple defined sentences: "for", "in", "out", "allow", "apply", "change", "remove", etc. All these words imply a specific task in relation to the work that needs to be applied. Notice the two sentence phrases below. The second one is clearer than the first in what really needs to be implemented and what really is implied from the stakeholder to the developer within a JIRA ticket.
  • Filter out id that is not in the list of ids
  • Filter for id that is in the list of ids
If one gave such requirements to a developer especially to a new starter, without any real knowledge of the system architecture other than the programming language, they may in fact get quite lost in terms of what was actually implied in the sentence. Moreover, if the written requirements do not agree with what the lead developer, architect, or stakeholder actually wants you to implement then that will increase the confusion not to mention frustration even more. Plus, relying on verbal communication to a limit is acceptable but may hinder the understanding even more as well as defeat the purpose of having formal requirements specifications as a way of tracking work and building automated acceptance tests. The first one reads with a double negative and almost like a puzzle. The second clearly states what needs to be implemented. Notice the keywords like: "for", "in", "out", "not", "list". These words make a big difference and not only that but the order in which they are put in the phrase can too. The first one implies to use for-each loop step to remove from a list. However, the second one implies for-each loop step to add into a list. The general terms like "out" can be translated to imply remove from and "in" to imply add in. But, obviously such keywords are based on context. Going further, if such keywords were added into a script file and the process of requirement production was automated it may in fact help speed up communication as well as correct implementation of requirements. If one is using JIRA this can be a fairly productive aspect for a team. Utilizing work flow modeling and Java, Groovy, or Python for integration and NLP for linguistic translation. The impediment from lack of requirements or indecipherable requirements could be reduced. The very same keywords can be linked to BDD acceptance testing criteria as well. When communication can be broken down into simple granular level with agreed use of words it can help developers understand and link requirements to implementations quite rapidly in an agile process. Requirements are an important step in the software engineering process. Such requirements need to be elicited, analyzed, specified, validated and verified in the process of delivery.

21 December 2012

BBC and TV Licensing

In Britain, almost every one is required to pay a TV license fee. However, it is puzzling as to how this TV licensing revenue is managed and spent. One of the disconcerting aspects is the quality of programming that is consumed on the BBC services which is quite disproportionate to the cost incurred to the TV viewer. One of the main reasons why so many people today have started taking up alternative options for more quality entertainment such as from satellite and cable. Recently, in news there has been inquiry into how the BBC decided to pay Mr Entwistle £400,000 in payments, even though his employment as Director-General was for such a short time. Furthermore, it is a clear reflection, on the fact that a huge proportion of the TV licensing cost seems to be paid towards salaries. Is it really justified for TV viewers to have to pay such high costs in TV license fees only to see it being used up to pay huge management salaries?

According to Wikipedia, BBC revenues amount to well over £5 Billion, employing about 23,000 employees,  and the corporation as it is called is owned by the public. "The BBC is a semi-autonomous public service broadcaster that operates under a Royal Charter and a Licence and Agreement from the Home Secretary. Within the United Kingdom its work is funded principally by an annual television licence fee, which is charged to all British households, companies and organisations using any type of equipment to receive live television broadcasts; the level of the fee is set annually by the British Government and agreed by Parliament." - Wikipedia. 

If this is clearly the case, then surely the cost of licensing should come under review and should be lowered as there is no real justification charging so much to a TV viewer and then also paying such high renumeration packages to management employees. The revenues received do not even reflect the level of quality programming offered to the public.

Christmas 2012

Christmas is fast approaching and there is a real rush developing on the high streets. Sales are on and a rambunctious bunch ready to grab a good bargain within the time constraints of a busy life. Often times buying the right gift for someone can become tricky. It is almost always a call on the lines of how well one knows someone. At times the cost factor becomes an issue. On other occasions, it is really not knowing someone important or much at all brings about a sudden rush of anxiety. Especially, when one has not even had a chance to check their wish list. How will they accept your gift? Will they like it? Furthermore, the gift giving between opposite sex becomes equally as hard. Christmas has in a way turned in to a very gift giving sort of event where people expect one another to give. The materialistic desires far overshadow the abstract ways of giving. The transformations of a family home glistening with a blossoming and well lit tree is an inviting indulgence in which merry people gather for almost a very poignant orgy of eating and drinking in copious amounts beyond the limits of their bellies can hold. By the time, Christmas passes on it leaves people with over run balances and a level of stress to plan for in the next year. Not even giving them sufficient time to recuperate does the next party opens its doors. The almost sudden new years eve exhumes an aura of everything associated to fun and people attempt to make new resolutions to change specific aspects of their lives in the coming new year. The deadly cold winds like a ghost on a snowboard all the while passing and gliding through engulfing tenaciously at every thing that can be associated with the elements of winter. 

20 December 2012

Python Web Hosting

Python hosting has come along way with the inception of the cloud. In past, most hosting providers only supported PHP based applications. However, the demand for hosting and the flexibility for more options has increased significantly. There are more and more growing options available now either shared, virtual private or a dedicated. Depending on ones application requirements each one can be workable. However, shared hosting is possibly the most minimalist option there is. Python is also emerging into a stronger contender to PHP and Ruby web frameworks and is able to support larger websites with fluid ease. Developing in Python is not only faster but it is also more maintainable. Arguably, Python is easy to learn and a lot faster then Ruby. Although, Ruby appears to be a more trendy way of developing websites, it is also a quite slow and one would require a stronger architectural dependency on caches to scale up a large application. Similarly, with PHP having a large application being cacheable is a key to the performance as well the limitations of a lifecycle of a request/response. PHP in all fairness although workable can be quite cumbersome to maintain in a multithreaded, high availability, low latency, and security conscious application. PHP in my view is really aptly suited to small scale applications or ones that have a significant infrastructure backbone of cacheability  with such layers of memcache or redis. Furthermore, the use of PHP web frameworks is a bit like over engineering with a half baked language. And, even then, the major drawbacks of PHP are lack of consistency, lack of backward compatibility, quality of open source libraries, object orientation, as well as the major one that being security vulnerabilities. However, one of the core Python drawbacks is also the lack of compatibility between 2.x and 3.x which can boil down to how much one requires access to various libraries compared to a closed and isolated web application. Some of the Python web frameworks that I particularly like are: Django, Tornado, Bottle, and Flask. Python is an amazingly good multitasking and integration language. It also does a really good job for data processing and in distributed systems environments which depend on services with no single point of failure. If you know Groovy you can pretty much pick up Python and therefore the ramp up time for a Java/Groovy Developer towards picking up Python is also faster then in trying to learn up Ruby. If one is facing a deciding factor between CGI and an alternative then one must be aware that in most shared hosting they use FastCGI whether it be Ruby, Python, or PHP. However, using the passenger module does help to get  WSGI support but there is no full support for it in Python. Python, in my opinion is an even better swiss army knief compared to Perl especially for Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning. I have listed below a few Python hosting options most of the PaaS options can be fairly expensive but offer a more flexible and larger scope for development. However, as all things go on the Cloud if one's PaaS provider is dependent on Amazon as an IaaS and if that goes down then your hosting provider would naturally also be effected. 
As well as, several others....check out djangofriendlyhosting

If one requires standard website with a small scale load then one can use PHP or Python eg like a company or promotion website
If the load is relatively high with a lot of distributed data processing then go for Python e.g like a newspaper site, games site, or a search site
If the level of work is enterprise requiring more control more heavy processing, and a heavy use of JVM then go for Java, Groovy, or Scala.

Java/Groovy and Python make a good composition for most back-end lifting work where as front-end interface masking can better be handled by core HTML/CSS/JavaScript libraries and frameworks. PHP can also be used behind the scenes, like with data loads or job controls with gearman, but as much away from security and heavy lifting as possible.

19 December 2012

Semantic Web

Semantic Web is all about making the web navigation more connected by treating every aspect of the web as a resource. This also inspires the concepts of linked data or the web of data. Semantic Web essentially utilizes XML based extensible languages specifically catering for the creation of and management of resources, knowledge, reasoning, as well as querying. Semantic Web is driven from the theoretical underpinnings of Knowledge Representation and Reasoning, one of the core branches of Artificial Intelligence.

The following books are valuable sources of information:
  • Logic in Computer Science: Modelling and Reasoning About Systems
  • Knowledge Representation and Reasoning
  • Semantic Web Programming
  • Semantic Web Primer
  • Semantic Web for the Working Ontologist
  • Practical Semantic Web and Linked Data Applications
  • Practical RDF
  • Explorer's Guide to Semantic Web
  • Linked Data Evolving the Web into a Global Data Space
  • Programming the Semantic Web
  • Learning SPARQL
As well as, learning Prolog especially the SWI-Prolog can be quite valuable asset which has a detailed background in Semantic Web experimental work especially for curation and archiving. Especially, the W3C site is a valuable reference point for keeping up with the progress - SemanticWeb@W3C. And, a list of tools associated for different language implementations - SemanticWebTools@W3C. Another context of work for which Semantic Web is often connected to is the concept of Semantic Tagging for Findability. The applications of Semantic Web are numerous as it is more about the resource context and utilizing the concepts of HTTP and REST. In general, intelligence in any aspect of application has a reference point to the context in which it is used. The more broad a context one incorporates into the application for aspects of knowledge and reasoning the lower the level of accuracy. This is because intelligence is learned and is best utilized by way of contextual specialization of concepts from which patterns and logical deductions for inference can further be derived dynamically. This can be equated to every aspect of Artificial Intelligence.

18 December 2012

Mayan Apocalypse 2012

Is it true that the world will end this Friday, December 21, 2012? It seems so unreal that the end of the world should be so close by and yet people are going about their business mostly to catch the Christmas sales that came in early. Surely, the conspiracy theorists will try to find more ways to push the date forward through some strange explanation. It seems so bizarre that every time people get their dates wrong they move it forward a few more years as if people are that gullible. Even this Mayan apocalypse is based on strange new age beliefs unfolded through incorrect interpretations of the Mayan theology. How many people have gotten it wrong in past:

Mayan Apocalypse 2012
Rapture, May 21, 2011
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ prediction of the Second Coming, August 1914
The Second Big Bang, November 23, 2009
Y2K, January 1, 2000
The Great Fire of London, September 2, 1666

List of dates predicted for apocalyptic events

14 December 2012

Public Payphones

In London, public pay phones are possibly one of the most unclean places in city. The sheer amount of germs that can be caught in the phone booths is just overwhelming. Also, the service does not seem to be very well maintained and very unreliable at times especially being susceptible to outside disturbances in phone reception. The chances of being rudely disconnected become exponentially increased as one approaches towards the centrally located pay phones. No wonder mobile phones have caught on so fast in UK. On land lines and pay phones it seems to be dominated still by BT but yet on mobiles there is still some healthy competition. Perhaps, it is why technology is moving further a field at such a fast pace on the mobile front comparatively and the land line services are lagging behind. It would be great if telecommunications was so much more flexible avoiding the need to get a land line in order to get Internet. People these days receive and make calls on the Internet which seems to be a life saver especially on the monthly bill. Perhaps, one day Internet will become free and more accessible reducing the need for people to have to communicate through such limited channels. Compared to America, UK still has a lot to catch up in all aspects of telecommunications.

Tenants, Estate Agents, and LandLords

Estate agents should be best avoided. They charge tenants for admin costs, inventory costs, credit checking costs, and whatever else including as far as lying and covering up stuff to get a fast deal. As a tenant one is best to approach the landlord directly. Estate agents care very little about tenants and more about landlords. They are more interested in tenants at time of transaction after which they literally cannot be bothered unless it involves a landlord having a dispute such as with late rent. And, even then they would rather create more problems than mediate because in fact it means a potentially new opportunity to get a new tenant transaction. Most landlords are generally fine with late rent payments as far as they are aware that one is always paying their rent with diligence. However, the more you learn about a landlord before signing an agreement the better. Tenants are often caught out by either bad landlords, bad estate agents, or both. You may find one of the typical encounters where rent is expected to be paid on time and yet perhaps, contracts or inventory checking has been delayed almost by months. If one has not received a signed copy of tenancy agreement or even an inventory report by move in date then delay the next rent payment by all means until it is received. It is surprising how little tenants rights there are in UK compared to landlords. If one looks at any tenancy agreement the tenant requirements are multiple pages long usually compared to a half page landlord requirements. Tenants also need to be able to do background checks on landlords as well. It seems like every one wants tenant personal details, at times a bit too much, and yet they all seem to protect the rights of the landlord. Especially, if a tenant undergoes a credit check through an estate agency and they use a third-party it may be deemed on the tenant to pay the costs as well as the risk of getting incorrect links against their profile. Credit checks are not very reliable sources of information. They do not work in real-time nor do they provide fully up-to-date and accurate information. It seems like tenants have a lot to lose than a landlord in many respects. Also, it is in best interest of tenants to be informed about the asking rental price as well as the valuation price so they are able to better assess whether the actual rent is worth the price. At same time, when tenants start to spend a lot of rent perhaps they may also ponder at the option of getting a mortgage instead, or even part buying. It seems as a long term living as a tenant is not a very viable option for many and soon people will almost always decide to get a place of their own. Living under the roof owned by someone else is always a very limited and restricted form of accommodation. Another factor, is when one does decide to move out, the agents are always around trying to do their viewings and all of a sudden the accommodation not only becomes frustrating but it ends up feeling like a display gallery. There really are very few rights for tenants or even for their invasion of privacy. The best option really is having your own place.

13 December 2012

Travel Tracking

Seasonal travel is one of the busiest times of the year for transportation services. On other occasions it is rush hour management that can cause severe delays and disruptions to commuters. Tracking best routes and mapping restrictions and disruptions in real-time is a very plausible and useful level of analytics to have at hand for any commuter. This process will not only allow them precise information in real-time but could also allow them to fully comprehend their travel plans from source to destination in a very fast and conducive way. Most transportation networks can be mapped as graphs. Graphs are a generalization of representing the structure and relationships between data points or so called nodes. In a train network each station could be a node and each route to another node as a weighted link or more precisely an edge. Various algorithms can then be applied to work out specific natural language search requirements or more precisely the semantic context of search. This could be a sub-optimal or a greedy option. In a sub-optimal option aspects like global optimization ideas can be applied where a solution sample only needs to be good enough based on the defined function as the search space is so huge. Graph algorithms like dijkstra's shortest path,  uniform-cost search, minimum spanning trees, best-first search, breadth-first search, depth-first search, travelling salesman problem can be applied based on specific semantic requirements of travel. So, one could be looking for an option of finding the shortest and fastest possible route to get to destination before or at a certain time. Another semantic requirement might be to find the best route without connections, delays, or disruptions to travel.  Further, another option could be to find all possible routes that can be reached from source to destination with the cheapest possible price for travel. There is so much data about when one travels that finding and discovering the right information can be difficult. Data only becomes information based on the contextual usefulness. Various mashup applications can be applied that utilize web apis from public transport agencies utilizing their feeds for precise information sharing. Google transit has started their own standardization process towards travel data. However, in every aspect accessibility to right information, at right time, in the right possible way becomes crucial. This is where responsive user interfaces can become the stepping stone for a barrier free access to easy and quick information navigability. We live in an overload of data, almost everything can be translated to some form of information. Knowing how to obtain, deliver, and present such data so it can become useful information is paramount. 

Hybrid Logic Can Save Traffic In London

Actuated traffic lights with Boolean level controller logic can always seem malnourished of severely constrained logic. It seems the traffic lights in London always go off unexpectedly and very haphazard. I feel if they employed more hybridized approaches towards congestion and traffic control would be more effective. They could centrally control the traffic boards across the city but apply more significant real world situations. An off and on service has very limited service and an increased risk of accidents. Even the aspect of controlling traffic held up or pedestrians waiting to cross can be modified. Fuzzy Logic is all about the Fuzzy constraints of approximated reasoning being still between the limit bounds of 0 and 1 only relative constraints can be better controlled over a full specified spectrum of natural language domain. Smooth flow of traffic resulting in less frustrations can be controlled. Looking at times of day and variations can be applied. Classical reasoning of rigid constraints over multivariate changes are severely limited. I think in a city where roads are small and population growing as well as with multimodal means of transport it is only sensible, feasible, and yet workable to apply more intelligent methods in the works where interconnected traffic flows can be changed and modified based on patterns of usage and potential delays as well as more dynamic flows from specified natural language.

11 December 2012

O2 A Dreadful Mobile Service

Possibly the worst mobile operator in UK would have to be O2. Perhaps, even beating at odds with the likes of Orange and Vodafone. I have not tried other mobile providers but it is a sure bet that most mobile provider quality of service is dismally poor. And, to top it of you are still asked to pay for line rental when they experience network outages. Customers pay for service not for when they out of service surely. O2 also have one of the worst call centers I have ever come across. I think the word dim wits is quite aptly appropriate, or perhaps a bit too refined a description of their lack of training and common sense within the call center staff. Not to mention when I search the web I noticed similar stories coming around that people are frustrated and that people don't get paid to do O2's job. After all we pay for a service and yet they expect us to do their job for them as well. Their call centers have detailed information about customer accounts and yet they still cannot be bothered to read the information that is present on their screens. Furthermore, it's droning that the time spent listening to music on the other end until one gets through to an advisor has got to be one of the most frustrating and time consuming processes of all. It is as if people are expected to wait around while some advisor decides to pick up the call. A typical aspect of getting through to a manager at one of their call center and one can expect to be waiting around for an unusually long time. It is like the manager expects you to wait while they finish their lunch break, complete their crossword or just keep one on hold as if to display how busy they are. And, when these people do pick up they are possibly the rudest bunch of patronizing people one can ever come across. And, this is from a business that is expected to offer a service to customers. Not to mention the tiresome network outages that seem to be becoming a bit of bane with O2. I have to mention that in UK the level of service for not just mobile providers but a lot of other services is also similar. It is as if lack of quality of service is almost always the bottom of every business model in UK. Prices are inflated and service is poor. And, they expect the customer to be calm and collected otherwise they hang up. Unfortunately, for so many customers in UK frustration for lack of service is almost like the British weather. What most businesses do not seem to realize is that customers are the ones with a choice. They can always switch to another provider. One of the sure ways of losing business is not providing good service and further to lack ethics. Customers nowadays are not stupid a lot do their research. And, yet the service is one factor that always seems to be lagging behind in every business model. Most customers in my view would show brand loyalty if they received reliability of product that was capped at the right price, a strong sense of business ethics, and an approachable service model. 

28 November 2012

For All There Exists Pi

Pi has always been a very curious and enlightening number. Although, irrational by nature it can almost feel like it can transcend time. The number is never ending. The enlightenment towards possibilities where everything lives forever. It is a transcendental number where a patternless digits seem to arise over an endless space almost like a matrix. Each digit appearing in equal frequencies. If one can class Pi as a normal number then the endless space might explain some truth in our existence within. There has been an endless amount of discussions and research on the value of Pi for which circumferences of a circle are measured. Perhaps, the idea of quantum immortality and existence. Can one really prove that Pi really does repeat after a certain infinite space of non-repeating numbers where every possible sequence exists? Can the realities of human life be explained through the patterns of Pi? Perhaps, as we exist here on earth there could be an endless universe where multiple aspects of oneself arises across the galaxy. Even in the golden ratio which is another equally interesting affair uses the complex configurations of Pi to produce a perfect equation. The measure of beauty and perfection can be described by the measure of a golden ratio where embedded in it is the transduction from Pi. The title elaborates on the logical constructs. "For All There Exists Pi". This implies that for every possibility there has to exist an infinite wisdom where anything is possible.  

26 November 2012

Life of Pi

This movie had a very impressive marketing campaign and trailer but it lacked a lot of depth. Life of Pi is about a boy who gets stranded in middle of an ocean with a tiger. The movie had a strange start and at times it seemed like never ending. And, when the movie really starts to pick up pace, which is after the storm, it leaves much to be desired. I was anticipating that it would be like a castaway sort of movie. Although, not without the quality acting of Tom Hanks. The story line takes on almost three different angles or viewpoints of introducing the viewer into the movie. First one is the early life of Pi as a childhood possibly the most boring part of the movie and showing scenes which were relatively irrelevant. The second, phase is the life of Pi during his days with the tiger in middle of an ocean where his survival instincts took over. And, the third phase is the narrator which is Pi providing the story line in the later years of his life. This makes the movie too long to watch. Also, the movie lacked emotion both in the life of Pi as well as the bond between him and the tiger. It was a rather regrettable and forgettable movie in the scene when Pi is seen crying as his tiger companion slowly disintegrates into the forest never to be seen again. It is almost as if the movie displays a total lack of comprehension of life, friendship, loyalty, and animals. The very thing that this movie was about in my view. Perhaps, if this movie had been directed by Steven Spielberg it may have taken a rather more dramatic and emotional twist. Life of Pi almost left me wanting more and yet not getting any in terms of climax. The movie shows more changing of days then the tides and plateaus in story. Also, the movie in my view seemed to lack structure. The most important part was possibly the most unendearing part. I felt a total lack of connection with the movie, it was as if the movie was playing and I was just watching. My anticipation and enjoyment in watching the movie suddenly felt overshadowed by a sense of  disappointment. They could have done so much more with the movie. It felt like watching a low budget movie with potential that was reduced by haphazard and almost meandering like editing cues not to mention being compounded by the lackluster performance from the child actor.

10 September 2012

Artificial Intelligence at University

While I was at university trying to attain my first degree course, I often found myself wondering why the courses did not provide in depth modules to cover the areas of Artificial Intelligence. They also seem to provide very basic details on theory but not enough exposure to the whole field and with any sense of practical projects. By the time, one embarks on a postgraduate or even research work they would be left with so much information to catch up on that it seems strange as to why universities do not cover enough of it during the undergraduate stages. I remember when I was at university my interest in field was well attuned and self managed through background reading, research journals, and conference papers as I could never find enough coverage in the modules. Artificial Intelligence is like eighty percent Computer Science but even that does not cover certain principles like machine learning and natural language processing to any level of detail. I think the best university in UK for any substantial detail in coverage of the whole field is probably Edinburgh University which in my view has got to be a good source of a lot of research for a lot of people. However, it is very difficult for IT professionals to embark on such postgraduate level degree courses while continuing on with their work commitments. A lot of these courses are almost always taught as full time with a research component for discussion on new ways of approaching problems that potentially no one has yet come across or found a way to do. As the years progress Artificial Intelligence is going to become an even more dominant field in wide area of topics and is potentially one of the only real ways of enhancing human kind into the new millennium of technological innovation, finding cures for communicable diseases, and understanding the world around us as well as ourselves. Artificial Intelligence is a broad field encompassing a whole range of topics and not just about robots. One of the most indispensable books and a source of knowledge about Artificial Intelligence for anyone wanting to learn up in some serious level of detail would be Artificial Intelligence A Modern Approach by Peter Norvig and Stuart Russell. The book sets the tone for further research and understanding for any individual impassioned about what the whole field is about and sets ones directions of curiosity for knowledge in motion.

9 September 2012

Integrated Libraries

I wonder if it is a possibility to integrate libraries so one only needs to search a website to realize whether an issue exists and where it might be catalogued. Even allowing people to read materials online. It would also be a better way to manage library card catalogue systems in a consistent way allowing people to use libraries more efficiently and at same time cutting costs for managing such a volume of sources. Maybe, an anticipated way of trying it out locally within a district, then branching it out across the city, country, and even global divides. A whole host of archived information could be possible to navigate for almost anyone across the globe and a massive source of data accessible to all. This sort of service could perhaps be available by advertising and subscription services which the user could potentially pay from the geographical location base. The library network service could then be available 24/7 and managed across time zones. I think privatizing libraries is a pretty good way of making sure libraries are well taken care of financially and with a solid information services strategy in place. Often libraries are focal point of communities where people can visit to borrow books and obtain all sorts of information. Why not allow them to do the same from home or on their ipad, android phone, or even at work. If libraries were more creative in making information accessible there would be more people interested in reading and enhancing their knowledge outside of just what they gather on TV. I think it is also a valuable source for educational purposes especially for universities where students and researchers often have to source out a lot of background information on a particular topic for assignments or research work. It would also be an ideal way to categorize or contextualize the information into a linked data or semantic web structure. Perhaps, one day every library, museum, gallery, journal repository, and national archive system in the world would be connected just like the Internet.

7 September 2012

Francesca Authentic Italian

Nestled on the tips of Baker Street and facing towards Regents Park is Francesca Restaurant that can make almost anyone fall in love with pasta and the salsa mixes to go with it. And, that is a lot to ask for in a city like London where people seem to have a multitude of quality restaurants to choose from. I usually just go for the spaghetti and salsa mixes but one can opt for any of the four pasta types on offer. The place is very open and relaxing in a sort of cafe mixed with cosy free style eating for an Italian palette lover. They offer both options for take away or eating in. Take away is perfect for lunch or carry out dinner both in between work or after, perhaps even on one's way home from work. Although, by night there is no lights at Regents Park. During the day, I have found grabbing a bite from there and strolling through the endlessly breathtaking Regents Park on the weekend quite tempting. Good food and a lush leafy park with a meandering stream of water, what more can one ask for. I would advise anyone to give this restaurant a try as the food is absolutely delicious and quite reasonably priced too.

4 September 2012

The Value of Apple Products

Has one ever wondered how Apple products compare with other products in market. I am sure so many have and yet have been gobsmacked by the sheer ease of use that Apple products bring with them. However, they do bring all that at a cost to the consumer. Apple products are twice more expensive then rivals in market and not usually high on durability or reliability either. So, is one really getting best value for money? In my view Apple products are never really full functional items, they also do not provide the most dependable and reliable use either. Apple products can only be realistically described as a collectors item, a trendy piece of accessory for the trend tracking gadget aficionados. In my view Android products are far higher in functionality and reliability then Apple. Apple spends too much time on making user interfaces look good that most of the functionality, user friendliness, and reliability sort of takes a back seat. I rather have a durable electronic item that does what I need it to do than one that shape shifts its way around in shaky haphazard gasps through a pretty user interface. Nothing is even free on Apple, everything has to be paid for with extortion prices and even further whatever you do download becomes the property of Apple. These sorts of drawbacks should really make anyone wish they had an Android gadget at the palm of their hand. Having used both Linux, Windows, and Mac OS, I even found the Apple OS too slow and not very user friendly. An OS that tries to bridge the divide between Windows and Linux just cannot be very user friendly let alone without its quarks. I once even owned an iPhone with its paper rustling sounds, its haphazard antics of being functional one minute and non-functional the next. Now, owning an Android I feel a lot happier and content. With so many other gadgets out there that are worth pursuing, I think Android ones are not only cooler, less expensive, and the most functional ones in market by a hands down. In comparison to Android and Linux, I think Apple still are lagging quite behind and still haven't truely figured out where a balance really matters.

2 September 2012

Effective Design and Development Comes With Experience

No matter how many books one reads, if one does not have the practical skills to know how to use them they will struggle to apply them in any practical solution to a problem. It seems at times people may ponder at the fact that standing on shoulders of giants can give one the benefit of the doubt and experience, however, in development the only real experience one can achieve is the extensive practical applications one develops and the manner in which they are developed. Applying principles is fine but knowing when to apply them is key. Often times, developers follow the trends in technology and how so many are using them, and then they start to get on the bandwagon without fully grasping the applicability of such technology to their design. Being creative with the tools one develops an application is all fine and keeping them cutting edge and ready for future, but one needs to level of with the sense of whether the complexity is really worth it and whether they really are best tools for the job. One has to take authority figures with a pinch of salt when asking them about their opinion on the applicability of particular technology to an application. Again only the person that is responsible for delivery, has awareness of the business requirements, the cost benefit analysis, and the team experience knows what would be idealistic and realistic towards the expectations for an application development process and design. It seems inspiration and innovation go a long way in allowing one to think outside the box. However, what really needs to be delivered are requirements which are often set in stone to a degree. No one technology will ever be right for every job at hand so careful analysis, consultation, research, and prototyping are often the best ways forward towards a cycle of progressive implementation. It is a lot more important for one to prove to themselves what technologies can be realistically realized and also accepted by the team and business. At times this may call on one to sell the technology to fellow developers or product owners as a viable option. But, in end it is the product owners that have the final say even so far as the time they allow for a convincing case to be presented. Effective design skills do come with experience not only of one developer but of the collective. It is by doing that makes one garner those skills and experience to really see how something works and or doesn't work. A good developer thrives on producing results and delivery consistently through tested code, following the processes, and methods. A great developer takes their role further and embarks on their view as pragmatic team player, knows what they are developing will essentially be used by people, has a sense of persistence, skillful at being able to pinpoint problem-solution approaches, has a massive appetite for learning, knowledge, and constant improvement, and further is able to take the development of an application into a new way of doing things which often times prove to be effective in driving team and business transformation.

Public Services Should Not Be Making Money From Taxpayers

Why is it when one tries to contact any of the UK public services the numbers appear to be not free but chargeable to the taxpayer? Doesn't the taxpayer already pay enough taxes as it is only to be charged more for getting a service from the public services? It seems quite baffling as to the way such public services get away with it. One may be a job seeker and in order to contact Jobcentre the person would have to dial a chargeable number as if to assume the people that are unemployed already have enough money to spend on exorbitant call charges. And, if one complains they would get an arrogant telling of that they in fact are free which couldn't be further from the truth. One contacts the inland revenue to inquire about a tax issue or application status, not only do they keep one on hold for an extreme amount of time, but expect you to call back later on their chargeable number as if to say they just want to make as much money out of the call before letting one through. As a taxpayer, it seems shocking that public services departments are not able to support the taxpayer fully even through services that they are required to provide for which the taxpayer is already paying for in a multitude ways. It seems ghastly to assume public services are even providing a satisfactory service. On contrary, it makes one wonder where their taxes are going, what for, and how they are being utilized. Why does the taxpayer never get any form of accountability? Why are public services degrading and failing to provide a service to taxpayer? And, why are people that work for public services so arrogant when providing a service to taxpayer?

1 September 2012

0800 Charges on Mobile Phones

It is absolutely ridiculous when mobile operators can class it as a business policy to charge customers on free phone numbers. Any number that is free to call on a public pay phone should be free on a mobile. The whole point of free numbers was so these numbers could be an option for people to call for free. If people keep getting charged on such numbers than it makes the whole scheme of free numbers quite laughable really even when they seem to get away with it out of regulation. Then when one does not pay their phone bill the mobile operators disconnect the line because of non-payment and yet do not bother to even resolve your complaints. Can mobile operators really get away with such a lack of service and illegal practices in business policy? In Britain, we have Ofcom, however, how far have they come towards tackling such business behavior? This type of behavior is not only illegal it is outright fraudulent. Also, one does not go to a store and pay money without ever expecting to buy a service or a commodity. These days businesses expect customers to pay up without enquiry on exactly what it is they are paying for and why. I think it is justified and every customers right to ask a service or product provider why they are expected to pay a certain amount if they feel it is unjustified. Even so far, as to say if one is in a contract, perhaps the contract does not cover it in their terms and conditions. There is no where in terms and conditions of any mobile operator where it says contract payments will be billed monthly to customers without any guarantee of service for more than 72 hours. When a mobile operator cannot provide a service for a week or more they should be held accountable for contract to which they are not complying with themselves. Customers are paying for a service, a service they feel will give them reliability and not bill them with hidden charges. No one likes to be taken for a ride. But, often times it seems mobile operators feel the need to try it and do get away with it even while there is regulation in place and class it as their business policy and within their terms and conditions of a binding contract. I would advise anyone to seek advice in making sure terms and conditions covers any particular service issues incurred that makes one question the bills or the amount one feels one has to pay for any given period with a provider. I would have thought ofcom had established the supporting fact that 0800 numbers were free and should not be chargeable by mobile operators. But, nothing seems to be ever set in stone for mobile operators and bending rules at will seems to be their foray of business practices.

26 August 2012

How .Net Is Losing Ground

The age of technologies being built using .Net is fast coming to an end. People are shifting away from Microsoft and towards more Google, Oracle, Apple, and Open Source technologies. People are getting tired of the drudge effect that comes with Microsoft and "this only works on windows" type of conundrums. As Microsoft tries to re-brand itself one cannot help but wonder that out of the trenches Google has mustered enough competitive advantage in the web space that even Microsoft is struggling to compete. Take for example, their new logo with the primary colors, it is as if they are trying to marry themselves as a new Google enterprise and yet at same time letting every one know that Microsoft is now substandard. Microsoft has always struggled with developing web applications. They developed .Net to compete against Java. And, yet Open Source for so many is the new trend and answer to so many questions. Even though, Mono seems to hold a lot more promise than .Net for the future. There are other new technologies now in market that polyglot programming is becoming the new norm and the fact that virtual machines need to support not just one language but many. Individuals, start-ups and corporations alike do not want to be stuck in a rut and want languages, tools, and platforms that are vendor neutral, provide for open choice of compatibilities, and future for growth and change. Microsoft technologies unfortunately are designed for profit margins and not so much for business and application transformations. It seems only likely that Microsoft will trend towards buying more technology companies to compete against Google and yet still struggle to produce products and services that can meet the changing demands of the marketplace. As yet, the Windows platform is slowly receding in popularity from generational releases while such platforms as the Apple OS, Linux, and Android are gaining far greater momentum. Windows is slowly moving towards extinction and the .Net a past over hyped platform. Even in an era of cloud computing the web services is not the domain of Microsoft technologies that have always worked with the analogy of a singularity of a desktop. Now the landscape is changing and desktops, mobile, handhelds, laptops are all becoming the vision of Sun Microsystems who once envisioned the network is the computer. Everything is connected through a global network. In a new wave where licenses and security become even more tricky to implement, monitor, and control. Microsoft now faces new challenges and frontiers in an area for which they were never very good at providing solutions. As individual and business needs grow and change so do the technologies that are required to provide the solutions to such changes. People these days have complex tastes and this is bound to get even more complex as life takes on new advances from cloud computing to the true ubiquitous spectrum of computing. In all fairness, can Microsoft really hold its ground in such a sheer volume of challenges far away from the isolated walls of a desktop? What one can do on .Net, one can do better on Java and the multitude of domain languages that can be constrained within a singular JVM.

18 August 2012

The Games of 2012

Now that the Olympics are over and the Paralympics soon to begin, it seems like almost sad such magnanimous reunion of all athletes combining and visiting London from all walks of life ending in unison. I wondered why the world could not be like that every day. I remembered the song by U2 "where the streets have no name" and imagined if only such a life really did exist. But, then there would be no nations and no need for nations competing against each other. It was essentially the Greeks that invented such Olympic games and grew out of the gruesome and relentless wars of time. Another four years wait till we see another Olympics event. Some things are just so complex in life in intricate balance in the world that it almost makes it inexplicable to explain why things happen the way they do. Why there is always end and a beginning? Why people just can't live together? Why the Euro crisis had to occur? Why do nations even exist? Do we really need to be part of a nation to belong somewhere? Does cultures and traditions hold any boundaries? Also, why is it that some athletes take part in both Olympics and Paralympics? Do they necessarily put other athletes at a disadvantage? If people can take part in both then surely they should only be allowed to take part in the Olympics. After all, Paralympics is for those people that are unable to compete at same level on the Olympics circuit. Moreover, as the Paralympics take their time to begin let us hope it shapes and motivates more people to support the events and the need for sports in all our lives as not only an entertainment value but a true glory in the spirit of achievement, hard work, the relentless pursuit of being the best at something that takes one forward in life both mentally and physically, extending and growing the sense of power in self-determination and belief.

13 August 2012

Olympics Closing Ceremony

Perhaps, the most boring closing ceremony yet. It felt like being sunk deep into a time warp. Like watching a staple of British performers most of which were so old that they sounded like they had almost forgotten how to sing their own songs. For me pressing to cartoon network on my remote was very tempting almost by virtue of the minutes that ticked by. In so many ways, and not just one, the ceremony felt like watching a retirees reunion in a big dome where all things sounded out of place even the musical notes and the harmonics in their vocals. I was aghast with the way they flamboyantly spent the taxpayers money only to provide not only a mediocre opening but also a closing ceremony. As yet, I don't feel I want to remember most of the closing ceremony. And, have to admit the Brazilian glimpse of 2016 certainly seemed more of a triumph then the whole British orchestration which just gave a new dimension of boredom that only places like the Tate Art Gallery could approve of as artistic. British are known to criticize everyone apart from themselves and yet here they left behind a very unmemorable legacy with a huge expense for the taxpayer that probably the economy will not recover from for a fair few years to come. However, some of the events were pretty well interesting to watch as Team GB won the gold. They really did outdid themselves even when it came to cheating their way for the Gold in the cycling circuit. However, the most perplexing notion for me during the Olympics was when I noticed the British national anthem play for the Team GB athletes. What were they feeling inside? Were they feeling patriotic for the country or for the queen? Doesn't it make one wonder a national anthem where almost every line has the word queen in it. Where is notion of democracy and the patriotism for the country? Does the British army fight for the queen or the country? Are those medals being won with the spirit of Great Britain or with the spirit of the queen in their hearts? If I was on that podium listening to the national anthem play I would be a bit confused. I got the blue, red, and white stripes on only to be relegated. Don't really know how I would feel about that. Perhaps, the British national anthem needs to change so it represents the country and the people of a great nation a bit similar to the American national anthem. I suppose only time will tell. But, then as things change the more they end up staying the same. Do people in Britain really have a voice? Was the Olympics really the peoples' games this year? Who really knows other then the so many corporations that benefited at the occasion. But, one thing is for sure, Olympics do really bring out a sense of collective solidarity and the sense of how nations can really get along together even through the motions of sports.

2 August 2012

Foodie Bits

A really awesome website reviewing top listed foods from London, UK is at Young and Foodish which produces top ten lists of best take away type of foods. For, some like myself, the typical cheap fast foods like McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Burger King just won't do. They apply more additives to their food then providing a quality food to eat. Isn't it all about eating well but also for the price. The cheap fast foods in my opinion produce food that lacks quality and is not even worth the price tag that they try to attach. However, one place being an exception where all things stop short with bang and that is Nandos. The peri peri chicken just makes the mouth water. Has anyone ever said anything bad about Nandos? Another, exception being M&S Food Market. They also do the best food and I think for the most part they are reasonably priced. However, I have found recently they have been reducing their quality standards which has been not at par to the price tags. Selfridges is another nice place packed full of different food types from all over the region, one would be hard pressed not to find something to quench the appetite. There so many new places opening up around London and so many closing down at same time, that it makes it quite a competitive environment to pick and choose what to eat. Even kebab shops make a nice meal if one is careful as to where they are buying it from and to take careful view of their health and safety standards when preparing their meals. A really good place to eat turkish is Best Mangal. This place is absolutely delectible for kebbabs and all things grilled. Even the aroma is of fresh food being cooked in a manner that you know has been reasonably to a degree well cared for. This place has been in business for so long and going strong for ages that they even opened a new branch to accommodate the amount of customers they were receiving on any given day. I think it is quite valuable to visit places where you can watch for a little while how they are with customers and how they attend to health and safety when preparing the relevant ordered meals. Other then that it is all down to the taste. Some times even cheap food tastes good. But then can anyone say Tescos Value chicken is any good to write home about. Possibly, the only time I have seen anyone eat Tesco Value meals are when they are at University, otherwise, its one of the first things everyone skips . In my view, the only really good grocery stores are Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, and M&S. And, for package shopping stores like Lidl and Iceland work a treat. Pound stores can be quite a bargain but can one really trust everything that is being sold for one price.

29 July 2012

Over Engineering Is Killing Creative Software

Is Agile good? Is it creating over emphasis on code quality and testing? Are they necessary evil or a balance needs to be struck somewhere? In a lot of teams TDD (Test Driven Development) and the transgression to BDD (Behavior Driven Development) has become a dominate way of development methodologies. But, are they really the only way? Should they really be what determines whether code meets the requirements? Shouldn't it be all about making sure you know your requirements and domain model first before you test? I feel pragmatism is really the best policy towards development. Agile approaches at times impinge on the flexibility that is so well required for creativity and innovation within applications development. Agile it seems has become a major factor in getting things out quickly where documentation is left behind and testing has become more of a factor. At times, the whole process just reeks in bugs. One can never be fully assured that no issues will arise once the code is released into production no matter how much unit, functional, integration, load, acceptance, continuous testing is done during the development, test, and stage phases. In continuous delivery perhaps one would not even require so many phases further reducing testing stage cycles but still inducing the risk of bug creep. As a person from a Computer Science background, I feel Software Engineering should not be what drives project development but what inspires better coding standards. In end, Software Engineering is a sub-field that empowers Computer Science providing the necessary skills towards developing in the large. However, in the ever changing landscape of the web and the increasing data processing requirements it is really the principles of Computer Science that pave the way towards extending and envisioning what could not be possible before. 

It feels digressing everything solely on grounds of methods-driven development expounded from Software Engineering makes the process a very uninteresting and tedious at times. People who study Computer Science by the very nature are interested in solving problems, finding algorithms that could do things better, or making solutions happen naturally that most people could not conceive of before. In process, Computer Science in all its endeavors allows one to build on the research of giants to further the potential of computers and systems as a whole. Software Engineering delivers processes, at times, more processes than is necessary and arching over Computer Science like a god father. There is a difference in the way a Software Engineer thinks about a problem and how a Software Developer thinks about a problem. There is also a difference in the way they go about finding a solution. The underlining difference arises from their background whether it be in Computer Science or Software Engineering. Through past experiences I have found that  at times, teams with a lot of people with Software Engineering backgrounds tend to focus more on processes whether they be testing, management, code release and what have you. Whereas, people in development teams coming from Computer Science background seem to approach the development from a holistic approach defined either by the optimization of an algorithm to pragmatic use of software tools. It is here where creativity is nourished and where innovation reeks interesting outcomes. Artificial Intelligence is a sub-field of Computer Science that over the years has become a major contributing factor to the Intelligent Web per se and to the derivation of information from the huge amount of data for which the term 'Big Data' has become synonymous.

I feel the way to go with development of projects is a pragmatic one. Keeping a balance on level of testing, project management, and the maintenance of code quality. Especially, against time pressures, many project teams can not support so much over engineering approaches to exist unless forced upon by architects at times. It seems only natural that people move further a field from Agile to more lean and second method phases beyond just the use of TDD or BDD. Flexibility is important and clearly from the development trend it can be seen that the old Waterfall cycle was a major contributing factor to movement away and towards developing better ways of approaching projects. However, one cannot always apply TDD to everything, and Agile at times has problems making sure teams maintain sufficient documentation. Also, developments too inclined to use Agile methods and tools end up leaving behind the customer in the process - pretty much losing the gist of what Agile was all about, test first and often, and deliver so the customer is always in the loop of work progress and acceptance. Open source frameworks and tools have allowed a lot flexibility for code reuse and rapid development of user cases in project delivery cycles. The trend is likely to emerge in more open source projects and support of such projects by industry. Even to factor in that so many open source frameworks and tools have only just been developed for development which makes it even more possible for teams to develop on time and check for correctness. And, above all else it has provided a way to reuse other peoples' code without reinventing the wheel of creativity - building better and productive code that matters. 

Agile in all its glory is a nice approach with a set of methods whether they be Scrum, TDD, or BDD are good to have in the mind set. However, use of them should be approached from what is the best way to go about a problem. Just like the use of design patterns, not all can be applied to all problems, all the time. Creativity and innovation is what makes even such methods and tools possible. So, killing the mind set with only accepting one way of doing something is like coming in the way of progress. Open source is all about freedom to create and collaborate. A balance in process-driven attrition and freedom to innovate, create and empower development is the best policy.

27 July 2012

The Wonderful Fish Called Endlers

Endlers are one of the most liveliest tropical fish in the aquarist domain. They cultivate like mad and their over excited exuberance in the aquarium makes for an immense landscaping effect for the home. They require very little care and are extremely sociable. After a few feeding rituals they can quickly acclimate to such times and will congregate towards the individual. One can trace a finger up and down the tank surface and the endler will equally follow. They can be kept in a species only tank and will generally adapt to most small to large high to low tech environments. Generally, they have a preference for bog wood and a well planted tank with other peaceful individuals. It is always recommended to not keep endlers with guppies or any other type of livebearer and even predatory fish. This is because Guppies and Endlers can often interbreed which is not favorable. A livebearer, incidentally, is a type of fish that retains most of the eggs and tends to give birth to live  fry. Endlers appear in variety of types in the aquarist trade. However, in wild habitat they may be rarely seen. The males are often smaller in size measuring to about 1.5 inches with mixture of colors. The females are often larger measuring to about 2.5 inches and generally more dull in color. Keeping females and endlers in same tank over time can lead to a pretty rapid cultivation of a growing community. One of the major drawbacks to keeping endlers is that they have a very short lifespan. Females often can die of over stimulation from males. Therefore, it is preferable to keep them in a ratio of two females to every male. In general, a male and female endlers could live to a maximum of 2 years. As is often the case, the lifespan of a fish is dictated by the size of the tank, the food diet, and the quality of filtering tank water as well as the environment. Feeding them once a day or even every other day is sufficient. Otherwise, a feeding twice daily with proportionately less food will also suffice. They usually require a variety of food supplements from flakes, to frozen and even live. As they are omnivores, a rich vegetable and sprinkling of protein diet will do. If one starts to over feed them with a protein diet they do tend to become more edgy and aggressive in the tank even going so far as to try eating their own fry or nipping at fins of other fish. In wild, they do tend to live more on algae and plankton.

Types of food:
Quality and variety of foods given is important to fish to keep them continuously healthy and also is economical as most packages can last to up to a year which is less expensive then having to keep buying new fish. 
  • Sera GVG Mix (crushed)
  • Sera Mixpur (crushed)
  • Sera Artemia Brine Shrimp (Freeze Dried)
  • Sera Flora (crushed)
  • Sera Vipan Tropical Flakes (crushed)
  • Sera Plankton (size depending on amount of fish in tank)
  • Sera Daphnia (Freeze Dried)
  • Hikari Tropical Algae Wafers (size depending on amount of fish in tank)
  • Cyclops
  • JBL Spirulina Flakes (crushed)
  • JBL Guppy Flakes (crushed)
*Try to avoid feeding them any diets containing tubifex worms as they tend to be too heavy on their digestion.

One can also feed them live proteins instead of freeze dried. However, live feeds do come at a risk and extra maintenance. Over indulgence is bad for fish which can start to dissipate their livers and can also lead to constipation and other effects. It is often advisable to side on less rather than more when feeding.

A Daily Diet:
Generally, GVG Mix with Flora can work on a daily basis giving a high iodine support. Freeze dried and live bits can be kept as a variety in a differentially smaller amounts. Most foods will be too big for them to eat so crushing the food not only makes it more efficient but also more palatable. Try to avoid excessive hand contact with fish food to minimize any chance of contamination and to maintain freshness keep the food sealed in the original package. Also, best to wash hands before and after feeding. 

Minimum Tank Sizes:
A 30-40L Tank is usually sufficient for them. However, larger tanks are usually advisable as they can reproduce every 30 days.

Plants are often a good edition to the tank. They really like green leafy ones for plenty of hiding, providing spaces, and navigation. Among some of their favourites are Anubias Barti, Anubias Nana, Water Wisteria, Java Moss, Java Fern, and a variety of small carpet foreground plants. A variety of scattered bog wood and plants not only provide for plenty of hiding places for females but also add interesting dynamic elements to the tank. They also tend to prefer a bit of dissolved aquarium salt in tank as well as regulated water temperature of between 24-28 degrees Celsius. With an active filter and dechlorinater, this is sufficient usually for a low tech tank. But to go further, regulated CO2 may also be needed. Endlers also enjoy aeration bubbles. Fish stress very easily and when they do they become more susceptible to diseases. Endlers like livebearers can have a tendency of constipating themselves with food. Pea supplements, vegetable matter, and even aquarium salt can cure a lot of the ailments without requiring significant levels of quarantine. When a fish becomes infected it is best to quarantine and to provide appropriate treatment. Do not over populate the tank. A specific tank size can only hold so much water, and that water over time can only hold so much oxygen. More fish one has in a tank the more the stress on the filter, the more food they eat, the more mess they produce, and more oxygen is consumed which all equals to more water changes and a higher maintenance. Conversely, excessive amount of oxygen can also cause fish to inhibit bubbles around the gills and gasp more frequently above the surface. This can be caused by having a lot of aeration and plants in the tank while feeding. At times they may also show fungi on their skin or fins, this is often down to stress or as a result of touching against gravel, or containing objects in the aquarium. To avoid this one should frequently conduct water tests, do once or twice a week water changes of 20%, periodically cleanse the gravel and surrounding surfaces, and clean filter. Do not over clean as this will reduce the good bacteria in the tank. At times adding just a bit of aquarium salt can do the trick or just not feeding them for a whole day can sort the issue out. Always treat the introduction of external chemicals and quarantine as the last resort unless the natural options do not sort the issue out themselves. It is always best to use common sense and not to keep more fish then the tank can accommodate i.e. do not keep 30 endlers in a 30L tank. Being a responsible aquarist and knowing one is looking after a living thing should be kept in mind.

Where to get them?
In London (UK), some good stores to get pure endlers are Tropicals and Marines or Design Aquatics. Otherwise, they can also be obtained online via delivery but that is not a recommended option. When buying one should usually tend to go for the fish that appears to be the most active and healthy as well as less aggressive. Also, as they have a short lifespan it is also advisable to seek the ones with more affluent color formations as older endlers tend to recede into darker and more faded coloring. In stores one may also notice a variety of different types of endlers. Snakeskins are not pure endlers they are a hybrid between guppy and endler. Attached below are a couple of links for further reference. Mix breeds may not usually share the same characteristics of an endler. One should not keep pure endlers with hybrids or guppies. A lot of this is because the pure endler stock is very few and far between in numbers both in the aquarist trade as well as in wild. Hybridizing can often lead to fish being also more susceptible to diseases as it is now often the case with platies.

male endler

male endler display often made towards a female

female endler

snakeskin (hybrids)

What Do People See in Facebook

Why do people visit Facebook? What is the allure of Facebook? I have never felt the need to even update my profile on that site. It leaves me quite baffled as to why people seem to be so hooked to the Facebook process. It is as if people feel almost mandated and duty bound to update everything even the little mundanes of life as accounts on their profile for all to see. So, many people on there all connecting to everyone else in a social graph of people some of which never have met, don't know each other and there is bound to be heaps of strangers sitting on ones site who they never even talk to and yet they are there to extend the tally of so called friends on the list. Is the site only for the shallow? Why do people have to connect only by the face? How valuable is a face on a Facebook? It is one of those websites that becomes a hit from sheer popularity and trends developed from people passing their interest to others. I have never felt hooked to the site. In recent, times there has been a lot of change to the site with updates to security, unusual forums being developed, as well as new ad campaigns. Almost on a regular basis there seems to be some sort of update that can potentially compromise a users personal details. Are social networking sites putting people at risk from their personal details being open and leaked. Why does one feel the need to let everyone know about who they are, what they are up to, and everything that is going on in their daily affairs? Are places like Facebook really a way to socially connect in the new century or are they merely making people more anti-social and less physically close for communication? Places like Facebook also become a playground for the vulnerable and in so making people so much more mentally effected by actions of others. The drawbacks to Facebook are so much that it seems very little reason that one should feel the need to use it. Also, social networking sites are more a trend that fades away after a time and keeping the interest of the user without creating too many functional changes at once can be quite a tricky affair. In recent times, this has often been the downfall of Facebook and why so many have decided to move on.  Only time will tell what the future holds for Facebook.

Best for Steaks in London

London is a hot spot for steaks and with so many different ways of cooking them it is no wonder the culinary skills that are on display. As rains are almost a regular thing in London and winters relatively longer then summer, a steak or a roast meal becomes a forte of choice for many. In a big city steaks are in well demand. And, they are often not cheap. Some would rather just make their own homemade option. It is a choice that cannot really be argued with other than to enamor ones taste buds by seeking out other textures in food. Most of the really good steak places in London seem to be situated in the West End or the City of London. Perhaps, this is down to the variety and appeal of such customers that attracts them to steaks. I have listed below some fine restaurants, not in any order, and a way of articulating some top steak outings.

If Squash Was in The Olympics

Not all Olympics sports appear to be fashionably popular across the world. So, why are some sports events selected for Olympics and some aren't. Is Olympics Games meant to only showcase sports that  can be viewed by a massive audience? What are the limitations behind their selectivity process? Some events cannot even realistically be classed as sports because they provide for no real mental or physical exertion. Take for example, archery and shooting, in what form do they provide for a mental and physical exertion? They more like darts and snooker, a bit like what I would call pub games, standing in one place and trying to find something else to do other then watching football on TV or talking to girls while still making sure one is is close to his/her pint. Even weightlifting, what is so sporty about the whole idea of making oneself more muscular and able to lift weights. For me gym, is not exactly like sports. It is something one does as part of preparation for sports to get in shape so to speak. Even events like BMX, they not really qualified to be in Olympics category. BMX just like skateboarding has always been more of a social sport, teenagers getting together to find something to do between home and school to avoid getting into trouble. I often wonder why Squash is not part of the Olympics. Squash is a fast sport, makes you run, stretch, mentally plan shots, and it also hurts really bad when one gets hit by the ball from an opponent at back. It is one of the very few games that you can play to build your stamina, get in shape, and burn heaps and heaps of calories. It is also one of the best games to keep your heart in shape and yet exerts a lot of effort across your legs and back and arms. Almost every part of the body gets used even the brain. Squash is a mix between racquetball and tennis. Squash also one of the very few sports that can be played in almost any poor country in world with even makeshift walls. As all you really need is four walls and a tin at the lower end of the front wall. Also, rubber is available almost every where in form of reusable condoms and tires, going further even through hides from farming animals. Is it any wonder why some of the very best, Squash players appear to have an Asian background. Perhaps, the western world does not seem to appreciate the sport as much as the Asian subcontinent. Or, perhaps, it is down to their dominance. Further, it could all be just to do with fact that the sport has a very limited view for a spectator to watch making it difficult to sell tickets. Nevertheless, I feel a sport in Olympics should really be one that not only stretches an athlete mentally but as well as physically. And, Squash excel in both areas. Squash is even a non-sexist sport in that respect making it equally accessible for both men and women. It is quite surprising that women can take up swimming but they don't bother to take so much as a chance to explore Squash. I would have thought if a woman did her swimming every week and squash every other day of the week, then  there would be no need for diets. In fact, most active Squash players prefer to attend the gym first, play Squash then swim or a similar combination. Even adding a run, jog, or cycling there would not be unthinkable. Possibly, be one of the most healthy ways of keeping fit. I am hoping one day Squash will qualify for the Olympics. The sport could use more awareness and more people willing to take it up as an active sporting and social activity. It is surprising how Tennis seems to be so much more popular then Squash. Even though, someone who plays Squash can easily increase their game play in Tennis. However, the same does not hold the other way. It is really only for time to tell when such an awesome sporting activity like Squash will truly find its place in the Olympics.

Cyclists of London

Walking on the streets of London the major obstacle in your way is almost always the cyclists. Most cyclists in London need to attend a course on road rules and furthermore the common sense understanding that they really should be using brake when they need to. It is not the pedestrians job to be watching out for a cyclist. It is really the job of a cyclist to stop and give way to a pedestrian instead. In London, it is almost always the pedestrians right of way over everyone else. But, it is almost always a cyclist that seems to think it is ok to hijack a pedestrian's walkway, to not bother braking while crossing the street, to not even brake when turning, to not stopping at a traffic light while a pedestrian is crossing. Once a cyclist gets on their bicycle it is not stopping them, it is as if they forget they even have a brake option. They seem to speed along busy roads getting in way of pedestrians, often even asking pedestrians to get out of their way. The amount of reckless cyclists has led to many accidents in streets of London. However, whenever they are caught in a collision with a motor vehicle they often also play the blame card. They seem to find it ok to cut corners without following road rules or the right of way. They basically follow the rules of road rage once on their bike. In London they even have separate lanes for cyclists now. They even have a cycle hire scheme and so do most companies provide their own schemes for employees. The amount of cyclists in London has grown steadily but the common sense for most of them lags behind.