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.