April 2008

Monthly Archive

Let’s choose a Mayor

Posted by Yannis Lionis on 25 Apr 2008 | Tagged as: General

Time to vote for Mayor of London next Thursday and I’ve just got a little booklet in the mail explaining how to vote and listing the 9 candidates for the position.

And what a riveting read it is. After going through the entries from Ken, Boris and Brian (all mostly focusing on crime, housing and transport - in that order), the rest of the entries start to diverge enormously:

  • There is the Green Party with an environmentally focused strategy. As important as the issue of the environment is, that can’t be the single axis around which every other problem and policy revolves.
  • The Left List party’s points to a better London read like a comedy sketch. They include bringing the troops back from Iraq and ending the war there, as well as taxing the wealthy to close the rich-poor gap. I didn’t realise the Mayor of London had such authority - is the government taking the next 4 years off? 
  • The Christian Choice bullet points of priorities are just too limited to be realistic. Promoting marriage, stopping the “mega-mosque” at West Ham and opposing abortions is not really all that one would expect the Mayor to be worrying about.
  • The Independence Party say “No to mass immigration, No to the Lisbon Treaty/European Constitution, No to the European Union”. No comment.
  • But it gets worse. The British National Party get more specific: “House British People first - it’s only fair”. “Stop immigration”. “British jobs for British workers”. Well, they’ve got my vote. Seriously, do these people realise how many immigrants with a right to vote in the elections for Mayor live in London?
  • Ah, but apparently the BNP were way too liberal and inclusive for some. Enter the English Democrats. “Putting England first”. I think I’ll hold out for the “London and the South-East” party, just to narrow things down a bit more.

Credibility of the candidates pretty much plummets half way through the list. Disappointing, albeit entertaining.

And my favourite quote from the entire booklet (taken from the English Democrats page): “[England is a land] that gave the world the English language, Democracy, the Mother of Parliaments and the Magna Carta”. :-) Priceless.

Startup #1: andUnite

Posted by Yannis Lionis on 16 Apr 2008 | Tagged as: Internet

This is the first entry in a series of reviews of startups that were present at the Next Web 2008 conference.

andUnite is about searching while socialising. The idea is that you do your internet searches through them (they delegate to the search provider of your choice) and your searches get logged to your profile. You can then share these searches with your friends, or everyone (there’s obviously an appropriate permissions model around that).I can immediately see some benefits to this:

  • The social aspect is similar to Twitter, but instead of “What are you doing now” it’s “What are you searching for now”
  • The practical aspect is that you can find out about interesting things from your friends searches
  • Also, you can find what you’re looking for by observing other people’s search strings. I often have to use many permutations of search strin got discover what I’m after, and seeing that a coleague searched for “weird rails activerecord issue” a few days ago can speed up my searches in more than one ways

A drawback is obviously that I may forget to label a search that I intend to be private as such and people find out things I don’t want them to. Another more subtle drawback is that I’m quite used to my Google toolbar whcih gives me plenty of added goodies (suggesting what I may want to be searching for, highlightinh and searching through my search results etc.) and I’m not feeling quite ready to give it up in favour of the IE search bar with andUnite configured as the search provider.

However, I can see how this could be very useful, especially if they add cool things like results rating (if I could see that the people who searched tha exact same search strings I am, found the third link down the most useful one, rather than the one on the top, I would really like that).

Definitely on to keep an eye on.

Python exercise #1

Posted by Yannis Lionis on 16 Apr 2008 | Tagged as: Software

As part of a Python focus group started at work, we had the following exercise - as the first of many - set to us. The problem is the wll known fizz buzz one:

Write a program that processes a list of numbers from 1 to 100. For each number, if the number is a multiple of 3, print “FIZZ”; if the number is a multiple of 5, print “BANG”; otherwise, print the number. You are *NOT* allowed to use any *IF/ELSE* statements in your code. You can use the list-accessing ternary operator hack, but whilst I’ll accept your homework if you do, you’ll miss out on the prize (alcoholic), which goes to the most concise code (not including whitespace).

Kerry and Nigel have already posted their solutions, which I’m afraid are much more concise than mine - I was mostly happy to find a way to do it without any conditional logic (including an or) and too lazy to look further. So here’s mine:

def fizzbang():
 # Numbers from 1 to 100
 numbers = range(1,101)
# 3,6,9,...,99
 multiples_of_3 = range(3,101,3)
 # 5,10,15,...,95,100
 multiples_of_5 = range(5,101,5)
 # 15,30,45,60,75,90
 multiples_of_3_and_5 = range(15,101,15)
# Replace all muliples of 3 with FIZZ
 for i in multiples_of_3:
  numbers[i-1] = "FIZZ"

# Replace all muliples of 5 with BANG
 for j in multiples_of_5:
  numbers[j-1] = "BANG"

# Replace all muliples of both 3 and 5 with FIZZ BANG
 for k in multiples_of_3_and_5:
  numbers[k-1] = "FIZZ BANG"

for x in numbers:
  print x

Go on, poke some holes in it.

The Next Web

Posted by Yannis Lionis on 15 Apr 2008 | Tagged as: Internet

On 3-4 April I was at the Next Web 2008 conference in Amsterdam. This is a long overdue (owing to my blog being down) but brief write-up of my overall impressions.

The conference was satisfyingly wacky. It’s all about new web startups presenting their stuff and conversations on what’s coming up on the web, upcoming trends, the new Google or Facebook etc. It’s a good place to find out about cool new startups, but also to observe the areas that attract the most innovation.

In the following days I’ll write up my comments on the most interesting of the startups, but here are some of the other highlights:

  • Robert Scoble talking about some interesting differences between software experiences of yesterday and today. Signing up on Twitter or Facebook and having no friends makes for a much different experience than having thousand (as he does). In the old days, a software installed on your computer always offered the same experience.
  • Chris Saad speaking on Data Portability - very relevant in a room full of new web startups and very interesting.
  • Nova Spivack talking about the semantic web - computers actually understanding the web. Probably slightly dumbed down for our benefit, but very informative session.
  • Adeo Ressi speaking on how to get funded by VCs. A good guide on how to “get funded for your dream”.
  • A brilliant episode by Tegenlicht called ‘The Truth According to Wikipedia‘. It explored the nature and status of Wikipedia as the source of all truth on the internet in contrast with the fact that it’s maintained by a community of users rather than experts as a printed encyclopedia is. I won’t side with one side or the other here, but it was a very thought provoking video.

Overall I would say that it was a very worthwhile two days, held in a lovely city. I’m glad I was there.

Blog back up

Posted by Yannis Lionis on 15 Apr 2008 | Tagged as: Internet

Finally! Apparently I was caught between a server going down at the same time when I was due to pay my subscription for another year of hosting (this is with Tophost, essentially the same company I got this domain from; don’t click that link unless you’re prepared to come face to face with website that’s all greek to you). The server was brought back up, but did not know that I’d paid my dues and dutifully deactivated my account. It took a week or two to get my account reactivated.

As an aside, the emails exchanged with their sales support had the ticket information at the bottom, right where I could spot the following:

Priority: Low

Low! A week and a bit of downtime, due to a combination of server and billing issues, low! I think not!

On the other hand, a hosted managed Linux Plesk environment (no ssh access though) for €50 per year, I can hardly complain, can I?