Software upgrade knocks out UK govt. network

It seems that a routine software upgrade knocked out 80% of the UK govt. PC’s at the Dept. for Work and Pensions. Though the article mentions Microsoft and EDS, it does not mention the real reason for the issue, just says that “Staff at the DWP found that they were unable to use their desktop computer after a number of technical glitches knocked out 80,000 of the department’s 100,000 terminals.

Update: The Independent reports that is was only 40,000 machines and says the experts are still baffled as to the real issue. I personally probably trust the Independent more! If you want you can read all the related stories.

Best restaurants in London?

Since, I am new to London, I would like to get your perspective on which are the good restaurants in the London area? What gems do you hold dear to your heart and wish to share so some poppers like me can also enjoy them? Sure, I have checked out the usual suspects, in addition to the ones I know from USA.

Halo2 – bests the original?

I am not a big gamer – I hardly ever play a game, the only one I have finished (without any cheat codes) is Halo and I loved it! After, reading the CNN review on Halo2, I cannot wait for all my stuff to reach here from California and then go and buy this. Have any of you played this? What do you think? Is there someone in London who I can come and meet and see what this looks like?

Data Concurrency and Mobile Applications

As I start working on some stuff, I have been thinking of this. Essentially when you are dealing with mobile devices, by their very nature they are disconnected in nature, and not always on a network (such as desktop or laptop). In multi-user environments, the challenge is how to you keep the data concurrent between the “online” and “offline” version? Typically there are two scenarios either you do optimistic concurrency or pessimistic concurrency. The earlier being a device (rather a client/user), submits both the currents and previous state and then the data is updated only if there have not been any changes since the device last synched. Pessimistic locking is when the application locks all the records the device intents to update – this of course is not a good idea.

But, in real life, neither of these issues are really ideal. How best to deal with situations where e.g. a sales person who is on the road could not (or does not) connect to the network to synch up and the person in the office updates the record? How do you deal with those situations. One solution is to update only the changes fields, and the rest are either rejected or the user needs to manually confirm each change and pick which ones take precedence. This along with the fact that in real life data can be segregated to some extent on a user level would suffice? Another thing to dwell upon, for most Mobile applications (especially disconnected), going the SOA way is what makes more sense. Since each time you sync up or submit something (if its on gprs for example), your client running on the device should just consume the service and really cannot be bothered by any more details than that (more on this on another post soon).

But, still seems quite fragile with lots of areas for failure. What are you thoughts? Is there a better way to do this that would make it more robust?

Essential XML Quick Reference: A Programmer's Reference to XML, XPath, XSLT, XML Schema, SOAP, and More – FREE Download

Addison-Wesley and Developmentor have provided TheServerSide.NET with the entire book of Essential XML Quick Reference for free download. Essential XML Quick Reference is for anyone working with today’s mainstream XML technologies. It was specifically designed to serve as a handy but thorough quick reference that answers the most common XML-related technical questions.It goes beyond the traditional pocket reference design by providing complete coverage of each topic along with plenty of meaningful examples. Each chapter provides a brief introduction, which is followed by the detailed reference information. You can get it from here.

Gmail has pop access (and its old news)

Well this is probably old news, but now GMail allows pop access, not sure if many people will use it or not including me since I like to be able to access my emails anywhere (especially at work) and the searching emails as usual is damn good. If you however do download it to Outlook then I would suggest installing Lookout, atleast your searches in Oulook would be as good as Google (I had an earlier post on it here and here).

MSN Search (Beta) giving Google a run for its money?

Is the new MSN Search (Beta) any better than Google? I still use google as my primary search engine, but have played around a little with this, though not quite seriously to pass any judgement on it (yet), though it certainly seems much better than their previous release. I will try and use it more and post my findings here, till then what do you guys think?

New Skin – any better?

Well as you can tell, I thought of trying out the new skin called Luxinterior Light, earlier I had Luxinterior Dark running. It seems with the days quite dark (and grey) here in London and with darkness coming around 4:30ish in the afternoon, it was perfect time to add some “cheer”. This one though now seems too cheerful to me *grin*. Do you prefer anyone or even care? Does anyone even come here and sit and read all my gibberish…. ?

.NET Framework "Code Coverage" Edition

Adam Nathan writes, about a “special” version of the .NET Framework 2.0 (Beta 1), which if you use to run your managed code, then gives Microsoft feedback on what portions of the .NET Framework and Win32 api you use and are dependent on. The idea is to help MS maintain backward compatibility as newer versions of the framework ship and also help them prioritise their things to do.

You cannot install this version of the framework along with the “normal” version of the .NET Framework 2.0. MS also recommends reformatting (hmmm interesting), your machine after you are done with this instead of just uninstalling it.

Before you do anything with this, I would suggest to check out the documentation. If you are upto it, then you can download this. Below is an excerpt from their site:

By opting in, Microsoft provides you an instrumented version of the .NET Framework containing a tool that collects the code usage information behind the scenes. All you have to do is exercise your code under the watch of this tool, then save and send the data.

By participating and providing an email address, Microsoft may contact you when later versions of the .NET Framework are released with information about code changes that are likely to impact your applications/components. Microsoft can also prioritise testing, compatibility efforts, and feature planning based on areas of the product that are heavily used by customers such as you.

The .NET Framework Code Coverage Edition is to be used for testing purposes only. It should not be used in a production environment. After installing it and collecting/uploading your data according to these instructions, you should uninstall it.

If you are not interested in participating in this special program, you should install the regular .NET Framework redistributable package from link below instead. The .NET Framework Code Coverage Edition runs slower and consumes more memory due to the overhead of the data collection.

Is this a load of bow-loany (pun intended)?

Extremetech has an article evaluating the US release of Bow-Lingual which aims to translate “dog” to “English”, i.e. converting simple dog barks to phrases. There is a wireless mic that hooks up to the dog’s collar and a unit that you hold to see the result. When the dog barks or whines, the recording device is triggered which then records raw, unfiltered sound for the next three seconds. After recording, the sample is segmented into four equal length audio components, each coming in around .75 seconds in length, each of which is broken down into voice prints and matched again a “database of voice prints”.

The Bow-Lingual then attempts to match this short segment against a voice print in the database. If the system finds a match, the bark is interpreted into one of six emotional categories: Happy, Sad, On-Guard, Frustrated, Assertive and Needy. Apparently your complex dog is only capable of six emotions. If there’s no match, then the unit fails by displaying a sideways-tilting dog head. Oddly, the emotion indicated by that dog posture – questioning – isn’t one of the identifiable categories.

I have of course not used this (don’t have dog or the money to waste on this), but to me this seems just a load of baloney! If someone has used this out there, what do they think?

Change of scenery

Well, its been a few long days since I posted anything and now I am back – though slowly. The reason I was offline (not literally – thankfully) was because I was moving – not only cities, but companies and countries too! I was in lovely, beautiful, amazing San Francisco Bay Area and now am in the exciting London (where I have had the sun for the last three days and that might be a new record). I quit my previous company (Capgemini) and joined a new one (Avanade) and for now going back to my roots of product development.

So what have I been upto the last few weeks? Other than at work full time, resigning from my previous company, finding movers for all the luggage, trying to figure out the whole customs, duty, tax, etc thing. Handing over my responsibilities at Capgemini, doing all the paperwork needed, canceling/closing all services and utilities, trying to figure out the cost of living in another country, getting the legal paperwork done (visas, workpermits, etc), finding out tickets for the move, trying to sell off stuff we don’t need, trying to buy stuff I would need and which are cheaper in the US when compared to UK (mostly computer related stuff), packing some of the stuff (most of the furniture, the movers are going to do), trying to find out how to move a car from the US to UK (you have no idea what it entails – I will be blogging on that too).

Once I got all that sorted out kind of (among a million fights with my lovely wife Meenakshi, honey, they were all my fault – not yours,  phew, thats taken care of), and got my butt in the UK I had to go through the headaches of getting setup here. Am in the process of opening bank accounts (hopefully that would be open by tomorrow – keeping fingers crossed). My new company has a relationship with this bank and because of which they will only take a week for opening a bank account, otherwise it would have taken 2-3 weeks! Can you believe that? Not to mention the amount of headache they gave me going back and forth on changing the reference letters, or this is missing or this needs to be changed or this is addressed to “Whomsoever it may concern” and not the specific bank. Jeeez, talk about being stuck up – after all it is my money I am giving them!

Well I have completed one week on ground and gone through the new hire orientation and hopefully will get everything settled down soon – till then onto more research for which phone companies to sign up for, which broadband, etc. If this house things goes through (which is a similar story to the Bank Account), then I can stop talking to Real Estate guys and seeing places and just being fed up and get on with life!

I would certainly miss the bay area – already do some aspects – getting my weekend coffee at Peets, meeting up with friends, enjoying the weather (which I never did since I was out at work), but overall its been a great place for me – which has had many important things of my life – where my career blossomed (so to speak), where I got married to lovely Meenakshi (she can be reading this, so gotta be nice ;)), where I met amazing people and mentors, where I loved working, the outdoors, learned so much about life, myself, politics, computers, everything. I will always have a special place in my heard of San Francisco Bay Area and I am sure there would be things that would keep pulling me back to the west coast for one reason or an another.

But, now is the time for change and new exciting adventures – in spite of me bitching so much I am really enjoying myself and having loads of fun! So, stay tuned and there would be more to come from London.