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Sunday, 24 April 2016

Collaborative systems

A collaboration system is, at its most basic level, a system designed to unite employees in a company for the accomplishment of a common task. This means that any system that is optimised for use by any member of a work group is a collaboration system, being essentially a multi-user programme. The definition of a collaborative system can even go as far as include instant messaging applications that allow people to communicate in real-time with a productive purpose in mind. They can split into 3 levels of collaboration:

  • Communication. can be thought of as unstructured interchange of information. A phone call or an IM Chat discussion are examples of this.

  • Conferencing (or collaboration level, as it is called in the academic papers that discuss these levels) refers to interactive work toward a shared goal. Brainstorming or voting are examples of this.

  • Co-ordination refers to complex interdependent work toward a shared goal. A good metaphor for this is a sports team; everyone has to contribute the right play at the right time as well as adjust their play to the unfolding situation - but everyone is doing something different - in order for the team to win. 

Artificial neural networks

Artifical neural network are networks made of artificial nerve cells. They are a subset of reserach on Neurocomputing and a branch of artificial intelligence. As the name implies, they're modelled after biological neural networks, compared against the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It has more to do with an abstract model concerned about comprehension of information processes than with its actual representation as a biological network. The topology of a typical neural network  follows an order of connections to nodes, establishing a relational dependency with tasks and the best to get them accomplished. After the network is built, a training stage ensues, during which the network starts its own learning process. Through successful methods, a network can theoretically learn:

1- develop newer networks and erase existing ones
2- change a weight-function
3- djust the threshold of nerve cells
4- add or delete nerve cells.

In addition, the learning behaviour is altered by changing either the activating functions of the neurons or the neurons' learning rate. A network would experience "learning" mainly through modification of the neurons' weight. By adjusting its threshold a neuron can toggled on and off, making artificial neural networks on the whole non-linear functions too complex for a learning algorithm that relies on either iterative or recursive methods from desired input and output values for learning.

An artificial neural network is made of interconnected nodes, each standing for an artificial neuron while an arrow means the connection from the output of one neuron to the input of another.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Children - 1980 horror movie

This little known piece may as well be a dream come true for any run-of-the-mill horror fan: a scarcely populated setting, characters whom are easy to identify with, a cosy hamlet which doesn't veer too much into an overtly rural landscape, a spooky atmosphere brought to life by the lighting and suitable sound effects. The guys in charge of this masterpiece knew exactly what they wanted to convey given the apparently limited resources they had to work with.

The candid start to this glorious movie belies the much more sinister turn of fortune that befalls the unfortunate title characters. A busload of young students is thrown off track by a noxious cloud of fumes issuing from the local power plant, left unattended by the two rednecks in charge. The effects of the toxic cloud poisoning are not evident at first. Actually, the viewer has to wait a hefty portion of movie time before getting to know what happened to the bedazzled students. What goes on in the meanwhile is basic character building, some meaningless interactions thrown in to lay the groundwork for the movie's major draw card: the children have been turned into mindless zombie-like murderous entities by the toxic cloud. They  wander about without urgency to any particular destination. But upon catching sight of a (uncontaminated) human being, they home in on their helpless victim and engage them in a loving embrace. Except that there is nothing loving about this as the hugged person is immediately roasted to death within seconds. Driven by an inexplicable will to seek out and kill anyone they can find, they start picking off the inhabitants of our doomed small town, one by one.

Giving a new meaning to the expression "chop chop".
Since adults are usually oblivious to killings being perpetrated by kids, they remain clueless about whom to blame. It wasn't until a plucky deputy witnesses first hand the demonic powers wielded by the previously missing children. Merely touching one of these fiends' hands during a brief encounter causes horrible third degrees to his hand. He retreats into his partner's house while the young antagonists lay siege to the residence. They try to sneak in by a number of ways, but are always thwarted by the efforts of the accosted adults. Soon, the surviving members of the improvised anti-child army start fighting back. They at first resort to flat out shooting down the assailing bastards, to no avail. Not only have they acquired powers of demonic molecule agitation, they have been rendered impervious to most means of attack. It's not until one of the unflappable lawmen picks up a sword conveniently hanging from a nearby and chops off an approaching child's hands that they find an appropriate way to ward off the incoming menace. The impish aggressor dies instantly, letting off an unholy growl while dropping off to the ground and lying peacefully down there, like a child asleep should. Only that he's not asleep, he's dead. They go on an improptu chase to hunt down their remaining opponents, until the last one is sent to the Hell that spawned them.

Wane complexions + reflection of fear = true horror 

This is a movie that hits on all the right cylinders for viewers looking for a no-nonsense horror movie experience. The atmosphere is overall dark and serious in tone, the earlier victims of the imps' gloomy designs are unaware they're in danger until it's too late and there is very little comedy relief ---the few comedic moments might as well be unintentional as seen mostly by the yokels bickering among themselves during low-key scenes. Another semi-serious segment is the younger sheriff's companion putting his moves on a barely legal hottie. The flitting nature of their interaction provides a form of relief, however short, from the terrifying premise of the major plot.

I remember when this first came out and the advertisement alone scared me.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Choosing Oracle and SAP for ERP

ERP is a set of software applications commonly used for integrating all of a company's processes and providing a database containing business data available for all users from across all of the company's departments including human resources, accounting, manufacturing, purchasing, sales and so on.  It automates many stages of business routines and keeps control of all information that is useful for the completion of these stages such as cash, raw materials, capacity and the status of business commitments like orders, purchase orders and payroll.

Since ERP is made up of a suit of software applications, it's important that said software products be compatible with the company's underlying infrastructure. This means that this sort of system relies on a number of hardware and network configurations in order to establish a consistent database and data repository, making the development of ERP systems an exacting undertaking calling for the extent analysis of current business processes, process identification and the needs of the company.

Two common software solutions for ERP needs are Oracle and SAP. From the Oracle website, the following description is given as to why Oracle/SAP are choice picks for ERP implementation:
Oracle Corporation and SAP AG support our joint customers with long-standing reseller and customer support agreements that provide enhanced access to Oracle hardware and software technologies as well as world-class customer service.

The Oracle development teams manage and implement joint integration projects for Oracle/SAP database, Oracle Solaris, and Oracle Linux, while Oracle Global Technology Centers for SAP provide pre-sales support, including sizing and IT infrastructure optimization.

Src: Available at <>. Retrieved on 21st/4/2016.

From this description it seems that Oracle and SAP work in conjunction to achieve a common goal. But what are their unique features?

As the core foundations of any ERP implementation are scalability, risk, cost and duration, it is only self-evident that both vendors are in possession of closely related features with a host of common functionalities.

A common different pointed out between Oracle and SAP is that the average Oracle customer experiences less expenditures while SAP customers are able to deliver closer to expected implementation durations. Despite their shared features and intended purposes, there are many tradeoffs and variables for consideration when choosing when vendor or the other. For instance, SAP has a higher-risk implementation profile than Oracle. On the flip side, functionality and customisation seem to favour SAP, making it easy for adoption for different technological backbones.

While either vendor does not have a clear, across the board advantage over the other, the superiority of any given option is only situational. ERP buyers should evaluate their software options and the nuances and priorities of the target organisation, without overlooking the business values, the combination of which should answer the question of which product is more likely to get the job done best.

Grout, a definition

Grout is a mixture of cement, curing, sealing and water used for filling gaps or voids between bricks, tiles, mosaics and frames. It is similar to other pastes such as plaster, mortar and joint compound and is commonly applied to embed rebars in masonry walls and seal joints. Although most varieties of grout are cement-based, it is possible to use sand when a thin compound isn't desired.

Tools for groutwork:

  • grout saw or grout scraper - a manual tool for removal of old and discolored grout. The blade is usually composed of tungsten carbide.
  • grout float - a trowel-like tool for smoothing the surface of a grout line, typically made of rubber or soft plastic.
  • grout sealer - a water-based or solvent-based sealant applied over dried grout that resists water, oil, and acid-based contaminants.
  • pointing trowel - used for applying grout in flagstone, and other stone works.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Civilisational Waves

Alvin Toffler (born October 4, 1928) is an American writer known for ideas of what society is supposed to look like according to his theory of societal transformation following technological trends.

Toffler is a former associate editor of Fortune, a business-oriented magazine. His early works centered around the idea of information overload as a threat to mankind, eventually moving on to the impact that latter-day hardware, new technologies and capitalism have on society. Toffler used to advocate that a functioning society needs people with all sorts of skills, ranging from logic-cognitive to emotional skills, the latter which is needed for proper caring caring of people. According to his writings, the new education is concerned about teaching critical thinking, problem solving and self-teaching.

He describes societies according to civilisational waves following a 3-tier criteria:

First Wave describes the society of hunter-gatherers and agricultural landowners up until the Industrial Revolution.

Second Wave is the society during the Industrial Revolution (ca. late 17th century through the mid-20th century). The main emphasis of the second wave is the massification of goods, sweeping everything consummable from education to media and entertainment.

Third Wave is the post-industrial society, which took a steep turn in the late 1950s. The Third Wave places knowledge as a primary resource, a definition which dovetails into other writers' ideas such as the Information Age, Space Age, Electronic Era, Global Village etc leading to knowledge-based production and rounding off with the fast-paced technological innovations that we have today.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Pit - 1981 movie

It opens with Jamie taking revenge on a bully, for some past slight. they are at an evening party
celebrating some kind of festival, most likely Halloween. He lures the bully kid into a hole full of
hobgoblins and gives him a push to take a closer inspection at whatever evils lurk down there. Then we can finally start.

Jamie is next seen writing on a chalkboard as a sort of afterclass punishment. It's not clear what he did, but we can all take a guess it was something related to his precocious perviness. Everyone
refers to him as a creep. Maybe because he has this disturbing habit of peeking through cracks at what other people are doing and grinning gleefully while alone with his thoughts. It doesn't help that the other townsfolk behave like dickwads to him.

His parents realise that their kid is a psycho. They ponder over his penchant for speaking to a cadre of imaginable friends he has, including a wicked teddy bear who constantly spouts some vicious advice to its master. He's seen at one point feeding some bugs to a toad and reptiles in a tank, ushering in the events the movie is to unfold to us viewers. At a dinner scene, he drops his napkin on purpose and upon picking it up, takes an suggestive gander at some lady's legs to everyone's chagrin.

The protagonist is only a pre-teen male with no distinguishable outside traits. But beneath an unremarkable composure lies roiling waves of chaotic frustration at relieving his libidinous urges. This often carries through to his external personality as a succession of maladroit efforts at getting the opposite gender's attraction. Obviously, girls notice this, and do their best to give him a wide berth.

Successful seductions are followed by an element of danger, but this is overkill
He next tries to get intimate with his nanny, even though he's a bit old to be cared for by adult supervision. He gets anxious in her presence and excuses himself saying that he needs to talk to Teddy. As it turns out, Teddy is the end-receiver of Jamie's lamentations, providing feedback which veers to the dark side. At one point, he's told that his nanny (let's just call her Sandy) will get undressed and that is the opening he's been looking for. He'sfoiled by her boyfriend's calling her up and goes to bed with thoughts of what he would do to her if he had the chance.

The next morning he finds himself in the pleasurable company of Sandy, having breakfast and trying to get comfy with her. She plays along, giving him enough wiggle room to express himself. He eventually confides his secret to her: that he knows of a hole in the ground with hunchbacked creatures in it. No, it's not a rabbit hole that leads to a wonder land where some party for a queen is being held. At least it's not like this if you're not one of the draconian brownies that made the vertical burrow their abode.

She feigns interest in his narrative, but it seems he gets a little worked up when she asked if she could talk to them. He dashes off to his secretive spot to vent a little about his quandaries. Apparently, it's not only teddy the evil bear that is his evil mentor.

Something that immediately jumps to mind is how his parents act nice and encouraging to their distressed offspring. They take him to attend games and show their support for him nearly all the time. Maybe he hailed from some bad seed, one of those cases when the swimmers and eggs are too mutated and weakeaned at some point before they meet up to originate the resulting

zygote. Another quirk of disrubing portent is that James is always pestering the neighbour girl to ride her bicycle. She at last lets him, only for him to fall headfirst onto the ground due to inaptitude, causing a delighted young girl to burst out in luaghter.

No, a 12-year old male cuddling up to a teddy bear isn't odd at all
Soon enough, Jamie  is back to his usual self, which means he's acting exotic to say the least. This time he's queried by his adored nanny about his lack of human friends. He blurts something about being friends with the tralalogs. She retorts by telling him his trollish friends are a figment of his imagination. The young rogue sulks but brightens up when she tells him to take a bath and go to
bed. He uses her command as a springboard to ask his pedestalled nanny to wash his back. Sensing that the little creep is getting his hopes too high, she suggests friendzoning him. Jamie isn't blind to this kind of ploy commonly used by women to ward off undesirable suitors, and resigns in silence.

Things start to unravel around Jamie 's glum exploits as people start to search for clues about what he's up to. Meanwhile, he hits the butcher's and asks for some meat using his limited savings. We soon find out that he used his small cache of proteins to feed the ensconced creatures.

Catering to the mysterious beasts isn't his sole priority. He rushes back home, catches Sandy taking a shower and, brandishing a marker pen, takes the time to write in the mirror that he likes her. Maybe she should be more careful about leaving the bathroom door open while using it? She predictably reproaches him and is clearly repulsed by his bold move.

An unfased Jamie  ransackles the house for more cash and promptly turns up at the same butcher's to repeat the transaction. He soon runs out of money. Turning to his stuffed pet for advice, he's told to feed nasty people to the Tralalogs.

And so starts the feeding frenzy as each of the townsfolk is picked off by the ravenous beasts in the pit.  From now on, the plot just crawls almost to a halt. The killings are hardly elaborated, they mostly consist of Jamie  luring people into his secret haunt and proceeding to give them a little push. Heck,at times, not even this is necessary as some of them just traipse off into the hole of doom.

This stage fatality should be in the next MK installment
After enough people are killed to satisfy the plot's requirement, he elects to let the object of his lewd fervour in on his secret. Even though she's presented with the sound of the creatures, she's not still convinced of their status as supernatural beings until she's looks down the hole herself. She remarks how it'd be beneficial for mankind to reveal their existence. This doesn't go well with Jamie , who disputes her opinion and tell her that the secret was supposed to be kept between the two of them. After a brief spat, she slips and falls down. This is too much for Jamie , he snaps, only to cry himself to sleep in the company of his accursed teddy.

 Jamie reported to the authorities about the appearance of the perpetrator, describing him as a man with a mustache. It so happened that the venegful youngster has another crude habit added to his list of weird behaviours: he likes to walk away with the monster's victims' possessions. He stashed away all of their belongings in the boot of a someone's car. By dint of coincidence, the car's owner's looks fits squarely with jamie's account of what the killer looked like! The underage nutzoid is left off the hook as some random bloke with a mustache and a carfull of dispatched people's personal possessions starts to look suspicious over the recent murders.

The older man is at one point inquired by the local police about the missing people, his puzzled look doing him no good as the police officers grow impatient with his lack of reaction to their pressing queries. Where is Phoenix Wright when you need him?

Since Jamie  has no longer the inclination nor the will to keep feeding bad people to the Tralalogs,
An honest conversation between man and (stuffed) beast.
he decides to leave them with a means of providing for themselves, which winds up with him giving them a length of rope and obsequiously telling that he can no longer feed them and that they're on their own from here on out. After a few more killings, the local sheriff assembles a posse of about a dozen men to chase the hungry creatures back to the hole that they hailed from and shoot them. The hole is covered so no more tralalogs might spawn from the bowels of the earth. Everyone is apparently happy with the outcome, except for the dead people. And Jamie . The latter ends up moving to a new neighbourhood in order to leave all the previous atrocities behind, only to find a girl who wants to show him her secret, another pit in the woods.

This movie's plot doesn't scan well with the pace it sets early on. Although it starts on a nice note and
sets the tone early about some disturbed kid's struggles to fit in a society intolerant of deviant
behaviour. The high point of this movie is the main character's disconcerting frame. He oozes creepiness like there's no tomorrow and the brief moments he's with other human beings never approach anything resembling normal interaction. Jamie  doesn't have an overly anxious posture, nor is he prone to violent behaviour. But one can't help but notice how there is always an inner pandemonium of confused emotions stirring up from within. His lack of mental balance prevents him from being liked by others in the film, but that's what makes the movie somewhat likeable.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Customer Relationship Management

Customer relationship management (CRM) is an approach to managing a company’s interaction with its customers without losing sight of future prospects. The approach employed by the CRM seeks to scan data about customer's likely preferences by gathering data through a range of varied channels such as website browsing history, live chat, email, phone calls, social media etc. This allows businesses to learn more about their target audience and how to best cater to their needs. There are 3 types of CRM:

1- Operational CRM
Integrating and automating sales as well as customer support is the primary goal of CRM. These systems likely have some sort fo dashboard with an overall view of the client information, past sales, previous marketing attempts, prividing a brief summary of all the relations forged between the customer and the company. Operational CRM is made up of 3 elements:

1-a)  Sales force automation. Involves with all stages in the sales cycle, from opening to clinching the deal. Info is gleaned from a number of sources, ranging from account history, call centers, marketing and retail outlets.

1-b) Marketing Automation focuses on easing the overall marketing process to make it more effective and efficient. CRM tools with marketing automation capabilities automate endless tasks such as sending out automated bulk emails at certain times to customers.

1-c) Service automation focuses on direct customer service technology. Through service automation, customers are supported through multiple channels such as phone, email, knowledge bases and FAQs.

2- Analytical CRM- it means the presentation of gathered data to managers for decision-making purposes. Analytical CRM systems uses methjods such as data mining, correlationa nd pattern recognition to parse through customer data. It's possible to solve problems through proper scanning of the collected data, for instance, detecting how someone hasn't bought something for a long and figuring out ways to find out what this has happened.

3- Collaborative CRM
The third primary aim of CRM systems is to incorporate external stakeholders such as suppliers, vendors and distributors and share customer information across organizations.

Supply chain management

Supply chain management is a process-oriented management approach which includes all components of the business process and how they relate to each other. They are included in a continuous flowchart involving mainly suppliers, end products and information on a value-accruing cycle (the Supply chain). The main purpose of supply chain management is to strive for optimsation of resources in all the components of thsi cycle, ultimately securing company success on the market. Thsi overarching approach calls for a unique and consistent mapping of all the business units, including production, flow of raw material and process order. All activities and processes are managed and monitored, integrating the management of supply chain, which are composed of retailers, suppliers and manufacturers, keeping control of all variations that might occur with the demands in the business operations.

File:Supply and demand network (en).png
Example of supply chain, showing all teh steps to get to the final product: a laptop. source:

Enterprise Resource Planning

Enterprise-Resource-Planning (ERP) is a term that encompasses business tasks, resources like capital, personel, company assets, information and communication technology, IT systems as readily available company services and demand for planning and control. It ensures efficient operational value-aggregating process and on-going optimal control for business and operational practices. Its main concern is to provide an integrated view of core business processes by use of databases kept by a database management system.

If the definition above still seems too vague, take a step back and think about all of the various processes that are essential to running a business, ranging from inventory to order management, accounting, human resources, customer relationship management (CRM) and beyond. At its most basic level, ERP software integrates these various functions into one complete system to streamline processes and information across the entire organization.

ERP is typically deployed in teh form of a software suite designed to collect, store, manage and interpret data from many business activities, including:

product planning, purchase
manufacturing or service delivery
marketing and sales
inventory management
shipping and payment

The system used to integrate all these process share data across different departments, which provide said data, facilitating information flow between all business units, besides providing accurate ties to outside stakeholders.

File:ERP Modules.png
Chart showing how ERP relates all business areas to each other. Source:

Friday, 8 April 2016

Juan van der Hamen y Léon

Juan van der Hamen y Léon (baptised on April 8th 1596, died on 28th march 1631 in Madrid) was a Spanish painter of the Barocco period whose exploits occurred during the time of the Siglo de Oro. His family was of flemmish background, both he and his father serving in the flemmish division of archers of the Spanish king. IN 1615 he finished his formal artistic education and started working on his own. Still life was since the beginning of his career his financial mainstay. In 1619 he was called up to work at the Spanish court where he sought reconigtion as a portrait painter in order to achieve the role of royal painter, a position he successfully applied for in 1627. He untimely passed away at the age of 35. At this time, he was dedicating himself wholly to different sorts of paintings, eventually turning to painting landscapes. Van der Hamen y Léon is widely known for his still life works, before which the rest of his oeuvre fades to insignificance. However, back in his time he also enjoyed much popularity for his portraits and his historical paintings garnered much praise. In the 1620's he contributed decisively for still life as a form of art in the Spanish court, furthering its popularity. His portraits and historical paintings have increasingly become the subject of research since the mid 20th century.