Whispers & Screams
And Other Things
Vastly experienced, versatile senior technical asset with a broad range of highly evolved skills from team building to high-level technology solution implementations. A courageous and tenacious leader with proven experience in business development, organisational visioning, cutting edge information technology deployments, and as a senior management liaison. Experienced at working at all levels from Start-up to Corporate, I thrive on change and take the lead to engage and drive the engineering landscape in any business An outgoing personality, with high energy levels who is customer focused but understands the need for a structured approach to business. A mature and collaborative style provides excellent communication and presentation skills and, drawing on past experience, gives the credibility to build trust. A strategic thinker, who is innovative and creative and makes technically 'savvy' decisions and encourages others to do so, whilst totally focused on success and how this drives results.

Frosty the snow terminator

As promised, the photos of the biggest snowman I've ever seen in the flesh...erm snow.

Continue reading
418 Hits
1 Comment

Snowed In

It seems like its been frrreeeeezzzzing for days. Woke up this morning hoping to get out and catch a flight but this is the view from my house today........Im stuck...



Oh well best I go outside with alex and build the biggest snowman EVER!

Pictures to follow :-)
Continue reading
501 Hits
0 Comments

Could ants power Web3.0 to new heights? OSPF v's ANTS

Having recently completed my latest M.Eng block on the subject of "Natural and Artificial Intelligence", I became aware of advances made in the recent decade towards a new paradigm of network traffic engineering that was being researched. This new model turns its back on traditional destination based solutions, (OSPF, EIGRP, MPLS) to the combinatorial problem of decision making in network routing  favouring instead a constructive greedy heuristic which uses stochastic combinatorial optimisation. Put in more accessible terms, it leverages the emergent ability of sytems comprised of quite basic autonomous elements working together, to perform a variety of complicated tasks with great reliability and consistency.

In 1986, the computer scientist Craig Reynolds set out to investigate this phenomenon through computer simulation. The mystery and beauty of a flock or swarm is perhaps best described in the opening words of his classic 1986 paper on the subject:

The motion of a flock of birds is one of nature’s delights. Flocks and related synchronized group behaviors such as schools of fish or herds of land animals are both beautiful to watch and intriguing to contemplate. A flock ... is made up of discrete birds yet overall motion seems fluid; it is simple in concept yet is so visually complex, it seems randomly arrayed and yet is magnificently synchronized. Perhaps most puzzling is the strong impression of intentional, centralized control. Yet all evidence dicates that flock motion must be merely the aggregate result of the actions of individual animals, each acting solely on the basis of its own local perception of the world.

An analogy with the way ant colonies function has suggested that the emergent behaviour of ant colonies to reliably and consistently optimise paths could be leveraged to enhance the way that the combinatorial optimisation problem of complex network path selection is solved.

The fundamental difference between the modelling of a complex telecommunications network and more commonplace problems of combinatorial optimisation such as the travelling salesman problem is that of the dynamic nature of the state at any given moment of a network such as the internet. For example, in the TSP the towns, the routes between them and the associated distances don’t change. However, network routing is a dynamic problem. It is dynamic in space, because the shape of the network – its topology – may change: switches and nodes may break down and new ones may come on line. But the problem is also dynamic in time, and quite unpredictably so. The amount of network traffic will vary constantly: some switches may become overloaded, there may be local bursts of activity that make parts of the network very slow, and so on. So network routing is a very difficult problem of dynamic optimisation. Finding fast, efficent and intelligent routing algorithms is a major headache for telcommunications engineers.

So how you may ask, could ants help here? Individual ants are behaviourally very unsophisticated insects. They have a very limited memory and exhibit individual behaviour that appears to have a large random component. Acting as a collective however, ants manage to perform a variety of complicated tasks with great reliability and consistency, for example, finding the shortest routes from their nest to a food source.

These behaviours emerge from the interactions between large numbers of individual ants and their environment. In many cases, the principle of stigmergy is used. Stigmergy is a form of indirect communication through the environment. Like other insects, ants typically produce specific actions in response to specific local environmental stimuli, rather than as part of the execution of some central plan. If an ant's action changes the local environment in a way that affects one of these specific stimuli, this will influence the subsequent actions of ants at that location. The environmental change may take either of two distinct forms. In the first, the physical characteristics may be changed as a result of carrying out some task-related action, such as digging a hole, or adding a ball of mud to a growing structure. The subsequent perception of the changed environment may cause the next ant to enlarge the hole, or deposit its ball of mud on top of the previous ball. In this type of stigmergy, the cumulative effects of these local task-related changes can guide the growth of a complex structure. This type of influence has been called sematectonic. In the second form, the environment is changed by depositing something which makes no direct contribution to the task, but is used solely to influence subsequent behaviour which is task related. This sign-based stigmergy has been highly developed by ants and other exclusively social insects, which use a variety of highly specific volatile hormones, or pheromones, to provide a sophisticated signalling system. It is primarily this second mechanism of sign based sigmergy that has been successfully simulated with computer models and applied as a model to a system of network traffic engineering.

In the traditional network model, packets move around the network completely deterministically. A packet arriving at a given node is routed by the device which simply consults the routing table and takes the optimum path based on its destination. There is no element of probability as the values in the routing table represent not probabilities, but the relative desirability of moving to other nodes.

In the ant colony optimisation model, virtual ants also move around the network, their task being to constantly adjust the routing tables according to the latest information about network conditions. For an ant, the values in the table are probabilities that their next move will be to a certain node.The progress of an ant around the network is governed by the following informal rules:

    • Ants start at random nodes.

 

    • They move around the network from node to node, using the routing table at each node as a guide to which link to cross next.

 

    • As it explores, an ant ages, the age of each individual being related to the length of time elapsed since it set out from its source. However, an ant that finds itself at a congested node is delayed, and thus made to age faster than ants moving through less choked areas.

 

    • As an ant crosses a link between two nodes, it deposits pheromone however, it leaves it not on the link itself, but on the entry for that link in the routing table of the node it left. Other 'pheromone' values in that column of the nodes routing table are decreased, in a process analogous to pheromone decay.

 

    • When an ant reaches its final destination it is presumed to have died and is deleted from the system.R.I.P.



Testing the ant colony optimisation system, and measuring its performance against that of a number of other well-known routing techniques produced good results and the system outperformed all of the established mechanisms however there are potential problems of the kind that constantly plague all dynamic optimisation algorithms. The most significant problem is that, after a long period of stability and equilibrium, the ants will have become locked into their accustomed routes. They become unable to break out of these patterns to explore new routes capable of meeting new conditions which could exist if a sudden change to the networks conditions were to take place. This can be mitigated however in the same way that evolutionary computation introduces mutation to fully explore new possibilities by means of the introduction of an element of purely random behaviour to the ant.

'Ant net' routing has been tested on models of US and Japanese communications networks, using a variety of different possible traffic patterns. The algorithm worked at least as well as, and in some cases much better than, four of the best-performing conventional routing algorithms. Its results were even comparable to those of an idealised ‘daemon’ algorithm, with instantaneous and complete knowledge of the current state of the network.

It would seem we have not heard the last of these routing antics.... (sorry, couldnt resist).

Continue reading
806 Hits
0 Comments

Spotify SpotiFM Lastify Last.FM

As someone already devoted to another music platform my introduction to Spotify was met with not a little scepticism. ‘Surely this can’t be better than Last.fm, I thought to myself as I curiously downloaded the app and signed up.

Well it turned out I was wrong.

Well ok perhaps not completely wrong. A common theme amongst most folks is to position Spotify and Last.fm as direct competitors. While there are some superficial similarities, the case is oversimplified since Spotify and Last.fm each provide many unique features. The more I use both, the more I see how they can work together. Last.fm helps me discover new music and track my listening habits through the years and seems to be more of a social networking platform while Spotify sits on top playing most of the actual music.

In actual fact the two organisations are increasingly working together with the introduction of a new facility to scrobble tracks from Spotify to the Last.FM profile. If all this sounds like chinese to you and you like your music, I strongly suggest getting registered and giving both sites a try.

I personally dont use Last.FM to play much music anymore, opting instead for scrobbling from my home theatre PC running windows media player. I prefer to use the scrobbling feature to collect up all my listening habits into my profile and thus enable the social networking and music recommendation side of the platform using spotify to listen to tracks I dont actually have in my own library. Another cool feature of spotify is the ability to quickly import other peoples playlists into the app and listen straight away (www.spotifyplaylists.co.uk).

All in all its a fantastic combination which, when used in tandem with ones own MP3 music collection is about as good as Web3.0 for muso's can get.

Some other useful counterparts to the two core apps are shown below:

    • freshspotify – Tracks newly released music on Spotify and compares it with your favourite artists on Last.fm. Subscribe to artist RSS feeds (or email) to be notified of updates. This is a really useful service: you can browse the site (which nicely summarizes the new Spotify releases) and sign in whit a google account to add artist alerts based on your Last.fm profile (up to a maximum of 100 artists).




    • Spotify.fmFrank Quist’s new and improved webtool to list the latest Spotify releases of all your favourite artists on Last.fm. Also has a neat RSS feed and the ability to search based on both username or tag and search on similar artists.




    • Spotify updates from Last.fm – This app can look for any artist in your library (not just your top 50 artists) and lets you specify the playcount range to consider too. It will also return recommended artists, so this is a great way to discover more music from artists you’re perhaps not too aware of, and complements the other apps well. Developer OnDistantShores (who is also responsible for the excellent Universal Scrobbler) promises more updates soon, including the option to specify a tag and search new releases by artists with that tag: brilliant!




    • Last.fm Spotify Search – Script that adds a wee green note icon next to tracks, albums and artists on Last.fm’s website. To use, install Greasemonkey then add the script. You can then click the note icon to search in Spotify. I find this one really useful, it saves on typing and binds Last.fm and Spotify together nicely.




    • Lastify - A plug-in that bolts onto the regular Spotify client and lets you Love, Ban, and Tag tracks back to Last.fm.




    • Last.fm + Spotify + Find new albums – Newly updated, this webapp tells you what’s new in Spotify based on your Last.fm Top 50 artist favourites. It can also match against recommendations: a great way to discover new bands. Results are grouped by when they were added to Spotify and let you click both the album/single and artist. There’s also an RSS feed you can subscribe to, and the app now lets you filter to view only singles or albums as well as as “show tracks” dropdown for each album.




Groups


    • Spotify – The best Spotify group on Last.fm, leader Faz regularly checks in and updates the Shoutbox, and there are always active discussions going on.




    • Scrobble for Spotify – Originally set-up before Spotify had a scrobble feature, the Scrobble for Spotify group continues to attract new members.

 

Continue reading
814 Hits
0 Comments

Forget about 3G, here comes 4G (LTE)

The LTE hits just keep coming: Chunghwa Telecom said this week that it plans to start testing LTE with Ericsson gear, in northern Taiwan. Meanwhile, in Japan, Ericsson customer NTT DoCoMo has started its 4G upgrade. It plans to launch commercially in 2010.

Along with Cisco's recently approved purchase of Starent Networks, these are the latest moves in a market that is rapidly heating up, putting a spotlight on the opportunities for infrastructure vendors. Ericsson has been in the spotlight all week, since Swedish incumbent TeliaSonera launched the first commercial LTE network on Monday, using equipment from Ericsson as well as Huawei.

It’s likely that an infrastructure vendor battle will soon heat up as more trials get underway. Huawei is looking like a big threat to the Tier 1 vendors; it’s signed on to 25 trials and deployments worldwide, it says, including plans to integrate Belgium incumbent Belgacom’s GSM, HSPA and future LTE networks in a converged radio access network and all-IP core. The Chinese vendor will also replace Belgacom’s existing RAN supplier, which happens to be Nokia Siemens Networks.

Also, Telecom Italia said it is working with Huawei for an LTE trial in Turin.

That said, NSN and Alcatel-Lucent are determined to also be a part of the LTE story. NSN recently announced that global operator Telefónica will run a six-month 4G trial in the Czech Republic on NSN’s end-to-end LTE solution. Meanwhile, it also has been tackling the voice-over-LTE goal, and completed successful IMS-compliant voice calls and SMS messaging using 3GPP-standardized LTE equipment, and says it will also soon conduct VoLTE test calls with a fully implemented IMS system.

Not to be outdone, Alcatel-Lucent said that it too has called and texted across standard LTE equipment, but using the interim standard from the 3GPP known as VoLGA.

The first carriers out of the gate after TeliaSonera with the 4G broadband technology – which promises 20mbps to 40mbps in throughput, initially – will likely be Verizon Wireless and NTT DoCoMo. Regional carriers MetroPCS and U.S. Cellular also have plans to deploy LTE next year, along with KDDI in Japan, and Tele2 and Telenor in Europe. AT&T and China Mobile are planning LTE rollouts for 2011. Most incumbents have LTE on their to-do list at some point, making for a rich new vein for infrastructure vendors to mine.

Some markets will be richer than others. "Spectrum availability is the primary factor impacting deployment plans," said senior ABI analyst Nadine Manjaro. "In countries where telecommunications regulators are making appropriate spectrum available, many operators have announced plans to launch LTE. These include the U.S., Sweden, China and others. Where no such spectrum allocations exist, operators are postponing LTE plans." The United Kingdom, surprise surprise, will likely be slower to roll out LTE because of spectrum availability.

Continue reading
899 Hits
0 Comments