Friday, 30 November 2012

Programming Goals

Recently I have been trying to improve myself as a programmer and all round software engineer. As a part of this, I joined the London Java Community and I've been attending various meet-ups.

All my recent exploits will have to wait have to wait for another post but I just wanted to list my goals for all of this. In this way, it will be clear in my head in the very least!

Really understand Java and the JVM
  • Gain a better insight to how my Java code translates to byte-code.
  • Learn more about how the JVM runs.
  • Fully understand garbage collection, along with the G1 collector.
  • Get to grips with tuning the JVM.
Become an expert in performance optimisation
  • Learn how to truly measure performance on a macro and micro level.
  • Understand the techniques necessary to produce faster code.
  • Be fully aware of all the external factors which affect performance, such as I/O and network latency.
  • Learn more algorithms and use more in anger.
Better manage and estimate time
  • Be able to provide accurate quotes for concrete deliverables.
  • Understand the techniques to estimate for intangible/vague software requirements.
  • Better plan out work to reduce risk/maximise productivity!
Become a software design guru!
  • Weave the right software design patterns into all my code.
  • Avoid anti-patterns!
  • Make all my code simple, robust and scalable (as necessary).
Be better at testing
  • Find a practical testing framework/methodology given volatile requirements and highly limited timeframes.
  • Better express user expectations as some form of user interface tests.
  • Improve general code coverage!
Adopt a proper release management methodology
  • Find or come up with a good version number standard!
  • Set up some form of "One-click" deployment
Start benefitting from Continuous Integration 
  • Properly set up CI environment to monitor and analyse code.
  • Leverage CI in other practices, such as possibly exploring Feature Branching...
So seven main areas! Obviously this isn't all going to happen overnight but I really hope to achieve all these goals in the near future... It is all just a matter of time and patience I suppose!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Quick Update

Rather disappointingly, as with too many of my endeavours lately, I've been neglecting this blog.

Just a few random update points though!
  1. I've been listening to the new Linkin Park album (Living Things - listen to it here) pretty much none stop since it came out. It's definitely not the most amazing album ever but I really like the sound. As I commented elsewhere, hearing it is like "coming home". It's warm and familiar and I love it :)
  2. Downloaded LOADS of new manga series which I am working my way through. I was really impressed by Change 123 ;-)
  3. Can't find a decent game to entertain myself with. I've filled time here and there with Jewels Star (Android Bejewelled rip-off) and Crystal Saga Online (browser based MMORPG).
  4. Watching LOADS of Steve Job videos, trying to inspire myself I suppose! Somehow I feel too much of the world tries to copy him/Apple though... I almost feel as if I want to say something corny like "be innoviative, not derivative" but how do you do that when innovation is they were all about?!?
  5. Can't sleep properly lately, I hate hayfever >.< Does that count as a first world problem? :P
  6. Finally... I've managed to %$#& up my toe again playing football :'( I'm still playing but I lament for my toe.
Anywho, life is good really xD

Monday, 4 June 2012

Linkin Park - Lies Greed Misery

Lies Greed Misery is another track off Linkin Park's forthcoming album Living Things. Although it wasn't officially released, the track has been semi-officially leaked.

Having listened to this song almost to death, I am now even more excited about the new album. As all the recent interviews have hinted, Linkin Park are going back to their "nu metal" sound, except now it is better than ever.

Hearing Shinoda spit his dirty rhymes against the electric wall of bass is poetic perfection. The lyrics blend so effortlessly with the music as well, rapping off the words "breaking point" just as the wave of noise crashes is just awesome.

Chester's vocals are incredible as ever, they are somehow raw and refined at the same time. His trademark screaming is still brimming with energy yet at the same time executed with the precision of a surgeon's scalpel. The playoff between the two front men is naturally reminiscent of Hybrid Theory... but evolved.

Anywho, highly recommend everyone give it a listen (below) or even download the song right here:

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Football Diary ~ Old Street PowerLeague

~ Keeping track of my football antics! ~

Single session, started late sadly as well.

Starting to make some decent passes now! Really need to work hard on my fitness and finishing as ever though.

Luckily I didn't pick up any injuries and I didn't fall over, haha! Epic tired now though, 3v3 is wearisome!

One clinical finish after dribbling past two :)
Many tap-ins


Wednesday, 18 April 2012

3 Doors Down - Time Of My Life

Recently I managed to get my hands on Time Of My Life, the latest album from American rock band 3 Doors Down. Although I actually went to see them in Camden before they released this album last year, I've only gotten around to listening to it recently!

Overall the music is pretty much more of the same from the band, the sounds hasn't really changed since I was really into Away From The Sun and The Better Life albums. More so than those albums though, I feel there are songs that are really "meh". Nevertheless the album is fairly "listenable" with a few very solid tracks in the mix.

A definite for any 3DD fans and I would recommend When You're Young to anyone!

Favourite Tracks
When You're Young (5*)
Time Of My Life
Race For The Sun
Every Time You Go

Football Diary - Old Street PowerLeague

~ Keeping track of my football antics! (Tuesday 17th August 2012) ~

Killer double session again, proper knackered and battered >.<

Everything at a semi decent standard now, passing, dribbling and even my shooting is alright :D Needless to say I really need more practice to improve, hopefully I can improve my fitness too!

Got some nasty knocks, really frustrated with the tackling atm. Really wish people would be more careful!!!

Only a couple of decent right footed goals :(

Heavy - "low trauma"
Medium - Blasted in right thigh
Low - Stamped on right foot
Low - Left shin knocked
Fell over/pushed over alot :(

Monday, 16 April 2012

Linkin Park - Burn It Down

Burn It Down, the first single of the new Linkin Park album, Living Things, has just been released today.

I've listened to it a half dozen times over the last few hours (on and off) and the sound has really grown on me. As soon as I heard it my head started bobbing, the bass is really catchy and I love the retro electric feel to the track. In my mind I half joked with myself that Linkin Park had moved away from "nu metal" to "retro electro metal".

Lyrically the song is very simple but I wouldn't call it simplistic. I'm not sure I'd call the song "deep" but I like how the words seem to flow nicely with the beats. As ever, I can never get enough Shinoda... I gotta have more Shinoda!!! >.<

Not my favourite Linkin Park track of all time, but I definitely don't dislike the new sound! Looking forward to the album!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Football Diary - Old Street PowerLeague

~ Keeping track of my football antics! ~

Killer double session but very much improved!

Did a short training session on the weekend which improved my confidence and helped me hone my passing. Passing is still a little wayward but they are at least coming off more often than not.

Having confidence to try things helps a lot, still very timid in tackling and defending really though. Goal keeping is terrible :(

One very decent lob :)
One backheel xD
One right footed top corner xD
One right foot, buried into far corner :)
Handful of tap-ins

Minor knocks
Minor toe stub (thank god not major again!)
Minor back strain

Friday, 6 April 2012

Tax, Politics & The Bigger Picture

Despairing at the world after having just read this story:

This is what is wrong with society, we need to stop looking through a microscope and start seeing the wider issues.   Are people going to start seeing elections as simple popularity contents akin to the drivel we see on our televisions year in and year out?

When making a list of important things we should know about the next London Major, how much tax he/she pays should be VERY low on the list. What they plan to do with the tax you pay and how you will get taxed is probably the most important thing.

For me, all I care about is if the next Major of London managed to give everyone better value on their taxes and fixed the antiquated transport system we have. I would happily pay extra tax toward cleaning all the crap from the tube, metaphorically and literally >.>

In any case, let's hope some semblance of common sense breaks through sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Developer Diary - JavaScript, GWT and Vaadin Graph Libraries

Having a massive headache trying to find an easy to use JavaScript/GWT/Vaadin graph library.

We're looking to invest in a tool to allow us to draw various types of complex directed graphs, ranging from an "Organisation chart" to a business flow diagram separated into "swim-lanes". On top of this the graphs have to be "skinnable", allowing our graphic designers to make them look slick. Finally the whole library should be easy to use and ideally very well documented/supported.

After some Googling, I've come to the conclusion that there is no one stand-out product in the market which makes these requirements. It looks like we may have to sacrifice one of our requirements to progress any time soon.

One of the sources of complexity I am just going to have to deal with comes from the need to wrap whatever tool we use into Vaadin. Obviously if I find a Vaadin component then I'm done, the main issue is with JavaScript, which I have next to no experience with.

However it has just occurred to me to start looking at pure HTML solutions, perhaps I might find a good tool going down that route... Otherwise I am really going to have to start digging and researching >.<

Football Diary - Old Street PowerLeague

~ Keeping track of my football antics! ~

Very poor session, I need to get better, a lot better. Resolved to practice more and to stop being afraid.



Thursday, 29 March 2012

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Football Diary - Old Street PowerLeague

~ Keeping track of my football antics! ~

5 people only today, so 3 on 2 games. Ran and ran and then ran some more, very tiring. Not shooting with much confidence and passing is very timid...

Probably best to not play in tracksuit bottoms, felt restricted. Dribbling and tackling still improving although I need a lot more practice!

2 decent goals, side on shots
Bunch of other minor tap-ins

Minor - right "metatarsal" sore

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Football Diary - Somers Town Community Sports Centre

~ Keeping track of my football antics! ~

Below average session, main excuse being having old trainers with next to no grip. Still not shooting with any real confidence.

Passing is here and there, very easy to read still. Dribbling and tackling are improving though. Fitness is still very poor, need to push harder!

Minor tap-ins

Medium - "low trauma"
Minor - left ankle knock

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

One Piece

The latest manga I have taken to reading is One Piece, which I am getting really into!

Based in an age where pirates dominate the world, the story centres on Monkey D. Luffy, a kid who dreams of becoming "The Pirate King". To achieve this, he hopes to find the eponymous mythical treasure that is the One Piece. Said to be the most valuable in the world, it is rumoured that the previous Pirate King hide it at the end of "The Grand Line", the most dangerous ocean in the world!

Their travels across the Grand Line gives rise to many crazy adventures for Luffy and his crew. As you may expect, there is conflict almost every step of the way. However, what makes the fighting interesting is the existence of "Devil Fruit", which bestow magical powers upon those who eat them! For example, Luffy ate one and become a "Rubber Man", in the same sense as Mr. Fantastic from the Fantastic Four.

Beyond this, the other characters have special traits and abilities as well, which helps to keep things interesting. Rather refreshingly, not everyone is magically overpowered and not every fight is drawn out for the sake of it. Very frequently the strong will simply destroy the weak is one go, which helps to keep things in perspective and keep the action going.

Combat aside, the character development is solid and story is fairly well told. I appreciate that if I was reading the story as it came out every week I'd probably get bored at points, but reading it together I feel the pacing is just right!

I've yet to start watching the anime but it is definitely on my to-do list! In the meantime, if you enjoy Bleach and would like to read some thing lighter and more fantasy based, I'd highly recommend One Piece!

Dominion Updates

Really glad to finally have my Final Fantasy XIII-2 article all done! It is far from fully comprehensive but I believe it captures my feelings well. Definitely a game worth playing if you enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII but temper your expectations!

The hit count is ticking over slowly but steadily, ~250 in one month is more than I expected in any case. I do believe the original Dominion clocked less than a thousand in its entire lifetime... so yay for Blogger I suppose!

As you can see, I've slightly re-jigged the layout of the blog. It's nothing major but I feel the site reads a bit better, any feedback is always welcome! I've also moved the advert so it is visible on load, no one has clicked on any of them yet but that is to be expected with the traffic...

Anywho, things are shaping up nicely and I thank everyone who has been taking the time to read all of it! XD

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Final Fantasy XIII-2

Excitement, laughter, boredom, disappointment and hope. All of these I have experienced playing Final Fantasy "13.2", a flawed sequel which could have been an epic masterpiece.

In this article I will lead you through those 5 "emotions", which hopefully will give you insight into the game and whatever it maybe for you or not. Nevertheless this is neither a well reasoned review or a true critique of the game... but I hope it is still useful to you all the same!

Having quite enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII, I was quietly excited about XIII-2. Despite being flawed, the first game set a really high standard and a sequel which solved all of these issues would be amazing. Straight out of the box, XIII-2 is just that as well, pure amazement. The graphics are top notch as ever and the opening action sequence is beyond epic. The introduction of quick time events to cut-scenes, in the form of Cinematic Actions, really does a lot in spicing up the action and offering replay value.

As you delve into the game, there are more and more exciting new features to explore and play with. The one that really impressed me was the new "Pokémon" mechanic. Putting it simply, you can now catch ("tame") and raise monsters to fight along side you! The whole system is implemented really well, each monster is unique and has its own Crystarium. Levelling up monsters, infusing them with different abilities and building up a team is immensely satisfying.

These things are just a couple of the many exciting things to be found in XIII-2. The mini-game that is Chocobo Racing is fairly entertaining and the game itself offers a fairly good challenge with lots of replay value. One thing that everyone will enjoy is the immediate openness, you may explore and take breaks from the main storyline at almost any point.

Sadly all this excitement does not last all the way through the game but wanes from time to time. In moments I was actually bored. Unlike XIII, the story isn't incredibly captivating although it is decent. However, the level of confusion has risen a notch and most of the time I was left wondering "wtf?"

Rather disappointingly for a Final Fantasy game, I found many of the characters to be a bit annoying and predictable. This was not all of the time but most of the time, I felt bored with stereotypes and clichés. The history behind characters did seem a bit pathetic at times and there isn't the same sense of development as there was in the first game.

Even though the "Pokémon" system is pretty awesome, it is very easy to capture a single overpowered monster and proceed to forgot all about it. Admittedly this is if you wonder off the main storyline and go hunting specifically for the monsters, but it is still a caveat of the system.

What is especially worrying is how quick the main storyline could go by. The game is fairly short for a Final Fantasy game and I estimate you could probably blitz the game in less than 30 hours. On top of this it is fairly easy to power level so Final Fantasy veterans could probably smash out all the content this game has to offer in under 70 hours... Decent enough but kind of low considering the source.

Nevertheless, XIII-2 does have some really enjoyable and humorous moments. I genuinely laughed out loud at some moments. One of the main characters, Mog the Moogle is fairly amusing and made me giggle here and there.

A new feature to the game is that of Live Triggers, the ability to decide how to respond to dialogue in the game. Some of the options are deliberately quite amusing and make for some comical scenes. Note that most of the humour is more cute and cheesy than top notch comedy.

Having said that, I really did like the answer to one of the quiz questions in the game. The question is something along the lines of, "what is the catchphrase of the hero in the hit TV show Moggle Rangers?" You may judge me, but I ROFL'ed when I saw the answer: Hasta La Vista, Kupo

Moments like these really helped to make the game enjoyable and I only wish there had been more subtle attention to detail paid to every aspect of the game...

What is probably the most annoying thing about XIII-2 is the overriding sense of disappointment. I feel as if this game could have been so much better given more investment. With only two playable characters, the game feels a bit empty. It is blessing in the sense you don't have as many characters to train but it is also a curse in how restrictive it feels. Sure you have hundreds of monsters to play with but it isn't quite the same.

Another strange amendment was the loss of the weapon development system and the fairly limited accessory set. It all adds to the disappointing feeling of being cheated out of content, as if they simply decided it was too much effort to add it in.

This subtle lack of effort seems to be prominent throughout as well, at least to me. Whilst not a big issue, you do see the same recycled maps at lot, albeit with changed weather and personnel. However in the cut-scenes it annoys me that so many of them are simply narrated over and/or have really bad lip sync. It really breaks the immersion into the story and feels a bit jarring.

Speaking of the story, it seemed to me like it almost gave up making much sense. Seemingly it gave up all together at the end. *slight spoiler alert*... I myself really hated the ending, it basically set itself up for another direct sequel which disgusts me entirely.... *end spoilers*

Overall, SquareEnix have left me hopeful for the future, a better future. Considering the short development cycle of the game, they have produced some decent results. The extended play beyond the main storyline is good fun and helpfully adds more to the entire back story. Given more time, I can only assume they can make better games... but that isn't really the issue.

Anyone who knows me will know that I always make a point of typing Final Fantasy numbers as their published roman numerals, which brings me back to why I called it "13.2" at the start of the article. XIII-2 is not so much as a good standalone Final Fantasy game than it is an iteration of its predecessor, change and improved in some ways.

The next Final Fantasy doesn't just need to be better, it needs to change everything and redefine the series. It needs to be what every Final Fantasy is expected to be, an epic master class on being a masterpiece.


As I have mentioned before, xkcd is probably my favourite webcomic, written by Randall Munroe.

The front page of the site describes itself as a "webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language" which basically translates to geek humour! Quite often you will read the comic and laugh even though you don't really get the joke...

This is all part of the charm of it though, most of the time I have to do a little research to understand it. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I get to sit down and chuckle about something obscure which helps to remind me of how much there is to learn out there xD

If you are currently learning anything to do with computer science, it is pretty much law that you at least know about xkcd ;P

I'll leave you with a comic that literally had me LOL'ing for days.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Free Rice

To provide everyone with free education and to end world hunger, these are the goals of Free Rice.

Visiting the website, you will immediately see that it is centred around a very basic word game. You are given a word, impetuous for example, then asked to select from 4 options the word that means the same thing (i.e. funny, scared, rash or rock).

Each time you answer a word correctly, the website donates 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Programme. They fund this through the adverts on the site, which refresh each time you get asked a question. The whole concept is rather ingenious and it is actually a really good education tool in itself.

I encourage everyone to find out more about Free Rice and check out the different subject categories they have as well.

An interesting new take on charity, is a non-profit organisation allowing you to make loans to help impoverished people all around the world. These loans are exactly what they sound like, the amount of money you donate is the amount of money that you will be paid back, plus the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with helping people! XD

You can find out more about how it works here, along with the long and short explanations. In essence the whole set-up allows you to be charitable without having to spend money. Obviously it takes up a bit of your time and your money is tied up for the duration of the loan, but it is a small price really.

If you are still unconvinced, right now they are doing free trials which means that you can literally donate $25 for free! It takes less than two minutes and you can even set up your account to automatically lend out the money again once the loan is repaid.

Effortless charity at no cost to you whatsoever, what more could you want?

Thursday, 15 March 2012

2012 Cash ISAs - My Picks

Please note that the following is just my opinion, for "expert advice" I'd recommend Google and checking out the ThisIsMoney page which is regularly updated.

So here are the ISAs which have pipped my interest recently...

Santander Fixed 1 Year ISA - 3.5% [including 3% bonus]
(minimum £2500 opening balance - including transfers in)

This is probably the best option for people with existing ISAs and will leave their money untouched for a year. Santander allow you to manage the account online on top of all this as well.

Note that after a year the ISA will mature and you really should transfer it (interest rates will plunge to 0.5%). Also you cannot make extra deposits into this ISA after a set time period (middle of April I think).

AA Internet Access ISA - 3.5% [including 3% bonus]
(minimum £2500 opening balance - transfers in not allowed)

Literally found out about this as I was writing this. AA are offering a brand new rate of 3.5% on their "easy access" ISA. This means you can deposit and withdraw your money anytime, although transferring money in from other ISAs is not allowed.

As the name suggests, it is accessed online which is always a good thing. The opening balance on this ISA is a little steep considering the fact that you aren't allowed transfers in!

Again note that after a year, the interest rate will nose dive so ensure you make plans to transfer it.

Santander Direct ISA - 3.3% [including 2.8% bonus]
(minimum £2500 opening balance - including transfers in)

Another Santander ISA which this time is an "easy access" ISA. The main attraction of this ISA over the Santander Fixed ISA is the ability to make further deposits, so you can build up to your maximum allowance throughout the 2012/2013 tax year.

If you aren't looking to transfer an ISA in, I'd recommend you consider the AA one over this one though!

Again bonus, so transfer it it runs out!

Virgin Cash ISA - 2.85% [no bonus]

Finally just to mention Virgin's offering. This ISA has a relatively low rate but unlike most other ISAs, it doesn't include a bonus! This means the rate will be 2.85% for years to come... unless Virgin slash the rate.

Another reason for considering Virgin is that they may offer some lucrative benefits in the future??? (train, flights, broadband and TV) Obviously this is just pure speculation!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Safe House

An action film that is somewhat entertaining but very quickly forgettable, Safe House is definitely something you don't want to pay a lot to watch.

The basic premise is interesting enough, Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is a frustrated "house keeper" for a CIA Safe House in South Africa. One day, one of the world's most wanted criminals, Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) ends up in Matt's custody and from here the dynamic between the two is explored.

Initially things were intriguing and I enjoyed the gritty realism, nothing was necessarily over the top or entirely implausible. However this quickly evaporated into boredom and was exacerbated by the fact that the dialog was at times completely inaudible. The story itself soon got a bit predictable and personalities fell into one-dimensional sterotypes.

Without adding too much more, the Metacritic score speaks for itself. I'm glad we watched it on an Orange Wednesday but I would strongly advise others to wait for the DVD...

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Centring Widgets In Blogger

Recently I had a little bit of trouble centring the AdSense widget at the bottom of this blog. After a little digging I found this article which was most helpful.

Just to add to it, here are some screenshots to help guide you through the process of centring widgets!

Firstly, open up Blogger and open up the Template settings for your blog:
1. Template > Edit HTML
It may prompt you asking if you are sure you wish to proceed, simply click proceed if it does. At this point if you are worried about making any mistakes, you can save your template using the button provided.

Once you are ready to edit your HTML template, ensure you have checked the "Expand Widget Templates" box:
2. Expand Widget Templates
Now all that is left to do is to search for your widget and add the code to "center" it. In my case I had to search for "AdSense" and then I inserted align='centre' into the div tag:
3. Add align='center'
Knowing the rough name of the widget you are attempting to center helps alot. Otherwise it is a matter of having to search all your widgets (try searching b:widget) until you find the one which looks right...

Good luck and hope this helps someone else out there!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Back when OnLive first hit the market, I was informed by a good friend that they were offering up the first game you brought for just £1. Seeing as the service is completely free otherwise, I jumped at the opportunity to play the new Deus Ex.

For a week I played the game solid and I actually quite enjoyed it. It combines Metal Gear Solid with the open world mechanic really well, sneaking around performing stealth take-downs is always a lot of fun! Trying to complete levels with a perfect stealth rating however is infuriating and yet strangely addictive.

The role play element in Deus Ex is really quite slick as well, which I suppose is best known for. Whilst you can make a lot of decisions to make the character your own, there is enough history and personality to provide a really interesting person to emphasis with as well.

In terms of the game mechanics, the "levelling" system works quite well and I really enjoyed the freedom and versatility. Sadly there isn't really a way to power level in the game, although I did find this glitch. Smashing through walls and being invisible really does make the game ALOT of fun XD

If you do plan on getting this game, I'd very much recommend you do not get it with OnLive. In my experience, the game is diminished by it. In the end, I got sick of the latency and poor stability of the game and I gave up. If the PS3 version ever got really cheap, I'd probably give it a whirl again. Finishing the story would be snazzy and it would be great to get another batch of trophies!

Overall, I would definitely this game to anyone who enjoys action or RPG games. There seems to be a lot of value to be had from replaying the game and it is genuinely a beautiful game in an intriguing world of its own.

Friday, 9 March 2012


My cousin once told me, when we were teenagers, that I would love Bleach. I didn't care to enquire about the cleaning product but when I finally found the manga and got into it, I've never looked back.

Bleach is a violent in nature, cute with humour and is epic on almost all scales. For the most part it centres on pitting the protagonist, Ichigo, against insanely powerful enemies in ridiculously destructive fights to the death. However the violence is rarely mindless and more akin to a game of chess. The subtle undercurrents and relationships between all the characters makes for some awesome scenes.

The story is pure fantasy and really quite addictive. Reading the tale is awesome but watching the anime is pure joy. The humour comes across a lot better when animated and the Japanese voice actors do a tremendous job of bringing life to the characters.

Finally just to finish on the iconic characters of Bleach, they are beautifully drawn and have some real depth to them, to the most point XD (awesome translation in that picture by the way)


Possibly one of my favourite places to get lunch, Tortilla is one of the best "fast food" restaurants around.

To put things simply, Tortilla is a Mexican Subway, where you get Burritos instead of footlong sandwiches. I find service in Tortilla swifter, although this is mostly due to the smaller selection. Having said that, all the food in Tortilla always tastes great.

The value for money in Tortilla is excellent, a large burrito costs less than £6 and they operate a loyalty scheme as well (similar to Nandos). For lunch, a large burrito really is plently. However I can speak from experience when I say it is not enough for dinner! :P

Definitely worth a try to anyone, especially if you like Mexican food to begin with!

Vaadin - Pure Java Web Application Awesomeness

Lately I have had the pleasure of working with Vaadin, which is the sexiest Java UI language I have ever seen.

To cut to the chase, have a play around with this very snazzy interactive demo of Vaadin. (written in Vaadin!)

For those of you still here, Vaadin is a framework for building web applications using pure Java. No need to learn another language or attempt to deal with Swing, just code! Furthermore, the web application is built on the fly by your server. This means you can directly call all your other Java services and fetch data without having to worry about serialisation!

No more data transfer objects, no more worrying about translating types and no more code that isn't Java. (And on a personal note, no more Adobe Flash Builder... HORRAY!)

If you want to find out more, I recommend their outstanding book, which is online and free! Did I mention the whole framework is totally free as well? It comes in like a single tiny jar file as well... stop reading and download it now!!!

Fantasy Football - Analysis, Strategy & Blind Luck

One of my many hobbies is to take part in Fantasy Football every week. I like to think that I use a good amount of analysis and strategy to it, but in the end it is mostly blind luck!

At the height of it, I would sit down on a Friday night and rigorously analyse the BBC Football website for details of the week's fixtures. Going by the history between clubs (in terms of previous meetings) and the current players in form I would try to calculate the best team to pick that week...

My strategy generally involved trying to locate players who were likely to be involved in a very one-sided game or a high scoring game. One sided games meant picking defenders on the dominant side and high scoring games usually meant transferring in the key midfield player rather than the striker.

Midfielders are potential gold mines for points. They get a point for clean sheets, 5 points for scoring and 3 points for assists. The really quickly racks up and picking up an in-form Lampard is a bargin, whatever the price.

Sadly it would appear that my team selection sucks :( My make/break strategy of building a core team around a few players leaves me very susceptible failure if even a single player is injuryed. At some points this season, almost half my team hasn't played :(

So there you go, all that analysis only for it to fall down to bad luck with injuries. In any case, when I do get lucky, I won't be attributing it to skill... Neither will I be going into trading/gambling anytime soon either XD

Wednesday, 7 March 2012


I've signed up to try out Google AdSense, more as a experiment then for any serious revenue. I've done my best to set it up so that it blocks offensive adverts but if you do see anything remotely annoying, do let me know!

In the mean time, I'm still trying to find time to finish up some content I am working on. Hopefully there will be a flurry of updates by late this week!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Dominion - Expanded!

The past few days I have been working diligently at porting over the best stuff out of my Google+ posts. Ever since I set it up, I've been using it to wax lyrical about any topic I fancied! Hopefully some of it will be some use to someone out there!!!

As you can see, the tag cloud has grown considerably! Just to explain some of the more esoteric labels I am using...

  • A View - covers all my reviews and takes on various topics ranging from Film to Restaurants.
  • Random Thoughts - for things that come to me randomly, expect topical topics and the unexpected.
  • Meta - typing about "talking about Dominion"
I've been building up a steady pile of drafts as well, which hopefully means I will be able to post content on a semi-regular basis...

Watch this space for my epic Final Fantasy XIII-2 review!


I love reading manga and I've found the most awesome free Android application for it: MangaWhat

Reading the latest mangas is really simple, with multiple sources choose from, including MangaFox, MangaReader, and BleachExile. All of these have a very wide selection and you can find all the chapters there as well.

Which brings me onto the next feature nicely, the download manager. Once you have found a manga you like, you can set up the app to download all chapters within any range (42 to 100 for example). Once they are downloaded, you can happily browse through them all offline. I've downloaded the first 300 chapters of One Piece and that has been keeping me entertained on the tube!

Fun times, hope you enjoy it too!

Leisure Games

Quick recommendation for Leisure Games, a specialist board game shop in London.

When I was buying my Dominion sets, I managed to call them up and haggle a 10% discount as I was buying over £100 worth of cards!

If you get a chance and you are interested, check it out! The staff are friendly and the shop is pretty easy to find .

Saturday, 3 March 2012

The Three Musketeers (2011)

Back in October 2011 I went to see The Three Musketeers and I was pleasantly surprised by it actually!

Initial reviews I read pretty much seem to slate the film, so I didn't have very high expectations. This probably helped though as I could happily suspend disbelief and just enjoy the film.

Lighthearted and full of action, the film is fun and entertaining. The story isn't too bad and there is some charm in the film. The acting is fairly terrible at times though, Orlando Bloom makes for an annoying bad guy >.<

I didn't see the 3D version but it was shot in 3D, as opposed to layered in post-production, so I suspect the effects will be good. However I doubt it is worth the extra money and even with Orange Wednesdays I felt I was paying a bit much!

Overall, a good movie to get on DVD or to see with some friends. Expect lots of sword fighting, explosions, craziness and laughs!


One of my growing corcerns in life is how I will cope with being a father.

This is not because I dislike the idea or children, but because I am terrified of letting my children down.

The comedian Ed Byrne commented on how people say "children don't come with instructions". Ed said this was a pointless observation and that you could simply buy one, for like £8! :)

Still there is more to parenting then following instructions in a book. The question for me is:

How do you mold someone in your own image whilst letting them freely become themself?

For me, it drives me insane when I cannot understand "the why" behind something. This is the essence of children though. They are born without morals or logic. Even as they grow up they remain irrational and emotional beings.

In spite of all this, I am intrigued and almost excited by the idea. Children have infinite potential and I look forward to seeing what they do with the world of tomorrow...

I just hope I don't screw mine up ;)

OnLive & The Cloud

My recent experiences with OnLive have sparked a discussion on the nature of "The Cloud".

More and more the world is moving toward digital distribution of media. Spotify and iTunes are perfect examples of this. People all over the world now download or stream their music, walking around with literal days of music in their pockets. Actually owning physical copies of all the music you want/have is impractical. An iPod Nano can hold an entire cd rack of albums in a space of a mini disc (remember those?).

Providers like Apple and Amazon have been hugely successful in part due to their product model. You pay upfront and get unlimited access to your media which you "own". Spotify on the other hand is a service provider, you listen to music but you do not buy music through them. You cannot in anyway claim to own the music you "rent" from them. Neither can you expect to listen to it without an internet connection. However all this works as you can literally pay nothing to use the service.

OnLive has attempted to merge these models to what I see as limited success. You either use OnLive as a service provider like Spotify, but you have to pay to have any access to full games and you require a really good internet connection. The makers themselves recommend you use a wired connection and during peak periods game performance can really suffer.

Paying upfront for the full game doesn't really help either, as you cannot download the game to play when you want, irregardless of whether you have an internet connection. In terms of this model, I think what Valve has done with Steam is pretty much the gold standard. Once you buy a game, it is tied to your account and you can play it anywhere you have it installed. This is what the Cloud should be, ubiquitous, always there for you and to suit your needs.

So to conclude these jumbled thoughts, I definitely think OnLive has a lot of plus points but its much better suited to the world of tomorrow, where high-speed internet is accessible everywhere on the go. If you haven't got a high-end PC or the latest games console, this is definitely a great way to access the latest and greatest games out there.

Google Chrome

Google Chrome has really changed the way I use the web.

The most innovative and intuitive feature, which I miss the most when using other browsers, is the address bar search. Why bother having a search box right to the address bar on other browsers? In this day and age, everyone navigates to their websites either by quickly Googling it or using their bookmarks...

Which brings me onto my all time favourite feature, the saved session. On my PC I have about 8 - 12 tabs open constantly. At one point I had 20+ tabs, with all my webcomics open. Gone were the days where I had to boot up my browser and then navigate through my bookmarks one by one. Now I can just fire up Chrome and everything is just there!

Another nifty thing I do with that is that whenever I want to read something but I don't have time to, I can just leave the tab open. This prompts me the next time, as I see it load, rather than letting it rot away in some bookmark folder.

I used to love this feature on IE (version 7 I think?), but it was fairly clunky and sadly removed in later versions (again I haven't used IE properly in ages, so can't say for sure).

Lastly, on my PC I have dual 24" monitors, one landscape and one portrait. With dockable tabs and Windows 7, I can undock a landscape tab in Chrome and Windows snap it full screen in my portrait screen. This is all done in one mouse movement and great for reading long articles/viewing tall pictures xD

I <3 Chrome!

Developer Diary - Flex, Hibernate & Serialisation

From 11th September 2011.
Been keeping busy learning all the ins and outs of Flex, Hibernate and the perils of serialisation!

I'm sure everyone else knows but you should never assume things will "just work". There is no magic hammer for all problems and deserialisation is definitely something to be careful with.

Anyway, long story short, once you define the relationships on your data, Hibernate can load your database rows into neat little collections. Problem is that these collections are custom ones built by Hibernate, such as the PersistanceMap.

The problem arises when you attempt to send these down the wire to a Flex front end. GaS3 cannot serialise Hibernate collections properly and all you get out of the other side are nulls :(

This bug must have taken me about 2 weeks on and off to get to the root of >.< I kept finding work arounds but I finally sat down the other day to try to understand it. Mission accomplished... So yay XD

Things can be rough when you try to learn multiple complex technologies on the job!

Developer Diary - Hibernate Generated Primary Key Values

From 16th August 2011.

Ever since I started using Hibernate, I have noticed some weird behaviour with the primary keys that were being generated. They were way too high and being incremented strange multiples.

This bugged me personally, it wasn't causing any sort of bug in the code but I was determined to get to the root cause of the problem.

Turns out you have to tell Java Persistence not to multiple your sequence generator by 50! Why this default logic is in place, I don't know...

More details here ^_^ Spread the word!

London Riots

Petty acts of organised crime and senseless violence... What has driven us to riot over and over?

Is there that much of an undercurrent of rage in our society today?

Have so many escaped punishment for the "student loans" riots that they have exposed how feeble the "man" is? Is there no longer fear of retribution?

Yet whilst add this is happening, we still have so many of us observing from ivory towers. We joke about "peasants" who have come to pillage as we watch massive televisions being stolen on handheld phones worth twice as much...

Rather I feel like we are observing chaos, there is no stable state to the society we live in today. Wealth is increasingly becoming more sparsely distributed. The internet feeds every single piece of information anywhere to everywhere. We might just be seeing the tip of the iceberg...

I doubt its the end of the world, but this is most certainly another example of volatility which may become an inherent part of 21st century life.

Captain America - The First Avenger

The last film in the pre-Avengers series, Captain America is an entertaining film which good but not great. Although far from ground-breaking, there is enjoyment to be had and the film does well to prepare the ground for the Avengers.

Breaking the trend set by so many action films nowadays, Captain America actually has an interesting character story at the heart of it. Whilst the special effects and action is done well, it is not the entire focus of the film. Chris Evans does a great job as the eponymous hero but some could argue that his character is boring and unchanging, just the cliched good guy.

However I enjoyed the juxtaposition of his unchanging kind, naive nature to his rapid physical development. Gaining superpowers changes may change what we are but not necessarily who we are. The rest of the cast does a mighty fine job as well with Hugo Weaving doing a brilliant psychotic evil Nazi and Tommy Lee Jones providing some quality one liners.

One of my favourite aspects of the film was the setting of the world during the Second World War. Seeing an America full of classical cars and Tommy guns gives a beautiful feeling of nostalgia. Not having subliminal adverts for the latest gadgets and cars in the film really helps the immersion into the film. Although a matter of personal preference, it adds to the experience and enjoyability.

With an excellent story, solid characters and vivid backdrop of the 1940s, this film is an enjoyable portrayal of the typical all American hero. If you are a fan of Marvel films that this is a must see and I would highly recommend this to any fan of the superhero genre.

xkcd - google+

One of my favourite comics of all time is xkcd written by Randall Munroe.

There is an old saying on the xkcd forums: "Get out of my head Randall!" This was never as true as when I first saw the comic below. Hell, I joined up soon after reading it :P

The Spirit - Scarlett Johansson

Browsing through Old Dominion and I came across the picture below...

Terrible film but awesome poster, I photoshopped the colour back in... all by myself! XD

The original post is here for all those interested.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

First Follower!

Honoured to have the venerable Mr. Cachelin following this blog, my first follower!

I doubt I will be able to update this as prolifically as Old Dominion but I shall endeavor to have quality over pure quantity!

Any feedback is always welcome as well ^_^

God Bless

Game Theory: Next Generation Console Discussion

This is a quick post I came up with on the fly :)

Game Theory: Talking about the ideas behind games: Next Generation Consoles - Innovation or Power?: With all three mainstream consoles coming to the end of their lifecycles, the time has come to look ahead at the next generation...

Saturday, 25 February 2012

New Layout & Template - CSS Hacks!

How do you like the new look? I've spent some time going through the various templates, different colours and finally hacking around with the HTML/CSS.

Overall I am very impressed with all the options available! The only thing I had issue was with tweaking the transparency of the white content background. In case anyone else is using the Picture Window template and would like to adjust the alpha, here is the CSS code:

.content-outer {
    background: rgba(255,255,255,0.8) none repeat scroll top left;
    -moz-border-radius: 15px;
    -webkit-border-radius: 15px;
    -goog-ms-border-radius: 15px;
    border-radius: 15px;
    -moz-box-shadow: 0 0 3px rgba(0, 0, 0, .15);
    -webkit-box-shadow: 0 0 3px rgba(0, 0, 0, .15);
    -goog-ms-box-shadow: 0 0 3px rgba(0, 0, 0, .15);
    box-shadow: 0 0 3px rgba(0, 0, 0, .15);
    margin: 30px auto;

Most of that is just preserving the original style but I've highlighted the key changes I made. CSS3 lets you specify colours in rbga format, giving us access to the alpha (last argument). I've also removed the original white image which was used (now none).

I'll hopefully be adding more content and widgets soon as well!

Friday, 24 February 2012

Blogger App... Kinda sucks

Looks like the functionality on this app is very limited. Nice for saving drafts I suppose!

In any case, hoping to change the theme and layout to something more interesting. Hoping to find widgets galore XD

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Game Theory: Final Fantasy - James Bond Of The Gaming World

Linking to the Game Theory post I wrote. Musing about gaming franchises in general with a focus on my favourite, Final Fantasy <333

Game Theory: Talking about the ideas behind games: Final Fantasy - James Bond Of The Gaming World:A multi-million pound franchise with a massive international following. This would aptly describe both the Final Fantasy and James Bond series. However, you could also describe them both... as "boring".