German cycle superhighway opens its first stretch

“Commute” by triplefivedrew

The first 5km of a 100km cycle only superhighway has opened to public in Germany.

When complete, the route will connect 10 western cities including Duisburg, Bochum, and Hamm, and four universities. Martin Toennes of regional development group RVR says almost two million people live within 1.2 miles of the bicycle highway and will be able to use sections of it for their daily commutes. With the rise in popularity of electric bicycles to help with undulating terrain, RVR says the bike way, which utilizes mostly abandoned railroad tracks in the Ruhr Valley, could replace up to 50,000 motor vehicles during daily commuting hours.

When finished, it would be the longest surfaced urban cycling commute track in the world.

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Using your gut microbes to find the perfect diet

Cave Man Paleo breakfast. Photo by Katherine Lim
Cave Man Paleo breakfast. Photo by Katherine Lim

It seems every generation has its own bouquet of diets that people swear by.

In the early 80s, diet guru Nathan Pritikin believed that we should shun all fats and food containing cholesterol. He died of leukemia in ’85, but apparently his autopsy revealed that he had “arteries like those of a child and a heart like that of a young man”.

His arch rival in the time, Robert Atkins, of the Atkin’s Diet fame, espoused just the opposite – low-carb, high fat diets. His controversial death threw up allegations of a life long history of cardiac issues and obesity. But still there are people around who swear about it.

Loads of new diets have sprung up in recent years, with a loud number of them blaming carbs, sugar, starches and other GI (glycaemic index) manipulating food groups to be the cause of diet issues in the population.

Now a new article goes a bit deeper. It follows the published “study from an Israeli team led by Eran Segal”, to suggest that looking at all carbs the same way and avoiding them is too simplistic an approach. Human body is too complex and different sources of carbs affect different people in different ways. One of the major reason that they pointed out was the difference in the profile of the microbes in our digestive system!
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Software patents put on hold in India

In a welcome move, the Indian patent office has temporarily stopped issuing software patents.

“In view of several representations received regarding interpretation and scope of section 3(k) of the Patents Act 1970 (as amended), the Guidelines for Examination of Computer Related Inventions… are kept in abeyance till discussions with stakeholders are completed and contentious issues are resolved,” the Controller General of Patents said in a notification issued last week.

Again, this is a temporary measure and given the intensive lobbying that happens behind doors, it could still be revised. But thanks to Ispirt, The Software Freedom Law Center, this is being considered seriously by the office.

As the article points out, software patents are ravaging the US software industry. For the big guys, they are used akin to the Mutually Assured Destruction mentality of the cold war, with every company keeping a vast portfolio of patents to fight back with if they are attacked for the same. But there is a big impact on smaller companies too. Bloomberg reports that:

Big companies are not the only ones being clobbered. According to a 2012 study by Boston University Law School professors Michael J. Meurer and James Bessen, some 90 percent of all patent-troll lawsuits are aimed at small and midsize companies. And these companies, when faced with unfathomable potential legal costs, often pay off the trolls just to make them go away.
 
Overall, Meurer and Bessen found, this abusive system is draining billions of dollars annually from the economy, transferring an estimated $29 billion in 2011 alone from the bank accounts of companies that produce things to patent trolls. Of this, small and midsize businesses, the types that are often at the cutting edge of innovation, paid about 37 percent of the total–money that could have been put to much better use.

Back to WordPress

It seems every year I change my blog backend, hoping it will make a difference to the frequency in blogging. After 10+ years blogging, I am older and wiser enough to know that it doesn’t. It is a losing battle. Content I would like to share with my family goes to Facebook, random quips go to Twitter. Pretty much wherever there is a more suitable audience.

In any case, writing or not, it is much better to move to a hosted solution, and I moved my domain and migrated my Jekyll website (painfully) to the wordpress.com hosted site.

Serializing Structured Data Into Avro Using Python

AvroIt is impossible to ignore Avro at work – it is the data serialization format of choice at work (and rightly so), whether it is to store data into Kafka or into our document database Espresso. Recently, I had the need to read avro data serialized by a Java application, and I looked into how I might use Python to read such data.

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Difference Between Python and Ruby When It Comes to Hashes With Default Values

Having worked with Python for a while, I am trying to pick up Ruby, especially for some of my work with logstash. While trying out a small program in Ruby, I got stumped with a peculiar trait of Ruby hashes with default values. It made me lose an hour of my life I am not going to get back. :(

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