What is a block chain?

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Software application development professionals working on security related technologies touching so-called cryptocurrencies will be aware of the block chain (or blockchain).

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This is a network-based 'inviolable ledger' that, in terms of form and function, is fully public and is constantly being updated and confirmed by autonomous computers.

In line with this technology, a sequential transaction database technique is used to keep a ledger of cryptocurrency monies.

Completing the picture here (or at least adding another layer of colour) is the fact that transmission of 'bits' of data can performed using Cipher Block Chaining (CBC) where a sequence of bits are encrypted with a cipher key applied to a single block.

Notable cryptocurrencies include Bitcoin, Ripple, Litecoin, Peercoin and NXT/Nextcoin -- these are the brands with the highest current levels of market capitalisation.

Computaris: dialling into the ugly truth on SS7

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Telecommunications is rife for hacking, or at least that's what people say.

The problem is, many of our telco-level communications protocols, systems, subsystems and substrates have been around a long time -- and that's what makes them vulnerable.

Razvan Rusu, Computaris presales manager says that, as of now, a massive security flaw exists in the way all mobile networks operate and communicate with each other.

As firm, Computaris specialises in system integration, BSS technical consultancy and software development for software vendors and communication services providers (CSPs) -- basically, this is stuff like mobile broadband data policy management and provisioning etc.

Computaris says that there is an ugly truth at the heart of mobile networks and its not confined to a small, unused part of the network -- it's down to SS7.

According to searchnetworking.techtarget.com, "On the public switched telephone network (PSTN), Signaling System 7 (SS7) is a system that puts the information required to set up and manage telephone calls in a separate network rather than within the same network that the telephone call is made on."

Basically it is a set of telephony signal protocols that handles almost every function in a mobile network, including voice calls and text messages.

The problem is (says Rusu) that SS7 was developed over 30 years ago without including any security mechanisms.

At the time of its design, SS7 network was considered a trusted network offering as it was designed with the possibility for a Network Element to pretend to be and to respond on behalf of any other Network Element.

The problem is (says Rusu), these design features are actually the flaws that can be exploited by hackers. The suggestion here is that SS7 was conceived at a time before hacking was even called hacking.

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Rusu writes as follows:

"To make matters worse, because of roaming agreements, SS7 messages flow freely between mobile operators. This means that an on-net call (calling and called part from the same network) that should never leave that mobile operator can be controlled by or redirected to any other mobile network operator. This allows hackers to target a mobile subscriber from anywhere in the world."

"Hackers use messages normally exchanged between mobile operators, which make SS7 attacks very difficult to detect. By sending seemingly normal requests they can obtain the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI), a unique number associated to every SIM card. Using the IMSI, the hackers can target their attack on a single mobile phone, sending only a couple of SS7 messages per targeted IMSI."

"Every mobile network is potentially at risk and consequently, every mobile user is as well. Mobile operators can secure the access to their own core network but do not have control over what happens with other mobile operators. The challenge for mobile operators is to block attacks while allowing normal messages exchange between operators."

"The current equipment used for routing SS7 (STP) are not capable of detecting and blocking these types of attacks. A solution is not easy, but nonetheless, it exists. First, mobile operators can hide the subscriber's real IMSI and MSC/VLR address. By home routing SMS messages, the real IMSI can be hidden while the SMS messages are still delivered. Hiding the IMSIs is a great step towards network security, since all the attacks need the subscriber's real IMSI. However, this first step is not enough, as hackers may already know the IMSIs of their targets from previous attacks. The IMSI is linked to the SIM card, so it changes very rarely. In addition to hiding the real IMSIs, mobile operators could enhance their STPs routing features. Messages received from other mobile operators can be sent to an external application that can decide, based on the data carried in that message, if the request is a genuine request or an attack."

The zeitgeist for the Internet of Things: 'thingalytics'

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The Internet of Things, The Internet of Everything, The Internet of Connected & Embedded Things and The Internet of Data...

... take your pick, they all mean (mostly) the same thing.

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The notion of connected devices and the IoT is now becoming quite familiar to us and many users have started to adopt these technologies already.

In 2015 in the UK it is not uncommon to have British Gas Hive electronic heating controls, a home video monitoring system such as Piper or others and perhaps most obviously of all, a FitBit as a personal health tracker.

Time for thingalytics

The IT world is of course fond of a jazzy acronym or buzzword, so why not a buzzword title for a book about the Internet of Things?

Written by Software AG's Dr. John Bates, thingalytics is intended to show businesses how to take advantage of the fast big data that flows from the digital planet.

But how?

Thingalytics describes how to use real-time analytics and algorithms to seize the opportunities that flow from IoT while simultaneously minimising threats.

According to the book's promotional notes, "As each device from tractors to refrigerators to ships is digitized and connected to the Internet, it presents an opportunity for innovative businesses to learn from (and take advantage of) the digital data it creates."

IoT simples?

But it's not all going to be easy... the book warns us what happens when algorithms go wrong and cites a famous stock trading debacle thrown up by erroneous software code.

Bates also insists that this stuff is all new, "Because the volume and complexity of data have expanded exponentially in recent years, a thingalytics platform needs to be based upon completely new software architecture," he writes.

Digital Darwinism, digital disruption

"Digital Darwinism is unkind to those who wait," says R Ray Wang, who has written the forward to the book before listing a nicely complete description of what his firm Constellation Research does.

Using real stories from some of the most tech-savvy retailers, banks, transportation and soft drink providers, thingalytics delves into the world of analytics and algorithms to show the reader how to seize the opportunities buried within IoT.

Chapters include:

• It's all about me - the birth of personalised marketing
• Machines with feelings - smart industrialised and retail machines
• Home is where the smart is - yes, there is such a thing as a 'smart meal' - and yes, your TV might start only advertising to your exact demographic if you sign up within agreed privacy terms
• Take two smart pills and call me in the morning - your pancreas controls your endocrine system which acts as your body monitoring control, so why give it some help with an electronic monitoring sensor, in a pill
• Planes, trains and automobiles - yes, it's about those things
• The technology behind thingalytics - think big data, think streaming analytics, think cloud

CWDN opinion

Add thingalytics to your spellchecker now, this is the kind of phrase that sticks.

This book describes the zeitgeist of information technology today at the intersection of big data analytics and the change to a new information-empowered dynamism for consumers and businesses at all levels.

Dr. John writes with a cadence and spirit that reflects his real life persona; he is a techie original who just happens to hold a doctorate in software engineering and a C-level board position at Software AG.

This is an easy and enjoyable read and one that you can dip into randomly page by page if you don't want to start on page one.

About the author

Dr. John Bates is a forerunner in the fields of the Internet of Things and big data streaming analytics -- he holds a custom-engineered napkin neck attachment device and a PhD from Cambridge University.

Software AG: Vorsprung durch cloud-Technik

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As already reported on the Computer Weekly Developer Network, the team at Software AG is using this year's CeBit 2015 exhibition and conference in Hannover Germany to talk cloud.

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Specifically, the firm has launched a "Transformation to the Cloud" initiative.

Software AG has made the decision to deploy its entire cloud portfolio on the AWS cloud over the course of 2015.

Already running on Amazon Web Services (AWS) are the company's Alfabet Cloud and ARIS Cloud.

Alfabet is for IT planning and portfolio management as well as business process analysis.

Cloud-by-cloud breakdown

The Alfabet Cloud

Alfabet Cloud combines portfolio management with cloud technology to put IT portfolio management expertise in two editions i.e. it lets teams decide which option best fits their needs based on budget, portfolio management maturity, program goals and stakeholders.

The ARIS Cloud

This technology exists to design, analyse, share and collaboratively improve processes in the cloud with integrated social collaboration. The firm insists that it comes in three editions -- basic, advanced and enterprise -- to support the widest implementation of BPA projects...

... it's BPA cloud (Business Process Analytics)-as-a-Service, if you like.

So to this year's main event and the firm's international main press conference held on a Sunday afternoon.

At a gathering entitled Stand out in the Digital World - with the first Digital
Business Platform, chief technology officer Dr. Wolfram Jost chaired the proceedings together with CEO Karl-Heinz Streibich and Eric Duffaut, who is Software AG's chief customer officer -- the assembled collective wanted to show how their technology platform enables organisations to master digitisation.

Software AG now positively names and brands its latest offering as The Digital Business Platform - bus is this just a brand name for some cloud application services, or is Software AG doing anything tangibly different?

NOTE: The European Commission estimates that the digital economy will reach €3.2 trillion (in the G20 countries alone) by 2016 and already accounts for 8 percent of GDP.

Why old software is "broken"...?

The suggestion here is that old software doesn't work - it is:

• standard,
• conventional,
• packaged
• based upon old business logic

... and, very crucially, it is designed for relatively stable and predictable business situations.

This is the old world of software and it can not provide the flexibility needed for today's world of real-time business and rapidly changing market requirements.

NOTE: By way of clarification, Software AG is NOT contending that all old software should be "ripped and replaced" -- we know very well that a lot of legacy software exists because it is software that STILL WORKS. So rather then, the firm is talking about new digitisation programmes and new software developments for the most part.

"Today's enterprises must become digital to have maximum visibility into changing market behaviour, individual customer requirements, its own business operations across the entire supply chain as well as changing external parameters such as new government regulations or even weather conditions", said Software AG CTO, Wolfram Jost.

"The Digital Business Platform provides the foundation necessary to develop and deploy differentiating business applications, developed together with the business departments, in short and easily foreseeable release cycles," added Jostr.

He underlines that traditional packaged applications are not designed for this type of development approach.

"The benefits of analysing data from the Internet of Things, from the social end of the spectrum to machine to machine communication (M2M), making in-depth business decisions based on the information provided and dynamically adapting business processes and models to react to 'live' events are enormous", continued Jost.

"Providing a holistic approach that can manage and govern IT assets and automated business processes, on-premise and cloud integration and advanced
analytics, based on an in-memory and event driven architecture, is the only way that enterprises can fully utilize digitization. This is our philosophy behind the Digital Business Platform".

It's a question of PRODUCTS vs PLATFORMS ... with products, you have a piece of software and it will go out of date... but is you run a platform, you have the option to pull things in and out.

If we ask whether Software AG doing anything tangibly different - and the answer is yes, but it's a subtle yes.

The company has brought together its own recipe for combined IT in its own special way, this is the difference.

• It has core cloud functions such as Alfabet and ARIS.
• It has systems integration technology from its WebMethods products.
• It also draws upon WebMethods for its Agile software application development and process intelligence.
• It has capabilities to manage big data in-memory with its Terracotta line.
• It has real-time insight technology with Apama.

Now Software AG would tell us that this ingredient list makes the firm "unique", but we all know that only snowflakes and John Lennon are unique.

The company has also said that with this week's news it has launched the first ever digital business platform, but headlines like that on press releases don't help much to be honest, it's just PR showboating isn't it?

What we need to ask is whether there is real substance here behind the use of the term PLATFORM.

Jost further states that a "platform beats a product every time" - and what Jost means by this is firms should approach software applications that they may only end up using for say a couple of years in their initial form.

Software application development must move to reach a new level of ADAPTIVE APPLICATIONS that can be changed and tuned (often rapidly) says the firm.

This is because no software vendor can foresee the business logic of a company for more than a couple of years -- this is a good point.

So what we have here is a focused set of tools and technologies delivered in an efficient and logically packaged package.

Software AG has thought about how it has put these component ingredients together... it's a layer of advancement through intelligent cloud design.

Or perhaps Vorsprung durch cloud-Technik, yah?

Editorial disclosure: Software AG paid for most of Adrian Bridgwater's travel expenses to attend CeBit 2015.


What can Xerox Services do to make work simple?

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Xerox photocopiers are still on the market -- as are the company's multi-function systems, digital production printing presses and other products.

But try as we might, we couldn't find a place to talk about paper on the Computer Weekly Developer Network blog.

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Xerox Services

More software-centric by far is the Xerox Services division, which now (according to the company itself) commands something of a market leadership position in document and business process intelligence.

This business division of the firm has two focal points.

Xerox calls the first element "horizontal client processes" -- and these elements are business functions that any example firm might look to execute by working with partners irrespective of the industry vertical in question: examples include human resources, finance and also customer care.

Then there are "vertical processes" -- these are business functions specific to the industry usage, so for want of an example... a transportation tolling system (this is in fact a strong area for Xerox Services) or for example in healthcare where the process is even more particular to the use case.

Did you know Xerox ranks #1 as a provider of worldwide transportation services to governments? Well, no... nor did we to be honest.

What Xerox Services specialises in is BPS - Business Process Services (which many would call Business Process Outsourcing, or BPO).

Business processes are changing, faster than many people realise and with a software-driven engine behind them.

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Xerox Services now boasts of 50,000 call centre operatives around the world to form the firm's customer care services offering -- the world of professional services has never looked quite this shape before.

What we see now is a world where business outcomes are shaping in new ways as they are driven by more Business Process Management (BPO) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).

Xerox Services says that by outsourcing the right elements of operational management effectively, firms can:

• Drive more innovation from managed services
• Run traditional and digital environments simultaneously
• Mitigate risk in the new digital economy

Rich experiences

All of this comes back to firms needing to apply big data analytics to drive omni-channel care strategies, identifying high potential areas for care automation and developing what vendors love to call a "rich" customer experience.

Xerox has sold its own IT "traditional" outsourcing division to Atos and so is effectively following its own mantra for concentrating on core competencies.

Xerox Services works with data at a variety of levels -- voice, social media interactions, email attachments, images, video and more.

But what matters here is the degree to which firms can implement analytics upon this data to help make the customer using the customer care services more efficient.

As I have written elsewhere before, if a user tries to update his or her car insurance online in what we would call a "self service" format and fails, then they will very typically call and speak to a human being. This is not as profitable for the firm using the service, so Xerox will layer in a variety of data analysis technologies including Natural Language Processing (NLP) to study voice calls. The results and this analysis can then be fed back into the way the customer operates (both online and offline) to drive towards greater profit.

There's a learning dynamic that needs to go on here between clients and providers to make the changes happen as we move to these new models -- but it is happening in the marketplace now as firms are transforming their business to new service based models of operation where "supplier partners" are leveraged as part of what should form progressive business models.

President of Xerox Services Robert Zapfel calls this -- Business Process Economies Of Skill... and it must just form part of the new economics.

Editorial Disclosure: Adrian Bridgwater has worked on sponsored blog materials for Xerox Services.







Software AG's cloud migration double-play: migration cloud-to-ground & cloud-to-cloud

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When is the best time to break news at CeBit in Hannover, Germany?

Answer: late on the Friday afternoon before the show even starts, natürlich!

Software AG today explains that it is launching a "Transformation to the Cloud" initiative.

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Ed -- it's about cloud migration then, obviously?

A more colourful way of putting that would be to say that it centres around an objective to help enterprises to identify and implement their optimal cloud adoption strategies.

To support and validate the initiative, Software AG has made the decision to deploy its entire cloud portfolio on the AWS cloud over the course of 2015.

Already running on AWS are Software AG's Alfabet Cloud and ARIS Cloud product suites for IT planning and portfolio management as well as business process analysis.

These services are supposed to allow enterprises to identify those IT assets that can make optimal use of the cloud from ease of access, cost, regulatory and security perspectives and how to transform business processes to the cloud.

Natural 'cloud citizens'

Yes of course some of those assets will be natural (or even obvious) so-called 'cloud citizens' such as those apps with a high degree of cyclicality and those that scale well in vertical terms...

... but if cloud migration was that clear cut then we wouldn't spend so much time discussing it and firms wouldn't launch initiatives like this one.

Cloud-to-Cloud and Cloud-to-Ground

Software AG will also deploy webMethods Integration Cloud on Amazon Web Services this year -- this system offers application integration capabilities for Cloud-to-Cloud and Cloud-to-Ground use cases as a public cloud service.

Software AG CTO Wolfram Jost insists that Software AG can offer a portfolio of cloud services to help design an optimal hybrid IT architecture and deploy suitable processes, domains, systems and applications on the AWS cloud.

"Using Software AG's Alfabet Cloud and ARIS Cloud on AWS will enable customers to gain the maximum value from the cloud through a managed business and IT transformation to a customer centric digital business," said the company, in a press statement.

Software AG will also deploy webMethods Integration Cloud, an integration Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS) for cloud-to-cloud integration and seamless connections with private cloud or on-premise enterprise service bus installations on AWS.

webMethods AgileApps Cloud

Finally, webMethods AgileApps Cloud, a PaaS and on-premises solution for creating situational and case management apps will also be run on AWS. Designed for easy visual customisation, webMethods AgileApps Cloud enables subject matter experts to change processes, business rules, e-forms, reports, dashboards, connect with Facebook or Twitter, collaborate with team members and access information from any mobile device.

"Today, more than ever before, leading ISVs are looking for IT solutions that allow them to move quickly, reduce costs, and better serve their customers," said Terry Wise, Vice President, AWS. "Software AG is a leading example of an innovative software vendor going all in on AWS to leverage our secure, robust infrastructure platform, and expanding global footprint to build highly differentiated, value-added solutions for their customers."

Software AG says it will now expand the portfolio of cloud transformation services and solutions through its partner program in 2015.

The focus will be on delivering strategic cloud adoption consulting services.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum, 'recreated' for iPad & maybe a new generation of BASIC developers?

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Emulators and clones have come and gone over the years, but those of us who grew up with the real thing have long bemoaned the disappearance of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and its 'rubberised' keyboard.

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'The recreated Sinclair ZX Spectrum' (note use of official name) is a full-size recreation of the 1980s personal computer.

The machine will be available in the UK and elsewhere this Spring 2015 at less than £100.

The new (sorry, recreated) ZX Spectrum ships with

1) 'Recreated Sinclair ZX Spectrum' iOS / Android apps which include the
classic Sinclair ZX Spectrum game 'Chuckie Egg'.
2) 'Sinclair BASIC'
3) A large game bundle

'Sinclair ZX Spectrum' games will also be available ONLINE, via 'The recreated Sinclair ZX Spectrum Online' web app website.

The recreated device uses are not limited to Sinclair ZX Spectrum applications as its Bluetooth keyboard it can be used with other devices.

'The recreated Sinclair ZX Spectrum' has been redesigned in the UK for Elite Systems Ltd, one of the UK's oldest developers and publishers of computer and video games.

Sinclair for developers

Co-founder of Elite Systems Steve Wilcox told the Computer Weekly Developer Network blog that, "Sinclair / Spectrum BASIC is credited by some as inspiring a generation of world-class developers in the 1980s."

"[Today then] 'the recreated Sinclair ZX Spectrum' ships with the same BASIC programming language and coupled with the wealth of resources now available on the web will, we hope, inspire a new generation to enjoy the benefits of becoming a developer," added Wilcox.

It supports 'Apple AirPlay' and 'Google Chromecast'; enabling wireless streaming of what's on the screen of a phone, tablet, Mac or PC to an HDTV.

The recreated device's 'GAME' layer has been perfected for iOS / Android apps and for games in general ... its 'QWERTY' layer has been honed for applications requiring access
to all the functionality of a full-size keyboard.

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What (d!conomy software) to expect at CeBit 2015

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Fortunately, for those of us that enjoy a good tech trade show, CeBit 2015 is on.

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Fortunately, this year's show is one again (as always) held in the comparatively sleepy German town of Hannover.

... and fortunately, there is German efficiency, excellent beer and all round fresh air for those that venture between the show's 30-something or so halls from time to time.

d!conomy?

Unfortunately, you can't word search the http://www.cebit.de/home website for very much specific software discussion (although it will bring up a list of the 200 exhibitors who list themselves as software firms) -- so we obviously just have to go to the show.

Unfortunately the promotors have taken to using the term d!conomy (noun -- /ɪD -ˈkɒn.ə.mi/ ) presumably to denote just how important DATA is to the ECONOMY -- d!conomy, geddit?

NOTE: Software developers will no doubt find this use of ! amusing as of course ! denotes (not) in program code -- so the connotation is negative.

Fortunately, the Computer Weekly Developer Network blog spoke to a handful of firms to get the inside track on what kind of software we can expect at this year's show.

Software AG

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Eric Duffaut, chief customer officer at Software AG thinks that CeBIT is a special and unique event.

"CeBit is an opportunity to present and discuss Software AG's latest developments and the development of the European software industry, with customers, partners, regional and national politicians and industry analysts," he said.

"This year we will be demonstrating how enterprises and government services can stand out in the digital economy. We will also be emphasising how the current digitisation revolution presents Europe with an incredible opportunity to take the lead in the development of the global software industry," added Duffaut.

... and also?

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Who else is saying what?

Jennifer Healey, senior research scientist & IoT analytics lead at Intel Corporation, is holding a keynote speech to detail the company's future visions for automation in factories by using new technologies.

Intel is exhibiting what it calls "an extensive showcase" of technologies and end-to-
end solutions for the datacenter, Internet of Things, embedded and security.

"Together with OEM partners, Intel will also be presenting a range of demonstrations and use cases that make tomorrow's vision of a clutterfree workplace a reality today," said the firm.

Also at the show -- Developer World

The first-ever of Developer World display and event area will feature a wide range of exhibits, networking events and themed conferences that are specifically targeted at software developers.

Digitalisation drive

Mark Darbyshire, chief technology advisor, SAP UK & I has this to say, "The on-going digitalisation of the business world is pushing traditional IT approaches to their limits, forcing organisations to rethink the way in which they operate."

"Whether it's start-ups provoking changes to a traditional business model or transport hubs finding bottlenecks and removing them, our focus at CeBIT showcases how businesses can take advantage of the new opportunities SAP's, Run Simple, approach provides. A perfect example of this is SAP S/4HANA, a single platform for companies to operate their business, drive their digitalisation efforts and implement the insights they discover as a result," added Darbyshire.

He concludes, "At the show, examples of this include a spectrum from machine-to-machine communications to analytics for professional golfers. CeBIT is one of the key platforms we have in Europe that brings together the industry's most innovative technology leaders and creative minds to tackle today's business challenges, share key insights and prepare for the data-driven, hyper-connected future."

Intel XDK HTML5 cross-platform development tool

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Memory maker turned chip maker turned chip maker who also makes a lot of software company Intel has released an updated Intel XDK -- an all-in-one HTML5 development environment.

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Not an SDK, an XDK

Intel uses the X to denote cross platform -- the DK still means Development Kit.

The latest XDK is aimed at accelerating the deployment of new mobile games.

This software application developer tool can be used by game developers to write a single app and automatically build versions for Android, iOS and Windows app stores.

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"Intel XDK gives gamers the ability to enjoy the same experiences across their PCs, phones, and tablets, and lets developers focus on creating new experiences instead of porting games to different platforms," said the firm, in a press statement.

Nice Asset, Management

This version adds popular game engine support for a range of code libraries and includes an Asset Manager to access, manipulate and manage game assets.

There is support here for the W3C Gamepad API for devices; and it also supports Google Play Game Services and Apple Game Center Services.

Intel XDK is available as a free download for Windows 7 & 8, Apple OS X and Ubuntu Linux.

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"Intel XDK HTML5 Cross-platform Development Tool provides a simplified workflow to enable developers to easily design, debug, build, and deploy HTML5 web and hybrid apps across multiple app stores, and form factor devices," said the firm.

What to expect from QCon 2015

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QCon is coming to London again on March 4 2015 -- this is a software development conference with guts not glitz.

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The event is described as a "practitioner-driven conference" designed for technical team leads, architects, engineering directors and project managers who influence innovation in their teams.

"This year's QCon continues our passion and commitment to providing a conference where software development innovators can learn more about innovator-stage topics from the best teams in the world, and from each other," said Floyd Marinescu, QCon conference Chair.

Highlights include a session entitled: Java - Not Dead Yet

The blurb says that Java is evolving to meet developer and business needs, from lambdas in Java 8 to built-in support for money types rumoured for Java 9.

Mobile is no longer the Next Big Thing say the organisers but a requirement for your business -- attendees can hear from those who have implemented successful mobile systems.

Emmanuel Marchal, managing director for EMEA at Basho Technologies states that although QCon is primarily a 'party' for developers, architects, engineers and other techy-types to trade thoughts on innovation and how they're achieving it -- there is no rule in the charter that states actual users of the tech are banned from proceedings.

"In-fact, a great deal of value can be found for those looking to spot the next innovative piece of software that may revolutionise their business. The speaker line-up, for example, sees an array of top end-user spokespeople, from CIOs to researchers, take to the stage with developers to discuss their use of tech," said Marchal.

He points to his session with bet365 and says that this should appeal not only to the developers but also the users, addressing the technical intricacies of next generation databases and the business value to be gained from a move to NoSQL.

What better for IT managers looking to tackle a persistent pain point than hearing how their peers addressed a similar issue?

Data Gravity

"Furthermore there are presentations from software providers that aim to enlighten both users and developers, with speakers such as Dave McCrory tackling issues such as data gravity and how very large volumes of data can negatively impact network performance. Data Gravity is an issue that can seriously impact a business, and such presentations can be vital learning tools for users' seeking to prepare themselves for the next onslaught of IT issues," said Marchal.

Other sessions include a look at how theories from neuroscience and psychology can help us better understand IT professionals and discover what really motivates them.

Speakers will also look at how to create reactive systems is more than simply learning a framework. Thinking in a reactive way helps you to design responsive architectures.

"QCon is a good event that acts as a pragmatic barometer, showing the evolution of software development. It does this not just in terms of technology innovation, but also by demonstrating how developers are becoming more 'connected' into the business as a whole through the growth of DevOps and Continuous Delivery," said Tulin Green, marketing manager, Perforce Software.

Perforce will present on the topic of 'High Performance Continuous Delivery - Versioning and Release Management Aligned', the session looks at the key requirements for optimising the pipeline from the developers' desktop to the customer.

The conference homepage is found at http://qconlondon.com/

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Ericsson: The (optimised) network is the (app experience) computer

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The jury is out on application experience optimisation, or AEO if you prefer.

As web pages now automatically deliver content to mobile devices in what they think is a 'mobile optimised' format, not all sites offer the option to revert to 'Desktop Version' as Wikipedia does.

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Given the size of an iPad or BlackBerry Passport screen, we don't always need it optimised thank you very much.

But application experience optimisation goes beyond screen size adjustments and websites -- it's a network level issue at the core.

Operators need to perfect network performance if they want customer loyalty -- and they know it.

But things are changing; Ericsson says that conventional network-related key performance indicators (KPIs) alone may no longer paint an accurate picture of the true user experience.

Fast-evolving app ecosystem

App Experience Optimization (note the caps and the Z to denote the branded product name) is a new service from the firm that claims to be able to "transform how operators optimise their networks" to meet the new demands created by a fast-evolving app ecosystem.

Not directly used by software application developers as such, but of interest to those who want to know how their apps are being served from the back end -- this service aims to create a picture of the local app experience and correlating this with network-related KPIs, which can then be acted upon.

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Jason Marcheck, service director for service provider infrastructure at analyst house Current Analysis has said that Ericsson has always paid attention to how user interaction with the network impacts its operators' customers.

"This latest launch brings end-users' app experiences into the mix, marrying network optimisation services with insights from collaborations with over-the-top service providers to help networks perform better in ways that end users value most," said Marcheck.

Mendix CTO: If developers want RAD, get aPaaS

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Mendix is a company that offers what we call an aPaaS -- an Application Platform As A Service (aPaaS).

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That doesn't tell us much.

So what is an aPaaS?

An aPaaS is meant for software application development pros to build business applications faster than by traditional methods.

Why and how?

Because an aPaaS is hosted so the operating system can be updated and upgraded more frequently by automatic controls -- and maintenance can also be performed from more of a backend position, plus there's also potentially better fault tolerance and (obviously) scalability, because this is cloud computing.

Mendix says programmers can use its aPaaS to design multi-device, multi-channel enterprise applications with their own data model, complex business logic, process flows and integrations using visual models and directly deploy to users.

Mendix's CTO Johan den Haan says that if programmers want to work in Rapid Application Development (RAD) environments today, they need aPaaS.

"Early RAD was great in theory, difficult in practice," says den Haan.

He argues that this is because the notion of fast, iterative development involving end users was years ahead of technology's ability to support it.

Thanks to the convergence of social, mobile, analytics and cloud, the promise of RAD is finally being realised.

Guest speaker content follows:

The following commentary comes directly from Mendixs CTO Johan den Haan.

Rapid application development's resurgence can be traced to the iPhone.

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The explosion of mobile devices has given rise to app companies that are disrupting industries and forcing traditional businesses to reinvent themselves as software companies. Business need more apps to compete and they can't afford to wait years for them to be built.

In addition, our experiences as consumers have radically transformed our expectations for business software.

We're now used to apps that are built rapidly and updated frequently; that work across any device; and that are simple and intuitive. When IT can't deliver, business users simply take matters into their own hands.

Rapid Application Development is the 'new black', and it's on everyone's radar, from analysts like Forrester and Gartner to the big enterprise software vendors.

For proof, look no further than the arm's race between major cloud platform providers. Some are bringing rapid application development capabilities to market organically, while others are partnering with established vendors to round out their cloud portfolios.

Clocked creates socially-holistic profile matchmaking app

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A London-based software application development shop has produced a new app designed to tackle online matchmaking with an altogether more integrated and socially-holistic approach.

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Clocked connects a user's various online profiles to form a 'compatibility score' for potential matches.

Each day users are matched with potential suitors, with a couple of wildcards thrown in for good measure.

Okay so what you say?

Clocked's predominantly Agile-centric team says it is the first app to reveal compatible people partially based on information automatically pulled from users' various online profiles;
including:

  • Instagram,
  • Facebook and,
  • LinkedIn.

So how was it built?

"We are an Agile shop," confirms Ben Lambert, CEO and founder of Clocked.

"The development was also done in Poland in two-week sprints... and using scrum. I have followed the whole thing on Trello (a free web-based project management application) and project managed from the UK."

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"The back end is built on Ruby/ PostgreSQL for high scaling potential. The front end in ObjC and Swift giving the nice UX/ UI," added Lambert.

Cinderella twist

The team also built in a function which it calls the Cinderella twist i.e. users need to act on suggested profiles by midnight or they disappear.

In addition to location & age, Clocked takes into account values and other online profile information when suggesting how suitable a match is -- when browsing through profiles users will be able to see where shared similarities exist, making it easier to start those initial conversations.

This is shown by the 'Clocked Compatibility Rating' out of 5 stars.

Clocked is free and can be downloaded at Clocked.co, Apple iTunes and is coming soon to Android.

Image credit: http://www.fanpop.com/

HP Haven Predictive Analytics: operationalising large-scale machine learning

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HP wants its new Haven Predictive Analytics product to be viewed as a route to operationalising large-scale machine learning and statistical analysis for today's big data volumes -- the technology is powered by HP's Distributed R programming language offering.

But isn't that all a bit of a mouthful?

Let's break it down.

Why predictive analytics and predictive modeling?

Because determining future outcomes and trends from existing data sets (potentially) allows firms to predict everything from customer buying behaviour to fraud detection to industrial plant machine downtime.

Why Distributed R?

Because distributed R is R itself, with new language extensions and a runtime to manage distributed execution i.e. in bigger enterprise environments.

Why is operationalising big data volumes a big deal?

Because none of this technology is easy from the get go, so HP is trying to kick start its use with out-of-the-box-algorithms (yes, sorry, that is a thing) as a set of proven parallel algorithms that produce accurate and consistent (so says HP) results with mature standard R algorithms.

The software itself enjoys native integration with the HP Vertica columnar massively parallel processing (MPP) database, which is supposed to increase overall data access performance and allow software application development professionals to start building software with predictive analytics inside.

ODBC parallel data loaders for dummies

Shilpa Lawande, GM of platform at HP's Software Big Data Business Unit suggests that when HP Distributed R is deployed with HP Vertica, overall data access performance is boosted by as much as five times over standard R ODBC (open database connectivity) parallel data loaders. According to a press statement, "Since Vertica fully supports industry-standard SQL queries, it enables a much broader community of developers and DBAs to employ the power of predictive analytics without the burden of learning an entirely new technology or tool."

HP reminds us that the open source R language is used by "millions of data scientists around the globe" to interpret, interact with and visualize data. It has been a powerful tool in tackling predictive modeling tasks such as drug discovery and financial modeling.

"Unfortunately, due to its inherent design, it has been challenged to process large data sets. HP worked out of HP Labs and HP Software to create its Distributed R extension and the result of this strategic initiative is the industry's first open source version of a distributed platform for R that is explicitly designed to address today's demanding Big Data predictive analytic tasks," said the company, in a press statement.

Comfortable warm R feelings

Now the global developer community can employ R to scale to more than a billion predictive records of data - and this is said to be 'an order of magnitude improvement' over traditional R-based performance. This offering from HP also retains the consistency with R and enables data scientists to use their familiar R console and RStudio to work with Distributed R -- and this could indeed be important for R converts.

Microsoft not cloudy on ISO cloud privacy

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Microsoft this week claims to be the first company to adopt the world's first international standard for cloud privacy.

The standard (known to its friends as ISO/IEC 27018) was developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

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The standard exists with the intention of establishing a uniform international approach to protecting privacy for personal data stored in the cloud.

The British Standards Institute (BSI) has now independently verified that in addition to Microsoft Azure, both Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online are aligned with the standard's code of practice.

Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

The code of practice is meant to oversee the protection of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in the public cloud.

Microsoft promises that its adherence to the standard ensures that the firm only process personally identifiable information "according to the instructions" that users provide.

According to blogs.microsoft.com, "Adherence to the standard ensures transparency about our policies regarding the return, transfer, and deletion of personal information you store in our data centers. We'll not only let you know where your data is, but if we work with other companies who need to access your data, we'll let you know who we're working with."

If we have a break-in, we will tell you

In addition, if there is unauthorised access to personally identifiable information or processing equipment or facilities resulting in the loss, disclosure or alteration of this information, Microsoft says it let you know about this.

Do you feel safer knowing that?

Okay not really, but it does get better...

Microsoft confirms that it will inform you about government access to data.

"The standard requires that law enforcement requests for disclosure of personally identifiable data must be disclosed to you as an enterprise customer, unless this disclosure is prohibited by law. We've already adhered to this approach (and more), and adoption of the standard reinforces this commitment," said the company.

Progress then? Mostly yes - keep it up Microsoft.







Codeship fires Continuous Delivery rocket boosters

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Codeship, a continuous delivery platform, has announced ParallelCI -- its latest product designed to help 'get software to market', as they say.

What's inside a continuous delivery platform then?

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Codeship turns a manual product release process into an automated one.

This type of product centralises around automating process for running and testing product releases.

The firm claims to now be making it as much as 10 times faster than Codeship previously allowed.

Aggressive production schedules

"As Codeship continues to grow, so does the diversity of our customer base. Companies with upwards of 30 developers, complex applications and aggressive production schedules simply cannot afford to waste time with a slow test environment," said Moritz Plassnig, CEO of Codeship.

"With the launch of ParallelCI, all our customers will substantially speed up their build times with little effort. This directly impacts the bottom line, as developers are more productive and engineering resources can be reallocated."

Sequentially loveliness

Previously, build or test commands used to run sequentially, one after another.

With ParallelCI, the developer can now set up extra "pipelines" so they can run multiple commands in parallel, creating faster feedback loops -- and ultimately getting to the finish line in the building process faster.

Ah, so not quite x10 faster then?

Early users of ParallelCI have already "doubled" their test and build times says the firm.

ParallelCI is currently included in Codeship's paid plans. Existing customers will receive access to ParallelCI automatically.

Sencha CEO: one (application deployment) size does not fit all

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HTML5 desktop and mobile web application development company Sencha has released its Space 1.3 product.

The software is intended to help deploy, manage and analyse business applications.

Here's the justification for the product's existence:

Organisations are increasingly tasked with meeting the IT needs of a diversified and extended workforce, in which many employees work from home, regionally in the field or all over the world. These employees may not have immediate or guaranteed access to a network connection, yet are dependent on their organisations' applications to perform their job -- certain industries, such as the healthcare and energy sector, require employees to continuously handle mission-critical and sensitive real-time data at field locations. This data must be readily and securely available to everyone else in the company with the right level of user authorisation.

One size does not fit

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"In today's high speed and diverse world, there is no single application or device that works for every person in an organisation - IT environments and end users are too varied and complex," said Art Landro, CEO of Sencha.

Multiple devices and operating systems

"With Space 1.3, we are extending capabilities to address crucial usage differences in the modern workforce, empowering organizations to deliver the ideal user experience no matter where employees are located or what applications they are using."

Sencha Space 1.3 introduces a new offline functionality for control over app versioning, allowing for multiple and different versions of the same application based on the user's profile.

Updates are also simplified, as Sencha Space provides HTML5 application development technology, with which IT can push application updates and edits directly to all platforms and devices.

A new white-label client application also features so that organisations can tailor a common look and feel across all platforms and devices.

Reinvention at the core: SAP S/4HANA

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SAP hung out the flags (literally) this month to celebrate the arrival of its SAP Business Suite 4 SAP HANA (SAP S/4HANA) product.

Did you get the idea yet that the marketing people like you to mention SAP by name?

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Optimal optimisation?

This is the company's set of business software fully built on (and therefore optimised for) it's own HANA in-memory platform -- which, in itself, is optimised for the Intel chipset.

SAP punts the optimisation charge one step further and says that this software is aligned to the "most modern design principles" with the its own Fiori user experience (UX) for mobile devices.

Cue lots of use of ® symbols and mentions of SAP before all brand names, obviously.

The newly updated software is offered in cloud, on-premise and hybrid deployment options, naturally -- and comes with guided configuration for adoption.

So this is ---- "on-the-fly insight at the highest level of granularity and re-imagined real-time business processes," or at least that's what it says on the back of the packet.

SAP CEO Bill McDermott has said that SAP Business Suite has been reinvented for the digital age.

"At a moment when businesses around the world need to enter new markets and engage with their consumers in any channel, there's now an innovation platform designed to drive their growth. This is an historic day and we believe it marks the beginning of the end for the 20th century IT stack and all the complexity that came with it," he said.

The new suite is built only for SAP HANA -- but this is a good thing says the company... because it allows the firm to centralise upon its own technology and 'fully leverage' (they mean 'use') the latest in-memory and real-time capabilities of HANA itself.

What the customers think

"Businesses today are awash in data and faced with increasingly complex markets, customer engagement channels and business processes. Transforming technology systems can help simplify business processes, while providing more value to customers. SAP S/4HANA can help users connect processes, devices, big data and networks in real time."

"SAP has combined its expertise in business software applications with the unique power of SAP HANA to help businesses jump-start innovation and manage processes smoothly." - Rodney Seligmann, advisory principal and SAP global Alliance leader at PwC.

Editorial Disclosure: Adrian Bridgwater works for ISUG-TECH, the wholly and completely independent non-profit technical user group dedicated to SAP programming and data management technologies -- he is not an employee of SAP and receives no remuneration from the company.

Image credit: SAP

MuleSoft: The Internet of... woah! hold on there just a moment

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The Computer Weekly Developer Network blog talks to Ross Mason, founder of MuleSoft.

The firm aims to connect applications, data and devices with its Anypoint Platform featuring the Anypoint Platform for Mobile.

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Mason has said that when we think about the so-called Internet of Things, we should slow down and ask is the Internet of Things really here?

How will we know?

More and more things around us have sensors that passively collect information about people and activities, then this data is used by our apps on smartphones and tablets. Yet these things around us don't yet feel like they are making a big impact.

At least, not yet they don't.

The challenge is all these 'things' are still unconnected.

We need to integrate the applications, data, clouds, APIs, supply chains and partner ecosystems that make it possible for start ups and enterprises to deliver new business and consumer value.

CWDN -- With more sensors collecting information about people and activities, how do we move on from here?

Mason -- Developers in the IoT space need to think very differently about scale, reliability, security and dealing with many more connected consumers. Our traditional architectures need a rethink. IoT brings in a new era for edge computing and developers working on IoT projects have to think about more layers to enable 100,000s or millions of sensors to exchange information with the back end systems and also with each other.

One layer emerging is termed the Fog. Unlike the cloud the fog layer is concerned with connecting the sensors to backend or cloud systems. The Fog layer is essentially a collection hubs that sensors connect to that can be managed remotely but also have enough smarts to communicate with each other.

CWDN -- What's involved and how much 'heavy lifting' is needed at the developer architecture end of the API spectrum?

Mason -- Generally, because IoT type architectures are new for most people there is a lot of heavy lifting around device management, data management, architecture and connectivity to other systems. APIs are typically used to a) provide an interface to hub devices that sensors or smaller devices connect to or b) to provide access to the server side where developers can access data and maybe control some aspect of the devices either directly or through a hub.

Building APIs has gotten a lot easier with open languages to express APIs such as RAML and web-based tooling like MuleSoft's API platform (disclaimer I founded MuleSoft) to enable developers, architects and product managers to take a design first approach to APIs. These tools allow you to create repeatable patterns - traits of an APIs - and re-use them in all of your API implementations. This saves time, reduces usability problems and solves the major issue of creating consistent APIs across teams.

CWDN -- Highlight the advantage of creating APIs on the fly / seeing the outcomes in real-time whilst designing the API - can you explain why this is important for developers?

Mason -- This point about API-first design is important. It introduces the concept of APX (Application Programming eXperience) to API development, (which is borrowed from User interface design). It changes the way APIs are built today. It puts the focus squarely on the consumer of the API rather than the more technical aspects of building APIs. Most enterprise APIs are coded directly and then the code is annotated to describe the API interface (i.e. Java's JAX-RS). This is fraught with problems since the bit that the end consumer sees is slapped on as the code is written and there is no real design process to create an API around the requirements of the consumers.

A real example of this (who I can't name) is a company that has a mobile team and API services team. When the mobile team needed a new search API, the spec'd it on paper and gave it to the API team who took it away and then spent 2 months creating this new API. When the new APIs was available it wasn't what the mobile team needed. Partly it was the fault of the mobile team not specifying everything properly. And part was the fault of the API team that made assumptions and misinterpreted some requirements. Now wouldn't it have been better is they could have created the API by simply defining it with a simple language like RAML in a couple of hours collaboratively.

What if they could then quickly mock out the service so the mobile team can actually get a feel for it? And then once they agreed on a design, they could lock it down and the API team could invest the time in building it while mobile team could build their application against the agreed mock API. Introducing the design phase up front and using tools like MuleSoft's Anypoint Platform for APIs allows teams to work together in this way and focus on building APIs that are designed with the user experience first.

CWDN -- Will we be able to turn websites in their entirety into API channels?

Mason -- It's possible but the tools are so good and easy for creating websites and there are so many developers that have those skills that we'll keep doing a mix of traditional and API-driven web sites. New companies are already thinking API- first or Mobile-first for everything, so the shift away from traditional 3-tier web sites is gradually happening. Note that APIs strategies in the enterprise are being driven by mobile, not web sites.

Women in data

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Just when there aren't enough women in data, along comes a whole book of them.

Well, in seriousness, last week's AnsibleFest in London was a day-long conference for sysadmins, developers, DBAs and related engineering professionals to dig deep on configuration management but...

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... of the 300 attendees, only one single handful were female.

Thankfully though, the wider imbalance is slowly and deliberately being rectified piece by piece.

O'Reilly writer Cornelia Levy-Bencheton's new 2015 title is simply titled 'Women in Data' and she says the gender gap in tech is shrinking.

An underrepresented minority

Women are still an underrepresented minority in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), but women in data and technology are no longer outliers or anomalies.

NOTE: She's American, she said "math" as a shortening for mathematics, the above text has been corrected.

For this book, author and data warrior Cornelia Lévy-Bencheton interviewed 15 women in data to learn how they achieved their current level of success, what motivated them to get there, and their views about opportunities for women.

Levy-Bencheton says that introducing women to STEM is now a nationwide crusade (she's American, what she meant to say was 'international' and 'global'), but advancing the idea that gender diversity fuels creativity, innovation and economic growth is still a challenge.

The stories in this book are inspiring, revealing insights that will widen the path for even more women in tech.

These interviews explore:

• The expanding role of the contemporary data scientist
• New attitudes towards women in data among Millennials
• Benefits of the data and STEM fields as a career choice for women
• Much needed and increasingly sought-after remedies for closing the gender gap.

The Computer Weekly Developer Network blog spoke to Carla Gentry who is based in Louisville, Kentucky USA in her role as data scientist at Analytical Solution -- a firm created to assist small companies who don't have an analytical department or companies that need a Analyst to come in for a few hours to assist on a per project contract, Gentry's comments follow below:

"I hope my story inspires someone who hasn't had the 'normal' career to see there are many ways to push through adversity. Just because you have kids or are divorced, you can still be a successful women in tech, business, or what ever you want. Never let anyone tell you that you CAN"T do anything and if they do, then make it your life's mission to prove them wrong! Best wishes to all thelLadies out there that want to better themselves and stand on their own two feet :o)..."

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