Backslashes v Forward Slashes – Windows, Linux and Mac

“Why do I have to use backslashes (\) in Windows, but forward slashes (/) in everything else?” This is a question that I have been asked by a number of people over the years and I have been meaning to write something about it for a long time now. 

It seems that Windows is really the odd one out as Linux, OS X and even Android uses forward slashes. It seems that the cause of this annoying (at times) difference is due to accidental events. 

In the 1970s, Unix first introduced the forward slash to separate entries in a directory path. So far so good. In the meantime, the initial version of MS DOS did not even support the use of directories… and we are talking early 80s here! At the time, IBM has the main contributor to Microsofr utilities and they used the forward slash as a flag or switch character (In Unix we use a hyphen for this). You can still see a vestigial tail in some commands… Think dir /w for example. 

 The next version of MS DOs started support for directories and to keep compatibility, IBM expected to continue usage of / as a flag and as such the alternative for directory path separation, Windows started using \. Once you start using this in your own environment, who cares what other people use in their operating systems!! Right? In that way, in Windows the use of the different slashes tells you if you are running  an option (/) or a directory path (\). 

And the rest, as they say, is history!

10-10 Celebrate Ada Lovelace day!

It’s Ada Lovelace day, celebrating the work of women in mathematics, science, technology and engineering. To join the celebration +Plus Magazine revisits a collection of interviews with female mathematicians produced earlier this year. The interviews accompany the Women of Mathematics photo exhibition, which celebrates female mathematicians from institutions throughout Europe. It was launched in Berlin in the summer of 2016 and is now touring European institutions.

To watch the interviews with the women or read the transcripts, and to see the portraits that featured in the exhibition, click on the links below. For more content by or about female mathematicians click here.

Raspberry Pi

I am very pleased to have finally received the Raspberry Pi 3 that I ordered the other day. I also got a Sense Hat – an add-on board for Raspberry Pi, made especially for the Astro Pi mission

The Sense HAT has an 8×8 RGB LED matrix, a five-button joystick and includes the following sensors:

  • Gyroscope
  • Accelerometer
  • Magnetometer
  • Temperature
  • Barometric pressure
  • Humidity

There is even a  Python library providing easy access to everything on the board. I can’t wait to start using it with some of the APIs available at Bluemix for example. Any ideas are more than welcome.


Bluemix – a set of tools/tutorials for app development

IBM’s Bluemix provides access to a large set of API’s such as Watson services like AlchemyAPI, Natural Language Classifier, Visual Recognition, Personality Insights and more. I have recently started playing with it a bit more. You can set up a free account (free for 30 days) and see what you think.

Check it out:

 Here is what IBM has to say about it:

Bluemix is the latest cloud offering from IBM. It enables organizations and developers to quickly and easily create, deploy, and manage applications on the cloud. Bluemix is an implementation of IBM’s Open Cloud Architecture based on Cloud Foundry, an open source Platform as a Service (PaaS). Bluemix delivers enterprise-level services that can easily integrate with your cloud applications without you needing to know how to install or configure them.Bluemix

I will be happy to hear what you build and how you use bluemix. Keep in touch.

Installing Spark 1.6.1 on a Mac with Scala 2.11

I have recently gone through the process of installing Spark in my mac for testing and development purposes. I also wanted to make sure I could use the installation not only with Scala, but also with PySpark through a Jupyter notebook.

If you are interested in doing the same, here are the steps I followed. First of all, here are the packages you will need:

  • Python 2.7 or higher
  • Java SE Development Kit
  • Scala and Scala Build Tool
  • Spark 1.6.1 (at the time of writing)
  • Jupyter Notebook


You can chose the best python distribution that suits your needs. I find Anaconda to be fine for my purposes. You can obtain a graphical installer from I am using Python 2.7 at the time of writing.

Java SE Development Kit

You will need to download Oracle Java SE Development Kit 7 or 8 at Oracle JDK downloads page. In my case, at the time of writing I am using 1.7.0_80. You can check the version you have by opening a terminal and typing

java -version

You also have to make sure that the appropriate environment variable is set up. In your


  add the following lines:

export JAVA_HOME=$(/usr/libexec/java_home)

Scala and Scala Build Tool

In this case, I found it much easier to use Homebrew to install and manage the Scala language. I f you have never used Homebrew, I recommend that you take a look. To install it you have to type the following in your terminal:

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"

Once you have Hombrew you can install Scala and the Scala Build Tool as follows:

> brew install scala
> brew install bst

You may want to create appropriate environments in your 



export SCALA_HOME=/usr/local/bin/scala

Spark 1.6.1

Obtain Spark from

Note that for building Spark with Scala 2.11 you will need to download the Spark source code and build it appropriately.


Once you have downloaded the tgz file, unzip it into an appropriate location (your home directory for example) and navigate to the unzipped folder (for example



To build Spark with Scala 2.11 you need to type the following commands:

> ./dev/
> build/sbt clean assembly

This may take a while, so sit tight! When finished, you can check that everything is working by launching either the Scala shell:

> ./bin/spark-shell

or the Python shell:

> ./bin/pyspark

Once again there are some environment variables that are recommended:

export SPARK_PATH=~/spark-1.6.1
export PYSPARK_DRIVER_PYTHON="jupyter" 
alias sparknb='$SPARK_PATH/bin/pyspark --master local[2]'

The last line is an alias that will enable us to launch a Jupyter notebook with PySpark. Totally optional!

Jupyter Notebook

If all is working well you are ready to go. Source your


  and  launch a Jupyter notebook:

> sparknb

Et voilà!

How much should we fear the rise of artificial intelligence?

  1. When the arena is something as pure as a board game, where the rules are entirely known and always exactly the same, the results are remarkable. When the arena is something as messy, unrepeatable and ill-defined as actuality, the business of adaptation and translation is a great deal more difficult.

Tom Chatfield

From the opinion article of Tom Chatfiled in The Guardian.

Astronaut Bowman

Google’s and Gerty’s logos are quite similar

I have recently updated my applications and hit confused when trying to launche my book reader Gerty and instead of opening the book(s) I’m currently reading, I found staring at Googles’s search bar…

I am sure that is something neither of them would like, but hey… Just pointing it out. The similarity is superficial, but enough to get confused when looking at small icons in a screen. Check it out: