V Sugar Free Energy Drink

V Sugar Free Energy DrinkSo you’ve got your normal V, then theres your sugar free variety, aptly called “V Sugar Free”.

This variety of V actually tastes very much like the regular stuff. Like any sugar free variant, it does taste somewhat worse than the original, but it’s not much worse.

They are currently $2.20 a can at Coles and are available individually or in 4 packs. V Sugar Free is also available in a 35oml bottle.

Theres not much more I can say about it really. It’s not a bad drink, it’s not a good drink. Is it healthier? Good question. I say no, it is worse for you than the regular stuff. I will explain why after the ingredients list below.

V Sugar Free Nutritional Information

The label indicates the following per 100ml:

Caffeine: 31mg
Riboflavin: 0.49mg
Niacin: 2.9mg
Vitamin B6: 0.46mg
Vitamin B12: 0.57µg
Pantothenic Acid: 0.7mg
Taurine: 200mg
Glucuronolactone: 25mg
Inositol: 20mg

This is identical to that of the regular V, and also very similar to Coles Zu Sublime Energy Drink.

V Sugar Free has the standard warning not to drink more than 2 cans per day.

V Sugar Free Ingredients

The ingredients according to the can are as follows:

Carbonated water, sugar, acidity regulators (citric acid, sodium citrate), taurine, guarana extract (0.12%), sweeteners (acesulfame potassium, aspartame), colour (caramel (derived from wheat)), glucuronolactone, caffeine, inositol, thickener (xanthan gum) vitamins (niacin (B3), pantothenic acid, B6, B2, B12), flavours. Contains phenylalanine.

So why do I believe that the sugar free variant of V is worse for you than regular V?

You may have noticed the little warning at the end of the ingredients, contains phenylalanine. This is because one of the artificial sweeteners used in place of the sugar, aspartame, is a source of phenylalanine. Now, is phenylalanine bad? No, it’s a naturally occurring amino acid. It’s in proteins and meats and so on. However, according to 3DChem, aspartame has roughly the same amount of calories as regular table sugar. So, you are getting the same amount of calories, it’s just not sugar. In addition to that, there are health problems linked to aspartame, particularly related to people with PKU (phenylketonurics) and diabetics. It seems that there are also a lot of diseases that are related to aspartame, there is a fair amount of information about this on sweetpoison.com, it’s definitely worth a read if you are interested in finding out more about aspartame.

The Aspartame Information Center is adamant that the synthetic chemical is safe. While that may be so, I personally think that the amount of it that can be found in diet drinks would be cause to make it unsafe if continually ingested in those sorts of quantities on a regular basis and is thus why I generally avoid drinking diet drinks, as I said, earlier, it’s around the same amount of calories, so there is no benefit to it in my opinion (plus diet drinks generally taste worse). It’s up to you to decide what you think about it though and do more of your own research into it.

As noted in the comments, while aspartame has the same amount of calories as sugar, it is sweeter, so less is used, hence you have less calories overall, just like it says on the can or bottle. As above though, I don’t really see any benefit to it as there isn’t a huge difference when you consider that aspartame isn’t a very healthy alternative. I also understand from the comments that V and other sugar free energy drinks have started to steer away from phenylalanine and aspartame, so I will have to have a look at that at some point.

Further reading on aspartame and phenylalanine:

V Sugar Free Ratings

Quantity – 250ml
2.5/5

Price – $2.20
3/5

Flavour
1/5

Overall
2/5

Python Tutorial 3 – Integers and Floats

As you saw in the final section of the previous tutorial on numeric expressions in Python, Fractions, the following two expressions give different answers:

18.0 / 7.0
# This returns 2.571485714285716

18 / 7
# This returns 2

So what’s going on here? Well, this is an example of the two main number systems in Python, integers and floats.

A float can be distinguished from an integer because it has a fractional part, even if it is just .0, such as the .0 at the end of the 18 and 7 in the above example.

If you choose to leave out the fractional portion of a set of numbers, Python will always return it as an integer, unless you force it to return it as a float which I will explain in a moment.

If you put in the fractional part, even if it is just a 0, Python will always return it as a float, unless you force it to do otherwise.

Now what happens if you use both a float and an int? Such as 18 / 7.0?

Let’s try it and find out.

18 / 7.0
# I get the same as 18.0 / 7.0
# 2.571485714285716

Why does it do this?

By using a float with an integer, Python defaults to a float for the result.

Forcing a Number Type in Python

Forcing a number to be either an integer or a float is a pretty simple task. All you have to do is add the following to your expressions:

int (18.0 / 7.0)
# This will force Python to return an integer value
# instead of the default float.

float (18 / 7)
# This will force Python to return a float value
# instead of the default integer.

If you need to determine what number type something is, this can be determined very easily with the following function:

type (18)
# This will return <type 'int'>
# In other words, 18 is an integer.

type (18.0)
# This will return <type 'float'>
# So, 18.0 is a float.

If you convert a floating point number to an integer, the fraction is lost, so if you need to use it, it is a good idea to keep your numbers in the floating point format.

Does 1 = 1.0?

You would expect 1 and 1.0 to be the same, and logically, they are, right?

While the integer 1 is numerically the same as 1.0, their value is not equal. You can test this in Python by doing the following:

1 == 1.0
# This asks Python if 1 is exactly equal to 1.0
# It returns True.

1 is 1.0
# This asks Python if 1 and 1.0 hold the same value.
# It returns False.

Floating point numbers are encoded as finite approximations in binary. This can cause some slight rounding inaccuracies to occur that are machine based.

Have a look below at some examples:

1.0 / 3.0
# Python cannot encode the infinite fraction, try it and see.

(0.1 * 3.0) / 0.1
# This should return 3.0, I do not get exactly that though.
# Try it and see what you get. It will be 3.something.

If you have any comments thus far, please let me know, the same goes if you have any corrections or input for the tutorials.

Next up I will be looking at strings in Python, so stay tuned.

Python Tutorial 2 – Numeric Expressions

Python programming language logoPython’s interpreter can be used as a calculator quite easily. Of course, this is somewhat pointless since there are calculators built into most operating systems anyway. However, the numeric expressions that are built into Python become quite useful in general applications and are important to know.

Before you can start learning Python, you will need to install it.

The install is pretty straight forward, once you’ve got that done, you are ready to go.

Numeric Operators in Python

Python uses all of the normally expected operators, much the same as most other languages:

+ addition
– subtraction
* multiplication
/ division

Now, using these operators, we can type directly into the Python interpreter, IDLE, and it will return the result:

# Addition:
2 + 2
# Will return 4.

# Subtraction:
4 - 2
# Will return 2.

# Multiplication:
2 * 2
# Will return 4.

# Division:
4 / 2
# Will return 2.

Note that a # indicates a comment in Python.

If you need to take things a bit further, there are more operators commonly used in Python.

** is used to indicate to the power of, such as 8 to the power of 4, or 4 squared and so on.

Additionally, you can use brackets to override the default order that the expression will be interpreted in, the same was you would on a calculator.

# To the power of:
8 ** 4
# Will return 4096.

4 ** 2
# Will return 16.

# Using brackets to change the order:
4 * 2 + 5
# Will return 13, whereas.
4 * ( 2 + 5 )
# Will return 28.

Functions that you may find on a scientific calculator are available as either predefined functions, or need to be imported from a library.

5 + abs(-5)
# The "abs" function will return the absolute value, 
# so this returns 10 rather than 0

abs(5 * -5)
# Returns 25 rather than -25.

Importing Additional Functions

Other less common operators are not loaded into Python by default, and so they have to be imported from a library of functions. This can become time consuming when you are writing directly into IDLE. If you open up a blank Python window (File > New Window), you will be able to type as many lines of code as necessary before sending it to IDLE. If you are writing expressions such as the ones above into a separate window, you will need to add a print command before hand, otherwise Python will just evaluate them and not display them, for example:

print 4 - 2
# Should be used so that IDLE will print the result,
# otherwise it will just interpret it without printing it.

To load less common operators, such as the square root operator, you have to load Pythons math library. If you just a single function, such as square root, this can be done as follows:

from math import sqrt

# The square root can then be found with this command:
sqrt(25)
# This will return 5.0.

If you need to use multiple, less common functions it may be easier to load the entire mathematics library.

import math
# This tells IDLE to load the mathematics library.

Once the library has been loaded there are quite a few more functions available, similar to those used in C.

math.ceil(2.2)
# The ceiling function will round the decimal up.

math.floor(2.2)
# The floor funtion will round the decimal down.

math.pi
# The constant, pi (3.1415926535897931).

math.pi*2
# Multiplies pi by 2.

pow(4, 2)
# The power function works similarly to the ** function.

# pow(4, 2) returns the same answer as 4 ** 2.

There are many more available including angular, hyperbolic, trigonometric, powers and other mathematic functions. A full list is available in the Python documentation.

Fractions

So far, we have mostly seen whole numbers as a result to our answers, why do you think this is? What happens if you tell IDLE to interpret the following expressions?

2.3 + 5.9
18.0 / 7.0
18 / 7

The answers and explanations in the next Python tutorial, Integers and Floats.

Thanks for reading, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know below.

Python Tutorial 1 – Getting Python

Python programming language logoPython object-oriented programming language at uni in ITB001: Problem Solving and Programming, I figure what better way to solidify what I am learning than to write about it. Someone might find it useful as well.

So if you see anything that is wrong, or anything like that, feel free to point it out, I won’t bite.

First up, you have to get Python, this is pretty straightforward, but I may as well make it the first of my tutorials since it is necessary.

If you use OS X, it comes with it, as do some Linux distributions, though it may be outdated. Grab the latest version for OS X, or Unix based operating systems, or Python for Windows from the Python website.

The install is pretty straight forward and should have you up and running in no time, just follow the instructions, all of the defaults should be fine.

After it is installed, when you run the Python Shell (IDLE), it should bring up a window called IDLE. This is Python’s interpreter window, so anything you run will be evaluated here. You can type directly into IDLE, however it is limited to writing a line at a time which is slow and painful and cannot be saved. It is really only effective for checking a line of code here and there.

If you go to File > New Window, it will open up a blank window. These windows can be saved as .py files and are where you will write the majority of code. You can write as many lines as you want in these and then have Python evaluate them whenever you are ready.

If you want to get straight into Python, the best documentation I have seen personally, and also as recommended by my lecturer, is the documentation material available on the Python website.

I will be going through Python in the same sequence as I have been going through it at uni. So stay tuned and the next tutorial will be up soon.

If you want to leave any thoughts or input, it would be greatly appreciated.

Go on to the next tutorial, Numeric Expressions In Python.

AD – Anno Domini

I was having a chat with Rhi this evening. I’m not entirely sure how we got onto the topic, but, as I’m a Christian, she asked if I could explain why there are 30+ years missing between BC and AD. Since BC means Before Christ, so before Christ was born, and AD means After Death. So 1 BC is 1 year before Christ was born and AD 1 is one year after he died yes? So there are 30 or so years missing.

I’ve heard this misconception before. AD doesn’t stand for After Death, it stands for Anno Domini. This is Latin, it translates to “in the year of our Lord.” So basically, it means that AD 1 would actually be saying “in the year of our Lord 1” and so AD 2008 would be saying “in the year of our Lord 2008”.

It is understandable that there is such a big misconception around this given that the exact years around then are somewhat sketchy due to when AD actually became widely used. The misconception is made worse by the lack of religious understanding that is becoming ever more common and thus the assumption that because BC is Before Christ, AD should be after.

Hope that helps someone make sense of it all.

Also note, I say 30+ because, to my knowledge, the exact age of Christ when He died is not mentioned in the Bible. I am of the understanding that He was around 32, but I have heard others give ages everywhere between 30 and 38.

What Are Pathfinders?

For anyone that doesn’t know what Pathfinders actually is, it is similar to the Scouts teen and youth programs. There is a lot of information available at Pathfinders Online. Basically though, if you come across someone who is a Pathfinder, they are part of a worldwide organisation of people that are sponsored by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Of course you don’t have to be religious to join, or of the SDA denomination.

As I said, it is similar to the Scouts organisation and includes activities like camping and survival skills, leadership training, community outreach programs, various training programs in more fields than you can poke a stick at, including recreational, artistic, nature based, conservation, vocational, and outreach area’s. These training programs all have various levels and awards (or honours) for their completion, many of which are recognised in Australia towards formal qualifications.

Pathfinders are all led, not only by adults, but by their peers. Each level of Pathfinders gains more responsibility and as their rank suggests, Guides and Master Guides, the highest ranking Pathfinders before the leaders and councilors, are guides and role models for the younger Pathfinders. They assist the younger Pathfinders in succeeding in their completion of honours and attaining their next rank.

Pathfinder activities include regular camp outs as well as hall meetings, the yearly expedition where Pathfinders from each division go on exactly that, a hiking expedition with each other and their leaders. Of course, you can’t mention Pathfinder activities without mentioning the Camporee’s. Camporee’s have various sizes from the more common division Camporee’s where Pathfinders from every club in a division all effectively go on a giant camp out, similar to a Scout Jamboree, then of course there are the bigger state-wide, national, and world-wide Camporee’s that are less common.

I find I am quite often explaining to people what Pathfinder’s are because they simply have never heard of them, so it may come as a surprise to many people just how large and wide-spread the Pathfinder clubs are. Clubs can range in size from very few people, even as small as 10, up to clubs in excess of 100 Pathfinders, and that’s just in North NSW. The last national camporee that was held in Australia at Yarrahappini had over 5,000 Pathfinders in attendance from all over Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and other Pacific Islands. That’s just the Pathfinders that could attend as well. There were many that were unable to make the trip. World-wide Camporee’s are, as you can imagine, significantly larger.

Art Express 2007

A year old now I know, but I just came across this article on the Northern Rivers Echo website from the end of 2006 when I found my best mate Rhi, another of my class mates, and myself, selected for the NSW state-wide Art Express Exhibitions for 2007.

As I said, it’s a year old, but hey, it was exciting for me to find my art being exhibited all over the state including places like Albury, Orange, Grafton, Newcastle, and Sydney.

I did a fractal animation to a song by a friend of the family, Dennis Nattrass (or Wah Wah Willie). Wah Wah Willie has done some really great music. It is guitar based ambient and shows off much of his skill on the guitar. I highly recommend his album entitled “Cinema“. It adds a very unique twist on more common ambient music and is very complimentary to fractals.

I created the fractals using Apophysis and rendered them in Flam3. It was really quite an interesting experience, as I had created many fractal’s in Apophysis and had a fairly good understanding of how the software functions, the effects of different triangles and so on, however I had not done any animations before, so it was all new.

The theory behind my animation was much deeper than what is outlined in the article in the Echo, as I explained in my film and write up, it was based on the chaos theory. My thinking behind it is as follows:

The Chaos Theory
The study of phenomena which appear random, but in fact have an element of regularity which can be described mathematically.

“Trust me…There is order here, very faint, very human.”
-Michael Ondaatje

“There can only be one right answer in mathematics. Fractals are an art form, based entirely on maths. Like anything though, when the human element is added to math, it becomes imprecise, there can be mistakes, errors, many right answers.

Variation becomes limitless, but order remains.

From the chaos theory, fractals are born.
Trust me, there is order here.”
-Matthew Brown

To my knowledge, neither of my video clips thus far are available anywhere on the internet.

3G USB Modem and Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard

As you may recall from my earlier blog about my recently acquired Vodafone 3G USB Modem on the 4th of December, I was having trouble getting the modem to work correctly on my MacBook Pro running Mac OS X 10.5.1, or Leopard. I was following the provided instructions to the letter but it simply wasn’t doing what the instruction manual said it should do.

According to the instruction manual, after installing the software, it should ask to reboot the system. It didn’t, so I had been rebooting it manually in my attempts at getting it to work correctly.

Upon rebooting, you were meant to run the installed program and click “Activate” once it had detected the connection. This was fine, this worked. However, according to the instruction manual, it should have created a new connection program in the applications folder that you click whenever you wish to connect. It was not doing this. If you attempted to run the activation program again, it would freeze the program when you clicked activate and would not un-freeze without a forced quit (I left it for over 24 hours to see if it would un-freeze itself, but it didn’t). If you re-install the software, you are then able to try the Activate program without it freezing, but after the first time, it will freeze again.

Yesterday I called Vodafone customer support about it as this was becoming quite a nuisance, and as much as I would have liked to speak to someone in Australia about it, I spoke to someone from “Vodafone Egypt” about it.

They provided me with a newer version of the Vodafone Mobile Connect software that is currently only available on the Vodafone.de website for reasons I fail to understand. As far as I can tell, this newer version of the software is still only meant for Mac OS X 10.4, however, it seemed to behave exactly as the instruction manual described the version that came with my modem should. However there was still one problem.  The connection program was still not being created after the activation program was run.

The Vodafone Egypt guy provided me with some instructions on what to do though, before I had downloaded the newer version (so he didn’t have to keep me on the phone). These instructions were different to what was in the manual. He said that after running the activation program, go into my System Preferences, then into Network. Once I was there, to select the USB modem and from there, click connect and this would connect to the 3G network. I tried this with the older version of the software before installing the new one, and it worked perfectly without any problems at all. Connected almost instantly and voila. It worked identically with the new version as well. Of course, you then also have to come back into the System Preferences whenever you want to disconnect or reconnect which is quite a pain. However, it has a little tick box that you can tick to display the modem status in the the menu bar the same way it displays the status of the wireless and blue tooth connections by default.

So having ticked this option, I can now choose to connect or disconnect it from the menu bar as I would with the wireless and bluetooth.

Now that I’ve gotten this sorted out it works great, it would seem I am able to share the connection between both my laptop and desktop when I am at home as well, as I had been hoping, so this is working really well now.

Generally the connection on both Windows and Mac seems to be as stable as a decent ADSL1/2/2+ connection, and it is far more stable than my ADSL2+ connection currently is.

The speed’s are nothing to write home about of course, but I can generally download at a rate of around 200kb/s with 3 bars of 3G reception, so that’s reasonable for what I am using it for and I am really quite happy with it.

Ironically though, my ADSL2+ connection became almost stable within a couple of days of my signing the contract for this 3G modem. Annoying yes, but while it has been fairly stable, it’s still dropping out more frequently than I would like, so the 3G modem is still proving to be very useful.

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