Category Archives: IBM

What I find interesting in cloud tech, May 2023

It’s long past time to write about IT stuff I’ve been working on. So much so I’ve too much material to provide, and rather than make an endless post, I’ll focus on cloud. I’ve mostly been doing work on IBM cloud, but I have some good stuff on AWS and Azure (Sorry GCP, no love for you this time.)

IBM Cloud: most of the work I’ve been doing on IBM cloud has been hands on, as you can tell from these links:

Other clouds: Not so much hands on, but interesting.

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The winter of smarter cities and why that’s a bad thing

In the early 90s, people soured on AI and work on it stopped. That period was known as AI Winter.

Smarter Cities is an idea likely in its own winter period. I concluded that when I watched the segment above on the subject. The segment’s focus (according to its Youtube comment)  was this:

In 2017, the City of Toronto embarked on a project with a subsidiary of Google called Sidewalk Labs. The idea was to develop a parcel of Toronto’s industrial waterfront in order to create a “smart city”. At first, the idea was met with a lot of enthusiasm, but eventually a number of concerned citizens, journalists and planners started to raise questions about data privacy, competition and public policy issues that Sidewalk Labs could not answer. What happened to Sidewalk Toronto and why are we so drawn to the idea of futuristic urban utopias? To help answer that: John Lorinc, author of “Dream States: Smart Cities, Technology and the Pursuit of Urban Utopias;” Josh O’Kane, author of “Sideways: The City Google Couldn’t Buy;” and Vass Bednar, Executive Director, Master of Public Policy in Digital Society Program at McMaster University.

It’s a good segment with good people critical of the idea of smart cities. Watching it, I could see why you might think that any city would be unwise to aspire to be a smarter one.

If you did think that, I’d ask you to think again. I believe cities, provinces, states and countries all benefit from becoming smarter. For example in Ontario, smart meters were deployed across the province to more accurately measure power consumption and help people shift their usage. Wastewater was measured during the pandemic to see if things are getting better or worse. And it’s not just public initiatives that matter: private services like Waze give drivers a view of the whole city and let them choose the best routes as they make their way to their destination.

Whenever there is municipal or state data available and software to process it, then you have a smarter city. It’s not at the scale that an organization like Google wanted it to be, but a smarter city nonetheless.

I strongly feel we need more of this. Smarter cities can be greener cities. Smarter cities can be better functioning cities. That’s why I am glad that Toronto is continuing to explore this, with things like its Digital Infrastructure Strategic Framework. And it’s not just Toronto: here is a list of the top 10 smart cities in the world and what makes them smarter.

It’s not just me that thinks this. Here’s Pete Buttigieg talking about smart city grants, and here is Bill Gates is talking about smart cities in Arizona.

Here’s to smarter cities. Smarter cities are better cities.

P.S. Wastewater examination is a smarter city activity, I think. Here’s more on wastewater surveillance for public health at Science.org. As for me, I check the province’s wastewater signal every week to keep track of COVID-19.

Also, some time ago I worked on the smart meter project for the province of Ontario. I led the infrastructure design and build for part of the overall system. Here is an IBM red paper I contributed to that talked about how to better design systems involved in smarter cities/planet projects.

IBM Cloud tip: take advantage of free IBM cloud products, including the IBM Kubernetes Service

IBM has numerous free products in its Cloud Service, and you can find them, here.

One I recommend especially is the Kubernetes Service. You can create a free cluster and learn a lot about both IBM Cloud and Kubernetes by using this.

If you aren’t sure where to start, I put together a github repo to help you get started. It gives you all the information you need, so you can go from a simple web page or node.js app on your own machine to having it up and running on the IBM Kubernetes service. You can find it here: blm849/networkcontainertesting: a simple way to test connectivity in and out of a container.

It’s up to date as of May, 2022. While there are plenty of tutorials out there, you may want to see if they are up to date. For example, some features may be deprecated.

Drop me a comment if you have any feedback. Good luck!

IBM Cloud tip: take advantage of tags to better manage your cloud environment

Last week I encouraged you to  consider your naming standards before adding services. This week I’d like to encourage you to use tags as well to help you manage your IBM Cloud environment.

 

As this piece from the IBM Cloud Docs on Working with tags explains, you can use tags to

organize, track usage costs, and even manage access to your resources. You can tag related resources and view them throughout your account by filtering by tags from your resource list. To see a full list of tags in your account, go to Manage > Account in the IBM Cloud® console, and select Tags. You can apply user tags to organize your resources and easily find them later or help you with identifying specific team usage or cost allocation. By creating access management tags, you can control access to your resources without requiring updates to your IAM policies.

Here’s some examples, partially taken from the same piece:

  • Use tags to identify or even manage access to your development environment, not to mention QA, UAT, Production and DR
  • Use tags to identify or even manage access to a project: project:lw-wizard, app:poc-app
  •  Use tags to define compliance requirements: dataresidency:germany, compliance:hipaa, compliance:pii
  •  Use tags to help you automate optimization: schedule:24×7, maxruntime:12days

So use tags: your IBM cloud environment will be easier to operate if you do.

For more on this, here’s a good blog post on tags, here: Characteristics of User and Access Tags on IBM Cloud | IBM

And this piece in IBM Cloud Docs is a good tutorial that will guide you:

…through the steps to centrally manage access to the resources in your account at scale (using tags). By completing this tutorial, you learn how to create an access management tag, add the tag to selected resources, and define a policy to assign access to resources based on the tags on those resources.

Good stuff. Start using tags more and you will find it much easier to manage your resources in the IBM Cloud. If you are unsure, start with a few for now (e.g. tag your production environment, tag resources belong to specific groups).  You’ll start to see the benefits soon.

On Pepper and Watson


If you have even a passing knowledge of IT, you likely have heard of Pepper and Watson. Pepper was a robot and Watson was an AI system that won at Jeopardy. Last week the Verge and the New York Times had articles on them both:

  1. Go read how Pepper was a very bad robot – The Verge
  2. What Ever Happened to IBM’s Watson? – The New York Times

I don’t have any specific insights or conclusions into either technology, other than trite summations like “cutting edge technology is hard” and “don’t believe the hype”. AI and robotics are especially hard, so the risks are high and the chances of failure are high. That comes across in these two pieces.

Companies from Tesla to Boston Dynamics and more are making grand claims about their AI and their robotics. I suspect much of it will suffer the same fate as Pepper and Watson. Like all failure, none of it is final or fatal. People learn from their mistakes and move on to make better things. AI and robotics will continue to advance…just not at the pace many would like it too.

In the meantime, go read those articles.  Especially if you are finding yourself falling for the hype.

(Image: link of image on The Verge)

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How to get up to speed really quickly on Kubernetes and Docker if you are an infrastructure specialist

If you are an infrastructure person and you are trying to ramp up really quickly on Docker and Kubernetes, here are some good links to get you started:

I also have this repo on github that can help.

Is this the last word? Good lord, no. But it can help you stay in the conversation and helps you map all this stuff to networks and processes and files and VMs and services and other tech you are used to.

You’ve heard of Google’s 8.8.8.8…now there’s 9.9.9.9 (a new DNS service from Quad9/IBM)

If you are using Google’s DNS services (i.e., you are using 8.8.8.8 for DNS services), then there is a new provider on the block you should consider: Quad9. The following links detail why you might want it, as well as how to set it up.

We need all the help we can get in dealing with malicious people and computers on the Internet. Glad to see my employer has a role in this.

Git 201: how to get to the next level with git


There are quite a few really good introductions to git. I’ve written about them here. Once you get past “git 101”, where do you go to learn more and be more productive with git? I’d like to recommend this article:
developerWorks: Learn the workings of Git, not just the commands. It should help you get to the next level. I particularly like the diagrams: there are alot of them, and they help you better understand the flow that can occur when you really start capitalizing on git.