Category Archives: IT

How to build a simple web page fast? Use HTML Shell

For testing purposes, I occasionally need to generate a simple page to test. This “quick custom boilerplate HTML5 markup generator” does the job for me. Recommended.

html shell

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Want to send a fax without a fax machine? Now you can!

How? By using: Free Fax • Free Internet Faxing. I haven’t used it, but you can send free faxes to anywhere in the U.S. and Canada, apparently.

If you are dealing with organizations that refuse email as a valid way to receive information and insist on a fax, this could save your day.

 

Thoughts on automation, from the WSJ (and me, someone who specialized in automation)

Robots
Christopher Mims has a good piece here that touches on many of the recent arguments concerning automation, here: Automation Can Actually Create More Jobs (WSJ). Well worth reading.

For my own perspective, early in my career my job was automating many of the systems operations tasks in my part of IBM. In one year I automated essentially the work of 10 people. No one lost their job as result, because while it was good to have these activities automated, the activities were not valuable enough to justify hiring people to do the work. Essentially the automation improved the quality of our work. Automation using IT to improve the quality of work is a good use of automation, be that automation be a lowly shell script or very expensive robot with A.I. Quality aside, how the automation affects staff depends on the culture and the makeup of an organization.

There is talk of places like McDonald’s replacing workers with kiosks as a result of a drive by some for a higher minimum wage. First off, McDonald’s are rolling out those kiosks in Canada, too, which makes me think they are going to deploy them regardless of what the minimum wage is. Second, I have used the kiosks a number of times, and they are of a limited benefit to a McDonald’s customer. The kiosks are good if there is a long line for a person to take your order: they kiosks are bad if there is a small line or no line. They are bad because it will take you many more minutes to place your order, due to the kiosk’s user interface. (Try one and you will see.) The kiosks some time will fail to print out your receipt: if you don’t remember your order number, then you have to go in line, tell them what you ordered, and then get your number. Overall the kiosks are not bad: they are especially good if you like to special order. But if the lines aren’t long and your order is standard, skip them and go in line.

Besides that, McDonald’s will still have plenty of staff and likely will for the future. Kiosks can’t cook, can’t pack your order, and can’t clean the restaurant. If you think robots can do that and do it cheaply, you need to learn more about robotics. I can see why McDonald’s and other fast food places need automation: they are constantly trying to retain people while trying to keep costs down. But the notion they are automating to spite people looking for a higher wage is ridiculous. McDonald’s is not going to become a glorified vending machine and they should not try to be. People go to restaurants and coffee shops to socialize and to come in contact with other people, and automation will provide less of that, not more.

As well, smart fast food places will learn that human contact makes for better business (see Starbucks). There are many ways to be successful as a fast food business, and a positive experience in dealing with staff is one of those ways.

Automation changes work. However, how it changes work is complex. It is tempting to assume that it will eliminate all work, but that is too simplistic. In addition, we need to think about work, income, and why we do what we do. Automation can help us do that, and that is one clear benefit of automation.

(Image: link to image.freepik.com)

How IBM Watson helped Time magazine narrow its search for Person of the Year 

Interesting article: How IBM Watson helped Time magazine narrow its search for Person of the Year (IT Business)

From a technology point of view, it is also interesting that the IBM partner was using IBM’s Watson and Bluemix technologies.

I am biased here, as someone who works for IBM and believes in these technology, but I do think that if you think A.I. and cognitive doesn’t have a place in your business, you should read this. In the next two years, expect all your competitors to adopt these new technologies to compete with you.

My mixed bag of IT links for December

Like previous collections of IT links, this collection reflects things I am interested in or found useful recently:

  1. If you want to get started using APIs, I recommend this: Most Popular APIs Used at Hackathons | ProgrammableWeb
  2. If you want to build that web site, consider Using Twitter Bootstrap with Node.js, Express and Jade – Andrea Grandi, and this Building a Website from Scratch with ExpressJS and Bootstrap | Codementor. Also Mastering MEAN: Introducing the MEAN stack and Bluemix Mobile, Part 1: Creating a Store Catalog application – Bluemix Blog
  3. Or develop a mobile app like this: Create Swift mobile apps with IBM Watson services – developerWorks Courses
  4. I am a fan of Bluemix and Eclipse. This article ties them nicely together: IBM Bluemix – Eclipse Package Download – Neon release.
  5. I am also a fan of IoT these days. For fellow IoT fans, these links are good: Intro to Hardware Hacking on the Arduino — Julia H Grace and $10 DIY Wifi Smart Button | SimpleIOThings.
  6. Speaking of IoT, if you have been doing some work with Arduinos, you might be interested in the ESP8266. Some good info on it here ESP8266 Thing Hookup Guide – learn.sparkfun.com and a good thing to do with it, here: SimpleIOThings | Simple Do-It-Yourself Internet-of-Things Projects
  7. More good links related to software and application development work here Migrate an app from Heroku to Bluemix and here A Concise Introduction To Prolog, plus Building without an Ounce of Code – Part 2 – Apps Without Code Blog and this Turning a form element into JSON and submiting it via jQuery – Developer Drive
  8. Some interesting links pertaining to Minecraft: Can Minecraft teach kids how to code? – Safari Blog and Minecraft and Bluemix, Part 1: Running Minecraft servers within Docker.
  9. There’s lots of talk about AI these days, the  Economist explains why artificial intelligence is enjoying a renaissance
  10. If you are interesting in working in IT, you might like this: How to Get a Job In Deep Learning or this: An Unconventional Guide for Getting a Software Engineering Job — Julia H Grace
  11. Or maybe you want start a start-up. If so, check this out: A Free Course from Y Combinator Taught at Stanford | Open Culture
  12. Finally, here are just a number of interesting but mostly unrelated links:
    1. IBM Blockchain 101: Quick-start guide for developers
    2. Building three-tier architectures with security groups | AWS Blog
    3. Performance Tuning Apache and MySQL for Drupal
    4. How to secure an Ubuntu 16.04 LTS server 
    5. Clean Your System and Free Disk Space | BleachBit
    6. Use an iPad as a Raspberry Pi display — Kano OS – YouTube
    7. (Software iSCSI) Configuring SAN boot on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 or 6 series

 

Two additions to my github repositories: one for IBM Watson, one for monitoring Linux systems

I’ve recently added two repos to my github account:

The first one is some proof of concept code I wrote to demonstrate how to work with IBM Watson’s Tradeoff Analytics service using node.js

The second one is some sample code I have had for some time that does simple server monitoring of a Linux server.

There is no intellectual property involved in these repos: it is simple code based on documented code samples found in many places on the web.

For more details, see my Github landing page, here: blm849 (Bernie Michalik)

Is Tim Cook the Steve Ballmer of Apple?

This piece makes a strong case that he is: Why Tim Cook is Steve Ballmer and Why He Still Has His Job at Apple. I’d add to it and say that people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were great people at a great time and a great place. Steve Jobs wasn’t terribly successful at NeXT: he was still great, but the timing of his ideas wasn’t and the company itself wasn’t either. Tim Cook and Steve Ballmer are very good CEOs, but they are not in the same league as Jobs and Gates, and you could argue that the time has come and gone for both Apple and Microsoft.

Apple has many good months and years ahead. We will have to wait and see if they can regain the golden era of Jobs and his new iMacs, iPods, and iPhones.