Tag Archives: IT

On the new Google Glass(es), 2022 edition

In 2013, Google gave the world Google Glass. While their high tech glasses seemed cool at first, eventually it was revealed to be terrible technology, and people sporting it became known as “glassholes”. Not good.

Google did not give up, though, and have unveiled a new version of there glasses. at their recent annual convention on all things Google:

After announcing a whole new catalog of products, including the Pixel 6A, Pixel 7 and 7 Pro, Pixel Buds Pro, Pixel Tablet, and Pixel Watch, Google gave us a taste of an AR Glasses prototype they’ve been working on (labeled Proto 29) that combines natural language processing and transcription to provide subtitles to the real world. Wear the glasses and, in theory, you can understand any language. The glasses pick up audio and visual cues, translating them into text that gets displayed on your lens, right in your line of vision. These virtual subtitles overlay on your vision of the world, providing a contextual, USEFUL augmented reality experience that’s leaps and bounds ahead of what the Google Glass was designed to do in 2013.

I know, they’re still a prototype. But it’s exciting to think about! I could see how they could even show you a potential response, just like they do when you use Gmail and they suggest potential responses. Quite an amazing tool for those who travel to places with different languages.

Among other things, this shows that tech still has ways to be innovative and useful in ways we haven’t even thought of. Good job, Google, for not giving up on this technology. Looking forward to the day when these go from prototypes to the real thing.

Today in good robots: reforesting drones


I’m often critical of robots and their relatives here, but these particular drones seem very good indeed. As that linked article explains:

swarms of (theese) seed-firing drones … are planting 40,000 trees a day to fight deforestation…(their) novel technology combines artificial intelligence with specially designed proprietary seed pods that can be fired into the ground from high in the sky. The firm claims that it performs 25 times faster and 80 percent cheaper compared to traditional seed-planting methodologies.

I am sure there is still a role for humans in reforestation, but the faster and cheaper it can be done, the better. A good use of technology.

A great article / repo to learn about Kubernetes, Terraform, IBM Cloud, Scripting, and more

If you are looking for a way to gain knowledge in a lot of different ways (Kubernetes including ingress, services, and COS as a way to holding information, plus Terraform and more) then I recommend this article.

It has a link to a repo you can use that had 2 issues at the time, so I forked a copy and in the meantime to fix the issues. You can get it here.

What’s nice about this is it comes with some shell scripts that use terraform to build and configure the cluster. It’s a good way to learn many things at the same time. Recommended.

On “The Computer Girls: 1967” in Cosmopolitan


One of the great shames of the IT industry has been the push to marginalize women in our profession. As this 1967 piece shows ( The Computer Girls: 1967 Cosmo article highlights women in technology– ), women had a dominant role in the early days of the computing industry. I believe as long as the the 1980s, women were at least equally represented in the profession as men. Then for various reasons, IT became dominated by the boys and not the girls. That was a shame and it will only stop being a shame when women are at least equally represented. We still have a way to go, according to Deloitte and others. Until that time comes, read what used to be in Cosmo.

(Image from here, which is also worth reading: 10 women who changed the tech industry forever – The Daily Dot)

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!

The end of an era: the iPod Touch is being discontinued. Here’s why you still might want one.

I’ve been a fan of the iPod Touch since I wrote this in 2008: Why I love my iPod touch. It was a great device then, and 14 years later it is still great. Which is why I am sad to hear it is being discontinued, according to AppleInsider and others.

However, there are several reasons y0u still might want to buy one. At the time I first bought mine, I was locked into using my Blackberry device, but I wanted to experience what Apple devices could provide. If you have an Android phone, you can still get that experience today.  You can have the best of both worlds: an Android device for some things and an Apple device for others.

If you are a parent, you likely have experienced your kids wanting to use your phone to play games, etc. With the Touch, you can give them that to use instead. Much cheaper than an iPad.

If you want to cut the cord — somewhat — on your technology use, a Touch can help you. You can take it with you on outings and from time to time connect to a wireless signal to check on things, but the lack of a cell phone signal means you are much less tethered than normal.

The iPod Touch is still a great device. Get one new, while you still can.

On why Jony Ive left Apple

Jony Ive did not leave Apple because of the ‘Accountants’, or at least that’s not the only reason, despite what this The New York Times piece says. I think that’s one of the reasons, sure. After Steve Jobs died, I am sure Ive felt less important. Plus he already had made a significant difference and he made a lot of money.

I believe one of the other reasons was simply because he and Apple have designed themselves into a minimalist corner. Jony Ive’s career rose on the design of the machine that saved Apple…this:

Since then the Apple computers have gone from that to this:

It’s a great computer,  but very little in the way of physical changes year over year. The engineers still get to do a lot, but there’s very little for Ive and the design team to do there.

Sure he got to design some of the higher end devices, like this:

But the Macbooks and the iMacs are very simple now. (Never mind the iPhone.) They are all wonderful engineered and fantastic minimal designs. But that’s the point: they are minimal to an extreme. And that, I believe, is one of the main reasons that Ive left.

The book that inspired that article is supposed to be really good. Apple fans, get a copy if you can.

Spot the robot finds useful work in Pompeii

I am not a fan of Boston Dynamics or their overhyped robots. They are often put to poor use, like harassing homeless people. And yet people seem positive about them. To which I normally reply: “meh”.

I am happy to make an exception for this use of them shown above. It’s  Spot, Boston Dynamics robot dog, working in Pompeii. It’s also a good example of where their robot is being useful and taking on risks that humans should avoid. If Spot’s manufacturer wants to make their robots do jobs like this, I’ll be more supportive of them.

(Image link to article)

What I find interesting in tech in general, Apr 2022


Well, I didn’t expect this week to be “what I find interesting in IT Week” , but here we are! I hope you have found it all useful. While the other posts were specific, these are of a general nature. From weird cool stuff to mainframes to iphones to architecture. Dig in!

IT Architecture: Here’s some tools you IT architects can use:

Cloud: some cloud related stuff:

Programming: here’s some things software and hardware folks might find interesting:

Finally: here’s some links that need to be seen without falling into a particular category:

What I find interesting in tech: DevOps and CI/CD (April 2022)

Yesterday I wrote about DevOps. One of the things I emphasized there was that DevOps was more than Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD). And while I still think that, I also know that for many people, CI/CD is a very important part of DevOps. It’s important for me too. Here’s a list of things I’ve found interesting in that area that I thought were worth sharing:

Generally:

Toolchains:

Tekton:

Helm

GitOps

On DevOps, or the important of a good reference architecture when doing IT Architecture

If you are designing an IT system, you can greatly benefit from a good reference architecture. A good reference architecture can be:

  • a superset of whatever architecture you design
  • a guide to what is possible in your design
  • a reminder of what is essential and what you may have left out
  • an explainer of all the potentially relevant parts to your design
  • a supporter of whatever architecture you do decide on
  • like a mentor providing you thought leadership and guidance on what works and why you need it

IBM has long put together such good reference architectures. Of all I have seen, this is one of the better ones I have seen: DevOps architecture: Reference diagram – IBM Cloud Architecture Center.


It covers all the stages of DevOps, from Planning to  Deployment to Learning. It shows the logical parts of the DevOps Architecture and what tools support that. It reveals the relationships between the parts, both static and dynamic. It reminds you of the things you need that you might not be aware of. I think it’s fantastic.

I think it is great for another reason. Implicit in the architecture is the definition —  at least for IBM and I — of what DevOps should be. It’s not just CI and CD. It’s not just a toolchain/pipeline from Dev to Ops. DevOps is really this entire cycle:

Each stage is important. Too often the focus is on Development and Deployment. But stages like Planning and Learning are an essential part of the DevOps cycle  that are essential not just for code quality but testing quality and ops quality.  It all ends up with better results for all the stakeholders of an IT system, from the business sponsors to the users.

Anyone involved with IT architecture, system design, IT testing, system operations or DevOps in general would benefit from studying that reference architecture.

(Images are links to IBM pages)

What are NFRs (non-functional requirements) and why should you care?


If you have any role in the design of an IT system, you should care about NFRs.  As this piece (Nonfunctional requirements: A checklist – IBM Cloud Architecture Center), states:

Defining and addressing the nonfunctional requirements (NFRs) for a system are among the most important of a software architect’s responsibilities. NFRs are the system quality attributes for a system, as distinct from the functional requirements, which detail a system’s business features and capabilities.

Examples of NFRs include key concepts such as reliability, performance, scalability, and security. NFRs are cross-cutting in nature and affect multiple aspects of a system’s architecture. It’s important to articulate and address the NFRs early in the project lifecycle and to keep them under review as the system is produced. To help with that task, you can use the following checklist of key NFRs. The checklist designed to be consulted when you define and evolve a system’s architecture.

The bold text is key. NFRs describe the qualities your system should have. You have functional requirements and you have quality requirements (i.e. , NFRs). Any system design needs to address both.

The number of specified NFRs your system can have are endless. Three of the key ones found at the top of that list are:

Those three are typically covered in any system design I work on. The piece goes on with a great rundown on the various NFRs you’d expect to address in most system architectures.

Three NFRs missing from that list that I think are important and that I would ask you to consider are:

  • Accuracy
  • Maintainability (related to complexity)
  • Cost

There is often a tradeoff with accuracy and other NFRs, such as performance. To gain better performance, data will often be cached and served up even when it is out of date (i.e., inaccurate). That may be fine. But accuracy should always be taken into account and not just assumed.

Maintainability is often ignored, but it is key for the long term success of a system. Two examples of this. One, developers will sometimes not externalize values in their code; changes to the code require a fix and an outage. That is less maintainable than code with external values in a simple text file that can be changed on the fly. Two, code that is not well documented and not peer reviewed will be harder to maintain. Externalization, code reviews and documentation are examples of maintainability requirements you may have and should have for your IT system.

Cost is an important NFR because it causes tradeoffs with most other NFRs. For example, without cost considerations, stakeholders might have availability requirements that are for 99.99999….. It’s only when cost (and complexity and maintainability) become factors do we see often see availability (and other NFRs) scale back.

Finally, NFRs are not just for software architects: they are for everyone. In fact, I wish the term “non-functional requirement” was replaced with “quality requirement”. However I suspect software architects — for whom functional requirements are key — came up with that term, so we all have to live with it. When you think of NFRs, think Quality Requirements. Everyone involved in the design of an IT system wants it to have good quality. Understanding the NFRs/QRs are key to this.

 

On the Amazon Astro robot, or servants old and new

Amazon has a new robot coming out, and there’s been a number of reviews. Here’s a list of just a few of them:

If those reviews have convinced you to get one, you can apply to get into the queue for them over here (they aren’t generally available): Amazon.com: Introducing Amazon Astro, Household Robot for Home Monitoring, with Alexa, Includes 6-month Free Trial of Ring Protect Pro : Everything Else

My thoughts:

  • It’s smart Amazon is rolling them out this way. (No pun intended.) There are going to be many missteps* : a gradual rollout will minimize problems and bad press. (* Also not a pun. :))
  • A robot is the next iteration in home devices. People may have a number of Amazon home devices around. Robots are like Alexa on wheels. And if anyone can mass produce them, Amazon can.
  • I can see Google and others getting into the game. I have a number of Google Home devices around my house. Having a Google Robot (Gizmo?) would be a benefit to me. For one thing, I might consolidate my Home devices and just have one robot / floor.
  • I wonder if Apple will get into the game? I’d love to see an Apple Home robot. Maybe it will look like Eve from Wall-E? 🙂
  • Perhaps at some point this thing can do many things. Or maybe there will be just a series of robots: one to vacuum, one to move small things around and watch the house and provide information, maybe even one to tend to plants or keep the cat busy. Robot technology has a way to go before it is humanlike and can do everything.

Anyway, a home robot for under a grand is an exciting development.

P.S. While I was reading that I was reminded of this piece: Finding the servant call buttons in New York City’s Gilded Age mansions | Ephemeral New York. In some ways saying “Hey Siri/Alexa/Google” is the equivalent of pressing servant buttons.  One day we will have a household of robot servants working for us at the press of a button.

(Image linked to from the Ephemeral New York article. Those buttons are in the Frick museum in New York: check them out if you go there.)

What I learned writing web scrapers last week


I started writing web scrapers last week. If you don’t know, web scraper code can read web pages on the Internet and pull information from them.

I have to thank the Ontario Minister of Health for prompting me to do this. The Minister used to share COVID-19 information on twitter, but then chose recently to no longer do that. You can come to your own conclusions as to why she stopped. As for me, I was irritated by the move. Enough so that I decided to get the information and publish it myself.

Fortunately I had two things to start with. One, this great book: Automate the Boring Stuff with Python. There is a chapter in there on how to scrape web pages using Python and something called Beautiful Soup. Two, I had the minister’s own web site: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/. It had the data I wanted right there! I wrote a little program called covid.py to scrape the data from the page and put it all on one line of output which I share on twitter every day.

Emboldened by my success, I decided to write more code like this. The challenge is finding a web page where the data is clearly marked by some standard HTML. For example, the COVID data I wanted is associated with paragraph HTML tag and it has a class label of  covid-data-block__title and covid-data-block__data. Easy.

My next bit of code was obit.py: this program scrapes the SaltWire web site (Cape Breton Post) for obituaries listed there, and writes it out into HTML. Hey, it’s weird, but again the web pages are easy to scrape. And  it’s an easy way to read my hometown’s obits to see if any of my family or friends have died. Like the Covid data, the obit’s were associated with some html, this time it was a div statement of class sw-obit-list__item. Bingo, I had my ID to get the data.

My last bit of code was somewhat different. The web page I was scraping was on the web but instead of HTML it was a CSV file. In this case I wrote a program called icu.sh to get the latest ICU information on the province of Ontario. (I am concerned Covid is going to come roaring back and the ICUs will fill up again.) ICU.sh runs a curl command and in conjunction with the tail command gets the latest ICU data from an online CSV file. ICU.sh then calls a python program to parse that CSV data and get the ICU information I want.

I learned several lessons from writing this code. First, when it comes to scraping HTML, it’s necessary that the page is well formed and consistent. In the past I tried scraping complex web pages that were not and I failed. With the COVID data and the obituary data,  those pages were that way and I succeeded. Second, not all scraping is going to be from HTML pages: sometimes there will be CSV or other files. Be prepared to deal with the format you are given. Third, once you have the data, decide how you want to publish / present it. For the COVID and ICU data, I present them in a simple manner on twitter. Just the facts, but facts I want to share. For the obit data, that is just fun and for myself. For that, I spit it into a temporary HTML file and open it in a browser to review.

If you want to see the code I wrote, you can go to my repo in Github. Feel free to fork the code and make something of your own. If you want to see some data you might want to play with, Toronto has an open data site, here. Good luck!

 

On moving off Google for Search

Have you ever thought of giving up on Google as a search tool? I have, and so did Clive Thompson. He wrote about switching here. As for me, I have changed my default search engine to DuckDuckGo and I am preferring the experience.

I still use technology from Google. It’s pretty hard not to. But you have choices when it comes to Search, try using something else..

New robots just dropped (in your pool and your…toilet?)

Pool cleaning robot
Whenever new robots are released, I like to feature them. Robots are still pretty limited in the home, but there has been some attempts to get past the Roomba and have them in other parts of the house. Cases in point, this Toilet cleaning robot and this Pool cleaning robot .

Check them out. The robots are coming.eventually.

(Image via Yanko).

It’s spring. You should freshen up your web site too.

Is your website looking old and tired? Maybe you just need to freshen it up and clean it up. I wrote about how you can do that in around 30 minutes, here: Ok, you have a web page or a web site. Here’s how can you make it look better in no time. I used the guidelines there to refresh one of my sites: berniemichalik.com.

Part of that advice is freshening up your web site’s fonts. If you have no idea how to do that, then you need this: top 50 Google Font Pairings [Handpicked by Pro Designers]. One of the examples is displayed above.

On the new iPhone SE

iPhone SE, 2022 edition, RED

One of my favorite phones from Apple is the SE, and in 2022 there is a new version of it. From what I read, the new version is a combination of physical features, old and new, combined with new software. I like it.

I read some complaints that argued the iPhone SE should have the same shape as the previous SE phones (think “flat edges”). Those complaining miss the point: there is no ONE form factor for the SE. The form factor is based on recycling once was what was new recently.

If you like an older form factor — home button, anyone? — and you like a great low cost iPhone, then the SE may be for you. Check out this list of reviews:

Convinced? Then head over to Apple and buy one. I am a fan of the (PRODUCT) RED one: iPhone SE 64GB (PRODUCT)RED – Apple

(Image from the Apple web site)

P.S. If you are looking for a bargain smart phone that isn’t the SE, there  I recommend this.

The two problems with home robots

This is a cool story about a concept robot for homes:  A BB-8 Droid for your home – Yanko Design.

I used to have problems with such concepts, because  they provide an opportunity to have a device wandering around your home, recording data and selling it to others. That’s why I was never keen on such devices coming from Amazon or Google. I was very pro-privacy when it came to such technology.

For better and worse, I have since adopted quite a few Google Home devices in my house. If I was worried about them recording all the time, I appear to have gotten over it. As often is the case, the convenience they provide trumped privacy concerns.

Given that, I would love to have a robot like the one above. Instead of having multiple Google Home devices, I could just have one Google Home Robot that followed me around.

That brings me to the second problem. While it is cute that they illustrate this one rolling and bouncing around a home, mobility for robots is a huge challenge. Especially homes with stairs.

I see two ways around that. Such a robot would not be good for me, but people living in one level condos and apartments might find some combination of a vaccuum robot + Google Home device just the thing. And for people with stairs, maybe a robot above with wheels and a handle you can use to bring it with you up and down stairs might be the best alternative.

Robots are coming to most homes eventually. Maybe they will look like the one above. Maybe not. But soon we will see them everywhere.

Penk Chen is making computers cool again

And to me he is doing it with these two machines: the CutiePi tablet above, and the Penkesu Computer below…

I think both of these machines are fabulous. I love the different designs of both of them. The handle for the CutiePi is great: you can carry it and then use it to stand up the computer. As for the Penkesu, I love how it reminds me of the old netbooks I used to love.

Well done, Penk Chen and team. For more on the bottom device, see: The Penkesu is a DIY retro handheld PC with a mechanical keyboard – The Verge.

P.S. Hat tip to Clive Thompson for pointing this out.

 

Chrome OS Flex could be just the thing you need to make your old hardware useful again

I wrote some time ago about how I turned an old Windows laptop into a Chromebook for my son’s virtual school . At the time I did this I used software from an organization called Neverware. It all worked well and I was recommending it to many.

Not long after that Google bought Neverware. I thought: oh no perhaps we will lose this ability to recycle old machines in this way. What a shame.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about. Google is coming out with Chrome OS Flex, and I presume it will provide similar capabilities that Neverware’s software provided. If so, I recommend it. It’s a great way to recycle old computers.

For more on it, here’s two more pieces worth taking a peak at:

Hacking North Korea


This is a fascinating story in WIRED: North Korea Hacked Him. So He Took Down Its Internet

It may seem far fetched, but if you read it you can see there were plenty of opportunities for him to exploit weaknesses in North Korea’s networks. He’s also modest about what he was able to accomplish.

Among other things, it reminded me that the Internet is full of fragile technology that can be brought down. Even if that technology is owned by government agencies.

Good fast cheap: pick two

In IT we have a saying for anyone wanting a new IT system: good, fast or cheap…pick two (of them). Everyone wants all three of course, but you can never get that.

This fun little site puts this into effect: Fast Good Cheap

Try it out!

P.S. This is also a great example of a one page web site! Everything including the CSS seems to be all in one page. So view the source too!

Some good links on how to learn Python

A friend asked me for some help when it comes to learning Python. I put together this list for him, but it’s good for anyone wanting to learn the computer language.

  1. Why Learn Python
  2. Automate the boring stuff with python. A great book!
  3. Learn python in 24 hours. Another book. Also great.
  4. Learn python in 10 minutes
  5. Good doc on python
  6. Learn Python the hard way
  7. How to make a web app using Flask and Python
  8. How to build a twitter app in python
  9. Become a More Efficient Python Programmer

There are so many great resources on the Internet concerning Python. I could easily triple the size of this list. Start with these: you’ll find the rest soon enough.

(Image from Free Code Camp, which also has good links worth reviewing.)

On the sorry state of printers, 2021

What does the Verge think of printers?

Printers are the worst. They’re unreliable, they guzzle reportedly $12,000-a-gallon ink, and their manufacturers have been known to use dirty tricks, scare tactics, and DRM to strongly encourage you to buy cartridges exclusively from them.

Whoa! Strong but true. What prompted this? Well it seems…

Some of Canon’s own toner cartridges are now being detected as fakes — and they’re forcing the company to teach customers how to bypass its own DRM (via Techdirt).

Wild. You can read more about that here: Canon printers now think Canon’s own toner is fake – The Verge.

I have always wondered why printers are in the sorry state they are. While they are common, they are almost seen as a dead end technology. People don’t write about new printers the way the write about new smartphones. They are seen as a necessary evil in many cases. No one in Silicon Valley is coming along to disrupt the printer business.

I remember when IBM spun off their printer division into a company called Lexmark. And I can remember over a decade ago Kodak made printers with cheap ink. Now when I go into a computer store, those brands aren’t there. It’s the Canon’s and HP’s of the world that are making printers and presumably making money from them. Perhaps the only way to make a go of printers is to make them poorly. Which is sad.

What programming language should you learn? (2022 edition)

The best programming languages to learn in 2022, according to TechRepublic are these:

It’s interesting to see how things have changed. Back in 2015 when I wrote about this, Java was 1st and Python was in 4th. Javascript was 8th! I am not surprised by this.

Java and the C languages will always be good to know. But if you want to be marketable, learn some Python and Javascript.

It’s Friday. A good day to tidy up, workwise. Start with your inbox


It’s Friday, a good day to tidy up, workwise. That way it’ll be easier to start things fresh on Monday.

Sure you can tidy up your Downloads folder, your desktop, maybe delete some really big files that have been hanging around forever. Those are all good, but I recommend you clean up your inbox.

If you need a tool to do this, I know some really smart people who have recommended this: Mailstrom: Clean Up Your Inbox Now.

Your Monday self will thank you.

Why beach robots are good

While I am not a fan of most popular robots these days, I will make an exception for this one: This Microsoft-powered AI-enabled robot cleans up cigarette butts littered on the beach! – Yanko Design

It’s sad we need such a robot, but if this problem is going to exist, I am all for such technology. It’s a great project and not unlike a Roomba for the beach. Nice.

Something to consider if you are gaming this holiday season (never mind the metaverse)

If you are planning to do some gaming this holiday season, especially Halo, then read this: Cheaters are already ruining Halo Infinite multiplayer games – The Verge. And it’s not just Halo, but lots of big online games.

As an aside, when I read about Mark Z’s Metaverse, I imagine them not even considering things like this.

(Image from article).

On Toronto, tiny robots and the media

So the city of Toronto has put a hold on this company that has dumped their robots on city sidewalks for now. Good. It has been an epic struggle for advocates to get proper bike lanes and other form of transportation (other than cars) in place. The last thing we need is to have sidewalks swarming with robots. My take is that these robots make life in the city worse. Let’s see them put onto the streets.

What has been the take of our Canadian media? Basically that robots are cute and people are mean. See this piece in blogTO, People in Toronto are fighting to keep these adorable delivery robots on city sidewalks, and also McLeans.

I guess it was too much trouble to think and report on what other disruptive  “innovations” have done to cities, from Uber to Lime.

Innovation is contextual. In the right context, new applications of technology are great. I remain unconvinced that deploying swarms of robots to our sidewalks and waiting to see what happens is one of these examples.

 

Christmas gift ideas: a colourful wireless keyboard with removable emoji keys!


Sure, technically this is aimed at Gen-Z, but I want one too! What you say? Only this:  Logitech designed the perfect wireless keyboard for Gen-Z complete with removable emoji keys! Nice! Comes in lots of bold colours too! Perfect for the emoji lover in your life.

Well done, Logitech.

IT and society (or what I find interesting in tech, December 2021)

This list is different than most, in that there is more of a focus on IT and society vs how to use tech.  For example, here is a recommendation of 14 tactics to use during a ransomware negotiation. I can’t vouch for those, though I can say ransomware continues to be a big problem. On the flip side of IT and crime, the Toronto’s police board is seeking the public’s input on using artificial intelligence for policing. Input is good: I hope they act on it.

Getting back to (alleged) crime, here’s two good pieces on Theranos: Theranos drained $96 million from an experienced investor ‚ plus some blood and How Elizabeth Holmes Soured the Media on Silicon Valley. To be fair to Holmes, she wasn’t alone on the souring of SV.

Big changes at this place recently: Twitter makes big changes for devs as it eyes decentralized future. Plus Jack is gone. It’s an odd company.

Two things on will.i.am: Q&A: will.i.am Talks Masks  and the worst gadgets. He gets a mention in the second piece because he seems to be associated with some of the worst IT. He is successful in music: in technology, less so.

As someone who has given serverless a go from time to time, I agree with this:  The Unfulfilled Promise of Serverless.

Here’s a good piece on K8S:  Introduction Getting started with scalable web application on Kubernetes. Here’s why you should use IBM Cloud: Why IBM Hybrid Cloud for Your Journey to the Cloud?. Here’s why you should use Terraform to Define Custom Views for Your Log Analysis and Activity Tracker Instances.

This is one of the best things I’ve read on COBOL:  Why and how COBOL is still used.

Finally, this is good:  Logitech’s latest device is an all-in-one dock that turns your table full of gadgets into the best WFH setup ever.

 

 

What is a cloud architect and how to become one


What is a cloud architect? Well, for one, it is me! But for a more general description, I thought this piece was really helpful: What is a cloud architect? A vital role for success in the cloud | CIO

The piece covers:

  • what they do
  • the various types of cloud architect
  • what they get paid
  • what skills they need
  • how to become one

Very thorough.

I’d like to add:

  • as a cloud architect, you are an architect first. By that I mean you need to know the cloud well, but clients and members of your team will look to you to bring your IT architect abilities first and foremost
  • relatedly, there will be times when the architecture decisions you produce and the architectural thinking you do will fall outside cloud technology. This is especially true of hybrid cloud, but true of other things as well (integration, networking, operations, application). A good architect has 2-3 areas they have depth in. Cloud can be one of them, but you should be able to go deep in other areas.

That piece is good for cloud architects, but also for people who want to become cloud architects. It’s also great for people wanting to hire cloud architects. Worth taking a few minutes to go over.

(Image via Pixabay)

If you are writing a bash script to call a curl command and you want to pass variable values to it, read this…

CodingImage
If you are writing a bash script to call a curl command and you want to pass variable values to it, you may find a hard time determining how to go about it. I did!! I consulting with lots of pages, and nothing seemed to tell me what I want.

Here’s what I eventually did.

Take this example. I am using curl to call the sendgrid API, as you can see below. (I don’t have all the variables, but they were all strings like THESUBJECT and THECONTENT.).

The trick is in the use of single and double quotes. For the variables, they are in double quotes. But notice the use of single and double quotes in the curl command:


TOYOU="noone@gmail.com"
THESUBJECT="once again!"
THECONTENT="Looks good!"
curl --request POST --url https://api.sendgrid.com/v3/mail/send \
--header 'Authorization: Bearer '$AUTH_TOKEN \
-H 'Content-Type: application/json' \
--data '{"personalizations": [{"to": [{"email": '\"$TOYOU\"'}]}],"from": {"email": '\"$FROMME\"'}, "subject": '\""$THESUBJECT"\"', "content": [{"type": "text/plain", "value": '\""$THECONTENT"\"' }]}'

Let’s look at the variables in that curl command.

$AUTH_TOKEN has no quotes around it. In fact, it is up against a single quote on its left. That single quote ends the string Authorization: Bearer and let’s the script fill in the value of $AUTH_TOKEN.

Now look at $TOYOU AND $FROMME. Both of those variables have no blanks in them. So there is a single quote-slash-double quote on the left and a slash-double quote-single quote to the right.

that is different than $THESUBJECT and $THECONTENT. Those strings have blanks in them. For them, there is a single quote-slash-double quote-double quote to the left of them and a double quote-slash-double quote-single quote to the right.

It’s crazy but true. Good luck with it!

(Photo by Shahadat Rahman on Unsplash )

IBM Cloud, Terraform and DB2 (or some of what I find interesting in tech, nov 2021)

Wow! I haven’t done one of these posts on things I have found interesting in tech since July! So of course there is a lot here! I need to do these more often.

For this one it is mostly on the cloud and IBM cloud especially. Not so much Kubernetes this time, but lots on Terraform and DB2 in the cloud. A bit of IoT. Some software. I have a section on IT history which I like too.

Grab a coffee or tea or what have you and dig in. Take what you can use.

IBM Cloud: As usual, I’ve been doing work on cloud…mainly IBM Cloud. Here’s some IBM Cloud Docs on using their API. This on the IBM CLI is  a good reference. Here’s a good Alerts Overview on LOGDNA. This is massively helpful: the API Reference for  https : //sldn.softlayer.com/ … it’s very useful on how to use the API to work with IBM cloud. Here’s something on Alerts using sysdig. More on tracking:  IBM Cloud Monitoring Logging and Activity Tracker with Teams ( a good repo).

Other clouds: While I support IBM Cloud, if you are leaning otherwise, this could be helpful: Accelerating your Migration to AWS. Speaking of  AWS: Augmenting VMware Cloud on AWS Workloads with Native AWS services. Here are some pieces on Azure: Microsoft Azure cloud vulnerability is the worst you can imagine. I have no comment. Hey, maybe it’s time to get off Windows and SQL Server 2012 (or run them on Azure). If that’s you, read that.

On cloud in general, in case you were wondering, the answer to this question: Resiliency Is Automatic When I Move to the Cloud Right? is No. Here’s an interesting piece: The love/hate relationship the cloud has with Linux

Time flies! Happy 15th Birthday Amazon EC2. Lastly, here are the 5 Biggest Cloud Computing Trends In 2022 

Terraform: in working on cloud recently, I’ve been using Terraform and gathering links on using it. Lots of them. Here they are in somewhat random order. For example, discover best-practice VPC configuration for application deployment. Another piece on   IBM and Terraform.  Here’s more on it. Need a terraform Template for Monitoring with Sysdig Teams? If you need to plan create and update deployment environments using TF and IBM Cloud. This is a good blog post on Provisioning IBM Cloud Services With Terraform. If you need to deploy a n-Tier Web App in a Virtual Private Cloud using Terraform & Ansible. This piece is essential if you want to create services in IBM Cloud using Terraform IBM Cloud Services Info. Here’s how to give a .tf file as input in Terraform Apply command.  A page on data sources in Terraform resources explained with example. How about how to create Multiple Instances in a VPC Using Terraform. Or how to create reusable infrastructure with Terraform modules. Or a VPC. Or an n-Tier Web App in a Virtual Private Cloud using Terraform & Ansible .Here’s a piece on IBM Cloud Toolchain- Managed Devops for Schematics/Terraform. If you want to create Virtual servers in IBM cloud Terraform with for loop. A good intro: Getting started with IBM Terraform provider.

Still more on getting started with Terraform. Something harder: How to deploy high-availability web app using Terraform.

DB2: I have been doing lots of work on using DB2 on IBM Cloud. Here’s something on querying the IBM Cloud Databases API from the Command Line. Here’s something on using RESTful APIs and Microservices to Work With Db2. Here’s some examples of using the DB2 API: DB2 get about info,  and  Db2 get overall stuff, and Using the DB2 API.

Kubernetes: doing less stuff on Kubernetes this month, but I thought these were good: OpenShift vs. Kubernetes: What is the Difference? Helpful: Enable Rolling updates in Kubernetes with Zero downtime. Also helpful: Configure Liveness Readiness and Startup Probes.

Software (plus AI): for my DB2 work, I was calling the APIs using bash scripts. Here’s the answer to the question: What is the simplest way to dockerize a bash script? from Quora . Here’s something on executing a SHELL script in a docker container. Relatedly, here’s how to run a Bash script in an Alpine Docker container? 

Here’s some Unix pieces: Canonical extends Ubuntu 14.04 and 16.04 life cycle to 10 years. Good! Here’s how to do this on Debian 9:upgrade python 3.5 to python 3.7. Relatedly, here’s how to Install Python 3 on Mac – Brew Install Update Tutorial. Also related: Python on MacOS (Big Sur) . More related stuff on this:  How to fix “macOS: xcrun: error: invalid active developer path missing xcrun” error? 

I used to love the language APL. Here are two things on it: Is APL Dead? and Dyalog APL Tutor. I am curious to see how this plays out: Microsoft announces Windows 11 SE a new Chrome OS competitor.

Here’s two random AI links: The Secret Bias Hidden in Mortgage-Approval Algorithms (bad) and Motorist fined after CCTV confuses his number plate with woman’s T-shirt (funny bad).

IOT: Need to build front panels for your IOT projects? This is good for them. Relatedly the Ultratroninator3000.

Speaking of IOT projects, here’s some worth checking out: Top project ideas for the Raspberry Pi Zero. Then there is this: Simple Raspberry Pi Weather Station. Related: E-Ink Tide and Weather Tracker. This is a cool project for finance folks:  This tiny IoT ticker-meter turns your tabletop into a miniature stock forex and crypto market! Nice: Kobowriter transforms the Kobo Glo HD into an E Ink typewriter. I loved this: The Simpsons TV Made IRL with Raspberry Pi @Raspberry_Pi #PiDay #RaspberryPi.

IT History: here are a few good pieces on IT history. This was a great piece on how the iPod was developed: A Prototype Original iPod. Going back in time, here’s a good article on Sinclair’s amazing 1974 calculator hack. There was lots of talk about Sinclair computers after the great Home computing pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair dies aged recently at 81. Meanwhile in ancient history, IT wise: 50 years ago today the first UNIX Programmers Manual is released.

IBM History: I was reading this piece on  How IBM “lost the cloud” and it got me thinking. First, I don’t think IBM has lost the cloud business. I also think that IBM’s history is never straightforward and it is risky to count it out. For example, after e-business, IBM tried to promote the idea of autonomous computing. Here’s two pieces on it: Autonomic computing and Q&A: IBM sticks to autonomic computing agenda. It was a good idea, and it supported the work IBM was doing in the Tivoli space, but it was not as big a success as e-business IMHO. From there IBM did work on their Smarter Planet campaign and I believe it was more successful. I did some work in this area myself. From there IBM went into cloud. First there was a homegrown service, and then IBM bought Softlayer and went with that to compete with Amazon and then later Microsoft and Azure. For now the history is still being written. No one has won or lost until cloud is over or someone exits the field. Again, my opinion only.

Cool stuff: here’s something on a A LOST 1981 TRS-80 ADVENTURE GAME (SLIGHTLY REMASTERED FOR THIS CENTURY). Do you want to Turn your Android phone into a pocket Mac Plus? .Of course you do! Here’s a cool tool:  Doodle Ipsum. Check this out: This tiny Simpsons TV lets you watch tiny Simpsons TV. Very fun!

Here’s some cool Microsoft stuff:  Microsoft accounts to no longer need passwords and how to use a VBA procedure that deletes the current page in a Word document. Also this: Office Editing for Docs Sheets & Slides.

Here’s some cool Mac stuff: 12 Clever Apple TV 4K Settings Everyone Should Know About and macOS Terminal commands every Mac user should know

Very cool:  Need a new monitor for your computer? You can wear one on your face.

Generally:  here’s how to How to Mass Delete Emails in Gmail. Here’s a PrinCube Mobile Printer. I like it. Another cool device is this gloriously Fixable Laptop.

Speaking of laptops, here is the  Best cheap laptop of 2021. And here is something else cheap: The HP Chromebook 14 is just over $230 at Amazon right now. Relatedly, here’s 9 Reasons You Should Buy a Pixel 5a Over the iPhone SE.

These are some simple free fully responsive one-page sites for pretty much anything. And Elon Musk says Tesla is working on humanoid robots…sure…whatever edgelord.

Finally: document your code.  And remember, no matter how fast your networks get….

… never, never, never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway. 🙂

As always: thanks for reading this!

(Top photo from the story on the ipod. Bottom photo by Mostafa tarek on Unsplash)

 

Five digital tools to help you with Kanban (plus one analog tool)

Last week I extolled the virtues of Kanban. If you are looking to grab some tech to run yours from, here are 5 open-source kanban boards to help you get and stay on task from TechRepublic. I’ve used one of them (Kanboard, seen above) and liked it. Check them out and see which one works best for you.

If analog is more your thing, consider this tool featured on Yanko design:

You can easily work this into a Kanban type tracker. Plus it looks cool.

For more on it, see it here.

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.

IBM Cloud tip: consider your naming standards before adding services

Before adding services to your IBM Cloud environment, consider adopting a naming standard for them. By default IBM Cloud services will give them a unique name (e.g.IBM Log Analysis-4g, DB2-r0). While that may be fine, giving them a name that clearly identifies their role and service (e.g. DB2-Development, IBM Log Analysis for Production) helps the support teams do their job easier. It can also help later if you are deciding to pare back services. If you have 10 instances of DB2 or 100 devices, clear naming standards will also help you decide which ones to delete and which ones to keep.

If you use Chrome as your regular browser, read this and make it better

If you use Chrome as your main browser, you owe it to yourself to read this:  11 of the Best Free Extensions for Google Chrome.

I’ve used a number of them and continue to use Momentum and Grammarly. They make it a better tool.

P.S. And speaking of making tools work better, if you want to have better search results from Google in Chrome, read this: 20 Google Search Tips to Use Google More Efficiently

How to easily redirect your Netfirms domain to another domain/web site

Recently I wanted to take a new domain registered at Netfirms (netfirms.com) and point it to another domain, so that if people put the URL of the the Netfirms domain in their browser (e.g. berniemichalik.ca), their browser would get redirected elsewhere (e.g. blm849.github.io).

I thought: this should be easy to find out how to do in 2021. I was surprised it wasn’t easy or obvious. Much of the advice was dated and not useful.

Now that I found out how to do it, I will show you what I did to get it to work in 7 easy steps:

  1. First, login to netfirms. It should take you to a web page like this: https://www1.netfirms.com/controlpanel/foundation/
  2. Click on “Domains” on the top left of screen
  3. Look for your domain (e.g. berniemichalik.ca) Click on the “Manage” button underneath it
  4. On the left, look for “Pointers and Subdomains” and click on it
    The web page your browser will go to will look something like this:
    https://www1.netfirms.com/controlpanel/foundation/berniemichalik.ca/pointers-subdomains.  And the page you see should look like the image at the top of this post.
  5. Click Under “Pointer Type” and set the value to “URL Standard”.
    In the box to the right, under “Directory”, put in the URL of your web site (note, put the entire URL, including http:// or https://).
  6. Click the “Save” button.
  7. Test it. Point your browser at the Netfirms URL and see if it gets redirected. (For me, if I type in berniemichalik.ca I get redirected to blm849.github.io). It may take some time, up to a few hours. But it will work. (If it doesn’t seem to be, try different browsers or ask someone else to try.)

That’s it. I hope this helps! Good luck!