Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Links for 03-30-2016

Monday, March 28, 2016

The "laptops" in my bag

I took one of my Chromebooks to an event last week and a couple of people asked me about it. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about my larger devices as an extension to my recent “What’s in my bag?” post. 

In general, I carry a laptop-like device and a tablet-like device. Laptop-like devices are really a lot better for typing on and tablet-like devices are better for reading or watching video on a plane. And I haven’t found anything that really switches between the two modes well. I’m happy to stipulate that the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 may be that device for some people but I’m really not in the Microsoft ecosystem and longer so that doesn’t work for me at this point. 

More on tablet-like devices in a later post but, usually, my laptop-like device for travel is my 2015 13” MacBook Pro. Because it’s a full laptop, it’s the most versatile thing to take with me—especially if I might not always be connected. It weighs about 3.5 pounds and is .71 inches high. For me, this is about the perfect compromise for working at a desk and traveling. The smaller MacBook models are just a bit too small or tradeoff things like a second USB port that keep me from wanting to use day-in and day-out. I do value compactness and lightweight when I’m traveling but I find that, by the time you add chargers and dongles and various adapters, another pound or so of laptop just isn’t a big deal. This is still a very svelte laptop by any historical standard.

How about Chromebooks?

First, let me share my thoughts on Chromebooks in general and then I’ll get to a couple specific models. 

Chromebook are pretty awesome for the right use. At around $250 for many models, they’re a great match for doing web-based tasks (browsing and online office suites or even many software development tasks). You even get a hidden Crosh shell that gives you utilities like ssh. You’re not totally dead in the water if you go offline—for example, Evernote switches back and forth between connected and non-connected modes pretty smoothly—but they’re definitely oriented toward situations where you have reliable WiFi. (On the one hand, this is increasingly common; tech conferences notwithstanding. On the other hand, it’s also hard to do many things disconnected even if you have a full laptop.)

For $250, you’re not going to get high-resolution screens, backlit keyboards, or things like that. But my 13” Dell Chromebook from 2014 sits on a table downstairs in my house where I often find it more convenient for doing a lot of searching than using a tablet. (Yes, I could go find my laptop but I find it being “just there” handy.)

A variety of higher-priced Chromebooks out there have more features. Personally I get a lot less interested in a Chromebook as it gets to a ~$500 price point and beyond given that it won’t replace a laptop for most people.

More interesting from a travel perspective is a device like the Asus Chromebook Flip. It’s a 10.1” laptop that weighs about 2 pounds. The touch-sensitive screen also flips into a tablet mode. In my experience, it also has pretty reliably “all day” battery life which is probably a couple hours longer than my MacBook. If I don’t need more than a Chromebook and want to go lightweight, this is what I carry.

A few caveats:

Unlike my 4GB Dell, I have the 2GB memory Asus model—mostly because that’s all they had at the Best Buy when I needed something during a trip when I accidentally left my MacBook at home. It does stutter every now and then if there are multiple tabs open, so go with 4GB. 

The keyboard is fine, but it is small. I have no issue with using this as a travel laptop but I wouldn’t want to type with a keyboard this size all the time.

The tablet mode is “OK.” By that I mean it feels a bit weird having the keypad under your fingers when you’re holding the folded laptop though it can be used as an ebook reader in a pinch. I also don’t normally get movies and TV from Google Play so I don’t have a simple source for video content. This isn’t a problem with the device so much as the fact that Google is yet another separate ecosystem for content that you may or may not already be using.

So. For most work trips today, my MacBook Pro still usually wins. It’s just more versatile and I have access to a lot of presentations and other materials even if I’m not online. But, it’s not hard for me to imagine smaller (perhaps convertible in some way) devices becoming a more practical travel option over time.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

What's in my bag?


These pieces about travel gear seem to be popular and I travel a lot, so here you go. Nothing on clothes or footwear here but I cover most everything else.

I've previously written about my carry-ons. Depending upon the trip, I typically either bring an Osprey travel backback or a Patagonia over-the-shoulder/backpack-in-pinch. It really depends on how much schlepping I'll be doing. I have a variety of other bags for when I'm checking luggage or am not travelling by air, but those two cover at least 80 percent of my air trips.

I usually carry a Timbuk 2 messenger bag as my "personal piece" as the airlines like to refer to it. This is also my day-to-day "briefcase." Comfortable to carry, nice internal compartments, rugged as heck. You can also stuff a lot into it in a pinch. The main downside is that the material is heavy duty so doesn't stuff down as much as I'd like when I consolidate it into another bag. Nor does it make a particularly good "man purse" for walking around town; it's too big. So I have a couple of other fanny packs or over-the-shoulder bags I carry when I don't need something bigger (as I often don't with laptops more petite than they used to be).

I tend to switch various bags around from trip to trip, so one thing I've found important is to compartmentalize contents. I use two primary bags for this.

An Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter is made out a thin, light high-tech material. (Technically I guess it’s for toiletries.) For most trips I find this is perfect for holding:

  • Spare pair(s) of reading glasses in case
  • Bottle opener (plus USB key)--thanks OpenShift by Red Hat
  • Corkscrew
  • Small first aid/medical kit
  • Prescription medications
  • Spare contact stuff
  • Travel-specific electronic adapters: e.g. ethernet dongle and ethernet cable, international plugs, car power adapter
  • Small plug-in microphone for iPhone
  • An envelope or two
  • Small plastic bags
  • Earplugs
  • Very small notebook
  • Chapstick
  • Wetnaps
  • Earplugs

For a longer trip or one that needs  more of this miscellaneous gear than average, I have a second one of these bags that I can use or I consolidate this bag and bulkier discrete items into an Eagle Creek half-cube or something along those lines.

My day-to-day mesh ditty bag that holds all my electronic cables, etc.:

  • USB plug
  • USB auto "cigarette lighter" adapter
  • USB to XYZ (Lightning, micro-USB, etc.) adapter cables
  • Hands-free adapter for telephone
  • Good ear canal headphones (I use Klipsch E6 but I'll probably splurge for Bose noise canceling ones of these days)
  • External battery to charge phone. I have a Tumi that I was given. It's bigger than my other ones but it does hold a lot of juice so that's what I carry.
  • Business cards/case
  • Remote laptop control for presentations (I use a Logitech model)
  • Any necessary dongles for laptops. (I assume VGA output only unless I've been told otherwise. I do have an HDMI dongle for my primary laptop and a retractable HDMI cable to use with hotel TVs but I don't routinely bring those.
  • Plastic "spork"
  • Small LED headlamp
  • Pens

The retractable cables are nice although, if you look at the photo, you'll see it's a bit of a hodgepodge given that some of this is stuff I've picked up at tradeshows etc. Make sure that higher-current devices like tablets will actually charge using the parts you bring.
I've tried out Chromecast and travel routers for hotel rooms but I've given that up as being too associated with the pain that happens whenever you fiddle with networking gear.

Prescription glasses in a tough case

iPhone 6

Given said iPhone 6, I don't regularly carry my Canon S100 any longer even though it shoots raw pics and has an optical zoom. I do have both Fujifilm and Canon systems as well and I'll bring one or the other--usually the Fujifilm EX-1 (along with associated batteries and chargers)--if I'm doing more serious photography.

The requisite quart Ziplock for toiletries of course.

For a long time, I looked for a travel portfolio to carry my passport, spare cash, backup credit card, and various other info/cards that I like to have with me on most trips. I had a couple tall portfolios that were too big; you don't really need a portfolio that carries a sheef of airline tickets these days. I had a nice leather one I was given that was about the right size but it didn't zip up; I stopped using it after I lost some of its contents when they fell out one trip. I finally found one by Eagle Creek that is just right for me. (They don’t seem to make the one I have any longer; this looks like the current equivalent.)

Typically my MacBook Pro (but sometimes an Asus flip-top Chromebook) plus (usually) a tablet device of some sort whether a Kindle Paperwhite or an iPad 3.

(Mostly for longer trips) a thin 8 1/2 x 11" plastic portfolio to carry tickets, printed-out information, maps, etc. Yeah, a lot of this could be (and is) on my phone but I find carrying some paper backup to often be useful.

I usually just carry my regular wallet (leather, not a lot in it, put in a bag or a side pocket) though I do have various zippered wallets that hang around the neck or otherwise aren't in a pocket that I'll sometimes take for non-city trips.

Nylon (or whatever) reusable grocery bag. Weights nothing and more and more places are starting to charge for bags. Can be handy to organize stuff as well.

I have a small lightweight mesh laundry bag I often bring but almost any sort of bag will do.

Sometimes I pack either a foldable duffle or a foldable day pack for extra space on the return leg.

I'll close by noting that I don't typically bring everything listed here on a single trip and certainly not on the all-too-typical out-and-back to a hotel and office trip. That said, I do try to keep the "standard gear" relatively compartmentalized and ready to grab and go, even if I could trim it back a bit for a given trip. Other items that aren't part of my day-to-day routine I mostly keep in a box which I can go through if I'm going to take a longer/international/more varied trip.

Friday, March 18, 2016

DevOps Lessons presentation at IEEE DevOps events

Earlier this week I spoke at the IEEE DevOps for Hybrid Cloud event in "Silicon Beach," CA (aka El Segundo) at the Automobile Driving Museum. (Did I mention this is outside LA?) I've given variants on this talk before but I'm continually refining it. It seems to go over well although I'm always worried that I try to cover too much ground with it. In any case, we had a great audience. It was probably one of the most interactive and engaged crowds I've had in a while."

Here's the abstract:

Manufacturing has widely adopted standardized and automated processes to create designs, build them, and maintain them through their life cycle. However, many modern manufacturing systems go beyond mechanized workflows to introduce empowered workers, flexible collaboration, and rapid iteration.

Such behaviors also characterize open source software development and are at the heart of DevOps culture, processes, and tooling. In this session, Red Hat’s Gordon Haff will discuss the lessons and processes that DevOps can apply from manufacturing using:

  • Container-based platforms designed for modern application development and deployment.
  • The ability to design microservices-based applications using modular and reusable parts.
  • Iterative development, testing, and deployment using platform-as-a-service and integrated continuous delivery systems.

Monday, March 14, 2016

It's about team size: Not monolith vs. microservice

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Basecamp’s David Heinemeier Hansson has written probably the most readable and balanced dissection of the monolith vs. microservices debate that I’ve run across. Go ahead and read it. A couple choice quotes:

Where things go astray [with microservices] is when people look at, say, Amazon or Google or whoever else might be commanding a fleet of services, and think, hey it works for The Most Successful, I’m sure it’ll work for me too. Bzzzzzzzzt!! Wrong!

DHH goes on to write that

Every time you extract a collaboration between objects to a collaboration between systems, you’re accepting a world of hurt with a myriad of liabilities and failure states. What to do when services are down, how to migrate in concert, and all the pain of running many services in the first place.

...all that pain is worth it when you have no choice. But most people do have a choice, and they do have an alternative. So allow me to present just one such choice: The Majestic Monolith!

The Majestic Monolith that DHH describes is essentially a well-architected (mostly) monolithic application that is well-understood by the individuals working on it. 

A point worth highlighting here. A team of about 12 programmers works on the Basecamp application described in this post. That’s not all that much bigger in team size that Amazon’s “two-pizza” team size which, in turn, is often equated with small, bounded context, single function teams that develop individual microservices. 

And that’s a key takeaway I think. I’m not sure this is, or should be, a debate about monoliths vs. microservices. Rather, in many cases, it’s a discussion about team coordination. Prematurely optimize into patterns based on tiny discrete services and you silo knowledge and create architectural complexity. Let individual applications grow too large—especially in the absence of of a common vision—and you get brittle and inflexible apps.

Either make components notionally independent of each other (microservices) or you’d better plan on efficiently coordinating changes. 

Links for 03-14-2016

Friday, March 04, 2016

At least one of our long national nightmares is over

Sco is finally dead parrot dead

An interesting piece of news crossed my desk (well, actually appeared in my browser) this week: The (presumably) final resolution of the entire SCO saga. If you missed it, that’s not entirely surprising. The long, sordid saga was effectively put to bed a long time ago when SCO lost some key court decisions and went bankrupt. However, there remained a complicated set of claims and counterclaims that were theoretically just dormant and could have been reanimated given a sufficiently bizarre set of circumstances. 

However, on February 26:

Plaintiff/Counterclaim-Defendant, The SCO Group, Inc. (“SCO”), and Defendant/CounterclaimPlaintiff,International Business Machines Corporation (“IBM”), jointly move for certification ofthe entry of final judgment on the Court’s orders concerning all of SCO’s claims, including the(a) Order filed on Feb. 5, 2016, granting IBM’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (DocketNo. 782), (b) Order filed on Feb. 8, 2016, granting IBM’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment(Docket No. 783), (c) Partial Judgment Dismissing SCO Claims filed on July 10, 2013, and (d)Order filed on July 1, 2005, denying SCO’s Motion for Leave to File a Third AmendedComplaint (Docket No. 466). 

There’s more legalese but this would seem to be as much of a wrap as there ever is in the legal world.

I started covering this drama back in 2003 when SCO and their lawyers did their roadshow to industry analysts to show off the code that had been purportedly copied into Linux. (I was working at Illuminata at the time.) We wouldn’t sign their NDA but they showed us some code anyway and I ended up writing a research note “SCO’s Derived Case Against Linux.” I’m sure it got some of the details wrong but this was before it was particularly clear what was even being claimed. (Of course, that would remain a pattern throughout much of the case.)

I then ended up helping my colleague Jonathan Eunice write an expert witness report for IBM once those cases got rolling. I haven’t been able to discuss that fact or anything else about the case while the claims and counterclaims remained open. It was a busy number of months working on that report. In all, it was a fascinating experience although one I’m not sure I would want to make a practice of. It also gave me an appreciation for why lawsuits like these are so incredibly expensive. 

Unfortunately, the expert witness reports remain under court seal and that’s unlikely to change. That’s a bit frustrating both because I think we did some good work that ended up not really being used and because there’s a lot of historical information about the claims SCO made that will probably never see the light of day. But, in any case, I still can’t say too much about the details that I know.

The whole set of cases was such a weird trip down the rabbit hole. Probably the confusion over who owned the UNIX copyrights is Exhibit A. Wouldn’t you have thought the executives involved with the supposed sale would have remembered and that the contract would have been crystal clear on this basic point? One would but this is the SCO saga we’re talking about. 

It’s hard to argue that the SCO cases hurt open source and Linux. Perhaps they slowed down adoption in some circles. But the fact that Linux made it through what, at one time, looked to be a serious threat perhaps even strengthened it in the long run. 

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

2016 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium

Logo 2015

I just received a notice for this year’s MIT Sloan CIO Symposium that’s happening at MIT on May 18. I’ve covered it as press for a number of years; here’s my story from last year. It always has good speakers (with a nice mix of business and academic)—as well as panels that are better than the norm at conferences. 

This year’s theme is “Thriving in the Digital Economy” with topics including:

  • Impact digital has on the nature of work, the workplace, and innovation
  • Big Data 2.0 [1] and Data’s Strategic Role
  • Platform Strategies, IoT, Cybersecurity, and Blockchain

I’m particularly interested in the blockchain session which Julio Faura of Santander is giving.

A call for applications for the Innovation Showcase which will feature 10 early-stage companies that are providing "innovative and valuable IT solutions” at the event is also now open. Deadline for submissions is March 26. 

[1] I’m not so sure we ever really achieved Big Data 1.0, but I digress.

Links for 03-01-2016