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Tech Tips, Tricks & Trivia

by 'Anil' Radhakrishna
An architect's notes, experiments, discoveries and annotated bookmarks.

Search from over a hundred HOW TO articles, Tips and Tricks

Book Review: Designed To Disrupt

Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Designed To Disrupt [PDF] is written for CIOs, CTOs, strategy officers, IT decision makers & business leaders but it can be read anyone who wants to understand the big picture of cloud computing & how digital transformation can aid businesses. It is co-authored by the same folks (Eduardo Kassner, Barry Briggs) who wrote the excellent guide, Enterprise Cloud Strategy published by MS Press

The writing in the 133-paged free ebook is informal and well-illustrated with interesting infographics

Key points & extracts  -

Examples that show how transformative technology is now affordable - 
  • In 2000, sequencing human DNA cost $2.7 billion. By 2014, the cost had been reduced to under $1,000, and several companies will provide DNA analytic services today for under $100.
  • Drones in 2007 cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, and were rare; commonplace today, they can be purchased for a few hundred dollars. 
  • The time for many digital-centric companies—Google (8 years); Facebook (6); Uber (4); Snapchat (2)—to reach a $1 billion valuation is far less than the typical Fortune 500 company (20 years). 

We have come to call cloud computing “hyperscale,” meaning that no matter how much computing capacity or storage you need, it’s available for you to rent, and when you no longer need it, you no longer have to pay for it. 

Hosting servers and applications in a different location may save money, but it does not change your business. But a truly remarkable phenomenon is occurring whose impact and scope are well beyond the simple cost savings of a migration. Businesses are discovering that because of the reach and connectivity of cloud services, they can transform how they conduct their businesses; indeed, they can turn their decades-old business models on their heads to increase revenues, efficiencies, and customer satisfaction and to access entirely new markets. 

We can think about change in two ways: optimization and disruption, which are both valid ways to react to the need for change. 

Examples of disruption of business models -
Blockbuster, the videotape rental service, was made obsolete by Netflix’s DVD mailing service. Less well known is that as Netflix transformed to a streaming service, its revenue dipped by nearly 80% before it became a leader in the streaming-media segment.

BMW and Daimler, the giant automakers, are well known for applying state-ofthe-art technology to their design and manufacturing processes. Both, however, have also recognized the power of new technology—and a changing demographic. With “cars-as-a-service,” customers can use credit cards to “borrow” cars for short trips, generating an entirely new revenue stream. 

How do you know when to optimize and when to disrupt? ..the answer involves understanding your business in depth, as well as the competitive climate and emerging technological opportunities. 

With the cloud, agility is the key word.

Now, many have said that the agile methodology will replace waterfall. We don’t entirely believe that. For certain applications that have high regulatory or compliance requirements, it remains vital to have a detailed specification and controls in place to ensure that laws and rules are complied with. 

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This Week I Learned - Week #267

Saturday, May 19, 2018
This Week I Learned -

General availability (GA) of the Azure Database Migration Service was announced recently at the Microsoft Build 2018 Conference.

To ensure that the Azure Database Migration Service runs smoothly when performing database migrations, Azure Virtual Network (VNET) Network Security Group rules should not block the following communication ports 443, 53, 9354, 445, 12000.

RPO of backup solutions are most dependent on the backup policies.  For example, if someone setups up a daily backup policy, then the RPO is closer to a day.

Fallacy of Sunk Costs - “I’m halfway done with college. This is so tough, and It’s not nearly as fun as I thought it would be, but I don’t know. I guess I’ll finish it and get my degree.”

When scientists injected brain molecules from trained snails to untrained snails, the animals behaved as if they had experienced the training.

“I’m Puerto Rican with an abundance of thick black hair, so I try to avoid stores where I’ll stick out — mostly small, locally owned stores (which is difficult because I’m a strong proponent of buying local). When I contemplate entering one of these stores, a million questions run through my mind: Will they serve me? Will they be rude? Will they shadow me? Will they ask me if I am ‘lost’?”

Google data archive was much larger than my Facebook file — about 12 times larger, in fact — but it was also packed with fewer unpleasant surprises. Whenever I was perturbed by parts of my Google data, like a record of the Android apps I had opened over the past several years, I was relieved to find out I could delete the data. In contrast, when I downloaded my Facebook data, I found that a lot of what I saw could not be purged.

* Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley is best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). She also edited and promoted the works of her husband, the Romantic poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley.

* World's first-ever charitable trust was set up by Jamsetji Tata in 1892, a long time before the Andrew Carnegie Trust (1901), the Rockefeller Foundation (1913), the Ford Foundation (1936) and the Lord Lever Hulme Trust (1925).

The Government of India has recently legislated that 2% of the net profits earned by the corporates must be spent on CSR.

* The $16 billion acquisition of Flipkart by Walmart is the largest deal Walmart has done till date and also the largest ecommerce acquisition in the world.

* Tamil is an official language of two countries: Sri Lanka and Singapore. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and the Indian Union Territory of Puducherry. It is used as one of the languages of education in Malaysia, along with English, Malay and Mandarin. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India.

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This Week I Learned - Week #266

Saturday, May 12, 2018
This Week I Learned -

* Many REST web services return results formatted as JSON text or accept data formatted as JSON. Most Azure services such as Azure Search, Azure Storage, and Azure Cosmos DB have REST endpoints that return or consume JSON. Azure SQL Database lets you parse and query data represented in JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) format, and export your relational data as JSON text.

* From the Microsoft veteran and co-author of "Enterprise Cloud Strategy" comes the new free ebook "Designed to Disrupt" [PDF]

OpenShift on Azure will be jointly engineered, operated, and supported by both Red Hat and Microsoft. As a fully managed service, it will be kept up-to-date, with a single unified bill, integrated support experience, and in all respects a native Azure service.

CloudEndure Disaster Recovery is now available as a SaaS subscription for direct purchase on the newly expanded Microsoft Azure Marketplace

* The minimum required Android version to run NetGuard is 5.1 (Lollipop). NetGuard is an app that can reduce your data usage, increase battery life, and increase your privacy. NetGuard blocks traffic based on the IP addresses an application is trying to connect to. If more than one domain name is on the same IP, they cannot be distinguished. If you set different rules for 2 domains which resolve to the same IP, both will be blocked. In lockdown mode, all traffic for all applications will be blocked, except for applications with the condition 'Allow in lockdown mode' enabled. You can use this mode to limit battery usage or network usage, for example, when your battery is almost empty or when your data allotment is almost exhausted. NetGuard does not analyze the data itself, except for DNS requests to provide ad blocking. You can tether (use the Android hotspot) / use Wi-Fi calling while using NetGuard. There is a free open-source version for which there has been considerable effort put in.

x86 refers to the Intel processor architecture that was used in PCs. x64 is the architecture name for the  extensions to the x86 instruction set that enable 64-bit code. Invented by AMD and later copied by Intel when they couldn't get their own 64-bit arch to be competitive, Itanium didn't fare well. Other names for it are x86_64, AMD's original name and commonly used in open source tools. x64 means a CPU that is x86 compatible but has a 64-bit mode as well (most often the 64-bit instruction set as introduced by AMD is meant

* The Google connectivity services system application checks if the current network is really connected to the internet. This is probably accomplished by briefly connecting to some Google server. If this is not the case, there will be an '!' in the Wi-Fi or mobile icon in the system status bar.

* From Android.StackExchange: I would like to know what is the best/recommended practice to prepare myself to the day when my smartphone (Samsung Galaxy Ace) will be stolen.
Remote tracking...applications are good in theory. My suggestion, write down your IMEI. If your phone is stolen, report it to your carrier. This wont necessarily stop anything if it is a GSM device, but couldn't hurt. Any of the apps that claim to help you track your device down after stolen are basically useless. I could take the phone and have the battery out before I walk out the door. Then once I am clear, I can pop out the SIM, turn the device back on, and do a full data wipe. any app you installed to track is gone.

* Facts about flying:
- On any given day there are approximately 2,00,000 airplanes in the sky.
- You have around 90 seconds to escape an airplane in case it catches fire. Chances of survival after two minutes are extremely slim.
- Qantas Airways, Australia's flag carrier, is widely considered as the world's safest airline. It has never reported any fatalities.
- Food tastes different while you're on a flight? It's because one-third of your taste buds turn numb because of altitude.

* The online dictionary Vocabulary.com not only informs but also entertains with light-hearted word definitions & usage examples. Kindred can mean a group of people related by blood or marriage or similar in quality or character. Example -  Marx Brothers, a family of United States comedians consisting of four brothers with an anarchic sense of humor

* EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies to internal sites, such as corporate intranets, as well

* Amazon Global Selling is a program that helps sellers sell across 10 international marketplaces of Amazon. 32000+ Indian sellers are currently selling to customers in more than 180 countries.

* FSSAI has released a plan to lable genetically modified (GM) food in India, months after informing the Supreme Court that genetic foods are not allowed to be sold in India.

* A raga could be called a mode in Western music, because Western music is mostly on equal temperament scales, whereas Indian and Arabic music has microtonal nuances in many such ragas and Malkauns. The ascending and descending of notes plays a major role in some of the Vakra ragas. Very few composers have managed to bring out emotional music and miracles, heightening the possibility of compositions.

* "I used to love these pianists (George Shearing, Ramsey Lewis, Erroll Garner) and try and emulate them, copy their solos. That’s how I started to develop my own style. That’s what I tell youngsters today – what’s the first thing you must do? The three ‘i’s – imitate, integrate and innovate." - Louiz Banks

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This Week I Learned - Week #265

Saturday, May 05, 2018
This Week I Learned -

Azure Container Instances (ACI) is a serverless way to run both Linux and Windows containers, and is now generally available.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a European Union order to protect personally identifiable information (personal data that can identify a person). It’s a big update to the older data protection laws, which were out of date and inconsistent. Any personal data that identifies a European Union citizen is covered – no matter where that data is. The fines for non-compliance are huge, up to €20 million or 4 percent of a company’s global revenue, whichever is higher. GDPR will become effective on May 25th for all companies all over the world that hold data on EU citizens. GDPR is now the new Y2K, an opportunity to make a fortune by being “an expert”. The security requirements are a bit vague. It’s full of “do the right thing”, which you can take to be more than just have a firewall and some malware scanning! Data encryption, multi-factor authentication, and so on are important - Petri.com

"That was back in a time when Microsoft released a new edition every 3-7 years. Welcome to the cloud era when the entirety of Microsoft is planning, architecting, developing, and releasing in 6-month sprints. This week (a slow week), I have 43 Azure-focused announcements in my RSS reader to get through."

In Myanmar, Facebook is the dominant internet site because of its Free Basics program, which lets mobile-phone users connect to a few selected internet sites, including Facebook, without paying extra fees or using up allotted data in their mobile plans.

From 13 ways Google is using AI in its products - Take a photo in Portrait Mode on Pixel 2, and it’ll perfectly blur the background of the photo. This system has been trained on almost a million portraits to learn how to pick out the subject of the photo and blur the background.

Global Entry is a Customs and Border Protection program that allows US citizens to go through an expedited process upon returning from an international trip.

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"Migrate Your Virtual Machines to Microsoft Azure" - a Microsoft guide

Sunday, April 29, 2018
I found the ebook "Migrate Your Virtual Machines to Microsoft Azure [PDF]" from Microsoft very useful and informative. This guide presents an end-to-end solution for migrating workloads (especially VMWare based VMs) to Azure and a roadmap for the key stages - Discovery, Migration and Optimization. There are plenty of screenshots on how to use that tools that make it easy to follow along.

For the discovery stage, the guide explains how Azure Migrate and partner solutions like Cloudamize and Movere solutions can be used to discover virtual machines and workloads in your environment and recommend virtual machine instances in Azure to inform decisions about reducing size and cost.

For the migration stage, organizations can use Azure Site Recovery, as well as Microsoft Data Migration Assistant and Azure Database Migration Services, to simplify and automate the migration of on-premises virtual machines and databases to Azure. These services minimize disruption to business operations.

To optimize the Azure virtual machine environment after migration, you can use Azure management and security services to refine virtual machine efficiencies using operational data analytics and improved governance. Azure Automation also helps keep your environment secure and backed up and can even provide site recovery in case of an outage.

Other key points from the guide -

Azure Migrate primarily supports Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)-based assessments for lift-and-shift migrations. However, during the discovery process, if database servers are found, Azure migrate will recommend the use of Azure Database Migration Service

Currently Azure Migrate supports only Locally Redundant Storage (LRS)

Typically, for 100 virtual machines, it takes about an hour for discovery to finish and display the virtual machines in the Azure Migrate portal after the Collector finishes running

Azure Migrate performs three checks on virtual machines in this order:
1. Azure Suitability Analysis
2. Performance-based sizing
3. Monthly cost estimate 

Using the performance history of the machine, AM considers the utilized cores of the machine for the comparison rather than considering all the allocated cores. 

If you must migrate a database, the next section outlines migrating SQL Server databases using  Migration Data Assistant and Azure Database Migration Service. 

Microsoft Data Migration Assistant enables discovery and assessment of current data environment, identifies compatibility issues, and recommends performance and reliability improvements.

Azure Database Migration Service partners with DMA to migrate existing on-premises SQL Server, Oracle, and MySQL databases to Azure SQL Database, Azure SQL Database Managed Instance or SQL Server on Azure virtual machines.

SQLPackage, a command-line utility that can be used to automate a range of database development tasks. 

If there is a need to fix compatibility issues, use SQL Server Data Tools.

To make the database portable for import into Azure, you need to create a BACPAC file. A BACPAC file is a .zip file with an extension of BACPAC containing the metadata and data from a SQL Server database. A BACPAC file can be stored in Azure blob storage or in local storage for archiving or for migration, for example from SQL Server to Azure SQL Database. For an export to be transactional and consistent, you must ensure that no write activity is occurring during the export. 

SQL Database communicates over port 1433. If you are trying to connect from within a corporate network, outbound traffic over port 1433 may not be allowed by your network's firewall. If so, you cannot connect to your Azure SQL Database server unless your IT department opens port 1433

The newest versions of the SQLPackage command-line utility provides support for creating an Azure SQL database at a specified service tier and performance level. 

The SQLPackage command-line utility is the preferred method to import your BACPAC database to Azure SQL Database for most production environments.

During the import phase, we recommend that you import to a higher performance tier database for best performance, but one that you may scale down after the import completes to save money until you are ready to actively use the imported database. 

Azure Database Migration Service (ADMS), now in limited preview, can help you migrate existing on-premises SQL Server, Oracle, and MySQL databases to Azure SQL Database, Azure SQL Database Managed Instance, or SQL Server on an Azure Virtual Machine. The amount of time the  migration will run depends on a variety of factors including size and complexity of the database, source disk speed, and network speed.

Uou can use Azure Cost Management to track daily costs and make right-sizing decisions. You can use Azure Log Analytics to analyze Azure data to determine how much CPU or memory a virtual machine is using, and then automate processes to alleviate a CPU or memory bottleneck. If you anticipate extremely erratic or bursting traffic into a virtual machine, you can automate Virtual Machine Scale Sets to create more virtual machines to handle the increased traffic. Conversely, you can reduce the number of virtual machines as the traffic decreases to minimize the cost of the overall environment for that application

Related:  Migrating a Hyper-V based virtual machine to Azure [PDF]