Sunday, July 27, 2014

Storm Clouds

During the last week in June, several of Microsoft's cloud services had outages. This is not picking on Microsoft as Google had outages as well. It's just that I found a good discussion about the impact of the Microsoft outages.


In outages this week, Microsoft’s online Exchange service was down for nine hours, crippling Office 365 and hosted Outlook accounts across North America and Mexico, just after its unified communications service also crashed.

Aside from the fact that entire businesses were left unable to read or write email in the Office 365 downtime, users were also pretty ticked off with Microsoft’s response. User Trec posted on the Office 365 community page:
Tried to contact support by phone, and after half hour, the call was dropped on both occasions. It seems the support guys are saturated and there are not enough staff for an issue like this one.
While Jim1001 said:
Our entire corporation cannot send or receive emails from Outlook (Office 365 Exchange) or even the OWA web browser as of 8AM MST time this morning June 24, 2014! I have never seen a world-wide email go down like this.
And MacBuffalo said:
Office365 is beginning to look like a very poor choice for mission critical services.
Lync Online, which provides VoIP, corporate IM and video conferencing had also briefly crashed two days before, leaving some customers, like ThomasGallaway, suffering a double whammy:
Down for 3 hours now. When going to Calendar outlook freezes. Send/receive works on iPhone. This sucks as we were hit yesterday by the lync outage. Today email. What's going on M$?


Just as in previous cloud services outages the provider (just happened to be Microsoft in this case) couldn't handle responding to customers about the situation. This still makes me worry about putting a corporation's systems in a public cloud where the provider can't provide the same level of accountability as internal services.

Unlike previous cloud services outages Microsoft's Rajesh Jha, Corporate Vice President, Office 365 Engineering has offered an explanation of the outage. The Corporate Vice President of Customer Service has been quiet.

My previous posts on this topic:

     When Clouds Go Bump
     When Clouds Go Thump
     Lessons from the Cloud
     When Clouds Go Bump Revisited
     To Be Fair
     To Be Fair, Again
     To Be Fair, Again and Again

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS30

My old beloved Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 died recently. No, I didn't drop it into soup. It stopped recognizing the SD card. It was more than 3 years old so I started looking for a replacement.

When I researched point and shoot cameras a couple kept coming up, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS30 the successor the my ZS7 and the Canon PowerShot SX280 HS.


This comparison pretty well sums up what I found. It's a pretty close decision.

A couple of things pushed me to the ZS30.

The ZS30 has a touch screen. It's not as over the top as the my Samsung CL-65 was. The use case for the touch screen that made a difference to me is that while you are recording a video you can simply tap the screen to take a still photo. Now admittedly you have to configure that before you start recording but still...

The ZS30 charges its battery from a USB cable while the battery is still in the camera. Unfortunately the USB cable has a proprietary connector on the camera end. You can buy an external battery charger.

The Wi-Fi on the ZS30 supports the obligatory web services but what I've found more useful is that it natively supports Windows shares. Without any software installed on a PC the ZS30 can connect via Wi-Fi to a folder on the PC and copy selected images/videos to that folder. That's really nice.

The SX280 has a reputation for a battery problem that is either resolved or not depending on who you listen to. It seems to have to do with a low battery indicator that comes on while recording video. Some users report that this causes the camera to power down. Some users report that it is just a nuisance.

I used the same 8GB SD card that I had in the ZS7. I figured out how to make the file numbering on the ZS30 follow the ZS7.

You'll recall that I did a thorough test of the ZS7's GPS capabilities. That resulted in my falling back to a Blackberry to record GPS information. On my first outing I compared the geotags from the ZS30 to those from my Moto X. I got good clustering from the ZS30.

I flashed the firmware up to v1.3.

Image capture
Camera type
Point & Shoot, GPS Capable, Wi-Fi Capable
Resolution
18.1 effective megapixels
Image sizes
4:3 Aspect Ratio: 
4,896 x 3,672 pixels (18M), 
4,000 x 3,000 pixels (12M EZ),
3,264 x 2,448 (8M EZ),
2,560 x 1,920 pixels (5M EZ),
2,048 x 1,536 pixels (3M EZ),
640 x 480 pixels (0.3M EZ)
3:2 Aspect Ratio:
4,896 x 3,264 pixels (16M),
4,000 x 2,672 pixels (10.5M EZ),
3,264 x 2,176 pixels (7M EZ),
2,560 x 1,712 pixels (4.5M EZ),
2,048 x 1,360 pixels (2.5M EZ),
640 x 424 pixels (0.3M EZ)

16:9 Aspect Ratio: 

4,896 x 2,752 pixels (13.5M),
4,000 x 2,248 pixels (9M EZ),
3,264 x 1,840 pixels (6M EZ),
2,560 x 1,440 pixels (3.5M EZ),
1,920 x 1,080 pixels (2M EZ),
640 x 360 pixels (0.2M EZ)
1:1 Aspect Ratio:
3,664 x 3664 pixels (10.5M),
2,992 x 2,992 pixels (7.5M EZ),
2,448 x 2,448 pixels (6M EZ),
1,920 x 1,920 pixels (3.5M EZ),
1,536 x 1,536 pixels (2.5M EZ),
480 x 480 pixels (0.2M EZ)
File formats
DCF, JPEG (Exif 2.3), MPO : 3D Image
Image sensor type
1/2.33 inch MOS
Image processor type
not specified
Image stabilization technology
Optical Image Stabilization
Expendable recording media type
SD Card, SDHC Card, SDXC Card
Video capture
File format
AVCHD, MP4
Video size
1280 x 720 pixels, 640 x 480 pixels, 1920 x 1080 pixels
Lens and focus
Lens type
LEICA DC Vario-Elmarit
Lens construction
12 elements; 10 groups; others: 3 aspherical elements, 6 aspherical surfaces, 2 ED elements
Optical Zoom
20 x zoom
Digital zoom
4 x
Lens mount
Fixed
Filters
Not Available
Maximum aperture
F3.3 (W) - F6.4 (T)
Minimum aperture
f3.3 (w) - f6.4 (t) / mutistage Iris Diaphragm - f3.3 - f8 (w), f6.4 - 8 (t)
Focal length
4.3mm - 86.0mm (24 - 480mm in 35mm equiv.) / (28-560mm in 35mm equiv. in video recording)
Focusing area mode(s)
continuous AF, macro AF, Tracking AF, normal AF, Quick AF, Macro Zoom
Focusing distance
0.5m (w) - infinity / 2.0m (tele) - infinity , 0.03m (w) - infinity / 1.0m (t) - infinity
Exposure and imaging
Shooting / Drive modes
continuous, Movie, self-timer (2 and 10 sec delay), still
Exposure / Capture modes
aperture priority, manual, Program AE, shutter priority
Scene modes
3D mode, baby 1, baby 2, food, glass through, handheld night scene, HDR, high sensitivity, night portrait, night scenery, pet, portrait, scene (scenery), soft skin, sports, starry sky, sunset, underwater
Exposure Metering System
center-weighted, intelligent multiple, spot
Exposure compensation
±2 EV (1/3 EV steps)
Sensitivity
Auto / i.ISO / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600
High Sensitivity Mode (1600 - 6400)
Shutter type
combined mechanical and electronic
Shutter speed
1/2000 sec to 4 sec
White balance mode
auto, cloudy, daylight, incandescent, shade, white balance adjustment, white set
Picture effects / Color modes
sepia, soft focus, retro, miniature effect, expressive, high dynamic, cross process, toy camera, dynamic monochrome, high key, low key, impressive art, star filter, one point color
Flash and lighting
Flash Type
built-in auto
Flash Mode
auto, auto with red-eye reduction, forced on/off, slow sync + red eye reduction
Flash effective range
0.6m - 6.4m (wide - ISO Auto), 1.0m - 3.3m (tele - ISO Auto)
Maximum flash synchronization speed
adjusted to camera's shutter speed
Physical characteristics
Dimensions
108.3mm x 58.9mm x 27.7mm / 4.26" x 2.32" x 1.09"
Weight
172 grams
Available color(s)
silver, black, white
Connectivity
Interface
USB 2.0 (high-speed), HDMI Mini connector, AV output (NTSC)
Microphone and Speaker
built-in stereo microphone, built-in monaural speaker
Flash connection
Not Available
Tripod socket
standard 1/4 inch
Remote control
Not Available
Cable release capability
Not Available
Viewing features
Display
3.0" / LCD / 460,000 dots
Viewfinder
Not Available
Menu language(s)
Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Spanish, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese
Power
Power source
Li-ion battery pack (3.6V, Minimum: 895mAh) (included)
Camera management
Additional features
Water Resistant Capabilities
Not Available
Underwater capabilities
no
Included "in the box"
Accessories
AC adapter/charger, hand strap, lithium ion battery, USB cable, ■ Supplied accessories may vary by region or country!, Lithium Ion Battery Charger
Software
Adobe Acrobat Reader, PHOTOfunSTUDIO 9.0 SE

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ten Years Ago Today

Ten years ago today I began this blog. My first post was a very brief recap of a recent trip we had taken to Canada's Maritime Provinces.

The second post was a technical topic on gmail. I've focused subsequent travel posts here.

I'm now approaching 500 posts over those 10 years.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Here I Go Again

Be forewarned. Here I go again.


There were a couple of announcements at Google I/O 2014 that I think are more connected than they appear at first.

But to set them up, I've got to backtrack a little.

Remember my previous discussion about platforms?
I wonder if Chrome is the alternative. It's certainly a ways out in the future but it's cloud-based and hardware agnostic.
And then my speculation on removing NPAPI from Chrome?
I believe that this is a deliberate effort on Google's part to remove all the NPAPI extensions from Chrome. This goes beyond security though. This is a platform issue.
Now Google has said that Android apps will run on Chromebooks.
Google will soon allow users to install Android apps on their Chromebooks.
Gosh. How will they do that? They'd need a new runtime platform for their apps.

Bingo!
ART replaces Dalvik as the default compiler for the next Android release.
They'd need this compiler to create system-dependent code.
ART, on the other hand, compiles the intermediate language, Dalvik bytecode, into a system-dependent binary.
Do you see the handwriting on the wall? There are going to be 2 (or more) versions of ART. One that runs on ARM processors and one that runs on x86. Remember that Android and Chrome OS are both built on Linux.

This is the platform convergence that was speculated when Sundar Pichai took over Android.

You heard it here first.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Plan B Isn't Good Enough

I subscribe to the Windows Secrets newsletter. Recently they had an article on TrueCrypt. I'm not ready to take a position on that fiasco but Susan Bradley had a quote that got me thinking.
The TrueCrypt saga highlights the importance of having a Plan B for all our important computing services.
This reminded me of a discussion at FedEx when we were moving our data center. As I was discussing this with our Vice President he asked about our "Plan B." I told him I had plans all the way down to "Plan Z."

An example was that when we backed up the systems for the move, we made 2 sets of backups. Then when we transported them across town we used 2 completely different routes.

At FedEx we learned to have primary, secondary, and tertiary plans. When loading an airplane 1) run weights and balances, 2) put ballast in the front of the plane, and 3) tie the nose wheel to the ground. And always have a backup plane, e.g. "Plan Z."


Recently a CIO of a local transportation company asked me:
...we have full replication between the two data centers at the disk array level, should we still be making tape backups for off-site storage?
What do you think my answer to him was?
We learned the answer at FedEx: primary, secondary, tertiary.
And remember my backup solutions?
Belt, suspenders, and raincoat.
Plan B isn't good enough.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Battery Usage

I've admitted my OCD tendencies before. Here I go again.

I've been tracking the Android battery usage of my Skyrocket and Moto X. Every evening after 10:00 I navigate to Settings / Battery and screenshot the overall usage and the highest element.

Now that I've got some time under my belt with the Moto X I had the feeling that its battery usage was much better than the Skyrocket. Since the time off battery will vary from day to day I calculated the % of battery usage per hour.

Just as background, the Skyrocket was running Ice Cream Sandwich and the Moto X was running KitKat. I upgraded from 4.4.2 to 4.4.3 in the middle of this period but I can't tell that it made any difference.

While the chart was interesting...


While the Moto X was clearly better than the Skyrocket it was all over the place.

I think the best way to look at it is a simple average.


The Skyrocket was 4.12 % per hour and the Moto X was 3.04 % per hour.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries

You know the old saying in real estate, the most 3 important things in real estate are Location, Location, Location. Similarly in IT systems the 3 most important things are Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries.

Every boundary is an opportunity and not a good kind of opportunity.

This was brought home to me in Brian Krebs' recent post on Complexity as the Enemy of Security. Brian was discussing security and how complexity contributed to security exposures.

This maxim is true in many areas of IT. Recently I was discussing with a VP of a transportation firm on how to horizontally expand application servers for an existing application. He wanted to put an additional box in front of the application servers. I discouraged that because it added an additional boundary to the system. My suggestion was to do "outside in" routing at the remote clients and not introduce that additional boundary.

I used this methodology at a large forest products corporation to consolidate database and application server instances into a large server. While the instances still had their separate identities they were all contained in a single physical box. It made a tremendous improvement in availability.

I explored this phenomenon with the CFO relating how the old mainframe systems were easier to support because they used point-to-point circuits instead of TCP/IP networks. She hadn't considered this. It is incumbent on IT professionals to make sure that executives understand the downside of complexity.

At an international package delivery company we used this methodology to maintain extraordinary high availability. The mathematics of availability show that compounding 99% availability loses 1% for each additional boundary.

And boundaries aren't just physical. This maxim can be applied to changes in status of a system. Every time a system changes status there is an opportunity for it to fail. Simply put, if you don't reboot a server you won't suffer a restart problem.

While a single monolithic system won't meet today's demands, every boundary should be closely examined to determine if it can be eliminated.