Category Archives: Technology

Supporting Teaching Principles in K–12

GoReact aids in teaching and learning by facilitating top principles recommended by the Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education.

The Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education CPSE, working with the support of the American Psychological Association, identified and validated a set of principles from psychological science as the “most essential for facilitating successful classroom teaching and learning.”

While all of the principles are worthy of review and resonate with great teaching that we practice or have experienced, I wanted to highlight two that jump out as being especially easy when using GoReact to capture performance and provide appropriate feedback. Although these principles were directed at preK-12 specifically, many of our customers have shared their successes implementing these concepts when targeting young adult and adult students both inside and outside of formal education.

Continue reading Supporting Teaching Principles in K–12

Last Night I Missed Broadcast TV

Fresh off the Boat is a new show on ABC. It looked funny so I decided to watch it with my wife. But the Comcast app on my iPhone was having problems streaming the commercials. We watched the first two commercial breaks one and half times each. And for some reason the airplay streaming wasn’t working so I couldn’t watch it on my television. Off to a bad start, but undaunted, I downloaded the ABC app. After spending a minute proving that I had ABC through my Comcast account, the show streamed to my TV just fine. But each commercial break included a promo spot for the very show I was watching. Do they even know what show I’m watching? If they did, shouldn’t they stop advertising the show and just show it to me? When the baby woke up and we had to take a break for minute, we got to watch the commercial break again with another promo, before I could resume.

These apps are very careful to make sure that you see each commercial break at least once. And I wouldn’t mind so much if each commercial break didn’t show the same commercials. The exact same commercials. It’s like the apps are really commercial apps and not show apps. I just want to watch the show. Is there an app for that?

Maybe next week I’ll just watch the show live. Where is my cable box? Wait, isn’t ABC broadcast over the airwaves? In HD? I wonder if it will have better commercials…

Rapid Design Prototyping

I’ve enjoyed listening to the Startup Podcast over the past couple of weeks. It’s encouraging to listen in on seemingly normal guys as they put together a brand new company. In episode #13 they talk about rapid design prototyping with Google Venture’s design team. The team walks them through a design sprint to discover what their mobile app should be.

Fake it ’till you make it… or don’t.

In Gimlet’s case they should not build a mobile app, and I can’t tell you how many months of development time I’ve saved by NOT BUILDING an idea that we’ve had. In a relatively short amount of time you can design out a website or app and see if it’s going to really meet your needs or if it’s just a cute idea. The world is full of cute ideas – I don’t want those. I want a great idea that can work.

Save yourself some time, developer. Don’t build it until you’ve seen it.

 

Ownership

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I’m learning Python and needed a decent IDE to get my work done – I’m so spoiled! I installed PyCharm and have found it sufficient. Today, after several days of using it, I finally noticed that the tip of the day is blank! This is fine, I unchecked the box, but what I wanted to point out was the missed opportunity: the tip of the day is your chance to educate the user on helpful functionality, to increase product retention through brand loyalty. And what is done with this opportunity?

Tips not found. Make sure you installed PyCharm Community Edition correctly.

Nope I won’t. If you can’t take ownership of this problem (first take: don’t show the tip by default if it isn’t working) at least in the tone of the presentation, then I know enough able you to move forward.  Disable the feature and wait for the functionality to be proven in the future.  This is a very matter-of-fact approach that could be softened by different messaging:

Woah.  I can’t find any tips!  Click _here_ if you have some time to help diagnose what happened with your install.  In the meantime we’ve disabled this feature, you can get to it again from the Help menu.

See, I already want to buy whatever software would give me this kind of lip service!

Four Not-So-Secret Ingredients of Moab

Today I was reviewing the Moab documentation for an upcoming training and I ran across several feature gems that I thought were worth calling out. I’ll call them some of the “not-so-secret ingredients” that makes Moab great.

Scheduling with Partitions
Moab uses partitions to logical divide available resources in your environment. This allows you to separate geographically or by hardware configuration. For example, because a given job can only use resources within a single partition, you may want to create a partition to group nodes on the same local switch so that you can guarantee the fastest interprocess communication speed. Another cool benefit of partitions is the ability to set partition-specific policies, limits, priorities and scheduling algorithms, though this is rarely necessary.

Green Computing
In an effort to conserve power, Moab can automatically turn off idle nodes until they are needed again. This can be a significant savings if you’re not maxing your capacity all the time. To save on time, Moab can keep a pool of nodes on standby so that there is no delay when additional resources are needed. Moab comes with reference scripts for IPMI, but can be configured to work with iLO, DRAC and xCAT as well.

Fairshare
Using configured targets, you can use historical resource utilization as a factor for job priority. In essence, this would prevent a user with relatively infrequent workload to get buried in the backlog of jobs from much busier users. This kind of thinking extends to groups, accounts and other groupings as well. There are a number of configuration settings for fairshare that allow you to tweak performance to your needs, such as caps, evaluation timeframe, and consumption metrics.

Reservation Groups
You can associate multiple reservations through reservation groups. This allows each reservation to share the same variables. These variables can then be used in job triggers to automate tasks like email notification, script execution and internal Moab actions, such as creating another reservation. Of course, you can always override the inheritance by setting a variable locally on an individual reservation in the group.

How Adaptive Decides to Develop a New Feature of Moab

If you’re reading this wondering why we chose to do one feature over another, please note that you’re not the first (or the last) to shake your fist while shouting this question! We hope that all of our customers are this passionate about our software. I know I am with the products I use, so we expect nothing less!

Unfortunately for you though, we don’t often reveal much about the planned features on our product roadmap. What little we do reveal are those things that we are most confident about delivering. Frankly, we don’t show more because we don’t want to disappoint you! We have a very complex product with a lot of integrations and moving parts. Sometimes it can take a good while to create and test additional functionality. Oftentimes delivery is influenced by changes in the market, current technologies, and planetary alignment. We’d hate for any of our customers to become dramatically attached to a favorite promised feature, and then disappoint them by delivering a different, though equally valuable feature.

I admire many of the approaches taken by the 37Signals team and ran across this line from David Hansson about the dangers of over-promising,

“It’s better to turn customers away than to placate their instincts and lure them in with vague promises. It’s incredibly rare that a single feature will truly make or break your chance with a customer. If your software is a good enough fit, most people can make do without that one or two things that they’d like to see.”

I want to break down some of our process around how we choose which features to develop, but it’s very interesting to talk about why we choose certain features. I love a line I hear from Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it.” But this is a topic for another day. So here are the four steps we use to get the right features in the development pipeline: discovery, organization, prioritization, and timing.

Discovery

Determining the next Moab feature can be overwhelming and it often feels as though we’re looking for a good read while standing in the middle of the Library of Congress. But we relish the fact that we are not alone! We hear our customers loud and clear and know exactly which areas of the product they’d like to see improvements in. We are working on some ideas to improve the quality of feedback we’re getting on this channel. We also work together with our partners to discover and evaluate new synergies and approaches. We are constantly looking for emerging technologies and market opportunities that align with our corporate strategies. And we regularly reflect on our own failures and search for better solutions. There is no shortage of good ideas, and we try to collect them all.

Organization

In order to ensure that we deliver real value with each release, we group all of these ideas into initiatives that address end-to-end functionality and practical use cases. We understand from experience that cherry-picking our favorite little features from various areas isn’t viable over the long-term. We try to make sure that we can deliver well thought-out solutions through the features that we provide; something that we can be confident will have a positive impact on our customers and their ability to accomplish to their goals. Once we’ve organized each of the ideas into feature initiatives, we also evaluate iterative approaches that would allow us to iteratively plan for work that might ultimately take more than a single release.

Prioritization

We can’t do it all. We wish we could, and we try, but we really can’t! We know how much we can accomplish in a given amount of time, and we’re always on the lookout for techniques and processes that will improve our development velocity, but we know that it won’t be enough to get everything we all want. Through prioritization we can ensure that the most impactful features are delivered first. This is the phase where we have to argue for our favorites and sometimes let them go. Some of the factors that we consider are: time to implement, degree of innovation, how competitors approach the problem, number of affected customers, bang for the buck, and how long we’ve already been waiting.

Timing

We all know from our own personal experience that if we simply work off a priority list, we can miss opportunities to innovate and optimize. For example, I missed seeing the new movie Pacific Rim last week because I didn’t consider rescheduling a high-priority but time-insensitive appointment. By the way, I am not sure if I’m worse off now, so maybe this is a bad example. But as we work out the implementation details of each new feature and its components, we discover multiple opportunity paths that can all lead to “good” delivery outcomes. We take time to plan these out so that we can rest assured that our timing optimizes our efforts and make changes as needed.

Once the timing of each epic’s features is nailed down, we hand the execution off to our capable Engineering team and monitor the progress as we work towards the next release. We can talk more about the engineering process in yet another blog post, but hopefully this gives some insight into our approach on feature planning.

Cloudifying Your Datacenter

Whether VMware, HP’s Cloud Service Automation, xCAT or any of the other myriad provisioning solutions, there are so many progressive stages of private cloud. Although that term remains somewhat nebulous, the pieces are familiar:

1. Standardization and consolidation of hardware and infrastructure
2. Virtualization and automation (most of us are around here)
3. Self-service infrastructure (next step)
4. Service lifecycle management
5. Service brokering and hybrid environments

The barriers are also ever present, among them manpower, optimization, guaranteed SLA enforcement and accounting – each increasing the difficulty of making progress or really even getting a good understanding of the end-game for your private cloud. The best place to start your push to cloud is a strong focus on return on investment. Gathering an accurate understanding of current costs and demand is a significant first step, and from there a hope can build around the potential for cost savings. It is no stretch to claim between 10 and 100 times faster deployments, depending on your current setup! Our research has shown that our customers are spending 2-3 times more in manpower and hardware before moving to a cloud.

Another strong selling point for cloud and a potential for savings is the concept of a self-service portal. We’ve all dreamed of facilitating users, in a safe way, so that then can request and manage their own workload without requiring much IT team. Another bonus is the addition of chargeback concepts to help manage resources in an accountable manner. Workload placement and migration is another level of management that is expensive and time-consuming to handle manually. Even setting up the rule sets and auditing policies can be overwhelming.

So if you are focusing on a consolidation of hardware into a single datacenter, consolidating deployment efforts and processes, looking to increase your ROI on your infrastructure, decreasing IT staffing and computing investments or just wanting to add additional machines and VMs without staffing up, Adaptive Computing’s line of cloud solutions can help your success.

Self-service Portal
Using Moab’s service templates, actual service consumers can ask for what they need, when they need it. With chargeback you can govern accountability for resource uses, which will limit overuse and waste. Remember that a free cloud is a recipe for failure. Self service is what makes a your datacenter a cloud, and can facilitate 10-100x increases in deployment speed.

Continuous Optimization
Move from automation to orchestration. VM sprawl, just like server sprawl, can fill up your datacenter quickly! Do you want your VMs to be scattered across your datacenter for better performance, or would you like to consolidate so that you can take advantage of licensing constraints or VLANs. Don’t overlook the value of accurate initial placement with granular service allocation policies that can target by processors, memory, chipset, software licenses or other arbitrary metadata. Also, you can always reserve pockets of your datacenter for certain kinds of work, or work from certain users. Once those services are running, they can be locked down on that hypervisor to secure high availability and security. Now all this can be done manually, but let’s be honest, it’s a lot of work, and your ability to keep in sync with upcoming needs will be limited by staffing and the other fires and stuff your IT staff it doing. You don’t want to just add capacity like we have in the past. Now is the time to efficiently allocate what we already have with a variety of policies around placement, overcommit and allocation.

Integrating Moab in Your Cloud
Dip your toe, try this out. We know that you may want to keep one foot in the traditional IT infrastructure model, or even outsourced IaaS . We know that this perpetuates inconsistent development environments, disparate architectures and different management and security, so pick a single small group to focus on. You want to provide all the capabilities (optimization, chargeback, service catalog, etc.) for a each grouping one at a time so that you can demonstrate the ROI as you work to cloudify (bring standardization, automation and self-service) your datacenter.

Moab Improved by Agile Development

Software development companies have long been abuzz with talk of agile development. Its virtues have been extolled and significant gains in productivity promised, but not very often do we talk about how hard it is to make the transition to agile development. There are compromises that can come so easily when we face processes and pressures that are difficult to transition away from. Old habits are so welcoming and progress can seem so far away. At Adaptive we experienced the same growing pains. Over the past year and a half we have seen a lot of success from our efforts and it hasn’t been easy. But it’s been worth it. We’ve been able to set more accurate timelines, and the accuracy of those timelines has been available sooner. Each release we have been able to move ahead with confidence that we can scope out the relevant functionality completely with user stories. We’ve been able to target our hiring to bring on the specialists we know that we need to have success. And we’ve been able to plan future features more fairly, having a better understanding of the customer needs we’re addressing and how long it will take to deliver value in each feature.

How does this translate to our product? We’re seeing higher quality, faster performance, longer uptimes, more scalability and more fully rounded-out features. Higher quality comes as feature is subjected to longer durations of targeting testing because we spend less of our release cycle in a no-man’s land between completed features. Performance, uptime and scalability are the result of deeper dives into specific user stories and their impact on the system and its components. Each of our new features is more fully thought out and executed as we have taken more time to examine mainstream and edge customer use cases.

In the end, we’re confident that the investment we’ve made in improving our agile development process has produced the most valuable version of Moab we’ve released, and we expect even better versions in the future!

FrankenAmp

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This can happen to you too, but only if you are:

  1. Stubborn
  2. Stingy
  3. Emotionally attached to old equipment
  4. Only moderately adequate with power tools
  5. Understand just enough about electronics to be dangerous
  6. Passionate about music

The result in my case? The FrankenAmp ghetto box – a 350 watt horizontal plane of sound awesomeness.

The Outdoor Office

My outdoor office, now in 5D! Look at how it all just pops out of the screen! I love those little alphanumeric crackers.

I once wishfully discussed working outdoors with some cubical mates and today has been so beautiful I couldn’t resist trying. There are a couple of obstacles to consider here, the first is internet, which wireless should take care of, the second is the need for enough shade to be able to see your laptop’s screen amongst the brightness of the sun (I didn’t realize how dark indoors, or worse, my usual basement home office is!) The next factor is style and/or comfort. I’m kicking it in a reclined camp chair and it’s working great!

My first option was yard shed on the side of the house. I tried to just poke my feet out to stay in the shade but still get the sun and the outdoors. This was perfect except that the metal shed basically formed a Faraday cage that made getting on the internet impossible. +5 view, +0 internet, +8 screen contrast, +3 hidden from kids


The next option was under my cherry tree in the corner of the yard. It’s already given 2 hours of great shade and I’m loving it! I’ll go back to the shed if it rains, but I’ll have to run some cat5. +8 view, +10 internet, +7 screen contrast, +6 hidden from kids

Man, I need to mow the lawn now.