UK’s ICO Guide to GDPR

Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

They have published their own Guide to GDPR, which I find somewhat better than this one from the European Union.

Reading postmortems

Once in a while a seemingly straightforward article turns into a goldmine of links and resources. This happened to me today with this one – “Reading postmortems“.

Not only this article itself is a very nice roundup of common sources for system failures, but it also links to a couple of awesome references:

  • Simple Testing Can Prevent Most Critical Failures: An Analysis of Production Failures in Distributed Data-Intensive Systems. This is both a talk and a paper.
  • danluu/post-mortems – a GitHub repository with a collection of publicly available postmortems from a variety of organizations, like Google, Amazon, Facebook, NASA, GitHub, and more.

If you still have no idea what postmortem is, Wikipedia explains.

GraphViz dot: Format: “png” not recognized.

As I’ve mentioned many times, I’m a huge fan of GraphViz software suite in general, and the dot tool in particular. It’s super handy for generating graphs and diagrams out of plain text files.

Today though I came across a problem that I haven’t seen before. While trying to generate an updated PNG graph from a dot file that used to work just fine before, I got the following:

$ dot -Tpng source.dot -o destination.png 
Format: "png" not recognized. Use one of: canon cmap cmapx cmapx_np dot dot_json eps fig gv imap imap_np ismap json json0 mp pic plain plain-ext pov ps ps2 svg svgz tk vdx vml vmlz xdot xdot1.2 xdot1.4 xdot_json

That looks weird. I tried the same with a few other formats and none of them were working. A quick Google search around found the solution over at StackOverflow. All I had to do was:

$ sudo dot -c

After that, dot started working as always.

Cloud Diagrams & Notes

Jerry Hargrove – Cloud Diagrams & Notes is an excellent resource for (mostly Amazon AWS) cloud diagrams and notes. I’m sure I’ve seen some of these around, but never thought to visit the original site. To some degree, these are similar to the Julia Evans’ drawings, but are more subject specific.

Managing dotfiles with rcm

These days it is a common practices to manage, version, and share configuration files for command line tools (bash, vim, etc) via a GitHub repository. There are plenty of open repositories to study and borrow things from, as well as the tools and scripts to help one with setting things up. Have a look at the awesome-dotfiles – a curated list of dotfiles resources.

Fedora Magazine runs an article about rcm – one of the many tools that are handy for managing dotfiles.

Personally, I haven’t heard of rcm until now. My own setup went through several iterations, varying from custom scripts, to Puppet, and now to Ansible. Have a look here. By the way, my dotfiles aren’t only about the command line tools. I also keep my desktop environment configuration in there (MATE + i3).

New in PHP 7.4

New in PHP 7.4” is a quick and simple introduction into changes and new features of the upcoming PHP 7.4, which is planned for release in December of 2019. In brief:

  • Preloading (parsed source code caching)
  • Typed properties
  • Improved type variance
  • FFI (Foreign Function Interface) – a way to run C code from within PHP
  • Null coalescing assignment operator (??=)
  • ext-hash always enabled
  • Password hashing registry

NASA: 100+ Lessons Learned for Project Managers

Jerry Madden, the former Associate Director of Flight Projects at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), collected 122 lesson learned nuggets from a variety of sources that are instructive to managers of NASA spaceflight projects.

While these are mostly around NASA projects and problems, many are very applicable outside as well.

Here are a few to get you started:

  • Don’t be afraid to fail or you will not succeed, but always work at your skill to recover. Part of that skill is knowing who can help.
  • Experience may be fine but testing is better. Knowing something will work never takes the place of proving that it will.
  • Reviews are for the reviewed and not the reviewer. The review is a failure if the reviewed learn nothing from it.
  • Mistakes are all right, but failure is not. Failure is just a mistake you can’t recover from; therefore, try to create contingency plans and alternate approaches for the items or plans that have high risk.
  • The first sign of trouble comes from the schedule or the cost curve. Engineers are the last to know they are in trouble. Engineers are born optimists.
  • Software now has taken on all the parameters of hardware, i.e., requirement creep, high percent-age of flight mission cost, need for quality control, need for validation procedures, etc. It has the added feature that it is hard as hell to determine it is not flawed. Get the basic system working and then add the bells and whistles. Never throw away a version that works even if you have all the confidence in the world the newer version works. It is necessary to have contingency plans for software.
  • Reviews, meetings, and reality have little in common.
  • You cannot be ignorant of the language of the area you manage or with that of areas with which you interface. Education is a must for the modern manager. There are simple courses available to learn “computerese,” “communicationese,” and all the rest of the modern ese’s of the world. You can’t manage if you don’t understand what is being said or written.
  • People who monitor work and don’t help get it done, never seem to know exactly what is going on.
  • There are still some individuals who think important decisions are made in meetings. This is rarely the case. Normally, the decision-makers meet over lunch or have a brief meeting to decide the issue and then (at a meeting called to discuss the issue) make it appear that the decision is made as a result of this discussion.
  • Management principles are still the same. It is just the tools that have changed. You still should find the right people to do the work and get out of the way so they can do it.
  • Integrity means your subordinates trust you.
  • There are rare times when only one man can do the job. These are in technical areas that are more art and skill than normal. Cherish these people and employ their services when necessary as soon as possible. Getting the work done by someone else takes two to three times longer, and the product is normally below standard.
  • Never assume someone knows something or has done something unless you have asked them. Even the obvious is overlooked or ignored on occasion– especially in a high-stress activity.
  • A person’s time is very important. You must be careful as a manager that you realize the value of other people’s time; i.e., work you hand out and meetings should be necessary. You must, where possible, shield your staff from unnecessary work; i.e., some requests should be ignored or a refusal sent to the requester.
  • The project manager who is the smartest man on his project has done a lousy job of recruitment.
  • Never ask management to make a decision that you can make. Assume you have the authority to make decisions unless you know there is a document that states unequivocally that you cannot.
  • The boss may not know how to do the work, but he has to know what he wants. The boss had better find out what he expects and wants, if he doesn’t know. A blind leader tends to go in circles.
  • In political decisions, do not look for logic– look for politics.
  • Too many people at Headquarters believe the myth that you can reduce the food to the horse every day till you get a horse that requires no food. They try to do the same with projects, which eventually end up as dead as the horse.

GrumPHP – PHP quality control tool

GrumPHP is yet another quality control tool for PHP. But unlike a million other – PHPUnit, PHP CodeSniffer, and the like – this one is more of a tying knot. GrumPHP integrates via git hooks. It runs one more of the other tools, making sure that the changes you are committing are up to the par.

The support for other tools is excellent. You’ll find anything from the basic unit tests and coding style checks to commit message formatting and content, Robo tasks, and even custom shell scripts.