Booking a Meeting Room with Alexa – Part One

Hey there! This is part one into my adventures of developing an Alexa skill. I was inspired recently on client site, where I saw they’d installed a shiny new room booking system. Each meeting room had a touch screen setup outside of it, and from it you could see who’d booked the room, and also use it to book the room out if it was available. It had the right idea, but from talking to people I learnt that it wasn’t the most user-friendly, and that it had cost a pretty penny too! I’d been looking for an excuse to...

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Unrewarding Retros? Time to take action!

I love a good retro. It gives you an opportunity to vent, de-stress after a sprint, raise concerns but also for praise and motivation ready for the next sprint. A friendly platform for open, honest and frank discussions. But what about the venting? The frustration? Those things in your project or amongst your team that cause issues. Those hindrances that we complacently acknowledge as “just the way it is” or “nothing we can do about that for now, but we will do later…”. Most of the time they keep reappearing retro after retro, with little or no attention given to...

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Reactive Kafka + Slow Consumers = Diagnosis Nightmare

Recently I’ve been working with the combination of Reactive Streams (in the form of Akka Streams) and Kafka, as it’s a good fit for some of the systems we’re building at work. I hope it’ll be beneficial to others to share a particular nuance I discovered whilst working with this combintion, in particular a problem with slow downstream consumers. To give a brief overview, we were taking messages from a Kafka topic and then sending them as the body of http post requests. This was working fine for the majority of the time, as we only get a message every...

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Road to Continuous Deployment Part 1 – Performance Testing

The next set of Articles are documenting a presentation I’m working on to demonstrate Continuous Delivery, and how in a world where CD is desired, it’s becoming increasingly important for the appropriate level of testing to happen. I’ll be breaking them down to tackle one topic at a time, finally building up to a full demo on how I feel CD can work. Firstly, I’m going to start with a problem CI/CD can address – Performance Testing. Not so much on how to performance test or how CI/CD can build systems that don’t require it, but how a continuous delivery pipeline...

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Monitoring Solutions for Scakka Applications

Over the past few days I have been looking into monitoring Scala and Akka applications, as a number of new integration projects at work are using this framework. Scakka is designed to allow easy building of concurrent applications, and is a great middle-ground for transitioning from OOP to a functional-based approach. The choices within this first investigation were between AppDynamics and a combination of Kamon, StatsD, Graphite and Graphana. So what are the two: AppDynamics (http://www.appdynamics.com): An Application Performance Management tool, capable of providing detailed analytics of a system, not just for the JVM but a variety of technologies, single...

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Using Spotify Docker Plugin on Windows

So recently I have been looking into using Docker to automate parts of my testing and deployment, Using my lightweight CEP component (https://github.com/foyst/smalldata-cep) that uses Siddhi under the covers as a basis to develop my skills in Continuous Integration / Deployment. Currently using Windows 10 on my personal laptop and never one to give up a challenge, I finally got Docker Toolbox running on Windows with version 1.8.2, with boot2docker and Docker Quickstart Terminal. My next goal was to configure Docker builds directly to my boot2docker VM using Spotify’s Docker Maven Plugin (https://github.com/spotify/docker-maven-plugin) as a step towards Continuous Integration / Deployment. The...

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Docker Toolbox and COMODO Internet Security

So after a couple of hours fighting trying to get the latest Docker Toolbox (1.8.2b) installed on my Windows laptop, I thought I’d share my adventure! tl;dr – disable ALL of your security software whilst installing. COMODO’s HIPS module was preventing changes being made to the file system, even though I thought I’d closed COMODO (right click and close) it was still interfering. Disabling this explicitly through the UI allowed me to install Docker Toolbox.   So after opening the DockerToolbox-1.8.2b.exe and allowing all of the requests coming through COMODO, I get this error message before any sight of a Docker...

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Checking Type mismatch in Recursive CTE – Collation at fault

Took me a while to figure out why there was a type mismatch in a CTE I was writing for in a query the other day, always think about collation, because although it’s in the background for most of the time it can always crop up when you least expect it! http://consultingblogs.emc.com/paulmcmillan/archive/2011/01/07/sql-collation-gotcha-1-recursive-cte.aspx

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WCF or ASP.NET Web API – Which to use?!

Found this interesting article when deciding whether to go with WCF or the newer ASP.NET Web API framework when creating new web services. the Web API looks good as the way to go when creating RESTful services, without all the complex and verbose configuration that comes with WCF. However, along with that you lose the extra configuration WCF provides you with, such as multiple transport types, duplex communication, message queues etc. So it’s definitely worth considering what the service will be used for before committing to one of them. http://blogs.microsoft.co.il/blogs/idof/archive/2012/03/05/wcf-or-asp-net-web-apis-my-two-cents-on-the-subject.aspx

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