Archive for category Technology
I’ve had a great time writing this story. I set out to write about the cars I’ve had over the past 35 years, but 4000 words later, I ended up writing about the many fond memories I’ve had around car ownership and life in general. I’d love to think my kids read this story in 50 years time when all cars are made of plastic and powered by sherbet or some other wonder fuel.
Another video post from my visit to the British GP at Silverstone this year. This time it’s looking into the Red Bull garage.
Of all the teams in the pit lane they looked (and sounded) the most relaxed. Surely you would expect the opposite effect with Red Bull!
Did they know Mark Webber was going to win?
Following on from my “Petrolhead Dream Heaven” post a few days ago I promised to share some of the videos I took from inside the Marussia garage. The first is of the mechanics making some last minute changes to the cars before practice starts:
Not long after here’s Charles Pic leaving the garage (how clean is that floor?)
I think everyone who attended the British GP or watched it on TV will remember just how wet it was and this next clip shows the Marussia following a Sauber around Club corner… it was might slippery
A few laps later and Charles was back into the garage, whereby an army of mechanics armed with paper towels had the car dried off in a flash:
I have to say these videos were taken using and iPhone and are pretty good.
I think if I had rocked up with a full blown camera rig they might not have let me into the garage.
Most people normally associate F1 with the world of designer attire, fine wine, and of course a fair amount of corporate schmoozing. Whilst I don’t have problem with that and chance would be a fine thing, the part of F1 that I really wanted to experience is the one where the race engineers and mechanics hang out, the place where the cars are built .
Well, I was very fortunate earlier this year when my ambition turned into a reality. I was invited along to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone for the practice day as a guest of the Marussia F1 Team.
Those of you who follow F1 will know the garage is situated adjacent to the finish line in an area of the track called the paddock. On arriving at the track, my first impression was how much effort goes into the security operation, i.e. four stops for routine checks in the car and one electronic gate later and I’m in.
My first impression of the paddock was the sheer size and opulence of the so called motor homes that sit behind the garages. These things are absolutely huge and to think they break them down, ferry them around Europe, and set them up again in time for the next race is amazing.
As I walk along the paddock I get an immediate sense of proximity to the teams, the drivers, and a fair amount of celebrities. In fact I don’t have to walk far to witness the stars of F1 appearing as frequently as the characters at Disneyland to give interviews and photo opportunities to the army of journalists and photographers. This is a serious business and the PR machine needs to be fuelled.
Everyone knows that F1 is a mega money sport and now I’m seeing why, not only does it take an army of people to make it happen, but there’s also a massive logistics operation in place behind the scenes. Lorry loads of high tech equipment, lorry loads of tyres, and a huge catering operation to feed the teams and their guests.
Up to this point my only experience of the garage, like most people, has been confined to the small opening at the front from which the cars emerge and the mechanics change tyres etc. However, there’s a huge operation going on that you can’t see.
I’m into the garage now and my first impression is how clean everything is, I mean clinically clean like some sort of laboratory. Did you know they repaint the inside of the garage before every F1 Race? Well you do now and I thought they only did this for the queen?
There are engineers and mechanics, from Cosworth in the case of Marussia, working on spare engines (I counted three), pumping warm oil through them so they can be fitted to one of the cars and are ready to go immediately.
There were experts analysing fluids from the engine and transmission for evidence of microscopic wear and damage to mechanical parts.
There were engineers building bits of the car and testing if they work better, worse or the same as the one it replaced.
And there are the engineers manning the nerve centre of the whole operation, monitoring all of the telemetry from the cars and advising the drivers what changes they can make to get the absolute most out of the car.
Important note… this shot is taken at an angle whereby you can’t see any sensitive information, I believe this wasn’t the case for the McLaren shot that got Lewis Hamilton into hot water after he tweeted it to the world (all of the other teams).
Moving forward to the front of the garage and the two race cars are surrounded by an army of mechanics and an impressive array of technology. One thing that struck me is that despite the number of people nobody got in anyone else’s way. Everyone instinctively knew where everyone else was and the whole operation was working with military precision.
Next I’m out front the Marussia garage and had a walk along the pit lane and this was when I heard the deep throaty roar of a Mercedes 6.3L, yes it was the safety car and it was thundering past the finishing line like a bat out of hell. It was closely followed by the medical car which also sounded awesome. Something I didn’t know is that they have two safety cars both identical and these travel around the world with the F1 season.
I have to say the most relaxed team in the pit lane was the Red bull team with (music) blasting out as the mechanics put the finishing touches to their cars.
I’m back in the Marussia garage and it’s time for free practice, the cars are readied, the drivers are inside the cars and then with an ear splitting roar the engines burst into life, I can’t think of any words to describe what it feels like to stand five feet behind a F1 car when it starts up other than maybe spine chillingly amazing.
After a little while the cars are back and the mechanics swarm around them to make minor adjustments to the setup and in a flash they’re off again. This happens over and over again in the morning practice and again in the afternoon.
In between all of this I’m made to feel very welcome by the Marussia team and as the day comes to an end its time for me to set off on the long drive back to Newcastle. The drive home is another story altogether due to the fact that Silverstone had turned into a mud bath and nobody was going anywhere fast. However, none of that mattered as I’d just had a day that I will remember for the rest of my life.
Thank you Mike Scudamore of Marussia for helping me realise a long standing ambition
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to £100… If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this…
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay £1.
The sixth would pay £3.
The seventh would pay £7..
The eighth would pay £12.
The ninth would pay £18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay £59.
So, that’s what they decided to do.
The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve ball.
“Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by £20″. Drinks for the ten men would now cost just £80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free; but what about the other six men? – the paying customers.
How could they divide the £20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share?
They realised that £20 divided by six is £3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.
So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by a higher percentage the poorer he was, to follow the principle of the tax system they had been using, and he proceeded to work out the amounts he suggested that each should now pay . . . and so
The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% saving)
The sixth now paid £2 instead of £3 (33% saving)
The seventh now paid £5 instead of £7 (28% saving)
The eighth now paid £9 instead of £12 (25% saving)
The ninth now paid £14 instead of £18 (22% saving)
The tenth now paid £49 instead of £59 (16% saving)
Each of the six was better off than before and the first four continued to drink for free. But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings.
“I only got a pound out of the £20 saving,” declared the sixth man.
He pointed to the tenth man ”but he got £10!”
“Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a pound too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more benefit than me!”
“That’s true!” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get £10 back, when I got only £2 . . . the wealthy get all the breaks!”
“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison, “we didn’t get anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor!”
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill
And that, boys and girls, journalists and government ministers, is how our tax system works. The people who already pay the highest taxes will naturally get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.
I’ve no idea who wrote this, but I liked it.
Finally got round to taking some pictures of the new pride and joy…
Also been playing around with iPhoto which is really cool…
The one question that every CIO should ask themselves… What are you going to do when (not if) your cloud systems fail?
Frank started the conversation with this response to my tweet about Azure:
Frank: “Exactly the type of thing that reinforces CIO fears about cloud…”
Stuart: “working on the assumption that cloud outages are inevitable… I feel it’s how vendors respond that will give CIO’s confidence”
Frank: “No, fewer outages will give confidence…”
Stuart: “I’ll meet you half way… Fewer outages and proper service management around problems when they do happen…”
Frank makes the point that some of his CIO contacts were livid following this outage. And this is where this post really starts, as I challenged Frank as to exactly who they were livid at on the basis that to overall accountability for a company’s IT systems, whether they be on premise or in the cloud lies with the CIO.
Stuart: “as CIO you’re accountable for everything as you choose to use cloud or not!”
Alongside the Azure thread there was a parallel thread running on cloud security that had been started by Dennis Howlett in his Accman blog.
“Anything that connects to a network is vulnerable. That includes EVERY cloud player, regardless of the service they offer. What matters is the extent to which vulnerabilities exist AND are capable of exploitation.”
Let me share my belief here, these two topics are intrinsically linked, i.e. when you’re appointed as a CIO you’re trusted to deliver competitive advantage for your company through IT. Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that if you can’t maintain availability and adequate security of your systems then you’ll only manage to deliver disadvantage, and you probably won’t be around very long.
So, let’s get back to the title of the post… what are you going to do when your systems fail (which is inevitable)?
If you’re running in house, the apps themselves (if they are decent apps) are least likely to fail, more likely failures are from switches, disks, networks, cables and other parts of infrastructure. You protect yourself against this by designing your datacentre(s) around redundancy with zero single points of failure.
If you’re running cloud services, you pick a reputable supplier who works with a reputable hosting partner right? Well, yes but as we saw with Azure yesterday (and previously with Amazon and Rackspace and most other reputable cloud vendors) the same hardware failure points exist in cloud provider datacentres as they do in your own. If you appreciate and accept this this then you’ll also be mindful that you could be introducing a single point of failure in your enterprise platform and that your service availability is now at the mercy of their service availability.
When you running outside of your own bricks and mortar you also need a high bandwidth and high availability WAN, Firewalls and Proxies, etc that all need to be fault tolerant and designed around redundancy to ensure adequate access and security at all times. Even then you can’t mitigate around someone digging up the cable which has happened to me twice this year and is more common than you might expect.
Is this a story of cloud bashing? No it isn’t, it’s a story of how the CIO needs to take full accountability for managing risk within their platform.
- If you’re running mission critical systems and your business can’t afford any outage then you simply can’t design a single point of failure into your enterprise platform.
- If you’re running non mission critical systems, then you may choose to take a little more risk around availability and accept a single point of failure and manage any disruptions that may arise.
What you deem to be mission critical or not is your own decision and it doesn’t have to be one or the other. For my part I run a hybrid platform where some parts are mission critical and some parts less so and the platform design and location of services (in house vs. cloud) reflects this.
Of course from a customer perspective people outside of IT expect things to work 100% of the time and if you’re running either of the above, or a combination, then any outage no matter what damages your credibility with users.
So as an effective CIO, you need to design an effective platform around what your business needs, you need to manage the risk, you need to pick the suppliers that you work with, and you need to take full accountability when things go wrong. Yes you can get livid with your suppliers, but just remember who picked them and remember who chose to introduce a single point of failure into your platform in the first place.
So, what are you going to do when (not if) your cloud systems fail? Make sure you know the answer today.
Footnote: This post relates to large enterprise businesses and the role of the CIO and the point I’m trying to make is you have to plan for failure to guarantee success.
Part of this cross posted here
A month or so ago I fuelled my apple addition further with the purchase of a iMac. I have to say I’ve been delighted with the iMac so far and thought I’d take a few minutes to share some of the things I’ve discovered.
As with all the other apple kit I’ve bought getting started with the iMac was a piece of cake, take it out the box, plug it in and you’re away. Well not quite but almost, you need to go through a set up routine but this really is very easy and straightforward.
Next comes the task of moving years of ‘stuff’ from my PC over to the iMac. This again was a very simple task. I had a Seagate external hard drive, which I could just copy files onto from the PC. It didn’t matter that this was formatted NTFS as the iMac could read the files and simply copy them over. This also gave me the opportunity I needed to clean my content up along the way.
After doing the easy stuff I turned my attention to iTunes, which had grown to a considerable size over the years and was literally scattered all over the PC. I remembered reading horror stories of how bad this was to do well and I have to admit I wasn’t looking forward to it. That was until I googled for some help and found some excellent instructions on www.macworld.com. (click on the link to get the instructions)
What used to be a complex procedure is now relatively simple with iTunes 9. So make sure you’re running the latest version of iTunes on both systems, and then follow these easy steps.
There is an option in iTunes that consolidates all of your iTunes content into one directory structure and then you just need to copy it over just as you would do for ordinary files. What’s more I feel it’s made iTunes housekeeping much better for me as I add more content on the iMac.
I have over 100 movies converted to Mpeg format, which I use on my apple TV and on my iPad when travelling. On the advice of someone who has been a long time mac user I installed the conversion package called Handbrake. You wont find this on the app store, you’ll need to google for it. You’ll also need to install a new codec and I chose the one that comes as part of the VLC media player. I tried Handbrake once before on the PC but it didn’t work for me. However, on the iMac I’ve had a 100% success rate and I’ve already converted 20 or so movies.
Next was Office software. I chose Microsoft Office for Mac on the basis that I use this all the time at work and my iMac being in my homeworking office it makes it easier to share documents etc. Again this was very east to install and setup. I can’t remember it being as easy on the PC, but then again I haven’t done it for years. Now the 27″ screen on the iMac might be having an effect on me here but I feel the user experience of Office on the Mac is much better than it is on the PC.
Now I’m thinking I should have this thing backed up, so I check out Time Machine. It just gets better, this sounds good but I need a Time Capsule to get it going. Actually it would be nice, and I’ll probably buy one some day, but it’s not essential as Time Machine works with any hard drive. So I decide to reformat my Seagate external hard drive to Mac format, which only took a couple of minutes, and use this (it sits neatly under my iMac). Then it’s a simple job of turning on Time Machine, pointing it at the external drive and we’re up and running.
My Kodak ‘all in one’ wireless printer was just as easy to connect and I’m printing in minutes.
Along the way I also decide that I need a new wireless router and so after a bit of research I buy a dual band Cisco router. It’s great and instead of the 54Mbps I was used to on the PC, I instantly benefit from 300Mbps on the iMac.
And finally I go down to the local apple store and come back with a Magic Trackpad. Words can’t describe how good this thing is. Who would have thought the day would come when you don’t need a mouse? Well this thing has rendered the mouse obsolete, its fantastic.
So, If you’re thinking of switching to a Mac then my advice would be to go for it, its dead easy to convert and you’ll not be disappointed. Other than if you have to go back to using a PC for any reason.
I’ve been a Dell advocate for at least 13 years now… Having bought a number of Dell machines for home use and having lost count of the many many Dell machines I’ve bought and used in a professional capacity. I’ve found them to be very reliable and the spec has always been good especially for high end developer PC’s.
However, after years of being a satisfied customer my respect for Dell has taken a knock. I ordered an Alienware PC (a high spec gaming PC from Dell) in November. The order process was a good one with a promised delivery before Xmas (a box to tick on the web order form) and the estimated delivery date on their on-line order tracking site was set at 19th December. All good so far and I’m tweeting my pleasurable experience on twitterverse.
Needless to say I was getting a bit concerned as xmas drew closer and my fear was justified when on the 16th December Dell sent an automated email from their manufacturing system saying revised delivery date was now 5th January.
Obviously very disappointed to hear this as it is ‘the’ Xmas present for my son, so I call support at Dell. A very polite technician promised to investigate and get back to me same day. However, to add to my already disappointed state the technician didn’t get back to me. I have to say at this point someone promising to get back to me and then not just makes me annoyed.
So now I’m disappointed and annoyed and as with my earlier tweets praising Dell, I’m now sharing my disappointment on twitterverse.
A few days later @DellCares picked up one of my tweets and asked me to follow and DM my order details. They responded with DM and said they were expediting the order. Not wanting to appear stupid but I asked what that meant exactly. A day later I asked again and they said the order would be prioritised but they couldn’t guarantee delivery due to high seasonal demand.
High seasonal demand… so now it’s other customers that are causing my problem. Surely managing the logistics around seasonal demand is the vendor problem. I’ve lost words to describe how I’m feeling now…
Now we’re two days past the original delivery date and I go to the web site to look for a new date and it’s still showing estimated delivery of the 19th December. So I followed up by phone to see if they have any more information. The technician was a nice guy from the Philippines who didn’t have any more information to share, but said as it’s been expedited we would be allocated an account manager to keep us updated with progress (we have never had one single piece of information from our designated account manager).
So now its Xmas eve and I make another phone call and get an update to say the order has shipped and it could be with us by the 29th December… At last a bit of good news, I.e. whilst it didn’t make it in time for Xmas, there was a good chance it might arrive before new year. At this point I have to tell my son that his xmas present won’t be arriving on time but there could be a chance it could get here during the holidays.
Xmas comes and goes and now it’s the 28th and we’ve still not heard anything more so I send a few more DM’s to @DellCares, no further information other than its shipped. However, upon checking the website there’s a tracking number is on there. A click through to the carrier reveals that it is being delivered by UPS and a glance down the screen reveals that it won’t arrive until 3rd January. As if this wasn’t disappointing enough the shipping date is actually the 28th December and not the 23rd December as previously communicated.
This means that my countless phone calls and DM’s and the expediting (prioritisation) has come to nothing really.
Anyway, I try ringing UPS to ask if they can deliver sooner. The lady on the phone is very honest and sincere (and very apologetic even though it wasn’t her fault) telling me that because the consignment is now on route they can’t change the priority. Whilst this is disappointing news to hear, I feel I am being treated well and appreciated the honesty.
Before ringing off I ask if it could have been delivered sooner, and what I hear next was unbelievable… yes it could, there are a range of options including next day etc… but Dell have sent the order by the lowest possible priority that UPS support.
Flabbergasted at this I contact @DellCares to ask how this can possibly be when they have expedited the order… to which they reply they expedited the production not the delivery!!!!!!
Need I say more?????
UPDATE… Unfortunately it seems there is more to say after all. It’s now the 29th December and today I find out that only 2 of the 3 boxes in the consignment have been despatched. Another call to the call centre and yet again they are nice people but they can’t tell me what’s going on.
You really couldn’t make this up…
UPDATE… 31st December … All my endeavours to expedite the order have unfortunately failed. The consignment (hopefully all three parts) is in a depot only 5 miles away and despite my efforts today I couldn’t get them to release it to me, so I’m going to have to wait until next week.
I have to say that whilst I’ve found the Dell call centre a complete waste of time and on occasion rude during this fiasco, I have had a better experience using the @DellCares twitter route… It would only be fair of me to shout out to someone going by the call sign SS who has been the only person to reliably get back to me…
If this should ever happen to you, and I hope it never does, then track down @DellCares as you’ll be wasting your time with the call centre.
If you’re having this problem then you’re not alone. A quick look on the Apple forums will tell you that there is a problem with the sync getting stuck either on step4 or 4 if you’re trying to sync by wireless, or step 6 of 6 is you’re plugged in.
Read through the forum replies and you’ll see lots of advice on things to try. However, what worked for me is to simply restore the phone in iTunes. This reinstalls iOS5 onto your phone along with the up to date firmware. Then it rebuilds your applications and music etc from your last backup.
What’s interesting during the restore process is that it now appears to rebuild your content from a manifest (a list of what should be installed on your phone) as opposed to restoring from a backup.
I might be wrong but I think this is new, and the benefit of doing it like this is it clears your phone down completely and rebuilds it with the most up to date applications.