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Tech Tips, Tricks & Trivia

by 'Anil' Radhakrishna
An architect's notes, experiments, discoveries and annotated bookmarks.

Search from over a hundred HOW TO articles, Tips and Tricks


"Hit Refresh" by Satya Nadella

Sunday, October 22, 2017
Hit Refresh written by Satya Nadella along with Greg Shaw and Jill Tracie Nichols, takes us through the highs & lows of Microsoft's third CEO's life & Satya's vision for Microsoft and computing in the future. Having used Microsoft products for nearly two decades & their cloud platform, Azure for about six years now, it was interesting to read about the business & people-side of the organization. This is a thought provoking book full of candid observations, ideas & insights
Excerpts:

Fear of the unknown can send you in a million directions, and sometimes it just dead-ends with inertia. A leader has to have an idea what to do—to innovate in the face of fear and inertia. We need to be willing to lean into uncertainty, to take risks, and to move quickly when we make mistakes, recognizing failure happens along the way to mastery.

When I learn about a shortcoming, it’s a thrilling moment. The person who points it out has given me the gift of insight. It’s about questioning ourselves each day: Where are all the places today that I had a fixed mindset? Where did I have a growth mindset?

Learning or improvement in one skill or mental function can positively influence another one. The effect is transfer learning, and it’s seen not only in human intelligence

Empathy + Shared values + Safety and Reliability = Trust over time

...three leadership principles—for anyone leading others at Microsoft.
The first is to bring clarity to those you work with. 
Second, leaders generate energy, not only on their own teams but across the company.
Third, and finally, they find a way to deliver success, to make things happen.

Like human intelligence, artificial intelligence can be categorized by layer. The bottom layer is simple pattern recognition. The middle layer is perception, sensing more and more complex scenes. It’s estimated that 99 percent of human perception is through speech and vision. Finally, the highest level of intelligence is cognition—deep understanding of human language.

Democratizing AI means enabling every person and every organization to dream about and create amazing AI solutions that serve their specific needs. It’s analogous to the democratization that movable type and the printing press created. It’s estimated that in the 1450s there were only about thirty thousand books in Europe—each one handcrafted by someone working in a monastery. The Gutenberg Bible was the first book produced using movable type technology, and within fifty years the number of books grew to an estimated 12 million, unleashing a renaissance in learning, science, and the arts.

Healthy partnerships—often difficult but always mutually beneficial—are the natural and much-needed product of the culture we’re building

A developer announced that he had found a means for capturing, or taking a screenshot of, a moving image—a big improvement over our existing “snipping” tool, which was capable only of capturing a static image. A small piece of code that makes a big difference to a designer or editor. As in 2012, though, his fix had not yet been integrated into the Windows code. With a growth mindset, yet is an important clarification.

They began by researching the science surrounding dyslexia and decided to go after a problem called visual crowding. Led by one of our software engineers, the team found ways to allow more space in between letters to make words more readable. But they didn’t stop there. They also found ways to create a more immersive reading function with the ability to highlight text and have it read out loud, further increasing reading comprehension. They built a tool to break words into syllables and to highlight the verb and subordinate clause.Today, the functionality that began as a Hackathon project is now built into some of our most important products, including Word, Outlook, and the Edge browser.

Technology can increasingly see, speak, and analyze, but it cannot yet feel. But mixed reality may help machines empathize with humans. several student developers from Australia who participated in our Imagine Cup competition. They built an MR application that helps certain caregivers learn to see the world through the eyes of someone with autism.

It would take a classical computer 1 billion years to break today’s RSA-2048 encryption, but a quantum computer could crack it in about a hundred seconds, or less than two minutes.

Any government demand for users’ sensitive information must be governed by a clear and transparent legal framework that is subject to independent oversight and includes an adversarial process to defend users’ rights.

Millennials in particular—many of them digital natives born since the advent of the Internet—are comfortable sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings with a digital companion because the discussions are nonjudgmental and anonymous.

Microsoft’s approach to AI is based on three core principles:
Build intelligence that augments human abilities and experiences
Build trust directly into technology
Technology must be inclusive and respectful to everyone, serving humans across barriers of culture, race, nationality, economic status, age, gender, physical and mental ability, and more.

In software development terms, AI is becoming a third run time—the next system on top of which programmers will build and execute applications. The PC was the first run time for which Microsoft developed applications like the Office suite of tools—Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and the rest. Today the Web is the second run time.

Collaborative robots (co-bots) should take on dangerous work like mining, thus creating a safety net and safeguards for human workers.

We want not just intelligent machines but intelligible machines; not just artificial intelligence but symbiotic intelligence.

Increasingly algorithms that reason over your previous actions and preferences mediate our human experience—what we read, whom we meet, what we may “like.”

Unfortunately, in many underserved parts of the world, public and private attention is focused on attracting Silicon Valley companies rather than on growing local tech entrepreneurs.

Over the summer I had been recruited to join Microsoft as a twenty-five-year-old evangelist for Windows NT, a 32-bit operating system that was designed to extend the company’s popular consumer program into much more powerful business systems.

In the 1970s, Hyderabad was out of the way, not at all the metropolis of 6.8 million people it is today.

 In the United States, the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act abolished the nation-of-origin quota and made it possible for skilled workers to come to America and contribute. Before that, only about a hundred Indians were allowed to immigrate each year.

Some futurecasters predict that the so-called singularity, the moment when computer intelligence will surpass human intelligence, might occur by the year 2100 (while others claim it will remain simply the stuff of science fiction)

More than half of Microsoft’s revenues are from outside the United States.

The world used to grow at 4 percent per year, but it is now growing at roughly 2 percent.

Microsoft Philanthropies is the world’s largest corporate philanthropy with more than $1 billion in contributions across a wide variety of causes including teaching digital skills like coding and computer science, affordable access to the Internet, and humanitarian assistance.

Shenzhen grew from a town of thirty thousand people to a global financial center of nearly 11 million residents after it was designated as a special economic zone in 1980.

The power loom was invented in 1810 but took thirty-five years to transform the clothing industry because of shortages of trained mechanics.
 - o -

As a former Microsoft MVP invited to the MVP Reconnect Program, I was offered a digital version of this book by the good folks running the Reconnect Program through the BookShout.com website.

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Map of AWS, Azure & GCP data-center locations

Rather than a tabular summary, a visual map of the global location of data centers of the three popular cloud providers - Amazon Web Services, Azure & Google Cloud Platform  provides a better view of how they are distributed. Having this information is helpful when you have to locate the nearest cloud region to deploy a solution & handle latency

As newer data centers keep getting added, I wanted to have a easy way to view a dynamic map. I learnt from a smart geek that it is easy to hook location details in a Google Spreadsheet to a custom Google Map.

It is not perfect yet, but it was fun building it. Check the map out
The info about locations are drawn from the official documentation. Precise locations are not available in a few cases.

In case of AWS, location of AWS GovCloud (US-East) is not known while an upcoming Google Cloud Platform region is just revealed as Netherlands without specifying the name of the place. In the list of Azure regions, the state, province, or city is listed for most regions in the Locations column. For both "West Central US" and "West US 2", the Location column value is the same as the region name.

I plan to track the documentation & update the custom map when new regions are announced.

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This Week I Learned - Week #237

Friday, October 20, 2017
This Week I Learned -

* The Azure Building Blocks project is a command line tool and set of Azure Resource Manager templates designed to simplify deployment of Azure resources.

* The licensing cost charged for SQL Server or Oracle is based on processors on the server they are deployed to. The latest versions of the most popular VM sizes (DS, ES, GS, and MS) constrain the vCPU count to one half or one quarter of the original VM size, while maintaining the same memory, storage and I/O bandwidth. These new VM sizes are marked with a suffix that specifies the number of active vCPUs to make them easier for you to identify. For example, the current VM size Standard_GS5 comes with 32 vCPUs, 448GB mem, 64 disks (up to 256 TB), and 80,000 IOPs or 2 GB/s of I/O bandwidth. The new VM sizes Standard_GS5-16 and Standard_GS5-8 comes with 16 and 8 active vCPUs respectively, while maintaining the rest of the specs of the Standard_GS5 in regards to memory, storage, and I/O bandwidth. These new VM sizes allow workloads to push higher CPU utilization at a fraction of the (per-core) licensing cost.

* Kudu on Linux doesn't have the same feature set as Kudu on Windows

App Service Isolated SKUs have the ability to be internally load balanced (ILB) with Azure Load Balancer, which means no public connectivity from the internet. As a result, some features of an ILB Isolated App Service must be used from machines that have direct access to the ILB network endpoint.

* Not all Azure products and services are available in all regions.

Microsoft partners, Rackspace and CDW, now offer Azure Site Recovery as a managed DR solution.

* Amazon India is running a Pen to Publish contest to recognize new books published through Kindle Direct Publishing in English across any genre

* Google's Photos app now allows you to group all your pet’s photos in one place, right beside the people Google Photos organized using facial recognition. In addition, Google Photos lets you type in an animal’s breed to search for photos of pets

* Italy is the third-largest economy in the eurozone

* Iran holds a whopping 9% of the world's oil reserves.

The UAE is one of the world's largest importers of arms and, after Saudi Arabia, has the second-largest defence budget of any of the Arab states.

* Our bodies have an internal clock that primes us for activity during hours when it is light and rest when it is dark. Remarkably, this clock doesn’t exist in just our brains. Almost every cell in our bodies — in our guts, livers and fat — shows an intrinsic rhythm when closely examined. Collectively, our cells’ rhythms affect not only waking and sleeping, but also blood pressure, body temperature and the ability to digest food and resist infection. Circadian rhythms are synchronized by daylight but, surprisingly, run independent of it. This is why jet lag occurs when you experience light cues that are at odds with your cellular biological clock. Drs. Hall, Rosbash and Young have been honored for uncovering the molecular pathways that control the circadian cycle. For their research, they studied the humble and ubiquitous fruit fly. This tiny insect turns out to be a
major engine of modern biological discovery. Five Nobel Prizes have now been awarded to science originating from fruit fly research. That research uncovered the chromosomal nature of the gene, the mutagenic nature of radiation, the molecular blueprint that underpins animal bodies and core secrets of the immune defense system. Learning about human health from fruit flies may sound like a stretch but it exemplifies a type of scientific inquiry called “basic research.” Also called “fundamental” or “pure” research (to forestall the misunderstanding that it is simplistic), basic research promotes curiosity-based exploration of the world, in contrast to “applied research” that is undertaken in an attempt to deliver a solution to a practical problem at hand. In biology, current revolutionary approaches to genome editing and cancer immunotherapy owe their existence to basic research...time and again, it has been a foundational understanding of how animals (and plants, fungi and microbes) work that leads to effective disease treatments and improvement in human health - NY Times

* Puerto Rico has become one of the world’s biggest centers for pharmaceutical manufacturing. Its factories make 13 of the world’s top-selling brand-name drugs

* ..efforts by the Government Mental Health Centre, Kuthiravattom, to enrol the inmates fetched an unexpected bonanza: identities of 32 patients whose names and addresses had remained unknown, became accessible...the data of 32 inmates were rejected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) system due to duplication. It turned out that the biometric details matched already existing Aadhaar records. The service providers knew then that they had struck gold. At the Superintendent of the Mental Health Centre, Mr. Rajendran’s request, they contacted the UIDAI authorities to get the details that were already recorded - The Hindu

* The cost of verification using Aadhaar can be as low as Rs 15 per person. The employee verification is similar to what Reliance Jio did to enrol customers. It's now acknowledged that this was what enabled Jio to enrol 10 crore customers in less than six months - The Times of India

Digital Unlocked is an initiative by Google in association with FICCI and Indian School of Business, to help Indian businesses unlock exponential growth with digital. The objective of the program is to build capacity and equip the Startups, SMEs and Innovators with the necessary skills for utilising the power of Internet, creating their online presence, launching and executing cost-effective targeted digital marketing campaigns, reaching out to a wider audience, increasing the sales volumes, keeping a consistent connect with the potential customers, staying competitive in the market place, etc

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Azure App Service Q&A - from public discussions

Thursday, October 19, 2017
It is great that Microsoft employees answer questions on forums like StackOverflow and in response to comments in blog posts. I wanted to collate interesting Q&A that I run into as part of my learning & research. Some content has been edited for clarity & to provide context.

Is WebJobs available in the Windows version of Web Apps but not in the Linux version of Web Apps?
apurva.joshi@MSFT: WebJobs are not supported on Linux offering. Moving forward, In general, our recommendation is to use Azure Functions for generic WebJob workload. We understand this might not be viable option for all scenarios and we are exploring options to address those as well.

Can we migrate current Azure App Service apps to Linux ones? Not that I'd know how exactly it would work, but I have an ASP.NET Core Azure App Service app that I'd like to see run on Linux. Would we have to create another one, deploy to it, kill the other one and copy settings over?
apurva.joshi@MSFT: Yes, you would have to create another application using Linux OS (you can choose built-in runtime for ASP.NET Core) - You can either FTP or Git Deploy code - just like how you would with App Service on Linux.

Are there any improvements in App Service Environment (ASE) provisioning time. ASE1 takes 3-4 hours if i am right.
Christina Compy [ccompy@MSFT]: Yes. The provisioning time is faster. Provisioning the ASE runs from 40-60 minutes depending on a mix of things. Scaling out takes ~20 minutes. Scaling into a worker size you haven't used before takes ~30 minutes. Times can vary as there are a lot of moving parts involved with deployment.

work in progress...

Ten Indian startups among 167 companies valued over 1 Billion USD

Wednesday, October 18, 2017
As per Statista, there are 167 startup companies valued at one billion U.S. dollars or more by venture-capital firms worldwide, as of September 2017. The following ten Indian startups are on that list:
  • Flipkart - 11.6B
  • Patym (One97 Communications) - 7B
  • Snapdeal - 6.5B
  • Ola Cabs (ANI Technologies) - 3.5B
  • InMobi - 2.5B
  • Mu Sigma - 1.5B
  • Hike - 1.4B
  • Shopclues.com - 1.1B
  • Quikr - 1B
  • Zomato Media - 1B
Also see -
Beware of the sneaky things Indian e-commerce sites do
Indian comparison shopping sites

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