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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


This Week I Learned - Week #7 2019

Saturday, February 16, 2019
This Week I Learned -

You can use Azure Site Recovery to move your single instance VM or VMs in an Availability Set into an Availability Zone, thereby achieving 99.99 percent uptime SLA.

Azure continuously monitors for hardware that shows signs of degradation or potential failure. When these conditions are detected, Azure will attempt to live migrate your virtual machines (VMs). If live migration isn’t possible, Azure will automatically redeploy VMs to a healthy machine.

There are cases where live migration isn’t possible, like on specialized computer hardware such as M-Series, G-Series, etc. or on legacy hardware, in which case the VMs would be redeployed to a new instance. 

When Azure detects imminent hardware failure, VMs are proactively live migrated when possible. This should have minimal impact on your workloads and the customer experience is typically a freeze of a few seconds during the final phase. Subscribing to Scheduled Events allows your VM to be notified a few minutes before the live migration process is started. 

Scheduled Events will now be triggered when Azure predicts that hardware issues will require a redeployment to healthy hardware in the near future, and provide a time window when Azure will redeploy the VMs to healthy hardware if a live migration was not possible. Customers can initiate the redeployment of their VMs ahead of Azure automatically doing it 

Azure has taken insight from operating millions of servers in its data centers to identify when hardware health is degrading and predict in many cases a failure before it happens - Azure Blog

Scheduled Events is an Azure Metadata Service that gives your application time to prepare for virtual machine maintenance. It provides information about upcoming maintenance events (e.g. reboot) so your application can prepare for them and limit disruption. It is available for all Azure Virtual Machine types including PaaS and IaaS on both Windows and Linux.

* The Azure LSV2 VM series is well suited for your high throughput and high IOPS workloads including big data applications, SQL and NoSQL databases, data warehousing, and large transactional databases. Examples include Cassandra, MongoDB, Cloudera, and Redis. In general, applications that can benefit from large in-memory databases are a good fit for these VMs.

* Azure customers can replicate and failover zone pinned virtual machines to other regions within a geographic cluster using ASR.

Azure Cognitive Services today includes 14 generally available products.

* Spear phishing tries to make an email look like its coming from someone known to the victim, by modifying the displayed sender name so that it is more recognizable to the recipient

Kintsugi literally translated means “golden repair.” But it’s much more than that. Kintsugi is a philosophy of repairing broken things, like cracks in pottery, for example. Rather than hide an item’s imperfections, the reparation process highlights them. Those imperfections are considered part of an item’s history, and repairing it this way can add beauty to the original items — like using precious metal to fix cracks in pottery.
Source: Wikipedia
* The T. & A. Baťa Shoe Company was founded on 24 August 1894 by Czech entrepreneur Tomáš Baťa. The company has a retail presence of over 5,300 shops in more than 70 countries and production facilities in 18 countries - Wikipedia

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Book Review: Naveen Patnaik by Ruben Banerjee


What I liked about Naveen Patnaik's biography by Ruben Banerjee is that it is well written & takes a balanced view - praising him without glossing over his shortcomings. It is engaging with interesting facts & trivia about the longest serving Chief Minister of Odisha who prefers to read out Odia speeches written in the Roman script

When Naveen entered politics in Odisha, he was trying to reach out to the people of his native land whose rusticity he did not share. Yet, as the son of Odisha’s legendary politician, he had been anointed by fate and destiny as the desperate state’s only possible saviour. Fed up with the games played by discredited politicians, many Odias welcomed Naveen despite his lack of Odia.

According to a 1994 law, written and spoken knowledge of Odia is a must for contesting Gram Panchayat elections. It was Naveen's luck that the knowledge of the local language wasn't mandatory for the state's highest elected position

He has been called a minimalist & a "smiling assassin" - Naveen has so far shown the door to some forty-six of his ministers, his booze buddies -  hotelier & party veteren Dilip Ray, A U Singh Deo, industrialist turned politician Baijayant 'Jay' Panda (his wife runs OTV, Odisha's most popular TV channel) and even his long time mentor, Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, a retired bureaucrat who once served as secretary to Biju Patnaik when he was CM

Described as the Chanakya of Odisha politics, Pyari Mohan Mohapatra called the shots from his home at 111, Saheed Nagar till he fell of with Naveen & outsmarted in 2011

Naveen was the classmate of Sanjay Gandhi at Doon School. His pet name is Pappu & he can't drive a car. He is a chain smoker who likes Dunhill cigarettes & Famous Grouse whisky. He ran a boutique called Psychedelhi from the premises of Oberoi hotel & his clientele included the fabled Beatles. His circle of friends straddled the globe and his int­erests included books and films, landing him a small role in Merchant Ivory’s 1988 adventure film The Deceivers, which had Pierce Brosnan and Saeed Jaffrey in the cast. He has authored three coffee-table books.

Naveen's parents Gyan & Biju Patnaik were trained pilots.

Biju Patnaik built & named his sprawling home, Naveen Niwas just beyond Bhubaneswar airport. Forest Park, the fashionable neighbourhood next to Naveen Niwas is home to top bureaucrats

When asked about his simplicity, Naveen is reported to have told Vir Sanghvi - "I have seen the most beautiful things in people's houses. To love beauty, you don't need to own it. You must just appreciate it."

Naveen maintains a low-key but is image conscious. His "Mr Clean" image has got him elected three times as Member of Parliament, four times as Chief Minister of Odisha. Naveen has been elected to the assembly from Hinjilicut constituency in Ganjam District. He has never been in the Opposition or spent time in political wilderness. His silence is considered his eloquence. His critics say that his biggest achievement is that he has not done anything that is spectacularly wrong

The Chief Minister relies heavily on the bureaucracy. Influential bureaucrats reportedly control everything from the CM's office on the third floor of the state secretariat.

As Collector of Ganjam, V Kathikeyan Pandian impressed Naveen so much  by fetching it the best-performing district in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme that he drafted him into the Chief Minister's Office. Pandian is married to an Odia IAS officer.

When Cyclone Phailin struck in 2013, only 21 lives were lost compared to the death of over 10,000 people in the previous supercyclone due to the CM's Mission Zero Casualty

Naveen and Jayalalithaa were supposed to be friends and shared a liking for populist schemes commonly called sops

Billed as the single biggest foreign investment in India, the proposed 12 billion tonne steel plant of South Korean steel giant POSCO at Paradip to be built at a cost of Rs 52,000 crore was marketed as a showpiece of the Naveen Government. Due to local resistance, the project had to be abandoned

The Biju Janata Dal party symbol is conch - one of the symbols of Lord Jagannath; others are mace, lotus & wheel

BJD party constitution stipulates that "party members should abstain from alcoholic drinks & drugs"

The electoral battle in 2019 will see the 72 year old CM fight 48 year old Dharmendra Pradhan of BJP

The book has many funny anecdotes too -

With Odia names being Greek and Latin to him, there were moments of embarrassment, too.  During a visit to Chandikhol, the town along the national highway halfway between Bhubaneswar and Balasore, he mistakenly referred to it as 'Chadikhol' (meaning 'open your underpants') in the middle of a public address.

“Mere pitaji ko Thakurmunda bahut pyara tha” (My father loved Thakurmunda very much) he said softly into the microphone after the perfunctory namaskar. Naveen spoke in his gruff voice, but its effect was electrifying.   The residents of Thakurmunda were ecstatic that Biju Babu had told his son about their town in the back of beyond. Whoops of collective joy erupted and the rally site resonated with chants of ‘Naveen Patnaik zindabad’. Another rehearsed line followed: “Mere pitaji ne bola tha beta Thakurmunda zaroor jana.” (My father had said, ‘Son, you must definitely go to Thakurmunda.’) The crowds were del­irious with joy that the place of their birth was so dear to Biju Babu—even if his son addressed them in Hindi.
The same routine was repeated in Kendrapara ... “Mere pitaji ko Kendrapara bahut pyara tha”, Naveen said when his turn came to address the rally.  When the claimant to the chief minister’s chair presented his second line, “Mere pitaji ne bola tha beta Kendrapara zaroor jana,” the crowd went berserk and the police struggled to control the sea of humanity crushing against the barricades.
Listening to Naveen narrate what his father had told him, Satyabadi replacing Thakurmunda and Kendrapara, the loc­als felt more pride welling inside them. Their response was much the same as at the earlier two stopovers. Biju Babu’s heir had them virtually eating out of his hand.

Biju Patnaik's unfulfilled dreams were a constant theme of BJD over successive terms. A local activist asked the Government for an answer under Right to Information (RTI) on what Biju Babu's dreams meant. The CM's office gave a matter-of-fact reply: no documents existed on Biju babu's dreams.

The author also provides a ringside view of Odisha & denizens -

"Odisha is a rich state where poor people live" - Biju Patnaik

Odisha is part of the BIMAROU, denoting India's most sick and underdeveloped states, which consist of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh

With 40% of its population consisting of STs (23%) and SCs (17%) - poverty rules the mostly rural state.

Madhusudan Das led the movement for the creation of a separate Odisha state. Odisha was the first state to be created on linguistic lines in 1936. The importance of language diminished considerably since that time. The state's large ST population does not necessarily speak Odia.

Caste equations or regional considerations has never really played a role in electoral politics of Odisha unlike in many Indian states like Karnataka or AP. Naveen belongs to the Karana (Kayasth) caste which accounts for less that 4% of the state's population (of 4.5 crore). Other backward classes (OBCs) and Chasas or farmers are the numerically dominant castes in Odisha.

Odisha has had 4 CMs out of a total of 14 from the numerically insignificant Karana caste. Interestingly, Odisha also had a Bengali Chief Minister, Biren Mitra.

Odisha now is a surplus state in rice production and third largest contributor to India's rice granary

According to the National Family Welfare Survey, the percentage of women owning land is  63.5% compared to the national average of 38.5% indicating healthy women empowerment. Women Self Help Groups (SHG) are Naveen's biggest political capital.

Aska is famous for Blackbucks.

Also see: Biographies, Memoirs and Autobiographies that I've enjoyed reading

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Azure Firewall - Highlights

Friday, February 15, 2019
* Azure Firewall  is a managed, fully stateful firewall-as-a-service with built-in high availability and unrestricted cloud scalability that protects your Azure Virtual Network resources.

* You can deploy Azure Firewall on any virtual network, but customers typically deploy it on a central virtual network and peer other virtual networks to it in a hub-and-spoke model.

* Azure Firewall supports inbound and outbound filtering. Inbound protection is for non-HTTP/S protocols. For example RDP, SSH, and FTP protocols.

The firewall, subnet, VNet, and the public IP address all must be in the same resource group.

Azure Firewall needs a dedicated subnet like the Azure Application Gateway.

* Azure Firewall is integrated with Azure Monitor for viewing and analyzing firewall logs.

* The Azure Firewall service which provides network- and application-level protection across different subscriptions and virtual networks complements network security group functionality. Together, they provide better "defense-in-depth" network security.

* Azure Firewall has a fixed cost + variable cost: Fixed fee: $1.25/firewall/hour, Variable fee: $0.03/GB processed by the firewall (ingress or egress)
Azure Firewall in a Single Virtual Network, Source: Petri

Book Review: Notes of a Dream: The Authorized Biography of A.R. Rahman

Monday, February 11, 2019

I bought "Notes of a Dream: The Authorized Biography of A.R. Rahman" by Krishna Trilok despite reading this crisp, accurate & unflattering review by a discerning reader on Amazon -

More a chronicle than a biography!
One of my favourite biographies is 'Snowball' by Alice Shroeder. She worked with a towering personality and yet, held her own and wrote one of the most comprehensive books on a mostly one-dimensionally-thought-of person - Warren Buffett.

This book is the exact opposite of Snowball. All the author does is worship and list down facts and opinions without any real interpretation of his own. The one-dimensional-interpretation of super-gifted Rahman continues.

I longed for a book that talked about his failures and struggles with a bit more depth, making Rahman a bit more identifiable and such. Those chapters are rushed through and voiced through his sister rather than the man himself. The other side never gets looked into. He's as opaque as ever!

Someone should have told the author that he was writing a biography and not history of the man.
As for the "authorised biography" bit - don't get conned by it. Rahman is as closed as ever with already known bits diced out with a newer sauce.
I found the writing fluffy & insipid with unvalidated inferences. Having read the 344 paged authorized biography nevertheless to see if there was any worthwhile information that I didn't already know about,  I can only say it doesn't do complete justice to the musical genius.

The yet to be released movie  99 Songs that Rahman has scripted & scored music for get inordinate coverage without adding much to the narrative possibly because the author's mother is one of the executive producers of the movie & he had more material on that topic.

Rahman's story needs attention and has to be well-told as his life of positivity, creativity & hardwork offers a inspiring template for India's teeming youth as well as the dejected.

Some tidbits & trivia about Rahman & other movie personalities he has worked with -
  • Rahman prefers to fly by Emirates as they serve halal non-vegetarian food. Went off diary products in 2018
  • The Tamil version of "Humma Humma" is the first full song that AR sang all by himself
  • Director, Shekhar Kapur is a Chartered Accountant & the nephew of Dev Anand
  • Mani Ratnam considers Iruvar his best movie. After finishing his MBA, his passion for movies led him to direct Pallavi Anu Pallavi, in Kannada
  • The KM College of Music and Technology building in Arumbakkam, Chennai has been architected by  Shakthisree Gopalan who has sung many popular songs composed by Rahman

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This Week I Learned - Week #6 2019

Friday, February 08, 2019
This Week I Learned -

Microsoft Azure is the first public cloud to offer native disaster recovery (DR) solution for applications running on IaaS virtual machines (VMs).

* With Google Cloud Endpoints, a truly distributed API gateway, you can develop, deploy, protect, monitor and manage APIs on any Google Cloud backend. Gain insight into your users and usage with Stackdriver Monitoring, Trace (to dive into performance), Logging (to review logs) and Google BigQuery (for analysis)

Apigee API Platform offers full lifecycle API management for hybrid and multi-cloud worlds for Enterprise customers

* "Devops is about finding ways to adapt and innovate social structure, culture, and technology together in order to work more effectively" - Effective DevOps [PDF]

* In the free ebook "Thinking Architecturally", solution architect Nathaniel Schutta guides tech leads, senior developers, junior developers, and practicing architects through the process of appraising promising new technologies.

Architecture and Design InfoQ Trends Report - January 2019 has many useful insights

Rubber tires are not enough to keep you safe from a lightning storm. It is a widespread myth that the reason vehicles provide protection from lightning is due to the tires. In actuality, lightning flows around the outside of a car, and the majority of the current flows from the car's metal cage into the ground below. In essence, a car acts like a mobile Faraday cage. However, not all vehicles are created equal anymore. Convertibles do not have metal roofs, which compromises the Faraday cage affect. In addition, some vehicles are manufactured out of non-metal parts, which impedes electricity's ability to flow through the car. The Faraday cage is named after the English scientist Michael Faraday, who invented it in 1836. An electrical field outside the cage causes electric charges in the cage's conducting material to move around and cancel the field's effect inside the cage.

* The title of the book Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping derives from the author Sapolsky's idea that for animals such as zebras, stress is generally episodic (e.g., running away from a lion), while for humans, stress is often chronic (e.g., worrying about losing your job). Therefore, many wild animals are less susceptible than humans to chronic stress-related disorders such as ulcers, hypertension, decreased neurogenesis and increased hippocampal neuronal atrophy.

* Today of course Leonardo is most famous for paintings like the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper. But in his mind, Leonardo was not primarily a painter. He thought of himself as an engineer first. In a letter to the ruler of Milan listing his strengths, sent in the early 1480s, Leonardo mentioned 10 different skills—designing bridges, tunnels, chariots, and catapults, for example—before adding at the end that he could also paint. 2019 marks the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death - Time

* India abolished the Jury system in 1960's. According to lawyer Tejasvita Apte this is reasonable as "the prosecution has to prove the guilt of the Accused not before a judge, who has experience with criminal law, but before common men (aka Jury) who have no background of law."

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