Thursday, January 28, 2010

Today is Data Privacy Day

Maybe, you didn't know that today is Data Privacy Day. I didn't know before, but it is an important day. With more and more data created, especially personal and behavioral data, it's important to think about how and where YOUR data is handled and by whom. When I sign up for a service or order something online, I usually take at least a quick look at the fineprint in the terms & conditions. The same is true when I sign papers (and I have been annoying people for taking my time to read the fineprint).

What do you do? Do you look at how companies handle your data (or at least what they promise they will do)? Do you let companies know when you are concerned with their policies? If you are in data management (and most of my readers seem to be), how do you treat the data you are in charge of? How is your company handling data?

I tell students that data and information is one of a company's most valuable assets. And that's how you have to treat it. Customers trust a business partner to treat the data with care and that's some trust that can be lost very quickly if policies are violated or changed to the worse, if companies do not invest in their employees and the right technologies.

BTW: The only way for me to identify who is reading my blog is through you posting comments and leaving your name.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What our dishwasher knows about my family

End of last year our dishwasher suddenly "behaved". An error message was on its display and the water pump was running continuously. Pressing the OFF button didn't change anything. After consulting the user manual, we followed the suggested 2-step approach:

0.) (Don't panic)
1.) Shut off the fuse switch if you are sure there is no water damage.
2.) Call the service.

We were lucky to have the manufacturer service in our house already the next afternoon. Instead of opening the dishwasher, a suction cup with an inductive reader got attached to the machine's control panel. A second later the first data appeared on the technician's ThinkPad (yes) and I heard "above average usage". The dishwasher had been sniffing into our family life and was able to report its hours of duty and some details. Combined with the purchase date this gave an impression of how often it is used per day.

This got me thinking. What other of the electric household appliances are spying on us? If someone is reading out all of them, what picture would that give? What machine would be my biggest enemy? Let me know your machines and what data they can collect.

BTW: The service visit was free of charge and the dishwasher is running better than ever.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Why old hardware is great for production performance

I was just reading Scott Hayes' performance blog article "Are you REALLY ready for production?" and his "Unwise Practice #1". The related recommendation matches exactly what a customer told me the other day. The customer happily mentioned that over the years they moved to give the oldest hardware to their application developers, especially for Java-based applications.

The result was that they were saving on hardware costs (what to do with old machines?) and, even more important, were gaining on performance of their production systems. Almost all resource-hogging design error or inefficient programming became evident during early testing. This saves on testing later in the development cycle and is the best way to ensure resource-conscious programming.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Separating diagnostic logs in DB2 9.7 (to split or not to split)

One of the new or enhanced features in the DB2 9.7 FP1 is the option to store the diagnostic logs in separate files for a physical host, a database partition, or both (DPF environments). The idea is that by separating the diagnostic logs the possible contention is reduced and hence the diagnostic logging performance increases. In addition, the storage administration might become simpler.

To do so you have to change the database manager (dbm) configuration and use the "$h" (host) and/or "$n" (database partition number/node) variables inside the diagpath (diagnostic data directory path) setting. An example to set the diagpath to "home/mydb2/db2dump" and split according to the physical host would be:

db2 update dbm cfg using diagpath '"/home/mydb2/db2dump/ $h"'

BTW: You can later merge the diagnostic log files using the db2diag tool.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Funny video: How to turn the iPhone into a WWII war plane

Let me start by pointing out that I don't have an iPhone and haven't tested the following application named iPhone pilot. It should also be obvious to not use it in public for your own security. Anyway, here it is:

Apparently it also has a multi-player mode, making it the right toy for boring all-hands meetings, group outings, or just lunch breaks...

About my watch and your workloads or projects....

It seems like I have a follow-up to my "About my pants and your systems". This weekend I was kind of dosing off in a train of thoughts when I noticed my wrist watch. It is very lightweight and I usually don't notice it while wearing this watch. The design is very simple, just 3 hands (hour, minute, second) and a date indicator. I also have a more chunky sports watch with an atomic clock, solar power and a dominating digital display and some other watches.

When wearing that sports watch I was focusing so much on the precise time ('cause it's receiving the signal from the atomic clock) that I always tried to be exactly on time. However, those who I met or the trains I tried to catch did not. With my lightweight watch on I am more relaxed and for meetings and other occasions I try to follow the "spirit" of invitations.

Anyway, what I noticed in the IT world is that in many cases IT professionals try to be overly exact. It started when studying computer science that every word of a description was taken into full account and it still is something I have to deal with during software development (and deployment). In our profession in too many cases we try to aim for the best/optimal/fastest solution, but in how many situations would have something less served equally well? We could have used that energy and motivation for another problem (or gone home earlier).

How many of your workloads are overly optimized or overly precise? Do you compute exact values or do you sample to get current trends? Are workloads still important that they have to run with highest priority or can they be moved to other categories? Do you focus too much on details (and loose the big picture)? Are you relaxed...?

(Image taken from here)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

About my pants and your systems...

Happy New Year everyone, I hope you had a good start into the new year. After I was first stuffed a couple of times by my mother-in-law, then by my mother, my wife and I had an afternoon for ourselves. We decided to go shopping for clothes. Well, as you might guess by this time, it turned out to be no such a great idea in some (few?) aspects.

I tried on some pants and then realized that just after the holidays is not a good point in time to tell whether pants will fit comfortable for the rest of the year. I only could judge what pants would definitely not fit me for sure. On the plus size (no pun intended) I made the link to the IT world:

  • Do your systems have "fat" that you need to trim to have them run comfortably again? Do you have procedures in place to evaluate your systems from time to time? Do you even proactively trim your systems?
    (I remember the regular "file system is full, please delete your stuff" emails from various jobs)
  • How do you size your production systems in terms of storage capacity or CPU power? What is the peak performance you can expect your system to handle comfortably? Do you have procedures in place to re-evaluate your system capacity from time to time and to upgrade them if necessary?
  • How do you test new systems or software? What is good enough in terms of stress testing? When can you be sure that your system can deal with peak loads? Did you plan for the "unexpected"?
  • Your systems maybe could have had a good TCO when you implemented them, but that cost analysis could be outdated by now. Do you evaluate alternatives on a regular basis? Are you ready to make a switch?
I didn't clean up systems, but following that spirit I at least performed the quarterly cleaning of my home office.

 (Picture taken from here)