The Cloud defined in a sentence, 12 bullet points and 3 pictures

Kudos to someone at apps.gov or NIST for a great 2 minute summary of the cloud. My summary of the summary:

Cloud Computing Defined

Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort.
Cloud computing - picture by http://cloudtimes.org

Five Characteristics of Cloud Computing

  • On-demand, self service
  • Wide network access
  • Resources dynamically shared and allocated across customers
  • Elastic rapid provision and release
  • Metered service

Three Main Layers of Service Provided by Cloud Computing

  • Saas: Software as a service, for end-user consumers
  • Paas: Platform as a service, for software developers
  • Iaas: Infrastructure as a service, for system administrators

Two Axes of Choice for Cloud Deployment

  • Public vs Private
  • Outsourced vs In-house

And finally a bonus:

A History of Cloud Computing in Three Sentences

  • It began life as “Grid Computing” – a technology to solve large problems with parallel computing on widely distributed resources.
  • Grid computing matured to be offered as a metered service known as “utility computing”.
  • This evolved via packaged solutions and self-service subscription over the internet into what is now known as Cloud Computing.

Condensed from http://info.apps.gov/content/what-cloud

AppleScript : Start a background process and get the pid to kill it

Like so:

do shell script ("cd /Users/myName/Sites/FitNesse ; java -jar fitnesse-standalone.jar -p 5555  &> fitNesse.log & echo $!")
set pid to the result
open location "http://localhost:5555/"
display dialog "Press okay to shutdown FitNesse (" & pid & ")" buttons {"OK"}
do shell script ("kill " & pid)

To see it work, open AppleScript Editor, and paste in the script.
Save it first as a script, then Export it as an Application.

A couple of tricks are involved, the two least well-known are perhaps:

  • $! will return the pid of the most recently started background process
  • You may not need to log output but you still apparently need an output redirection clause such as &> /dev/null“. Otherwise AppleScript waits for the stdout / stderr to free up. Which never happens.
  • You usually want to cd to the right directory when you run a shell script from AppleScript

How to force Remote Desktop Connection to 256 colours

Windows Remote desktop is great. It’s less great if you connect to a computer over a slow internet connection and want to do some actual work. It’s even less great when you’ve finally migrated to Windows 7 and found that you no longer have a 256 colors option, but instead have to use 15-bit color at least, which becomes achingly slow.

Help is at hand. Simply save your connection settings. This create a .rdp file which is a text file you can edit. Not far from the top you’ll see the bits-per-pixel setting:

screen mode id:i:2
use multimon:i:0
desktopwidth:i:1920
desktopheight:i:1080
session bpp:i:15
...etc...

Change the 15 to an 8. Save it, and open the file in Remote Desktop. Although the GUI still shows ‘Thousand of Colors’ in the dropdown, when you connect you’ll find it’s actually 256 colors. Much, much faster.

Thanks to Raymond Diack, http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Profile/raymond%20diack/activity.

Use your nose — how to make coffee at home as good or better than a café

The top two secrets of making excellent coffee — notes from an ex-café manager

Do you remember the first time you went to a coffeeshop—a Costa or a Caffe Nero or a Starbucks or some such—and you thought “Wow! this coffee’s really good!” …

And maybe you too thought, “I wish I could make coffee like this at home!” So you bought a bag of coffee, over-priced though it was, and raced home full of excitement … but at home it wasn’t the same.

So then you thought maybe it’s not just the coffee but also the great steam-punk coffee machines they have, and then you found that real ones cost £1,000 up and would take over half of your kitchen. But maybe you went ahead anyway and bid on one going cheap on ebay and then you discovered that oops it doesn’t fit a domestic electric socket it requires a 440v 3-phase power supply so you … What? Are you saying you didn’t do this – was it only me?

Fortunately I was outbid on ebay. I did buy a domestic espresso which feels a bit dolls-house compared to the real thing, especially for steaming milk, but it’s fine otherwise.

Meanwhile however, having been part of the team that opened Café Encounter Birchwood, I slowly realised that the real secrets of making coffee as good as Costa or Starbucks or your other favourite coffee house are not the obvious ones. The big shiny machine and the packets of coffee on display are the smoke and mirrors. The real magic is somewhere else…

Actually it’s very mundane, and very simple.

The first secret to excellent coffee : Keep it fresh

When we had our barista training the guy started off with ‘Coffee is a fresh fruit product’. Oh, how we laughed! He didn’t laugh, though. He was serious.

If you buy your coffee in pre-ground packs, try this test. Buy your next pack just before your old one runs out. Open the new one. Breath in. Oooh, doesn’t it smell fantastic? Even people who don’t like coffee love that smell. Now, take your not-yet-empty coffee container, stick your nose in and sniff. How does that smell? Stale? Like an ashtray?

This is the first secret of coffee. Keep it fresh. You see, the biggest real advantage that a café has over your kitchen is not the equipment. It’s the fact that while a quarter kilo of coffee may last a week or even weeks in your kitchen, in a busy café it will last less than 2 hours. The coffee you get at a café is fresh because they’re getting through hundreds of cups per day.

If you buy pre-ground, may I suggest that you reconcile yourself to the fact that it doesn’t taste as good when the pack has been open for weeks. The very best taste is only going to be there for the first couple of days. If you have the money, the way forwards is to buy beans and grind your own, but more on that on another post.

You can improve your coffee’s lifespan by keeping it airtight. I had a favourite coffee tin which, when I washed it one day, turned out to leak — it was no longer airtight. Sad though it was, I binned it. I bought some spice jars, which are perfect — spices, like coffee, are best kept airtight in small quantities.

The second secret to excellent coffee : Keep it clean

Did you know that the staff of a small café will probably spend more time cleaning than making coffee? This is largely because of food hygiene rules, but the consequence is this — coffee making equipment in a café is cleaned every day.

Use your nose. Breath in that fresh pack of coffee again. Now, stick your nozzle in your coffee jug, or run it over the business end of your coffee machine and take a few good sniffs. Are you getting hints of ashtray again? A heavily dull but bitter layer of staleness? That’s the flavour you’re getting in your coffee. Clean it!

Cleaning is simple. Knowing when to do it, is simply a case of using your nose — clean when it doesn’t smell fresh. If you haven’t cleaned for years then you may want to start with commercial coffee machine cleaner, or you could try using baby-cleaning sterilisation fluid. Either way, follow instructions carefully and flush out with plenty of clean water afterwards.

Enjoy your coffee!

So the chief rules of excellent coffee are these:

  • Keep it fresh
  • keep it clean

Cafés do it as a matter of routine; this is what you want to imitate first.