Digg Reader and Feedly, Two Great Google Reader Alternatives

I used Google Reader since time out of mind, but of course by now you know it was discontinued a while ago. I still live and breathe RSS feeds, and I really don’t pay much attention to social media, news sites, or the like of Hacker News and Slashdot. I like the flexibility and unhurried pace of subscribing to updates from specific individuals and companies.


At first, I didn’t see a reader that offered the experience I was looking for: a GMail-like user interface with feeds clustered together in categories, navigable with keystrokes. Importantly, some subtle features such as marking an item unread are a key part of my usage.

» Continue Reading (about 700 words)

State Of The Storage Engine - DZone

I contributed an article on modern database storage engines to the recent DZone Guide To Database and Persistence Management. I’m cross-posting the article below with DZone’s permission.


» Continue Reading (about 1400 words)

Scaling Backend Systems at VividCortex

I wrote a guest post for High Scalability about how we scale our backend systems at VividCortex. It’s heavy on MySQL, sprinkled with a little bit of Redis’s magic pixie dust, and Kafka is also a key part of the architecture.


» Continue Reading (about 300 words)

Nine Great Mac Power User Tips

If you’re a Mac user like me, maybe you’ll find the following tips helpful for making you better at your job.


» Continue Reading (about 800 words)

The Ultimate Pen

In The Ultimate Notebook, I reviewed a large list of notebooks I bought in my quest for the perfect one for me. (I’m happy to say that I’ve been using the Quo Vadis Habana in Raspberry exclusively for a while). But what about the perfect pen? Ah, pens. As much a personal matter as notebooks are. I’ve tried a variety of pens. Here’s my review of some of them.


» Continue Reading (about 900 words)

The Age Of Smart Machines

What will life be like in the age of smart machines? According to a Batten Institute briefing on Innovation in the Age of Smart Machines, up to 66% of the U.S. workforce may lose their jobs to computers in the coming decades. The report points out, however, that humans will always be needed to direct the computers. I’m not so sure.

ZT 0001

» Continue Reading (about 900 words)

Making High Performance MySQL's New Website

HPM Cover

I recently updated the High Performance MySQL website to modernize it. I am impressed at how easy it is these days to get a great little brochure site hosted. It used to be a lot more work. I used a variety of tools and services to do this and decided to share this for people who are interested. Hopefully you’ll add comments and point me towards more tools and tips to make these things even easier for me in the future!

» Continue Reading (about 1000 words)

The DevOps Identity Crisis

Why DevOps needs a manifesto after all, but may never get one.


This article originally appeared on O’Reilly Radar.

DevOps is everywhere! The growth and mindshare of the movement is remarkable. But if you care deeply about DevOps, you might agree with me when I say that although its moment has “arrived,” DevOps is in serious trouble. The movement is fragmented and weakly defined, and is being usurped by those who care more about short-term opportunities than the long-term viability of DevOps.

» Continue Reading (about 1600 words)

The Ultimate Bargain Coffee Kit

I’ve started drinking coffee over the last few years. Like most things I’ve picked up relatively late in life, I am kind of a snob, in that I want good coffee but I want it to be quick, easy, and cheap. This post is about the gear I’ve settled on for making my morning cup.


» Continue Reading (about 1700 words)

Installing CyanogenMod on the Barnes and Noble Nook HD+

I wrote previously about how much I was using and enjoying my 9-inch Barnes and Noble Nook HD+. I’m still using and enjoying it, but a few of the things I mentioned in that article—the useless home screen, the schizophrenic updates from two app stores at once, and so on—started to annoy me. I started to fantasize about installing a clean, uncluttered Android operating system on it instead of using the Nook operating system. The best-known general-purpose Android OS is CyanogenMod, and that’s what I was thinking about.


Last time I did this, I didn’t like the result. I’ll explain why, then move on to show you how to install CyanogenMod easily on the Nook HD+ and talk about the results. (I’m very happy thus far).

» Continue Reading (about 2700 words)

If Eventual Consistency Seems Hard, Wait Till You Try MVCC

This should sound familiar:

One of the great lies about NoSQL databases is that they’re simple. Simplicity done wrong makes things a lot harder and more complicated to develop and operate. Programmers and operations staff end up reimplementing (badly) things the database should do.

Nobody argued this line of reasoning more vigorously than when trying to defend relational databases, especially during the darkest years (ca. 2009-2010), when NoSQL still meant NO SQL DAMMIT, all sorts of NoSQL databases were sprouting, and most of them were massively overhyped. But as valid as those arguments against NoSQL’s “false economy” simplicity were and are, the arguments against relational databases’ complexity hold true, too.


» Continue Reading (about 3100 words)

A Free Tutorial On Go's Database/SQL Package

Do you use Google’s Go language (golang)? Do you use a relational database such as MySQL or PostgreSQL with it? Do you want to learn how to? Go has a package called database/sql for connecting to relational databases. There’s package documentation, but you’ll need to read the source code if you really want to understand how to use the package. The documentation doesn’t really explain how to use the package, it just explains what it does.

» Continue Reading (about 200 words)

Why Deployment Freezes Don't Prevent Outages

I have $10 that says you’ve experienced this before: there’s a holiday, trade show, or other important event coming up. Management is worried about the risk of an outage during this all-important time, and restricts deployments from the week prior through the end of the event.

What really happens, of course, is that the system in question becomes booby-trapped with extra risk. As a result, problems are more likely, and when there there is even a slight issue, it has the potential to escalate into a major crisis.

Why does this happen? As usual, there’s no single root cause, but a variety of problems combine to create a brittle, risky situation.



When managers declare a freeze, they’re not being malicious. They’re doing something that seems to make sense. That’s why it’s important to understand the reasoning.

» Continue Reading (about 2100 words)

Can You Bring A Guitar To Velocity?

I need help. I’m giving an Ignite talk at Velocity EU that involves a guitar. I don’t want to bring a guitar all the way from America just for this. Would you please loan me one?


» Continue Reading (about 100 words)

How To Print All The Way To The Edge In Microsoft Word

You’re creating a document with Word that you want to turn into a nice full-page PDF. It has a gorgeous background color that will look great. But every time you convert it to a PDF, it ends up with ugly white borders at the edges, and Word warns you about printing beyond the printable margins. Dragging the margins and changing the Page Setup options does no good. How can you fix this?

Magic Margin

» Continue Reading (about 300 words)

Win a Free Pass to Velocity

O’Reilly Velocity is November 17-19 in Barcelona. O’Reilly gave me a 2-day pass to give away, and I decided to have some fun with it. We’re also giving away a pass on the VividCortex blog, so you can double your odds of winning. For your chance to win a 2-day pass, do one of the following: Answer any of the following questions; or Write a haiku that’s somehow relevant to Velocity Tweet your answers to @xaprb with #velocitytrivia.

» Continue Reading (about 300 words)

The Root Cause Fallacy

Wouldn’t you like to find the root cause of that downtime incident? Many people would. But experience has taught me that there is no such thing as a single root cause. Instead, there’s a chain of interrelated causes, each of which is necessary but none of which is sufficient to cause the overall problem.


» Continue Reading (about 600 words)

A Review Of The Docker Book

The Docker Book is a newly published book from James Turnbull, whose name you will recognize if you’re at all familiar with DevOps, Puppet, or Docker itself. It’s a nice introduction to what Docker is and how to get started using it. It’s like Goldilocks — not too detailed, not too superficial, just right. The book starts from the basics, assuming no prior knowledge with Docker, or even most of the core concepts of virtualization, but moves quickly through these topics into installing Docker and getting started with it.

» Continue Reading (about 300 words)

Mac's Time Machine and Symlinks

I use Mac OSX’s built-in Time Machine for backups, and a couple of times I’ve noticed my backups failed and couldn’t be completed successfully. I was unable to fix the problem until I reformatted the backup drive. Today I think I stumbled on the solution.

Time Machine

» Continue Reading (about 200 words)

On Focus

Focus is perhaps the most important attribute in an organization. In fact, my dictionary defines an organization as “an organized body of people with a particular purpose…” A focused organization recognizes and cleaves to its purpose.

Likewise, the ability to create and sustain focus is perhaps the most valuable skill of the organization’s members, including both individual contributors and leaders.


What Is Focus, And Why Is It Hard?

My dictionary says focus is “an act of concentrating.” Consider the root words: concentrate literally means to bring to a common center, to be centered together.

» Continue Reading (about 2600 words)