Configuring Chrome for Privacy and Convenience

Mar 23, 2018

I’ve recently set up a new MacBook, which helped remind me of some of the settings I’ve configured in the Google Chrome browser, to keep it from accumulating lots of “stuff” over time: history, cookies, and so forth. The accumulation of this stuff eventually represents a loss of privacy and control that I dislike. On the other hand, browser features such as history are convenient, and I don’t want to disable them entirely. I just don’t want too much of them. This blog post is about how I’ve found a balance that I like.

Pixel Tempted Me But iPhone Kept Me

Mar 16, 2018

I switched from Android to iPhone a few years ago, and with the recent advances in Android and some of the issues that have crept into iPhone, I wondered whether I should switch back. To help me decide, I got a Google Pixel 2 and used it for a week, with my iPhone turned off and put away. In the end, Android was much better than it used to be, but not good enough to woo me back. Here’s why.

Why Nobody Cares About Your Anomaly Detection

Mar 7, 2018

Anomaly detection is white hot in the monitoring industry, but many don’t really understand or care about it, while others repeat the same pattern many times. VividCortex has built several features based on anomaly detection into its product, but customers have told the company that only some of them are valuable. The same is true of other companies in the space. It seems like everyone has anomaly detection, but customers generally aren’t finding it useful.

Observability Isn't Monitoring

Mar 7, 2018

What is observability? It’s not monitoring, that’s what it is. But seriously, let’s talk about the seven golden signals, the relationship and difference between concepts like observability, monitoring, telemetry, and instrumentation, and how to build highly observable services.

The Skagen Jorn Connected and Misfit Phase Hybrid Smart Watches

Mar 5, 2018

I bought two of the more interesting-looking hybrid smart watches to compare their functionality to each other, and to the Nokia Steel HR I already own. In the end, the Skagen Jorn Connected (Amazon) is a better watch and extension of my phone, but is not enough of a health or fitness tracker to replace the Nokia Steel HR; and the Misfit Phase (Amazon) has useful functionality but a poor design and feel. Neither offers the notification features I’d find most useful.

How I Meditate

Feb 24, 2018

I practice mindfulness meditation every day. This is how I practice.

Temporal Words Are Risky

Feb 21, 2018

I’ve come to see time-related words as potentially dangerous to use in writing, because they have ambiguities that are difficult to parse. I didn’t notice this until I started to work with many people for whom English is a second language. These people taught me that phrases I take for granted can be very confusing and illogical.

Here’s an example: “I avoid using these words, as they are confusing.”

Switching From Swiftype to a Static JSON Index and LunrJS

Feb 17, 2018

I was shocked how easy it was to add a browser-based search engine to this website using LunrJS and Hugo’s new content types. With a few small changes and less than 30 minutes of work, I had a great search engine up and running. I moved it under the menu and made it into a separate search page.

Schrodinger's Outage

Feb 10, 2018

A couple months ago we had an incident, in which a legacy recovery mechanism proved to be inadequate to our current scale. In our internal post-incident review, we asked if we should improve this seldom-used capability. I decided not to, because the plan is to completely replace the part of the platform that it serves. My judgment was that we were not likely to need it, and it would be a lot of time and effort to improve.

Shortly thereafter, we did need it again, and again experienced the same pains. Was the decision wrong?

Three Steps To Psychological Safety

Jan 29, 2018

Psychological safety is now a prominent part of the engineering leadership lexicon. It began with Google, who reported that it is the strongest predictor of team productivity. According to those reports, this one factor trumps all other reasons that a team can perform well.

It sounds good, but how do you create psychological safety within a team? My approach is based on personal experience in my closest relationships. I’ve found that in order to trust others, I must first feel acknowledged, validated, and supported. Here’s how I try to extend that benefit to others in my life.

How Good Is Spotify's Audio Quality?

Jan 21, 2018

I bought a Google Chromecast Audio for my budget audiophile system, due to problems with Apple’s AirPlay. I like the Chromecast, but as I listened to my favorite music on Spotify Premium, I was disappointed. The audio quality was noticeably worse than casting Spotify to AirPlay. I decided to figure out what was going on and see if I could fix the audio quality issues. I think I’ve learned what’s wrong, and unfortunately I don’t think it’s fixable. Read on to learn more.

Digital Note-Taking Apps

Dec 2, 2017

I used to use paper notebooks extensively. When I didn’t have paper and pen, I emailed myself a quick note from my iPhone. This led gradually to me keeping all of my notes on my iPhone, using the Notes app. In the last few months, I’ve moved from Notes to Evernote. This process took some time and research, which I’m sharing in case it’s useful to you.

Why Nobody Cares About Your Anomaly Detection

Nov 14, 2017

Static thresholds on metrics have been falling out of fashion for a while, and for good reason. Modern tooling lets you analyze and monitor a lot more data points than you used to be able to, resulting in lots more noise. The hope is that anomaly detection answers some of this, by replacing static thresholds (anomalies) with dynamic ones. But it doesn’t work as well as most people think it will.

Scalability Is Quantifiable: The Universal Scalability Law

Nov 1, 2017

Do you know what scalability really is? It’s a mathematical function that’s simple, precise, and useful. REALLY useful. It describes the relationship between system performance and load. In this talk you’ll learn the function (the Universal Scalability Law), how it describes and predicts system behavior you see every day, and how to use it in practice.

What is Moving Average Convergence-Divergence (MACD)?

Oct 25, 2017

Moving Average Convergence-Divergence (MACD) is an efficient, compact way to compare averages of a metric over two different intervals, and determine if the metric is trending upwards or downwards. It is widely used in finance and several other fields.

MACD is a terrible name for a simple concept. It simply subtracts the long-term (distant) average from the short-term (recent) average. If the short-term average is larger, the result is positive and the metric is trending upwards.

Sponsors Do More Than Pay The Bills

Oct 24, 2017

I participate in many technical conferences every year, and I’m always struck by the way conferences treat their sponsors. Those that simply acknowledge sponsors for making the event possible are seriously stunting their community. Don’t do that! Your community’s commercial supporters aren’t parasites: they’re an essential part of your ecosystem.

My Four Favorite Meditation Books

Oct 22, 2017

Mindfulness meditation has changed me perhaps more than any other influence in my life. Here are four books whose wisdom I treasure.