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This is the Bertrand Florat's personal page. You will find here some links to articles or projects I'm involved in and few thoughts (mainly about IT). Use the contact page if you want to discuss about an article, I once activated some comments plugin but I had to close it due to massive spam attacks.

Technology blog

One month with Ansible

Ansible is an Open Source IT automation tool written in python and sponsored by RedHat. Best known alternatives are Puppet, Chef and Salt.

I used Ansible for the first time (2.4.3, last release in early 2018) in an attempt to produce some quite sophisticated Docker Swarm docker-compose files and others yaml configuration files that includes a significant volume of logic (port number increments, conditional suffixes, variable number of sections according to lists of items, etc.)

I achieved my goals in about five or six days of effective work, including the reading of most of the official manual. Be able to achieve a real task like this in six days when we have to learn it first is OK IMO but I think I would have made it in one day in bash (that I already know). However, Ansible is much more powerful. My first contacts and real works with Ansible were really enjoyable and I was very surprised to make it work so easy. I also tried to apply all the documented best practices with success. Sadly, I spent the last three days struggling with the last 5% of remaining work, dealing with limitations/bugs that I found hard to understand and quite irritating.

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· 2018/02/03 21:59 · 2018/02/05 22:13 · bflorat · 0 Comments

Summary of Cal Newport's "Deep Work" book

I just finished "Deep work", an interesting book. I only regret it doesn't contain any reference concerning the pomodoro technique.

Here's my few raw notes :

Deep work : “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push cognitive capabilities to their limit”. For high skills, difficult to replicate.
Shallow work : “non cognitive demanding, logistic-style tasks, often performed while distracted.” Low value, easily replicable 
Deep work hypothesis : the ability to perform a deep work is rare and valuable. Those who are capable will thrive. 
The core abilities : 
- quickly master hard things
- produce elite level with speed
Both depends on deep work

Myelin : by triggering always the same paths, better signal -> more focus = more intelligence
High quality work = time x intensity of focus 

Metric black hole : we don't actually measure value of tasks we perform
Principe of least resistance : given that we don't actually measure value of our work, we do first what is easier : shallow work.
Busyness as a proxy for productivity : in knowledge works, difficult to estimate our own value : a lot of shallow work makes false feeling of produced value 
Cult of the Internet : everything from the Internet (like facebook) is considered a piori as good in IT :  hugh error.
Neuroscience : what you are is the sum of what you focus on. Happier when we focus on flow activities. We need goals, challenges, feedback.
We all have a limited amount of will-power so we need to save it for deep work.

Profiles of deep workers:
- bimodal : monastic-like activities for few days, shallow work during the rest of the time
- rhythmic philosophy : moment reserved every day, use a chain method like a cross on the calendar : we want to avoid any hole in the chain.
- journalist philosophy : switches between shallow work and deep work all the day long (hard) 

Ideas to help deep work:
- grand gesture : leave habits, work in an hotel for ie
- help serendipity by meeting people from others disciplines
- stop to work the evening to let the unconscious mind to solve problems for you (less work = more CPU to solve problems in your mind background)
- also rest because we all have a limited amount of available attention
- perform of shutdown ritual every end of day (like saying 'work performed') -> brain conditioned to stop running thoughts. Otherwise, Zeigarnik effect (we remember better interrupted tasks because we want to solve it)
- search boredom to help the brain to rewire
- schedule the day by blocks, change blocks during the day if required 

Deep work meditation to solve complex problems:
- Store variables of current state of the problem
- ask question to force the brain to go to the next problem and no looping
- fight distracted thoughts

Memorization technique (see the book for more details) : imagine large objects in 5 rooms of our house, map the objects with a set of celebrities and imagine scenes. Each person maps a value (like a number of a card value) 

Avoid any-benefits tools like facebook, concentrate on craftsman approach : only consider tools that help significantly to reach the lead goals 
To determinate if a tool that help : 
- list the key activities you need to realize to reach the lead goals 
- for each activities, ask yourself if the tool helps or not

4DX (Four disciplines of eXecution) :
- focus on widely import goals (measurable few goals)
- focus on lead goals, not long term goals
- use scoreboards
- perform periodic summaries 

Law of the vital fews (Pareto principle) : 80% of a given effect is done by 20% of the possible causes
During leisure, avoid using Internet, do high-level activities like reading literature
Evaluate shallow work performed by week and confront it to your boss and ask him to validate.
To determine if a work is shallow : how many months would it take to teach an hypothetical post graduate to make it ?
Say "no" by default, provide vague explanation to avoid questions.
Process centric e-mails to close the loop and free the mind : state clearly the next steps on every subject (every action)
Avoid replying to e-mails on subject without interest, coming with too much work to reply etc..
· 2016/11/04 21:41 · 2017/02/26 21:32 · bflorat · 0 Comments

Dashboard under XFCE real howto

If like me you like both XFCE and Gnome-Shell dashboard/ window picker, here's how I configured my desktop for the nearest most Gnome-like experience :

1) Install xfdashboard (the dashboard itself). I ised version 0. Note : this release comes with a hot corner plugin, no more need to use xdotool or brightside.

2) Add or enable these commands to be run at X startup (in XFCE Settings / Sessions and startup / application autostart ) : xfdashboard -d (deamon mode for a faster display)

3) Configure XFdashboard using xfdashboard-settings :

  • In 'plugins', select the 'hotcorners' plugin
  • make sure to restart xfdashboard to enable this new plugin : xfdashboard -q, then xfdashboard -d &

4) Add the preferred applications into the vertical side bar (no GUI, xfce4-settings-editor cannot edit arrays), here's a sample command :

xfconf-query -c xfdashboard -p /favourites -n -t string -s "exo-file-manager.desktop" -t string -s "exo-terminal-emulator.desktop" -t string -s "jetbrains-idea-ce.desktop" -t string -s "owncloud.desktop" -t string -s "simple-scan.desktop" -t string -s "gnome-calculator.desktop" -t string -s "firefox.desktop" -t string -s "thunderbird.desktop" -t string -s "zim.desktop" -t string -s "libreoffice-writer.desktop"

5) If you are in multi-monitors mode and you want to see all windows on the primary display and not spread on several monitors, see my workaround : in /usr/share/themes/xfdashboard/xfdashboard-1.0/xfdashboard.css (or in the others themes xfdashboard.css files) , change filter-monitor-windows: true; to filter-monitor-windows: false;

· 2016/10/24 18:12 · 2016/10/30 22:57 · bflorat

Benefits of Hardware-based Full Disk Encryption and sedutil

sedutil.jpg We need to protect our personal or professional data, especially when located on laptops that can easily be stolen. Even if it is not yet fully widespread, many companies or personal users encrypt their disks to prevent such issues.

They are three major technologies to encrypt the data (most of the time, the same symmetric cipher is used:AES 128 or 256 bits) :

  • Files-level encryption tools (7zip, GnuPG, openSSL…) where we encrypt one or more files (but not a full file system)
  • Software FDE = Full Disk Encryption (dm-crypt, encfs, TrueCrypt under Linux ; BitLocker, SafeGuard under MS Windows among many others) where a full file system is encrypted. Most of these softwares map a real encrypted file system to a in-memory clear filesystem. For instance, you open an encrypted /dev/sda2 filesystem with dm-crypt/Luks this way :
sudo cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sda2 aClearFileSystemName  
<enter password>
mount /dev/mapper/aClearFileSystemName /mnt/myMountPoint
  • Hardware-based Full Disk Encryption (also named SED = Self-Encrypting Disk) where hard disk encrypt themselves in their own build-in disk controller. We'll focus here on this technology.

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· 2015/11/03 22:26 · 2016/06/23 22:26 · bflorat · 3 Comments

The IT crowd, entropy killers

I once asked myself “how to define our job in the most general sense of the term, we, computer scientists ?”.

Our fields are very diverse but according to me, the greatest common divisor is “entropy hunter”.

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· 2015/03/02 22:23 · 2016/07/17 01:02 · bflorat

Deployment scripts gain should always be refreshed from VCS prior execution

After few months of continuous deployment scripts writing for a pretty complex architecture (two JBoss instances, a mule ESB instance, one database to reset, a BPM server, each being restarted in the right order and running from different servers), I figured out a good practice in this field : scripts have to be auto-updated.

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· 2015/02/12 21:30 · 2016/06/12 15:50 · bflorat

Retours Eclipse DemoCamp 2015 Nantes

J'ai eu le plaisir de me rendre à l'Eclipse DemoCamp Nantes jeudi dernier au Hub Creatic (il est difficile à trouver car pas encore indiqué, c'est le bâtiment jaune vif à coté de l'école Polytech Nantes. C'était la première fois que je m'y rendais et je dois dire que j'ai été impressionné, dommage qu'il ne soit pas en centre ville).

Nous avons eu un panorama extrêmement éclectique mais passionnant du monde Eclipse en 2015, de l'internet des objets (IOT) à l'usine logicielle de grands groupes en passant par l’informatique pour les enfants. Ceci montre, si besoin était, la force de traction du monde Eclipse en tant qu'IDE bien sûr mais surtout en tant que plate forme.

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· 2015/02/09 21:55 · 2015/04/06 21:11 · bflorat · 10 Comments

Programming is craftsmanship and requires skills

Many managers think that programming is easy, it's just a bunch of for, if, else and switch clauses after all, isn't it ?

But coding is difficult because it is mainly about TAKING DECISIONS ALL THE TIME.

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· 2015/01/02 12:11 · 2016/06/12 16:16 · bflorat · 39 Comments

Undocumented PreparedStatement optimization

We just get a 20% response time gain on a 600+ lines query under Oracle. Our DBA noticed that queries were faster when launched from SQLDeveloper than from our JEE application using the JDBC Oracler 11g driver. We looked at the queries as they actually arrived to the Oracle engine and they where under the form : SELECT… WHERE col1 like ':myvar1' OR col2 LIKE ':myvar2' AND col3 IN (:item1,:myvar2,…) and not 'SELECT… WHERE col1 LIKE ':1' OR col2 LIKE ':2' AND col3 IN (:3,:4,…) like usual when using PreparedStatement the regular way.

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· 2014/12/18 21:06 · 2015/04/06 21:11 · bflorat · 24 Comments

Retour sur l'Agile Tour 2014 Nantes

J'ai eu la chance d'assister à la journée Agile Tour 2014, version nantaise, à l'école des mines. Bien organisé, riche en rencontres et retours d’expériences, comme tous les ans…

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· 2014/12/15 21:14 · 2015/11/03 22:52 · bflorat

How to get bind variables values from Oracle

If you already used JDBC prepared statement, you know what are bind variables : the '?' in the query, like in : SELECT col1,col2 from t_table where col1 in (?,?,?) AND col2 = ? For the record, all compiled queries with the same number of '?' are cached by Oracle, hence (most of the time) faster to execute. But how to debug passed values ? This is often valuable like yesterday where one of our services tried to insert value too large for a column (a 4 digits integer into a NUMBER(5,2)).

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· 2014/12/10 23:05 · 2015/04/06 21:12 · bflorat · 6 Comments

Move to Github done smoothly

The Jajuk issue tracker and the Git repository are now moved to GitHub (see previous article for the context).

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· 2014/12/09 23:21 · 2014/12/10 14:30 · bflorat · 20 Comments

BitBucket vs Github issue tracker choice for Jajuk

We are currently moving our Jajuk Trac issue tracker to a better place, mainly for spam reasons. A developer suggested BitBucket, others (me included) GitHub which I already use. I cloned our secondary project QDWizard on a private BitBucket repository to make an opinion. I have to say BitBucker is really good too.

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· 2014/11/25 23:39 · 2015/11/03 22:50 · bflorat
start.txt · Last modified: 2018/02/19 21:52 by bflorat