Universal Knowledge. Your Life. Part 4.

sunset-yogaYou may refer to my earlier blog in this series here: Universal Knowledge. Your Life. Part 3.

So lets’ take the plunge in trying to realize P. It would be, by no means, an easy journey – or even the journey where anyone can guarantee that you would eventually realize P; nevertheless, the rest of the benefits I mentioned in my earlier blogs do apply 🙂 Further however, note that since P is all about consciousness, your thoughts, belief, zeal, discipline and strictly adhering to this text into practice would go a long way in realizing certain stages towards realization of this important knowledge itself.

Now, this P has different names in different regions of the world, so I would expand it to the name as established since ancient times in my country – India – and this name is ‘Praann‘ (this is the nearest English equivalent to the way it is pronounced). Please note here that the name itself has nothing to do with the religion Hinduism and hence it is religion-agnostic, though references of it may be found in such religious texts.
Why I revealed this name now is because the practice to realize Praann is named as ‘Pranayam‘. The root of these words lies in the ancient language of ‘Sanskrit’, which I will not cover here though. The word Pranayam is composed of two words – Praann (consciousness) and Ayaam ([to realize by] self) – and hence, the practice.
Note – Praann does not mean ‘life’ as it typically is construed certain Indian languages, but is a broader concept of consciousness itself. Further, I would mention below certain terms that come from Sanskrit, and these are not to be construed as any religion-specific totems, practices or tricks.

The practice of Pranayam
The practice has eight stages as follows, whereby the first four needs to be practiced simultaneously in a physical manner. The rest four are more of realization states or stages, achieved mentally, which the fourth one leads to. Even though it may at first seem that you can directly jump on to stage four, it will not help in reaching any of the states we aspire to.

1. Yam – the daily general practice of being good to others; helping people at times of need; giving proper time to your family, work, and yourself; and not playing bad politics. Why is this important? Because, this will help you to be more stable and emphatic mentally. From a practice standpoint, you need to simply be good as you perceive “goodness” to be.
2. Niyam – the daily general practice of having a bath, taking limited quantity of food while you eat (and not gulping or gorging), having mild exercises for general fitness and getting a sound sleep every night. Why is this important? Because, of the reason that since pranayam is all to do with your mind, your mind needs to be calm and stable. From a practice standpoint, a good time to do pranayam would be early morning (4:00am is ideal; however, even 6:00am would work if you can find a calm place without noise and distractions). For such time, a basic minimum of brushing your teeth and washing your face with water would be the prerequisite.
3. Aasan – since the practice of pranayam would at first seem to be both physically and mentally taxing, it would need you to sit in a proper posture to reduce any bodily strain while you practice it. Aasan refers to such posture. From a practice standpoint, you sit with your head and back straight – comfortable and not stretched – legs folded, hands stretched with the back side of your palms kept on your knees; palms being open. Alternatively, follow the sitting position of Lord Buddha (as you find in pictures and idols).
4. Pranayam – this name is same as the overall practice as this is the most important step through which you connect to your inner world (what this means will become apparent as you practice). I will expand on the actual practice in my next blog, as it also incorporates not only physical actions but also what you should think while practicing it.
5. Pratyahar – it is a state in which you do not feel your body’s existence, however have a feeling of ecstasy which is purely a personal experience. It is a stage you can practically achieve.
6. Dharana – it is a state achieved when you mentally pick up any object and try to give a form, shape and behavior to it. This requires a lot of concentration, and would able to visualize the object as if it is a part of you (or the other way round).
7. Dhyan – it is a state achieved when you concentrate on this object and seem to control its form and behavior mentally; this and the previous step get more refined with practice as you start realizing multiple objects and in turn, multiple spheres of knowledge.
8. Samadhi – it is a state achieved – and the last one where you achieve higher consciousness – with no bounds to the degree of knowledge that you gain through continued practice; true yogis are said to attain it. All the branches of knowledge – mathematics, pure sciences, religion, vedic, the knowledge of past and future, occult sciences – are realized and attained. Unbelievable, but as I said earlier – do not say it’s nonsense unless you yourself have practiced it.

Now, before I go on to explain the above, an acknowledgement is deserved at this point. Whatever I am writing here through these blogs form a part of the larger texts on lectures by Swami Vivekananda on the concept of Vedanta. He had been a practitioner of this, and has successfully demonstrated the knowledge not only in India, but also across the world.
However, there is a propensity for any person following the religion of Hinduism to claim this as a ‘Hindu practice’, which is gravely erroneous. Vedanta is a philosophy (leading to a set of practices, including pranayam) irrespective of any religious group, and defines the universal human/non-human identity. And to know it, you do not have to become a member of any religious cult or group. It is more science that religion as the word “religion” is construed today.

I will expand the steps in my next blog, so you may watch out for the actual practice lessons subsequently! More blogs will follow to talk about the ‘science’ behind Vedanta, and why the philosophy is important to your work and life.

 

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DevOps. On the ground.

While DevOps brings Dev, QA and Ops – both infra and service management guys – together, how do you realize it on the ground? So, here you go (however, you will still need to get experts who practice it, and related technologies, day in and day out):
1. Lets’ start with people first. The simple straight point is to have Agile scrums – with daily stand-up meetings (assuming that either the team is co-located, or can see each others’ faces over a video-con in case of remote/ virtual teams) – involving representatives, though preferably all in the one-IT team, from Dev, QA and Ops. They all need to know what others are doing, and hence are all collectively responsible for quality as well as meeting the timelines together.
2. Cross-skill Dev, QA and Ops. Why? Because, in case there is suddenly a spurt of one activity over the other, each can help out the other. For example, once infra provisioning has been done, the infra guy can join the QA guy (and same goes for Dev, as that guy has not yet started coding) to create the test scripts. This is what we call as self-organizing teams.
3. Lets’ now talk about the processes. Shift-left Ops – infra. What does that mean? This is quite obvious that unless infra (with relevant environments) are provisioned, Dev or QA cannot start their work effectively. Writing code on paper does not help much. That’s why, once the change request or requirements flow in, discuss and align during the stand-up the exact requirements of infra and environments that need to be provisioned. Once the infra guy goes back to the desk, he/she immediately gets on to the job.
4. Shift-left QA. The test scripts should all be ready before Dev takes over writing any code, so that the code can burn through the test scripts once ready. It may fail for a few times before it starts passing all the test cases. The question is, how do you write the test scripts for a new application that needs to be built (given that we typically talk of automating regression tests with respect to some baseline code which can be assumed to have some state of perfection)? Such test scripts actually may be derived from the first-hand requirements that are written, either in form of BRS or SRS, and should contain both functional and non-functional test scenarios. Then the question is, how would it be foolproof? Note that we are not yet talking of foolproof applications here (it practically does not happen except for real-time life-saving applications that may launch a rocket or operate a surgical robot in a hospital); however, we are talking of continuous releases so that once you feel your current code (satisfying the current requirements) needs to improve, another scrum team would have already, and in parallel, started working on the next release! So, don’t worry.
5. Enable continuous release-readiness. Be prepared to churn out new scrum teams – a part of the current team can start working on the ever-evolving backlog using separate sprints – to work on next releases (see point 4 above).
6. Now comes technology & tools !

Automate infra and environment provisioning – use tools. What kind of code is ‘Infra as code’? Imagine something like –
initiate cloud1 {
RAM 4GB;
HDD 200GB;
create environment1 {
install Windows10 ( );
install Compiler-C++ ( );
install MS-Office10 ( );
}
}
……………. and your developers (or QA) immediately gets the relevant environment they wished for!

Automate tests – use tools. What kind of code is ‘Test as code’? Imagine something like –
test App1 {
/* Comment – each of the functions or methods denoted by XXX ( ) returns a pass or fail */
boolean success[1] = module1.test-login ( );
boolean success[2] = module1.test-billpayment ( );
boolean success[3] = module2.test-printbill ( );
if (any success[] value = fail) { return ‘build has failed’; }
}

Automate develop and build – use tools. What kind of code is ‘Function as code’? Imagine something like –
generate code1 {
if (usecase = login) { generate code-block-login ( ); }
if (usecase = billpay) { generate code-block-billpayment ( ); }
createInterfaces (usecase login, usecase billpay);
}
…………. and also use tools to automatically compile and package the code with other dependent application packs

Automate deployment – use tools. This goes hand in hand with automating infra and environment, given that deployments typically get stuck at infra or environment levels, assuming the build is successful. However, there may be cases where the build is successful (code has worked in developer’s machine), but it fails in target deployment environment (say, for some environment specific variable settings). In such cases, there are alternatives such as putting the code along with its development/test environment directly into the target, as a single container; though we would not discuss it here.

Now your code is in production. However, DevOps is all about getting all of the IT life cycle onto a single seamless chain. So what’s next? Hence, we automate applications and infra getting monitored in production in terms of say, performance and security. If a suspicious event takes place – say, application may show signs of getting into a hanging or breaking state, infra may point to a possible crash due to overload – it immediately and automatically triggers an incident for the service personnel.
Now say, it is Sunday and the personnel is off duty. So the next logical step is to have a self healing system that can, once the event is detected, provision relevant fail-safe mechanisms and enable the system to normally operate. Far-fetched? Nope. This is happening ………….. and I won’t cover here given that it warrants a separate blog 🙂

The Fear of DevOps. For Dev, QA and Ops.

fear-shadowsDevOps suddenly seems to be a great buzzword that is gradually taking over organizational mindsets thinking of achieving agility in how IT gets delivered, consumed and again delivered based on consumption-based behavioral feedback. But then, there are consumers of DevOps who have different ideas of what means DevOps; to what extent people, process and technology needs to be re-organized to achieve a state of DevOps – and this is good enough to not only confuse themselves, but also keep the IT organization (or vendor) who talks to that consumer’s business organization (or in-house IT) enough confused on the expectations. Again, coming down to the people who comprise the IT team – typically, the developer [Dev], quality assurance [QA] and Operations [Ops] – they have enough evidence of being confused and afraid, even more; more so, as their traditional roles and responsibilities start getting broken up. So let us see what this fear is all about, and how such fear can be broken in this new scheme of things. And then enters the enterprise architects of either organization, who either tries to drive the show or try his/her best to implement DevOps into how IT is to be done. This causes more confusion when the architect tries to get these seemingly heterogeneous roles work as one-IT team.

I am a developer. I am so afraid of moving away from deep coding (thereby, forgetting my language), and scripts are now perceived as code! Moreover, why should I participate in testing after all?
Till now, what meant development was all about functional coding – so knowledge in typical languages such as java, VB.NET, C++, C#, Scala, etc. were of essence. Enter DevOps. While the depth of your functional coding knowledge still has room to grow deep, you start getting (and hence, appreciating) the spread of IT when you indulge in coding for the entire IT space – more specifically, test coding and infrastructure coding in addition. Hence, the expectation is to move up the value chain where you see entire IT as code. Two things – (a) While scripts may also be perceived as code, it is a path towards higher complexities where the barrier between scripts and code become blurred, (b) While functional code development is already getting automated, though this is in nascent stage as of industry adoption today, a state of NoDev is poised to be realized in future whereby, the typical developer will have either of two options – cease to be a developer and lose the job, or grow up in the value chain with respect to realizing IT as code.

I am a tester. I am so afraid that DevOps in automating everything and I don’t have my cubicle to peacefully sit and test! My nice excel sheets with repeatable test frameworks are now taken over by the machine.
That is the very nature of DevOps – to break the walls between Dev and Ops. And what happens when this comes in? Traditional QA becomes redundant and gets embedded as part of the entire automation. So, manual testing goes away (at least partially to start with) and testing becomes the job of the machine; whenever code gets pushed on to the test environment, it gets automatically tested for quick and real-time feedback to Dev team on what didn’t work. So what does a tester do now? The tester again has two options – cease to be a typical tester and lose the job, or grow up in the value chain whereby the QA guy (that’s you!) is perceived as someone who creates the overarching automation test framework (read, test code) that will drive functional and non-functional development. For functional, collaboration with developers would definitely be needed; and for non-functional, collaboration needs to be done with the operations guys.

I am the Ops – infrastructure guy. Till now I was having so much knowledge on how to configure servers, workstations and environments. And suddenly there are new tools I have to learn which will eventually eat up my job!
The most important essence of DevOps is to bring in Ops automation; and more so, starting with infrastructure automation. Hence, what does the infrastructure guy do? Surprise, surprise – It is indeed creating the code that automates infrastructure and environment provisioning! And yes, this is niche when it comes down to actual DevOps implementation today given that while everyone seems to be doing Agile based Dev (and functional QA), Agile based Ops [Infra] is something that customers look forward to from a capability perspective. So tools such as Puppet, Vagrant, etc. suddenly become so important. And that makes you to move up the value chain whereby you sit on a single machine, either in office or at a beach in Florida, and keep provisioning any piece of IT infrastructure across the world on-demand – options include virtual machines, cloud, or even bare metal ! Also note that the world is going towards a NoOps state whereby you create this automation, sit back and enjoy monitoring whatever you have created – being the God of infra things!
Further, for the infrastructure guy, two greater things spin off – (a) release & deployment automation, and (b) continuous monitoring. So what are these? (Oops, you have to again learn something new; hope you are not afraid?)
(a) Release & deployment automation is whatever it takes to eliminate the Ops nightmare whenever a developer pushes code for release to any environment, and even to production (which is then called deployment or deployment-ready). And this is basically done again through … yes, you guessed it right – automation!
(b) Continuous monitoring – Given that DevOps is all about making entire IT seamless and agile, both in pre-production and in production, it entails monitoring of applications, data and infrastructure (including networks) on a continuous basis to detect any disaster, provide real-time feedback for action to the Ops team at large (including yourself) and provision feedback-based automated self healing mechanisms. Ooooh, too much to digest!

I am the Ops – Service Management guy. What will I do if tickets get resolved automatically?
Again, given that DevOps spans across the entire IT cycle, it would definitely mean that the world is slowly moving towards self healing systems. So a move higher up in this value chain would be to know how to create the service management automation framework where a ticket from tools such as ServiceNow or BMC Remedy may get auto approved based on a rule engine, resolved subject to a certain level of maturity with little or no manual intervention, and scripts automatically run to get everything up to the desired state in production that neutralizes the time taken to handle the disaster.

And a few more fears, rather myths, that needs to be demystified

1. DevOps will not work or is so irrelevant with our scheme of things – we do not need agility in driving our IT
Then think – what is the harm of being ready for the future, just in case business starts demanding agility in delivering IT; in case there is a end customer behavior suddenly getting too dynamic? Or, the country undergoing an economic turmoil and regulatory changes suddenly pace up? Or say, a new business model gets spun off to create new business opportunities needing agility for the very systems which woke up once in year? Or better still, the business undergoes a hostile takeover or a merger, and thus two large disparate IT landscapes found a need to talk to each other?

2. There is no point in doing DevOps because the customer’s non-IT business supply chain is too slow
Firstly, DevOps in not a concept purely for IT to adopt. It is more of a philosophy, and then a practice, that can be easily adopted across industries. Read the book ‘The Phoenix Project’ by Gene Kim, available on Books 24×7, to appreciate how manufacturing has parallels in DevOps – and also note that companies such as GE have increasingly adopted it across their non-IT processes. Also, just think of the agile readiness again – what happens when suddenly one day you have a non-IT vendor pushing changes to their supply chain systems every other day, having adopted DevOps?

3. I am quite comfortable in pursuing work with (and keep learning) the rich proven technology which is also niche in the market. So no need to get myself fitted on to this new world of DevOps.
Note that DevOps is not new, and is gradually becoming mainstream (Gartner says this, not me … just in case). And also, DevOps is evolving; some already say that DevOps is dead, giving way to stuff like NoDev and NoOps, and adopting AI to do IT. So if you still garner the fear in you, better think of (a) getting voluntary retirement after a few years, (b) open a grocery store, or (c) get into academics to teach ‘how to: belly dance in 3 days’.

….. Oh yes; in case you are still right, expect me knocking on your doors after a few years for a job back to good ol’ IT 🙂

Universal Knowledge. Your Life. Part 3.

sunset-yogaYou may refer to my earlier blog in this series here: Universal Knowledge. Your Life. Part 2.

By the way, did you practice the the exercise I talked about in the above blog? (Assuming you have gone through it before you read on)
Note that only reading theory does not help anyone. It is important to practice and apply the theory to fully appreciate what it is being having the experience, and is the essence of any field we work on; it may be applied science, applied mathematics, et al. Else, it is akin to reading a book on how to ride a bicycle without even trying to ride one!

Let us go back to P, and how it applies to us. This P, that manifests the entire consciousness with floating energy centers (read the very first blog of the series to understand). Now where are these energy centers manifested? In absence of any creation, they can be visualized to float in empty dark space. However, once bodies get created by them, they manifest in those bodies. Now, different bodies have different capacities to hold these energy waves (they exist as waves of an yet-immeasurable magnitude). Living organisms are simply bodies that can hold these wave forms to a greater degree; and these are called ‘souls’. But anything material has a finite existence, hence what we term as ‘death’ is actually of such material body, with the energy wave being released to the field of P.

Now in a human body, where does this soul reside? It resides somewhere along the spinal cord up to the brain. So, how do we say this? If I talk about empirical experiments, it can be quite clearly understood; mentioning this here (though it exhibits brutality), as a pure theoretical or logical reasoning may not be very convincing for us to appreciate given that we understand things better when we can visualize them:

Empirical proof of soul’s existence. If you cut off an arm or a leg of an organism, the organism still ‘lives’ on (not considering an infection to develop which we will cover separately below). But, if you cut off anywhere on the spinal cord, or any damage by say an accident happens over it, the organism will ‘die’. This happens as the spinal cord (or may be, brain) becomes incapable of holding the energy waves (similar to how atoms hold, and based on an external force emits, an electron).

So, what is an infection? Infection has to do with an external agent acting on the specific part of a body. When an infection spreads in a way that the nervous system anyhow gets impacted (thereby affecting the spinal cord or brain), the body again will die. Even in case of heart attack, where the root cause may be apparently stoppage of blood circulation, it is really about stopping the blood flow – hence resulting in lack of enough oxygen – to the brain that damages the system. Note that we can still talk about the electrical system of the brain, however in that case any of the energy fields – electrical, magnetic, etc. – has originated from P.

Now, why I am talking about this impact and influence of P on the human body?
Because, given that the humans are the highest forms of organisms that has the capability to ‘think’ without being solely or primarily instinctive (as animals) – given that for lower animals there’s an inability to ‘think’ at such varying degrees of complexity as us – realizing P and being able to control it at any degree results in an ability to control your health and overall well being, your enduring happiness and lastly realizing the purpose of being a human itself; which ultimately leads to the release of bondage into the salvation state of P. This is the last benefit that I hinted at in my earlier blog.
(I am not going to cover the reason why we humans only have the ability of ‘higher thinking’ unlike lower animals)

So, is realization of P the ultimate objective of being a human? Is it not (owning) a BMW, or (going to Paris to see) the Eiffel Tower, or a Macbook, or a great marriage, or a nice holiday, or even a great sex life, or a global recognition in your work? Answer – No; it’s only salvation. This is covered in the earlier blog mentioned above; but then, if the question is, why should you try to achieve something which does not lead to any ‘result’? Because, human (or any living organism’s) intellect, being bound to this consciousness (P), is bound to ultimately realize this in one of the ‘births’ or forms the soul will take (I am talking a little about rebirth here, whether you believe it or not, which can easily be inferred if you have read through this blog series till now).

Then, how do we realize, or at least start realizing, P? Through a form of meditation that connects you to the larger P using the part that is inside you – the soul. That form of meditation will take you through the path of the aforesaid benefits anyway, which though are not the ultimate aims except for the salvation itself. Yes, you do not need any further exercise or weight training or brainstorming to keep fit, if your thoughts is controlled through this form of meditation towards realizing P. Keeping fit simply becomes a milestone or by-product on the path towards salvation.

If you have still kept the faith this far, read on the next blog which explains this technique.
Note that this is not specific to any geography, religious practice (we tend to think in those terms when we talk about meditation), rituals, class, creed or sex.

PRACTICE SESSION – for 15 minutes; 1 week or more
Continuing with the earlier practice (as per my last blog in this series) – hoping that you are able to concentrate enough for 10 min now – we will change it a little as follows:
1. Breath slowly; and while you do it, inhale and exhale deeply with your stomach expanding and contracting respectively
2. Instead of thinking of four things (as earlier covered) and imagining throwing them on to the dark infinity, think of any one static and easily perceived object of your choice (it can be a burning candle, a lotus or any other flower, or even say a pot) – and concentrate on it for sometime so that no other thought comes to your mind
3. As your thought is fixed on that object for a while, imagine throwing it into the dark infinity and only think of this darkness till you open back your eyes

Note – it may not be so easy at first, given that there would be other distracting thoughts coming up in your mind while you practice initially.

Universal Knowledge. Your Life. Part 2.

sunset-yogaYou may read the first part of this blog here (in case you have not covered it yet): Universal Knowledge. Your Life. Part 1.

Further, starting with this blog I would provide you a small exercise or practice (note that unless there’s a practice, realizing a theory generally does not hold good), which of course is up to you to work through.
By the way, at this point you may think that what’s the point in getting into such serious discussions, where there are more fruitful, or rather fun-filled surprises in pursuing other things in life. But believe me, there’s a fat chance that this notion may change as you read through this series.

So we start the next discussion with the basic premise of the existence of the entity ‘P’ or the energy field of consciousness.
Now, before we go back to how this P has anything to do with the larger questions I had put up in my last blog, let us see why we do a given action at all (I am underlining the actions in the following examples). For example, why would you feel that doing something else is more fun that reading this blog? Or, why would a thief love to steal? Or, why would you buy a macbook while you still have a good old laptop? Or, why do people aspire to get a BMW? Or, why would you suddenly want to run away to a green meadow in the event of huge work pressure, or a quarrel with your better half?
Some say it’s for a higher value. Some say, it is more about getting a better bang for the buck. Or, it gives either more fun or more comfort.

Now if you really think on the above reasons, it all leads to a feeling of ‘freedom’ or ‘salvation’. Else, there is no other definition of value, fun, comfort, or bang for buck. Taking the above examples; doing other things rather than reading this blog, or getting a mac or a BMW, or stealing, or running away to that far-fetched meadow, brings in such a feeling. But then, is that feeling temporary or an enduring one? You will find that it is temporary; stealing feeds the thief but puts him into a bondage of fear. Running away to a meadow leads to another bondage of the worry of being lost, or being hidden. Obtaining anything material such as a macbook or a BMW again leads to a bondage in taking responsibility of such possession.

In fact, anything we do actually is to find freedom, find salvation – may be from a living being, a non-living entity, a state of mind, or simply a feeling or experience. Whereas the first two are quite visible, the latter are subtle and do not have a visible existence. But still all these four factors make up the world we experience everyday. (By the way, did you watch the animated movie, “Inside Out”?)

So what is that enduring salvation?
The answer lies in realizing the very entity from which all these feelings, material possessions and everything that you see, hear, smell, touch or taste sprang up. And yes, you possibly guessed it right – the entity P; collective consciousness of this entire universe – omnipresent and inside you.

But why try realizing P? Are you not already conscious or ‘in control’ anyway?
Two reasons – (a) firstly, you are not that conscious that you feel you are; if that was the case, why are you not feeling the flow of blood, let alone control it, that incessantly circulates in your body? Or, why does your ear not catch the loud music outside while you are deeply engrossed in reading a nice article (not this, of course!), (b) Every action that you do leads to an experience; this experience is a result, either good or bad, that acts as a bondage to which you again respond with another action, and so on; so your behavior is already set in a pattern. Therefore, the only action that is left to be done which can free you from any bondage is something that does not lead to any result; and that is the realization of P, given that P does not lead you to anywhere further, there is nothing more to achieve beyond it, and there is no answer to ‘why P exists’ because P exists and does not exist at the same time (remember Schrodinger’s theory in high school physics?)

The doubt in your mind. Till now, it was nice reading, but then here is the point where you will either believe or not believe whatever I have told you. But then, it was you who wanted to find the answers. And that made you read this far, isn’t it? If still interested, read on … (or come back from a coffee break)

There are three more benefits in trying to realize P (note that I am not saying that you will be yet successful though, but it’s worth the try) – (a) there is no harm in trying; unless you have tried, there’s no point in saying that you believe or you don’t believe something, (b) it helps you realize that you are not a lone isolated entity but a part of this entire collective consciousness that does not die [so in principle, you conquer, rather ‘stop worrying about’, death], (c) <I won’t talk about this last benefit yet>

NOTE – Whatever be your experiences in trying to do this, it would be your own personal experience. Hence, share only with someone who practices the same. The realization of P is very personal, and takes time, but it does happen (let us start with this basic belief, right? As I said, do not discard this as weird before you have tried doing it)

PRACTICE SESSION – say, 10 minutes; for 1 week or more
You can practice this either at the start of your day (that is what I do) or before you go to sleep. Whenever it is, it will be good if you eat light and try to do this regularly.
1. Sit straight on a flat surface, breathe normally and close your eyes.
2. Think of four things that you have recently encountered – an action-based feeling that you strongly felt (may be hitting your boss hard on his nose, or a strong desire to flirt with someone), a certain state of mind (sadness, happiness, anger, or whatever), an action, good or bad, you actually did to someone or something (say, scoring a goal on the soccer field by kicking the ball hard, or giving a penny to a beggar). Try for a few seconds to concentrate on each of these.
3. Next, pick up each one of them in your mind and imagine throwing it into an infinite darkness, supposedly that P. Imagine it to be vanishing off in entirety, and try hard not to kind of remember it. Go to the next one and repeat.
4. Once done for all four, think only of the infinite darkness that ate up all you thoughts a few minutes back. Then slowly come out of this thought itself and open your eyes. What or how did you feel?
(Note that at first, it can be very hard to even sit straight and concentrate … and slowly it improves with practice)

That’s not the end … if still interested, my next blog on this series will be coming up soon.

A Manager’s challenges in working with a DevOps Architect

I am a quintessential ‘Manager’ who has an experience of working with an ‘Architect’. Both of us are having about the same years of experience in IT (more or less), but have been through different curves in the industry in a way that our paths went through different lines until we came together to form the DevOps CoE.

(For the sake of simplicity, let us not yet argue about the obsolescence of having a manager in the first place, in the DevOps world)
Rugby_socks.jpg

So what is it that makes working with an architect, and in this case specifically, a DevOps architect, so different for a manager? To understand that, lets’ briefly talk about what the manager essentially has to do. However, note that on top of being a manager, I have to handle sales and resources to an extent as well, as we just started a few months back and have the usual budget crunch. In that perspective, I have to (a) proactively search through, connect and reach out to people trying to gauge and talk about something called the ‘DevOps value proposition’ and make a sale, (b) once I get the work, trying to get profiles that fit on to the engagement, and possibly buy time talking about getting a value workshop done by an architect or a consultant to get a better view of the engagement and understand customer’s vision, (c) most importantly, scope out the work so that I have more or less some control on what these guys will do and possibly minimize the unexpected, and (d) market research and blogging at my own sweet will. (For convenience’ sake, I am not talking here about the mundane operational tasks that I still have on my plate).

And now enters the DevOps Architect !

What does this guy expect? Ok, here’s the list (+++ means positive impact for me, — means negative):

— (a) proactively search, connect and reach out to architects across the world and talk about, rather write on the web on, DevOps and agility and architectures; now that makes my job difficult given that guys already get to know all that stuff in the market from him, even possibly before I get the project; the risk is high – (i) customers gets to know how a solution to their problems can be achieved, thereby probably bypassing me – so no sales! (ii) information wide open for the competition to pitch in

+++ (b) getting profiles – the architect helps me big time here, given the right connects across to associates and industry experts who know at least 10% DevOps; further this is the guy I look forward to when it comes to buying time by conducting a customer workshop while I search for people who will comprise the ‘project team’

— (c) BIG, BIG PROBLEM ! The DevOps architect talks about Agile, and works with chief architects (these are powerful people) of the customers’ world – that essentially means, he wants to incessantly keep on increasing the scope without any bounds or containment, drawing architectures on the board (on the cloud as if that was possible) – and it takes very less time to actually have things getting out of control. I am suddenly lost on estimations, how many people you will take for the project, whether that has to be done in phases or as a Big Bang, and how much will I actually charge the customer for. On top of that, two more things happen – (i) even the customer managers get jittery (thinking, what will be the invoice coming to at the end of the month), and (ii) the architect convinces everyone around, quite powerfully, that estimates need to be on-the-go (read, Agile!) given that everything is ‘automation’ and hence, can be done in a jiffy! (he becomes the Dev and all around him become Ops)

— (d) There is an indirect impact here. While I may want to concentrate on market research, blogging and conference activities as a marketing guy, the architect pursues his own interests in getting new ideas, building technology solutions and DevOps blueprints, and writing white papers and blogs. The problem is, all these activities, though started with a great zeal, tend to get on to a pending queue with no idea when they will complete. And while I wear the ‘marketing manager’ hat, my attention suddenly gets diverted to emails on awaited expectations on these activities, left incomplete by the architect; as I suddenly start becoming accountable of such activities from marketing perspective.

But then at the end of the day, I am not at all ready to lose my architect as he anyhow saves the day (and helps me make the sale) with his geek talk!

Baby Steps to DevOps (rather,Continuous Integration for the uninitiated)

pcb1DevOps is a philosophy, and any attempt to burn your hands in implementing DevOps (it may be IT or any other industry – though here we are concerned on the former) is a long stretched set of activities based on organization appetite to achieve IT agility. Now, this blog is to give you, as an individual, a very very basic guidance on how you can try it out in a small team (or at home using your personal laptop), more from an experimental standpoint.

While for an actual DevOps implementation, the three dimensions – people (read, culture), process and technology (read, tool-based automation) – are equally important; we would concern ourselves with the last factor for this small experiment. Further, we would constrain ourselves to the following scenario in a pre-prod IT environment:

a. Provision a virtual machine (VM) to set up an environment on-the-go
b. Install specific tools to write a small program (java in this case, given that the associated tools are available free over the web) and move it to a source code repository
c. Build the program (this is one-time before we automate in next step)
d. Establish an automated workflow such that whenever a change is made to the program, the code would be picked up and built – this is a very basic form of what is called ‘Continuous Integration’

Note – You can perform the given set of activities either on a Windows PC, or a Mac, or a LINUX PC; we would do the rest of the activities on Ubuntu LINUX that we will install in the VM. Further, you may refer to unlimited content available on the web for specific implementation level instructions based on your host O/S. Note that this is a basic guidance that will give you a basic understanding of where typically DevOps may start, and is in no means a tutorial on DevOps or associated software, tools or processes.

The steps are as follows [WARNING: Details are quite a bit technical]

1. Provision the VM – Install Oracle VirtualBox from the web; it is available for free. Go to the UI and create a new VM; you may either go with the default parameters, or choose your own while it asks for the options (say, 1GB RAM, 80GB hard drive space, etc.). Note that you can create as many VMs as you wish, use them or remove them at will.

2. Download Ubuntu 32-bit (or 64-bit if your host O/S is 64-bit) which is available as an image (typically, .iso format for a Window machine).

3. Start the VM. It will ask for the O/S image you want to install. Browse to your local copy of the .iso file that you have saved in your machine, select and install it.

4. Once Ubuntu starts, go to the command line interface [CLI] by selecting ‘X-Terminal’ from the start menu in Ubuntu GUI.
5. Install the following tools – Git, Maven, Jenkins. In Ubuntu, following may be the commands (may vary slightly based on conditions or parameters of the specific installation):

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install git
$ sudo apt-get install maven
$ sudo apt-get install jenkins

(Note – Git is a source code repository, Maven is a java build tool, Jenkins is a CI tool that will integrate Git and Maven to achieve the automation objective stated in point (d) above. Further, there are specific Linux commands that you can use to check the versions, adjust parameters in configuration files in Linux, etc., that are quite well covered in various internet sources)

6. Write a java program using any CLI editor such as nano (you can also use VI editor if you are a seasoned Linux user) and save it in a folder

7. Generate the Maven folder structure and project object model (pom) file using ‘mvn archetype:generate …..’ command; accordingly, Maven downloads several pieces of .jar files from the web, creates a default folder structure using one of it’s available templates and creates a pom.xml file.
Default folder structure is typically of this form:
/<yourname>/src/main/java/<yourstructure>/java (a default program ‘App.java’ is also placed at the bottom of this structure)
Note: <yourname> and <yourstructure> are names you specify as parameters to archetype:generate command
Also, Maven creates a separate similar looking structure for tests under /src and places a file ‘AppTest.java’
– Actually, Maven also installs JUnit for unit tests, and this file is a unit test script file
The pom.xml file is created under /<yourname> folder itself

8. Copy your java source code in the folder structure (note that a default program called ‘App.java’ has been already created at the very bottom of the structure, which you can replace with your source code)

9. In the folder where you have App.java, initialize Git and check in your source code to it; typical commands are:

$ git init
$ git add App.java
$ git commit -m ‘my first version’

10. You can use maven to test, compile and package [commonly known as ‘build’] the source code using only one command, ‘mvn package’ (this will create a .jar file which can also be run using maven; there are numerous internet sources where you can find further details; this step is optional as the next steps would achieve this using Jenkins

Note – Next few steps are the most important that will give you the very basic essence of automation using CI

11. Start jenkins (if not already started); check by going back to the Ubuntu GUI, opening the browser – typically, Mozilla Firefox – and enter ‘http://localhost:8080&#8217; (note that Jenkins uses port 8080)

12. Login to jenkins using your Ubuntu userid and password (if asked for)

13. In the jenkins dashboard screen, go to ‘Manage Jenkins’ at the left

14. Configure your Git (specifying location, etc.) and Maven installations in appropriate panels (there are thousands of internet sources to talk about it). Coming back to the dashboard, you have to create a ‘New Item’ (button at top left) and create a Maven project. For this project, you will get a form where you need to specify (among other things) the Git location, and the Maven command that needs to be run whenever code is changed and committed to Git; in this case, it would be ‘mvn package’. Further, a schedule needs to be specified to tell Jenkins at what frequency the code would be checked for changes; for checking every 10 minutes, the schedule is specified as ‘* * * * H/5’ – appropriate help is available in Jenkins describing what it means.

15. Once you make any change to the code (or even if you do not), you can always run ‘Build Now’ from the specific project’s dashboard to build your code anytime.

16. Alternatively, Jenkins will check for every 10 min. if your code in Git has changed, and accordingly will pick it up and build it (a successful build is shown as a solid blue circle, and unsuccessful one in red; at bottom left of the project dashboard).

Voila! You have achieved a very basic CI on java.

Universal Knowledge. Your Life. Part 1.

sunset-yoga“Get up!” and that’s how one fine day your mom woke you up from the bed. Just a fraction of a second back, you were having such a nice dream! … and you woke up startled.
Now think of this; you were (or you may say that your mind was) in a different world – a world you created in your dream – and suddenly there was a ‘request’ from your mom that made you destroy that world, you came out of it, and then your waking up was the ‘response’ to the request. So you see, the human mind is capable of creating worlds and destroying them. So have you ever thought consciously of this incredible power within you? You have the capacity to control your senses so that you can activate and shut them off at your will, and yes – it this phenomenon can be extended to starting and stopping any of your body processes. (Can be proved theoretically through mathematical induction which I won’t cover here). So why such unprecedented powers came to us from the day we were born?

But the larger question is – what is it that we humans are supposed to be destined for? Why we are what we are? Is there a reason why all these capabilities (and intelligence) are with us, and if we can practice using all that at our own sweet will? In that case, can we control death?

Still interested? Read on to discover. However, I won’t tell you where this blog, and the next few in this series will lead to.

Let us see where it all started. How do you think the universe got created? Big Bang?
Whenever we read about such theories on the creation of the universe, we confine ourselves to thinking that the term ‘universe’ in this context is constituted of the bodies such as stars, planets and black holes. However, the infinite dark space that eternally can be thought of to exist, within which this narrow notion of the ‘universe’ got created, is the actual constant universe. Hence, this definition renders universe to be a constant eternal infinity. So now the question is, how did these material things – stars, planets, et al – came from? (And then, how we came into existence?)
Given that ‘something’ had to be created from this ‘nothing’, let us hypothetically presume that there still existed ‘something’ that has been quite inconceivable, at least to the human mind; something we cannot visualize. Let us call this ‘P’. And if I go by the principles of classical physics, P has the property of infinity, extends in all directions, and exists for eternity in time without a start and an end; its behavior should consist of the ability to initiate tiny vibrations, at least inconceivable to any human-made instruments, that leads on to creation of a primeval energy field. This field somehow (and this transformation is interesting) takes shape into larger vibrations and use the dark ‘non-matter’ to start creating matter … and the first quarks (some weird minute particles, in case you are not  conversant with this term in physics) are born leading to the first electrons, protons and neutrons, and subsequently to atoms and molecules, and so on.
Now, the matter gets complex shapes, such shapes exhibit complex behavioral patterns, and leads on to life forms exhibiting such patterns in terms of self-actuating intelligence. And then, we are born.
Considering our original confined thought about the term ‘universe’, this expands – meaning, it forms several complex forms and bodies – reaches a peak complexity, and eventually contracts and every matter ‘dies’ leading back to the state of P. There is a waiting period, and then the process starts again. (This is quite well corroborated by today’s understanding of science)

Now what this all has to do with us?
Given the above properties and behavior of P and given that P follows certain patterns of behavior , which can be corroborated by any chain of scientific explanations to hold true, it leads to the fact that P in fact represents some kind of ‘consciousness’ or ‘thought pattern’. And hence, any matter created as explained above, manifests some degree of this consciousness (may be quite less or possibly none for a planet or star, somewhat less for a dog or horse, quite high for you, me or Einstein). Humans – as we are – can be thought of as at a higher level of such consciousness which we can term as ‘intelligence’ or ‘ability to think in orders of relatively higher complexity’.
Hence, we as humans have the ability to find out the answers to the larger questions I asked above. And that is what we will try finding out, which would be the all-encompassing knowledge we strive for throughout our lives, given the possibility that it would open up different other threads of knowledge that we seek; not to mention, answering why I am having a bad time the last few months? why am I working in this profession (or why not in something else)? why I am getting (or not getting) married? what to do next? ….. and the list goes on and on.

A further note on P.
Consider P to be a energy field, spread across infinitely. Visualize this field as a collection of innumerable points in a three dimensional matrix fashion (similar to a lattice structure that we learnt about in high school physics class). These points may be thought of as energy centers – where this energy, called ‘consciousness’, is likely to be of higher intensity than the rest of the embedded space (though it is a kind of continuum; similar to the concept of an electron cloud; in case you are again a student of physics) – which are kind-of floating in space, hence flexible; hence it is somewhat like free flowing water in that respect. Different bodies in the universe are built in different patterns such that each has a varying capacity to ‘hold’ a given energy center with a given intensity. This explains why say, a stone is not that capable of holding consciousness whereas a ‘living being’ can hold it to an appreciable degree. However, the ‘death’ of a body (say, when a dog dies) leads to release of the point of consciousness that it was holding, and is then available for another body that is born to hold it. That means, P (i.e., its constituent energy centers) never dies!

Wait for my next blog on this topic. In the meantime, do leave a comment and yes, ask me questions.

What ails Bengal today?

It is at this corner of the world – the eastern part of India – where people have been shaped for ages to deal with a highly humid tropical climate, that has produced quite a set of notable personalities in the fields of arts, science and philosophy. The likes of Rabindranath Tagore, Jamini Ray, Satyajit Ray, Satyendranath Bose, Meghnad Saha, Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo illustrate the point.

However, it has also led to an observation on how producing such a set of intellectuals have resulted in a social evolution whereby this very social class – the Bengalis – coupled with the evolution of political systems in this region, have come to believe with time that individualism works better that collectivism; success is more pronounced at the individual intellectual level than a group of people engaged in a team activity and associated achievement. The political systems have resonated that and has given more than enough wood to this fire of thought.

Whereas we can see similar phenomena in many individualistic societies across the world, particularly in western countries who have inculcated this philosophy under the ‘freedom of though and expression’ banner; in Bengal, the disparity of the common, mostly uneducated masses of Bengal and this very intelligentsia has created this problem of haves and have-nots at a very individual level. On this line of thought, the political system on one hand has encouraged this disparity through blatant propaganda of this intelligentsia, and on the other hand has encouraged formation of quasi-groups (note that individuals in these groups have still not adapted working in a collective teamwork based approach, unlike in many other parts of India) to counter this very intelligentsia. This has led to problems of labor unrest, low productivity and local illegal syndicates in Bengal, whereas today the real intelligentsia have slowly moved out to greener pastures.

As an example, in one specific instance, in a particular university a professor emeritus associated with it gave his whole life’s earnings to build a laboratory for the university to both further his research and encourage students to leverage it. When he retired, the local syndicate (in Bengal, politics still hold a sway over educational institutions) barred him from even entering the university premises, let alone the lab. The result over time was that, the expensive equipments were taken away and possibly sold off for the “betterment of local infrastructure” which essentially meant feeding the goons that represented the syndicate. You can easily guess what the professor would have naturally done.

Today, with the high political polarity that Bengal experiences day in and day out, the common Bengali fails to realise that irrespective of the party he or she supports so passionately, it is the Bengali as the people or race who has dug its own grave. I, being a common Bengali, was failing to realise this when I was in school years back; even I, at that point of time, joined other Bengalis in criticising such views that came from the likes of Nirad C. Chowdhury, an erstwhile well known writer then settled abroad (possibly in the UK). The realisation came when I moved out of this part of the country in search of a job; it was a bird’s eye view which showed, whatever political faction each of this class of people fought for – all individual wars as any essence of teamwork has been still missing – each of them looked the same; a quintessential Bengali.

Can this be changed?

Courage, a Divorce and a Kid

Mou is a simple lady from a quintessential conservative Bengali [Indian] family, with a lovely daughter named Sharmi. Long years of marriage coupled with the lure of a different enchanting woman were enough reasons for her husband, Deban, to forsake her; a lure so strong and a drudgery so dreadful that Deban did not even have time to think for a moment that along with her good wife goes away her lovely daughter. And what happens to the tears that incessantly flows down through Mou’s eyes? What happens to Mou when every time her daughter asks why her dad left them?

It is a story of sheer determination and courage that Mou, together with her little daughter, show – facing all the odds and aftermath of the divorce, and finding solace in the company of a few old people they called their family. But then, doesn’t life take a U-turn?

Sharmi grows up to be an independent and determined woman, with courage equal to that of her mother if not more. But does she think of any retribution towards her father for the pain she and her mother had suffered for so long?

Read on to find out more in the “Life Takes A You-Turn”, a novel that is about two women, and their mothers from whom they inherited their characters, brought together by their fate.

Get it at amazon sites worldwide, either in kindle reader, or as a paperback [availability varies with respect to the specific country’s site].