NetKernel News Volume 2 Issue 38

July 22nd 2011

What's new this week?

Catch up on last week's news here

Repository Updates

Steady as you are - no updates this week.

Service Announcement

Earlier in the week we got around to adding some additional features to the NetKernel services portal. The obvious public facing ones are...

  • Users with Gold support plans now have a Bat Signal option when raising a support ticket - this will trigger a 24x7 all hands to battle stations response. It integrates several means of communication to alert the support team about the critical incident and it continues to send alerts to the team with increasing frequency until the ticket is triaged and responded to.
  • One thing to bare in mind - support plans are associated with a "project". We now have several corporate accounts where people are members of more than one project (more of which below). You must ensure that when you are logged into the portal you have switched to the appropriate "gold support level" project to use this feature.
  • Users can now provide a URL for an avatar image. It will personalize your support tickets but probably more usefully it also helps colleagues recognize you in other parts of your organization (more below). You can set this in the settings panel using the slider arrow at the top-left beneath the default icon.

The bulk of the updates were actually below the public tip of the iceberg and were in our administration tools. We added several tools that allow us to manage users, projects and affiliations.

The net result of this is that we've been through existing accounts and have been able to normalize a lot of data. So, for example, many people have in the past registered from the same company and even the same project - we've normalized these company, project affiliations in the data model.

The net effect is that you will now be able to see your colleagues in the ProBook corporate networking tool. You will also, where appropriate, be a member of a common project and so be able to view and contribute to ongoing support tickets. You'll also be able to share and add notes to a common project wiki.

We hope these updates are useful. Please let us know how you get on, if there's a project affiliation that we've missed, or if there are other features you'd like to see.

I know I'll be accused of banging the same old drum. But, just as I mentioned last week, the cost of these sorts of application evolutions are very small. For example, I wrote the entire portal in one month in January 2010. It has been in production with no bugs or fixes for 18-months. The last time I looked at "the code" was over a year ago.

To add the "Bat Signal" service it took two hours - including reorienting myself to the source code and services (after more than a year away), implementing the additional UI features, the primary service and adaptive cron alerting schedule, and integrating with two independent providers for SMS messaging to the support team, including fail-safe automated failover of messaging delivery channel so we have message delivery redundancy. This time also includes testing, staging and deployment to production via pushing to our production application apposite repository and syncing and updating the production servers.

To add six new admin tools including AJAX front-ends, REST services and data layers services, it took about four hours total. The system has a normal-form data model with "noun tables" and "AtoB association tables" - all told its got 52 tables. The new tools were principally to manage "AtoB" associations. The tools drive one-another so that any individual tool is a simple unit - but, for example, if we have a username listed in a project, we can view the user's details by driving the user view tool from the project listing tool.

So Farewell Then...

So farewell then Shuttle...

And lest we are tempted to dismiss the Shuttle as just an "expensive delivery van". Here is its greatest triumph...

This is the "Hubble Ultra Deep Field" image - which we only have due to the Shuttle and the extraordinary Hubble repair mission.

This image is probably one of mankind's greatest accomplishments. It turns out that if you look at any microscopic "black" point in the sky for long enough, you discover it is absolutely teeming with galaxies.

Who can say the Shuttle has not been a triumph - it literally gave us a new horizon.

Belgium Bootcamp

Keep you diaries open for October in Brussels. This will definitely happen. We need to fix a date and sort out logistics but be ready for a ROC Fall (Autumn geddit?) in Brussels. But hey its the summer and everyone's at the beach. Enjoy.

Have a great weekend,


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