Ndifreke Ekott

Life - Tech - Thought - Journals

Category: Open Thoughts

Bots + Messaging will become the new mobile app frontier

Not that long ago, ChatBots have become a thing of interest in many spheres. Facebook, Google, and many companies have built several platforms with Bot functionalities to interact with their existing services. I have been aware of bots for a while and even had a go at Google Allo. In the present messaging ecosystem, we have a lot of messaging platforms like Whatsapp, Telegram, Slack, Hipchat, WeChat and others competing for the user base. Whatsapp for example boasts of having 1 Billion daily active users. It is also claimed that the user base of messaging platforms has far outnumbered the user base on social networks. So why do I find messaging platforms interesting?

I recently attended the Larcon EU 2017 conference in Amsterdam and the opening talk was given by Marcel Pociot on the topic From zero to multi-platform Chatbot with BotMan. The talk focused on how to build a ChatBot service in PHP. This talk exposed me to what is possible with ChatBots and not long, I began to imagine the things I could build with them.

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The Power User – The terminal is really your friend

I have been using Linux for the past 10 years and will in no way consider myself a Power User. I  can do a thing or two, I have a little amount of system administration skills and I am not afraid of the terminal. Running a few commands here and there is something every Linux enthusiast is comfortable doing. Being a Software developer for a couple of years, I am usually intrigued by anything that looks cryptic and feels like programming and so the terminal plays a big part in my everyday existence.

Recently, I have been working a lot with the Bash scripting language/tool. My bash programming isn’t that legendary but with the help of Google and Stackoverflow, I can easily look up syntaxes for Bash statements and eventually get my intended task done. I recently had a task in the office that required me to work with a 200MB+ sized file. CSV files are the simplest file format you get to work with in most programming environments. Usually when you want to generate a report that can easily be opened in a spreadsheet application and also easily consumed by a machine.

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When the holiday is so good, you experience a Brain Reset

Part of being an adult is working. It could be running your business or being an employee. Sometimes this aspect of life gets to you and you decided it is time for a holiday. And so this write up is about my back from holiday experience.

I work as a Software Developer and if you ask anyone who has worked in London for any number of years, you will learn how eager people are seeking to take a break from London. I got to this point where I needed an escape. Change of scenery, no tubes, no running after buses, no thinking of what to do next. Just complete freedom from it all. At this point, the universe is screaming – VACATION. And that is what I did – I went on a vacation.

Destination Malta. I went on a week holiday in Malta and boy it was the exact escape I needed. Prior to this, I did have to struggle with the decision to either take or leave my laptop behind. If you have dealt with Software developers before, you would have learned the fact that they do love their Technology. So I did leave my laptop behind for a good cause but picked up an old tablet of mine just in case I needed to google something << insert smiley face >>.

Talking about my Malta trip isn’t the point of this post and I don’t really have a point to make but just wanted to share an experience. So after a week in Malta, I am back at my office desk and ready to resume work as usual. With renewed energy, vigor, I turned on my laptop, logged in and opened up Keepass. Now for those who don’t know what Keepass is, it is a password vault. I store a lot of the login credentials to all company assets from the database login credential to password credentials of several administrative panels. My company exerts some password standards and if you are a decent IT guy, you surely know the importance of a secure password. Using Keepass, I only need 1 master password and I will be granted access to all the passwords stored in the vault.

Turning on my laptop with a smile didn’t go as smoothly as I planned. I opened up Keepass, typed in my password and got the dreaded “Invalid Password” message. Gave it a second try and still no success. I do remember my password at least my passwords are pronounceable. After several failed attempts, I realized all the while, I relied on muscle memory every morning I sat at my desk to work. This wasn’t good and it is too early in the week to start asking Sys Admin to reset all password credentials. So what did I do? I continue working with the little accessed I had thanks to cookies in the browser.

Two hours past and I still couldn’t get into the vault. My colleague next to me suggested I take a break and stop thinking about it and so I did. Stepped out for a cup of coffee, drank two glasses of water, hit the Gentlemen’s Powder room. While I was in there, it occurred to me I was pronouncing my password wrong. And due to my wrong pronunciation, I had switched a character at a certain position from “e” to “o”. I got back to my desk, energized and in 2 seconds, I logged into the vault. The day is saved but now I am worried and  I ask the question – “How do I prevent this from happening again?”.

When you get reminded you are a Developer

It can be fun being a developer, but sometimes you can forget you are one and begin to think human. Today as been a somewhat long day from visiting my GP and ending up in the hospital behind a long queue of patients waiting for an X-ray. I am at my desk with a couple of hours to churn through, I decided to tackle a long pending Ticket.  An hour and a few minutes later, I am done with the update but there is a second part to this ticket. I need to refresh a lot of data in a CSV file stored remotely on an AWS S3 bucket.

I download the file and decide to tweak the refresh locally. So I update the code and statically type in date range parameter. I was meant to get a year’s worth of data. We looking at some heavy MegaByte worth of JSON data. We do agree that is just suicidal to think you can transfer 80MB worth of JSON data over the wire from one HTTP request.  So the task would be to break the API date range between the months of the year.

I tried breaking the request down but got a 400 – Bad Request error message. So as usual, I decided to test the boundaries of the API by reducing my range from 1 year to Monthly, Weekly and then I came upon the 1 Day interval as the ideal range to work with. So I started out by manually adjusting the data and seeing what data gets pulled. With a bit of frustration and trying to figure out how I can automate the changing of the API date range. For some reason, the thought writing new code to get the result didn’t come to me on time for some reason. I spoke to my colleague next to me, and he suggested I write a function to do all the date range update. This was a brilliant idea, I could write this code, get the effect I wanted and revert code back. We can discuss code review and why date range was hard-coded in another post.

I wonder why I didn’t think of this. Sometimes as developers, we do miss the joy of innovating, writing new codes and being innovative with solutions to a simple task. I did write the code as expected, got the result I wanted but still came across other bottlenecks which had more to do with the API than my code.

Morale of the story:

Never forget you are a developer. Always seek to innovate.

Welcome to Life. Seatbelt on. Ready for takeoff

As our faces are different, so are our challenges. No such thing like a life better than yours. We all have our challenges. Like people say: Life is full of ups and downs. One moment you may be cruising at calm altitudes in clear skies and next moment you navigating through stormy clouds.

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