Get Computer Science Crash Course with Imposter’s Handbook

THE IMPOSTER'S HANDBOOK

I just finished reading Rob Connery‘s book Imposter’s Handbook. It’s a very good high-level overview of Computer Science concepts that you may not encounter in everyday job. It is also a good guidance for “what I should know”.

If you do not have CS degree I recommend you to check out this book. You can skip chapters about concepts that you are familiar with. If something is new to you – this book will provide you nice introduction to the topic, which you can later on dive in on your own.

If you do have CS degree, I still recommend you to at least check out what’s there. I’m sure you will learn something, or at least refresh your knowledge.

Check out hacker news discussion!

Do you have CS degree or you are self-taught programmer?


Properly measuring HTTP request time with node.js

When your backend code is calling external APIs you may want to measure particular request time to identify bottlenecks.

The most straight forward, but incorrect, way to measure how long request takes is to use JavaScript Date object:

var request = require('request');

let start_time = new Date().getTime();

request.get('https://google.com', function (err, response) {
    console.log('Time elapsed:', new Date().getTime() - start_time);
});

However, this won’t give you the actual time that request takes. Above request call is async, and you start measuring time at the time when request was queued, not actually sent.

In order to determine how much time elapsed since sending request, you can use the time parameter:

var request = require('request');

request.get({ url: 'http://www.google.com', time: true }, function (err, response) {
    console.log('The actual time elapsed:', response.elapsedTime);
});

You can also compare results returned by both methods:

var request = require('request');

let start_time = new Date().getTime();

request.get('https://google.com', function (err, response) {
    console.log('Time elapsed since queuing the request:', new Date().getTime() - start_time);
});

request.get({ url: 'http://www.google.com', time: true }, function (err, response) {
    console.log('The actual time elapsed:', response.elapsedTime);
});

When I run it, I got the following results:

The actual time elapsed: 72
Time elapsed since queuing the request: 156

Notice that the first callback resolves after the second one(!)

The difference is almost 2x. Depending on your server side code, this difference might be even larger, and give you incorrect hints while you are profiling your application.


Boogie board – notepad of the future

Are you using paper notepads to write down ad-hoc notes?

These multi page paper notebooks are super useful. You can just turn the page, save your old sketch and have clean page for new one! WRONG! This is the worst feature! You never look at these notes again, and they just pile up.

Recently, I got Boogie Board – an LCD writing tablet! It cost $20 and it changed my life.

BoogieBoard

You can sketch whatever you want, and erase with one button click. It’s like a pocket whiteboard. If something is important I just dump it to my OneNote before erasing (rarely happens). You don’t have to look for pen anymore. You have one that can be attached to the board, and you can even write with your hands (nails) on it.

I also got bigger one for in-office use. My desk before and after:

BoogieBoard - before BoogieBoard - after

Get one or big one for yourself! It will change your life!


Add custom metadata to Azure blob storage files and search them with Azure Search

Did you know that you can add custom metadata to your blob containers, and even to individual blob files?

You can do it in the Azure Portal, using SDK or REST API.

The most common scenario is adding metadata during file upload. Below code is uploading sample invoice from disk, and adds year, month, and day metadata properties.

const string StorageAccountName = "";
const string AccountKey = "";
const string ContainerName = "";

string ConnectionString = $"DefaultEndpointsProtocol=https;AccountName={StorageAccountName};AccountKey={AccountKey};EndpointSuffix=core.windows.net";
CloudStorageAccount storageAccount = CloudStorageAccount.Parse(ConnectionString);
CloudBlobClient blobClient = storageAccount.CreateCloudBlobClient();
CloudBlobContainer container = blobClient.GetContainerReference(ContainerName);

const string FileName = "Invoice_2017_01_01";
using (var fileStream = System.IO.File.OpenRead([email protected]"D:\dev\BlobMetadataSample\invoices\{FileName}.pdf"))
{
    var fileNameParts = FileName.Split('_');
    var year = fileNameParts[1];
    var month = fileNameParts[2];
    var day = fileNameParts[3];

    var blob = container.GetBlockBlobReference(FileName);
    blob.Metadata.Add("year", year);
    blob.Metadata.Add("month", month);
    blob.Metadata.Add("day", day);
    blob.UploadFromStream(fileStream);

    var yearFromBlob = blob.Metadata.FirstOrDefault(x => x.Key == "year").Value;
    var monthFromBlob = blob.Metadata.FirstOrDefault(x => x.Key == "month").Value;
    var dayFromBlob = blob.Metadata.FirstOrDefault(x => x.Key == "day").Value;

    Console.WriteLine($"{blob.Name} ({yearFromBlob}-{monthFromBlob}-{dayFromBlob})");
}

If you just want to add metadata to existing blob, instead of calling blob.UploadFromStream(fileStream) you can run blob.SetMetadata().

When you create new index for blob in Azure Search, we will automatically detect these fields. If you already have Azure Search index created, you can add new fields (has to be the same as metadata key), and all changes will be synchronized with next re-indexing.


I am joining Cloud AI team to work on Azure Search

Azure Search

It has been over 3 years since I joined the Azure Portal team. During that time I learned a lot about every aspect of web and mobile development. I delivered over 20 technical talks at different conferences around the World and local meetups. It was amazing to take the new Portal from preview to v1. In the meantime, during the //oneweek hackathon, together with a few other folks, we built a prototype of the Azure Mobile App. After getting feedback from Scott Guthrie who said that “it would be super useful” I started working on the app overnight.

I didn’t know much about mobile development at the time, but I wanted to learn. I didn’t know much about complexities of Active Directory authentication and Azure Resource Manager APIs. I just knew that it would be super cool to have an app that would allow me to check the status of my Azure resources while waiting for my lunch. Receiving a push notification, and being able to scale VM from my phone would be also tremendously valuable.

When I started working on the app full time, my dream came true. I could truly connect my passion with work. I enjoyed the long hours, and late nights we all put to make it happen. The day when Scott Hanselman presented the Azure App at the //build conference was on of the best days of my life.

Now, when the Azure App is released, and backed by great team, I can move to the next challenge.

Machine learning is becoming part of every aspect of our lives. Over last few years, ML crossed a threshold necessary to be extremely useful. I always wanted to be part of it. I took a great Coursera class by Andrew Ng, I started overnight project StockEstimator and I got involved in SeeingAI to learn how Real-World Machine Learning looks like.

Now, I’m taking it to the next level. I am joining Azure Search Team to lead their User Experience. I will be responsible for bringing the product to customers. While using my existing web development knowledge, I will have an amazing opportunity to learn more about Big Data, AI and ML.

Azure Search is managed cloud search service that offers scalable full-text search over multiple languages, geo-spatial search, filtering and faceted navigation, type-ahead queries, hit highlighting, and custom analyzers. You can find more details in this talk by Pablo Castro (Azure Search manager and creator of Open Data Protocol).

The cool thing about working for Microsoft is that you may end up working with person who created HTTP protocol. Henrik Frystyk Nielsen, former Tim Berners-Lee’s student, who shared office with Håkon Wium Lie (creator of CSS), joined my new team this month. What’s even cooler, he is sitting next to me 🙂

In my new office with Henrik:

Henrik Frystyk Nielsen and Jacob Jedryszek

If you want to learn more about all the cool stuff we are doing at Cloud AI group there is an awesome .NET Rocks Podcast with Joseph Sirosh. Check it out!

There is also awesome talk by Joseph from the last Connect(); conference, which includes JFK files demo presented by Corom Thompson from my team (creator of How-Old.NET). In that demo Corom showcases how you can use Azure Search and Cognitive Services to explore JFK files. Super cool! You can see demo in below video, and code on github.

It has never been a better time to work on the intersection of Cloud and Artificial Intelligence!