Monday, March 18, 2013

Webcast Recording Available


Last week I did a webcast with the help from other members of the Advantage team. During the webcast I discussed some of the new items included in version 11.1, using Advantage on a Amazon EC2 image and using the Advantage Web Administrator.

The webcast was well attended and I appreciate everyone who took the time out of their busy schedules to attend. If you couldn’t make it to the webcast you can click on the banner and view the recording.

I am currently working on some content for another webcast that I would like to do in the next couple of months. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Book Review–Little Bets

Back in September last year I attended a Design Thinking class which was really interesting. One of the recommended books was Little Bets by Peter Simms. This book gives a great overview of how taking small risks can pay off with big dividends. It gives many practical examples of how Design Thinking can improve a business. I think this book is a better introduction to Design Thinking than Change By Design which I read back in September. Both cover the material well but I found that Little Bets is a more direct and succinct. 

Little Bets is divided into essentially nine different topics which are broken into chapters. The topics all relate back to taking small, manageable risks i.e. little bets to move their objectives forward. The topics (chapters) are

  1. Big Bets vs Little Bets
  2. The Growth Mind-set
  3. Failing Quickly to Learn Fast
  4. The Genius of Play
  5. Problems are the New Solutions
  6. Questions are the new Answers
  7. Learning a Little from a Lot
  8. Learning a Lot from a Little
  9. Small Wins

Each of these topics (chapters) use many examples from various businesses from Apple, HP, Pixar and even comedian Chris Rock. The stories used throughout the book are quite interesting as well as a good examples of the topics being discussed.

The chapter on failing quickly really resonated with me since I seem to learn well from trial and error. For example developing quick, inexpensive prototypes is a good way to discover what works and doesn’t work. I go through many iterations when I am developing a new form or webpage. Modern tools make it very simple to move controls around to get just the right flow. This ability to rapidly prototype visual interfaces has been invaluable to me.

The concepts of “problems are the new solutions” and “questions are the new answers” are also very interesting concepts. Problems don’t have to be obstacles they can serve as guidelines or limitations. Problems can be broken down into more manageable pieces so that one big problem can be broken into many smaller ones. This is a principal applied in the Agile development process.

We all have seen how the right questions lead to gaining new insight into a problem. By finding the right questions we often find the answers we seek. This is brilliantly illustrated by Douglas Adams when Deep Thought determined the answer to the "ultimate question of life, the universe and everything” to be 42. For the answer to make sense you have to ask the right question.

The bottom line: Each of the chapters have good tidbits of information about new ways to approach and solve problems. Using these ideas and principals can help you to find unique solutions or products to meet a need that you may have never though of before. Little Bets is a very good introduction to Design Thinking and an easy read. There is an extensive reference guide as well as a great list of recommended reading in the appendices.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Creating a Windows 8 Virtual Machine

Now that Advantage supports Windows 8 I thought it was time I got a test system configured. I have been an avid fan of virtualization for many years and I find it to be an invaluable tool in keeping multiple versions available for testing. It is also a great way to keep my machine relatively clean for my day-to-day work.

I have been using VMWare Workstation for several years beginning with a 6.x version. I had upgraded to the 7.x version but I quickly found out that I needed a newer version to install Windows 8. There were several posts on the web that discussed successfully creating a Windows 8 image with version 8.x of workstation but the VMWare tools do not work. So I decided to take the safe route and get version 9, which officially supports Windows 8.

Unfortunately that did not end my troubles when I tried installing I kept getting the following message when the VM started.

your pc needs to restart
please hold down the power button
Error code: 0x0000005D

I did what any reasonable person would do and went straight to Google. My search was instantly rewarded with hundreds of hits from people with the same problem almost all of which were completely useless. Most recommended upgrading to Workstation version 9, which I had already done. Others discussed enabling virtualization in the BIOS, which I had already done since this is required to run any 64-bit OS. The whole process reminded me of an XKCD comic.


At long last I found a post that had the answer. You need to enable the No-Execute Memory Protection option in the BIOS. This option is disabled by default.

I know a long story for a simple answer. Hopefully this post will help others get their own Windows 8 Virtual Machines up and running.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Advantage Webcast

On March 12th at 1:00 PM EDT I will be doing a webcast on using Advantage Database Server in the Cloud. All the details are below.

Cloud computing is a hot trend in the market, and many independent software vendors are evaluating or implementing their own cloud offering. Join us on March 12, 2013, to learn how SAP Sybase Advantage Database Server can be used in the cloud

Get enterprise power – in the cloud

During this one-hour Webcast, you’ll have the opportunity to see live demos of the functionality of SAP Sybase Advantage Database Server, as well as:

  • Discuss strategies for implementation, everyday business use, and integration with your cloud and software as a service (SaaS) software
  • Explore how to run SAP Sybase Advantage Database Server from Amazon Web Services
  • Learn about the remote administration functionality of SAP Sybase Advantage Database Server, using the Advantage Web Administrator

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn what SAP Sybase Advantage Database Server has to offer. We hope you’ll join us.

Register Now

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A New Year

Another year has past and it is time for me to once again make a bunch of resolutions that I will not keep. Last year I put together a book list with the goal of reading one technology book every month. I managed to get through four of them. Of course one of the books on the list did not end up getting published, so I got that going for me.

So with my past performance in mind I am once again setting a goal to read one technology book every month. To help I will be adding a simple reminder to the sidebar so I will see which book I should be reading. Perhaps with the extra accountability I will get through half of the list.

Here is the “official” 2013 list:

  1. Thoughts on Interaction Design, Second Edition
  2. Head First Mobile Web
  3. The Art of Unit Testing: With Examples in .Net
  4. Head First C#, Second Edition
  5. SQL Antipatterns: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Database Programming
  6. Head First jQuery
  7. Head First HTML5 Programming
  8. Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data
  9. SQL and Relational Theory: How to Write Accurate SQL Code
  10. Data Modeling Made Simple: A Practical Guide for Business and IT Professionals, 2nd Edition
  11. Star Schema The Complete Reference
  12. Database Design and Relational Theory: Normal Forms and All That Jazz

Good luck with your resolutions and have a great New Year!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Monitoring an Amazon Web Service Image

Peter Funk from our Advantage engineering team has been using Amazon Web Services (AWS) to host a project he has been working on. He was looking for a tool to monitor the activity on his site. Peter found a tool that met his needs so he asked me to share his thoughts about it. I was all to happy to post this information for him.

Now that I have an application (website) up and running with the Advantage Web Platform I wanted to monitor the traffic. Primarily I want to be on the lookout for any hacking attempts but also I am curious how my users are accessing the site. Searching around for website monitoring tools quickly led me into the world of log analyzers.

To have a complete picture of your site’s traffic you must log all activity to some sort of log file or database. With Apache this functionality exists in the log_config_module which is enabled by default. This module will log all activity to the access.log file (by default in the apache\logs directory). Although all the information I needed was in the access.log it wasn’t in a useable form. That’s where the log analyzer comes in.

There are quite a few log analyzers available on the web these days. I wanted one that works with Apache, provides real-time statistics, has a wealth of information including graphs, and is free. Eventually I found the AWStats project hosted on


AWStats met all my requirements and has been working well for me so far. It is written in Perl and is accessible from any browser. It is pretty simple in that it processes the access.log, creates a report with a summary of all the log information, and then displays the information in an informative and useful way. You can see a demonstration of AWStats in action using this link.

For up-to-date statistics AWStats must process the access.log to refresh the summary report. This can be done on demand or on a schedule (Windows task manager or Linux cron job). So far I’ve been using the on-demand approach (see AllowToUpdateStatsFromBrowser in the AWStats documentation) but creating a scheduled task may work better for you. When I want to view the current statistics I simply bring up the awstats page and click the Update Now link. A few seconds later I can view the report with current information.

Make sure you have a Perl interpreter installed on your server before installing AWStats. I recommend the Activestate interpreter for Windows.

Installing AWStats is simple. Just follow the instructions and it will create a project for your site and adjust any configuration settings. You will likely need to restart Apache after the installation is complete. You might also need to tell Apache which Perl interpreter to use. On Windows you can simply tell Apache to look into the registry for which application is assigned to the .pl file extension. Do this by adding the following line to your httpd.conf file:

ScriptInterpreterSource registry

By default the AWStats page is visible to anyone by your web server. You can limit that access to an IP address or domain. In your httpd.conf file look for the directory entry that points to your AWStats/wwwroot folder. It should be at the bottom of the file. There you can limit the access via the “Allow from” option.

One issue I had with Google’s chrome browser was with the HTML frames that creates. For some reason chrome didn’t like the frames so I had to disable them with the UseFramesWhenCGI setting in the awstats conf file for my website:


In conclusion I am very happy using AWStats to keep an eye on my website. It gives me a good view into how people are using my website. I can already see which URLs are used the most and look for ways to optimize them. I can also see which browsers are used the most which helps me test and tailor my website to provide the best experience for the most people.

Monday, November 5, 2012

SAP Innovation

SAP has been developing software the helps businesses run better for over 40 years. Recently SAP has begun providing solutions to OEM partners as well. In the article below Kevin Ichipurani from SAP discusses the many new opportunities solutions from SAP can bring to software developers.