I’m Eric Tummers, Software Architect at Statistics Netherlands, and this is how I work

My jobs description says Software Architect. I’m guiding my team through the technical hurdles and do some programming/testing/analysing myself. We follow the scrum guide and are working towards continuous integration and deployment. We do this in small steps. Every sprint we complete means the retrospective is done in the pub.

I expect the best and I give the best. Here’s the beer. Here’s the entertainment. Now have fun. That’s an order!
Rasczak

Location: Sittard, NL
Current Gig: Software Architect, CBS
Word that best describes how you work: remote
Current mobile device: iPhone SE 2nd gen
Current computer: MacBook Air M1

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Why?

Evernote: I’m a fan for years now.
Spotlight on Mac and Ueli on Windows: for quick start apps and other things.
Microsoft To Do: work tasks, chores, groceries, planning, every task is there.

What’s your workspace setup like?

My home workspace is a Macbook Air M1 connected to a Benq 24 inch monitor (BL2420PT). For input I use the logitech keyboard and mouse (MX800). There is a wireless charger for my iPhone SE or Airpods and a desk lamp (like the Pixar luxo Jr.) This is my main workspace.

When I go to the office I’m free to work from a coffee table with my MacBook Air M1 or hook it up to an external monitor. We’re a hybrid working organisation so the laptop moves with me in my rainbow backpack.

We communicate with each other via zoom and slack. So those apps are my virtual workspace. Does that count?

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?

Timebox. Start on a task and spent the time you’ve got to get the best result. Get someone to look at it, get feedback. Then decide if the result is final or to spent some more time.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?

I replaced my Garmin FR235 with the Garmin FR745. It has smart watch features, an optical heart rate monitor and music. I now go on a run without my phone.
My Apple Airpods 2. Easy to use, small and good sound. Replaced my old first gen with the second gen with wireless charging case – still the best wireless earbuds for me.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?

Learning new things. My current project lets me implement new things (joy) Also I try to learn the things I know to my team or anyone who listens.
I have a basic understanding of how things work and try to map new things on there. For the details I have a Pluralsight subscription and black belt google skills.

What do you listen to while you work?

My alarm clock plays classical music to wake me up in the morning. The car stereo plays about everything (grunge, rock, kids stories) driving to work. When I need some focus I play drum and bass on my headphones. My ringtone is still Run riot by Camo & Krooked, although it is muted since I got a Garmin.

What are you currently reading?

Nerds. A fun view of the things a nerd does, likes and hates. Good read to get me out of the working mindset.

How do you recharge? What do you do when you want to forget about work?

Spending quality time with my wife and daughters. Phone on silent, no screens, no work. 
Also sports like running, fitness, climbing and snowboarding to keep me fit and healthy.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.

Eric Rosen a chess streamer I follow on YouTube. This is someone who does what he loves and loves what he does.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

someecards.com - Make a shit first draft you cannot edit a blank page
I believe this is a variant on a Hemingway quote.

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers?

Learn Powershell. There is so much possible with Powershell. If you can learn one thing this year pick Powershell.

Original idea from Lifehacker.com.

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What is R Shiny doing?

We’ve created an R Shiny app for viewing data. On the server we log the time needed to query the database. The users report longer waiting times than the query time we log. What is R Shiny doing?

Looking under the hood of R Shiny we discovered it uses websockets for communication. (https://unleash-shiny.rinterface.com/shiny-intro.html#debug-websocket-with-shiny) There is a way to see the messages send back-and-forth in the developer tools network tab. Red is download and green is upload.

We can see that a query that takes 0.1 seconds takes 1.2 seconds (previous green message until last red message) before the user sees the result. This is caused by the amount of data that is returned. The difference of 1 second is not something a user wil notice.

Imagine a query that takes 3 seconds and produces a lot of data. Then the user will wait for a lot longer and the query time is way off from what the user experiences. Also the rendering of the actual table will be slower since it has more data to process. We need to know the time it takes to show the data to the user.

The data is displayed with DT (https://rstudio.github.io/DT/) which has all sorts of events. The callback is most promising and fires some javascript after the data is presented to the user. So we wrote some code to send this event back to the server and log the time it needed for the data to be send and the callback was fired. The code looked something like this:

library(DT)
js <- c(
  "var start = DATE_FROM_SERVER_HERE;",
  "Shiny.onInputChange('render_done', start);"
)
ui <- fluidPage(
  DTOutput("table")
)
server <- function(input, output, session){
  observeEvent(input$render_done, { HANDLE_LOGGING_OF_TIME_NEEDED })
  output[["table"]] <- renderDT({
    datatable(
      iris,
      callback = JS(js)
    )
  })
}
shinyApp(ui, server)

We now have a better understanding of the user experience when it comes to response times. The query was fast enough, but the rendering took too long. Now we can start fixing this.

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AutoMapper upgrade to v12

We use AutoMapper in almost all of our solutions. The recent new version forced us to finally refactor the way we used to resolve external dependencies. As you can read here (https://docs.automapper.org/en/latest/12.0-Upgrade-Guide.html) the ServiceCtor was removed.

Nugets

First we upgraded the AutoMapper nuget and added the dependency injection nuget as described here (https://docs.automapper.org/en/latest/Dependency-injection.html) Now we kan call this code in our startup and AutoMapper will be added with all dependencies available.

services.AddAutoMapper(typeof(AppProfile), typeof(AdaptersProfile));

Configuration to Profile

We used to create files to configure an MapperConfiguration and created the Mapper from there. The code looked something like this:

// this is ** NOT ** what we want
public class AutoMapperConfiguration : MapperConfiguration {
   public static Action<IMapperConfigurationExpression> Config {
      get {
         return config => config.CreateMap< .... >
            .ConvertUsing(source, destination, context => context.Options.ServiceCtor.Invoke(typeof(ILogger)).LogWarning("something"));
      }
   }
}

The new way of using dependency injection (already introduced in v5) is to use the provided interfaces and inject the dependency into the implementing class. These interfaces are described here (https://docs.automapper.org/en/latest/index.html#extensibility) The code below shows a simple mapping with some logging.

// this is mush cleaner
public class ProfileWithLogging : Profile {
   public ProfileWithLogging() {
      CreateMap<A, B>().ConvertUsing<LoggingTypeConverter>();
   }
}

public class LoggingTypeConverter : ITypeConverter<A, B> {
   private readonly ILogger _logger;
   public LoggingTypeConverter(Ilogger logger) { _logger = logger; }
   public B Convert(A source, B destination, ResolutionContext context) {
      _logger.LogInformation("Mapping A to B");
   }
}

Not sure what this does to speed or memory usage. The code looks a lot cleaner and we updated to the latest version – happy coder 🙂

disclaimer – source code may not compile and is for illustration purposes – use on your own risk

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Upgrade to SonarQube 9

We use SonarQube to scan our code (see Adding SonarQube to TFS build) and have version 8 LTS up-and-running for some time now. The upgrade to SonarQube 9 and future version 9 LTS is upcoming. Here is how we prepare for the upgrade.

Run SonarQube 9

According to the requirements for SonarQube we need the Java 11 runtime for the server. This is already available along with the other requirements because they are the same for running our version 8 LTS.

For testing purpose we create another database (upgrade test planned for another time) and put that connectionstring in the configuration. We configure other ports for the Web UI and ElasticSearch so we can run both version 8 and 9 at the same time on our server. After a few attempts we get everything right and see the “Sonarqube is up” message on the console.

Run Azure devops build

Our platform team installed the Java 17 runtime on a few build agents. This is needed for the scanners or we get errors. To make sure we use the correct Java runtime we set the environment variable JAVA_HOME to point to Java 17 in the task (like https://marketplace.visualstudio.com/items?itemName=Hey24sheep.envar) before the Run Code Analysis task.

In the Prepare Analysis task we needed to set the timeout property (sonar.ws.timeout) to 2 minutes. This might be caused by running two instances of SonarQube on one server.

For use of the new SonarQube 9 instance we needed to create a new service endpoint with a generated token. Here comes the first real difference – tokens are now more specific.

You need specific rights to create a project and specific rights to run analysis for a project. There is one token type that contains both rights but you should not use it for running analysis. So we need to create the project (and get a project key) by hand so the build can run analysis with the analysis token. More details about tokens: https://docs.sonarqube.org/latest/user-guide/user-token/

The analyses worked as expected and a report is available in the SonarQube 9 web ui.

Plugins

We have some custom plugins. Most can be removed after buying a license. But the R code plugin was the odd one. Luckily we had no problems running analysis with the plugin after copying it from the version 8 instance.

Todo

For now all signs are on green.

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MacBook Air M1

My company provided me with a MacBook Air M1. So the trusty MacBook Pro 15 inch from 2015 has been replaced for everything work related. Is this a happy day? The good, the bad and the ugly.

Good

Boot time, battery time, build quality, portability – everything good in these departments. The battery time is so good I can work two days without plugging in – that is unparalleled 😎 and a huge step up.

Colleagues that picked the windows alternative are complaining about drivers. – no comment –

Bad

Moving from 15 to 13 inch is a big step down. Every review online talks about this. In the pictures below you see them side-by-side and stacked to illustrate te difference. You’ll have to experience it to know what this means for your setup.

I most notice it when using Visual Studio. There is just more room to work with om the 15 inch. Now the solution explorer, output window and other panes must be on auto-hide or I’ll loose to much space for coding.

Ugly

The machine is managed by the company. This means some extra software is installed for remote monitoring, security and no-admin-rights-for-me. I’m allowed to install software from the app store and tweak some user settings – but not all My 2019 developer and power user tools. I’m still not over this one 😦

MacBook Air only has two usb-c ports. For everything not usb-c like network, monitor, external mouse/keyboard we use a hub. This is something I will not bring with me and stays home connected to wires on my desk.

Conclusion

Would I buy this machine for myself? No, my personal life is on iPhone and iPad and the MacBook Pro stil works.

Would I buy it to replace my MacBook Pro if it broke? Absolutely. Because of the apple ecosystem a new device is up-and-running very quickly and sometimes a laptop is preferred over a mobile device.

Is the MacBook Air M1 a good work laptop? Yes. When we return to the office we need to bring the laptop and that is exactly where the MacBook Air M1 outperforms my MacBook Pro – lighter and two-day battery.

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