Adventures in Technology and the Outdoors

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This site is broken into 2 parts.

The Tech Journal which is my adventures in technology and is the most active part of the site.

The other half is the Outdoor Journal which is all about my outdoors hobbies.

This main page will always show the most recent post from each half of the site. Click the links above to see more posts from the Tech or Outdoor halves of the site

Most Recent Posts

Posted In: Tech

Serverless conference 2017 - Austin!

Posted at: 2017-05-02 @ 13:41:41

Recently I attended the 4th annual Serverless conference. This year it was held in Austin Texas in the US and now that I'm based in the US it was easy to come up with the justification to go!

The conference itself was a two-day event, fantastically well organised with great food and around 400 serverless nerds. The talented team from A Cloud Guru, who first got this serverless conference ball rolling 4 years ago, did an amazing job in Austin. They even had custom made DONUTS for morning tea!!

If you haven't checked out the A Cloud Guy guys (, you should. They offer great training for all the AWS certifications among other courses.

There are a few main observations I have from presentations and talking to various attendees.

There are a lot of people who seem to be under the impression that serverless will solve all their problems and is a magic bullet. Those of us who have actually built things at scale on serverless will all tell you, it is an incredibly powerfully tool, but there are still some sharp edges and its not the right tool for everything.

Serverless won't fix poor development practices, yup sorry! It might hide them for awhile, but sooner or later its going to kick you if you build things badly.

There are a LOT of "admin" tools for serverless. At least 5-10 different frameworks for deployment. I guess that happens in the early days of a new platform, everyone wants to build their own tools to manage it. I expect in a few years we'll see that balance out to 2 or 3.

If you go serverless you are going to end up building a distributed system of small services, troubleshooting distributed systems requires careful thought, development of failure/retry queues and careful logging/monitoring, but on the plus side, you do benefit from a microservice architecture. ServerLess or FaaS is introducing some people who might not have been exposed to distributed systems before and wouldn't have otherwise gone and built a microservices architecture. I suspect that's why there is some pain being felt. From a poll taken, the number 1 issue was around monitoring, so I'm sure the AWS's and others will be doing their best to fix that. (AWS has released X-Ray for lambda which is aimed to help with that).

Serverless is clearly building a BIG following and it was clear from the community that I'm not the only one who absolutely loves the serverless technology stack, which is super exciting. The companies attending the conference also did their part well. I didn't see much marketing fluff. To collect the conference t-shirt you also had to collect 10 pins, one from each vendor, good plan! Forced some mingling and I had some of the best and useful conversations I've had with vendors in a long time.

Presentations that made an impact with me and are worth viewing the recording (and when the recordings are available, I will update a link at the top of these post)

Ryan Scott Brown @ryan_sb gave an EXCELLENT trenches talk that anyone building serverless apps should read! All his points are spot on. It helped me consolidate some thinking I've had. I won't comment more except point you to his slides and hopefully a video soon.

Mike Roberts @mikebroberts gave a great presentation. He talked about changing from thinking of software development as a "Feature Factory" but instead thinking of it as a "Product Lab". You have to try lots of stuff, most of it will suck and that's ok, dump it and move on. Obviously tools like serverless can provide a path to do this and move quickly. This is similar to the idea of "Developer Anarchy" or "Extreme Agile" that Fred George has spoken of and personally I'm completely on board. I see too many teams these days that go through a sprint creating crap that actually doesn't move the company or their user base forward, just because it is "safe". It never felt right and I'm glad to hear someone talking about it.
Mike has a bunch of links available at: and slides

Randall Hunt @jrhunt from AWS did an epic presentation and wins hands down in the demo and entertainment category. His machine acted up at the start and forced a reboot on him, but he took it all in his stride. If you don't know him, he does the twitch live coding sessions on AWS channel. This presentation showed me what someone who knows what they are doing can do in a fairly short time, I wish AWS got their guys to do more sessions like this. They have some real talent, show it off and give the audience something to look up to, especially the younger crowds and those studying to move into a Development field. Two big thumbs up!

I have to mention the Azure Function/Logic Apps presentations. Chris Anderson really showed off their technology and how they are now a serious player in the serverless market. The dev tool integration and ability to locally attach to and debug serverless function code via VS Code was impressive. Oddly enough I made one tweet: "Watch out lambda. Azure team is showing some very impressive things with their AzureFunctions #Serverlessconf" and promptly had a bucket load of likes all from MS people. You can tell they are really trying hard to catchup to AWS. Based on twitter, maybe too hard.

Charity Majors gave a funny and maybe slightly awkward presentation. She compared the current Serverless situation to a small toddler. We love them deeply, but gee it will be good then they've grown up a little. She challenged some ideas, asked how much do we trust our vendors? Even our cloud providers and finished it all off with reminding that DevOps, is about Ops learning dev... Oh Developers that means you need to learn ops too you know and yes you need ops even when it is serverless.. Sorry..

Last but certainly not least Sam Kroonenburg presented the acloud guru serverless story, what worked, what didn't and rough edges they found! Conferences need more of this, real world, from the trenches presentations that don't skip over the rough edges all projects have. Was very enjoyable to hear his/a cloud guru's journey.


To wrap up, it was a great event. Even presentations that didn't make my list were worth the trip over to Austin.
My first time in Austin Texas and the conference gave me the "excuse" to say the weekend!.. Great city! I could live there, easy!!

Posted In: Outdoors

Bushwalking - Blue Mountains, out to Ruined Castle from Scenic Railway

Posted at: 2008-09-23 @ 21:44:09

We had wonderful weather for our walk, not a cloud in the sky but also not too hot. Almost prefect walking weather.

I had arranged to meet everyone at the Maple Grove car park, which is just back from the Scenic Railway and normally doesn't have many cars in it. It's also close to the end of the Furber steps which was the planned walk out route.

meeting point

From the car park we walked along the Prince Henry cliff walk to Echo Point and then onto the start of The Giant Staircase. This was probably a couple of KMs and took us around 30 minutes to complete. The descent down the Giant Staircase was straight forward and done without incident while enjoying some of the great views over the Jamison valley.
Jamison Valley

The Giant Staircase sounds worse than it really is. Yes it's steep and narrow, but it's not that long. The descent for us took around 20 minutes and that was with a lot of traffic. The climb back up would take longer. I'd allow 45 minutes to an hour. Less if you're really fit!

giant staircase

Once at the bottom of the stairs we started out for the Scenic Railway which is around 3KM from the base of the Giant Staircase.
We stopped for lunch in a beautiful spot at the base of the Katoomba falls. A short distance before the base of the Scenic Railway. We even celebrated the birthday of one of the group members with cake and all! Much to his surprise.

Waterfall Jamison valley

From the base of the Scenic Railway we walked along the new(ish) boardwalk until the dirt track turn off to Ruined Castle, Golden Stairs and Landslide.

The first part of the track before the Landslide is straight forward. However, when the main fork is reached the lower one needs to be taken or you'll end up against the rock face near Malita Point. The track also cut directly through one of the coal seams in the area. The Scenic Railway was in fact built to service the mines down in the valley long before it became the tourist attraction it is now. When the mines closed up, the railway remained and continues to operate to this day. The base of the railway now has lots of exhibits and signs talking about the old mining days. If you've never been down that way before its certainly worth a look.

I also found what looks like an old mine air shaft between the Landslide and the Golden Stairs. I grabbed the torch and had a quick look in the entrance and found the cutting was almost a prefect rectangle continuing dead straight into the rock for as far as I could see. I would love to know more details if anyone out there has some knowledge about what it is and what shafts in the mountain it connects to.

I should add here just in case someone is dumb enough to get silly ideas. Mine shafts are not something that should be explored. They can be highly unstable and a real death trap for the inexperienced.

Next we came to the Landslide, which I have to say isn't the nicest of walking. Its a lot of small loose rocks which is all too easy to slip on. The path over the rock pile is sign posted with arrows and yellow panted stakes in the ground however inexperienced walkers do need to be careful, its easy to miss a few.


Once we were past the landslide its mostly flat walk, past the bottom of the Golden Stairs until the turn off to Ruined Castle. The turn off is signposted with the other track continuing on to Mt Solitary. The track up to Ruined Castle was a bit of a killer! It's got a serious climb that lasts for probably 1KM. Once past this it's mostly flat across the ridge to the castle.
From the bottom of the rocks which make up the Ruined Castle, is a short climb to the top of the rocks for the view.

Ruined Castle itself is well worth the walk, the 360 degree views over the Jamison valley are a real treat.

ruined castle

ruined castle

ruined castle

The walk back was uneventful aside from us all starting to get tired and that Landslide rock pile seeming harder on the way back! Once back at the scenic railway, we walked back up the Furber steps to the car park as we'd missed the last train out. It was starting to get dark around this time (about 6PM) but there was enough light to see us out of the valley, although we did have torches just in case we got caught. We got out of the valley, three very tired and sore walkers!

All up, we covered somewhere between 20 and 24KMs in around 6 hours which I think isn't bad going for one day!

I highly recommend the walk, although you may want to cut the distance down a bit by skipping the Giant Staircase and getting the Scenic Railway down, unless you're after a real workout. However, unless you have at least one experienced leader in the group, I wouldn't recommend the walk as it is not a walk to be taken lightly.
The Blue Mountains website grades the walk as for experienced walkers only and says the following:

"Experienced walkers only - High level of fitness and navigational skill required, minimum 3 in group. Advise friends or police of route and destination times".

I don't really agree with the navigational part unless they class reading signs as that. Either way, treat the walk with respect and make sure you have plenty of water as there isn't any to be found that's safe to drink on the walk itself.


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