Easy VOIP Calling for a Small Business

by Xavier Comments: 0

Did your company had to transition immediately to WFH?

Are you now in a disadvantage because you had your small business phone system all set up but now it does not work when everyone is at home or it gets quite expensive?

Here is the solution that has worked the best for me over the years, using Skype Manager—which does not involve any setup and has a reduced cost. You just need to install Skype, which runs in a computer in pretty much any OS, tablet, iOS, Android… you name it.

Here’s my business case. I own a support center that provides support to a tech company.

We are in Costa Rica, their customers are in the US and Canada.

When I was asked to implement the phone system I had several options which included setting up an Asterisk central or looking for other solutions.

I had tried Asterisk before but it had several drawbacks.

So what I did is use Skype Manager to invite the collaborators, assigned them a subscription so that they can make calls and, assigned them a land line to receive calls.

You can allocate credit in case they are calling an area not covered by their subscription, you can allocate a Live Chat button if you want to, or Skype Connect in case you need to integrate with an existing SIP-enabled PBX.

You have very good control of how you spend your money.

And there are plans for everywhere.

Each plan even has multiple options tailed to your needs.

The cost savings, easy setup, and control are amazing.

I know, there are newer options like RingCentral or others that provide good functionality.

But this one worked for me, and it gets the job done.

Hope it helps.

Tip of the Day: The Best Screen Capture Tool

by Xavier Comments: 0

One of the things about working from home is that you can’t just pick up your laptop, turn it around, and tell your coworker: “look here, this is what I need”.

If you are remote or distributed, the story is different. You have to share in a particular way. You could start a screen sharing session, but that may be overkill.

Here is where screen capture comes to the rescue.

The “standard” way is to press the print screen key (PrtScr), open mspaint, paste, save, and then send via email or chat.

Well, that did not sound that convenient.

Let me tell you about a lovely tool called Jing that I have been using for many years—although it is now known as Techsmith Capture:

https://www.techsmith.com/jing-tool.html

The lovely thing about this tool is that it is pretty easy to use. One nice feature of Jing is that it puts a small sun in the corner of your screen, so you can hover over it and it expands showing the available options.

You then select which part of the screen you want to capture, and then it gives you the option to add text, arrows, and more.

Then you can save locally, to your clipboard, or upload to TechSmith servers and it gives you a URL.

This last one is quite nice as you can share immediately.

By far Jing is the best tool that I’ve used for the last 10 years. Hopefully the transition to Techsmith Capture won’t let me down.

Oh and it works with images as well as short videos too!

What are you waiting for, download the tool and share away.

Working from Home 101

by Xavier Comments: 0

Work from Home 101 – Costa Rica Edition
I live in Costa Rica, which may come in handy if you need any travel tips.

However, because of “life”, I’ve spent my entire career working for project in either USA or in the UK, hence I’ve done this remote-thing (or distributed, use your choice of words) for a while.

I began as an employee, but I eventually transitioned into entrepreneurship where I have a few things going on, including my Pluralsight courses, a tech support center, and supporting from time to time Cloudera.

But let’s cut to the chase. I am not going to bother you with details or anecdotes—I’ll do a few posts some other day on those.

Today, I am going to tell you what has worked for me over the years.

Hopefully, this will help you too.

First of all, work from home (WFH) is still work. The fact that you are at home does not mean that it is not serious business.

It is.

How others perceive you is going to be a reflection of your actions, including the quality of your work and how responsive you are.

So, one of the things that I suggest is to set a schedule. In my case, for many years, despite the fact that in many of my projects I did not have to “clock in”, I still had a predictable work schedule.

I also took advantage of starting early, as that allowed me to work for a few hours undisturbed, focused, before you start to get asked to attend meetings or “can you help me for just a sec on this?”.

Something important here is that you need to be flexible too. In this pandemic, with work from home, home schooling, and quarantine in general, I am modifying schedules a bit.

I am still working on a predictable schedule, where people can reach me, but I am also using the late night hours to work as they provide quieter times—invaluable when you are focusing on something hard.

Next tip, create a dedicated work area. I have to admit that even though I work remote/distributed, I’ve done a lot of my work in a really small room where I have all my recording equipment. This includes the dedicated recording machine, Whisperroom, and all kinds of equipment that I cannot fit at home.

Although, at the moment I haven’t been there in more than a month as I am trully-fully working from home now.

This means that I have a very small desk and I am using an iPad as second monitor.

This works quite well. Although if you think about it, working at an office means you are moving all the time too. How many times have you moved to a conference room for a meeting or some focused time?

Same here. The kitchen counter-top is pretty high, so I am using it as a standing desk. It is far from the cooking utensils, so it works quite well.

Talking about moving, here is another tip.

Don’t sit down for hours straight. Try to get up every now and then, move a bit around. Your health comes first, so if possible also throw in some exercise every now and then.

Yes, exercise is important. It helps you think better and I don’t think I need to convince you of this.

Here’s more. Stick to a ritual. Just as I mentioned that having a schedule works well, try to also have a ritual of how you approach your work.

The more that you make your daily work a habit, the more the subconscious will take over and you will move forward faster.

Here, it is important that you block all distractions. It is said that whenever you are working on something and you are deeply focused, if someone interrupts you, then it will take 15 minutes to get back to what you were doing.

What if you get interrupted every 10 minutes? Well, you get my point…

But on the other hand, you still have to be responsive.

If you are part of a team, let them know that you will be focused on your work, and that you will check for messages at a certain interval.

But don’t forget to be responsive and prioritize your work. I had a remote worker once not respond for like half an hour. When she finally showed up, she said “well I was reading a novel and the chapter was pretty interesting”.

For her, being responsive was her top priority as she was in charge of distributing work.

I turn off all Whatsapp, email, Slack, and other notifications. But I check them after I finish a certain amount of work.

Better yet, as we all know, getting those messages releases some endorphines so it makes you addicted to checking “what’s new”.

If you make a habit of completing something and then checking, then this will help you be more productive.

Additionally, on checking what’s new… try to reduce your consumption of those things that do not add value to your life.

Instead of binging on Netflix, get a new skill by binging on Pluralsight.

Did I mentioned they are free during April?
https://www.pluralsight.com/offer/2020/free-april-month

And remember that what you learn is yours for life!

I’ll leave it here today, but tomorrow I will come back with more on what can help you with this new WFH (for many) situation.

Sharing Screen for Remote Work 101 (Mother’s Edition)

by Xavier Comments: 0

Coronavirus explosion is in full force right now.

We are currently going through very tough times, unprecedented times for most of us—perhaps not comparable to a war, however still challenging and full of fear because of economic repercusions.

Quarantine and remote work is new for many. Today, my mother asked me a simple question—for me—yet a hard one for her.

How do I share screen with my workers?

Here is a really simple guide for her (and you) to follow, using Google Meet.

Prerequisite

You need to be logged in with an account that can start meetings. She sent me this. It means that she needs to log in.

Step #1 Open Google Meet

Navigate to https://meet.google.com/ and you will be greeted by a screen like this one:

Step #2 Start the Meeting

Click on Join or start a meeting

Step #3 Name the Meeting

Give the meeting a representative name. If it is an impromptu meeting, then the name is not that important. When you start using Meet often, use representative names so that you and your attendees remember what each meeting is for.
Click on Continue

Step #4 Start the meeting

Congratulations! You have a meeting now. But you need to join your meeting. Click on Join now. to get started.

By default you will join using computer audio. Your camera will most likely be on. Turn it off if you are in “quarantine-not-presentable-mode”.

The meeting information is displayed. You can share it with the other participants, or click on Add people.

You can also copy the link in the address bar and share it

https://meet.google.com/poy-gtra-fqn

Step #5 Sharing the Screen

In the bottom right corner, you can click on Present now to share your screen. Everyone in the meeting can share the screen, not only you.

You need to select which monitor to share. Select it and click Share.

Tips

  • You can mute, leave call (don’t touch the red one, you will leave the call), or turn off the camera.
  • You can use the Chat window, in the top right, to pass URLs back and forth.
  • You can automagically add Meet (Hangouts) when you are creating a meeting invite. Click on the Add conferencing below the Add location.

Step #6 Stop Presenting your Screen

When you are done presenting, click on Stop presenting. This is important as if you leave it open, the other person will keep looking at what you are doing.

Step #7 Leaving the Meeting

Click on the red telephone to leave the meeting

Enjoy!

Autographs – Who to Ask For One?

by Xavier Comments: 0

Many years ago, Pele (Edson Arantes do Nascimento) visited Costa Rica. I was a kid and someone recommended I should get an autograph. And so I did.

To be honest, it is the only autograph I’ve ever asked for. Here is the reason.

He may have been the greatest soccer (or futbol) player on Earth, but hearing about how K. Scott Allen (Ode To Code) passed away today got me thinking that people like Scott are the ones who people should ask for autographs.

Why? Because people like him are the ones uplifting others, helping them, teaching – great deal of it with Pluralsight. Nothing against Pele, he was great but the impact in the world that a teacher like Scott had can change the lives of those who he helped.

Anyway, this may be a not too popular opinion, especially for soccer fans, but I do believe in the power of teaching.

Upgrading a .NET Application with Solr and SolrNet

by Xavier Comments: 0

Today I took the task of updating a .NET application that I’ve had since sometime around 2013.

I created this application with a few people at the time of .NET 4.0 and Solr 4.10, with its corresponding SolrNet.

Today I moved it to Solr 8.4 and with .NET 4.7.

There are a few interesting changes that you need to take into account, which I may expand at some point. But just in case, if you are in the same scenario, here are some upgrade tips for you to consider:

#1 When you move from Solr 4.10 (and older versions) to 8.4, there are some changes to take into account

  • The default field is now _text_ and not text
  • Some types may have changed
  • Default now is managed-schema, not schema.xml
  • Some changes are required in solrconfig.xml

So, what I did is downloaded, installed and started a Solr 8.4.

Then I created a core

bin\solr.cmd create -c <name>

Next, I configured Solr so that I do not use schemaless mode. Use this link for more info: Switching from Managed Schema to Manually Edited schema.xml

Don’t forget that besides changing the ClassicIndexSchemaFactory, you also need to disable schema guessing, which allows unknown fields to be added to the schema during indexing.

Then I indexed some data. This didn’t change much.

Now, a fun one. I have a custom request handler, which wasn’t working. Oh dear, I forgot for a second that the qt parameter no longer works unless you explicitly configure Solr to work.

This is straightforward. Comment out your select request handler, and add the handleSelect attribute to true in the RequestDispatcher node. Like this:

<requestDispatcher handleSelect="false" >

Also, comment out the select requestHandler.

Restart Solr and happy searching!

Welcome to Big Data TV – Or The One That Started It All

by Xavier Comments: 0

Hello and welcome, I am Xavier Morera and I am very passionate about helping developers understand enterprise search and Big Data.

And today, I welcome you to the first post of the Big Data Inc Series (which will soon be joined with Big Data TV).

So, you might be wondering… what is the Big Data Inc Series?  Easy. It is a series of bite size posts that explain enterprise search and Big Data.

What is my objective? At a high level, each post will take between 5 to 7 minutes, and will provide an overview of one particular topic – and only one – to give you enough information to understand what is the purpose of a particular platform, language, project or anything else that touches enterprise search and Big Data

Why am I doing this? First of all, I am really passionate about search and Big Data… like a kid on Christmas day. I do have to agree that I have my preferred platforms, languages, and projects.  However, it does not hurt to have an idea of what each one is about.

Also, why are the posts so short? Well, I could go on and on for hours – believe me, or at least my friends who say that a 45 minute presentation for me is just like warming up – but the point is that I want to be very concise, straight to the point, and give you an overall idea. The Big Data Series is not meant to be tutorials. For trainings I have several courses at Pluralsight which include topics like Spark, Cloudera CDH, Solr, Hue, Hive, JSON, code profiling and more – as well as having done and helped on trainings for Cloudera, Microsoft/HP/Intel.

I will cover a topic, give you a general idea, and let you decide if this is a technology that could be useful in your toolbelt. In many cases, I will point you in the direction of where to go learn more or I will tell you a story or two of how these technologies are used in real life.

So please join me on this journey with the Big Data Series. In our next post, we will talk about how Big Data started, with Hadoop. Also don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of new released posts, videos, like and share. Also, you can follow the links below in the description.

And as we Costa Ricans say, pura vida!

 

Learning Apache Solr – Online Training – Instructor Led Training – Book

by Xavier Comments: 0

Search is one of the most misunderstood functionalities in IT. Everyone takes it for granted unless it is missing or badly implemented.

The other day I was asked how can I learn search, with Solr?

There are manyways, although I’ve done what I can to help others learn enterprise search. Here are three resources:

Pluralsight Online Solr Training

I created two trainings that teach you what you need to know to get started with Solr and create a search API with Solr and SolrNet (oriented towards Microsoft-centric technologies, i.e. C#).

Best part is that it is only $29 a month to get a subscription to Pluralsight and you can learn about many other topics that are relevant for your career.

Getting Started with Enterprise Search Using Apache Solr

Implementing Search in .NET Applications

Cloudera Search Instructor-led Training

If you prefer to take an instructor-led training, Cloudera has a great training, with amazing instructors to teach you Solr. If you were not aware, Cloudera Search is actually Solr but running on top of a Hadoop cluster. So hello Big Data!

Cloudera Search Training

SyncFusion Apache Solr and SolrNet Book

I published a book on Solr for SyncFusion. It is part of the Succinctly Series, so it is a condensed resource that helps you get started. And it is free.

Apache Solr Succinctly

 

Hope they help. Ping me on twitter @xmorera if you have any questions!

Deploying Cloudera on Microsoft Azure

by Xavier Comments: 0

Are you in interested in Deploying Cloudera on Azure? If so, I invite you to watch this course that I created at Cloudera for Microsoft that teaches you how to install and deploy Cloudera on Azure in multiple different ways. Best of all, it is a free course! Please follow this link to watch Deploying and Scaling Cloudera on Microsoft Azure

The modules covered are:

  • The Building Blocks of Microsoft Azure for Deploying Cloudera
  • Cloudera on Azure – Cloud Deployment Best Practices & Patterns
  • Deploying CDH on Microsoft Azure Using Cloudera Manager & Azure Marketplace
  • Automating Deployments in Microsoft Azure Using Cloudera Director
  • Cloudera Altus in Azure Cloud – Machine Learning and Analytics as Platform-as-a-Service
  • Final Words

A Few Resources to Get Started with Search and Big Data

by Xavier Comments: 0

The other day I saw a question on where to start to learn Big Data. Well, it dawned on me that I have created a few resources that might be useful and so I share them here. It feels good to have a few resources that can help people get started.

If you want to set up Hadoop clusters using Cloudera you could watch these online trainings:

Creating Your First Big Data Hadoop Cluster Using Cloudera CDH

Preparing a Production Hadoop Cluster with Cloudera: Databases

Deploying Hadoop with Cloudera CDH to AWS

Deploying and Scaling Cloudera Enterprise on Microsoft Azure (this one is FREE)

They get you started with a development cluster, then a production grade cluster, then a deployment in the AWS cloud and then on Azure, including a module on managed Big Data with Cloudera Altus

Once you have a cluster, you can watch this course to use HUE to work with Hive, Pig, Impala and more.

Take Control of Your Big Data with HUE in Cloudera CDH

If you want to learn about search engines, you can check these on Solr

Getting Started with Enterprise Search Using Apache Solr

Implementing Search in .NET Applications

And regarding Spark, which IMHO is one of the best platforms that you can learn now then you can take either of these courses, which help you get started with either Python or Scala

Developing Spark Applications with Python & Cloudera

Developing Spark Applications Using Scala & Cloudera

I hope this helps. IMHO, learning Big Data is one of the best moves that you can make at the moment.