Friday, 28 October 2016

Personal Blog 4

After finishing Enterprise Architecture, it was time to choose a technology that I wanted to specialise in. Although, choosing one did not guarantee being trained in it, preference did play a part in what technology we were to be placed in. The choices were out of Pega, DevOps, Cloud and Mulesoft. We had to pick which one we wanted to do by standing in a corner of the room which was represented by one of the technologies. I decided to pick DevOps because the Continuous Integration week that we had was definitely my favourite week at QA and so it just seemed to be the natural choice for me. I won’t specify which one, but I did find it amusing that one of the four technologies was chosen by anyone and people were trying to push themselves further into their own technology’s corner to get as far from that technology as possible.

                DevOps started out with learning about Puppet. Puppet is open-source software which grants the ability to configure “nodes” from a host machine known as the puppet master. It started by using vagrant to setup a Puppet Master and a Puppet Agent virtual machine. Once set up, I completed Puppet Quest which is an online guide that runs through how Puppet works. Using the Puppet Master, I was able to configure parts of the Puppet Agent environment. 

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Technical Blog 3

A solar flare is a sudden, intense flash of light observed on the surface of the Sun. Usually they are very bright and produce wavelengths of light from across the electromagnetic spectrum. On average a solar flare produces 1 x 1020J of energy. The upper end of the amount of energy emitted can go up to 1 x 1025J which is approximately equal to 1 billion megatons of TNT. As well as light, a solar flare can also emit electrons, ions and other forms of matter. They typically occur when electrons interact with the plasma. Magnetic reconnection causes the particles to accelerate at huge speeds. Radiation emitted from a solar flare takes between one and two days to reach Earth. The radiation emitted by a solar flare as well as any other radiation in space can be very harmful to people that are not within Earth’s atmosphere; In other words, astronauts. The reason for this is that it contains a high amount of energy and is able to penetrate human skin with ease. The energy can then be deposited into and damage cells[1]. A lot of research is conducted into protecting astronauts from space radiation. Although no shielding apart from Earth’s atmosphere could protect a person from radiation emitted by a solar flare, general space radiation can be minimised.

Earth is protected by a “bubble” known as the magnetosphere, which repels most of the radiation and matter that is headed towards Earth. Any remaining radiation that makes it through is just absorbed by the atmosphere. Since the International Space Station is in a low Earth orbit, that too is protected by the magnetosphere. Although risky, the real danger is faced by astronauts traveling much further away.

[1] Rob Gardner, Real Martians: How to Protect Astronauts from Space Radiation on Mars, 30 Sept 2015. Retrieved 19/10/2016

Friday, 14 October 2016

Personal Blog 3

Before Enterprise Architecture started, I had no clue what it would be about or whether I’d enjoy it or not. We started by picking four teams and then we were given an overview that we would be using Enterprise Architecture to determine why a company was experiencing a drop in customer satisfaction and how to bring it back up again. The project was started by agreeing on a project manager and a team name. When I say “agreeing” I mean one person was chosen to pick the team and then a couple of days later, another person was chosen to be our project manager because the first person was very much against being the manager themselves. As for the name of our group, Pea consulting. The name came about from the first project manager’s love for peas; an almost unhealthy love for peas. It also helped that pea includes the letters “E” and “A” exclusively in that order which, of course, stands for Enterprise Architecture. Once these had been determined, we then began to discuss the provided case study in our groups to get an understanding about the business that we were helping and to plan how we were going to proceed with the project.
We started by interviewing two senior members within NBGardens, John and Debbie. They were asked about their roles within the company and their understanding of the business model. Although we thought we did quite well in the interviewing process, we were told that none of the groups had collected enough information for the next steps. Due to this, a question and answer session was set up with John and Debbie to try and gather all the information needed. After the Q and A session, we separated tasks among the group. A couple of people worked on the Business Canvas Model while others worked on starting to create a possible BPMN diagram for the business. At the same time, we were also scheduling interviews with employees from different departments and levels within the company to get a more accurate understanding of the business’ processes. I was involved in the interviews of Ray Smithy and Chris Corder. Ray was a likable person but regularly fell off topic and didn’t seem to take the interview very seriously. Chris on the other hand, was very serious, stern and seemed to be under the impression that his department was perfect and the fault lied elsewhere. At the same time, he didn’t really have any useful information to give us apart from what the COFT employees’ roles were.
After this, we really had a much clearer understanding of how the business operated. We were able to create a much more accurate BPMN diagram and started to find methods in which the business could be improved. As solutions were being created, a couple of us started to work on the presentation that we had to give to the senior members of the company. When it came to the presentation, I felt we did well since we seemed to have a clear picture of the solution within our heads. However, we did not articulate our thoughts very well since the senior members did not think our solution was valid. Although the presentation did not go as well as I’d hoped, I did learn that going into more detail while presenting is key when proposing solutions to others.
In my last blog, I will write about the coming weeks as I start learning about specialising as a DevOps consultant and my thoughts on it.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Technical Blog 2

In my previous blog post, I gave a general overview of the different problems that astronauts are faced with while they’re in space. I also gave a brief description of what measures are taken through the use of technology before, during, and after spaceflight to try and minimise any harm that may befall them. In this post I will be going into more depth about the technology used before spaceflight to prepare an astronaut for when they go out into space.

The first thing that most people think about when they think of space is the zero gravity environment. However, space is not a zero gravity environment. It is a microgravity environment. Gravity works by pulling two objects closer together; no matter how far apart these objects are, gravity will continue to try and pull them closer to each other. However, when in space, there are no objects that are large enough and close enough to have a significant gravitational pull on an astronaut so the effects are deemed negligible. Hence space is considered a microgravity environment. Astronauts cannot just be sent into space because we don’t know how well they will be able to adapt to such an environment. For example, some people become extremely nauseous under the effects of microgravity. This would become a major problem if not known about before being sent into space. Due to this, astronauts prepare themselves in microgravity simulators on Earth.

The two main methods that are used to prepare astronauts for the feeling of weightlessness or microgravity are neutral buoyancy and parabolic flight. Neutral buoyancy occurs when the average density of a physical body is the same as the density of the fluid surrounding it. The physical body will neither sink nor float. Since the densities are equal, the force pulling the body down to make it sink (gravity) is equal to the force pushing it upwards to make it float (buoyancy). For astronauts, the fluid usually used to train for this is water. Since water is slightly more dense than the human body, astronauts wear specially designed suits which have their weight adjusted, giving them the same density as water. While wearing these suits, astronauts are made to perform tasks such as moving bits of hardware around. Since this would require a lot of space and for the water to be of a significant depth, professional scuba divers are used to assist the astronauts, making sure that the depth of the water doesn’t have a negative impact on them. The pool used at the Neutral Buoyancy laboratory in Houston, Texas has dimensions of 62m in length, 31m in width, and 12.34m in depth[1]. A major disadvantage of neutral buoyancy is that water creates a huge amount of drag. This makes it more difficult to move objects and keep them moving. The objects are also more easily stopped. To minimise these effects which are the opposite of what would happen in space, any training done under these effects are done slowly.

Parabolic flight is also used to simulate microgravity but is nowhere near as much due to its inefficiency. The plane starts by flying upwards at a high speed and a steep angle, once it is about to start to level off, it slows down a bit. It maintains this horizontal motion for around 20 to 25 seconds before going into a steep nosedive at high velocity again. The simulation of microgravity occurs when the plane starts to slow down to reach the peak of its parabola and ends when it goes into a nose dive. Unlike with neutral buoyancy, this method creates a lot less drag and simulates a more natural feeling of weightlessness. However, due to the short time frame of only 20-25 seconds, it is also quite inefficient. One of the first planes used to train astronauts using this method was the C-131 Samaritan in 1959. The plane was called the “vomit commit” because this method was known to make people very nauseous and vomit[2]. This was, of course, another disadvantage to this method. It was very costly and inefficient, but it was also a great way to conduct equipment tests.

In my next blog post, I will discuss other technologies used when astronauts prepare for spaceflight and I will also begin discussing the technologies used while in space by astronauts.

[1] "Extravehicular mobility unit training and astronaut injuries". Strauss S, Krog RL, Feiveson AH (May 2005). Aviat Space Environ Med. 76 (5): 469–74. PMID 15892545. Retrieved 05/10/2016.

[2] "Mercury Astronauts in Weightless Flight on C-131 Aircraft". 2006-08-02. Retrieved 05/10/2016

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Personal Blog 2

A week before I was going to move to Manchester for the training, I’d started shopping for general household items. Even though I was told that I’d be provided with all these items, I thought it’d be good to bring my own spare items just in case. So I’d finished all the shopping by Sunday, the day before I was going to move to Manchester. I can honestly say that I wasn’t nervous in the slightest; I was extremely excited to move to a new city after spending my whole life in one place.

On the Monday, I set out pretty early so that I could make it to my apartment in good time, making sure there was plenty of time for any breaks I’d need. When I finally arrived outside my apartment building, I was really impressed with the surrounding area. It really looked like a major city, compared to where I was from anyway. I received my key to my apartment and went in to organise all my stuff. Once 12:30pm came, I made my way down to the QA office for the first time since my assessment day. Once I’d arrived, we were given a small presentation about what we’d be doing and then we went straight into learning a bit of Java.

At first, I found the Java to be relatively straight forward, but as it got more complicated, I started to struggle a bit. Even though we’d only be learning Java in a week, I felt like I was falling behind already. However, towards the end of the week, I started to understand the language a lot better. I wasn’t an expert in Java by any means by the end, but I definitely learnt a lot. Even though it was a pretty intense week of learning Java, I definitely enjoyed it.

Week two came about and it was time to learn about Continuous integration and DevOps. Again, I was struggling with the topic a bit. However, this time I noticed that it wasn’t a small minority as it was with Java. It seemed that most other people in my group were relatively new to the topic and were so we were all in the same boat. In the course, I learnt how to use a command terminal more efficiently, learnt how to setup a virtual machine which I used to learn how to use CentOS and Ubuntu, and how to manually install programs. Again, I enjoyed the week a lot and loved to learn about the topic.

For week three, we weren’t going to be at the QA office because a new group had just joined and there wasn’t enough space for everyone. Since my group was now moving on to Enterprise Architecture, we didn’t need to use computers as much as everyone else, so we were moved to The Lowry Theatre. I wasn’t going to complain because this took 10 minutes off my commute, however it was right next to The Lowry Outlet so the temptation to not make lunch and just go to the food court everyday was very high. I gave in to the temptation and stopped making lunch for myself. In my next blog, I will write about Enterprise Architecture and the two weeks that followed.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Technical Blog 1

I have decided to do my technical blog on the effects of space travel on the human body and how the is used to minimise these effects. It is well known that an astronaut is very vulnerable and putting themselves at risk when they go into space. Being in space can have many negative effects on a person. This can range from physiological problems, such as the loss of bone mass, to psychological problems, such as loneliness and depression. Bones and muscles lose a significant portion of their mass while a person is in space, Blood flow and fluids in the body are disturbed and must adapt to the change in gravity. Other issues that astronauts face are those like loneliness and depression. Being alone with the same few people for months at a time can have a huge psychological impact on people. These blogs will discuss the issues and dangers that astronauts face before, during and after spaceflight, and how technology is used to minimise them.

Before someone even considers going into space there are a number of areas that they need to be trained in and that they need to learn to adapt to. A couple of things that they learn about are medical procedures and survival training. A great deal of training that astronauts undergo involves simulating an environment similar to space to help them learn to adapt to those environments and to test them to see if they would be physically and mentally fit enough for an expedition into space[1].

As well as before spaceflight, there are many precautions that need to be taken by astronauts while they’re in space. One major health risk that astronauts face during their space expeditions is loss of muscle mass. Prolonged exposure to microgravity and the feeling of “almost weightlessness” means that muscles don’t work anywhere near as hard as they would on Earth. Hence, they lose a lot of mass very quickly. To minimise this, space shuttles are equipped with various specially designed exercise machines which astronauts must consistently use.

After spaceflight, an astronaut has to must go through rehabilitation. Due to the sudden change from microgravity to Earth gravity, astronauts’ bodies become incredibly weak. Because of this they are usually carried out of the shuttle by a rescue team after landing. Although there are slight differences, the technology used in post flight recovery is very similar to that used while in space.
While a lot of the technology used through the process of space travel is to minimise health problems, there are also measures taken to minimise hazards and to increase practicality. For example, food is freeze-dried and dehydrated. This allows two things. It allows the ability to take more food in to space and it also allows the food to last longer before it expires.

In my next blogs, I will discuss the use of technology before and during space flight in further detail as well as discussing how spacecrafts are built so that they can safely journey into space and return with minimal negative consequences.

[1] Astronauts in Training, Shelley Canright, April 9 2009.
[2] Schneider SM, Amonette WE, Blazine K, Bentley J, Lee SM, Loehr JA, Moore AD Jr, Rapley M, Mulder ER, Smith SM. (November 2003). "Training with the International Space Station interim resistive exercise device.". Medical Science Sports Exercise 35 (11): 1935–45

Friday, 16 September 2016

Personal Blog 1

My interest in technology did not take off until I was in my third year at University. Until I had started my A levels, I didn’t have the slightest clue about the career path I wanted to take, or even what course I wanted to study at university. I had picked Maths, Physics, Biology, and Chemistry as my subjects for A levels mainly because I was quite proficient with maths and enjoyed it and because science was my second best subject at GCSE. It was at this point that I had sparked an interest in Physics. The concepts of how the entire Universe worked really fascinated me; especially when events caused by the largest stars can produce very similar results to that of the tiniest particles. My interest in physics as well as my proficiency in maths made it seem like the perfect subject to study for me.

Although I enjoyed physics, there was another subject that I wasn’t familiar with, but had always wanted to learn more about. I loved technology and computers. Through my years at University, I was taught the fundamentals of programming through the languages R and C. My interest in computers and programming increased in my second year when I attempted to program a robot dog to complete various tasks using the language Arduino. My supervisor suggested that I switch to using Python. Although the project wasn’t a complete success I enjoyed it a lot and started to consider learning more about computers and getting a career in IT. In my third year my dissertation project was based on using R to analyse data produced as a result of a Tidal Disruption Event. The event happens when a black hole starts to slowly swallow a passing star. Although the concept of a tidal disruption event fascinated me, using R wasn’t something I enjoyed. I found that even though I was better at using R than at using Python, I enjoyed using Python more.

After I’d finished University, my passion for technology really spiked. I enjoy playing video games and it’s a well-known fact that PCs are a lot more powerful than consoles and can run games a lot better. For me, this resulted in a lot of time spent researching about computer hardware and the best combinations of hardware to use. I just fell in love with computers. It was around this point that I really wanted to get into the technology industry and started to try and learn how to program. I used Codecademy to learn how to program using Java. Although I got through the exercises on the website, the content seemed to be slightly limited. In any case, I enjoyed it.

Fast forward a couple of months and I received a phone call from QA Consulting. I had a phone interview, after which I was invited to go to Manchester for an assessment day. I seemed to have nerves of steel about the day. Until the actual day when the nerves kicked in. Fortunately though, the assessment day was a lot more relaxed and the people were very friendly. I feel this was a good tactic to get people relaxed and to be themselves. Even though I felt that I had done terribly, I received a call and was offered a traineeship. To say I was excited would be an understatement.