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