“Let’s do a PUZZLE”

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Christmas was…puzzling 😀 Years past with us all together at the holidays I uttered these fateful words: “Let’s do a PUZZLE!”
And when I say “Let’s do a puzzle,” I mean “I’ll help get the border pieces together, then leave it to the smarter people to do pretty much the entire puzzle while I go figure out a piece of electronics or take a festive holiday nap.”
So now every year my loving family SHOWERS me with puzzles. This Christmas: three.
Including this one. A Harry Potter puzzle. With colorful reflective pieces that shimmer as puzzle pieces have never shimmed.
I helped my wife Joanne get some of the border pieces together. Here she is powering through all the rest.

“It’s Too Hard to Go Vegan; What Would I Eat?” The Ultimate Guide to Plant-Based Tastes

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[First published in 2019, but an ongoing labor of love updated as recently as December 2020]

To me, “going vegan” was not about being trendy or better-than-thou, showing anyone up, or guilting anyone into doing what I have come to believe is the right thing. It’s just what my wife and I have done in our household after our younger daughter introduced us to it back in 2016.

Below you’ll find links leading to literally thousands of choices ranging from tasty to delicious to downright delectable. In this piece, we:

  • Lead off with the fast-growing lineup of plant-based fare available at restaurants and on the go
  • Move from there to the incredible diversity of plant-based foods ready to tempt your tastebuds on the homefront, including (yes) “The Tesla of Chicken”
  • Follow it all up with Q&A, the science, thoughts, and opinions

A programming note: this post is rigorously sourced, but I couldn’t get references to click to the endnotes for you. Links that simply open to company websites and the like, not part of a news story, are embedded in text. Those sourced from research reports and news stories have a notation, from |a| to |z| and more. Either way, all links open the way God intended them to: in a new tab =;-D At post’s end you’ll find all endnotes with sources, titles, and the same links.

Eating on the Go: Plant-Based Burgers ROCK

These burgers feature something that would surprise those who haven’t tried them: THEY TASTE GREAT. Even if I weren’t a plant-based enthusiast, I would never go back to “regular” burgers.

As reflected in the opening image, we love Beyond Meat Burgers at TGI Fridays. Having had every burger Fridays makes over the years, to us these are the best and tastiest on the menu. We are also proud and happy $BYND shareholders.

Burger King rolled out its Impossible Whopper to rave reviews across the US and Impossible products are available in a handful of other countries. Beyond Meat products have far greater reach, currently sold in the US parts of EMEA, APAC, and Latin America. Both companies are of course looking to expand into other markets.

I usually don’t have time to wait on the service, but when I do, the Impossible-based Sliders at White Castle are pretty good.

So Do These Other Foods-on-the-Go, including (there is a God) Cheesesteak

Del Taco is serving up “The Future of Tacos and Burritos” made with Beyond Meat.

Dunkin’ Donuts has partnered with Beyond Meat to introduce the Beyond Sausage Breakfast Sandwich. Yes, not vegan if you get cheese on it, but like the Starbucks breakfast sandwich mentioned below, it is wildly popular (and in my assessment, amazingly tasty).

Azzip Pizza serves up really good “zero dairy zero cholesterol zero animal products 100% flavor” pies.

But the biggest news in plant-based restaurant pizza may be the Beyond Pan Pizzas at Pizza Hut. No, they’re not vegan because they are still made with real cheese, but Pizza Hut proudly serves them up with Beyond Italian Sausage, and they are impossibly delicious.

When I learned mega-musician and writer Questlove was teaming up with the cool kids at Impossible to serve up a vegan cheesesteak, I tweeted it up. When Questlove himself RT’d my tweet, it went what in my world is viral. Get this: they launched the new cheesesteak in PHILADELPHIA! The center of the cheesesteak universe. Questlove was born and raised there, and as you can read at the link above, is something of a cheesesteak connoisseur. So at Phillies games or other events you can now enjoy Questlove’s Cheesesteak™ at Citizens Bank Park!

This is also not a one-shot deal for Questlove: he is an early investor in Impossible Foods. If and when Impossible Foods goes public my wife and I will, in our own small-investor way, join him. But first I want to do lunch with him! |a  b|

Vegan Global Goodness

On my first real business trip to London last November — before that, my only visit had been a stopover at Heathrow — I had a Beyond Burger at Honest Burgers. They are now calling it their Plant ‘V’ and it joins the Fritter ‘V’ and Veggie Christmas on the Honest-ly great menu.

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Your data needs to keep up with the state of play today. Event-driven architecture will get you up to speed

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The Pop-Up Playground Party at AWS re:Invent 2019, sponsored by MongoDB and Confluent, was an exclusive, interactive event featuring immersive art, light, gaming, and play activations with an open bar, DJs, and more, at the Industrial Las Vegas.

Attendees got to create unforgettable memories (or at least killer Instagram photos) at the glowing ball pit, DIY graffiti walls, retro arcade games, and other immersive activities, such as getting a temporary tattoo in a sports car. Meanwhile, the Hood Internet and Vegas’s hottest DJs kept the soundtrack fresh all night long!

In a word, the Pop-Up Playground was: fun.

Something that is way less fun: being one of the many companies that increasingly find it impossible to keep up with the pace of business because their data platforms can’t keep up. Under those circumstances life is anything but a party, in fact, the opposite of a party. 

That’s why MongoDB and Confluent teamed up, not just to throw the best party at re:Invent but to help companies run their businesses in real time. 

An effective approach to real time could not come at a better time, because many companies are still trying to meet their data needs in ways that don’t match modern business reality. Some are mired in 40-year-old relational database technology. Others think updating to a NoSQL database is positioning them for the future. They soon learn that while getting data in may be easy enough, getting insights out is a whole different story, and what they are actually positioned for now are niche applications, not an effective new data strategy.

The results of pursuing the wrong data strategy can be harmful or fatal. CNBC Markets found that the average lifespan of S&P 500 companies has fallen from nearly 60 years in the 1950s to less than 20 years today. Innosight modeled the rate of attrition from the S&P 500 and predicted that over the next 10 years, half the companies will be replaced: drop out, go out of business, or be acquired, as digital transformation lowers barriers to entry for new players and helps drive out incumbents trapped in legacy infrastructures and processes.

The traditional request-driven data architecture that still exists at many companies helps keep them trapped in legacy limitations. It requires users and applications to make requests and wait until the requested information becomes available. Waiting for data kills opportunity and agility.

By contrast, event-driven architecture, which I posted about on jeffcotrupe.com,  proactively makes a stream of data from source systems (producers) available in real time. Consuming applications and services (consumers) subscribe to topics of interest and consume data at their own pace. Capturing and acting on events in real time enables systems to react automatically and immediately to events. This helps a company rapidly position itself to outflank competitors. Detecting operational errors lets it take immediate corrective action. These benefits translate into not only operational excellence and cost savings but also enhanced customer experience as the company optimizes customer-facing processes. More broadly, an event-driven architecture helps the organization improve business agility.

The key driver today in making the need for real-time data an organizational imperative is the emergence of microservices. Microservices architecture breaks up monolithic applications into small, discrete services or functions. It creates self-sufficient sprint teams empowered to bring new capabilities online independently of each other, then over time evolve and upgrade their microservice without impacting adjacent microservices. That is the essence of agility.

As beneficial as microservices can be, though, they require the ability to work with large volumes of data that change frequently, which is a challenge many existing systems cannot meet. Trying to implement microservices in a legacy relational database incurs the pain and friction of having to define a schema in the database and re-implement that same schema again to effect object-relational mapping (ORM) at the application layer. Then your development team has to repeat the process, first for each microservice and then every change to the data model as application functionality evolves.

With MongoDB, data modeling for microservices is easy, which is a big reason MongoDB is at the core of many event-driven systems today. MongoDB’s flexible document model gives you the best way to work with data, lets you intelligently place data where you need it (and when, as in immediately), and gives you the freedom to run anywhere. MongoDB helps you move at the speed your users demand. It gives you the power to launch new digital initiatives and bring modernized applications to market faster, running reliably and securely at scale, unlocking insights and intelligence ahead of your competitors.

 

By starting with the core MongoDB data platform and binding in complementary technologies, MongoDB provides the data persistence heart of an event-driven architecture. MongoDB and Confluent work together to enable you to readily build microservices and event-driven architectures to become an agile organization.

Confluent Platform, including Apache® Kafka® and Kafka Connect, is designed as an event messaging queue for massive streams of data that sequentially writes events into commit logs, allowing real-time data movement between your services and data sources. The MongoDB Connector for Apache® Kafka® — developed and supported by MongoDB engineers, and verified by Confluent as a first-class component of Confluent Platform — simplifies building robust, reactive pipelines to move events between systems. You can use MongoDB as a sink (consumer) to ingest events from Kafka topics directly into MongoDB collections, exposing the data to your services for efficient querying, enrichment, and analytics, as well as for long-term storage. You can also use MongoDB as a source (producer) for Kafka topics; in this mode, data is captured via Change Streams within the MongoDB cluster and published straight into Kafka topics. These capabilities enable consuming apps to react to data changes in real time.

MongoDB-powered event-driven architectures are at work in a range of user cases including IoT and other time series applications; financial services; AI; predictive maintenance, primarily in manufacturing but also in other verticals; Web activity tracking and log aggregation; and as an operational data layer (ODL) integrating and organizing siloed enterprise data to make it available to all users and consuming apps. Customers who have deployed event-driven architecture powered by MongoDB include Ticketek, EG, ao.com, Man AHL, and comparethemarket.com

The figure below shows MongoDB and Confluent working together in an event-driven architecture supporting a microservices-based e-commerce application.

In this scenario, fuel costs to ship some items have just gone up, which could impact pricing. This produces events about the cost increase and places them into Apache Kafka. The Pricing microservice consumes the event, analyzes it against existing data, and produces events conveying the new pricing. MongoDB Atlas captures this data and, through the MongoDB Connector for Apache Kafka, publishes it into Kafka topics, which makes the data available to all consumers. Microservices directly impacted by pricing changes, such as those that manage inventory, marketing, promotions & coupons, point of sale (POS), and the e-commerce provider’s order management system (OMS), consume the price change events and update their individual databases accordingly. MongoDB Atlas aggregates and persists data from all microservices, enriches event streams with data from other sources, including historical data, and provides a central repository. This enables applications and users to benefit from all data across all microservices and provides a unified view of state across the e-commerce provider’s enterprise.

To learn more, download our white paper, How MongoDB Enables Real-Time Data with Event-Driven Architecture, and visit our Real-Time Analytics page.

Show me some skin(care)

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My younger daughter is offering the best line of affordable skincare products on the market. One of their many features that doesn’t come with most other skincare products is a hassle-free 60-day money-back guarantee. They’re for women AND men, so “as beautiful as my skin is” =;-D I am using them myself. Click the little FB logo below, or click here, to enjoy the video and learn more.

Mac Links LIVE!

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Ha, “I’ll explain.”

For I think 10-15 years now I’ve been using the Office suite on PC to make PDFs of Word, Powerpoint, and Excel files and never gave links a second thought. You embed links in text like this in the source file and they’re live in the PDF. Fonts and layout are identical to what you created in the source file.

Not on Mac.

Oh, if you simply type out links as text, e.g., https://www.crunchbase.com/person/jeff-cotrupe, they do save as live links in PDFs. But it is self-evident why that is sub-optimal. Pretty much everywhere in all applications people embed links in all content like this, and that is the standard.

Create a file in Office on the Mac, save as PDF and you’re presented with two choices:

  • Saving your PDF as “Best for printing” preserves fonts/layouts but kills the links.
  • Saving as “Best for electronic and accessibility (uses Microsoft online service)” gives you live links, but is also dependent upon which fonts Microsoft has loaded on those servers. In any file I’ve ever tested, this method massacres fonts and layouts and is unworkable.

After much experimentation and testing, here are the only two ways you can use Word on a Mac to create PDFs with embedded live links AND the fonts and layout of your choice:

[1] Use Word for Mac to create your doc. Save as Best Print Quality. Your embedded links are dead. Buy Acrobat Pro DC for $450 or license it for a year for $180. Open your PDF and the source Wordfile. Copy link locations for all links in Wordfile and paste them in into new link boxes you create over those same words or phrases in PDF.

[2] Buy Parallels, Windows 10, and Office for your Mac. Parallels virtual machine frees Word to do on Mac what it does on PC: save embedded live links in PDF. Not sure what it cost my company to buy Parallels and Windows 10 licenses, and the new separate license for Office to use in Parallels. 

Long way and lot of money to go just to create live links AND not demolish your fonts and layouts when saving Word to PDF on a Mac, right? But those are your choices.

I bet Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe could get together and fix this in a New York (or Seattle, or Silicon Valley) minute. But there’s a lot of money changing hands in #s 1 and 2 above, so…

I’m now at MongoDB!

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I am now a proud member of the Product Marketing team at MongoDB: the first database company to go public in more than two decades (NASDAQ: $MDB), its business growing at ~50% YoY, with the technology and vision to take on the multibillion-dollar incumbents as it disrupts and reshapes an entire industry. As an analyst I had forecast a total market opportunity of $67.89 billion in big data and analytics by 2019, growing to nearly $111 billion by 2022. I am excited to be at a truly global company capturing a sizable and growing share of that opportunity!

My role is Senior Solutions Marketing Manager, a core part of an energetic and globally distributed team reporting to the Senior Director, Products and Solutions, based in the UK. I am responsible for driving solutions marketing and GTM content positioning the UVP of our product/services portfolio to a senior audience.

If you are not already using MongoDB, let’s talk about what it can do for you and your organization. If you are, I’d like to hear how you are doing. You can find me at any contact point on the Connections page and I’ll be in touch soon.

Your two most pressing Outlook iCloud Sync issues SOLVED

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If you are reading this, you probably want to be able to add or change contacts or calendar items in Outlook on your computer and have them reflected, ‘through the magic of iCloud,’ on your iPhone, and vice versa, from phone to computer. That was all I wanted, but I hit some walls that seemed insurmountable until I found solutions posted by some expert and helpful users. I decided to post them together to offer you, the reader, one-stop shopping to these fantastic fixes.

ISSUE: “Setup cannot continue because Outlook is not configured to have a default profile.”
This one smacks you in the face right out of the gate, after you have installed iCloud and are in setup. You check the box to tell iCloud to sync Mail. Contacts, Calendars, and Tasks, hit apply–and you get the message above. After rapidly descending on an estimated 11 zillion sites with solutions that did not work, I found one that did.
SOLUTION: Close iCloud. Open File Explorer, go to c: \ Program files(x86) \ Common files \ Apple \ Internet and find the file simply called iCloud (it’s icloud.exe, but the extension may not be visible). Right-click it and choose Properties. Click the Compatibility tab and you should see something like this:

The compability troubleshooter button is highlighted, and I pressed that and put the system through its paces, but ultimately all you have to do is check the box and select the pulldown menu so it reads as it does here: “Run the program in compatibility mode for Windows 8.” Press [OK] at the bottom.

Now open iCloud again, check the box for Mail. Contacts, Calendars, and Tasks, hit apply, and it should go through its sequence to set up iCloud and Outlook to sync.

ISSUE: Contacts are syncing but calendar items are not.
I again found a number of sites with well-meaning solutions that weren’t, but thankfully found one pretty quickly that worked.
SOLUTION: Open Outlook, choose calendar, and double-click in a date box to set up a new Appointment. You’ll notice Calendar at top left.

Your calendar may be defaulting to Outlook Data File as mine did:

If so, use the slider to page down, find your iCloud calendar, and check the box for Calendar:

I was going to say this is not a permanent solution because you will have to do this every time. However, it appears that if I just remember to keep the iCloud calendar checked instead of letting Outlook select Outlook Data File as the default calendar to show, new calendar invites I create are coming up correctly in iCloud calendar.

To close the loop, I double-checked whether calendar entries I create in iCloud are syncing to Outlook. iOS lets you preset the calendar in which new Appointments are created. So yes, new Appointments I create on my phone are syncing fine in Outlook without any adjustment.

As some of my friends in other parts of the world like to say: “There you are. All sorted.”

I am guilty of having saved content and screenshots in my files, but not links to the pages where I found this sage advice, to give credit where due. Thank you, solution providers. You know who you are, and you have my eternal gratitude.

 

WELCOME to a more competitive e-commerce market

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Attended the eTail West event two years running…placed two online orders during roughly the same period with a company I lovingly dub the Retail Death Star…had a deadline to meet for the IDG Infoworld blog…and it led to one of my most fun-to-write blog posts ever. The WELCOME mat above plays a pivotal role in the piece, but IDG wouldn’t run this photo because it doesn’t publish anything but its own internally approved pix. So here it is in all its boldly leaf-strewn glory, beckoning you to walk right over it and enjoy all the e-commerce action here.

Before I go: some of the arboreal wonders giving the mat that leafy look.

Innovating for Dollars: AI / ML / Deep Learning / Cognitive for Financial Institutions

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When Letterman was still hosting the Late Show, from time to time he’d say: “And if all THAT weren’t enough…and by golly, don’t you think it ought to be,” and would go on to mention something else that was noteworthy about the show or a guest.

Bear with me, I’ll go back to that in a moment, and it will tie into our discussion…which is about AI. AI is forecast to drive GDP gains of $15.7 trillion globally by 2030.* No organization can afford to miss out on its share of those trillions in opportunity. Adoption is low thus far, however. In Stratecast’s 2017 Big Data and Analytics Survey, only 20% of organizations said they are considering, planning, implementing, or using it. We think one part of it is market confusion; another is organizations not seeing the link between AI and revenue—both growth and retention.

Let’s first dispel some confusion surrounding AI. My practice analyzes big data and analytics (BDA), and here is where AI fits at a functional level: the Business Process and Strategic Analytics (BPSA) area of the BDA market. BPSA represents about one-quarter of the overall BDA market, which we assessed at more than $53 billion in 2017, and which we forecast to grow to nearly $68 billion by 2019.

Now let’s talk about other linkages between AI and money. Ever heard of Alexa and Siri? Amazon? Facebook, Google, Netflix, Tesla, and Uber? These and a multitude of others are making money right now by applying AI to their businesses. But wait, you say, what about financial institutions? Well, how about one of the largest online financial trading services in the world? It has used AI to reduce support costs by 80%. Or consider how, with hundreds of forms and more than 350 online apps, associates at a top-10 Wall Street investment firm were spending an average of 20–30 minutes looking for each form or app. The firm is now saving an estimated $32 million annually by applying AI to those and related processes. Even these examples, however, reflect a financial services market that is only beginning to scratch the surface of all the ways AI can benefit financial institutions. Customer-facing applications of AI include learning customer patterns and motivations to help guide them toward better financial decisions. In the back office, AI can, similarly, guide a financial institution’s own investment decisions. AI can automate tasks in many areas including underwriting, reconciliation, the development of risk models, and basic handling of incoming data and queries.

Sounds good, right? But delivering on the promise of AI requires a vision for applying smart analytics to the business. Nowhere is that concept more fitting than when talking about Tableau. Tableau provides the foundation underpinning the adoption of new and emerging technologies with an enterprise platform that covers all the bases in governance and security to help financial service companies guard against security breaches and ensure privacy compliance. Tableau offers rapid performance against massive datasets, an effect now accelerated by Hyper, its fast main-memory database system designed for simultaneous OLTP and OLAP processing (transactions and analysis in a single system) without compromising performance. Powerful, self-service analytics drive innovation, encouraging employees to discover opportunities for new products and services, contributing to customer and revenue growth—and enabling them to quickly run scenarios to assess the impacts of new business models such as blockchain.

Back to Letterman: “And if all THAT weren’t enough…and by golly, don’t you think it ought to be,” Tableau also has a vision for smart analytics that transcends AI-supporting BDA firepower with some pretty impressive AI building blocks. On the NL front, Tableau acquired Cleargraph and is combining Cleargraph’s NLP capabilities with Tableau’s existing Eviza natural language interface; and the company has partnerships with Automated Insights and Narrative Science to add NLG capabilities to the mix. In development are Tableau’s new Recommendations Engine, which will enable discovery, help users reuse the work of others, and leverage knowledge of their communities; Model Automation, which will offer smart defaults, saving time and providing ease of use; and Automated Discovery, to help customers discover hidden insights and answer more complex questions.

Planning on revenue growth? Failure to harness the power of AI could be a showstopper. Tableau has the content and the connections to ensure that the show will go on.

*PwC, AI to drive GDP gains of $15.7 trillion with productivity, personalization improvements, available here

How iPhone Got Her Outlook Back

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After working fine for years, suddenly iPhone and Outlook stopped syncing contacts and calendars. Outlook started throwing off messages a la, “Outlook had a serious problem with the iCloud Add-In, do you want to disable it?,” and the iCloud tab and Refresh button disappeared from Outlook. None of what I’ll politely call the ‘easy fixes based on standard instructions’ you so often see about things like this all over the Web did a thing to change the situation. Here’s how I solved it:

[1] In Outlook 2010: File > Options > Add-ins. That brought me here:

This is actually the ‘after’ view–after I fixed this. The view when I attacked this problem was identical except that iCloud Outlook Addin was appearing under Disabled Application Add-ins. No, I am not disabling it and going through the process all over again for the sake of this piece. There is journalistic integrity–and there is “Why in God’s name did you touch it again after you rescued it the first time?!” But I digress…

Anyway, noticing the file location paths, I typed in a separate note the file location for the iCloud Add-in shown above: C: > Program Files (x86) > Common Files > Apple > Internet Services > APLZOD32.dll. You’ll see why in a minute.

The page is preset to Manage COM Add-ins, and I pressed [Go].

[2] That brought me here:

In this view I selected the Cloud Outlook Addin* to highlight it, as shown above, and pressed [Remove].

[3] Next, in this same view I next pressed [Add…], and navigated to the file location I had found above, which brought me here:

I selected the file, saw it was now listed in Active Application Add-ins, and noticed that, miracle of miracles, the [iCloud] tab at the top of the Outlook window, and the [Refresh] button, had returned. Yes, syncing iPhone to Outlook could actually be a refreshing experience again.
So far so good, but any dev and probably many readers know what comes next: TESTING.

I held my breath as I tested it: added and deleted Calendar and Contact items, and modified existing items, on iPhone and in Outlook, and they are now updating both ways—iPhone-to-Outlook and Outlook-to-iPhone—either immediately in front of my eyes, or when I hit Refresh.

“Victory is mine”…and, if you’ve been seeking a solution to this problem: YOURS. We’re all in this together.

*Whoever was in charge of placing dashes in filenames missed on the iCloud and VBA (Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications) “addins,” or as they’re widely known: Add-ins.