Book – The everything store

The everything store

The everything storeThe idea of the everything store was simple: an Internet company that served as the intermediary between customers and manufacturers and sold nearly every type of product, all over the world. It is the story of Amazon.com, one of the most successful companies in the world. And the story of its driven founder Jeff Bezos.

Reading the book I think that there are a few defining moments and lessons. Frugality is an important factor in retailing and especially for amazon:

Frugality We try not to spend money on things that don’t matter to customers. Frugality breeds resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention. There are no extra points for headcount, budget size or fixed expense. All of this comes from Bezos himself. Amazon’s values are his business principles, molded through two decades of surviving in the thin atmosphere of low profit margins and fierce skepticism from the outside world. In a way, the entire company is scaffolding built around his brain—an amplification machine meant to disseminate his ingenuity and drive across the greatest possible radius.

Ever since the late 1990s, Bezos had been claiming that Amazon was a technology company pioneering e-commerce, not a retailer. But that sounded like wishful thinking. Amazon still collected a vast majority of its revenues by selling stuff to customers. Despite Bezos’s protestations, Amazon looked, smelled, walked, and quacked like a retailer—and not a very profitable one at that… However

It was the combination of EC2 and S3—storage and compute, two primitives linked together—that transformed both AWS and the technology world. Startups no longer needed to spend their venture capital on buying servers and hiring specialized engineers to run them. Infrastructure costs were variable instead of fixed, and they could grow in direct proportion to revenues. It freed companies to experiment, to change their business models with a minimum of pain, and to keep up with the rapidly growing audiences of erupting social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Today in 2014 Amazon’s cloud keeps growing fast. It has invented a market in the computer industry with a great future.

Reading list of 2014 so far

In this blog post I’ll share a list of books I read during the first months of 2014. There is more business focus compared to previous years…

The everything store

The everything storeThe everything store is one of the books I liked reading most of my reading list this year. It tells the story of amazon.com so far; The vision and ways of working of the company and it’s founder Jeff Bezos.

The book gives a good insight into the ways amazon.com operates. There is a interesting review on that on The New York Review of Books. You should also read the reviews on amazon.com in which some of the staff reacts on the book. Find my separate post on the book – the everything store.

Mobile first

Mobile FirstMobile First is written by the former Yahoo! design architect, Luke Wroblewski. It is a to the point guide, with good examples. Though examples in this field quickly seem outdated they show the point very well.

The book offers both insightful design patterns and common-sense principles. In the end it all boils down to the adagium: keep it simple.

Automate this, How algorithms came to rule our world

Automate ThisMore and more parts of our lives are ruled by algorithms. There application isn’t only in the financial world or in automated systems inside companies, they are also in medical applications ranging from wait list prioritisation to assisting in diagnoses. The book is full of anecdotes, especially on high frequency trading. It also shows side affects liken how the war for talent has affected development and innovation of other innovations.
There is little room for the downside of algorithms creeping into our daily lives.

Hidden Persuation

Hidden PersuationGreat introduction into the ways in which we are influenced and how we can influence others. It details the psychology behind the techniques of influence described. The book offers very illustrative visual references. It is well created with a fine look-and-feel and an eye for detail.

Hidden persuasion is interesting for professionals in marketing, advertising and communications, but also if you’re just slightly interested in these fields. You will look in another way at (visual) communication in everyday life.

FitNesse add tags to multiple pages at once

FitNesseTaggerSearchWe’re using FitNesse as one of our tools for (acceptance) testing. It can be quite laborious in FitNesse to add tags to multiple pages at once. So one my colleagues – Joost van Wollingen – wrote a nifty tool that can mass tag selected pages.

In order to have FitNesse add tags to multiple pages at once, start the Java program. Select the directory from where you want the search to start. Enter the tags you want to search for/ filter on.

FitNesseTaggerResultsThe search results are displayed in the results tab. You can add or remove (comma separated) tags for single pages or for all pages in the result set.

If you’re facing the same challenge to have FitNesse add tags to multiple pages at once and want to test/use the tool, contact me or Joost / leave a comment…

Online product recommendations using Hadoop

One of the leading portals on BigData, Dataconomy, had an interview with a colleague of mine on product recommendations systems. These are systems aimed towards personalizing content and recommending the ‘right’ products, in other words products that inspire customers. The article – The Science Behind the Finding the Perfect Product – is a nice read that covers quite some areas.

Stack of Hadoop nodesAt bol.com we use Hadoop for batches, and we have our own custom-built technology for the real-time part. The picture with this blog post shows some of the new nodes that were added to the Hadoop cluster yust this week.

This colleague also held a talk at BerlinBuzz 2014 on product recommendations. It covers quite some interesting stuff on a great case of the use of Hadoop and BigData in under 20 minutes:

Article on integration infra components published in OTech magazine

article OTech magazineDuring Oracle Open World 2013 OTech magazine was launched. OTech is a new independent magazine for Oracle professionals. The magazine’s goal is to offer a clear perspective on Oracle technologies and the way they are put into action. As a trusted technology magazine, OTech Magazine provides opinion and analysis on the news in addition to the facts.

My article in OTech magazine one of the most frequently asked questions is how to pick the right integration infrastructure component to solve the problem at hand.

Download the fall issue of OTech magazine.

Lean, agile and Software development reading list of 2013

In this blogpost I’ll share a list of books I read during the first six months of 2013.

Hadoop – The definitive guide

Hadoop the definitive guideThis book proved very useful to get an introduction and solid background in Hadoop. I was reading it a little before starting an enhancement of MapReduce code. This made it possible to better understand the production code and how to make the changes.

Hadoop The Definitive Guide (amazon) is recommended for anyone interested in Hadoop stuff.

Essential scrum

Essential ScrumWanted to read Essential Scrum to renew and deepen my theoretical knowledge of Scrum. This is a great read for that purpose!

I like the visuals that are used and set it apart from other books on the subject. Besides that I liked the MindMap-like figures that support the stucture in the chapters.

The scope goes beyond the core of Scrum and does that well. It also touches on subjects like Multilevel and Portfolio planning, The role of managers in Scrum context, and Product Planning.

This is a great follow up read for anyone with basic Scrum training or certification. It doesn’t just offer the big picture but both details and examples on how to become more agile. It will help you deal with the complexities of implementing and refining Scrum.

Thinking Fast and Slow

Thinking Fast And SlowThe aim of Daniel Kahneman the author of Thinking Fast and Slow is to enrich the vocabulary of people talking at a watercooler, where opinions and gossip are exchanged. He wrote this book to influence the way they talk about judgements and choices of others. He has succeeded. As Economist has put it: Kahneman shows that we are not the paragons of reason we assume ourselves to be. When you realise this it put you and the world around you in a different perspective.

Mr. Kahneman is a person that understands like no other on the planet how and why we make the choices we make. He knows how to share his insights! This is a great read for any curious mind, escpecially those with an interest in how and why we make choices.

This book will change the way you think.

Seven Databases in Seven Weeks: A Guide to Modern Databases and the NoSQL Movement

Seven databases in seven weeksThe book Seven databases in seven weeks will take you on a tour visiting some of the hottest open source database today. This is typical software development reading.

It has a progressive style of offering insigts to databases and their capabilities. The open source databases covered are PostgreSQL, Riak, Apache HBase, MongoDB, Apache CouchDB, Neo4J, and Redis. These were chosen to span five database styles or genres: Relational, Key-Value, Columnar, Document and Graph.

This book is recommended for anyone looking for a solid introduction fo databases besides the traditional RDBMS. It will provide the knowledge you need to choose one database to suit your needs.

VirtualBox – Install Ubuntu 13.04

To install Ubuntu 13.04 in a fresh VirtualBox image, create a VirtualBox image as described in the blog post on installing Ubuntu 11.04 in VirtualBox. Focus on the Prepare Ubuntu install in VirtualBox section.

In the latest versions of VirtualBox you can choose multiple types of virtual disks (.vdi , .vmdk , et cetera). This is most relevant if you want to share your image across multiple virtualization platforms. If you have no specific requirements go with the default.

Install Ubuntu 13.04 in VirtualBox

  • Go to the settings of the newly created VirtualBox image;
  • In the storage section add an IDE Controller pointing to the installation disk: ubuntu-13.04-desktop-i386.iso for 32 bit or ubuntu-13.04-desktop-amd64.iso for 64 bit;
  • Ensure that you have asigned the VBox image enough processing power and memory;
  • Boot the installation iso by starting the VirtualBox image;
  • Watch Ubuntu 13.04 booting;
  • Choose your language and install Ubuntu;
  • After Ubuntu prepared it’s install and checks some stuff for best results, click Continue to go on with the installation;
  • In a new VirtualBox image you can safely choose to erase all stuff on disk and install Ubuntu (it will use ext4 as a file system);
  • Select the created VBOX Harddisk to do so. Choose install now;
  • Choose the location while Ubuntu continues creating the file system in the background;
  • While Ubuntu keeps copying files choose your keyboard layout;
  • Choose your name, the computer’s name, your username and password. For additional security you choose to encrypt your home folder;
  • Restart the Virtual Machine and log in;

VirtualBox Guest additions

The screenshots in the gallery also show how to install the VirtualBox guest additions in Ubuntu 13.04. Check this post for more details to install Vbox guest additions to install the VirtualBox guest additions.

VirtualBox solved VERR_VMX_MSR_LOCKED_OR_DISABLED

VirtualBox Manager VERR_VMX_MSR_LOCKED_OR_DISABLEDWhile creating a Ubuntu 12.10 machine VirtualBox I ran into an error – VirtualBox VERR_VMX_MSR_LOCKED_OR_DISABLED – on my company issued HP ProBook. This halts the startup process of the virtual machine. You won’t be able to use it.

Here is the complete log and a screenshot:


Failed to open a session for the virtual machine Ubuntu 12.10.

VT-x features locked or unavailable in MSR. (VERR_VMX_MSR_LOCKED_OR_DISABLED).

Result Code: E_FAIL (0x80004005)
Component: Console
Interface: IConsole {db7ab4ca-2a3f-4183-9243-c1208da92392}

I remembered that there were issue were issues with HP bios from the VirtualBox FAQ using ENABLE VT-X/AMD-V:

some HP BIOSES have a glitch, When You ENABLE VT-X/AMD-V, You DISABLE it, so do try both ways.

VirtualBox Enable VT-x AMD-VSo the first solution I tried was to uncheck the box to ENABLE VT-X/AMD-V. That solved my problem. Now VirtualBox was able to start my Ubuntu machine. Check the screenshot how to disable (or enable the) VT-X/AMD-V setting.

Yep, I know this is against the advice I gave to improve VirtualBox performance. However I need it on this hardware to get my machines running…

Upgrade iPad2 to iOS6.1 screenshots

Apple updated iOS to 6.1. The update of the iPad to iOS 6.1 can be started from iTunes or directly in the Settings app (General -> Software Update).

On Apple’s support pages, it is stated that the new version will have:

  • LTE support for more carriers (complete list of supported carriers at Apple on LTE
  • Purchase movie tickets through Fandango with Siri (USA only)
  • iTunes Match subscribers can now download individual songs from iCloud
  • New button to reset the Advertising Identifier


There was a small language issue on the slide to unlock page in the Dutch version (see screenshot 4).

Amazon’s best sold laptop runs Linux

Amazon’s best sold laptop runs Linux! And I must admit that I was surprised to discover this today. It has been the for almost three months today.
Amazon best sold laptop runs LinuxAmazon best sold laptop runs Linux

It’s Samsung’s ARM-powered, Linux-based Chromebook. This laptop has at least three great advantages:

  • It is cheap. There is no laptop in Amazon’s top-20 that can compete based on price. It’s even hard for tablet to be cheaper.
  • It is easy. Anyone that can use a web browser should be able to use the Chromebook. There is learning curve.
  • Although it runs Linux, you have to try hard to find that. Unlike with Windows 8 you don’t have to relearn how to use your laptop. Same goes for those moving from Windows to OSX. Even there is more learning involved.

Think about how you are using your laptop most of the time: If you spend 90% of your time using the web the Chromebook might be something for you. Especially if you are using software-as-a-service or Web apps most of the time. On the other hand if you need special programs that require Windows or OSX this probably won’t work for you. Right now you might want to check ZDnet’s review of the Samsung Chromebook.