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Michael Fox: Simpana 10 – Linux client prepost command execution failure

Planet Linux Australia - Thu 27th Mar 2014 21:03

Came across an interesting condition today, which took me a bit of testing to identify why the job would go into a pending state. This one relates to Simpana 10 on a Linux client where you have a File System iDA with a PrePost command being executed. In my test below the script is doing nothing special, it’s merely to have something to execute to show the behavior. I’ve provided it below purely for reference.

[root@jldb1 bin]# cat #!/bin/sh # test # echo $1 $2 $3 $4 $5 $6 $7 $8 $9 >> /root/pre-scan.log exit 0

Job goes pending and produced the following errors and output below;

JPR (Job Pending Record)

Error Code: [7:75]

Description: Unable to run [/usr/local/bin/] on client.

Source: jwcs, Process: startPrePostCmd

[JobManager.log – commserve]

3024  d88   03/27 18:16:26 21  Scheduler  Set pending cause [Unable to run [/usr/local/bin/] on the client.                 ]::Client [jwcs] Application [startPrePostCmd] Message Id [117440587] RCID [0] ReservationId [0].  Level [0] flags [0] id [0] overwrite [0] append [0] CustId[0]. 3024  118c  03/27 18:16:26 21  Scheduler  Phase [Failed] message received from] Module [startPrePostCmd] Token [21:3:1] restartPhase [0] 3024  118c  03/27 18:16:26 21  JobSvr Obj Phase [3-Pre Scan] for Backup Job Failed. Backup will continue with phase [Pre Scan].

[startPrePostCmd.log - commserve]

4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:46 ### Init() - Initializing job control [token=21:3:7,cn=jwcs], serverName [], ControlFlag [1], Job Id [21] 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:47 ### Cvcl::init() - CVCL: Running in FIPS Mode 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:48 ### CVJobCtrlLog::registerProcess(): successfully created file [C:\Program Files\CommVault\Simpana\Base\JobControl\4.940] 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:48 ### ::main() - jobId 21 - restoreTaskId = 0 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:48 ### ::main() - jobId 21 - adminTaskId = 0 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:48 ### ::getBackupCmdAndMachine() - jobId 21 - before construct application id 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:49 ### ::getBackupCmdAndMachine() - appTypeId = 29 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:49 ### ::getBackupCmdAndMachine() - jobId 21 - symbolic AppId = 2:20 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:49 ### ::getBackupCmdAndMachine() - jobId 21 - prePostId = 1 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:49 ### ::getBackupCmdAndMachine() - jobId 21 - preifind cmd = /usr/local/bin/ 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:49 ### ::main() - jobId 21 - commandPath = /usr/local/bin/ 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:49 21  ::main() - jobId 21 - before execute cmd 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:49 21  ::main() - jobId 21 - Use Local System Acct. 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:49 21  ::main() - jobId 21 - remoteexename = [/usr/local/bin/] 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:49 21  ::main() - jobId 21 - args = [ -bkplevel 1 -attempt 7 -job 21] 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:49 21  executePrePostCmd() -  Attempting to execute remote command on client [jldb1].. 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:49 21  executePrePostCmd() - jobId 21 - Received error text from server cvsession [Unknown Error] 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:49 21  executePrePostCmd() - jobId 21 - Error [0] returned from executeRemoteCommand /usr/local/bin/ 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:49 21  EvEvent::setMsgEventArguments() - MsgId[0x0700004b], Arg[1] = [117440623] 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:49 21  EvEvent::setMsgEventArguments() - MsgId[0x0700004b], Arg[2] = [/usr/local/bin/] 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:49 21  EvEvent::setMsgEventArguments() - MsgId[0x0700004b], Arg[3] = [] 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:49 21  EvEvent::setMsgEventArguments() - [MsgId[0x0700004b][]: [3] Args Pushed, [1] Args expected. 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:49 21  ::exitHere() - jobId 21 - Exiting due to failure. 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:49 21  BKP CALLED COMPLETE (PHASE Status::FAIL), 21. Token [21:3:7] 4940  e4c   03/27 20:21:53 21  ::exitHere() - jobId 21 - startPrePostCmd Terminating Event. 4940  238c  03/27 20:21:53 21  CVJobCtrlLog::unregisterProcess(): successfully removed file [C:\Program Files\CommVault\Simpana\Base\JobControl\4.940]

[cvd.log – client]

30846 427e0940 03/27 20:21:50 ### [CVipcD] Requests from non-CS with hostname [] and clientname [jwcs] to execute in user entered path are not allowed

I worked out this problem is caused by lack of value in regkey sCSGUID as found in the location below;


Sample below;

[root@jldb1 ]# cat /etc/CommVaultRegistry/Galaxy/Instance001/CommServe/.properties | more bCSConnectivityAvailable 1 sCSCLIENTNAME jwcs sCSGUID sCSHOSTNAME sCSHOSTNAMEinCSDB

sCSGUID should be populated and its lack of value causes this condition with pre-scan script execution.


Easiest method to recreate this regkey value is to do a local uninstall of the simpana services on the client. Revoke the client certificate in Simpana Console via Control Panel – Certificate Administration for the client in question. Followed by a reinstall.


Subclients that have no scripts being executed as part of the backup will run fine if this regkey value is missing. You will never see a problem until you add a script. In addition, clients that have a simpana firewall configuration will be broken and subclients without scripts will break too. As the regkey value is used for simpana firewall configuration exchange I believe based on my testing.

Hope you enjoy my post… drop me a comment if you like the content and/or it helps you.

Categories: thinktime

No more kids?

Seth Godin - Thu 27th Mar 2014 20:03
What if, in some sort of sci-fi solar flare cataclysm, it was impossible for humans to have more kids? No more babies. How would we treat the last generation? Would we say to the youngest student on Earth, "sorry the...         Seth Godin
Categories: thinktime

Russell Coker: The Aspie Accent

Planet Linux Australia - Thu 27th Mar 2014 11:03

I am often asked about my “accent”. The most common guess is that it’s a “British” accent, while I lived in London for about a year I don’t think that my accent changed much during that time (people have commented on the way I speak since I was in primary school). Also there isn’t a “British accent” anyway, the Wikipedia page of Regional Accents of English has the first three sections devoted to accents in the island of Britain (and Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom which people often mean when they sat “Britain”). The Received Pronounciation is the main BBC accent and the accent that is most associated with Britain/England/the UK (which are three different things even though most people don’t know it) and I don’t think that I sound like that at all.

I’ve had various other guesses, the Netherlands (where I lived for a few years but mostly spoke to other foreigners), New Zealand (which I’ve visited a couple of times for conferences), Denmark (the closest I got was attending a conference in Sweden), and probably others I can’t remember.

If I actually had developed an accent from another country then it would probably be from the US. The amount of time I’ve spent watching Hollywood movies and watching US TV shows greatly exceeds the amount of time I’ve spent listening to people from all other countries. The fact that among all the people who wanted to try and guess where my accent supposedly originated none have ever included the US seems like strong evidence to suggest that I don’t have any sort of accent that really derives from another country. Also I have never had someone mistake me for being a resident of their own country based on accent which seems like clear evidence that all claims about me having a foreign accent are bogus.

Autism forums such as [1] always turn up plenty of results for a search on “accent”. In such discussions it seems that a “British accent” is most common mistake and there are often theories raised about why that is – often related to speaking in a formal or precise way or by using a large vocabulary. Also in such discussions the list of countries that people supposedly have accents from is very inclusive, it seems that any country that the listener has heard of but doesn’t know that well is a good candidate. The fact that Aspies from outside the US are rarely regarded as having an American accent could be due to the fact that Hollywood has made most of the world population aware of what most American accents sound like.

Also if I really had some sort of accent from another country then probably someone would comment on that when I’m outside Australia. When I’m travelling people tend to recognise my accent as Australian, while it doesn’t please me when someone thinks that I sound like Crocodile Dundee (as happened in the Netherlands) it might not be entirely inaccurate.

This is Annoying

The way the issue of accent is raised is generally in the form of people asking where I’m from, it seems to imply that they don’t think I belong in Australia because of the way I speak. It’s particularly annoying when people seem unable to realise that they are being obnoxious after the first wrong guess. When I reply “no” to the first “are you from $COUNTRY” question and don’t offer any further commentary it’s not an invitation to play 20 questions regarding where I’m supposedly from, it’s actually an indication that I’m not interested in a conversation on that topic. A Social Skills 101 course would include teaching people that when someone uses one-word answers to your questions it usually means that they either don’t like your questions or don’t want to talk to you.

Social Skills vs Status

The combination of persistence and misreading a social situation which are involved when someone interrogates me about my supposed accent are both parts of the diagnostic criteria for Autism. But I generally don’t get questions about my “accent” in situations where there are many Aspies (IE anything related to the Free Software community). I think that this is because my interactions with people in the Free Software community are based around work (with HR rules against being a jerk) and community events where no-one would doubt that I belong.

I mostly get questions about my “accent” from random middle-class white people who feel entitled to query other people about their status who I meet in situations where there is nothing restraining them from being a jerk. For example random people I meet on public transport.

Related posts:

  1. I’m an Aspie I’ve recently been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (AS) [1]. Among...
  2. Aspie Social Skills and the Free Software Community LWN has an article by Valerie Aurora titled “The dark...
Categories: thinktime

University of Melbourne named Australian leader in Nature rankings

Teaser:  The University of Melbourne has held top spot in Australia for the third consecutive year in the world-leading science journal Nature’s latest rankings.

This article first appeared in The Melbourne Newsroom on 27 March. View the original article here.

The University of Melbourne has held top spot in Australia for the third consecutive year in the world-leading science journal Nature’s latest rankings.

read more

Categories: thinktime

Andrew Pollock: [life] Day 57: UnderWater World (now known as Sea Life: Mooloolaba)

Planet Linux Australia - Thu 27th Mar 2014 00:03

My late biological maternal grandmother ("Nana"), remarried late in her life to a long-time friend named Bryce. I was probably an early teenager. He was a nice guy, and I kept in loose contact with him after my Nana passed away.

After my Nana passed away, he moved out of the retirement home he'd been living in with my Nana, and in with one of his sons. Sometime before I moved back to Australia, in ailing physical health, he moved from his son's place into Masonic Care's aged-care hostel in Sandgate.

He turned 90 last year. Mentally, he's doing pretty good. Physically, he's very wobbly on his legs. He's had a few falls, which was the main catalyst for moving from his son's place to the aged-care hostel. Other than that, he's in pretty good physical health though.

I remember the first time I visited him in the hostel. After I left, I wept uncontrollably. Here was a man who was literally just waiting out the rest of his life in a small cupboard of a room. I was appalled at how small the room was, and the fact that he was just sitting around waiting to die really upset me.

I've visited him a few times since I've been back. I've taken him over to my parent's place when I've taken Zoe to visit them, just so he gets out.

I should say that I'm sure his own family do spend some time with him, so it's not like he's spending all his time rotting in this place, but probably still a fair chunk of it. Growing old sucks.

Yesterday, when the weather forecast for today was looking like it was going to be pretty wet and miserable, I decided I'd use the day to take Zoe to Underwater World (which I've since learned has rebranded it self as "Sea Life: Mooloolaba".

I had the presence of mind to call up Bryce yesterday to see if he'd like to join us today. We had to pass in his general direction to get up there, so it wasn't particularly out of my way. He informed me that he was now in a wheelchair, which I thought was fine for this excursion.

So this morning, after we got ourselves going, we stopped at Sandgate to pick up Bryce, and made it to Underwater World by about 10am. I was a bit leery of the drive, because from home, it was another 30 minutes on top of the drive to Wet and Wild, and 15 minutes on top of the drive to Sea World, so I wasn't sure how Zoe would take that length car trip.

It turned out that she took it pretty well. She started getting a bit restless in the last 30 minutes, but it was manageable.

I was a little apprehensive about how wrangling Zoe and looking after a frail 90 year old in a wheelchair was going to work out. It turned out it worked out just fine. I could leave Bryce wherever he was, if I had to chase after Zoe, and Zoe quite liked helping push the wheelchair around. Towards the end of the day, when she got tired, I could just pop her in Bryce's lap, and push the pair of them around.

It was a really good outing. I have only vague memories of visiting the place in my childhood, and it's become significantly better since then. Zoe really enjoyed going through the glass tunnels under the main ocean exhibit. We did several laps of that. We were fortunate enough to catch the sting ray feeding almost immediately upon arrival, and we also saw the seal show and made the otter feeding. The place was more focused on salt water aquatic life, hence the name, but there was also some freshwater exhibits.

I never thought that much of the Monterey Aquarium, much preferring the California Academy of Science's aquariums, especially in terms of drive time accessibility. If you ignore the freshwater/salt water diversity, I think Sea Life is even better than the California Academy of Sciences.

We left at about 2pm, and after a lot of hunting around, tracked down the photo they took when we entered, and then drove home closer to 3pm. To my surprise, Zoe didn't fall asleep immediately, but she did fall asleep on the way back to Bryce's place. She woke up to say goodbye to him, and then we drove home, stopping off in the Valley to check my post office box along the way, and arrived back home about 15 minutes before Sarah arrived to pick her up. It ended up being a very full day.

Bryce really enjoyed himself, and I felt really happy that I was able to relatively easily brighten up his day. I've resolved to try another such outing again, I just need to figure out what to do.

I thought I'd try for a 10km run, but it started to rain at the 4km mark. I was also not feeling particularly confident about lasting the distance, so I decided to just turn it into a 5km run instead.

Categories: thinktime

Michael Still: The Hot Gate

Planet Linux Australia - Wed 26th Mar 2014 20:03

ISBN: 9781451638189


This book follows on from Live Free or Die and Citadel. This time we focus solely on Dana as she is transferred to a new unit. The story is interesting, although perhaps it focusses on the dysfunction of the Latin American countries a little more than is really necessary. More interestingly, the book ends the series (as best as I can tell) in an unusual manner for a book like this, with the humans not winning a simple out right victory -- moral or otherwise. Overall, a fun light read.

Tags for this post: book john_ringo alien invasion combat troy_rising

Related posts: Citadel; Live Free or Die; Isaac Asimov's Robot City: Robots and Aliens: Humanity; Isaac Asimov's Robot City: Robots and Aliens: Maverick; Dragon's Egg; Starquake Comment Recommend a book
Categories: thinktime

Your story about money

Seth Godin - Wed 26th Mar 2014 20:03
Is a story. About money. Money isn't real. It's a method of exchange, a unit we exchange for something we actually need or value. It has worth because we agree it has worth, because we agree what it can be...         Seth Godin
Categories: thinktime

Colin Charles: Social events at Percona Live Santa Clara

Planet Linux Australia - Wed 26th Mar 2014 18:03

One good thing about going to the MySQL UC is the fact that you will interact with many people and you benefit from social events in the evenings. In its heyday, I recall you get no more than 4 hours of sleep a night, because you’re busy with people for up to 20 hours a day. Meetings, drinks, the hallway track are also all very interesting. That’s the added value of going to an event besides just the learning.

Monday is open source appreciation day and I know there will be drinks planned on Monday evening (31.03) at least from the CentOS Dojo crew. Tuesday (01.04) brings on the welcome reception (4.30-6.30pm), while Wednesday is the community dinner at Pedro’s (7-10pm). (SkySQL) has graciously offered to pay the first $500 of the bar bill, and as a Pedro’s regular I can tell you the martinis are pretty good.

Thursday (03.04) is the Community Network Reception (5.30-8.30pm) with the awards and lightning talks, which is a must attend event. While not part of the conference, after the reception I’d personally head over to Taste restaurant for more community bonding.

Friday is sadly the day many of us will leave (I am no exception). I expect to usually be all around the Hyatt as well as at the Evolution Cafe/Bar (hotel bar) which is where lots of conversation happen.

Bits of advice: drink plenty of water. It is costly in the hotel but I’m sure you can be creative with getting a bottle and filling it regularly. Bring some cash – split dinners are hard to do with a credit card, so cash goes a long way. For the non-Americans reading this, have some dollar bills – tipping is customary. Bring plenty of business cards, and carry a notebook + pen in your pocket at all times (you will have long action items post-conference week, I’m sure of it).

Related posts:

  1. MariaDB at Percona Live Santa Clara
  2. Percona Live Santa Clara 2013 tutorial schedule out
  3. Percona Live MySQL Conference & Expo Santa Clara 2014
Categories: thinktime

Michael Fox: Simpana 10 – Specifying the Media Parameters for RMAN Command Line Operations – example

Planet Linux Australia - Wed 26th Mar 2014 15:03

An recent addition to Simpana 10 Oracle iDA over Simpana 9 was the ability to specify Media Parameters for RMAN Command Line Operations, which wasn’t possible in Simpana 9.

Below is an example on its use, and the documentation link for review is here.

The client in this example is “jwora1″ running Windows 2008 R2 x64 and an Oracle 11gR2 64bit release. Simpana 10 with a SP4 is installed on client and Commserve – “jwcs”.

RMAN Script:

run { allocate channel ch1 type 'sbt_tape' PARMS="BLKSIZE=262144,ENV=(CVOraSbtParams=C:\p.txt,CvClientName=jwora1,CvInstanceName=Instance001)" trace 2; backup current controlfile; }

Contents of p.txt file below;

[sp] SP_Main-jwma1 [mediaagent] jwma1

Below is a look at the GUI configuration for the Oracle instance “orcl” on client “jwora1″ which shows that third party command line backups should use Storage Policy (SP) – “SP_Main-jwcs”. However as you will not by the running of the job using the Media Parameters it will use a different SP and MediaAgent, as defined by the p.txt file I passed.

subclient not configured with any SP

orcl properties showing command line backup should use SP – SP_Main-jwcs by default.

orcl properties showing log backups would use SP – SP_Main_jwcs by default

sample execution of my rman backup script – current control file backup

Commserve Job Controller showing the running job. Note which MediaAgent is used and SP.

If you find my posts of value, please send me some feedback. Especially if you find this post and it helps you in your travels.

UPDATE: And to follow on from the example above, the following is also possible too. If you don’t pass the CvClientName and CvInstanceName on the channel allocation, you can pull those too from the parameters file. Sample below of alternative backup script syntax and parameters file contents. All documented on the documentation link provided top of post.

RMAN Script:

run { allocate channel ch1 type 'sbt_tape' PARMS="BLKSIZE=262144,ENV=(CVOraSbtParams=C:\p2.txt)" trace 2; backup current controlfile; }

Contents of p2.txt file:

[sp] SP_Main-jwma1 [mediaagent] jwma1 [CvClientName] jwora1 [CvInstanceName] Instance001

The parameter file can have spaces between the definitions like in the top example, which I prefer, as it makes the file easier to read. Where as the p2.txt file has no extra spaces, which also works but makes it harder to read personally.


Categories: thinktime

Colin Charles: Open Source Appreciation Day at Percona Live

Planet Linux Australia - Wed 26th Mar 2014 15:03

I wrote previously about Percona Live Santa Clara 2014, and I want to bring to your attention something Percona has done that is very nice to open source communities: have an open source appreciation day.

Its before the conference (so on Monday), and you get a choice between the CentOS Dojo (great lineup there including many from Red Hat, Monty from MariaDB, and PeterZ from Percona) or the OpenStack Today (another great lineup there). I’d split my time between both the events if time permitted, except I’m flying in on that day.

I can highly recommend going to either as registration (Free) gets you access to the expo hall & keynotes as well. That’s a saving of $75!!!

Remember to register for the conference where the discount code is still SeeMeSpeak. As a bonus, Serg and I have additional talks now, so there will be more MariaDB goodness at the conference. See you next week!

Related posts:

  1. Percona Live MySQL Conference & Expo Santa Clara 2014
  2. MariaDB at Percona Live Santa Clara
  3. Percona Live Santa Clara 2013 tutorial schedule out
Categories: thinktime

Last drinks: brain’s mechanism knows when to stop

Teaser:  Our brains are hardwired to stop us drinking more water than is healthy, according to a new brain imaging study led by the University of Melbourne and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.

This article was originally published in The Melbourne Newsroom on March 26. View the article here.

Our brains are hardwired to stop us drinking more water than is healthy, according to a new brain imaging study led by the University Of Melbourne and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.

read more

Categories: thinktime

People Skills for Web Workers

a list apart - Tue 25th Mar 2014 23:03

The web touches everything an organization does—marketing to customer service, product development to branding, internal communications to recruitment. This is the era of cross-platform digital services, fast networks, and mobile devices. Sounds like the ideal time to be a person who makes websites.

So why do we feel frustrated so often? Why do we experience burnout or depression? What makes it difficult to do work that has meaning, that satisfies us?

The problem is that we need to collaborate, but we haven’t focused on developing our people skills.

Back in the day, we could get by with technical skills alone. If you could get HTML and CSS to work across browsers, you’d find work, and you might even break new ground. Technical skills still matter, but today making digital services that meet users’ needs also depends on our ability to collaborate across many types of boundaries:

  • Disciplines like interaction design, content, front-end and backend development, user research, and product management
  • Departments in the organization like marketing, sales, IT, communications, and customer service
  • Channels like websites, native apps, social media, print, and the call center
People skills are as difficult to learn as technical skills

Think back to when you first learned a technical skill like CSS or JavaScript. How did you feel? If you’re like most people, you felt scared and overwhelmed. And it never ends: however accomplished you are today, there’s always more to learn. That’s why you read sites like A List Apart, follow discussions on social media, and attend conferences: to keep learning.

The same is true of people skills—often called “soft skills” in business—like coaching, listening, facilitation, and leadership. There’s a myth that you either have these skills or you don’t—which Meri Williams calls “the soft skills fairy.” But that’s like saying, “You can either code JavaScript or you can’t.” You didn’t fall out of bed with technical skills, and the same is true of people skills.

Learning people skills is challenging, but when you take the time to develop them, it’ll seem like you’ve gained a superpower—one that allows you to:

  • find common ground with people who have different perspectives, like when marketing demands its latest campaign go on the homepage, regardless of the user experience;
  • handle stressful situations—like difficult conversations between backend developers and content editors who need to use the CMS—with grace and compassion;
  • feel confident about your contributions without criticizing others, e.g., when your product team implements an agile process and you’re concerned that your area of expertise might be sidelined.

Behind each of these scenarios are collaboration problems. Let’s talk about four of the most common ones, and the people skills that can help with each.

  1. You don’t get appreciation for your contributions.
  2. You struggle to keep up and know everything.
  3. You experience conflict with people who are scared of change.
  4. Your organization can’t adapt.
1. You don’t get appreciation for your contributions Judgments of others are alienated expressions of our own unmet needs. Marshall B. Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life

Although it’s counterintuitive, the first person you need to look out for when you want to collaborate is yourself. Everyone needs appreciation for their contributions. When that need isn’t met, we feel frustrated or angry, and we start judging others.

For example, imagine you’re presenting a prototype of a mobile application to your team. They seem to object, saying that the app would take too long to develop and isn’t “intuitive.” Your defensive instinct might be to tell them that they’re wrong—this is the way we “should” do it—while feeling frustrated because they’re rejecting your work. Notice the judgment? These judgmental behaviors lead to conflict, which prevents collaboration.

Learn to communicate without judgment

You can begin to spot this behavior by looking for language that implies people are “bad” or doing things “wrong,” or that tells people what they “should” do. You may also notice self-judgment, where you tell yourself you’re wrong, or that your work sucks. The jargon term is “negative self-talk” and we all do it.

Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication (NVC) model helps us identify these moments before they lead to conflict by focusing on four steps: observations, feelings, needs, and requests. You can observe that your colleagues offered “feedback” (rather than “criticism,” which contains a judgment). Then you can identify your feeling, in this case frustration. (If you’re stuck on “angry” or “upset,” try the NVC list of feelings to get more specific.) Next, figure out what you need: is it respect, appreciation, contribution, autonomy, growth? You may have several unmet needs: try this list for ideas.

Finally, put it all together into a request. You could say, “You shared your feedback about the prototype. I’m feeling frustrated because I need appreciation for my contribution. Would you be willing to share areas where the prototype meets user needs, as well as those where it may not?” Notice that you’re taking responsibility for your own feelings and needs.

NVC is difficult to pull off in the heat of the moment, so you need to practice. Get started by reading Rosenberg’s book.

2. You struggle to keep up and know everything

When we collaborate, everyone shares control and no one knows exactly where they’re going. It’s uncomfortable because we’re leaving what we know and stepping into discovery. We need trust to tolerate this discomfort together. When we aren’t confident about our expertise—when we feel insecure—we can’t build trust, so we find collaboration difficult.

Your colleagues and clients look to you as an expert: someone who can tell them how to do digital “properly.” But technology changes fast. New mobile platforms, new ways of working (Mobile First, Content First, Lean UX), and new technologies (Sass, responsive images, server-side JavaScript) appear all the time.

People want the “right” answer, the solution with proven return on investment, the fail-safe plan. Whether it’s a fixed budget, the “right” CMS for the corporate website, or the “best” mix of mobile platforms, people are asking you for certainty. You don’t have all the answers, so you can’t offer certainty without faking it. And you’re afraid that your colleagues won’t accept you unless you pretend to know everything. You feel insecure because you have an unmet need for acceptance, and it prevents you from building the trust you need with your team or client.

Learn to coach yourself and others

Instead of feeling insecure, you can choose to tell yourself that it’s okay not to have all the answers, and use coaching techniques to identify both your strengths and the areas you would like to develop. You can also learn to coach your colleagues. This will help you meet your need for acceptance because you’ll be providing real value to them, instead of pretending to have all the answers.

Coaching others means acknowledging that we we can’t “fix” other people’s problems and instead supporting them to make decisions about their own development. This allows us to get real about skills and growth while also being kind.

Get started with the GROW model, which is a structured conversation based on a set of questions. Notice that the coach doesn’t offer their own ideas or fixes:

  • Goal: Where do you want to be, and how will you know when you get there?
  • Reality: Where are you now? How far away is the goal, and what are the challenges?
  • Options: How could you overcome these challenges to get nearer to the goal?
  • Way forward: What action steps will you take to carry out your preferred option?

You can both learn to coach other people and ask for coaching yourself. For yourself, this means being honest about the areas you want to develop and being brave enough to ask for help. You can even buddy up with a colleague and coach each other using this tool.

3. You experience conflict with people who are scared of change

The internet is a symbol of disruption for many people: marketers are nervous of the shift from mass media to direct customer relationships, salespeople worry that websites make their skills obsolete, and publishers’ entire business models are threatened by the decline of print. We want to do digital work we can be proud of, but we’re on the front line of this disruption—a front line that’s thick with unmet needs and the feelings they create: anger, frustration, and fear.

Our culture makes things worse. We try to avoid conflict, as if ignoring it will make it go away. We tiptoe around sensitive issues or send long emails that we hope nobody will read instead of engaging face-to-face. We agree to a spec we know will never work, because it seems easier than risking an honest conversation. We choose to avoid “difficult conversations” instead of doing what the project needs.

Learn to turn conflict into collaboration

Imagine a conflict situation: the IT director won’t approve the budget for your new cloud-based web server. Ask yourself what the other person is afraid of. What don’t they know? Why do they perceive the situation differently? To turn conflict into collaboration, you need to listen with empathy.

Listening is a superpower. When you listen to someone with empathy, you meet their need for understanding, which makes them more likely to listen to you. When you see shared humanity—that is, when you realize the person you’re talking to is a human being—you can always find common ground.

Web designers talk about having empathy for users. To overcome conflict, we need to have empathy for our clients and colleagues, too. When our needs for trust and respect are not met, we feel tense, as if we’re about to fight. That makes it difficult to listen with empathy. We can get better with practice. To get started, check out the active listening technique, where you listen, reflect what you heard the other person say, and clarify your understanding.

4. Your organization can’t adapt

Our organizations are structured like industrial factories, with each department separated and optimized, working in isolation. Often digital work seems like diplomacy, as you try to get departments to collaborate instead of fighting over turf. If the team designing the mobile application won’t talk to the desktop website team, what hope do you have? You can’t change your organization’s structure on your own, so why even try?

I’ve fallen into the trap of complaining about culture as a way to avoid leading. If I say, “The culture here is the problem,” that’s a version of, “You’re doing it wrong”—i.e., somebody else needs to change. Change only happens when individuals choose to lead. Even if your organization’s culture is blocking collaboration, you can help it to adapt by leading change on a small scale.

Learn to lead by being honest

You might think that to lead your colleagues through change, you need to present strength, crush opposition, and have a bullet-proof plan. You’ve probably seen managers behaving like this.

But being aggressive is actually a defensive response to feeling insecure. You’re trying to build yourself up by putting other people down. This makes people feel resentful and afraid, which stops them from listening to you.

In her book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown teaches that showing vulnerability is the true indicator of courage. It takes courage to be yourself, to admit that you’re imperfect. If you admit that you don’t have all the answers, people will trust you, and you’ll inspire them to be brave, too.

Being a leader often means being the first person to listen. Share your vision—e.g., designing a digital service that puts users’ needs ahead of organizational structure, and makes a profit too—and listen to your colleagues’ ideas, feelings, and needs. Overcome your insecurity, take a risk, and be brave. It could be as simple as proposing an agile process for your next project, admitting that you don’t know whether it will work, and convincing people to try it by building trust. Or you might bring together a multidisciplinary team from across the organization and work up a minimum viable product, while convincing various stakeholders to trust you. The outcome may surprise you.

People skills are web skills

As the web continues to transform our society—in ways that both excite us and scare us—we need more than new technologies to keep up. We need collaboration.

Now that you understand how people skills can enable collaboration, you have an opportunity to change your work, and perhaps your organization. Invest your time in people skills and you might just change the world.

Categories: thinktime

Content-out Layout

a list apart - Tue 25th Mar 2014 23:03

Grids serve well to divide up a predefined canvas and guide how content fits onto a page, but when designing for the web’s fluid nature, we need something more… well, responsive. Enter ratios, which architects, sculptors, and book designers have all used in their work to help set the tone for their compositions, and to scale their material from sketch to final build. We can apply a similar process on the web by focusing on the tone and shape of our content first, then working outward to design fluid, ratio-based grid systems that invite harmony between content, layout, and screen.

Columns are boring. Build with relationships.

Layout choices can set the tone for our designs. As graphic designer Anne Burdick liked to teach, “the structure of the page can be seen as the embodiment of a particular philosophical perspective.”1 Do we favor order for our content? Or does it require a humanist touch? Should we tempt chaos? Whatever the tone, each can be successfully introduced in your layout through the use of a ratio: even (1:1), golden (1:1.618), or random proportions (no ratio), respectively.

Our chosen ratio will be the DNA from which all of our layout decisions are formed. This one number will connect every element of our design, and by adjusting it, we will be able to dramatically affect the tone of our designs. Ratios with a lower proportion—or smaller difference between numbers—will yield subtler layout differences, and work well for nuanced, quieter content like personal blogs or long reads. Greater proportions energize a composition with dramatic size differences, perfect for more dynamic content.

An even-sized array of images is orderly and sturdy. A golden ratio-based array feels organic and dynamic. A chaotic array is interesting and a bit unnerving. Rational Ratios

A ratio can consist of any two numbers, giving us an infinite palette of possibilities, but to narrow things down it might be best to start with some familiar territory. Rational ratios are friendly enough, as the math isn’t too scary:

Even 1:1 Halves 1:2 Thirds 1:3 Fourths 1:4

The Rule of Thirds is a well-known example of the power of rational ratios in layout. Highly structured content—like arrays of images or videos, or text with a neutral or formal tone—is represented best by a rational ratio. These ratios work well when designing for symmetry, but can be used for asymmetrical layouts as well.

Irrational Ratios

In The Book of Rectangles, Spatial Law and Gestures of The Orthogons Described (1956), Czech designer and architect Wolfgang von Wersin compiled a set of dynamic ratios used by artists, architects, and calligraphers throughout history to guide their compositions. According to Wersin, it was believed that “nothing excels these proportions.” Not a bad place to start, then.

Quadrat (or Square/Even) 1:1 Hemidiagon 1:1.118 Trion 1:1.154 Quadriagon 1:1.207 Biauron 1:1.236 Penton 1:1.272 Diagon 1:1.414 Bipenton 1:1.458 Hemiolion 1:1.5 Auron (the golden ratio) 1:1.618 Hecton (or Sixton) 1:1.732 Doppelquadrat (Halves) 1:2 Wersin’s 12 “orthagons” with ratios (PDF)

The most famous irrational ratio in design is, of course, the golden ratio (the “Auron,” according to Wersin), which is derived from patterns in nature and the human form. Irrational ratios give us smaller increments in proportions, and their idiosyncratic relationships work best in asymmetrical layouts.

What else?

On its own, a ratio is not enough to create an engaging composition. Luckily, pure geometry is not our only guide here. I’ve always loved Bringhurst’s concept of choosing typefaces based on who designed them, and where. Perhaps a similar methodology can be applied to layout, where we derive ratios from tangential influences like type choices, or even music.

Working within a scale

Successful compositions use variety to create hierarchy and movement. Using our chosen ratio, we can extrapolate an array of sizes much like notes on a musical scale, then build our layouts using the “notes”—or widths—from that scale. We can then repeat and skip around the scale to create a kind of visual melody.

To build our scale, we first select a base unit. I would suggest using your typography’s base font-size to further connect the proportions of your layout to your content. Let’s use 1em to keep the math simple. We then multiply our base unit by the number on the right side of our ratio to generate the next size up the scale, and repeat until we have enough size variants to build our layout. Eight should do.

Eight “notes” generated by the golden ratio.

By deciding sizes based on a scale, we can choose relationships that better fit the tone of our design. Large leaps across the scale can be dramatic. Small steps can be more nuanced than in traditional columnar layouts. No matter the size of the change, the result is geometrically connected by our ratio.

An array of images on an even six-column grid. An array of images on a “golden” six-column grid. Lightening the cognitive load

When working with ratios and scales, your layout decisions will become more strictly defined. For example, if we were laying out the content of a blog with the common image-plus-copy pattern (I call this a “blurb”), three or more columns are needed in an even-column grid to give any size distinction between the elements.

A blurb on an even three-column grid.

In a ratio-based grid, only two columns would be necessary here. Since blogs are intended to be a more personal expression, I think the golden ratio, with its humanist proportions, would be appropriate.

A blurb on a golden two-column grid.

Each text width is 2.618 times larger than its corresponding image, or two steps up on our scale.

Reducing columns helps us out in two ways, giving us:

  • more layout clarity: hierarchy and alignment are strengthened by the restricted threshold options;
  • fewer decisions when designing: constraints keep our minds free to focus on bigger issues like content and usability.

Our simpler, ratio-based blurb grid codifies a relationship between two elements based on the shape of the content. Using this relationship as a start, we can now flesh out a fluid, content-based grid system.

Our blurb grid. Grids within grids

We can now design simpler grids that build upon and within each other, sharing a common ratio to keep harmony between their various contexts. I call grids like the one used for our blurb example a “content grid.” Content grids define relationships within a portable piece of content and work well for articles, sidebar modules, and other reusable elements of a design system.

To divide up the available viewport space, we can use a global “layout grid” that behaves more like the grids we’ve been using on the web for years now.

A system emerges

Continuing our blog example, we’ll use our scale to derive another content grid for our posts. In a typical blog post, we have a large image, the body of text, social media links, inline images, and some supporting content pulled out into the margins. By trying various arrangements from our scale, we can arrive at a grid that accommodates our content needs.

A four-column article grid using 1 and 2 from our scale. The first, thinner column will house a social module, while all four columns give us the opportunity to align our posts’ elements as appropriate.

To convert these widths into fluid CSS percentages, we just need to total the corresponding widths from our scale, and then convert each column using Ethan Marcotte’s famous formula:

target ÷ context = result

…with “target” being a column width and “context” being the sum of all columns used in the grid. (Or if you’re braving flex-box for layout, you can just use the exact ratio numbers from your scale.)

We can build a simple three-section “layout grid” to accommodate our larger content sections: an area for branding and navigation, an area for the main body of content, and a third area for related and featured content links. Our main content area likely needs to be much wider to house our post content, and the navigation area much thinner. We’ll find column widths from our scale that feel right for our layout, giving the appropriate room for each section.

A symmetrical, three-column layout grid using 1 and 3 from our scale.

Finally, we place our content grids (the article grid and our blurb grid from earlier) into our layout grid, creating a layout that is both fluid and completely driven by our content. (View the blog demo.)

Our new, golden ratio-based, content-out blog layout.

For comparison, I also built this same layout on Twitter Bootstrap’s 12-column grid. (View the Bootstrap blog demo.) While fairly similar, the ratio-based layout holds up better at any random size.

Fitting to constraints

Adapting our layout to various viewports now becomes much simpler, as we have fewer variables to consider. For this process, we can build a fluid prototype in the browser, then scrutinize where the layout starts to falter when resizing the window.

Identifying the usual suspects

As the viewport stretches and narrows, our relationships will strain and crack, especially at sizes in between typically targeted device sizes like “tablet” and “desktop.” After exploring how fluid layouts crumble on many well-trafficked sites, I’ve isolated some common issues that signify where a change in grid is needed:


Sevens find an image shortened as its width is scaled down, and adjacent text squished to a tall, unreadable measure. The resulting form resembles a “7,” and creates a conspicuous square of white space beneath the image. This is especially distracting when repeated across a layout.

Examples of the 7 pattern, and the negative space created. Drifts

Drifts are so far removed from their related content that they no longer have any relationship to anything. They may wind up paired with other disparate pieces of content flotsam, or just drift all by their lonesome. Across a layout, drifts destroy hierarchy and cause troubling rivers of negative space to creep in.

Images have drifted away from content, forming their own column, while their headlines and meta content lose any visual relevance to each other. Pinches

Pinches happen as elements get too close to other pieces of content. Relationships are destroyed as the viewer makes incorrect associations: images pair with the wrong headline, links run into a list of their own creation. In extreme cases, content collides—at the cost of all readability.

Pinches cause visual hotspots that distract the eye and confuse relationships as proximity overpowers placement. Finding elemental constraints

After adjusting your layouts for fluidity, certain elements will need special attention. Paragraphs should maintain a readable measure, ads should maintain size and relative position, and images should not enlarge beyond what their resolution will allow. Setting a specific width is an easy fix, but does not truly embrace fluidity. Instead, we can set a min-width and/or max-width in our CSS to maintain the integrity of this content.

A fitter method The use of the grid as an ordering system is the expression of a certain mental attitude inasmuch as it shows that the designer conceives his work in terms that are constructive and oriented to the future. Josef Muller-Brockmann

A ratio-based, modular approach to grids allows us to navigate a medium where we cannot know the container size, nor what type of content will flow into that container. We can build layout systems from our content, and rely on ratios to keep harmonious compositions from these disparate parts. From there, a keen understanding of how fluid designs fail can show us when to adapt these systems, and when to add constraints. 

In 2009, and again in 2010, Ethan Marcotte gave us the tools with which to respond. In 2011, Mark Boulton gave us a guiding philosophy. By weaving these highly influential ideas together with a pliable method, we can move towards more sophisticated layouts tailored to the needs of our content, patterned with unique character, and perfectly suited to the nature of our ever-changing web.

  • 1. Burdick, Anne, Stephen Farrell. “An interview with Stephen Farrell” Emigre 37 (1996). Print.
Categories: thinktime

Andrew Pollock: [life] Day 56, Kindergarten, rain, taxes

Planet Linux Australia - Tue 25th Mar 2014 21:03

There was quite the torrential downpour overnight. It woke me up, and it woke Zoe up too, and at about 1:45am she ended up in bed with me. I think she managed to invent a new baby sleep position, where she was on my pillow, perpendicular to me along the bed head, and had somehow ejected the pillow that was on her side of the bed.

We got up, with a slow start, and the weather was still looking a bit dicey, so Zoe wanted to go to Kindergarten by car. That actually meant we were the first ones there, because I'd been working to a timetable of leaving home by bike.

One of the chickens was starting to hatch (and subsequently hatched around noon) so that was exciting. Funnily enough, Zoe had spent all morning telling me how she didn't want to go to Kindergarten, but by the time we got there, she didn't seem to mind being there all that much.

After I got home from Kindergarten, I biked down to Bulimba to go to the bank to finalise opening my business bank accounts. I've since discovered that one can't do much without an ABN, I can't even get a cheque book, so I've sicked my accountant on that one for me.

I got stuck into my US taxes some more today, and made a very satisfactory amount of progress on them. I think I should be able to finish them off in the next session I get to work on them.

I felt like getting out of the house after that. It was looking quite like rain again, making picking up Zoe by bike out, so I ran a few errands in the car before getting to Kindergarten quite early.

Zoe was fast asleep, but I let her have a long, slow wake up, and that made our departure much easier. She got to have a little hold of one of the baby chicks before we left. Today I learned that baby chicks smell absolutely divine.

We got home, and Zoe did some self-directed craft for a bit, and then wanted to play hide and seek, so we did that and finally got around to looking at all of the Woolworths DreamWorks Heroes cards she's been collecting. I was disappointed to discover there's only a single card per pack, so that's going to mean I have to spend at least $840 on groceries, excluding duplicates, before we get all of them. I'm glad the checkout operators aren't sticking to the rules and are handing them out a little more generously than that.

After that, we did a bit more rough and tumble play, and then it was time to start making dinner, so Zoe watched a DVD.

We got dinner out of the way relatively early, so I practiced plaiting her hair (I've surprised myself with the half-decent job I can do) and then did bath time and bed time.

Bed time was a little protracted (she didn't like her bedroom and wanted to sleep in my bed) but otherwise seems to have gone smoothly.

Categories: thinktime

The debilitating myth of musical chairs

Seth Godin - Tue 25th Mar 2014 20:03
I was invited to a fancy gathering the other day. Thirty of us, chatting amiably over drinks, then invited to sit down to eat. A little slow on the trigger, I was the last one over to lunch. To my...         Seth Godin
Categories: thinktime

Russell Coker: Nexus5 Armourdillo Hybrid Case

Planet Linux Australia - Tue 25th Mar 2014 17:03

I’ve just been given an Armourdillo Hybrid case for the Nexus 5 [1] to review. The above pictures show the back of the case, the front of the case, the stand, and the front of the case with the screen blank. When I first photographed the case the camera focused on a reflection of the window, I include that picture for amusement and to demonstrate how reflective the phone screen is.

This case is very hard, the green plastic is the soft inner layer which is still harder than the plastic in a typical “gel case”. The black part is polycarbonate which is very hard and also a little slippery. The case is designed with lots of bumps for grip (a little like the sole of a running shoe) so it’s not likely to slip out of your hand. But the polycarbonate slides easily on plastic surfaces such as the dash of a car. It’s fortunate that modern cars have lots of “cup holders” that can be used for holding a phone.

I haven’t dropped the phone since getting the new case, but I expect that the combination of a hard outer shell and a slightly softer inner shell (to cushion the impact) will protect it well. All the edges of the case extend above the screen so dropping the phone face down on a hard flat surface shouldn’t cause any damage.

The black part has a stand for propping the phone on it’s side to watch a movie. The stand is very solid and is in the ideal position for use on soft surfaces such as a doona or pillow for watching TV in bed.


This case is mostly designed to protect the phone and the bumps that are used for grip detract from the appearance IMHO. I think that the Ringke Fusion case for my Nexus 4 [2] looks much better, it’s a trade-off between appearance and functionality.

My main criteria for this case were good protection (better than a gel case) and small size (not one of the heavy waterproof cases). It was a bonus to get a green case for the Enlightened team in Ingress. NB Armourdillo also offers a blue case for the Resistance team in Ingress as well as other colors.

MobileZap also have a number of other cases for the Nexus 5 [3].

Related posts:

  1. Nexus 4 Ringke Fusion Case I’ve been using Android phones for 2.5 years and...
  2. Samsung Galaxy S3 First Review with Power Case My new Samsung Galaxy S3 arrived a couple of days...
  3. Nexus 4 My wife has had a LG Nexus 4 for about...
Categories: thinktime

BlueHackers: Rude vs. Mean vs. Bullying: Defining the Differences

Planet Linux Australia - Tue 25th Mar 2014 12:03

It is important to distinguish between rude, mean and bullying so that teachers, school administrators, police, youth workers, parents and kids all know what to pay attention to and when to intervene.

Categories: thinktime

Andrew Pollock: [life] Day 55, Kindergarten, run, Debian

Planet Linux Australia - Tue 25th Mar 2014 00:03

I got up this morning with the intent of knocking out a 10km run. I managed to last 8km today, so it's an improvement, but I don't know what's up with my running fitness at the moment.

After that, I pretty much did Debian stuff all day. I managed an upload of dstat and found a potential security bug in another of my packages when I was trying to update it, so I raised that issue with the package's upstream.

I also mostly sorted out opening a bank account for my company. I just have to visit the branch in person tomorrow.

Sarah had indicated to me that Zoe had slept poorly last night, on top of a big weekend, and that I should probably pick her up in the car, so I drove to Kindergarten expecting to find her fast asleep and not take too kindly to being woken. Instead, she was wide awake, not having napped at all.

The highlight of her day was they had some baby chickens at Kindergarten. They had four day-old hatchlings, with more eggs in an incubator.

Megan wanted Zoe to have a coffee with her, so we stopped at the local coffee shop, with her Dad and little sister, for a babyccino on the way home.

I had a pretty big weekend away, and didn't feel up to doing the grocery shopping yesterday afternoon when I got home, so we went to the supermarket on the way home to do the weekly grocery shop. After we got home, I got stuck into making dinner while Zoe watched TV.

My girlfriend came around after work and joined us for dinner, and the three of us had a nice dinner together.

Zoe started showing signs of being particularly tired during dinner, and was a bit uncooperative around bath time, but we got through it all, and I managed to get her down to bed a little bit early, and she fell asleep without too much trouble. It's a fairly warm night. Hopefully she'll sleep well.

Categories: thinktime

Save Your Eyes with f.lux

a list apart - Mon 24th Mar 2014 23:03

I never thought I felt eye strain from looking at big, bright screens all day—I thought my young eyes were invincible. Then I started getting sharp headaches at the end of every day, and I realized I needed to change something.

I decided to finally take the jump and start using f.lux. f.lux is an app that changes the color temperature of your display, adapting the light you see to the time of day, which helps to reduce eye strain. There’s a new beta out for Mac that brings some really fantastic improvements and enhancements (don’t worry, there’s a Windows version too!).

In the morning and afternoon, you’ll see the blue-ish colored light that your screen normally pushes out. As the sun sets, the light will shift to a more reddish color, and when night falls, it’ll become an even deeper red. Every color step is customizable, so you decide how red-shifted you’d like each phase to be—I like mine on the deeper end of the scale.

It’s normal to see blue light during the day, but as it gets darker, that light is harsh on our eyes. Red light is easier on your eyes, especially at night—it’s why red lights are used to preserve vision at night.

When I tell people in our industry about f.lux, I often hear something like, "But what if I’m doing color-sensitive work?" The newest f.lux beta has a feature that allows you to disable f.lux in certain applications. As you switch into an application where you’ve disabled f.lux, your screen will slowly transition to normal colors. The smooth transition will help prepare your eyes for the blue wave of light you’re about to get hit with, so it’s not too jarring.

For anyone who spends hours a day looking at a screen, f.lux is a must-have. We spend a lot of time and effort making sure we use ergonomically-correct keyboards, chairs, and desks, so it’s time we gave our eyes a similar level of treatment.

Categories: thinktime

Not even one note

Seth Godin - Mon 24th Mar 2014 20:03
Starting at the age of nine, I played the clarinet for eight years. Actually, that's not true. I took clarinet lessons for eight years when I was a kid, but I'm not sure I ever actually played it. Eventually, I...         Seth Godin
Categories: thinktime


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