Category Archives: Information Technology

Tech Nomads – Who Are They?

Who are Tech Nomads, and what do they do?

Based in Liverpool, Tech Nomads is a monthly meetup group. Held usually at Liverpool Science Park, this group consists of creatively minded people who are interested in programming, along with other tech and digital industry areas.

The purpose of Tech Nomads is to bring together and nurture a creative environment for people in Liverpool, to collaborate on tech-related ideas. By creating a close supportive community, Tech Nomads allows for the facilitation of creativity, through informal networking, as well as sharing ideas and experiences. Attendees can also develop their creative skills through writing code.

Recently I mentioned how the Liverpool City Region (LCR) has a growing creative, digital and tech community. Therefore, the work of groups such as Tech Nomads are indispensable, as they are hotbeds of tech and digital creativity, where like-minded people come together to meet, share, collaborate and learn from each other. It is through enabling different minds to interact in a supportive and informal environment, that creativity can thrive.

Tech Nomads is not just for people with an interest in technology. In fact, it is open to everyone, making it inclusive, open and welcoming. This is important to prevent people working in silos, which hinders creativity within organisations.

I am certainly impressed and intrigued greatly with the work that Tech Nomads does. Working in IT, I am certainly looking forward to attending events, along with meeting and networking with fellow tech enthusiasts. Finally, I am also looking forward to learning and sharing knowledge and experiences.

You can find out more about their events on Eventbrite, and also follow them on Twitter.

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Professional Liverpool – An Introduction to the Dark Web with Aabyss

The World Wide Web has transformed our world completely beyond recognition. From communicating via email, shopping and streaming videos, performing business transactions with clients online and more, the Internet and its associated technologies has given people and businesses so much to greatly benefit from.

There is also a disturbing side known as the Dark Web. This is the darker and mysterious side of the Internet, making it a dangerous and illegal haven for criminal activity, including hackers with the intent of causing cyber crimes, and even malicious attacks to businesses through viruses, trojans, ransomware and malware.

Attendess at this month’s Professional Liverpool Dark Web breakfast event at Avenue HQ.

Earlier this month, I attended a networking breakfast event organised by Professional Liverpool. Held at Avenue HQ in Liverpool and hosted by Aabyss Limited, the event featured a talk from Phil McGowan of Datto on what the Dark Web is, and of how it poses a threat to businesses. This also included a live demonstration of a simulated ransomware attack on a virtual system. Working in technology, I was intrigued by the topic as I found it to be mind-blowing, interesting, thought-provoking, and at times disturbing to learn about. I also sensed the other attendees felt similar too!

Phil gave a brief overview of the Dark Web, by describing how it can be used by hackers. Listening carefully, I gleamed several interesting facts about the Dark Web, of which I have included some below.

  1. With the Dark Web, this has seen the proliferation of ransomware.
  2. Over an estimated 6 million people use the Dark Web.
  3. As well as malware and ransomware, illicit services can be purchased for reasons of committing cyber and other crimes.
  4. No skills are required to be a hacker.
  5. Cyber attacks through malware and ransomware are rampant and is an increasing cause of downtime for businesses.
  6. £500 million in ransoms was paid by businesses affected by ransomware in 2018.
  7. Within the Dark Web, there are hacking companies who are getting more sophisticated with their techniques.
  8. In the UK, the average cost of downtime for businesses is £7000 per hour.
  9. Even though more data has moved to the cloud through SaaS (Software as a Service) it is still vulnerable.

From all the above, this paints a terrifying picture of the threats posed to businesses by ransomware. With personal and other sensitive data at risk from many security threats, this is also compounded by the fact that there are no simple solutions or silver bullets, that can easily address all these concerns. This means complex and detailed solutions are needed to minimise and manage risks effectively to maintain business continuity, and keeping services running through disruption. As I mentioned some time ago in a previous post, the responsibility for cyber and data security lies with everyone.

Overall, I was delighted and glad to have attended this event. This is because I appreciated Phil sharing his knowledge of cyber security, and of how ransomware and malware poses a real threat to businesses. With the proliferation of black-market services available on the Dark Web, I can honestly say what I learned was not only educational but has also reinforced my own beliefs, about why everyone must take cyber security seriously. I only hope the other attendees felt the same and to spread the message, as I heard one saying he was going to speak to his company’s IT department about the threat of ransomware.

I would like to thank several people for making this event possible. This includes Phil for giving a superb talk, Kelsey Lee Connors from Professional Liverpool and Andrew Allen, Greg Jones, Troy Midwood and Keith Smith from Aabyss, for putting together this successful and educational event. My thanks also go to Avenue HQ for providing the delicious breakfast of coffee, croissants, fruit and Danish pastries. On a final note, I am delighted that Phil’s talk and demonstration had a strong impact on everyone including myself. My only regret is the event and the topic deserved a bigger audience, but even still it was excellent and worth attending, and one that I have taken so much from.

Breakfast provided by Avenue HQ

IX Liverpool – Who Are They?

Who are IX Liverpool and what do they do?

IX Liverpool (Liverpool Internet Exchange) is a collaborative and co-operative non-profit organisation, that provides a network for members to connect and share their Internet connections for the benefit of Liverpool businesses and organisations.

These members of IX Liverpool include Baltic Broadband, MICT Ltd, National Telecoms UK and Internet of Things Ltd. Each member provides essential services vital to IX Liverpool and local businesses from broadband, telephony, IT support, cloud, security, storage and other services. In addition, all members bring experience, knowledge, flexibility and reliability to the city.

For businesses of all shapes, sizes and sectors, high speed Internet connections are required to connect with customers, partners and suppliers. As the business community of the Liverpool City Region (LCR) develops and interconnects with the UK economy and beyond, the demand placed on the city’s local Internet infrastructure increases.

Based in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle, IX Liverpool helps to facilitate fast, reliable and open Internet connections to small business startups and larger organisations in the city region. This helps not only to support the local economy, but also provides a connectivity infrastructure supporting the city region by adding resilience, which reduces Liverpool’s dependency on other UK cities for sufficient Internet bandwidth.

As well as providing local Internet connections, there are other benefits that IX Liverpool brings to the city region.

These include the following below:

  1. Roll-out of free Wi-Fi connections across the streets of Liverpool, allowing local businesses to connect with visitors and residents.
  2. By attracting and connecting digital businesses, this helps to create highly-skilled jobs locally.
  3. As a non-profit organisation, IX Liverpool has an open joining policy. This means anyone can become a member of IX Liverpool in return for a yearly fee of £120, which funds the organisation to enable it to serve the city region.
  4. Faster and better connectivity will also enable better innovation in Liverpool’s renowned medical science and research facilities.
  5. Improved connections will also benefit Liverpool’s schools, colleges and universities.
  6. By providing a strong local Internet community, IX Liverpool helps to manage traffic locally, providing faster speeds, better reliability and is ultimately more cost effective.

IX Liverpool is growing beyond to serve the wider city region. Last December, it was announced that IX Liverpool and Baltic Broadband were working together to install a connection of 10Gbps to the North Liverpool areas of Everton and Vauxhall. This will benefit the regeneration of the city by providing quality Internet connectivity to the Ten Streets Project, supporting future businesses as well as local residents.

In summary, IX Liverpool plays an important and under appreciated role in supporting the regeneration of Liverpool and the surrounding region. As the local economic landscape changes, the importance of providing high-quality Internet connections cannot be underestimated, as fast speeds are paramount in supporting local businesses and residents. This is why IX Liverpool is crucial in helping the city in joining others such as London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Dublin, Prague and Warsaw in building a powerful local Internet community.

Liverpool Tester Gathering – Featuring Lisa Crispin

Having enjoyed and learned plenty about testing from the previous Liverpool Tester Gathering event, I was delighted to attend last week’s event at Avenue HQ. The featured speaker was Lisa Crispin, a well known and famous tester, in the world of agile testing.

Since 1982, Lisa has worked extensively as a programmer, analyst, engineer and tester, with many organisations. Therefore with such experience gained from an incredible journey, I was intrigued to learn more and I was not disappointed.liverpool_tester_gathering_sept2018_3

The event began with a lively and welcoming introduction by Leigh Rathbone from Liverpool Tester Gathering. I was greatly impressed with how Leigh introduced the evening with warmth, humour and a vibrant enthusiasm, creating an atmosphere of positive energy that swamped and caught the audience’s attention. Such an introduction certainly helped to set the feel good tone for the evening.

Listening to Lisa share her testing knowledge and experiences, there was plenty that I learned about testing simply from listening to her stories. What I learned was testing is more than just using technical tools, as it is also about human interaction, through the power of collaborative working. This is because agile testing of applications is paramount, and affects everybody who interacts with them, meaning that testing requires teamwork, collaboration and winning the hearts and minds of people. Therefore testing is the responsibility of everyone!

I also learned that testing requires the following:

  1. The courage to experiment, keep learning and push yourself.
  2. Willingness to use your beginners mind and curiosity to ask questions.
  3. Acknowledging and learning from your team and other people.
  4. Knowing when to stop testing.
  5. Understanding skills and knowledge can be transferred by asking questions, writing documentation, team activities, switching roles, video blogging and shadowing colleagues.
  6. Learning through self education including meetups, round table sessions, online courses, digital content, social media and peer learning.

Audience members also had the opportunity to take part in a lightning talk. This was a three minute slot where volunteers could talk about any subject they feel passionate about, so I took the opportunity to talk about blogging to share stories aliverpool_tester_gathering_sept2018_4nd knowledge with others. I admit I felt the nerves beforehand as giving an unscripted three-minute talk was daunting, but I kept calm and spoke clearly and to the point with confidence. It seemed to go down very well, as I received applause from the audience, and also a person asked me afterwards for advice on blogging, of which I was happy to help.

There were other volunteers who took part in the lightning talks. One talked about the importance of caring and sharing knowledge and expertise, and another talked about the importance of sharing domain business knowledge with colleagues. Such talks encapsulated the whole theme of the evening and spoke volumes of the Liverpool Tester Gathering community.

I would like to thank Leigh Rathbone, Duncan Nisbet, Chris Thacker and Philip Hughes from Liverpool Tester Gathering, for organising the event. In addition, my thanks also go to Lisa Crispin for sharing her testing expertise and knowledge, Stephen Johnson of ROQ for sponsoring the event, and to American Pizza Slice for providing such incredibly delicious pizza!

If you are interested in testing, technology or digital, I recommend these events wholeheartedly, and you can follow Liverpool Tester Gathering on Twitter and YouTube.

After Hours – Co-op Digital

Working in technology, I enjoy listening to the experiences of other professionals. These occasions allow me to learn from the experiences of others in technology, before applying them to my own work and sharing with others.

Recently I attended the first ever After Hours event at Avenue HQ, which was organised by Oh This Way (OH). This featured Gail Mellows and Matt Tyas of Co-op Digital, who talked about their experiences and how they have used the skills learned on their digital journey, to benefit Co-op Digital and their clients.

Listening to Gail and Matt speak, I picked up on several reoccurring themes. These included collaboration, experimentation, quality of content, and working with other people. These are very important themes required in every single industry, as well as in everyday life.

In addition, there were other useful pieces of advice, that l learned from the event. These correspond to the themes that I have already mentioned, and in the spirit of learning and sharing, I have included some of these below.

  1. Never assume what your customers want.
  2. Experiment with different ways of working.
  3. Use your skills from childhood (e.g. drawing, sketching with colours, or using Lego), to get your ideas across.
  4. Prototyping is the start of collaboration between designers, developers and customers.
  5. Duplication needs to be reduced as it causes inefficiency, is unfair on colleagues, and is ultimately bad for customers.
  6. Important to research thoroughly and involve everyone.
  7. Prototyping allows you to make mistakes safely, quickly and cheaply.
  8. Give teams the right tools to do their job.
  9. Content needs to be designed so that it is legible, readable and accessible to all.
  10. Content and customer needs dictate the design outcome.
  11. Good design should go unnoticed.
  12. Quality of content is perceived by how a customer interacts with it.
  13. What you leave out is as important as what you include.
  14. Use the right words and not more words.
  15. Learn from what succeeded and failed.

To summarise what I have learned, content needs to meet the requirements stated by the customer. This is achieved by using different working methods, techniques and the right tools, to constantly experiment with various scenarios, before creating content that meets the required outcomes. As well as the above, content needs to meet quality standards, be accessible to everyone, is user-friendly, and based on strong foundations of thorough research and robust testing, from all relevant parties.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Robyn Dooley and Victoria Murray of OH for organising the event. My thanks also go to Gail and Matt from Co-op Digital for sharing their experiences, and also to Avenue HQ for hosting the event. This was an interesting and very useful discussion for me, and I am looking forward to the next After Hours event.

You can find out more about Co-op Digital’s work by looking at their blog.

Liverpool Tester Gathering – API Testing Challenges with Postman & REST Assured

Development of an application programming interface (API) requires extensive testing. Such testing not only relates to the usability of an application, but also of the underlying coding mechanics, to ensure the API performs and executes the functions required.

Last week, I attended an event organised by Liverpool Tester Gathering at Avenue HQ, which looked at the challenges involved with API testing when using two specific API tools. These tools are Postman and REST Assured, which enable testers to create and customise templates, in order to test different API performance scenarios.

The event was compared by Ian Smith of ROQ, and featured two speakers in James Hattersley-Dykes and Jonny Fletcher. This event was also my first time attending, so I was looking forward to dipping my toe in the testing world. I was made to feel very welcome, as Ian opened the event by allowing me and other first-time attendees to introduce ourselves, in a warm and friendly manner.

Both James and Jonny proceeded to deliver a fascinating presentation into how Postman and REST Assured can be specifically tailored to test multiple scenarios. One of the major points that I learned early on, was there are lots of variations to consider as part of the API testing process. In addition, I also learned other useful points from James and Jonny, to consider when testing an API.

These points include the following:

  1. Important to document your API’s, as you would do your business processes.
  2. Postman is an API testing tool, which allows testers to create customised testing outputs.
  3. REST Assured is a Java-based library used for writing tailored API tests, which are understandable and human readable.
  4. User interface (UI) is suitable for testing API interface usability, but cannot sufficiently verify functions and back-end services associated with multi-user architecture.
  5. API testing is more suitable for testing automation than UI testing.
  6. In addition to API testing, it is also important to support and compliment both pre and post-testing activities.

Listening to James and Jonny speak, I was impressed with the depth of their knowledge. I not only left with a taste of what is involved with API testing, but also with a book prize that I also won, from tweeting about the event. To summarise, this event has lit the testing flame for me, and I am looking forward to hopefully attending September’s event featuring Lisa Crispin, who I believe is a legend in the Agile testing community.

In conclusion there are several I would like to thank for this event. These include James and Jonny for delivering the presentation, Ian for being a welcoming compare, and also to Avenue HQ for hosting the event. Finally I would also like to thank Doris IT for sponsoring the event, and providing the beer and delicious pizza. Doris IT is an IT recruitment company that works with talented young people from schools, colleges and universities, and develops them with many well-known organisations in the UK.

Thanks for reading!

BIMA & Microsoft Roadshow Liverpool – Wednesday 2nd May 2018

Working in the IT industry, it is important to keep abreast of the latest developments. For me personally, I like to take an interest in how the changing technology landscape, affects both the economic and social society we live in.

Earlier this month BIMA North West in partnership with Microsoft held an event at Avenue HQ, which looked at the above. I was looking forward to learning more about how Microsoft is developing technological solutions, which will shape the future for businesses and agencies. In addition, I also relished the opportunity to network with other technical professionals and creative minds.bima_microsoft1

The event began with an introduction from Andy Kent of Angel Solutions and Ian Finch of Mando. Both set the tone, by talking about the innovative work of their agencies, and how emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and cloud computing are changing how businesses operate.

Andy and Ian were then followed by James Akrigg of Microsoft, who delivered an informative presentation. This looked at using AI to understand and translate languages, as well as Microsoft’s ongoing research to improve its capabilities, including image recognition and cognitive services (vision, language, speech, emotion and audio). All of this sounds like science fiction, but they are becoming more entrenched in reality.

Following this, the event split into separate workshops that were delivered by Microsoft technologists, Philip Harvey and Jodie Rodgers. Each presented various aspects of how technology and data can be used intelligently by businesses. This included looking at good practices of intelligent handling, storing, processing, and cleansing of cloud-based data from its rawest form, to accurately visualise and present it. By using these innovations, this provides businesses with the opportunity to identify areas of improvement, and create further value.

What impressed me about James, Philip and Jodie, is they were knowledgeable, friendly, and able to explain technical content in a simple and understanding tone. Coming from a technical background, I was able to understand the terminology, and it was wonderful to sit and listen to them talk about such exciting technological innovations. Quite simply I shall say, the possibilities to enrich and benefit businesses and society, are endless!

So what did I learn from the event? The answer is that I picked up so much in great detail about Microsoft’s Azure cloud solution and Power BI data analytics tools. There were also reoccurring themes from the event related to data and technology, which I have learned and included below:

  1. Data is the new oil!
  2. It is important to amplify human ingenuity with intelligent technology.
  3. Technologies have to be the right fit for a business.
  4. Ability to process data is a vital skill in the marketplace.
  5. Today’s software is becoming smarter.
  6. Before using data, it is important to sort, cleanse, organise and secure it.
  7. If harnessed intelligently, data can bring value to any business.
  8. Quality of data is important, and security is everyone’s responsibility.
  9. Humans prefer data presented visually.
  10. Data needs to be accurate, cleansed, simplified and presented in real-time.

Following lunch, there was an opportunity to take part in a boot camp. This involved taking a fictional case study and applying the knowledge learned from the workshops to devise a solution. Working as part of a team, I was able to contribute ideas, but also to listen and take in suggestions of fellow team members, before helping to present a solution to other attendees.bima_microsoft3

To conclude, I loved every moment of this event. From the speakers, networking and those incredible Microsoft tools, this has given me an insight into the future. It has also given me fresh impetus to learn and write more about AI, ML and cloud computing, especially Microsoft Azure, which I am looking forward to sharing in the future.

I would like to thank everyone involved with organising a terrific day. This includes Andy, Ian, everyone at BIMA, Angel Solutions, Mando and also to Avenue HQ for their hospitality. My thanks also go to James, Philip, Jodie and everyone at Microsoft for sharing their knowledge, technical expertise, visionary thoughts, and their smiles and humour.

If you would like to find out more, why not click on the link below:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/partner/digitalagency/

Thank you for reading!