From Certifiable to Certified

imageYesterday, I passed my AWS Certified Developer Associate exam.  I started studying for it two weeks ago.

Actually, no, I started studying for it a year ago when I started using AWS.  And at the time, I thought I was going to take the Certified Solutions Architect Associate exam, but we went for this one because its easier, and I had two weeks to study for it.

Why two weeks?  My company has been going for an AWS Partnership thing, and for that we need two certs.  It wasn’t a immediate priority… until some stuff came up which really affected some of our value.   We raised the flag, this needs to be a priority.  Schedule it and take it, and lets send two people so that if either one passes, we’re good.   We both passed.

What did I learn in those two weeks about how to study for the exam?  If I were to go back in time to younger self, what would I tell him?

ACloud.Guru, but not like that is VERY good.  I’m keeping my subscription to it so I can listen in to some of the master-level courses during my commute.   However, I had prescribed something like:

  1. Listen and watch all the videos
  2. Take all the Quizzes
  3. Take the practice exam
  4. Go read other boring stuff.

Inefficient and Fear Based

Turns out, if you get a subscription, they have this thing called an Exam simulator (beta).  And at the end of this you get to see what you did wrong (as well as what you did right), and an explanation of the thing, and a link to more resources:


The suggestion is to attack the problem from a different angle

Thing is, both the real exam and the practice exam asked some pretty in depth questions that the video instruction does not directly cover.  Ryan does say, “Make sure you read the FAQs” and that’s 100% for real.  You gotta read the FAQ’s.

However, the FAQ’s themselves reveal the core ideas central to the service you are reading about. As do the videos.  My suggestion is that once you are comfortable, you get denser information faster from the FAQ’s. 

I also found that the developer exam really wanted to know if you had used something.  Called some methods.   And if you hadn’t .. like me, I just barely used scan and query mostly I was being a sysop and using terraform to set things up for others ..  then reading through the actions, attributes, headers etc – gives you that feel of what actually working with the thing is like.  (Assuming you have plenty of experience and have done many things in the past).  You’ll get into the mind of the designers of the system, and from that, you can infer all kinds of stuff. 

Some Of My Notes

imageI started out taking notes on Paper.  Then I took notes in Google Docs. Then I switched over to sheets.

I’m a visual person, and I like organization, and having a big grid where to “store” information (human brain is optimized for location tracking) was very helpful for me.  If I got a concept wrong, I could go back to the place where that information was hiding on my sheet… it would probably help to have a background “image” to place information even better.  I’ll do that next time.

The Actual Exam

Here’s what was different from what I expected:  Location: Downtown Louisville, Jefferson Tech I think

  • Parking was easy to find early enough in the morning.  I vavigated straight to a parking lot, and paid for the day (less worry!), about 2 blocks away.
  • The proctors were very nice friendly people who gently guided my anxiety stricken self through what I needed to do.
  • Much to my surprise, I got there an hour early, and they invited me to take my test early. I was done by the time my actual start time came around.
  • The actual exam was pretty much at the same level of detail as the exam was, except for more “you really gotta know this” choose all that apply type questions.  I detected at least one stale question on the test, which I commented on.

My weakest areas:   Federation, and Cloud Formation, I think.   Makes sense, haven’t really had to do that, and we use Terraform for the same task.

Woot woot.  Okay, gotta go run a race now.

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What To Mine

I finally understand


This bit is which video cards you have.  The ones in Red are ATI cards .. the ones in green are NVidia cards.  Well, technically that’s just the chipset, but .. yeah.  You put in how many of them that you have, and you click the button.  Green or Red = on, Gray = not on.

If you hover over the button, you get this:


The +150/+500 is the tuning you can do in MSI Afterburner:


You can see the numbers applied .. I’ve also additionally limited power to 50% and temp limit at 60 because I don’t want to burn out my new graphics card…

So you put those numbers in, and then it tells you what it thinks you can do:


This is where you turn on or off the various algorithms .. for example Ethereum uses Ethash and Monero uses CryptoNight.   Based on the graphics cards selected, it prepopulates the numbers, but you can change those numbers to reflect what you actually get. 

So far its been very accurate – with the tuning in place, i get 29.42 Mh/s for Ethereum, and 680 h/s for Monero (although Monero I get an additional +160 via CPU if I so choose).



Then, there’s the list of exchanges.  Some exchanges deal in some coins, but not in others, and that narrows down the list of coins ..   join Exchanges to Algorithm.   My favorite exchange, Binance, is not listed.     And then that gives you ..


  • The Profit is the estimated Profit per day based on mean difficulty and current prices.
  • The % is “as compared to Ethereum”.  The time period has to do with market fluctuations over time … looks like CRC is on a roll right now, so its way more profitable (that usually balances out pretty quick as everybody floods to it and then the algorithm stabilizes).

Looking at used graphics card prices … the break even for a card appears to be in the 7 to 10 month range.   The lifetime of a graphics card .. who knows?  I wouldn’t do it.  Plus proof-of-stake will probably flip a lot of things. 

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Trying to come to peace with my inner butterfly

I went to CodeMash earlier in the year, and I came away with a desire to do some Machine Learning stuff in my spare time.  I needed a Plan, I said.  I’d get up at 5am I said, and have time in the morning!  

So I made this system for myself, using AirTable, something my wife had found:


To further decrease friction, I broke each project into steps:


See that 4th column?  I’m calling that my “Affirmations” column.  Its like listing a fear, but then converting it into an affirmation instead. 

I even created a view that filtered things down to just things that were actionable at the moment:


This worked well for about 3 days, and then … I no longer woke up at 5am.  Instead, I woke up at 5, then at 6, then at 7am, with just enough time to get to work.  And  when the day is done with me.. and we’ve cooked and cleaned and the day is winding down.. its 10pm, and its time to go to bed, if I want to wake up at 5am.

But, I don’t go to bed at 10pm either.  Right now, its 10:30pm.  I should be writing this post in the morning.  But I know, at 5am, my morning-self … just doesn’t care.  F-U he says to my evening self.  And its COLD outside the covers, and the damned dog is sleeping on my sweatshirt.

No happy ending yet.  But I also know I need to get back to running, because the progression of miles is coming up soon.   So… yeah. Smile  Some decisions get to be made.

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CodeMash 2018

imageWinding down from two days of fun.. putting thoughts in one spot so I can find them later.    In general, to those who are not me (and are developer-types) I’d say:  Codemash is a GREAT conference, you should attend it at least once if nothing else just to see how they run things and optimize things.

How have conference contents changed?

The following is compared to my previous experiences at CodePaLousa and CodeStock – I’m thinking this is “industry and conference changes” more than “different conferences with different focuses”.

Themes that stood out  

Blockchain and Machine Learning were big.     As was Devops, as in the definition “developers doing ops straight to production” / seamless deployments / putting all the things in the pipeline.    

Blockchain was focused more on the math, the intro to the science, and one talk was about .. well, i didn’t go to it, but i’m going to guess it was how blockchain = open source trustable democracy.   There was even one ICO’ed coin vendor present.  They probably gave all the blockchain talks.

Themes that seemed absent

maybe its compared to other conferences, but a lot less of {insert random javascript framework here}, and a lot less of {why agile/scrum etc is good} (I think most folks agree that its better than waterfall).

About the same:

There were still several “Designer and Developers mixing” things, and several UX / UI things present as well.    Soft skills – empathy, leadership, building trust, etc – all present.

Here’s the session list in case you might have a different take:   (only valid until next year).

Oh, and they used an excellent conference app – “Attendee Hub”.   Highly Recommend.

If they follow convention, they should put speaker deck stuff here: 

What did I get out of things? 

This is where this post becomes basically for future me – but hey, its a nice checklist to see if any of these are things you’d want to know about.   I’m going session by session, trying to grab people information and slide deck information for those that I’d want to refer to later.    

AWS Security Essentials

I only crashed the end of this one, but the guy was running through a lot of tools and things to make life easier.    Have not found his slide deck.  Some examples were things like setting up audits for various things (root account login, new user created), and rules like (too many decrypts = auto invalidate key).   @abedra

Getting Started With Deep Learning

I finally understood the reasons for h(X) and bias and a fitness function, and backpropogation (instead of genetic algorithms), and why calculus (and not any old fit function).    Excellent presentation. @sethjuarez.  Asked him for slide deck.  Right at the end got into non-deep vs deep and a lightbulb happened for me.   He said he was going to be doing a channel 9 on this, we were his guinea pigs.

Avoiding Microservice Megadisasters

a) immuntability = key.  Your service’s SLA matters, even if you call others .. can get copies of data as long as you don’t change them.  This, btw, is the same idea in Rust’s concurrency model – you can “borrow” ownership, only the owner can mutate.   So, yes by all means do a microservice that does one thing well, but everybody should cache rather than call and everybody knows who the single point of authority is for some data.    Also, “Order” == too generic, your service might deal with a Sales Order vs a Customer Order vs .. different shapes of models.

b) reiterated that if you have two things which are 99.99% available, then together they are way less than that available.   And localhost is not a valid network layer testing option in microservices world.

Machine Learning at Scale

Once again, I crashed the end of this one and wished I had been there.  Basically, “here’s all the nouns”.   Stuff like “Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit”, “Caffe2”, “Tensorflow”, “Chainer”, “MxNet”, “Torch” (those were all on one slide), and  some edge things – CoreML (apple), Tensorflow Lite, Caffe2Go.  Definitely want to find the slide deck for this because nouns.  @mwinkle.

Project Vienna

I didn’t stay for the full thing, but it gave me the overview of Azure “experimentation account” (building models, workspaces, projects) vs “model management” vs “deployment”.    Inexpensive, mostly just pay for bits to store data.  @jennifermarsman  .. hey she’s giving the keynote at CodePaLousa 2018!

Guy Royce – D&D meets Machine Learning

That’s not the name of it exactly, but hey, its Guy, and Guy does D&D really really well.  Excellent overview of the kinds of questions that ML can solve, put in a fun digestible form.  He’s one of the speakers who it doesn’t matter what they’re doing, I know it will be entertaining (for me).

What I did find out is that Guy is working for a company called Nexosis  who we had just chatted with in the hallway.   Its like this:  Software is eating the world, ML is eating Software, so … enable devs to get into ML easier.  Its by the guys who wrote a counterstrike cheater detector.  

Prod Deployments Easiest part of the day

This guy works for Kroger, and .. Kroger is way cooler on the tech and process side than I knew.   We talked about blue/green and red/black / canary deployments.. we talked about backward compatible state migrations allowing db changes to go in a day early.   we talked about committing dead code, feature toggles, that kind of thing.    The next day, for breakfast, the speaker, @StephenShary happened to sit with us, and there was an awesome conversation that happened.   Very good.

Digging into Devops with Terraform

I went to another talk, left, crashed this one and wished I had started here.   @dustyburwell.  Slides for digging out all the nouns:   We did cover lifecycle strategy create before destroy and how that helps with blue/green deployments (assuming you package down to an AMI, which is apparently what Netflix does)

Public Speaking Without Barfing on your Shoes

Especially relevant as we’re going to be submitting talks for conferences pretty soon as part of work.    @reverentgeek hits it out of the park.  has a link to a recording done of this talk.

Image Recognition with Convolutional Neural Networks

Excellent talk by a hobbyist.  I now understand “Convolutional” (reduces complexity in dealing with images and more like how our brain does eye stuff).. and he showed all the code in training a model, bringing it into an iPhone app with CodeML, and then having his phone hot-recognize numbers live.  @timle8n1

So You Know How to Code (Group Trivia Challenge)

Sponsored by HMB, who are a totally cool company (been watching them for a few years – I feel they are legit.  All their folks are genuinely happy, and not sales-person-ey).   If you get a chance to do this, definitely participate.  You’re lumped into groups of 10, so no individual pressure – you can stay totally silent if you don’t know and still win.   In fact, our group won. Smile  


I had forgotten what the language was about .. did this for a quick reminder.  My ex-coworker @joeybratton brings it up every now and again at Skyline, so I did this one for him as it were.   Yeah, basically a same-speed-as-C-but-safer approach to compiling things, and as mentioned above, a better concurrency model.   Apparently since the last time I looked at it, it now has a much better library system, including stuff like diesel to let it talk ORM to databases and stuff.  There’s some crazy benchmarks out there, like 33x faster than C# in some compute intensive cases.

Performance in R

I attended this to get a refresher in R .. and yeah, this guy knows his stuff.  @thoolihan

Looking Forward

I’ve cleared it with my wife, that pending other things not getting in the way, I’ll do a few more conferences this year.  They serve to keep my battery charged, and remind me that I’m part of a pretty big ecosystem .. and lets me see for myself the movement in that ecosystem in real people.

I’m also going to keep an eye out on  .. they brought blockchain to this conference, and they’re seeking to ensure that the internet / web hosting stays democratic / not central entity controlled / censored.   I support that cause.  I’ll back that up by buying up some SUB when I get home (wish I had known about ICO’s back when it was open .. and yeah, having a hardware wallet sucks when you don’t have it with you).   

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More playing around with Cryptocurrencies

I understand a lot more now.    A lot of thanks to @sirajraval who does amazing in-depth videos about all kinds of applied computer science things.

I am not a .. whatever the words are.  Advice-giver-fundy-wundy-thingy-wingy.  I’m just a guy.  If you things you’re getting advice in me, you’ll probably loose money on those bets. Smile 

I think the Idea of cryptocurrency is great. There’s definitely a need for a mathematical, un-corrupt-able middle man know as Math.    Something along the lines of “We can all agree this is the truth, that this ledger is accurate”, something that cannot be fudged.  

Note that in these screenshots, I have not masked any of the amounts.  Yo, this is chump change guys.  I spend more on coffee.    I can’t help it that BTC went up 75x making it valuable.


First, an Inventory of various Crypto Currencies of various flavors .. these are the ones I’ve been interested in.

  • I think Bitcoin (BTC), while famous, is not going to be the long term winning solution. 
    • But because its famous, people are throwing themselves at it
    • Which causes it to bounce all over the place
    • Which excites lots of other people
    • Which causes it to bounce even more
    • It can only handle so many transactions per second
    • Lots of people want to transact in it
    • Which leads to really large transaction fees (you have to volunteer in to a large transaction fee or your transaction gets ignored in favor of others who volunteered a large transaction fee).
      • I was moving BTC over to my hardware wallet, the fee was $35 at the time, regardless of how much I moved.
    • There’s plenty of supply left
    • There’s plenty of people in the world, ie, untapped demand, left
    • So its going to bounce around a while longer I think.    As long as there are curious people out there.
    • Will likely get relegated to “how to move large sums of money around” more than “small transactions” just because of the upscaling of transaction fees.
  • There’s Ethereum as well (ETH)
    • Its ability to do contracts .. ie, programming .. ie, stuff like giving somebody a loan, getting back payments, and calculating here’s how much balance is left given an interest rate ..
    • you don’t have to trust anybody else to say what the balance is.  The math is all there in the contract, and its enforced by shared truth
    • At the same time, if somebody mis-writes a contract … that’s going to be interesting.
    • Siraj:
  • I did some digging around, and I found Monero (XMR)
    • Its the not-traceable one.  Can’t tell who gave how much to whom —
    • you have a secret A, which gives you a receive address B and a view key C.
    • Any time you want to get paid, you say “send it to B”
    • If you want to see if somebody got paid, you need their view key C to see if they got paid.  If you don’t know the view key, you have no idea who paid what to whom or how much.
    • Pretty sure folks will use it for illegal purposes.
    • Its one of the easiest ones to use, GUI wise.
    • You can still mine this for profit with a mid-range CPU.
    • So I think it will be pretty stable / get famous (or infamous) / have value.
    • Siraj:
  • There’s a fork of Bitcoin called Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
    • Lots of people owned bitcoin at the fork date ==> they all own bitcoin cash now as well.
    • Its much easier to transact than BTC, with much lower transaction fees.   Must faster, too.
    • It has a good chance of future survival.
  • And then I found Iota (IOTA)
    • No miners!
    • When you want to do a transaction, you volunteer in to doing at least 2 confirmations.  So its a .. pay it forward kind of thing.  “The more people use it, the faster it gets”.
    • Siraj:

Tools and Services

This is what I’m familiar with so far:

  •  — this is how I converted my dollars into cryptocurrency.     I have it set up to take about $15 from every paycheck and spread that over BTC and ETH at the moment.  I inherited some BCH due to the split, and I did dabble in some LTC but I got rid of it once BCH came around. 
  • – this is a Hardware Wallet that I purchased, and moved most of my BTC and ETH to.
    • Sounds fancy.  All it is, its… like a flash memory thing.  It has some unique numbers stored on it.  There’s no way to directly read those numbers off it.. all you can do is log in to it, and say “here sign this thing with those numbers”. 
    • If it gets damaged or whatever, there’s a list of 24 words to use .. written on paper .. in my safety deposit box … that can be used to reconstruct the unique numbers used.    It happens to be that its a “standard” way of doing this, so even if Trezor dies and you can’t get another device like that, there’s several other wallet systems which will accept the 24 words to get back to the secret keys
    • The unique numbers are what give you access to the math that’s stored in the blockchain, the “shared ledger” across several hundred thousand computers around the internet.
  • – this is one of many exchanges that exchange value between cryptocurrencies.  Use it to quickly convert ETH or BTC to other coins. 

Converting ETH to IOTA and XMR

This was a wild ride for me, so here’s a quick summary —

  • I signed up for an account.   They do email verification.
  • I locked my account up using 2FA.
  • I deposited ETH (it gave me an address to send the ETH to.. i went to coinbase and sent it).  Turns out I had to do it twice, because there’s minimums involved in withdrawing which are around $30 USD equivalent.   Here’s what that looked like:


  • I went to the ETH/IOTA trading screen and exchanged ETH for IOTA. (Somebody else had IOTA and wanted ETH, the exchange helped us find each other).
  • Ditto, ETH/XMR
  • The screens for this are crazy with candle graphs and stuff.  Made me feel super finance nerdy.   There’s also limit and stop limit orders and stuff .. great if you want to day-trade-gamble.
  • Once done, I withdrew funds from IOTA and XMR  to my IOTA and XMR wallets.

Here’s what that looked like on the Binance side:


Here’s what it looks like in the Monero wallet:

image  .. as it scans for more transactions involving me.


Here’s what it looks like in the Iota wallet:  

image image 

yep, still pending.. there was congestion here, need to wait till other transactions happen which will in turn then verify the above transaction.   (the 0 transaction was me clicking “attach to tangle”, which I didn’t understand at the time, but was basically saying “yo say something so that this wallet is established somehow even if nobody gave it money”.)

Whee!   So now I have some money locked up in a wierdo thing that only other wierdos would recognize my money in.  Ie, I’ve made my money LESS USEFUL!   Whee!


So, tax season is about here.   There used to be doubt, but now its been removed, so this is pretty much how I’m going to do it regarding the US Tax code – although this doesn’t take effect till the 2018 season .. but:

  • All transfers into and out of a wallet are short or long term capitals gains, based on the crypto/USD value at the time of the timestamps involved.   Regardless if you’re sending it to another wallet that you own or not.
  • (there’s some flexibility for which crypto/USD index to use, i’ll find something with an API)
  • Coinbase provides a FIFO calculator, which is excellent – they are the bulk of my everything, and the point where my USD happens.   I’ll pretty much use that for my taxes, and count transfers to other wallets as short term gains (if applicable).   Future lesson is, if something is going to appreciate a lot, PARK IT AT ITS FINAL LOCATION QUICKLY before it starts appreciating to avoid tax penalties.
  • I ran some math to figure out how much of a difference things make .. other than making everything short term rather than long term, moving the money to another account in the same currency doesn’t do much on the taxes – the nets are the same. 
  • At some point, somebody’s going to write some decent tax software to go along with owning crypto currencies .. or they’ll write it for the tax guys so that the tax guys can tell you what you SHOULD have paid.   Something like  probably. 

Okay, that’s about it.     The only other thing to throw out there would be, because Bitcoin went up so much, I cashed out enough of it so that even if it (or any of my other coins) went down to $0, I’d still have made money on them, not be in the hole.       Good place to leave off the end of the year, I think.

Cheers, laterz.

Oh, I’m running to mine XMR while I’m using my PC’s.    Haven’t gotten any XMR payout yet. 

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No Post in October??

Wow.  I didn’t post at all in October.    Things I could have posted about, in no particular order:

  • My Birthday Present — Android Tablet in my car — configuration, usage
  • Trip to Las Vegas — 360 video
  • Segmenting work into Interruptible vs Focus vs People.
  • Further experiments in remembering every project I ever worked on and classifying them in various ways.
  • How much I’m liking how my workplace is developing.
  • Water leaks
  • Trip to Morgantown – 360 video of PRT.
  • Stranger Things
  • Running in Teslagear shoes — did a 5k in them!
  • Diagnosing, analyzing, and processing old emotional pain

But yeah, … its been crazy, and I haven’t had the bandwidth to do a proper post.

I did, however, update the … tagline? second line? of my blog.  Having watched Stranger Things Season 1, I really liked Dustin’s Line: “Why Are you Keeping This Curiosity Door Locked!”   … so yeah, inspired.

More time in the future.  Lots of things I could write posts on.   Later!


Posted in Life

Visualizing Bitcoin Adventures

I’ve been riding a Bitcoin (and Ethereum) roller coaster for a year .. and its been a fun little diversion.   However, its hard to see the journey .. it feels like I’ve come out ahead, but have I really?

I doodled various (complicated) ways to try to show stuff via a 3D graph .. but when I actually went to play, this 2D version works just as well:


  • Vertical (down) drops ==  I transferred bitcoin (either to another account, or buying something with bitcoin).
  • To the top-left = I bought bitcoin for USD
  • To the bottom-right = I sold bitcoin for USD (for buying something usually)
  • Note: A similar chart would exist for my Ethereum account.  No, i did not buy a switch for $90, it was more than that.
  • Steep curve vs Shallow curve gives a feeling for price.   buy Steep, sell Shallow is the desire.
  • I could beat myself up .. if only I hadn’t spent the bitcoin, I’d have so much more now…
  • Currently, my experiment is net-positive.  Even if bitcoin goes to $0 right now.

How I created this

  • Download transaction report from Coinbase.   This is a .CSV file, which I then open in excel.
  • Their report has a “Amount” (Column C) which has + for bitcoin added, – for bitcoin removed.
  • Their report has a “Transfer Total” (Column H) .. but it isn’t signed. 
  • Their report also has a Transfer Fee column .. I’m ignoring that for this graph.    I did sum it up, I’ve paid $30 in fees this year.
  • Add a new column, “Signed Transfer Total”   formula is something like “=IF(H27<>0,H27*SIGN(-C27),0)” – to get a signed USD column.  Note that I’m reversing the sign so that a plus in bitcoin is a minus in USD.
  • Add a new column, “USD Balance”, which sums up all the Signed Transfer Total to date.   Something like “=SUM(J$6:J27)”.  For simplicity I added it right next to their bitcoin balance column
  • Grab those two columns and chart it, scatterplot, lines
  • Adjust the vertical size of the graph till you get something that works for you.  

In summary

I do not regret this Bitcoin experiment.

I do hope to leave stuff in Bitcoin, i think it will continue to grow for a while.

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  • Yesterday I did a day of (almost) no caffeine. Molly survived. 6 days ago
  • RT @elonmusk: Adjusting The Boring Company plan: all tunnels & Hyperloop will prioritize pedestrians & cyclists over cars 1 week ago
  • This week wake-up-foo MIA. ~got up 7 = time to enjoy coffee @ homedesk then leave house. I think i wrote a thing…… 3 weeks ago
  • Today’s plan: work, run (outdoors!), meeting, zonk. Would like to get back to early wake up tomorrow. 3 weeks ago
  • Got another project done — mostly. Switched back to IOS for personal, using Android for work. 3 weeks ago