Productivity On The Road: Work Full-Time, Travel Solo, Have Fun

I’ve traveled solo while working full-time for ten-plus months, across more than 15 countries. It’s one of the most fun and rewarding things I’ve ever done. My work breaks over the past year have included things like scuba diving in Belize, polo lessons in Buenos Aires, music festivals in Hungary, and more.

Working full-time while on the road is not easy, but it’s definitely a skill that can be mastered over time.

For those interested in the nuts and bolts of how to travel while working, there are already several great articles out there explaining how it’s done. If you’re not familiar, I recommend starting with Toptal COO Breanden Beneschott’s guide.

In terms of logistics and planning, pulling off a full-time work schedule while on the road is much easier and cheaper than you probably think (at least in my experience), and the infrastructure for doing so continues to grow rapidly.

However, the following problem is far more difficult to solve, especially when traveling solo: Can you fully enjoy your travels while not sacrificing the quality of your work?

Striking The Right Balance

Can you navigate travel logistics, work full-time, and take care of yourself physically and mentally, all while setting aside enough time to explore the places you’re visiting, find fun things to do, and meet new people?

Since you won’t have much of a support system when you’re alone in a foreign country and (usually) don’t speak the language, finding the right balance is critical. Your routine has to be sustainable in the long run, and if you aren’t careful, things can go downhill in a hurry.

As I’ve been traveling, I’ve gotten a lot of questions from friends and colleagues about the psychology of this lifestyle, including everything from how to avoid loneliness to how to maximize productivity.

It’s not for everyone, but this lifestyle can be both incredibly fun and extremely productive, provided you figure out how to do it in a way that works for you. As I’ve traveled, I’ve noticed some key habits, mindsets, and tricks that are important for anyone who is considering working and traveling to keep in mind, regardless of their occupation or interests.

This post covers some of the most important strategies I’ve picked up while on the road.

Go To X To Do Y

When you have the option of living anywhere, it can be difficult to choose a destination, and going to places to see/do touristy things can get old fast. I’m a big fan of going to places to do specific (non-touristy) activities, as opposed to just going to places that sound interesting on paper.

In the past months, I’ve gone to:

  • Portugal to learn how to surf.
  • Berlin and Zurich for conferences.
  • The UK to take a trip through Wales.
  • Santorini to join friends who were on vacation.
  • Israel to visit family and work on my Hebrew.
  • Belize to learn how to scuba dive.
  • Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina for the Toptal Roadtrip.

Working full-time and traveling the world might be easier than you think, especially when you’re traveling for a purpose.

Working full-time and traveling the world might be easier than you think, especially when you’re traveling for a purpose.

I’ve found that having a purpose to your travels leads to a few great outcomes:

  • It’s a lot easier to structure your time and priorities.
  • It’s easier to meet fascinating people with shared interests.
  • You learn amazing new skills that you’ve always wanted to learn.

When you’re traveling solo and devoting a lot of time to work, it’s important to limit the extent to which you’re “re-solving” the same problems on a daily basis. What I mean by that is, you don’t want to find yourself waking up every morning without any plans for where you’re going to work, what you’re going to work on, where you’re going to eat, who you’re going to meet, what non-work things you’re going to do, and so on.

Not only is it easy to waste a lot of time and energy answering the same questions over and over again, but it will also quickly make you feel like you’re swimming in circles without accomplishing much.

To be clear, I am just as strongly against doing anything that’s “too organized” while traveling. I’m pretty averse to resorts, guided tours, and so on.

As a good friend of mine likes to say:

“I always love seeing big cruise ships. The more I see of them, the fewer people there will be wherever I am.”

The adventure and uncertainty of traveling is half the fun, and it’s important not to lose sight of that by planning too much.

In short, don’t just go to Thailand. Go to Thailand to motorbike from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Go to Brazil because you’ve always wanted to experience Carnival. Go to Nepal because you dream of hiking the Annapurna trail.

The possibilities are endless, and it’s when you go somewhere with a goal in mind that things begin to take off.

Set Aside Time Every Day For Learning

When you’re working at a startup, there are always a million different tasks that need to be accomplished, and you’re constantly in a race against time. You can easily spend all of your waking hours knocking things off of your to-do list, and with so much that needs to get done, it can be hard to justify investing time in anything that’s not the task at hand, or at least directly related to the task.

Being on the road is no excuse for complacency. You can work, play, and master new skills, just as you would from home.

Being on the road is no excuse for complacency. You can work, play, and master new skills, just as you would from home.

However, taking time each day for the explicit purpose of improving your skills and learning new things has a profound and positive impact in several important ways:

  • You become much better at your job. Whether it’s taking a data science course, reading case studies on hyper-growth companies, or learning SEO best practices, investing in developing a strong cross-functional skillset will invariably make you more effective at your job in the long run. Every time I read or watch something just because I want to learn about it, I always come away with a bundle of new ideas, even if that thing was only tangentially related to my job.
  • You’ll be happier. If you’re like me and enjoy picking up new skills and being productive, you’ll be a more outgoing, adventurous, and happy person when you’re learning new things. I usually feel pretty great after spending a few hours reading in a cafe or getting a machine learning crash course by the beach. But after binge-watching movies? Not so much.
  • It’s easier to meet people with shared interests. The more diverse interests you have, the more likely you are to have something in common with a stranger. More importantly, when you’re interested in learning something (especially if it’s related to tech or startups), you can almost always find groups on Meetup.com or elsewhere that are full of people who organize events centered around the topic. This is a great way to meet and learn from people who share your interests.

Much like the “Go To X To Do Y” strategy, setting aside time every day for learning is all about feeling like you’re moving forward. By carving out time to pick up new skills, I work more effectively, stay happier, and enjoy my travels much more.

Pack Light, Stay Mobile, And Make Logistics Easy

It’s no fun when an airline loses your luggage. It’s even worse when an airline loses your luggage and you’re alone in a foreign country, don’t speak the language, have no contacts, and have a long list of unread work messages that you desperately need to check.

You’re traveling solo, so you can maintain an amazing level of flexibility. You won’t end up using at least half of what you were originally going to pack, so ditch the suitcase, put that extra sweater you’ll never wear back in your closet, and go carry-on instead.

I fit all of my belongings into one Deuter 65L travel pack and 25L Marmot backpack. There’s plenty of space for everything I need, and I can carry everything comfortably on my back without trouble.

Stay lean with your luggage and dozens of roadblocks that would’ve become huge pains will never happen in the first place.

Road warrior essentials: Hardware, travel packs, and SIM cards. Don’t get carried away. Pack light, but pack smart.

Road warrior essentials: Hardware, travel packs, and SIM cards. Don’t get carried away. Pack light, but pack smart.

The final thing I’ll add here is that travel logistics are way, way easier than you probably think, especially once you get a prepaid SIM card. These usually only cost $10-20 for a few GB of data, and getting one is pretty much the first thing I do when moving to a new place (it’s also absolutely essential for working from the road). This Wikia page is a great resource for an accurate overview of pre-paid SIM card options in most countries. If possible, make sure you get a SIM card that allows tethering. For bonus points, you can also look into getting dual-SIM smartphones or 3G/4G routers.

With a working phone and the rapid global rise of Airbnb and Uber, not only can you typically find a nice, reasonably inexpensive place to stay within a few hours and get a ride there within a few minutes, but you can do all of this from your phone, without ever taking your wallet out of your pocket. Sidenote: It pays off to do a little research on Airbnb hosts; if you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language, finding a host who does (and who might share some of your interests) can make a big difference.

These solutions, coupled with the steady decrease in flight costs, mean that many of the pains associated with travel are quickly disappearing. You can decide to jump halfway across the world tomorrow and have everything planned out just a few minutes later without breaking the bank.

Take Care Of Yourself: Exercise And Eat Well

This isn’t exactly a huge revelation, but it’s important. When you’re abroad, your support system is minimal, so it’s critical that you invest in making your lifestyle sustainable. This goes both ways: Working non-stop is as dangerous over the long run as failing to work at all.

You’re on the road, but you’re not on holiday! Take care of yourself, eat healthy, and make sure you get enough exercise.

You’re on the road, but you’re not on holiday! Take care of yourself, eat healthy, and make sure you get enough exercise.

My colleagues at Toptal are extremely smart and impossibly efficient, and teams here strive to move very fast and execute ruthlessly. What may be high priority one week will no longer be relevant the next. Everyone needs to not just keep up, but actively push things forward, and the occasional psychological strains of travel can’t ever get in the way of that. In this type of environment, you absolutely must take the time to take care of yourself. Even small habits such as being mindful of posture or buying boxes of protein bars can make a big difference when you don’t have time to eat and need to be operating at a high level. If you’re working at a computer all day, you need to be taking a few minutes every hour or two to at least do some basic bodyweight exercises.

If you’re spending an extended period of time in a new city, a good habit to develop is to spend time familiarizing yourself with the grocery stores and markets in your neighborhood. Cooking regularly saves you time when you need to focus on work, and can really help keep costs down. If you’re concerned about food quality or have dietary restrictions, it will also pay off to do some research on destinations ahead of time.

Aside from watching what you’re putting into your body, taking care of yourself means that you need to carve out time for regular exercise and figure out a reasonable sleep schedule to which you’re going to stick. Note that this definitely doesn’t mean your schedule has to be “normal”—you don’t have to simulate an office-to-gym-to-dinner-to-bed routine. Being able to design your own schedule is one of the major bonuses of a flexible lifestyle, after all. There are people who do their best work in the dead of night and sleep in every day, but the point is that they choose habits that are sustainable for them.

Exercising while traveling can be very easy or very hard. While it can be annoying to find a new gym every time you move to a new place, traveling solo means that you can specifically seek out places where adopting a healthy routine comes naturally.

For me, this means getting an apartment by the pickup basketball courts in Tel Aviv or a place on the beach by a surf school in Lisbon. Figure out what you like doing that’s fun and also healthy, and then go somewhere that makes it really, really easy for you to do it.

Join Communities Of People With Shared Interests

As I pointed out earlier, the infrastructure that is available around this nomadic lifestyle is growing rapidly, and I’m curious to see what things will look like a year from now.

For people who don’t have a travel partner but are wary of going it alone, there are options such as Hacker Paradise or Remote Year that invite you to join small communities of people who are also working from the road. There are also many combined co-working and co-living spaces establishing footholds in exotic locations around the world, including the Surf Office in Lisbon and Gran Canaria, for example.

In terms of online communities and meetup groups, in addition to Meetup.com, groups such as InterNationsand the Hashtag Nomads Slack community are good ways to making friends in new places. However, in my experience, none of these compare to the Toptal Community when it comes to finding people to meet up with for trips, events, or just a nice dinner.

Regardless of whether you choose to be a part of such communities, it’s useful to know that they’re there if you need them. The infrastructure for making friends exists in most sizable cities around the world if you know where to look.

Spend Time Traveling With Coworkers

This is especially important if you’re new to a company, or if you are just starting your career and need to do everything possible to learn as fast as you can.

Every time I’ve visited or traveled with colleagues at Toptal (who are located in over 100 countries), not only has it been incredibly fun, it’s also led to immediate and substantial jumps both in my understanding of different aspects of the company and in the quality of my own work.

Travel with fellow Toptalers or go solo. We have communities in hundreds of cities all over the world.

Travel with fellow Toptalers or go solo. We have communities in hundreds of cities all over the world.

There’s so much to learn from spending full weeks traveling, having meals, and working with colleagues across the company, and it always leads me to intriguing new ideas. The Toptal Roadtrip and the Toptal Academy React Course (that 200-plus Toptalers are currently completing) are two initiatives that have been a direct result of spending time visiting colleagues.

Moreover, the chemistry you build by traveling with coworkers, while not as tangible as an exciting new idea, is just as important to the long-term success of you and your team. Proper communication is the lifeblood of distributed teams. By spending extended in-person time with coworkers, you’ll be able to accelerate how fast you get to know each other’s habits, interests, strengths, and weaknesses. The productivity gains will be apparent immediately.

There are plenty of opportunities to do awesome things with coworkers, including attending conferences, traveling to exotic locations, or simply visiting them in their hometowns. Doing so frequently and regularly is a great way to enjoy your travels while accelerating your personal and professional growth.

In Conclusion…

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that it might seem daunting to try to do everything at once: travel, work full-time, stay healthy, make new friends, and find time to actually enjoy yourself while exploring new places.

It’s important to understand that it’s a balancing act, not a to-do list, and there’s definitely a domino effect. Spending quality time on one thing doesn’t take away from the others; it’s all interrelated. When you’re having a great time traveling, it’s easier to meet compelling people. When you’re spending time learning new skills, it’s easier to be hyper-productive at work and meet people who share the same professional interests.

It’s when you hit that sweet spot that this lifestyle really reaches the next level. Before you know it, you find yourself doing such things as executing high-impact company initiatives from rooftop beachside apartments before taking a lunch break to go jet skiing, or reading data science books between asados with new friends.

The possibilities are endless, and there are always new places to visit and exciting goals to achieve. The world is an amazing place, and I hope everyone gets a chance to see it. Good luck and happy travels!

If you have questions about anything in this post or are just curious to know more, you can reach me at dror@toptal.com.

This article was written by DROR LIEBENTHAL, Toptal’s Director of Operations.

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Sketch vs. Photoshop: Is It Time To Switch From Photoshop To Sketch?

It seems that Sketch is becoming an increasingly popular design tool, gaining more and more market share around the globe.

After being made fun of for not using it during an interview, and hearing a lot of designers rave about it,I decided to take the plunge, but after using Sketch for a couple of months, I came away with mixed feelings.

Therefore, I’ve decided to share my experience with fellow designers, because I suspect a lot of them are facing the same Sketch vs. Photoshop dilemma.

Sketch vs. Photoshop? It's a tie or clear victory for either, depending on how you look at it.

Sketch vs. Photoshop? It’s a tie or clear victory for either, depending on how you look at it.

Here are my thoughts on some of the key points differentiating these two tools. I hope my experience will help others decide whether it is time to jump ship and ditch Adobe for Sketch.

What Is Sketch And Why Should We Care?

Sketch is a mockup / UX and UI development tool created by Bohemian Coding (someone other than Adobe; yes, I know it’s hard to believe), and the newcomer has managed to unsettle Adobe, which was the undisputed industry leader for decades.

What makes Sketch different?

In as few words as possible, Sketch promises faster workflow and easier use than its counterparts. You could think of Sketch as Illustrator with some Photoshop stitched together, but that’s only part of the story. Many Adobe features that you don’t use 90 percent of the time were stripped out, so what we end up with, is a streamlined tool, designed to quickly prototype everything from simple wireframes to complex mockups.

Compatibility

Let’s get the elephant out of the room first: If you are using a PC, working outside the US, and most of your clients and team members do not use Macs, then you can probably stop reading now since you will constantly deal with users that can’t use your files.

Sketch is only available for Mac OS X, sorry PC users, there’s no Windows version and you shouldn’t expect to see one soon.

Sketch vs. Photoshop, Round One: Compatibility. Photoshop still has the upper hand, as it’s not limited to Mac OS X.

Sketch vs. Photoshop, Round One: Compatibility. Photoshop still has the upper hand, as it’s not limited to Mac OS X.

If you are a designer you are probably using a Mac anyway, so the next few points ought to make it easier for you to decide if you should try convincing everyone else to switch to Sketch.

If you are planning on using Sketch mostly for wireframes, there is still hope for multi-platform compatibility since you can export files to SVG and PDF format; you can get some editing capabilities back once you open it in Illustrator.

The only other way of making sense of Sketch files on Windows is by employing specs tools, namely Avocode.

Interface

If you are used to Photoshop and Illustrator, you will feel semi familiar because the Sketch interface looks like it was re-imagined by someone who might have worked at Adobe. You can learn everything you need to get started in a matter of hours.

From time to time it does feel like the Sketch team decided to move things around just to differentiate their product from Photoshop.

Photoshop vs. Sketch user interface illustration

For example, you have your layers on the left (don’t know why they didn’t leave them on the right side, other than to look different).

Layers panel is pretty much a stripped down version of the Photoshop panel. You will see this area get quickly populated and disorganized as soon as you start working on anything complex. Unlike Photoshop, you can’t organize it into colors or see all the the little effects that you applied, and since you can click through the layers on your board you will quickly forget it even exists unless you want to move an artboard. This might be a good thing since I noticed that I spent more time designing than managing and messing around with my layers (like Photoshop). The right side shows options for specific tools once you click on them.

Since Sketch is more lightweight on features, everything fits on the right. You don’t have to dig around trying to figure out if your settings decided not to show up because you switched to a different layout last time you used it. In Sketch even features that could be considered “hidden” in Photoshop, such as blending options, show up on the righthand panel.

The simplified UI approach works, but it’s not perfect. Things sometimes disappear into Option buttons (even though there is still plenty of space for them). For example, if you want bullet points, Sketch assumes you don’t use them often, so they are tucked away under a gears icon that you end up clicking a lot thinking something else might be hidden there.

Photoshop vs. Sketch user interface toolbar

You can customize the top toolbar to add hidden functionality, such as rectangle and circle objects, for easy access (until you learn the shortcuts and get rid of them, again).

My opinion? I am fairly happy with the Sketch interface; it’s simple and you will get used to it within a few hours. This is a big deal because designers usually don’t have a lot of time to waste. The ability to try out a new tool and figure out the UI in a short time is a good way to get more professionals to try it ; they don’t have to waste days figuring out the basics, they can do it in a few hours while they work.

Creating Objects

Creating objects with Sketch is one of my favorite aspects. Simply press “R” and you got a rectangle, press “L” it draws a line (yes, Adobe Illustrator has shortcuts too, but they are harder to remember and don’t work as smoothly). By the way there is a great shortcut guide blog post here.

You can quickly jump inside groups (similar to Illustrator, but a lot more transparent) by double clicking an object. This means you are able to throw together a wireframe and adjust things instantly (however, you can’t rotate objects by dragging a corner, for some reason). Resizing an object keeps its properties too, so if you hated how your rounded corners got messed up in Photoshop when you transformed your square, you are going to love this particular aspect of Sketch. The snap-to-grid works a lot better than Photoshop’s or even Illustrator’s; you will actually use it to align things instead of wondering where Adobe came up with those alignment points.

Photoshop still has the upper hand as far as modifying and tweaking objects since it’s part of a more elaborate, full-feature photo editing software suite. If you are working with intricate skeuomorph designs, Photoshop might work better for you since it can do more and you don’t have to learn a new interface.

However, this isn’t really good news for Adobe because design trends are changing, and skeuomorphism is already considered passe. Contemporary design is minimal, clean and flat, making Adobe’s lead in this department a lot less relevant than it would have been a few years ago.

Artboard Workflow

So, the next thing that a Photoshop and Illustrator user will be familiar with are artboards.

Artboards in Sketch may be described as a mix between Photoshop artboards and Illustrator’s. They are really easy to create, like in Illustrator, and show up as sections in your layer panel, as in Photoshop.

You can also have separate pages; think of it as tabs, all within one document. So you can have a page for your mobile artboards and a page full of desktop artboards, all in one document without bunching everything into a single space. Objects can be placed outside the artboards, just as in Illustrator (although it doesn’t work as well; I quickly discovered that this particular feature is still a bit buggy).

For example, I can drag an object from one artboard to another and it will sometimes disappear into nothingness because it’s still, technically, part of the other artboard group (good luck finding it in the layer panel!). Oh, and sometimes this works as it’s supposed to, thus creating awesome workflow frustrations.

Symbols (Aka Photoshop Shapes or Smart Objects)

Another semi-convenient thing in Sketch is the use of Symbols, a concept Photoshop users will be familiar with, but Adobe likes to call them Shapes. I got super excited when I clicked on the shapes icon and I got the following drop down:

Photoshop vs. Sketch illustration: symbols, smart objects, shapes

Symbols are, basically, a group of objects, sort of like smart objects in Photoshop. In Sketch, symbols get their own drop down menu. All symbols are unique to an open document. Built in Sketch templates place them on their own separate page by default (although you don’t have to), so you can easily switch to it and see all the symbols that are at your disposal.

Here is why this is all only “semi convenient:” The first thing I did is something many designers do when they try out a new tool; I downloaded a bunch of free icons with hopes of speeding up my workflow.

Photoshop vs. Sketch importing symbols and objects

This is where the fun stopped. Sure, you can import symbols, but they will be regular objects in your document by default, even if I drop them into the symbols designated page, as you see i did above. Unfortunately, you have to manually convert each item into a symbol, and spend time organizing them, in order for them to show up in your drop-down, so you will likely end up pasting them, just as you did in Illustrator, instead of utilizing the fancy symbols drop down menu. This time you are just pasting from a different Sketch page.

Of course, you can spend hours setting up a perfect starter template to avoid this. I like how Photoshop does it: You simply download a shape file from the internet and load it as you need it; shapes will be available all the time for all documents.

Photoshop vs. Sketch, UI for symbols and objects

While we are on the subject of symbols, it’s really easy to accidentally modify a symbol, where it replicates in all your artboards, in Sketch. Yes, you can watch out for it and make sure you convert it to “no symbol” when you are editing this object, but trust me, you will do it at least a few times. You will be surprised to see stuff move or change on something you already finished. The most common problem I encountered was editing the button text and then forgetting to check the “exclude text value from symbol” option, consequently finding half my buttons renamed.

If it were up to me, I would advise Sketch developers to include some sort of a warning, or a lock feature, making sure that people don’t edit them accidentally. Photoshop is better in this respect because it opens a separate window when you need to edit your smart objects.

Styles Done Better

When you add a text box and you are working from a template, Sketch automatically adds a style to it. It is also easy to create and define new styles. So easy, in fact, that you will be accidentally overriding them half the time and then watch in horror as your changes propagate to all your artboards. (Actually, most of the time you won’t notice it until you are presenting.)

This is when you pray the Undo button actually works (more on that later). I would say styles implementation is better (since you are forced to use them) than Adobe’s, where I have to spend time manually setting up styles and then forget to use them, anyway.

You will eventually learn to check if the styles dropdown is highlighted before you make any changes. However, you can still trigger it, maybe by resizing an element with text in it, thus changing the font size and triggering a global style change. It would be cool if there were a way to prevent this, maybe through some sort of lock button that you have to press before messing with styles. Or, perhaps, style application is cleared if you change an object (as in Photoshop), or only allow style changes from the designated Symbols / styles page.

Exporting

Yes, it’s easier and faster to export in Sketch. Simply drag artboards to your desktop and it saves them, and it’s easy to specify the resolution, such as 2x, for Retina-class tablet displays and so on.

Not that you can’t do these things in Photoshop, which now has a “quick export to png” option when you right click on items; it’s just a little faster and better implemented in Sketch. However, you can’t export your entire screen, only artboards (as in Illustrator). It’s something to remember before you draw arrows between artboards to guide the wireframe flow.

Another significant plus for Sketch is that it’s a vector-based tool, just like Illustrator. Your design will look good on all devices and assets, it won’t be as huge as your Photoshop files, and you can even save them as SVGs.

Sketch vs. Photoshop, Round Eight: Exporting assets. Step aside Adobe, Sketch wipes the floor with Photoshop.

Sketch vs. Photoshop, Round Eight: Exporting assets. Step aside Adobe, Sketch wipes the floor with Photoshop.

Speed And Stability

This is a big one. Yes, Photoshop can be slow, so you need a lot of RAM, processing power and fast storage if you want to open a dozen artboards simultaneously. That said, Photoshop runs fairly well on my Macbook Pro 2013, and even though things get a little sluggish from time to time, I didn’t feel like these performance issues hinder my workflow. Yes, this can be a nuisance, but it’s not a serious problem in most situations. You are also more likely will have Illustrator open alongside, to import vector objects, which further adds to the overall Adobe speed footprint on your computer.

The great thing about Photoshop and Illustrator is that they are polished products and I am willing to trade speed for stability, any day.

Sketch may be described as the opposite. Sketch has a smaller footprint, it’s really fast, and allows me to have 40 artboards on screen and quickly move things between them without a hint of sluggishness. Unfortunately, this is where the good news come to an end. Despite being around for a few years, it still has a lot of bugs . Some users (including me) feel like they are using a beta product, and stability can be a deal-breaker for many people.

Thankfully, I never had it crash on me. However, you should expect some unexpected behavior like the undofunction not working (this particular bug has been documented for a month now), or undoing some random step on some random art board without the ability to get it back. I actually had to stop using undo in my workflow because of this bug. In one instance, undo completely deleted one of my artboards and everything in it with no way of getting it back. This is not the only bug, although I found it the most frustrating. You should also be ready for inconsistent line spacing and text resizing. I remember one time I loaded a file for a client presentation and half my objects were moved to the right by about 20px, making me look like a noob designer who can’t align things.

Let me be clear. Sketch is buggy, but it is not buggy enough to be considered unusable or unsuitable for serious work. Having said that, I think many users will reach a point where these minor glitches start to annoy them to a point they consider switching back.

Plugins

Sketch has a lot of cool plugins, such as those that allow users to automatically populate text fields, and so on. There are also pretty extensive plugin databases out there, and most of them are free. Like Sketch App Rocks. Also, most plugins are geared towards simplifying workflow and performing certain actions faster.

Photoshop has a range of plugins to choose from, too, however, they are not as focused on UX/UI design (because it’s a photo editing tool) and they are scattered around the Internet. However, I must stress that the best and most commonly used plugins are available for both platforms such as the awesome Free Invision Labs plugin that allows you to easily create repeated elements and add filler content. Sketch is the new hip thing, so new plugins and sites dedicated to it are popping up everywhere.

Sketch vs. Photoshop: Conclusion

For me, it’s a tough choice. I really wanted to fall in love with Sketch, however some of its limitations keep me from jumping ship. Yes, Sketch is faster and feels a lot more like an actual UI design tool than Illustrator or Photoshop. You will be able to build things much more quickly, even if you just moved from Photoshop and Illustrator.

Still, bugs will push the otherwise excellent speed back a notch, and Mac-only support really limits the scope of projects. For now, I am using Sketch solely for wireframes and smaller projects, and sticking to Photoshop for my main UI mockups.

Bottom line? You won’t go wrong with Photoshop or Sketch. Both have excellent use cases, and neither will miraculously turn you into an ace designer.

Bottom line? You won’t go wrong with Photoshop or Sketch. Both have excellent use cases, and neither will miraculously turn you into an ace designer.

You should ask yourself questions such as, “Do I enjoy using buggy, but cutting-edge software?” or, “Do I want to fall for the hype?” If the answer is, “Yes,” then go for it! If you are an Adobe veteran, you can probably afford to wait a few months for Adobe Comet to launch. By the looks of it, Comet will pretty much do what Sketch does, plus animation and artboard linking. Ultimately, these are just tools for your workflow. They are not going to make you a better designer, they might just speed up your workflow, and that’s all.

Personally, I have added Sketch to my toolbox, even though I have to check my files each time I open them to make sure they didn’t get changed by one of its bugs while I was asleep. Things will get better, there’s no doubt about that, but the question is when? Sketch managed to gain a huge following, yet it failed to iron out all the kinks. I only hope that the imminent launch of Adobe Comet will create a new sense of urgency and force the Sketch team to address more bugs in the coming weeks and months.

The original article is from Toptal.

dự án nghiên cứu software defined radio các dự án nghiên cứu bảo mật chủ để software defined radio – sdr, ads-b, hamradio, hack car
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software defined radio

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Cách chọn áo sơ mi đẹp theo từng dáng ngườit

Cách mặc quần culottes đẹp cho cô nàng chân ngắn Quần culottes là một trong những item “gây sốt” với các tín đồ thời trang

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13 mẫu hoa cưới cầm tay mùa thu tuyệt đẹp cho cô dâu

Chuẩn bị làm mẹ, sức khỏe mang thai, chăm sóc trẻ sơ sinh bà bầu nên ăn gì

Cách tết tóc vòng qua đầu giúp bạn xinh như công chúa

Trang điểm mắt màu khói hồng tro cho nàng đẹp ngẩn ngơ

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Cách đặt tên cho con gái hạnh phúc viên mãn cả đời

7 cấm kỵ phong thủy phòng khách khiến gia đình kém may

10 bài tập Yoga giảm cân cực hiệu quả

Mẫu áo vest nam lịch sự vest nam trẻ trung

One Size Fits Some: A Guide to Responsive Web Design Image Solutions

As mobile and tablet devices come closer to achieving final world domination, web design and technology is in a race to accommodate the ever-growing number of screen sizes. However, devising tools to meet the challenges of this phenomenon brings a whole new set of problems, with one of the latest buzzwords to emerge being “responsive web”. This is the challenge of making the web work on most, if not all, devices without degrading the user’s experience. Instead of designing content to fit desktop or laptops, information has to be available for mobile phones, tablets or any surface connected to the web. However, this responsive web design evolution has proven to be a difficult and sometimes painful one.

Read the full article here https://www.toptal.com/designers/responsive/one-size-fits-some-an-examination-of-responsive-image-solutions

A Remote Worker’s Guide To Staying Healthy

Remote work, or working from home. A common dream that is becoming more and more a reality. When most people think about working in a home environment, they think they will be able to wake up late, work in their pajamas, not worry about traffic jams and so on; basically, do whatever they want. And, while that may be partially true, working remotely can have an effect on your physical health. That’s why it is important for remote developers to stay active and healthy, and that’s what we’re discussing today.

Granted, there are a lot of developers who take good care of themselves and enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle. If you are one of them, you can skip the rest of this post, because I wrote it to help developers like myself, who could benefit from a healthier lifestyle. Even if you are entirely focused on your career, and think you don’t have enough spare time to lead a healthy lifestyle, bear in mind that good physical health will also boost your productivity.

Having worked remotely for four years, I have a few tips for newcomers and those who already work from home, but don’t want to sit around when they’re not working. Keep in mind that everything I’m about to say isdrawn from personal experience and from things I’ve learned; I am not a doctor or trainer in any way.

Routines Are Important For Remote Workers

Read the full article here.

Bootstrapped: Building A Remote Company

If you ask me, working remotely rocks. I’m currently writing from a small beach bar located on a remote island in southern Thailand. Looking up from my laptop, I see nothing but the endless ocean and its crystal clear blue waters. I’ll be enjoying this morning undisturbed and focused on my work because the rest of the team hasn’t even gotten up yet. Time zones work out really well for distributed teams.

My colleague Thomas recently talked to 11 thought leaders in project management about the impact of remote work on a company; some scrum experts argued that distributed teams could work together effectively while others came out strongly against it.

I understand the concerns; you can’t just open up the office doors and release everyone into the wild. It’s not guaranteed that you’ll end up with a thriving business. Marissa Mayer at Yahoo famously axed remote work in 2013 after feeling that some employees abused it.

So how does a tech company get this working remote thing right? Read on. The following is based on our story at Planio and how we made it work.

The author, Jan Schulz-Hofen, working remotely on an island beach.

Enter Planio, my remote company

There are a number of things which motivated me to start my current company. Breaking away from client work while retaining all the benefits of being a location independent freelancer was one of them.

In 2009, I was sitting in the shadow of a cypress grove situated in a beautiful Mediterranean-style garden overlooking the rolling hills of Tuscany, working hard on a new side project of mine: Planio.

It’s a project management tool for people like me: developers. Planio helps make client projects more organized and transparent all while reducing the number of tools and platforms needed to do the job. Planio is based on open-source Redmine (an open source Ruby on Rails-based software project), which I’ve used remotely with my own clients since its very beginnings. So, in a way, remote work is already in Planio’s DNA.

Fast forward to today, and my small side project has grown into a real company. We’re a team of 10 now, serving more than 1,500 businesses worldwide. We have an office in Berlin, but many of us work remotely.

In this article, I’ll dig into the principles, tools and lessons that have helped us along the way. After reading it, I hope you’ll be able to architect your software company so it’s remote-friendly right from the start.

“Talk is cheap. Show me the code.” – Linus Torvalds

Every Thursday we have an all-hands conference call where we discuss what we did the previous week and what’s coming up next.

At the beginning, we spent a lot of time discussing ideas before deciding on what to do, but we found that it’s a lot harder when some team members are on a poor quality telephone line and you can’t see them.

Now, we often just “build the thing” and then discuss it – we create a working prototype with a few core ideas and then discuss that. For instance, we recently hit some performance issues with our hosted Git repositories. Instead of discussing and analyzing all the possible ways in which we could potentially save a few milliseconds here and there with every request, my colleague, Holger, just built out his suggested improvements in a proof-of-concept on a staging server to which we directed some of our traffic. It turned out well and these ideas are going into production.

This method focuses everyone’s minds on action rather than talk. The time invested in writing code is paid back by less time spent talking in circles.

Use Text Communication

Real-time communication punishes clarity. Instinctively calling a colleague when you need something is very easy, but it’s not always your best course of action. I can’t remember the number of times I’ve started writing an email or a Planio ticket for a problem only to solve it myself just while writing it down.

Zach Holman, one of the first engineering hires at GitHub, agrees: “Text is explicit. By forcing communication through a textual medium, you’re forcing people to better formulate their ideas.”

Text communication also makes you more respectful of each other’s time, especially when you’re living multiple time zones away. Immediate communication can be disruptive; the person might be in the middle of figuring out why the last deployment went wrong. With an email, s/he should be able to consider your write-up at a more convenient time.

Be as Transparent as Possible

Time spent worrying about office politics isn’t conducive to shipping working software, and transparency promotes trust. It’s no coincidence that many remote-by-design companies, such as Buffer, have radical transparency. In the case of Buffer, it shares revenue information and the salaries of all its employees.

Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, also emphasizes transparency. In his book, The Year Without Pants, Scott Berkun shares his experience working remotely for Automattic, and that all decisions and discussions are internally available to employees in its P2 discussion platform as part of its emphasis on transparency.

The chat feature in Planio works in a similar way. Discussions are open for everyone to see and chat logs are linked automatically from the issues discussed so nobody is left out; even new hires can read up on what previous decisions were made and why. When I started building the chat feature, I considered adding a feature for chatting privately with others, but when we discussed it as a team, we ended up leaving it out because we wanted to keep team communication as transparent as possible.

I think transparency is critical for remote teams. For example, imagine you’ve just joined a team of remote developers. Perhaps you’ve never met your new colleagues. You don’t know the unspoken rules of behavior. You might be worried about whether you’re doing a good job. Are your teammates actually being sarcastic or do they really mean their compliments? Is everyone privately discussing how good of an engineer you are?

Digitalize Your Systems

We choose our services based on what they offer by way of online platforms, from telephone providers to banks (many of them will even offer a small financial incentive for going paperless, plus it’s great for the environment, too). I’m lucky to have a lawyer and an accountant for Planio who are comfortable sending emails or messages with Google Hangouts instead of summoning me to their offices. (I strongly recommend you ask about this at the first meeting.) Bonus points for getting them to sign up with your project management tool and become a part of your team!

We’ve even digitized our postal mail; at Planio, we use a service called Dropscan that receives our letters, scans them and forwards the important ones to the appropriate person. You don’t want to your friend to pick up and read them out over Skype. If you cannot find a mail-scanning provider for your city or country, some coworking spaces offer virtual memberships to maintain a physical mailing address while you’re away.

For those companies sending out mail, there are services available so that you never have to visit a post office again. We use a German printing company with an API that automatically sends a letter along with stickers to each new paying Planio customer. It’s something people love, and we don’t have to print and mail a thing. International alternatives include Lob and Try Paper.

This article was written BY JAN SCHULZ-HOFEN – FOUNDER & CEO @ PLANIO and can be read here.

Boost Your Productivity With Amazon Web Services

During the last few years, the hottest word on everyone’s lip has been “productivity.” In the rapidly evolving Internet world, getting something done fast always gets an upvote. Despite needing to implement real business logic quickly and accurately, as an experienced PHP developer I still spent hundreds of hours on other tasks, such as setting up database or caches, deploying projects, monitoring online statistics, and so on. Many developers have struggled with these so called miscellaneous tasks for years, wasting time instead concentrating on the project logic.

My life changed when a friend mentioned Amazon Web Services (AWS) four years ago. It opened a new door, and led to a tremendous boost in productivity and project quality. For anyone who has not used AWS, please read this article, which I am sure you will find worth your time.

Boosting your productivity

Amazon Web Services (AWS) can boost your productivity, literally, in minutes.

AWS Background

Amazon Web Services was officially launched in 2006. Many people will have heard of it, but probably don’t know what it can offer. So, the first question is: What is AWS?

Amazon Web Services (AWS), is a collection of cloud computing services, also called web services, that make up a cloud-computing platform offered by Amazon.com.

Wikipedia

From this definition, we know two things: AWS is based in the cloud, and AWS is a collection of services, instead of a single service. Since this does not tell you much, in my opinion, it is better for a beginner to understand AWS as:

  • AWS is a collection of services in the cloud, as the definition says.
  • AWS provides fast computing resources online (for example, you need 10 minutes to set up a Linux server).
  • AWS offers affordable fees.
  • AWS provides easy-to-use services out of the box, which is saves lots of time manually setting up a database, cache, storage, network and other infrastructure services.
  • AWS is always available and is highly scalable.

There are, of course, many more advantages to using AWS, so, let’s have a quick overview of how it can boost your productivity.

Create an AWS account for free

To begin using any service, you need to have an account. Creating an account for AWS should take you no more than five minutes. Make sure you have the following information at hand:

  • An Email address, which is used to receive a confirmation email.
  • A credit card, which will not be billed since the setup process is always free.
  • A phone number, which will receive an automated system call to identify user

That’s it. Once you have the info listed above ready, visit AWS web page, and create an account following the easy-to-follow instructions.

Note the following:

  • Most AWS services offer an abundance of free tier resources on a monthly basis. That is, testing AWS typically costs you little or nothing.
  • The phone number and other personal information has not been abused, according to my experience

Get your first EC2 server setup

One of the benefits of a cloud service is the ability to get shared resources on demand. Amazon has provided four tiers of service for the user to access its services, listed in the order of easiness:

  • Management Console,
  • Command-Line-Tool,
  • SDK,
  • RESTful API.

In this article, we will be using the Management Console. So, after you log in to the console, you will see a screen like below:

Setting up your first EC2 server in the AWS

There are two areas to note:

  • On the top-right corner, you will find the region selector. AWS provides services in 11 different regions across the world, and it is still growing. Choose a region as your choice, or leave it to US East (N. Virginia) as default. Different regions may vary in pricing, which you should bear in mind as your usage grows.
  • Most of the screen is filled with a list of services. We will cover EC2 in this section. Take a quick look at what AWS provides. Don’t worry if they don’t make sense, all of the services will work on their own. However, you will get greater productivity by using a combination of them.

The most fundamental need of a cloud resource is the virtual server. EC2, or Elastic Compute Cloud, is the name chosen by Amazon for its virtual server service. Let’s have a look at how easy it is to get a Linux server online.

  • In the EC2 management console, start the launching process like below:

Setting up your first EC2 server in the AWS

  • Choose a machine image (AMI for short) to begin. This is the operating system that will run your machine. Pick any system of your preference. I recommend you start with Amazon Linux, which uses yum to manage packages:

Setting up your first EC2 server in the AWS

  • Next, select an instance type. You can understand this as your hardware specification for your virtual server. You can start with t2.micro, because you will get 750 hours of free usage every month with this instance for the first year. Note this is valid only the first year from the date you sign up, and only for the t2.micro instance. It’s a good deal if you only want to have a taste of AWS.

Setting up your first EC2 server in the AWS

  • With the ability to configure the server in more detail, you can launch the server. The first time you use EC2, you will see a screen similar to the one below. The warning about security tells us how much Amazon emphasizes the security aspect. However, we can ignore this warning until we visit the section about managed services.

Setting up your first EC2 server in the AWS

  • Finally, to access a remote server, we need an identity. AWS will prompt us to choose an SSH key pair, as in the image below. Download the privacy key file and click the launch button. And yes, we are done; a new virtual server is being configured and will be ready in a few minutes.

Setting up your first EC2 server in the AWS

  • Once the instance is ready, you may log into the system as default user ec2-user, with your privacy key. ec2-useris the AWS default that also has sudo ability. Although it is not possible to change the default username, you may create any user and assign the appropriate privileges according to your preferences. The address of your server can be found here:

Setting up your first EC2 server in the AWS

The process above should take less than five minutes, and that is how easily we get a virtual server up and running. In the next section, we will learn how AWS helps us manage the instance we just created.

On-demand billing

Most AWS resources are billed in hours, which provides good flexibility. For example, taking the EC2 instance we just created, there are two ways to put it out of service: stop and terminate. Both actions will stop the billing. The difference is that by stopping an instance, we can re-start it later with all our work saved. In contrast, by terminating an instance, we give the instance back to AWS for recycling and there is no way to recover the information. The need to terminate an instance results from AWS setting a limit of 20 instances per region per account by default, and a stopped instance still counts until it is terminated.

We can stop an instance quickly by:

Setting up your first EC2 server in the AWS

When you stop your EC2 instance, your bill stops growing, as well. It’s especially useful in the following scenarios:

  • When you want to try something new, it is more cost friendly if you only need to pay for a couple of hours, and you probably won’t exceed the free tier for some services.
  • When your computing need is in production environment scales. For example, in the past, I needed to reserve computing resources which are usually 30-50 percent more than the peak usage. With AWS, I could provision resources in a more flexible way:

Setting up your first EC2 server in the AWS

Pricing information for AWS is available online. After making some calculations, you may raise the question: Is AWS actually cheaper? By multiplying the hourly rate for a month’s time, it looks like it’s not competitive at all. The answer is yes and no.

AWS is not cheaper if you simply calculate the hourly rate for the on-demand resource over a month. However, we still have the reserved instances billing choices as illustrated below:

Setting up your first EC2 server in the AWS

For the minimum resource requirements, we can achieve a 30 to70 percent discount using the reserved instance, along with other varying resources billed as an on-demand instance. In practice, this will be 30 to 40 percent cheaper with the one-year commitment, and even more with a three-year commitment using reserved instances. That is why I’ll vote “Yes” on the above question. And AWS is even cheaper if you include the security and monitoring benefits.

Managed services

One aim of AWS is to eliminate as much of the operational cost as possible. Traditionally, we need a large team of system engineers to maintain the security and health of our infrastructure, either online on onsite. Experienced teams will write and deploy their automated tools to simplify the process. However, managing services becomes a complicated project in practice, as well. AWS acts as a lifesaver in helping us manage our resources. Below, I have listed some of the services provided by AWS that are most used:

  • AWS Security Group,
  • IAM, Identity Access Management,
  • CloudWatch,
  • And a list of auto deployment services such as OpsWorks(which will not be covered in this article).

AWS Security Group

How AWS handles access control of services is done in two separate layers. On the network level, it is achieved by using an idea known as “security groups.” All AWS services are in security groups. And the security group determines who is allowed to pass through. Taking our EC2 instance, AWS has automatically created a security group for us:

Setting up your first EC2 server in the AWS

We can decide what can comes in and what can go out by configuring inbound/outbound rules. TCP, UDP, and ICMP rules are supported by the EC2 service. The security group acts like an external hardware level firewall, and we never need think about patching it.

One more advantage of using security group is that it is reusable. One security group can be shared among many resources. In practice, it greatly improves maintenance efficiency by removing the hassle of setting security policy one by one for each resource. Also, the shareable nature of a security group enables us to configure it in a single place, and apply that security policy to any other resources, without the hassle of setting it manually, one by one for each resource.

Identity and Access Management

AWS provides another method to handle access control by using IAM. This is an application level security control for when you need to access the RESTful interfaces. Each REST request must be signed so that AWS knows about who is accessing the service. Also, by checking against a preconfigured list of policies, AWS will determine if the action should be denied or allowed through.

We will not cover IAM in detail in this article. However, note that AWS puts a lot of thought into security so you can be sure no unauthorized visitors can access your confidential data.

CloudWatch

CloudWatch is a service provided by AWS to collect and track all kinds of metrics from your AWS resources. It is more powerful because of its ability to react to certain events (or alarms). With the help of CloudWatch, we can monitor the health of our newly created EC2 instance.

  • We can add alarms to our EC2 instance quickly:

Setting up your first EC2 server in the AWS

  • Alarms may be created by specifying criteria for many different purposes:

Setting up your first EC2 server in the AWS

NOTE: SNS is a topic based service provided by AWS to send notifications. Notifications can be sent by email, SMS, iOS/Android push notification and many other formats.

From monitoring to notifying, CloudWatch attempts to automate monitoring needs in a few clicks. There are tons of metrics predefined for various AWS services. For the advanced user, you can even create custom metrics for your application.

Regarding cost, the free tier service provided by CloudWatch is usually plenty for start-up projects. However, even when your business grows, the added costs are usually less than 1 percent of the service cost. Check detailed pricing for further information. Considering how easy it is to set up a monitoring system using CloudWatch, it has become the most used monitoring tool.

Hassle free application services

As developers, we have likely experienced the following scenarios:

  • Our application needs a database component, which means that we have to:
    • Get a server for the database.
    • Install the database software.
    • Configure monitors for the server and the database.
    • Plan backup schemes.
    • Patch the software as needed.
    • And many other not listed here.
  • Our application needs distributed file storage, which means that we have to:
    • Find existing open source (or commercial) solutions for distributed file storage.
    • Prepare the needed servers.
    • Install and configure the chosen solution, which is usually not straightforward.
    • Configure monitors for the server and the database
    • And many other not listed here
  • Our application needs a cache.
  • Our application needs a message queue.
  • And many other problems to be solved, plus, we need to do pre-configuration and post-monitoring work.

And, as you may have already guessed, this is another significant area where AWS helps. There are a lot of application level services available, so you won’t need to consider anything else.

Let’s cover some of them to give you a quick picture.

RDS, database managed for you but not by you

Relational databases (RDBMS) have been widely adopted by a lot of applications. In the production environment, special attention is always needed when deploying applications using RDBMS, beginning with how to setup and configure the database, followed by when and how backups are made and restored.

In our team, our Database Administrator (DBA) used to spend at least 30 percent of his time writing setup and maintenance scripts. With the introduction of AWS RDS, our DBA got more time to do SQL performance tuning, which is the preferred area to invest your DBA in.

So, what does RDS offer you? In short:

  • RDS provides support for most of the popular database engines, including MySQL, SQLServer, PostgreSQL.
  • A database, either a node or a cluster, can be created in a few clicks.
  • RDS offers built-in support for shared database parameters, under the service named “Parameter Group”.
  • RDS provides built-in support for access management with the help of Security Group , which is quite similar to the one we covered for EC2.
  • RDS offers additional services by enabling Multi-AZ in a single click. All monitoring, standby and failover switching are done automatically.
  • Maintenance and backup of RDS are automated.

To conclude, RDS saves a considerable amount of time when it comes to setup and maintenance of the database services. In exchange, you will pay about 40 percent more than the corresponding EC2 server. So, it is a business decision whether to opt for RDS or deploy the corresponding server on your own. However, it does allow you to invest more time in work that’s related to real business rather than infrastructure stability and scalability. Plus, you will soon notice that this is the way of business AWS advocates.

Dynamo DB, a key-value storage scales to billions of records

NoSQL has become a favorite topic in recent years. Since many real life projects do not need the support of various relational DBMS, a list of NoSQL databases has been introduced to the market. Amazon is not falling behind in this. DynamoDB (https://aws.amazon.com/dynamodb) is the key-value store announced by Amazon in 2012, and the core contributor to this service is Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon, one of the world’s top experts on ultra-scalable systems.

It is no secret that Amazon handles massive traffic. DynamoDB is derived from Dynamo, which has been the internal storage engine for many Amazon’s businesses, including its shopping cart service that serves billions of requests every Christmas. DynamoDB has no limitation in scaling up.

Further, when compared to other NoSQL solutions, such as Cassandra or MongoDB, there is an enormous economic advantage to DynamoDB; it is billed in the unit of reserved throughput (how many write/read per second is allowed), which can be increased or decreased in real time. Below is a cost comparison table between DynamoDB and other standalone NoSQL solution:

Business NeedDynamoDB serviceDynamoDB costUsing another serviceCost when using another service
Small Business
(less than 1000 DAU, 16GB data)
10 write unit
10 read unit
$9.07/month •t1.micro ••
16GB EBS •••
$14.64/month
Medium Business
(less than 100k DAU, 160GB data)
100 write unit
100 read unit
$101.62/monthm4.xlarge
160GB EBS
$190.95/month
Large Business
(up to 1m DAU, 1TB data)
1000 write unit
1000 read unit
$852.58/monthClustered c4.4xlarge • 512GB EBS •$1329.24/month

• to be fair, price is calculated using on-demand pricing in US-EAST region
•• AWS EC2 instances are selected to host other NoSQL services
••• EBS is the persistent storage service provided by AWS

As we can read from the table, DynamoDB provides its service out of the box, and usually at a lower price compared to building your own key-value storage. This is because unless you hit the maximum capacity of your MongoDB/Cassandra cluster, you are paying more for something you never use.

Amazon offers its service in a fully-managed manner. This means that you don’t have to worry how to setup, scale or monitor your DynamoDB; they are all done by AWS. In fact, reading and writing DynamoDB items are always measured in constant time complexity, regardless of the size of data being manipulated. Therefore, some applications have chosen to discard cache layers after they switched to DynamoDB. Amazing, indeed.

SQS, distributed queue service

When working with large volumes of data, we often distribute calculations to many computing nodes. When doing business globally, we are often in need of a pipeline to process data collected from nodes distributed in a geographically wide range. To help meet the requirements for such events, AWS introduces SQS, Simple Queue Service. Like many acknowledged queue services, SQS offers a way to pass messages/jobs between different logical components, in a persistent manner.

As its name indicates, SQS is a basic service that is available at the beginning of AWS. However, Amazon has steadily been developing SQS, and depending on the need, SQS maybe as simple or as powerful as you need with many customizable parameters. Some of the advanced features of SQS are:

  • Retaining messages for up to 14 days.
  • Visibility mechanism for avoiding message loss in a failure event.
  • Delivery delay per message.
  • Redrive policy to handle failed messages (so-called dead letter).

Queue services shouldn’t be too complicated. You may wonder why it is worth using a whole section just to introduce SQS. Perhaps you have already guessed the reason; like other AWS service, SQS is a fully managed service, which means:

  • The queue is highly scalable; it can be tens of messages you are passing through or millions per second, so SQS scales on the fly.
  • The queue is persistent and distributed, which means critical data will not be lost unless they expire.
  • You do not need to setup a server to deploy your queue software. And of course, you do not need to setup complex monitoring for the service, either

S3, a file storage, but not only a file storage

S3 stands for Simple Storage Service andis like Dropbox as a service for the end-user, but this is for applications. By definition, S3 is an object-based storage with a simple web interface.

S3 is simple for the user, but also comes with lots of advanced features. I S3 has become an industry standard, especially for applications using other AWS services. This is mainly because S3 is so easy to integrate that it has become a popular external storage destination for most AWS services. Also, many services, such as DynamoDB, SQS and so on, make heavy use of S3 internally.

Understanding S3 should amplify the benefits of using other AWS managed services. This is because most of the services store their backups on S3. Also, S3 is the common export/import destination for services including, but not limited to, DynamoDB, RDS, and Redshift.

Finally, S3 is like other AWS services; it’s fully managed so we can simply start using the service without setting up any server or failover mechanisms. Economy wise, S3 is also a pay as you use service, so, you can always try it out without much cost.

More advanced services and SDK

There are many other AWS services also worth noting. Due to limited space, we are just listing some interesting ones here:

  • Redshift: A column based database which can be used to process trillions of data in a very fast manner. You must try it if you are responsible for the ETL of a large amount of data.
  • Data Pipeline: IAllows you to quickly transfer data between AWS services, and further enables periodical processing of data in a smaller shard.
  • ElastiCache: Managed Memcache server, simple but does the job perfectly.
  • Lambda: Next generation of cloud computing. Lambda runs an uploaded piece of code in an event-driven fashion that opens a new door for designing distributed applications.
  • Route53: Powerful DNS solution with the support of weighted response, geolocation based response on top of other industrial standard DNS solutions.
  • SNS: Easy-to-use notification service, designed in subscriber/publisher pattern.
  • Many more.

I think it is a good habit to check AWS whenever you are introducing some new component to your application. Most often, AWS will give you a sweet surprise as it will have a ready a SaaS alternative to offer.

Furthermore, to make it easier to access RESTful interfaces, Amazon has provided SDKs in almost all popular programming languages. You should have no problem finding your favorite SDK.

Summary

We have covered some of the most widely used services of AWS in this article. For sure there are some areas that AWS will help your business. You might choose to migrate an existing service component to its AWS equivalent, such as MySQL database to RDS, for instance. You may well find yourself asking if there are any AWS services for this component of my software? So, get an AWS account today, and get your productivity boost in minutes.

The original article was written by MINHAO ZHANG – FREELANCE SOFTWARE ENGINEER @ TOPTAL and can be read here.

The New Wave of Entrepreneurship

There is a multi-trillion dollar economy opening up to technology faster than ever. It has been driven by trends that have changed the nature of how entrepreneurs will be characterized going forward; specifically, industry executives will be the next wave of in-demand startup CEOs.

In April of 2007, Apple changed everything with the launch of the iPhone. It is hard to imagine that it has only been 8 years since the release of the first truly pervasive smartphone, but there is no denying its impact has been world-changing. Beyond the creation of a new dimension of industry-driven, by location-based, services (and with it, a myriad of billion dollar companies), an equally significant phenomenon emerged. By creating technology that was intuitive to the consumer masses, every person around the world started to embrace technology as more than just a work tool. Lawyers, doctors, car mechanics and people from every sector of the economy not only had a tool for productivity, but a piece of technology in their pocket they embraced as an intimate part of their lives.

Furthermore, these new consumers could now point to a standard for usable technology. Cumbersome, enterprise legal software that won’t allow a lawyer to search cases from outside the office is no longer acceptable. For those outside of the Silicon Valley silo, conversations can be heard from construction workers sitting on a lunch break saying “Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an app to …”. Unfortunately, these conversations are often too far away from Silicon Valley’s ears, which are still dominated by the talk of what will be the next WhatsApp or Instagram. Even so, a new breed of entrepreneur is emerging who see firsthand the challenges in their industry, and with that the opportunity to make a world-changing impact, and these entrepreneurs do not fit the founder archetype that many Silicon Valley investors look for.

new breed of entrepreneur

Photos from http://www.ablogtowatch.com, http://securityaffairs.co, http://geniusapp.com, and http://www.rakenapp.com

Previous decades saw similar shifts in entrepreneur characterizations. The late 90s were about Harvard MBAsapplying traditional management techniques to leverage brand new Internet technologies. The “aughts” brought onthe “22 year-old Stanford Computer Science” graduate applying technology to a low hanging industry. Now, in this decade, we are seeing a new wave of entrepreneurship driven by industry executives with deep product backgrounds leveraging technology to disrupt a traditionally non-tech industry.

For the past 2 years I’ve had the opportunity to see this shift firsthand as the managing partner of Silicon Valley Software Group (SVSG), a firm of CTOs focused on helping companies with their technology strategy. SVSG has seen entrepreneurs ranging from movie producers, lead singers of platinum album rock bands, travel executives, and hedge fund managers all trying to figure out how to leverage their domain expertise through technology. After a number of similar engagements, a few observations have emerged:

  • In each venture, a product-focused entrepreneur saw the adoption of technology among their peers in a particular industry and, with that, the opportunity to create a product focused on that industry.
  • None of these entrepreneurs had notable tech experience.
  • Hardly ANY of these high profile individuals had relevant connections with the Silicon Valley community.

This last observation is of particular importance!

As tunnel-visioned as Silicon Valley might be, there is a reason that it has produced so many world-changing companies.

The combination of growth capital, multidisciplinary talent, and mentors sharing best practices around how to create hyper-growth businesses are often taken for granted by those who are part of the ecosystem. However, the disconnect between Silicon Valley natives and outsiders is shocking. Many of the companies SVSG has come across have no ability to raise strategic capital at first because their businesses are too risky when considering common pitfalls they are more likely to fall into compared with their Valley peers. Concepts as commonplace as the lean startup methodology are welcomed as sage insight to these new entrepreneurs.

What is missing for these new founders is a bridge into Silicon Valley. To date, this has been stymied by a narrow mindset from the Silicon Valley community. However, the forces of capitalism will eventually prevail and these new entrepreneurs will find their own community to center around. Keen investors will lead the herd and take advantage of existing markets ripe for change. Incubators and accelerators will emerge with a focus on entrepreneurs with deep industry experience. We are in a tech boom right now and there are countless ways to apply technology to industries that haven’t changed in decades. For those sitting in the corner office, the time has come to venture out, there are markets to disrupt.

The original article was written by BY MATT SWANSON – MANAGING PARTNER @ SILICON VALLEY SOFTWARE GROUP and can be read here – https://www.toptal.com/it/the-new-wave-of-entrepreneurship