Month: June 2014

The Challenges of Scaling your Data Vertically

There are many reasons for which databases must be scaled. The majority of the time they must be scaled to accommodate for performance issues as the product grows. Though NoSQL is making a lot of noise these days, it is to no one’s surprise that SQL is still extremely popular. In general, the same principles are followed while scaling out any SQL product, be it MySQL, MsSQL, Oracle or even DB2. Scaling is often done to overcome performance issues as the product grows. However, when dealing with big data, scaling is often done to balance the data across multiple hardware nodes or clusters.

Most SQL products are scaled in clusters called shards. Each shard contains one or two masters and several slaves. Master servers are responsible for writing data whereas the slaves are responsible for reading data. NoSQL has become more popular over the years as it doesn’t require the complex infrastructures we see in SQL. In order to reduce calls made to the databases, a caching layer is added. These are often easy to put up and are cheap to run. As the product grows, the infrastructure can end up looking like this picture below.



I had to learn this graphic the hard way. Not expecting the product to be popular immediately after launch, we delayed scaling. To our surprise we hit 60k users after the second day. After learning the hard way, the game was scaled and was able to hit over 250k a few days later. Foresight is a great thing to have though often it is best to be ready to scale first. You must determine how you expect to grow. Is content going to be created constantly and the database is going to grow or will it remain stable over time?

A product design that doesn’t require a lot of data to be added to the databases will often benefit from a system that replicates databases and makes use of caching. Write-heavy applications will take the approach of growing their infrastructure vertically by splitting content up between shards and adding shards over time.

When dealing with partitioning, you will need to determine the key on which the data will be partitioned. With that key, an algorithm can be created that will be used to determine which shard the data will go to upon a read or write. For example: dealing with user registrations you have 3 shards. The 1st user is saved on the 1st shard, the 2nd user on the 2nd shard and so on. I often recommend storing values to identified shards based on a hash value of the key (like uid). One thing to keep in mind is that you will be growing and you likely will increase the number of shards, you will need to rebalance data when that happens.

There are a great many alternatives when trying to scale out your databases. Some are complex and take a lot of time to plan while others are as simple as setting up replication. I’ve been researching alternatives to scaling out SQL for years. With NoSQL coming up as a great solution, it did not meet my goals. There is a reason why relational databases are popular today. Joining tables, subqueries, stats and various other functions are often required. NoSQL attempts to accomplish several of those features through map-reduce, but it isn’t the same. This is why I have been working more closely with NewSQL solutions like VoltDB. They allow many SQL / relational database features all while being built from the ground up to scale.



headshotFrancis Pelland is a born innovator and is experienced in building end-to-end technological solutions. He thrives on solving complex problems with elegant technical or product solutions, all the while improving user experience and building deeply embedded analytic solutions with Big Data.

One of our candidates here at P4Digital, if you want to contact him send a message to Archana Ravinder at




How to Layout your Resume – KISS


When creating a resume it is important to keep in mind the purpose of your resume; to get an interview.  That is the only purpose of your resume.  Getting the job happens in the interview stage.  You need the resume to open the door so that you can then “sell yourself”, “show off your personality”.  Keeping the purpose in mind when you create your resume will ensure you receive interviews for the positions you are looking for.



When choosing a format or layout for your resume remember the acronym KISS; Keep it Simple Stupid.  Human resource departments and recruiting firms are inundated with hundreds of resumes a day. The most important thing the layout of your resume can do is ensure you are not immediately discarded.  ATS systems read words not graphics and pictures.  The people reading your resumes don’t want to have to search through a resume to find the relevant information and they most certainly do not want charts, graphs, tables and pictures making it harder for them to find the information they need to see.  Many large recruiting firms help you to rewrite your resume but if information is in boxes that doesn’t transfer over to the system properly then they may lose important information.  Also remember that recruiters have to get information turned around quickly, if the resume is difficult to interpret they may just move onto the next candidate.

Bold, underlining, left/centre/right justified and the occasional bullet is as complicated as your resume layout needs to be.  Don’t make the font too little and stay away from gray.  With my love of quotes I couldn’t resist quoting the basic “black and white” philosophy.

“One is never over or under dressed with the little black dress”

The same goes for your resume.  White paper/background and black fonts.  Easy on the eyes and easy to read.

Profile/Summary Section

One of the biggest mistakes people make when creating a resume is that they create one resume for all jobs.  Customize your resume for each and every position you apply for.  The way we suggest doing so is the inclusion of a personal profile section.  This section should be no more than two or three sentences and is not an opportunity to tell your life story.  This section IS an opportunity for you to list the actual skills that you possess that are relevant for this position in relation to the job description.

Here is an actual job description for a Clerical / Administrative Support position with a major insurance company.

  • Entering data and preparing reports, records, and requisitions
  • Filling in for temporarily absent employees
  • Opening and releasing mail to staff members
  • Preparing materials for use at conferences and other meetings
  • Preparing correspondence, coordinating appointments, and arranging schedules for meetings on behalf of staff and management
  • Demonstrating proficient computer skills
  • Arranging meeting facility equipment

If you were interested in this position your professional profile or professional summary section should sound something like this;

Extensive experience entering data from sales reports with Company A.  Excellent organizational skills used for arranging schedules and setting appointments while working for Company B.  Comprehensive computer skills including Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.  Increased productivity by improving the teams communication capabilities.  Set up the company’s social media sites including twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc…)

You are essentially confirming that you meet as many requirements listed in the job description as possible.  Each sentence should start off with a strong “action word”.

Education and Training

The one section that should be expanded upon as much as possible is often the one people neglect the most.  Companies know when they hire you that you don’t know everything and that you will need to be able to learn in order to succeed.  Listing your education in detail and any and all further training you have taken demonstrates that you are someone who is willing and capable of bettering yourself through learning.  Now keep in mind that you want to highlight the education that is key to the position you are applying for.  If the certificate/training has nothing to do with the current opportunity then leave it off or put it in as an addendum.

Education should have your highest degree/diploma first.  You are a professional show your degree.  Next would come certifications and then training.

This section is particularly important for technical positions.  Be sure to include any certifications you have received already and don’t be afraid to list any that you are in the process of obtaining as well.

Your Education section should be right after your professional summary and be above your professional experience.

Professional Experience

The nitty gritty section of your resume.  This is where the question “Do you actually have the skills and experience to do the job are answered”.  It is important to list your current position first and then go back from there.  Don’t get fancy, just list each job as they happened.  Don’t break it down by type of job, ie project manager vs business analyst positions.  Don’t break it down by self employed vs full time.  HR wants to see a history/time line of what you have been doing.

Achievements/responsibilities should be presented in bullet format.  Yes, start each sentence with a POW – the wonderful action word!!!.   Do NOT use “I created” or “John increased” , just start the sentence with “Created”, “Increased”, “Developed”, “Mentored”,  need I go on.  Expand upon what your actual achievements/ responsibilities were while at your positions.  The number of bullets will depend on the length of time at each job and the type of responsibilities/ achievements you had.  The job from 1993 probably doesn’t need to be as expansive as the more current positions.  Remember the job description and do your best to make your achievements/ responsibilities similar to what the company is looking for.

It is not necessary to list every position you have ever had.  Particularly if you have been with ten companies over the last 25 years.  Keep your work experience section to no more than two pages.  Check out our sample “self employed resume” blog from a previous post.


Generally Speaking

No more than 3 pages.
Cover letters are a good idea but a bad cover letter is worse than no cover letter at all.
Keep in mind the resumes purpose is to gain you an interview not to get you a job.  Your dazzling personality will get you the job, once you get in the door.

Good Luck Job Hunting happyfacehanddrawn


Lynne Carlson started her career off in administration, moved to Cobol Programming and for the last 14 years worked in all things recruitment.  Absolutely loves social media and excited about all the new innovations appearing every day!


Job Tips

#JobTips: If you received your degree, be proud – put the school name on your #resume.  You will be asked by the recruiter or the interviewer.


JobTips 59

Job Tips

#JobTips: Call Your #resume file, either doc/pdf/txt file after your full name, ie johndoe.doc. Easier for the recruiter to find it.


JobTips 57

Silicon Savannah

Africa is on the verge of a great revolution.

Not political or social, but there is little doubt that the repercussions from what is changing will shake the foundations of the very continent.

Welcome to the rise of Silicon Savannah


The nickname of ‘Silicon’ originally referred to the region’s large number of silicon chip innovators and manufacturers, but is now generally used as a reference for the American high-technology sector.

Today, the term refers to the heart of innovation on the West coast of America.

Thousands of high technology companies are found and head quartered in Silicon Valley. Many of those are part of the Fortune 1000:

  • Adobe Systems
  • Apple Inc
  • eBay
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Pixar
  • Netflix
  • Yahoo!

It is a hotbed of innovation.

Want Google Glass? It was developed in Silicon Valley. The latest iPhone? Silicon Valley. The unlikely hit app YO? You got it; it came from Silicon Valley.

So what does this have to with the Silicon Savannah?

Silicon Valley Losing its Lustre?

Before we go to Africa, let’s look at some of the hidden numbers that make up Silicon Valley.

  1. Between 1995 and 2005, more than a half of all Silicon Valley tech companies were founded by Immigrants. But in 2012, that had dropped by a sixth. According to the 2012 Open For Business study, immigrants are twice as likely to start a business as native born Americans – so why is that number declining in Silicon Valley instead of increasing?
  2. American Federal funding for advanced computer science and electrical engineering research has dropped sharply since the late 1990s
  3. Many advances in computing are starting to come from outside of the US. In 2007, only seven American firms ranked among the top 25 US patent recipients.
  4. China and India each now graduate more engineers and scientists per year than the US.
  5. The US share of patents issued has fallen below 50%
  6. Net Neutrality may be coming to an end in America. Which means that Start-Up companies may not be able to afford starting up. Investors will be less willing to fund a startup,  since they don’t know how expensive it’s going to be to have to pay off the big broadband provider

The ongoing connectivity of the world has allowed for the greatest minds of the world to find outlets for their innovations in areas that are not Silicon Valley USA.  This means it is no longer a must  to immigrate to the USA or Canada if you want to see your innovation come to fruition, you can find outlets in other parts of the world such as Silicon Savannah.  Incidentally this is all happening while the Net Neutrality debate continues to heat up.  The end of net neutrality might make it cheaper for startups to launch from other countries where they don’t have to pay premiums for fast lane internet.

(We wrote an article on what Net Neutrality is earlier this year – you can read that article HERE)

With all of these new barriers cropping up, it should come as no Surprise that Silicon Valley may be starting to stagnate.

From a Valley to a Savannah?

Seven of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies are now located in Africa.

  • Ethopia which is growing ten times faster than the U.K.
  • Mozambique which has achieved an average of 7.2% growth during the last decade
  • Tanzania
  • Congo 
  • Ghana which is rivalling China in growth speed
  • Zambia 
  • Nigeria 

The importance of Africa cannot be overstated. Now, although Silicon Savannah refers specifically to Konza, located in Kenya, it can be broadened to refer to Africa as a whole.

Africa is a continent without the most reliable of Internet. So how are they able to maintain this rapid economic growth? Of course there are the natural resources to consider, but the main technological draw is their emphasis on mobile technology.

The continent has some 650 million mobile phone users — more than the United States or Europe — who account for a direct economic impact of $32 billion.

This focus on mobile isn’t just changing Africa, it’s changing the world.

What also sets African innovation apart is a core understanding that technology must work for residents in both bustling modern cities, such as Cairo or Cape Town, and the rural areas that are still home to half the world’s population.

Techies hunched over laptops in small offices across Africa want to create their own versions of California’s Silicon Valley and some are beginning to attract investors prepared to take a risk in the hope of high returns.

Technological Innovations from Silicon Savannah


In Ghana, for example, a mobile app by social enterprise m-Pedigree verifies whether medicines are genuine.


Fake medicine is a scourge in Africa and people often have no way of telling whether they are buying the real thing or not.


Known as the BRCK, the router will cost just under $200 and charge off car batteries, solar panels or main electricity.

Its battery can run for at least eight hours, essential in a region with frequent power outages.

Internet usage is still patchy with only about one in five Africans having access to it, as many are restricted by lack of electricity, broadband or devices.


When things turned ugly after Kenya’s 2007 elections, an unlikely group of heroes — young African coders — developed a platform that used cellphones and the Internet to track the violence. Ushahidi, as it was called, would go on to transform not only government accountability in Nairobi but, more broadly, digital mapping around the world

Ushahidi has been used to find survivors of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, to track the impact of the BP oil spill, and for outlets like The Huffington Post and Al Jazeera to gather news otherwise unreported.



iCow is an SMS (text message) and voice-based mobile phone application for small-scale dairy farmers in Kenya.


The continued challenges of connecting a continent as big as Africa continue to be a driving force in technological innovation.

Of course, once BRCK becomes widely accessable and used, that might change. For now, however, Internet access can be spotty at best.

Another problem? The ideas may come from Africa, but the actual product is for the most part being developed in America. That rule also applies to BRCK.

“Can we truly add that silicon name into Silicon Savannah. We don’t have hi-tech manufacturing here yet. But we are starting to,” said Juliana Rotich, one of the creators of BRCK.



It isn’t just Africans who are interested in the rise of the Silicon Savannah. Outside companies are looking to invest huge amounts of money to help make the Savannah a hotbed of innovation.


Savannah Fund

Savannah Fund has made its first move into South Africa, buying into two Cape Town-based start-ups.

The fund, which already has investments in East Africa and West Africa, has invested in e-commerce site BabyGroup, an online shop and information service for new parents, and Wyzetalk, a social business platform developer.

Tax Exempt

Businesses investing in Kenya’s multi-billion dollar technology city are being promised tax exemption for up to ten years in a bid to attract more investors.

This is according to proposals outlined in the ‘Konza Technopolis Development Authority Bill 2014’, which recommends that all businesses operating within the $10 billion Silicon Savannah project be exempt from paying 30% income tax and 16% value added tax (VAT) for the first ten years.

The next time you come across a really cool technological innovation, take a second to find out where it came from it might be just another Silicon Valley product, or it might have come from across the world in Silicon Savannah.


Smart homes leading to a dangerous future?

We have smart T.Vs, smart appliances, even lamps that can now react to your mood. It should come as no surprise that creating the first truly Smart Homes is the next frontier for both Blue Tooth and connectivity. We’re practically already there.

The way technology is advancing, hidden televisions, temperature monitors, remote-controlled blinds and central lighting controls may become commonplace sooner than you think. The question is, are we ready for it?

What is a Smart Home?


Until recently, Smart Homes might have seamed like the territory of Science Fiction or futurists. Most of us are at least familiar with HAL 9000 in 2001 A Space Odyssey.

As with any new innovation though, and as HAL 9000 illustrates, there are both benefits and risks. There are a lot of security issues that still have to be addressed before we’re all able to have our house cook dinner for us before we get home.


The ideology behind a smart home is to have the home take care of you, all the while granting you more connectivity than ever before.

At its heart, it is supposed to make your life easier. Here’s how:


Convenience is one of the biggest reasons that people build and purchase smart homes. These homes give users remote access to systems like heating, intercoms, music and multimedia devices throughout the home.

Integrated hard drives might allow homeowners to watch videos or listen to audio in any room; video intercoms might make it easy to communicate with others in the home or visitors at the door.

All of these smart home technologies streamline common tasks.

Image of Samsung Smart TV from


Smart homes include advanced security systems with cameras, motion sensors and a link to the local police station or a private security company. Smart homes may also use key cards or other heightened identification measures in place of conventional locks, making it harder for someone to break in.

Image of Deluxe Piper Home Security System for your Smart Home – from


For elderly or disabled residents, a smart home may give them independence for longer. Voice-command systems can do things like control lights, lock doors, operate a telephone or use a computer. Home automation allows an individual to set a schedule for automatic tasks like mowing the lawn, removing the need to perform these labor-intensive tasks on a regular basis.

HOPE is a smart platform that enables elderly with Alzheimer’s to live a more independent life.


Smart homes can be more energy-efficient. Lights can shut off automatically when no one is in a room, and the thermostat can be set to let the indoor temperature drop during the day before returning it to a more comfortable level just before residents return. All of these automated tasks, along with modern, energy-efficient appliances, combine to save on electricity, water and natural gas, thereby reducing the strain on natural resources.

Nest Re-releases Protect for $99

Protect – a smoke detector by Nest Labs that connects to WiFi

What’s here now?

As I’ve already said, some futuristic devices are already here. In fact, you could probably consider our home’s education level to be somewhere around elementary school right now, laying the groundwork for more advanced technologies in the future.

Samsung and LG released fridges in 2011 and 2012 respectively which can keep track of the food and beverages in your fridge, and tell you when something is near expiration.

Samsung Smart Fridge

LG’s fridge takes it a step further than Samsung’s. It actually connects with your smart phone, giving you a shopping list in real-time so that you can get in and out of the grocery store with exactly what you need.

Image from

Nest Labs created another smart device, although this one had a rocky start. It is a smart thermostat and smoke alarm, that can detect in real time when you’re at home, asleep, or at work and change the temperature of your home accordingly. The company claims it can save you up to 20% off of your heating and cooling bill.

Belkins WeMo Switch+Motion is a motion sensors that can be attached to a room via a wall plug. When you leave or enter a room, it can turn on or off the lights accordingly.


 Homey, The Living Room

This is a smart home device on Kickstarter It is a speech controlled home automation device. With just a voice command, you can talk to and control everything in your home from lights to music, from climate to TV.

Check out the campaign HERE 

The campaign will be ending on July 27.

Home Kit

Apple Launches Home Kit for the Connected Home

Apple has already started publishing patents. An Apple patent published last year displays a home relay server that communicates with mobile devices, then estimates the location of the user. Essentially, your home could welcome you home.

The basic premise is that our homes are currently stuffed with smart appliances, but there’s no centralised control. Apple’s aim is to change that. Here are just a few of the ways that HomeKit wants to shake things up.

With the launch of this service, you’ll have the convenience of driving up to your home, and watching your garage door open automatically. House-of-the-future is then kind enough to unlock the door from the garage to the kitchen, adjust the temperature to your personal specification and pre-heat the oven for that recipe you selected that morning.

Of course, this service wouldn’t be truly Apple unless it worked with other technology. Consumers will be able to interact with their gadgets and devices such as TV, tablets, laptops, smart bulbs, cameras and probably robot pets, all from a centralised location.


As our physical world becomes more digital, problems that used to be limited to computers are moving into the physical world as well.

It’s happening already. Earlier this year, Ohio parents found that a hacker had infiltrated their baby monitor and was yelling at their 10-month-old.

Last year, something similar happened with a two-year-old in Texas. Also in 2013, Miss Teen USA, Cassidy Wolf, discovered that a hacker used her webcam to obtain photos of her undressing in her bedroom. (The hacker, who turned out to be a former classmate, was recently sentenced to 18 months in prison.)

The Nest Smoke Detector (which you can see images of earlier in this post) was recently recalled by Google due to issues with its motion-based alarm silencing method. Before this breach was fixed, hackers could remotely turn off the alarm before entering your house.

Several months ago, Proofpoint, said it discovered a hack that utilized “more than 750,000 malicious email communications coming from more than 100,000 everyday consumer gadgets such as home-networking routers, connected multimedia centers, televisions and at least one refrigerator that had been compromised and used as a platform to launch attacks.”

In other words, instead of just using your email and computer router to send spam, a hacker could potentially use the software that opens your garage door to send thousands of malicious emails

“Any system has the potential to be hacked … If someone really wants access to something and they have enough resources, they will get it.”says Eric Ackerman, dean of Nova Southeastern University’s Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences in Fort Lauderdale.


Is Grammar and Punctuation important on your Resume or Cover Letter


How important is proper grammar and punctuation?

The English language is very confusing.  English is my mother tongue and I was educated in the Ontario school system back when grammar was a subject on your report card and it was drilled into us.  My kids, also educated in Ontario, have a much more lackadaisical approach to proper grammar, which has become even worse with text messaging, tweeting, etc.  I am most definitely a “cross your t’s and dot your i’s kinda girl”.  As much as I would like to be part of the “btw, fyi, lol generation” it just isn’t going to happen on anything that I consider an official document.  Having had an old Motorola phone when I started texting definitely moved me along the path of short forms.  Tweeting has also helped, but when it comes to writing an email, cover letter or resume I am a strictly by the book kinda person.  Not saying that I don’t make mistakes, but if I see that I say forgot to capitalize something, it is impossible for me to leave it (even when I try a big argument ensues with my “daytime night time” personality, daytime wins – back I go and correct it).

Your email is the first thing I read, this is my first impression of you and if you haven’t taken the time to use proper English and correct spelling then chances are I might not even open the rest of your documents.   A couple of years back I was looking for an Administrative Assistant with good communication skills and the ability to write professional business letters.  This is one of the emails I received:

  • “lynne – attached is resume, I can type.  Use word all the time. “

DELETE, in the trash it went


“Their, there, they’re” – I tried drumming this into my kids heads when they were little and I am still doing it.  It really isn’t that hard:

  • Their – Adjective – “belonging to or associated with the people or things previously mentioned or easily identified”.  It’s like a plural “his” or “her”.
    • Their company needs someone to upgrade their desktops.
    • The company is looking for resumes for their Financial Services Department.
  • There – Adverb – “in, at or to that place or position”
    • There is an opening at ABC Company
    • I understand there are three people being interviewed for the position.
    • The interview will be held over there.
  • They’re – is a contraction of the 2 words “they are”
    • “They’re going to interview me tomorrow.”  or  “They are going to interview me tomorrow.”
Your, you’re” – 2 more words that are frequently mixed up.
  • Your – Adjective – “the possessive form of you”.
    • Your interview went very well and we would like you back tomorrow.
    • Please send us your resume
  • You’re – is like they’re, it is a contraction of the 2 words “you are”
    • You’re going to be seeing Mr Jones at 1 pm” or “You are going to be seeing Mr. Jones at 1 pm”
Its vs It’s – yes its definition is confusing, it’s easy to remember though
  • It’s is short for it is or it has.  Pretty simple right.  Read your sentence does it need an “is” or a “has” in there, then the word is It’s.  ie.
    • It’s time to go to your interview.  reads as It is time to go to your interview.
  • Its is possessive.  It is used the same way “his” and “her” is used, only for something that isn’t necessarily masculine or feminine.
    • ie:  your phone for example – its ringer is very loud.  A fad – its time has come and gone.
I before E – how confusing is this one?
  • I before E, except after C, or when it sounds like A as in neighbour or weigh.
  • lol, other than some common exceptions, weird, insufficient, species, foreign, feisty.
  • Can you think of any others?
Punctuation – is another one of my pet peeves.
  • Commas: “Use a comma to separate the elements in a series (three or more things), including the last two”
    • My skills include Java, PHP, and MySQL.  NOTE:  that it goes “word comma space” NOT “word space comma”.  Putting the space after the word and the comma beside the next word causes MS Office to light up like a Christmas Tree.
  • Periods:  “Are used to end a sentence”.  There should be 2 spaces after a period.  period!!!!
  • Colons:  “The colon focuses the reader’s attention on what is to follow, and as a result, you should use it to introduce a list, a summation, or an idea that somehow completes the introductory idea.  –”
    • Please note:  The colon should be beside the word that starts the list or summation. It should not be at the beginning of the first word of the list.
      • Skills:    Java, PHP, Cobol  NOT  Skills    :Java, PHP, Cobol

English grammar is definitely not the easiest thing in the world to master.  We are luckily in an age where google is there to help.  If you aren’t sure you can type it into Google and just ask “how do I use a comma”.  Take the time to do this with your email, cover letter and resume.  Or get someone to help you.  These are official documents.  Take your time, proofread and double check.  Don’t have you resume end up in the trash for something as simple as spelling and grammar.

I’d love to hear about any of your grammar pet peeves or mistakes that you have seen that are becoming more and more common.
Good Luck Job Hunting happyfacehanddrawn


Lynne Carlson started her career off in administration, moved to Cobol Programming and for the last 14 years worked in all things recruitment.  Absolutely loves social media and excited about all the new innovations appearing every day!