The Reunion

Since I have moved to Singapore I have been falling in love with the Asian culture again. Interestingly, while I lived  most of my youth in Asia,  I may have been too young to appreciate the subtleties of life, because this experience has been so much more fulling and rewarding. 

Singaporeans truly understand what living should be all about, and while it is true that they work extremely hard, perhaps even more so than in most European countries, there is also joy, a lot of joy. Locals seem to have this distinct ability to appreciate the small things in life, I see this everywhere around me, from enjoying a simple meal with friends to just appreciating a walk around the beautiful City, whatever they chose to do, they seem to be in the moment making the best of it.

There is also friendship, honesty and family values . In Singapore, people still believe in all of these things, and one can't help it but wonder whether the reason why the city has flourished the way it has is really down to it being a business haven, or that the people that make Singapore what it is created an environment for any seed that is planted to grow and flourish.The more I am exposed to Singaporean culture, the more I believe the later is the true reason why Singapore is so special. 

I was talking with my friend Clarence Lin about what the Chinese New Year, and he sent me this video that explained that the Reunion meant for Singaporeans. There is something so genuine and and moving about this video that I could not resist sharing with you, it truly resonates the way I see Singapore and how magical it is. "kung hei fat choy"! 

Fletcher Moss Botanical Garden park

Very short video of what it felt like living in Didsbury. I had this material to process for ages, it was never meant to become a short visual film, but going though some of the shots, it felt wrong not to share them. Also, as I was going though the source footage with my editor, everything started coming together rather nicely. I feel the end result is a very good representation of how wonderful and magical Didsbury is. 

Blissfull Didsbury from Pedro Sttau on Vimeo.

The Bliss of Didsbury

A year and a half ago, I had the pleasure of living in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been in. Didsbury is a pitoresc village/small city part of Lancashire, about 5 miles away from the City Centre of Manchester. There is a blissful harmony that is difficult to explain surrounding Didsbury. It does not have the downsides of a of city, but has everything that modern life has to offer; shops, restaurants, parks, hospitals and schools. 

The entire area is surrounded by nature, giving it a sense of serenity and tranquillity that stretches deep down from the parks to the main road. Of all the wonderful places Didsbury has to offer, the one that probably marked me the most was the Fletcher Moss Botanical Garden park. Natural parks around the UK are renowned for their beauty and how well they are preserved, but this one is something else. 

A perfect balance between Man's craftsmanship and what happens when it is aligned to preserve and protect nature. I will never forget my long walks in the park after work, feeling that cold smooth breeze in my face while looking at a crispy golden sunset in the background.

I really regret not having taken my camera out more often, but I had just moved to the UK and had too much going on. I still managed to get the camera out of the bag in a few afternoons, and below is the result. 

Click to download/view this photo. 

The above shot was taken deep inside the Fletcher Moss, a solitary carving in a tree facing the sun rise, almost as it was carved intentionally in that place, with the initials facing the sun rise, letting the sun smoothly strike the back of the tree during sun-down. The photo is slightly over exposed, but that's exactly how it felt when I was shooting it. 

Click to download/view this photo. 

This shot was taken right at the entrance of the Park, entering from Parrs Wood Road, probably my favourite shot of all of them, not just because it was a gorgeous sunset, but because it was taken instinctively; camera in full manual, almost got the exposure right on the first click, barely thinking about settings, that's how photography is supposed to be, instinctive, raw and visceral! It turned out slightly underexposed, but looking at it, its exactly as it should be.

Click to download/view this photo. 

The location of this next shot is only a few meters away from the lake, a huge field that surrounds the park with tall leafy trees around it. A narrow pedestrian path circumvents this area, leaving a massive area right at the centre of the park with wild, untreated, beautiful vegetation.  

It feel as if Didsbury was not part of Greater Manchester at all, no cars or any sign of the modern World can be heard in this location, the sound of the wind going through the trees, flowers and grass is about the only thing that can be heard here. This photo is straight from the camera, no grading or editing done whatsoever. 

Click to download/view this photo. 

Unfortunately I did not do a very good job in capturing the wonderful atmosphere around this area. It was very autumnal scene with wonderful yellow leafs scattered though the floor, contrasting with the dark green vegetation around the park. A serene bench discretely placed between two trees made this irresistible to shoot. 

Speaking of benches, most of them are actually named on behalf of people who passed away, the names are carved in beautiful metal plates on the benches. I am not entirely sure if this is common practice in the UK or unique to Didsbury, but ever-time I sat in them I could not help it but feel I was in good company. 

Didsbury is truly  remarkable place, and if I ever live in Manchester again, I know exactly where I am going to be living. If you are interested in more shots from the Fletcher Moss Park, check out this post post that I published during my first couple of weeks in Didsbury

For more information about Didsbury, I suggest you visit the "Didsbury Life" site, it is a really great resource for anyone planning to move into Didsbury, it was really useful when we moved in and I still check in on once and again. You should also follow Helen on Twitter, she does an amazing job keeping Didsbury residents updated with community news and events.

Selling out

A couple of years ago when I first heard that Google had acquired Aardvark, it was immediately apparent, at least for me, that it would not be long until yet another start-up would be swallowed by the all mighty Matrix, stripped of its soul and purged into the oblivion!

A bit overly dramatic, but the point is, nowadays big companies do not seem to be shopping around for technology anymore. In fact, companies like Google, Twitter, Yahoo could not care less about the underlying technology of small companies.

The product itself is seen as nothing more than a showcase for the Human potential behind it, as the probability that any small enterprise can become a real threat is very slim, not because small organizations cannot triumph, but because it is increasingly more challenging for them to resist the temptation of selling out when that ever so tempting big pay check is put in front of them.  

This is part of a wider challenge in the industry.

It is ever so common to see start-ups that aim to get sold at some point, and this is by far one of the biggest threats to innovation that is plaguing entrepreneurship. Starting something with the intend to sell it further down the line diminishes the level of commitment that is required to truly move something forward.

This stales innovation as anything with the potential of creating disruption gets absorbed into a larger organization, that ultimately, is not very interested in radical change.

Most of the established successful companies made it because they were lead by founders that truly believed in what they were building, they were passionate, obsessed and resilient to anything that got in their way. Once they finally made it, they understood the power behind sustained focus, which is why these companies actively pursue and any pocket of innovation that might be rising around them.

Companies like Google know this too well, afterall, they were born out of these seeds themselves and they know that if given the right time, their most fierce competitor might be born out any of these small pockets of innovation.


The Graceful and Inspiring Leadership of Matthias Schmelz

A great Man once said that kind that “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Mark Twain, very few people I have come across in my lifetime were able to reinstate every positive teaching that I was taught as a child. Basic fundamental things like treating people as you would like to be treated, establishing trust through actions not words and giving without any intend to receive anything back. 

As we grow older all these things seem to progressively fade away as “life” takes over. The values are still present, but somehow become less important when challenged with the adversity of the day to day life. 

This is of course an excuse, an easy root, and it is fundamentally wrong. I find that strong core values are by their very nature resilient to external adversity, they withstand persecution, aggression, and even the most vile of wars

I believe that people by nature want to do the right thing, even in the darkest of times, they will follow a leader that is driven by the right cause and the right principles. People follow ideals, not people. 

Matthias resembles all of this. He understands that great Leadership is about establishing the right path for people to follow. Its not about forcing people down any specific root, but about laying the right foundations for people to “follow their bliss”. 

Matthias Schmelz always wanted to be a writer all of his life. Its very interesting to hear him talk about how his journey has lead him to his childhood dream. His story resonates other stories from truly successful and people, that set out on a journey slightly different from the destination that they hoped for, and end up exactly where they dreamed in the first place. 

I first met Matthias back in 2010 while working for a Digital Agency. Matthias was one of those clients that gave me so much more than I gave him. Being inspired by people you are doing work for and working with is very rewarding, this was without a doubt one of those cases. 

Our work relationship very quickly developed into friendship, and a couple of months later, Matthias invited me and my family to join him with his family and friends in an amazing adventure through Baltic's enigmatic destinations on board the Wind Star Cruise ship

During this time, I had the honor of meeting some of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. Unsurprisingly, Matthias’s family was as gentle, kind and magical as Matthias. There was just something intangibly special about everyone, from his beautiful wife to his gorgeous children. 

I also had the pleasure of meeting Mathias’s Mother, and it became very easy to understand why he became the Man that he is today, there was this contagious aura of kindness and wisdom around her that deeply touched myself and my family. 

A couple of months prior to the cruise trip, I experienced the same feeling while visiting the Rainbows Headquarters in Lisbon. Seeing the way Matthias treated his employees was a breath of fresh air in a time when the relationship between employee and employer is increasingly more abrasive and less meaningful. 

As people passed by us in the elevators, hallways, and the companies canteen, they looked at Matthias with a certain reference, there was respect and admiration, but there was also inspiration and a sense of connection. This was not an imposed or mandatory reverence, it was genuine recognition and appreciation. 

It was becoming increasingly apparent to me that Matthias was one of those rare inspiring leaders that Jonathan Perks talks about that aligns all of the principles of "inspiring leadership" into his actions. 

Inspiring leaders always look for the best in people. They inspire staff to be the absolute best they can be, and they do this by aligning theyr actions to how they think and what they say. Inspiring leaders truly care for the people they lead. People can tell if someone genuinely cares for them, Matthias and Fernanda care about the people that work along side them, making Rainbow much more than a company, its a place that enables and empowers people to achieve their dreams. 

A couple of years have past since our wonderful voyage together through the Baltic sea, and since then, Portugal has been challenged with the biggest economical recession since the 70s. 

In a time when established companies are closing down every day, Matthias and Fernanda keep driving and pushing the company forward. To survive and flourish in times like this, it takes more than leadership, it takes inspiring Leadership. 

Matthias is a friend, but he is also a source of inspiration, to me, he resonates what a caring leader should be like and exemplifies what can be achieved when someone follows their bliss and encourages others to do the same thing.  

Sophie and the Glory of independant Film Making

A couple of Months before Sophie started to become a reality; I remember having a very interesting conversation with Phil Arntz, the film’s director, on our way to the Center of Manchester about the script of the film. 

Phil has this unique angle from the War seeing that he is from German descent. It was so inspiring to hear someone that was born generations after the war understand what it meant and its impact in every Human Being's destiny from that point forward. 

In those times, Wars meant something, the people that fought them actually believed they were fighting for something, greater than just Money, oil, or power. Wars were personal, they were not fought to indulge the press´s appetite for fear or shock, they were not fought behind computer systems and computerized flying drones. People fought wars, they died in them.

Sophie reflects this feeling of solitude and separation from everything that is familiar and safe. As we follow this abandoned soldier’s ordeal through the cold and abrasive trenches, we can’t help it but feel a sense of inevitability In how this journey is going to end. There is beauty to this inevitable predicament that is captured to perfection in the film.

It’s hard to believe the film was shot under £3k, and the only way someone would be able to pull this off is to build an exceptional team emotionally committed to the project. Robin Varley’s performance is well beyond anything I have seen this year in a short film. Its engaging, intense, he surrenders himself completely to the character.

Technically, Phil Arntz work is very easy to single out. There is just something about the way he frames shots that is very particular to him. It is a cinematic look that is not something that a lens or an expensive camera will necessarily give. Its part of the DNA of a great Cinematographer.

PostHaven as an Alternative to Posterous

As soon as the announcement was made that Posterous had been acquired by Twitter, it was obvious to me that the service would not survive for long.

Unfortunately, this was the case. On the February15th, Posterous Founder and CEO Sachin Agarwal posted in the company’s blog that on the 30th of April, Posterous service would be shutting down. The message was short and sweet; lights were going to be “turned off” indefinitely on all desktop and mobile applications as from that moment forward.

Posterous was a great idea, very well executed, but like many others before, without a solid monetization model behind it. It’s the product of a generation of entrepreneurs that did not care too much for making money. 

I can relate to this in more ways than I would like to. Making a difference while worrying about utility bills is draining and ultimately, constraints growth.

Checking out

I found that a great idea wants to be born and wants to fulfill its promise. It does think it needs funding, business cases, risk assessment, or legal support. It just wants to exist. Unfortunately, a great idea does not know if its good or bad. 

Posterous happened to be a good one, a very good one, however, even good ideas need fuel to run, and it does not matter how disruptive or innovative something is, if it does not have financial backing, it is not likely that it will take off. This was what ultimately sealed Posterous destiny. 

Fortunately, the idea that every cloud service should be free or depend on advertising seems to be slowly fading away. Even the likes of Google is now moving from relying exclusively on Pay-Per-Click advertising and is charging for services online. I am hoping this will lead the way for other companies, particularly startups, to start thinking differently about the sustainability of their products before they hit the market. Very few ideas can survive if they do not have means to survive.

The Posterous Experience

I have nothing but great things to say about my time as a Posterous user. It had this awesome vibe about it that sometimes its hard to explain. Looking at it “scientifically”, it did not really have any disruptive functionality, but a combination of different factors made the platform special. 

The folks at Posterous paid a lot of attention to detail, enabling a wonderful, consistent user experience within their platform. The Blog templates were an extension of this experience. Every element of the Blog design was carefully design with purpose, unnecessary functionality and elements was stripped away. 

So the platform transpired simplicity at its finest, geared for blogging and content, built for what they were meant for, a testament to Steve Jobs famous quote “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. 

This is exactly where I felt Posterous added a lot of value and got it right. The company seemed to remain focused on their core product it was a blogging platform, and it fulfilled its purpose beautifully.

The only downside I can remember as a Posterous was the reliability and availability of their network. It was always been somewhat flaky, something that most users have learned to accept as the downside to a free service. This was however all too unnecessary, as I am very certain most users would have gladly paid for the service, I know I would.

Posthaven as an alternative

So how does Posthaven compare to Posterous? 

Posthaven is co founded by Garry Tan and Brett Gibson, both previous co founders at Posterous. The company's pledge states that it is in this for the long run. It bravely emphasis a principle that I think should be at the core of every entrepreneurial venture; Companies need money to be able to survive. 

Currently the homepage is just a splash page that talks about the companies pledge, and a bit about the service. One needs to register to fully experience everything beyond that page. 

The registration process is very straightforward, email, password, subdomain url,  and you are done. Keep in mind that you will need to provide credit card information to be able to login, but no charges will be made beyond the trial period. Nevertheless, payment information needs to be provided in order to access the dashboard features. 

One thing I accidently noticed was that even when I did not provide my payment details at first, I was able still able to register and I think my username was immediately “reserved”, because the second time I tried to register, it made me login, even though I had not provided my credit card details on the previous attempt. 

Importing my Posterous blog was extremely easy, I only needed to provide my Posterous credentials while logged in on both platforms, and the process was quick. Its worth to note that I chose to only import 70 posts, so not sure how the system will behave with bigger blogs. 

The User Dashboard is very well built and easy to use. In comparison to Posterous, its as clean, but somehow feels more robust. There is an apparent understanding of what made Posterous successful, even with the bare minimum functionality available at the moment.

Every detail was looks like it was carefully engineered into the concept. The User Interface is device responsive, and looks amazing in a Tablet. There is an ability to add posts seaminglessly across devices, even on a mobile phone. A user can start a post on a desktop, and continuously edit it on other devices until its ready to be published. 

It is already possible to create multiple blogs through the admin interface, and import content from Posterous. Within the blogs, the functionality is still slightly limited, but it is possible to assign a custom domain to a blog, edit its name and description, and of course, add and edit posts.

There are some features that I am hoping to see very soon. I miss Social Connections and ability to post to different social channels is a must. It would also be good to see more blog templates, but I would rather see very few amazing templates rather than a focus in quantity. Afterall, one of the Unique Selling points of Posthaven should be a “refocus” on content. 

Endless widgets, plugins and functionalities that regurgitate third party content should be left for other blog platforms, like Wordpress and Blogger. Posthaven users care about the content they produce, about how its published and how its used by people. I feel this is exactly what Posthaven needs to capitalize on. Posthaven bloggers are not like any other bloggers, treating them differently, the same way Apple treated their small user base 10 years ago, looks like the right thing to do. 

In short, Posthaven needs to Stick to the basic principles behind a Blogging platform for people who create unique content, stripping away everything that is a distraction, providing the tools to create and share blog posts from any device.

Posthaven is off to a great start and has the potential to become as unique and awesome as Posterous once was. It also seems to be avoiding the mistakes made by posterous by understanding that the service will need to be paid to be able to survive and evolve.

Server Naming Conventions

Had an interesting discussion a couple of weeks ago about the best way to identify servers in a scalable and sustainable way.  I used to be very keen in naming boxes with generic unconventional unique names. i.e. city names, colours, movie characters,  but have found that this simply does not scale.

Had a very good piece of advice from my friend Christopher Farley that gave me a different insight to this and outlined the importance of getting this right when scalability is a factor.

In his view,taking a functional approach to server naming, in time, proves to be a scalable solution, by making the identification of boxes more efficient and pragmatic, allowing sys admins and network engineers to quickly map a box against an environment profile.  This saves time and a lot of hassle, particularly in a time when network frames are downsized and upsized in very short time spans.

There are a great number of different conventions out there. I searched for common standards, but it seems that there isn’t a cohesive approach across the industry; each organization tends to follow its own way, which makes sense to a certain extent, but also adds a degree of confusion that could possibly be mitigated if there were a set of principles recognized by the industry. 

For large organizations, identifying boxes with names of the geographic locations where the server is hosted, the data centre location, followed by other specifications, might sound logical, but the most obvious constraint to this approach is around what to do when servers need to be repurposed. 

A clear example of this would be moving a box from one location to the other without intending to make a clean install. Since the Hostname is identified with a specific location, repurposing would not be effortless. Now if we are talking about a significant datacentre migration, this would constitute a major risk and an unnecessary overhead to an already complex operation. 

The same set of limitations is also present when attributing other functional attributes to server names  i..e db001 *database server. What if a server needs to be repurposed to a Web frontend box? or a Load Balancer? These are all valid questions, that should be asked before one chooses a specific server naming convention. Unfortunately, as like most IT challenges, bad decisions usually are only apparent when its too late to do anything about them.

On the other hand, the main advantage behind the functional approach is the ease of identification. In theory, the only thing that needs to be clarified is the principle, i.e. Server Type - Server Number - Location of server. From this moment forth, identifying servers in a network, regardless of the size, becomes extremely efficient. DB001NY - Database Server - Number 001 - Located in New York. 

This is particularly useful when working with external providers that do not necessarily know what icecream.yourhost.com is, and what pumpkinpie.yourhost.com should be mapped against. 

The final case that can be brought forward in favor of the functional naming convention, is that in most cases, repurposing servers is not really the right thing to do. Servers are built for a specific purpose, the Hardware and Software should be aligned to what we want to achieve, not the other way around, thus while repurposing a server might seem to be the quickest solution to respond to an immediate need, long term, its not the ideal way to built a scalable infrastructure.

For more information about this subject, there is a very interesting article by Scott Lowe that provides an excellent insight. 

Installing Apache – Mysql – PHP in less than 5 minutes

Was just setting up a brand new Linux Centos box, and thought I would contribute with a small tutorial on how to quickly install the core components of a Web server though shell.

Now note that to get the absolute latest software version an installation through the source code is required. While this is still easy, it’s not as fast.

The commands poster here will work with the Centos and Fedora distributions. 

1.  Login as a Roor user and paste the following command line

yum -y install httpd php mysql mysql-server php-mysql

2. Make sure Mysql is running.

# mysqladmin -u root -p status

If it’s not running, you should be getting something down the lines of…

mysqladmin: connect to server at 'localhost' failed

error: 'Can't connect to local MySQL server through socket '/var/run/mysqld/mysqld.sock' (2)'

Check that mysqld is running and that the socket: '/var/run/mysqld/mysqld.sock' exists!

To start the service simply type in the command:

/etc/init.d/mysqld start

The Output of this should be something down lines of…

Initializing MySQL database:  Installing MySQL system tables...

OK

Filling help tables...

OK

3. Protect Mysql by setting a password

mysql -u root@localhost

set password for root=password(‘yourpasswordhere’);

reload privileges;

4- Set apache and Mysql to run on startup. 

  /sbin/chkconfig httpd on

  /sbin/chkconfig --add mysqld

  /sbin/chkconfig mysqld on

  /sbin/service httpd start

  /sbin/service mysqld start

Thats it! your web server is good to go!

Jonathan Perks

The older I get the more I realize how misleading some of the “traditional” leadership concepts are, particularly around management through the way of force and fear. 

I came across Jonathan Perk's  “” audiobook and he sheds a light into the importance of being a consolidated leader at harmony with all the traits that make a leader. Inspiring Leadership Jonathan explains the concept of MQ (Moral Coefficient) - the capacity to do the correct thing and the right thing at the same time, EQ (Emotional Coefficient)  - serving by example while truly caring for those you lead, SQ (Spiritual coefficient) - Standing up for something that is more than getting the job done while inspiring other to do the same, IQ (Intellectual Coefficient) - Capacity to make intelligent and knowledgeable decisions.

A Leader with all of the above characteristics aligned with each other will have a significant higher probability to be successful and inspire others to follow him.

One of the surprising things to me about Jonathan is how open he is about himself, and how blatantly he talks about his successes, and most notably, his failures. There is just something extremely compelling about people who are not afraid of the raw truth, and who are entirely open and transparent about themselves. They give away a sense of confidence and assurance to everyone around that gives permission for people to be themselves while simultaneously striving for more.

After having listened to “Inspiring Leadership”, I felt like I knew Jonathan and felt compelled to follow him, without even knowing the Man. I guessif that is not a testament to the power of inspiration I dont know what is.

Practices like this are disseminated across all areas and industries. This is more noticeable in countries where the culture itself is aligned to this approach, and Portugal is definitely one of those places.