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Internet Addiction (Gaming and Social Networking)

  • October 29, 2019

I work with the East Tennessee State University Department of Psychology; I’m a licensed clinical psychologist and associate professor. I want to talk to you today about online addictions. Use of internet, video games, and social media has risen dramatically in the past decade or so. It is noted in a 2013 literature review by researcher Derek Cust that over one billion people worldwide played online casino free credit singapore casinos, online computer games, video games and these numbers are increasing.

With increased use, we also see an increasing number of people who have problems with too much use. The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition, better known as DSM-5 (DSM-V), called for more research to determine whether a diagnosis of internet gaming disorder should be added. Use of social media and games can be quite benign and even beneficial. For example, I literally met my wife on Facebook, and that was great.

However, for some, gaming or social networking can spiral out of control and cause problems. It’s only when use takes on a compulsive quality that one might need to be concerned. But what seems compulsive to one might see like avid enthusiasm to another. Role playing games seem to be the most popular genre in the online environment where thousands of people can play simultaneously on the same platform.

It gives you an incredible amount of opportunity to interact with others, and that can be very reinforcing. And reinforcers are outcomes that increase the chances of a behavior recurring. Many are built into the games explicitly to make them fun to play, and many are delivered on what’s called a variable-ratio schedule of reinforcement, and that can make them somewhat addictive. This gives liberal rewards early on and then followed by an increase in effort to obtain fewer rewards of higher quality as the skill level of the player grows. And skill growth itself can be reinforcing as gaining mastery, gain social status and it unlocks new opportunities, levels, abilities, and other rewarding consequences. Social networking can be reinforcing because we like to connect with other people and share what goes on in our world and see what goes on in theirs.

As with substance abuse, online gaming and social media consumption offer an escape from problems and stressors, and so that’s another reinforcer. As with most things in moderation, there’s usually no problem. However, these reinforcing aspects can lead one to feel a compulsive need to engage in behaviors like this, and for some that can spin out of control. So the processes and consequences of online addiction are similar to substance abuse in terms of causing problems with relationships.

They tend to be less severe in terms of physical consequences; however, overuse of gaming, social networking can negatively impact sleep, and that could lead to problems with health, problems with safety, work-life. That 2013 Cust review of internet gaming addiction literature tells us that psychological consequences include, among other things: the sacrifice of real life relationships, loss of sleep and problems with sleep, neglect of work, education and socializing, obsessions with gaming, aggression and hostility, stress, dysfunctional coping, deteriorating academic achievement, problems with verbal memory, and low levels of reported well-being with high levels of reported loneliness. The 2013 statement from the DSM author said quote, “Gaming prompts a neurological response that influences feelings of pleasure and reward. And the result, in the extreme, is manifested as addictive behavior,” unquote. As Cust pointed out, brain imaging techniques have shown that areas of the brain are similar to those that are affected by both addictions to substances and addictions to gaming. We have similar issues with negative patterns of behavior, and these seem beyond the control of the person affected.

Another similarity to substance abuse is people don’t seem to realize they have a problem. Denial of a problem is thus a quality shared by people with various addictions. Whether substance abuse or pathologic gambling or compulsive sexual activity, pornography, consumption, klemptomania, et cetera. The same is true of gaming and social networking use. A common feature of addiction is a person experiencing the inability to control the impulse to do things or refrain from doing them which are inappropriate or damaging to themselves or others, Some games are tailored to males and a lot of the existing gaming addiction research is focused on males, but at this point, there are hundreds of scientific studies on the topic in the literature, and there are surely more to be published soon.

Yet many of the online games are equally appealing to males and females, and certainly social media appeals to people across sex, age, race, ethnicity socioeconomic status, et cetera. And social networking addiction. is also an emerging problem. It’s only begun to get scientific scrutiny. A quick search of the term “social media addiction,” “social networking addiction,” reveals only a handful of studies on the topics. Day after day, we’ll see more these as social media and other forms internet use become ever more prevalent.

A similar search for Internet addiction yields over a thousand scientific works. And looking to science helps us to understand that which is difficult to grasp on a personal level. You may or may not have wondered whether you’ve engaged in excessive versus normative use of gaming or social networking, and anecdotally, I had a student come up to me the other day and say she was going to start weaning herself off social media altogether. She had analyzed her own behavior and had to admit to herself she spent days, hours of the day scrolling through posts and feeds which she thought was getting in the way of getting important things done in her life. And I work with people clinically who have had serious problems with stopping gaming, literally spending most of their days and nights playing and that caused great difficulties for their significant others.

In one case, unemployment was an issue. The person I’m thinking of spent most of his time playing games where a significant other felt helpless because he wouldn’t look for work, and she had to take on all the family’s financial burdens. In psychology, we don’t say things like, “Well, she should just dump him.” That’s the kind of thing you hear from people who lack sophisticated knowledge of addictions, complicated relationship issues, and consequently, they give a lot of advice without a lot of wisdom.

We recognize that people don’t have the desire or sometimes the ability to dump someone they love just because they developed a problem. Signs of addiction may be obvious to others but again not necessarily the person in question. A major hallmark of a problem is that the amount of time one engages is is not normative compared others a similar to them. Someone who’s got a professional marketing job may have to use social media all time as part of their job and that would be normal, if not only normal but necessary. Video game developers would have to spend a lot of time gaming. Yet for the average user, what’s normal varies relative to peers and family members.

And so how do you determine if you have a problem? Well, we might modify some classic substance abuse screener questions and applying these issues, and I’ve got some for you now. These haven’t been scientifically validated, and that’s an important thing to have done, but addition average starting point if you’re a person who is just wondering. If you answer “yes” to any of the following, you might have a problem which might be addressed either on your own or with the help of professional. Have you ever felt that you should cut down on your gaming or social media use? Have you ever tried to cut down on your gaming or social media but failed to do so?

Have you ever r neglected friends or family because your gaming social media use? Do ever neglect important tasks at work or school because of your gaming social media use? Have your felt guilty or felt bad about the amount of time you spent doing these activities? In my opinion, any time something becomes a major problem in a valued relationship, therapy would likely be indicated assuming the person in question wants help. However, as we well know, many people who need help don’t seem to want it.

In those cases, the one negatively affected by the others addiction might benefit from therapy themselves to help support them as they figure out what to do in a difficult situation. Treating any addiction is hard to do. Professional help is often warranted. A few treatment centers dedicated to internet gaming additions have actually been established in Singapore, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States. However, any competent therapist who is a licensed practitioner, such as licensed clinical psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, licensed professional counselor, should be able to help with these kinds of problems. And great source to find a therapist is

Jobs at Online Casino

  • September 2, 2019


So those are the things we’re gonna be digging into today. Please make sure you wait ’til the end of the video to find out how you can get my free seven-day series on finding work from home, and I’m also gonna let you know how you can get a discount on your membership. Okay, now one of my favorite things about the membership is the advanced job search. Now if you have been looking for work from home for awhile, you are probably familiar with job boards like Indeed, maybe you’ve been looking.

One thing that have likely come across, is that you are just inundated with a lot of jobs that at the end of the day, they’re not a good fit for you. Maybe they aren’t telecommuting at all in the first place, maybe there’s some other disqualifiers in there that are making them just… It’s a waste of your time to be having to dig through those jobs.

So that is where the advanced job search really comes in handy, and one of my favorite things about FlexJobs. And I wanted to run quickly with you, through you today, so that you kind of know how I use it, and get the results that I am looking for quickly. Now here’s what the advanced job search looks like. When you are logged into your FlexJobs membership, its gonna be right up here at the top of the screen, along with these other things. You’ll see the tab there. And this is really gonna help a lot of you out that are looking for specific time of scheduling, or a specific type of work.

Now you’re gonna notice here, there’s things like keywords, you can exclude certain words, you can put in your location, and we’re gonna be talking about a couple of those. Now when it comes to US location, it’s asking you for your city, state, or zip code. I recommend leaving this one blank, unless you live in one of those states that is sometimes hard to come by work-at-home, like California. In that instance, I would plug in your state here, just to make sure you’re getting filtered down those jobs that are actually open to you, but if you’re in another state where that’s really not an issue, and doesn’t come up quite often, I would go ahead and leave that blank, just so that you’re not getting excluded by mistake for anything that’s really open to you, or open nationwide. And now for those of you that are outside of the United States, FlexJobs can work for you too.

You’re going to see the international tab here, that’s going to allow you to select your country. Or maybe you are a person that travels around the world frequently. There you can even choose to select the anywhere jobs that can be done from anywhere in the world. So that is something that is going to help a lot of you out, that maybe are following me, but aren’t located in the US. Now when we get down here to job types, this is something that I really appreciate, I prefer more of the freelance positions than an actual employee. I like having the freedom of making my own schedule, and doing my own thing, but there are a lot of you out there who want those employee positions that are gonna be taking out your taxes, that are maybe going to be supplying you with some benefits, whether that’s healthcare or paid time off.

So here you can go ahead and select that, or you can leave it blank. Another one that’s going to come in handy for a lot of you, is the work schedule. Here you’ll see that you can choose from full-time, part-time, flexible schedules, or even something that’s seasonal or short-term.

Now for me, I usually stick with these two right here, possibly the first three, full-time, part-time, or flexible schedule. Now here is where we really start noticing some big results when it comes to filtering, and that’s under categories. Some of you are looking for a specific type of work, maybe you have an accounting degree, maybe you don’t have an accounting degree but you really enjoy bookkeeping, maybe you want to focus on those virtual assistant positions. Those are all things that you can narrow down here in the categories. Now the telecommuting level option here is really gonna come in handy for a lot of you. If you have been digging into job boards like Indeed for any period of time, you may have noticed that sometimes when you ask for work-at-home jobs, you get a lot of things that really aren’t work-from-home.

Maybe you used the keyword work-from-home, but what the job description really says is this is not a work-from-home position. So you’re going to be wasting time digging through those type of results, when in FlexJobs, they actually go through everything for you, they make sure it’s not a scam, they make sure that it does have some kind of flexible potential, and then they do categorize everything. And one of the options here is going to be 100% telecommuting.

That means you are not gonna be working outside of your home at all, and that’s what a lot of you are gonna be focusing on, so I really want you to make sure that you’re clicking on that one. Now for career level, there are some of you out there that have, you know, a professional degree and some professional experience, and there’s also some of you out there that are just looking for entry level work. Maybe you don’t have a lot of experience, or maybe you just want something to move into a different field, working from home, maybe you feel that you don’t have prior experience in.

And we can go ahead and choose that here. Also you will have the option to choose whether you want to travel, yes, no, maybe, or you’re going to be able to choose from FlexJobs preferred employers. These are people that they work with, or have vetted personally, that they have a good connection with, and they know are good work opportunities. And then when we get that, click the search for jobs, we’re gonna be returned all of these listings here.

It’s going to tell us the position, who it’s for, when it was posted, and we’ll be able to click on each of these and get down into a full description, you know, how do we apply, what exactly are they looking for, what are they paying, this is all gonna be listed out here for us. And that is why this is really something that I love about FlexJobs, is it allows me to stop wasting so much time. If you look over here in the sidebar, you’re going to be able to see how to narrow down your results even further, you can focus on employee, freelance, temporary, you can go ahead and switch over from part-time to flexible, or choose full-time here, you can go ahead and choose one of these specific categories if that’s what you’d like to do, and here are some of those FlexJobs accolades that they’re gonna let you know that these are some of the employers that they really recommend.

Now if you want to just start browsing some things that are available within FlexJobs, you are going to be able to go to the job categories tab. And when you head over here, this is gonna give you if you’re new to working at home, this is a great place to start, because it’s really gonna allow you to see some of the opportunities that are available. Now as I said, FlexJobs, that’s all of their job listings, so you can rest assured that none of these are scams, they’re not business opportunities, these are truly legitimate jobs. And as you can see, there is a lot of variety here.

Whether you’re looking for those accounting positions, administrative jobs, there’s a lot of writing jobs here, you can get into different government and politics jobs, and these ones here are gonna have a dropdown as well. Call center jobs are always popular in the work-at-home world. Here you can choose from inbound, outbound. If you head down here to writing jobs, you are going to be able to see blogging jobs, copywriting jobs, et cetera.

And then when you click through any one of these, you’re gonna be brought to the most recent job listings. Here again, we’re gonna be able to see when these were posted, what the position is, who the company is, and these ones that have this little identifiers here are gonna be, see, this one is a company that is considered to be military friendly. We have some that are going to be best companies to work for in Pennsylvania, top workplace in Minnesota, a lot of great information is within the FlexJobs platform, that is really gonna help you identify those jobs, that are gonna be a great fit for you. Now a lot of people will ask me, “Is it really necessary to have a FlexJobs membership? “Can’t I just see the same jobs anywhere–“, or excuse me, “without being logged in, “without having to pay that membership?”.

And the answer is yes and no. If I hop over here to where I am logged out, now here we can see some of the newest telecommuting jobs. What we’re going to see here, is a name of the position, I’m gonna be able to see some of the accolades that this position has, and the date that it’s posted, but when I click through, I’m really not gonna get a lot of information here.

It’s gonna give me a brief rundown as far as what the job entails, and the salary, but there’s not going to be a link to apply here. When I click over to where I am logged in, I’m gonna be able to see the position, the company it’s for, when I click through the actual job, I’m going to be able to see their website, where they’re located, the actual job description, the qualifications they need, everything else that they’re looking for, and I’m also gonna have the opportunity to apply for this job. You are going to have the opportunity to upload your resume to this site. Now where this comes in handy, is FlexJobs does work with a lot of telecommuting employers, these are called their featured employers. Those featured employers are going to be able to view the resumes within a FlexJobs platform, and contact those people directly, if they so choose.

You’ll also have the opportunity to take some skills tests, if there are some things that you don’t know maybe if you have your skills up to par at this point, so you wanna know if you should take some further training, or maybe this is something that you are really skilled in, and you’d like it displayed on your FlexJobs profile, you can go ahead and do that here. As it says, most of these are 40 questions, and take about 40 minutes to complete, outside of the FlexJobs membership, they usually cost $14.99 each to take these skills tests, but you can take them free with your FlexJobs membership. And you’ll see there are a lot of different things here.

In that finance and accounting, there’s some bookkeeping tests, accounting principles, QuickBooks, some different things there. Same goes for writing and publishing, you know, brush up on your copywriting skills, web content, some things like that. Also you’re gonna find there are some member savings, these are companies that FlexJobs works with to get you some discounts. A lot of these are things that are relevant to online workers, like GoToMeeting, Dell, Harvest is an invoicing and bookkeeping type of service, is a popular trusted online casino banking and online casino gaming by Casinoslots. There’s also some in here for having your resume examined, or getting one written, so those are some things that you might want to check out as well. And as I said, the advanced job search is definitely my favorite feature of this.

You can go ahead after you have searched for these jobs, you can save this search, and then FlexJobs will email you as new jobs come available. And over here, again you’re gonna be able to see in this sidebar that you can go ahead and start browsing by those featured employers, some surprising flexible jobs, you can do some research on the companies yourself, as well as get some more information that FlexJobs has available here. And again, if you are a person that lives in one of those states that is sometimes hard to find work-at-home, like California, you can use the jobs by location map. And that will allow you to narrow down jobs that are just open to those in your state, if that’s something that’s an issue. You can also use it if you are looking for some international opportunities as well. So that is it for me for today.

20 Attractions You Would not Believe Are Part of Las Vegas

  • June 30, 2019

The 2.5-mile-long central section of Las Vegas Boulevard is The Strip. It runs through the city from northeast to southwest, lined with huge entertainment palaces, many built with a defining theme and home to performance venues, luxury hotel rooms, and fine dining. The Strip is extremely impressive at night when the city is illuminated by an endless succession of glittering neon signs. Most visitors enjoy walking along the Strip and taking in the sights.

Generally speaking, the Las Vegas Strip runs from the Mandalay Bay Hotel to Treasure Island Hotel. If you really want to experience Las Vegas, stay on the Strip, preferably at one of the major resorts that you shouldn’t miss. #2. Fremont Street Experience.

It is the city of casinos. The casino has table games pits, slot machines. Casinoslots provide their special top ten list of the most trusted online casino sites for South African gamblers. Online casino South Africa is the most trusted on the web.

In old downtown Las Vegas, Fremont Street is a pedestrian-only area with many different unique sites. A five-block section of Fremont Street is covered over with a canopy of LED lights that illuminate the sky in a spectacle of different colors and designs as you walk below. Known as the Fremont Street Experience, each night fantastic music and visual show takes place overhead. Street performers and special entertainment acts often perform outdoors in this area.

Fremont Street is in downtown Las Vegas, a few kilometers from the Strip. It is best to take a taxi to reach the area. You can also experience Las Vegas at night by taking the the 3.5-hour Las Vegas Lights Night Tour, which includes the Fremont Street light show and highlights along the Strip. #3. Helicopter Rides over Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. For a great aerial view over Las Vegas, or even the Grand Canyon, visitors may want to consider taking a helicopter ride.

Las Vegas has a number of companies providing helicopter tours that take visitors over Las Vegas and the Strip, or as far away as the Grand Canyon. This is a great opportunity for anyone with limited time to see not only Vegas, but the surrounding landscape and one of America’s most impressive and famous natural attractions. If you have a full day for exploring, try a 6.5-hour Grand Canyon 4-in-1 Helicopter Tour.

This tour includes a 45-minute flight from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon, Swooping down to the canyon floor, and enjoying a scenic pontoon boat ride on the Colorado River. Then, landing at Eagle Point for a West Rim tour. As an added option, you can visit the Grand Canyon Skywalk for a photo opportunity. Lunch and limousine hotel pickup/drop-off included.

#4. Venetian Hotel and Gondola Rides. The Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas is located on the Strip, across from Treasure Island. It is one of the city’s finest resorts and has many interesting tourist attractions.

Inside, is a themed shopping arcade built to resemble the city of Venice, complete with blue skies, canals, and gondoliers. The hotel also features recreations of the main attractions found in Venice, such as the Rialto Bridge and the Bridge of Sighs, along with many others. The Venetian Gondola Rides are a fun way to see the complex. Situated out in front of the Venetian Hotel, near the sidewalk, boats await passengers who are then taken on a ride by their personable gondolier through the shopping arcade inside the hotel.

#5. Paris Hotel and the Eiffel Tower. The Paris Hotel and Eiffel Tower is located on the Strip, and is one of the most easily recognized resorts in the city. Out front is a scale model of the Eiffel Tower, and down the way is a recreation of the Paris Opera House. 46 stories above the city streets, the Eiffel Tower Experience is an observation deck with incredible 360-degree views. One story below, is posh and romantic Eiffel Tower Restaurant, with fine views out over the Strip and across to the dancing fountains of Bellagio.

Also on the property is a mock hot air balloon festooned with neon and flashing lights. #6. Bellagio Resort and Fountain Show. The Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas is a massive, high-end hotel complex.

It offers a wide variety of attractions, including the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, the Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, a spa and salon, and some of the finest restaurants in Las Vegas. Beyond the lobby is a showroom area with changing themes that range from spring botanical displays to fascinating shows of art. The most impressive and famous feature is the fountain show.

In front of the Bellagio, along the Strip, the dancing fountains perform a beautiful display of water set to music. From the sidewalk, visitors have a ringside view. This is often described as the best free attraction in Las Vegas. #7. Mirage Hotel: Erupting Volcano and Secret Garden.

The Mirage Hotel is easy to identify while walking along the Strip. In front of the resort is a volcano, which erupts at regular intervals. At night, the glowing red fire shooting out is one of the most unique sites visible from the sidewalk.

Inside the Mirage is the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. You can see a wide variety of exotic animals, including white lions. The Dolphin Habitat contains a large number of trained dolphins in its 2.5-million-gallon pools. #8. High Roller Ferris Wheel on the Linq. The High Roller Ferris wheel is at the far end of the Linq Promenade, just off the Strip.

This huge Ferris wheel stands 550 feet high and takes 30 minutes for one full rotation, providing outstanding views over the strip and surrounding area from the capsules. Each cabin, as they are called, can hold up to 40 people. Views are particularly outstanding at night with the city lights in full glow. #9. New York-New York Hotel. The New York-New York Hotel in Las Vegas is across the street from both the MGM Grand Hotel and the Excalibur Resort Hotel.

Visually stunning, the hotel is designed to appear like New York’s skyline, complete with the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. A huge roller coaster circles in and around the hotel. #10. Caesar’s Palace and The Colosseum.

Perhaps one of the best known of all the Las Vegas hotel resorts, Caesar’s Palace continues to evolve. Currently, Caesar’s Palace is a massive complex in the middle of the Strip, complete with every imaginable entertainment option. The hotel is closely associated with shows held in its huge concert venue known as “The Colosseum.” Top performers (which have included Celine Dion and Elton John) perform here for extended periods, and shows are often booked out well in advance. Visitors planning a trip and hoping to see a performance here will want to check out dates and ticket availability as early as possible.

We recommend you check the site as it allows you not only to check ticket availability to shows in Las Vegas, but also compare ticket prices from various ticket sellers and providers. #11. Mob Museum. The Mob Museum, or the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement as it is officially named, is a truly unique and standout museum in Nevada.

The museum is housed in a 1933 Neoclassical building, formerly the US Post Office and Courthouse, that has its own history. It was one of the locations for the famous Kefauver Committee hearings in 1950, which revealed some ugly truths about organized crime in Las Vegas and across the US. The museum tells the history of the Mob in America through engaging, interactive displays and video clips. Exhibits deal with everything from the individual characters and events to the culture and fashion associated with the times.

#12. Mandalay Bay and the Shark Reef Aquarium. Mandalay Bay Resort is at the southwest end of the Strip, near the Luxor hotel. One of the key highlights at this complex is the Shark Reef Aquarium. The massive 1.3 million-gallon tank holds a wide variety of sharks, fish, rays, reptiles, and more. About 100 sharks from 15 different species and more than 2,000 animals in all are on display.

The Shark Tunnel is the most impressive feature. Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Shark Reef works with wildlife biologists to preserve endangered lake and marine populations as well as rehabilitate injured animals. #13.

Neon Museum. The bright and colorful neon signs of Las Vegas have been one of the city’s most memorable sights for countless visitors throughout the years. These multi-story advertising beacons became one of the city’s claims to fame. Today, the Neon Museum is working hard to preserve some of the city’s history by purchasing, storing, and in some cases, refurbishing the historic neon signs that have gone by the wayside as businesses have faded or new signs have taken the place of older icons. You can see many of these signs by taking a guided tour at the Neon Museum, where old neon signs are stored outside in a large compound.

Guides provide the history of the signs and designs, which have evolved over the years. Efforts at the museum are ongoing, and signs stand in varying conditions. In some cases, only a portion was saved or found, while others have been restored to their former glory. This contrast makes the museum that much more interesting and gives visitors insight into how much work and upkeep is required with these giant signs. #14. Luxor Hotel.

Another distinctive theme hotel, at the far southwest end of the Strip, is the Luxor Hotel. It is designed in an ancient Egyptian theme, and is shaped like a pyramid, with a sphinx proudly gazing out over the street. The Luxor, like all the major resorts, offers a wide variety of restaurants and shopping opportunities. One of the standout features of this hotel is the beam of light that projects from the highest point of the pyramid and shoots up into the night sky. It can be seen from throughout Las Vegas.

#15. Stratosphere Tower. The Stratosphere Tower is an unmistakable sight on the Las Vegas skyline.

The tower rises up 1,149 feet, and on the rooftop of the tower are a variety of heart pounding thrill rides, including the SkyJump, Big Shot, X Scream, and Insanity. For those looking for a little less drama, there is an indoor and outdoor observation deck with great views over the city. The Stratosphere Tower claims the “tallest freestanding observation tower in the USA.”

#16. MGM Grand Hotel and CSI: The Experience. The MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas is across the street from the New York-New York Hotel and kitty corner to the Excalibur Resort Hotel. The MGM Grand Hotel has all the amenities visitors would expect to find at a luxury hotel including above average accommodations, an exceptional pool area, a multitude of restaurants, and plenty of entertainment options. One of the hotels popular activities is CSI: The Experience, based on the popular CSI TV series, where participants can test out their detective skills. #17.

Vegas Indoor Skydiving. Vegas Indoor Skydiving offers a truly unique experience. Here, visitors will get to experience what actual skydiving is like, without an airplane or parachute.

Qualified instructors escort participants to a vertical wind tunnel where they are suited up in special gear. Once the fan is turned on, anyone can float effortlessly in the air. No experience is necessary. #18. Madame Tussaud’s.

Madame Tussaud’s in Las Vegas is near the escalators leading up to the Venetian Hotel on the Strip. Here, visitors can see their favorite stars preserved forever in wax. In many cases, the figures are so lifelike it is almost eerie.

Figures range from Elvis to Bradley Cooper, Sofia Vergara and many others. The overall focus or theme of Madame Tussaud’s is on people who are associated with Las Vegas. #19. Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Fans of fast cars will want to head over to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Located in Clark County, 15 miles northeast of the Strip, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a 1,200-acre complex of multiple automobile racing tracks just right for the speed-freak in you.

The Las Vegas Motor Speedway is home to NASCAR races, as well as a number of other racing events. Several speed records have been set at the track. The Speedway features multiple restaurants, and for those wishing to stay overnight, camping is available as well. #20.

Excalibur Hotel. The Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas is another theme hotel on the Strip. Decked out in medieval character, the hotel features some wild architecture, complete with turrets. The hotel has all the amenities a visitor could possibly imagine, with varied entertainment, a huge pool area, and a good assortment of restaurants.

Line-of-business apps at Microsoft

  • June 15, 2019


We have migrated almost all of those to Azure using Azure PaaS and Serverless and Azure technologies. So this is a basic architecture that we kind of follow for order management and fulfillment applications that we have. We have lots of partners in our supply chain and they connect or we expose our end points through APIM in Azure. In APIM, we redirect the requests to the web app, and for load-balancing purposes we are using Azure Traffic Manager.

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So API app here is a web app, here also it’s just two different regions that it has deployed. Then once the message is with the API app, it gets into the storage and the service bus. Service bus just has the metadata and storage has the payload, and then the Function App comes into the processor, logic app or function app.

We switch between that based on the service requirement. The logic and function apps are just the processes. which will just do the processing of the messages.

>> So you have a bunch of CI in a bunch of different PaaS services. So what does that look like? >> So we have PaaS services, right? This is what it is.

These are all the components that it has. >> So what do your CI and CD pipelines look like on this? >> Yeah, I can go through that.

So for all of these components we have enabled Gated check in for all the developers to check in, only if the unit tests are working fine and the solution is building. On a daily basis, this is the daily build that we run. We have created it in VSTS. If I go to the edit here, we can see all the steps that are on here, StyleCop is just, style of coding that the developers are doing is all consistent and then Restoring NuGet Packages that the solution is using. Certificate, it’s interesting because we had to introduce it because of the CRUD scan so that we don’t have to check in the certificates and upload them to the build machines. So we started using PowerShell to use the basic reports string to create the certificates on the fly in the Build, and keep it in the drop folder, and we run unit tests on top of that, and create a drop folder in the build machine.

For the release to use all of those packages. This is for the Web App and this is for the Function App. We have two different Function apps and so that’s why you see two packages for the Function App and then we publish that drop folder. Once the daily Build is run, it’s every night that we have set it for, a release is triggered, based on the daily Build.

You see different environments here. So in Azure, we have three resource groups for each of the services that we are building. One is the CI, Continuous Integration, where daily builds are going and releasing.

They are in two different regions that we are using. That’s why you see these two. Then the other environment is UAT, where once the feature is built, test it, functional test, all of that is done. That’s where it goes to user acceptance testing, but there are approvals set for this. Somebody has to approve for the deployment to happen here.

Then obviously production, once user acceptance testing gets passed, we go to the production environment. So all of these are chained in our release pipeline. CI-WestUS is the first one that gets deployed. You can see, there are like 30 tasks. So what they are doing, it is a combination.

All of this release is a combination of running the PowerShell scripts or the deploy using the ARM Templates to do the deployment. So resource group, it is creating the resource. I can go in detail for all of these steps.

If somebody has any questions. But yeah, at a high-level, it is a Service Bus deployment. This is also interesting, once the Service Bus is getting created, we need to know the connection string and use it maybe to set up the functional tests and whatnot. So we can in VSTS release create a VSO variable at runtime which will actually have the connection string to that particular Service Bus.

So all of that can be enabled through the ARM Template. If you look into the ARM Template, we are using a VSTS task called Azure Resource Group Deployment. We are saying that this is the template that I have to use from that drop folder. These are the parameters for that particular template.

All of that, we have defined in our Checked-in solution. Then this is again the same task, but for the Event Hub. Then we are storing the Event Hub connection string.

Storage account and then the containers needs to be deployed in the Blob storage account that we are using. Then we also upload certain files to the Blob, Configuration files to the Blob, that step is there. So each step is well-separated out, and we keep on storing the connection strings or keys that we need for the functional tests to run. Cosmos DB or DocDb, we have the same step here. Then in Cosmos DB, we need to create a collection, so there is a PowerShell script that we have written for that.

Then we are also using Application Insights. So you’ll see those steps for that, that ARM deployment as well as the PowerShell script to get the variable out of it. The function App, there are two function apps, as I had said. So this is interesting, this is a tokenize with x-path regular exception. What it is doing is, once you have a config file, checked in to your solution with a very particular specific semantics, with underscore underscore, a VSO variable named underscore underscore, out-of-the-box tokenize method will just put in the values in that configuration. We are using Key Vault, so all those storage connections, strings, Service Bus connection strings are actually stored in the Key Vault.

So this is cool. Then Function App is the other function app that I was talking about. Yeah, and the Web App, which is getting deployed at the primary region. We are using the ARM Template and the PowerShell command to just update the config for the Web App. Then Upload Certificate, the build that had created the certificate, so this step will just upload them.

Then this is the functional test config, which, we are just using a PowerShell script to update the config file. Then we run the functional test using Visual Studio Test. So, once the function tests are passing, that means we are good with the CI Environment and the next environment, deployment starts.

>> So, I’ve got a couple of questions here. You mentioned CRUD Scan. Is that an external-internal tool? What is CRUD scan?

>> CRUD scan is internal. >> Okay. It’s an internal tool that I think we use to go check code that’s being checked in. >> Yes. >> Basically, to make sure that you’re not storing any secrets.

>> Any secrets or certificates, yes. >> I think it’s an org level kind of policy that every check-in you are making, it is making sure that you’re not basically checking any credentials over there. So, I think right now, in our organization, you create, you basically check-in something, that particular build is going to trigger saying its gonna check that credentials in your particular check-in for that particular code, right?

So, I think that’s basically a policy where organization-level wide policy right now in our organization, right? >> This is something that VSTS does. >> Yeah. >> That’s kind of nice.

I had a question for the three of you. So, you talked a bit about the ARM template deployments you’re using in this point are fairly narrow. You can have an ARM template that has everything under the sun in it. So, what have you found that are the pros and cons, the balances especially when you start to talk service fabric or data warehousing? What are the pros and what’s the balance that you found?

>> I can answer that. So, we started with that. We created the ARM Deployment Project in Visual Studio and we kept all our ARM templates in that. We had just one task in the VSTS release where just everything gets deployed with that ARM deployment.

But the problem with that was whenever there was a single failure with a particular component, we didn’t have much control through the release template. That’s where we took a decision why not try out in a separate ARM templates as tasks in the VSTS release. So, that just worked for us but if you have a very simple deployment, I would suggest the ARM Deployment Project and just have that one task, and it does everything.

That’s the best. If you don’t have to change your components frequently and you do not do very frequent deployments, then that’s the best. >> Okay. So, we’ve walked through the really. >> Yeah. I would just say that’s totally concur, what Heena said.

It’s always, we have been depending on the project size especially in data warehouse work. We want to bucketize stuff. So, we exactly want to know what stepped failed and why it failed. One of the additional thing is from a data warehouse point of view or a big data point of view, that something may not be available. So, again VSO allows you to write your own components and use them and then publish them org wide so then others can use them. So, that’s amazing feature which helps us leverage across all of Azure.

>> Do you want to show us some of your stuff now? >> Sure. So, I can showcase and talk about the data warehouse, the CI we have implemented in the data warehouse. So, this project is actually a SQL data warehouse and this basically shows you it’s not easy that to be green all the time.

So, you’ll see there are some of the task are orange, there are some of the task were each of these columns are depicting the environments, right? So, this is where the production deployment has happened, so you’ll see the all 4 green, but rest of the dates, only the integration is happening. So, some of the task might have failed, probably a unit test or two failed, and that basically is a good way to make sure that your code is completely in place or not. Are you with your check-ins? Are you breaking something or not, right?

So, as an engineering team, that keeps us honest. So, if I have to go open one of the release. >> I can imagine yours is the team that has, it’s not easy being green, Kermit the frog up on the wall somewhere. >> Yeah. So, we have three environments. Technically, if you look at, there’s one integration.

But you will see integration environment is in two parts, and there is a reason why we had to do that. Then we have the “EndUser” or we call that UAT, it’s a hybrid environment. We were able to cut down the number of environments with the ARM because of the CI efforts we have put in and then the production. Now, if you look at the integration environment part one, what it is doing is it actually deploying the entire data warehouse from scratch.

So, the steps of what we have here is we are taking the build once it is created after a code merge. “Azure Key Vault”, as Heena mentioned, all our secrets are in key vault, not really compromised by anyway so we fetch all the secrets from the key vault. Then if you look at this step is about procuring the SQL Azure. So, this is a true PaaS implementation where this environment doesn’t exist. It’s on the fly, we created, and after deploying and testing everything, we decommission it.

So, this way, we procure our hardware and then we copy the database from production. So, in a data warehouse, were one of the biggest challenges, how do we really be sure about whatever you have done is really working. Because you need prod equivalent data, right? But then you have a lot of compliances where you cannot copy data from production to pre-production environments.

Well, this is the answer where it doesn’t exist and no one has access to this environment, it’s only a service principle which has access. It creates the data. It creates the database, copies the database from production, and runs all the test cases.

Some of the important thing is out of the box, some things are not available. For example, most of us would know with their DACPAC deployment which is very, very powerful thing. could create a DIF and deploys it on top of the existing database and you cannot really get away with it. But then it has a limitation.

Let’s say if I have a column which gets renamed because of business reasons, the schema has changed, the DACPAC has a problem today or a gap today there. It actually thinks that there’s a existing column which was renamed or dropped. So, it drops that columns and creates the column again.

So then, your data is lost. So, there are a few steps we have taken care like renaming column before we actually go and deploy the DACPAC. We reuse PowerShell script to rename the column so that when the DACPAC deploys on top of it, you don’t lose data. Then there are a bunch of other things and scaling up this server.

So, when we copy the database, if in production, we’re running a premium two edition, we want to run our test cases faster. So, what we do, we actually scale it up using the Azure full capability in terms of making sure everything is run fast. So, we scale it up to a P4 or P6 scale, and after doing bunch of other operations, where we have a lot of encryption, decryption pipelines, all these things get deployed. Then finally, we run our Unit Test. So, Unit Tests are very, very important for any project and data warehouse world we have been always lagging behind.

So, this is an honest effort to have even Unit Test cases in place. So, by the time we run all this integration environment done with it’s all Unit Test cases, you are pretty sure that whatever code has been added is pretty much tested. Then obviously, we do Azure data factory deployment so all of our jobs are Azure data factory job from the porting data from one point to other point. If you look at, there is a reason we have forked it to part two. One of the core requirement for any platform is to make sure that your functional test cases are done. Now, the functional test cases in a data warehouse could be little tricky in terms of you may not be able to achieve hundred percent functional test case green, right?

As you have seen that if even one test case fails, you actually turn out to be orange. But the Unit Test case should be hundred percent, right? So, we wanted to make sure that any day, even if a one Unit Test Case fail, then we should get to know about it without really digging into it and going into it, so we kind of forked it. So, our functional test cases are under part of part two whereas the Unit Test cases are under part one. So, any day we have an orange on our very first environment, we know our UTs have failed so the developers actually jump in to fix it.

Whereas the functional test cases, sometime, there is a data discrepancy, source system probably has got refreshed by the time we deployed, so some of the test cases might still fail. But then you really know what is really going on and that’s why it is forked. As you see, at the end of it, we decommission the whole environment. So, this environment stays for about four to six hours, depending on how much data we have, and we are able to use CI to have a new environment built every day with the new code which we check in. >> So, having the environment only up for a limited amount of time with only a managed service identity having access gets you covered on all the security and release.

All of those things makes your recoveries at risk. >> Exactly. >> When you said you scale it up, so then do you do your essentially when you compare your regression analysis?

Is it just purely based on the prior runs? Because you can’t really necessarily then compare your test at UAT to production if your test environments are P4, your productions are P2. So, how do you resolve that as a purely based on past tests? >> So, that we have kept separate. The idea is how fast you can build the whole environment. So, the regression test or performance test is part of a separate operation itself.

So, we are in a DevOps model. So, we have one of the person who is a DRI or Directly Responsible Individual has a job to keep a good track on the performance and Azure provides a lot of performance indicators on its own. So, we try to cut down on custom implementations, we keep an eye on our performances on those areas. So, that’s how we not try to do a regression on using this whole process because by the way, probably I didn’t mention that we had a zero down downtime data warehouse system, which is very difficult to get into.

The reason we are able to do it again at the same way, our job is to make sure that we deploy faster than anyone can imagine from a customer point of view. So, we have not kept it, the performance indicators are not part of the whole thing, it is kind of a separate entity itself. >> So, you really just scale up to make sure that you can get that deployed as quickly as possible and kind of bring it back to you as it has been. >> And it’s very important when you talk about DevOps I see there are four pillars of it. The very first is the planning when you’re doing the coding, and the second is CI, third is CD, which we are talking about here and the last one is the monitoring. So, I think the concept of DevOps is that, it’s okay to fail, but it’s very important to recover from it because you fail fast, but you recover from that failure quickly.

I think that’s the beauty of DevOps. So, using all these technologies, using all these automation using VSTS we are able to achieve those things. >> That’s true. And so your team is doing service fabric. >> Yeah. >> So, what are the other things that you’d like to show that are different as far as when it comes to service fabric doing CI/CD.

>> Yeah, I think one year back our application was, it is still monolithic, but we are from the last one year we are kind of splitting those into smaller microservices today. So, as I was talking about it is very important to have to shorten your life cycle there right. If I simply ask you how much time it will take for you to get one piece of code changed to get it into production, I think that life cycle if we can reduce that, that would be what we want to achieve here as per DevOps methodology. So, let me show our CI build definitions, which we are using. So, we’re using Azure Service Fabric here, and this is our daily build definition. So, it’s pretty straightforward, you can see we are building the solution here and we are running our unit test here.

With every check-in basically we are making sure that you are not basically corrupting our source-code here. This is a very important step in the build definition when you are using Azure Service Fabric so it is basically creating a service package for you, which is basically a combination of code and configuration that you basically will use in your release definition to deploy into a particular cluster, right? These two tasks are important because if you see during our build we are using a flag called deterministic flag. This flag basically makes sure that whatever input you’re compiler is getting it is going to create the same output. So, if there is no change in your code, your binaries would be exactly the same as it was previously so that because later on we want to use this particular feature so that we should not deploy any service, which do not have any change, right.

So, because we don’t want to use resources there. So, you can see these two tasks are basically needed because pdb files are always getting changed whether you are using deterministic flag or not. So, we have to delete pdb files because that always get changed.

So, this is important for this particular step. In this particular step what exactly we are doing is we are updating the version of the Manifest, version of the services, which we want to deploy on a particular cluster. So, the idea is if there is no change there should not be any version incrementation there.

Right. So, this particular task is making sure that if you basically check mark this thing, it will make sure that you are only updating if there is a change, right. But for this task to run, this deterministic flag is very important here.

So, you know make sure that you’re using those things. And then there are some Fortify scans, which we run on our codebase to do some static code analysis. We are using a third party here, Fortify Servers, which basically scan all the code and give you the report that all the things are in a good session in good manner there.

And we also run CredScans during our daily builds and ultimately we copy our artifacts so that it can be picked up by the release definition and kick in the CD part. So, this completes the CI part and we have the package ready for our release definition pipeline. So, let me go towards release pipelines here. So, you can see we have a continuous deployment here enabled for this particular daily build. So, we have three environments as you know development environment and then you have UAT and then ultimately we go to production.

You can see it’s a very simple very low in number task like first what we do is we, as Heena and Naval was mentioning that we are using keyvault for storing our secrets. So, the only thing which we do in our services is to just print the particular certificate, thumbprint for a particular environment that’s what we do. That’s the only part which we need to do, rest it will basically fetch when the system services will run. This task is very important for our Service Fabric.

This task is basically deploying the packages which you have received in your build definition to a particular cluster. So, there is a field called Cluster Connection where you have to specify your cluster, where you want to deploy these services to. There are several ways that you can create these connections. So right now, we are using certificate-based connection here, but you can also use AAD authentication and SP, and all those things, you can use those connection also.

Then you have to just specify the Cloud publish profile in the application parameter and that’s it. You just basically, use that particular application package to deploy that particular services to your cluster itself. Then, you simply running our BVT against that particular services deployment, and then we send out the report notification that whether all the test pass or any failures are there or not. This last task is also very important. So every time you deploy something on our environment, we’re making sure that all the cloud resources, they are secure enough and they are basically following the organization policy from a security perspective.

So there is a task provided by VSTS team which basically scans a particular resource group and see if there is any security vulnerabilities in that particular resource or not. So you can see, I specify two resource groups here which basically has all my resources. The reason of having two resource group is that we want to keep the cluster-specific resources in one resource group and all the dependency. From dependency, what I mean is like if you’re using a Key Vault or you are using DocumentDB, those are my dependency which has the data.

So we kept it different so that in case, tomorrow, we want to purge the data, purge the cluster itself, we can do that without worrying about our dependency which is, in our case, is Key Vault or DocumentDB. So, that basically helps us doing the security scans for that Cloud resources. So this was all about have CI/CD pipelines for your Service Fabric capability, and it’s very useful. Because right now, whenever we go to production, it’s not a ceremony for us. I mean, one year back with the monolithic, it’s supposed to be like a ceremony for us.

We have to ask for a downtime saying, “Okay. We are deploying things here and it going to be down for two or three hours.” But now, with this microservices, there is zero downtime. With every release, it is like a rolling upgrade which do not have any downtime can be seen in those application itself.

>> So I’ve got a few questions for each of you then. That’s interesting, especially with Service Fabric, it’s built to be up all the time from the whole stuff. When you’re doing your delivery in your release into production, Heena for your application or for some of the data warehousing stuff, what is that level of? Is there a few seconds a few minute downtime? I mean, what does that mean for your world? >> There’s no downtime.

That is a staging environment where the bits will go. If the functional tests are passing, they will be promoted to the production environment in Azure. But if it fails, it doesn’t go to the production environment. >> Okay.

Well, schema changes are the things that people have to know about. >> Yeah. >> So what? >> So how we actually deal with this, we build a parallel environment while current environments these being accessed by the customers. The parallel environment is getting build.

So today, to our customer, we say it’s a zero downtime deployment. We still give a window of 15-minute to 30-minute where we say, there maybe an intermittent X issue because what we have to do is we have to once the deployment is over, we have to swipe it. So we are doing it for last one year. Till date, none of the customers has reported that their reporting got interrupted because we try to do it in those hours where probably no one is using. So technically, from those ways if you look at, we have zero downtime but the swipes still could take couple of minutes. >> Something that I’m interested.

I think it’s probably still helps if you have an agreement with the business and the other teams that, “Hey, on a daily basis or on a weekly basis, this daily or weekly recurring, this time slot, there might be an intermittent.” Just so that way, there is that planning because I think one of the biggest misnomers is DevOps means that there’s a fewer people I am doing things in DevOps. I’m like, “Oh, you can still plan.” So there’s still planning involved with everything that you do. They’re just releasing and building quite a bit more often.

>> Definitely for the production environment, yes. >> One of the other questions that came up, as well. Vikram, you were talking about your Service Fabric and how you could wipe out a cluster. So the reality is I’m curious how you using.

Is it if you’re going to wipe out the cluster, it better be all stateless services. So do you have stateful service and what are you doing for those? >> Yeah. That’s a great question. So, we do have stateful services.

Initially, when we thought of, we kept this resource group separately. But when we launched the stateful services, then we thought of, “Okay, we cannot purge the resource group itself because we have the state with the services right now.” So I think the approach which we are using right now is to take the dump out of it. In case if you want to purge the environment, we have a backup plan there so that we can restore all those transaction from that backup itself. >> Okay.

>> Moreover, in the recent Microsoft Build, we saw that the Service Fabric team is providing more backup options now, which are more fast. So you no more have to go for an external storage itself, you can use the storage for storing your all the connections back up. So I think with all those technologies, we still can achieve what do you want to like purge the environment and all those stuff.

>> So part of your deployment could be to move that off or back it up, and then wipe the cluster and build the cluster and move your transactions state back on. >> Yeah. >> Okay. Some of the other things that all three of you slightly mentioned was really about security in Key Vault.

So I know the Azure Key Vault has made a lot of changes in the last two years, especially within the last year with the Managed Service Identities and then a lot of the other build tasks making things easier. So, can you talk a little bit about what Key Vault security secrets management, what are the things to be aware of or what have you had to do in your environments and with your stuff? >> Yeah, I can talk about that. So earlier, we were using the app.config to keep the Key Vault connection strings and keys.

But we had to encrypt them with the certificate so that they are not visible. But with the current more tight security, we are using MSI option and it’s very straightforward. There was a little bit code change required for us to say that how to get that MSI. But apart from that, we don’t have to now use certificates just to encrypt those keys and keep it there. So that is one learning that we had.

>> Just to add on. This MSI feature is still not available in Azure Service Fabric. So if you’re using, to deploy Azure Service Fabric, you’re still kind of. I think that feature is coming in. But right now, what we are doing is we are storing the thumbprint of the certificate. So we are not storing any secrets in our definitions.

But yeah, clusters should have their certificate installed in the cluster itself, and then it will take care of everything. So we are still safe, we are not storing any secrets in our release definition, we are not storing any secret in our code base. But yeah, I think in the future, they have those features coming up in the roadmap for support for Azure Service Fabric. >> Okay, that will just make it easier.

>> So just to add, yeah, but we use the same way in fact to make it more secure. So today, if we look at from VSTS point of view, from the release variable point of view, we use service principles to install everything. So there is, VSTS still has a limitation where it still depends on a key instead of a cert.

Though, it’s pretty secure, but my team have been trying to look into how do they really get rid of that kind of dependency with respect and not to have those keys because those keys are mostly valid for a year or two. So that’s the only area where probably things could change in coming days. But as of now, if you look at from end-to-end, all our secrets and passwords are securing Key Vault without even the engineers having access to it. >> Another question I had because a couple of you talked through your different environments of the nightly and the UAT and prod and pre-prod. What is your gating and branching strategy look like for your apps? What is that side of this?

>> For us, every developer has a local branch that they can publish to the server and when they think that they want to keep their code safe. But once they are ready with their code, all the unit tests, at least one happy path unit test and functional test is there, and that’s the minimum thing that we ask all the developers to follow. Then, they can try to merge with the main branch which we call as develop branch. That’s where the gated check in build gets triggered, and they will be able to check in only if the solution is getting built and the unit test are passing so that we have the sanity of the code which is in develop branch. So that’s the branching strategy. >> When Dev is develop then, when do things go develop from develop to main or is that?

>> Yes. Once a feature is built, that’s where we want it to go to production. >> Okay. >> That’s where there are checks about the functional tests and unit tests being complete.

They are not automated yet, but at least the test automation is there. But somebody has to see that all the test cases are covered like the functional tests especially. Once they are there, that’s where we push to the master branch from the develop branch. Master branch is the one which gets deployed in all the environments. >> Okay. So essentially, you have local devs on the branches going to the develop, which is your integration point for all the devs, that should be building every night.

So every night, that’s building to make sure nobody is breaking everybody else’s stuff. Then from time to time, when the business and the engineering team deems it appropriate, then you will essentially use Release Management to move that off to production. >> Yes, from developer’s perspective, we take care of the functional test covering everything. But obviously, the UAT, as user acceptance testing, where user has to say, “Okay, yeah. I’m good.” I mean, that is where we are just involved if there are any issues.

Mostly our PMs are interacting with the partners or if there are internal teams and making sure that everything is passing and doing functionally, and that’s then we approve the production deployment after that. >> I think when we talk about DevOps philosophy, there is nothing called production. I mean, every code which you are checking in should be a production-ready code. So, for us, it’s like when we do a feature development, we create a feature in branch and everybody start working on that. Eventually, whenever somebody wants to check in, so it has to be merged with master with all the sanity checks. You’re done with the unit test, you’re not checking in any credentials there.

So, all those minimum level checks are there while you’re checking in into the master. So, I think this is very important because it’s about changing the mindset. I mean, think of while you’re checking in, you’re checking into production right away, because you have the automation build pipelines with you and you’re going to snap it into the production right away.

So, I think this is very important that with all these automations, with all these tools, VSTS and everything, we want to achieve that, so that there is a continuous delivery of value to the end users. >> So your team is, you’re the developers and service rapid staff, are committing right into a particular feature branch, which that is actually building and deploying to some sort of environment on a nightly basis. Then, when do you make the call that your feature branch gets merged with master and what does that look like for you guys? >> Yeah. So, I think we have gated release pipelines.

So, we run our functional test- unit test, and we also see if there is no exceptions in our system while moving from one environment to another environment. We have gates for that like if you found any exceptions of a particular type for within a period of time, we’re going to block that particular environment transition to another environment. So, those feature are there in VSTS, we are leveraging those features, so that ultimately, the code which is getting merged and built on a particular environment is all good enough to go into production. Moreover, with these automation builds, we are getting a very rapid feedback from our stakeholders also. So, we have two weeks of sprint, and every sprint, we have a review with our stakeholders and they provide quick feedbacks to us, so that we can quickly apply those feedbacks using these automation.

Because imagine if we don’t have these release pipelines, we cannot achieve those things right away. So, this is very important while getting into the DevOps methodology here. >> Yeah.

So one of the other things that I didn’t mention that we haven’t really talked about is just the fact here, for all of our line of business applications, we all live in the same project, in the same VSTS instance. So that means, any of us that are checking in code, can go search everybody else’s Git repository to go find acceleration, I think, one of the other important things. So that means that all the thousands of engineers, in core services that are developing line of business apps, can see each other’s code, can go fix, we can go run scans, we can go look at and say, “Who are the teams that are doing Service Fabric by doing a code search,” and go learn from those teams.

But I think one of the other really important things there, in our VSTS instance for example, we have some federal level; you have to do this, there’s no exceptions. Then, there are state and city level. So, each of the applications or cities, they have autonomy. But at the federal level, we’ve said, “Hey, everybody is going to live in the same project I am sure on the screens, you’ve seen that little moniker One ITVSO.” At the federal level, we’ve set up iterations in a default two week cadence, across to everyone. So essentially, our federal level, you can’t go around this everybody has to use Git.

The two week sprints are set up for everyone. If for some reason the team needs larger than two week sprints, they’re free to change that but two weeks are set up for everyone. Then, the people that want our VSTS stuff are really good about let’s go run credential scans, lets go runs scans looking for secrets, let’s go look for other stuff on every single build that runs to our system. I think today, I’m pretty sure there are, I don’t know how many Git repositories there are, but I know we do over a 1,000 releases all the way through pipelines today, and we do over a 1,000 builds per day, and now it’s all completely automated. So, I want to get back to what is your branching strategy look like for the data warehousing stuff? What are they, if there any unique stuff in there.

>> It’s more or less on the same lines. The only variation we have is since we don’t have too many pre-production environments, we just have one hybrid environment which we expose to the end user customers. We do not have a develop branch.

So, as an engineer, every sprint I branch out from master, work on my story. As Heena mentioned, we have gated check in, you have the moment you create a pull request, the CI build will file and everything is getting checked if the build is compiling everything or not. The reviewers who are going to review, they actually, intentionally look for a couple of things. How we cover the unit test and the functional test scenarios apart from code reviewing code, that’s in our behavior now. So, in case if we don’t find the UTs or the functional test cases that covering the code is being written, we reject it.

>> Are you talking about the pull request of feature in VSTS? >> Yeah. I’m talking about the pull request as we are doing the gated check in thing. Then, once everything is approved, it gets merged with the master.

Once it is in master, every second week, which is every sprint, we deploy in our pre-production UAT environment, hybrid environment, which is open for our product owners and even the end users, to go and test. So, that way we have tried to keep it very lean. Everyone knows how to branch out and merge it back, and what it means when you merge it back, it means it’s going to go in UAT. >> So essentially you have, instead of things deploying to production on a nightly basis, you essentially everybody knows, “Hey, at the end of every two weeks, the UAT environment is going to be updated, and whatever the prior UAT environment may be rolling to production at some point.”

I told myself I wouldn’t have any notifications up and then one popped up. Great. Thanks, I’m glad we’re up on this.

So, one of the other questions that I wanted to ask, as far as VSTS itself. Heena, you talked a little bit about the tokenization. What are some of the other things that VSTS has released in the say last year where maybe it’s changed, what you’ve done, maybe it’s made things easier or for somebody else that’s going down this path? Maybe a little bit of learning here and there will help them. >> I think I can talk about one of the things. Let me show you that recently in the released pipeline, they came up with something called Gates.

Gate is basically, as Heena was mentioning, you can have pre-deployment of tools which are basically manual approvals. You can assign somebody who can approve. He basically will check the sanity of your artifacts and then allow you to deploy those particular artifacts on a particular environment. Plus, there are some features which is called Gates. They recently introduced these feature in the VSTS. So, right now we are using one of the Gate called “Monitoring alerts”.

Basically, what we are trying to say here is that after UAT environment is done, and if I’m seeing no issues in my App Insights, which is my telemetry, there is no issues, it will check like 15 minutes interval. If everything looks good, it’s going to say, okay, I’m good to deploy into my next environment. So, these are like one of the Gate but there are several types of Gates here. You can also use an external API. For example, in the Build, they were giving example like imagine you have your product owners and they usually have to give you a go that you are good to go to the production. So, they were using DocuSign for that.

So once BO basically sign your particular release, it’s going to call that API whether that is being approved or not and then basically you start deploying on the production environment for that. So, these features are very useful in some scenarios. This was the feature recently VSTS have provided in the released definition itself. This is also a very useful feature, you can apply on your release pipelines here. >> Then, I think one of the other things that I wanted to touch on briefly is how each of the teams, Heena I think that part of the Build talk, spoke about this, who are the target audience for Application Insights and who is the target audience for Azure Login Analytics OMS for your app?

So, how do you distinguish who your consumers are for those? >> For Application Insights, it’s mostly the reports that we create for the business people, as well as the developers. The DRI who’ll look into that. So, it’s solving two purposes. How?

Because the telemetry app that we have, it publishes all the data, not just the infrastructure related but also the business data related. All of that gets into the custom dimensions of Application Insights with every stage that we are passing through in our code. As a DRI, I can come and write queries on top of Application Insights and say, “Okay, I am interested in this particular order ID, or delivery order ID, purchase order ID,” and I can get the data. Because whenever a business comes back to us or a DRI or an incident has raised, it’s always based on I have a unique business ID, purchase order ID. I want to know what happened to this one.

Right? Or the other way, it can be there was an error and we got an alert. So, in that error itself, we would log those unique IDs to be able to query those efficiently in Application Insights.

Also that Application Insights data is used to create reports for the business side of things. So they can actually see how many orders came into our system per day or per hour. They have all those options. >> So, App Insights is really for the business and then your DRI, Direct Responsible Individuals. Then Log Analytics is really used for the operations side of the DevOps teams to go figure out whats.

Is that fairly similar for everyone? >> Yes. I think the point here is to do the proactiveness here. Instead of the customer is telling you that I’m facing a problem, I think when you are in DevOps you need to proactively look into those insights and see to figure out if he’s facing that problem let’s fix that. So, these things are really useful when you are doing research on that particular stuff.

>> Just the variance for data warehouse kind of project, the App Insights is not a default choice. There’s not too much of logging you can do with App Insights. So, most of the time, if you’re on Azure PaaS or any of the other Azure offerings for the Big Data, you get a lot of logging available through the portal.

Obviously, you can kind of plug it with your Power BI as well. But it’s still being a warehouse system you want to know how your queries are performing from one stage to other stage. Some of the things out-of-the-box available with SQL, where it gives a performance counter and you still get to know.

But as an engineering team, you want to know how much time each of these code pieces or code blocks are taking for you. So, we do custom logging for that. But kind of we have an internal tool which is called Unified Telemetry for our IT organization which provides you, which basically ports whole this logging data to App Insights and through which we kind of get to know about it.

So for us it’s a little twist but we still use App Insights through migrating those logs to App Insights. >> Are there any other things that besides tokenizers and how we use App Insights, are there any other things that if you were talking to somebody today and they said, “Hey, we’re looking at Azure or we want to start going down the Azure path,” and they’re starting to look at setting up CI/CD. They’re starting to look at doing everything. What kinds of tips would you give somebody that’s about to embark down the same path that your teams have just gone down? >> I would say it’s not easy to on-board.

It’s going to take a lot in terms of what you want to do with all these implementations. But then it’s worth every penny in terms of whatever you’re putting. It’s going to give you a lot of return later on once you have it. Because a lot of these are repetitive processes which are very important to make sure your quality of the product is taken care of. So, I would say initially if you could plan carefully what you need to do, design it, it’s going to pay you off big time.

So I would say definitely look out for these opportunities from modern engineering implementation point of view. I have seen Visual Studio team system has been adding more and more of these features. Anything you are using new in Azure or Cloud computing, there’s a lot of out-of-the-box support is coming in.

So it becomes very easy for you to kind of on-board to those and be very productive. >> Just to add on what Naval said, most of the developers think when you talk about VSTS, you’re talking about Microsoft technologies only, right? But it’s not the case. VSTS supports like all the open source. We are using Angular Applications today and I was amazed to see all those tasks which are in- Build in VSTS which we can use to build all these for our applications. Moreover, you can create your own tasks.

If you have your own custom things to do, you can always do in a VSTS. So, I think this tool is very much into forming your journey toward the box. >> Yeah. I know one of the teams that I’ve just been talking to that will have a blog post on the main Azure blog soon is they’re doing Linux VMs. So they’re using containers Kubernetes with Linux right now and they’re actually switching over to the Azure Kubernetes service with Linux. So, even though we’re Microsoft, we still use quite a bit of Linux and Open Source internally.

Heena, is there anything that you’d add? >> Yes, same thing. There are tons of options. So we have to do some hit and trials. In fact, in our organization, I’m working on only in order management and fulfillment space.

But we do have return space as well as planning. All these spaces have actually different kind of solutions, Azure components that we are using. We learn from each other and we say, “Oh, you know what, this works the best. Or this is the design pattern that we should follow as an organization.”

We standardize it then. So, they will be learning. On top of that, I’ve observed that almost daily, if not daily or every six months, there is something new coming up in Azure and we always make sure that we are trying those things out and keep it in our path for future considerations of how we can use their capabilities in our solutions. So there is a team who, not team but there are a few dedicated people who are actually does those kind of POCs in Azure and they kind of give a knowledge transfer or POCs session to others. So that’s how we learn about those and we start incorporating in our new designs as and when they are available. >> It was amazing to see that the VSTS and Azure teams are working hands on hands.

>> Yeah. >> Whenever you have feature available in Azure and you see all of those availabilities are there in VSTS to kind of get into the CI/CD pipelines altogether and see the beauty of that Azure resource right away. So I think that’s very great. >> Awesome. I know we sent out a link during this webcast Naval to a blog post that you wrote on modern data warehousing with continuous integration. The audience has that.

Please go take a look at that especially if you’re looking around the data stuff. So we’re at the end of our time. Thanks everyone.

Well, we already talked about key takeaways, so thanks for sharing those. I think the general consensus is completely worth the time. It’s worth not deploying from your laptop and having to deal with that. It also covers your compliance and security and those everything. >> Do the best of what you do.

How to win at blackjack (21) with gambling expert Michael “Wizard of Odds” Shackleford

  • October 17, 2018

Hi and welcome to our series of educational videos that are designed to make you a smarter gambler. My name is Steve Bourie and I’m the author of the American casino guide, which is the number one bestselling book in the US on the subject of casino gambling and travel and the only book that comes with more than one thousand dollars in casino coupons. If you want to know more about me or my book be sure to visit my website at in this video I’ll, be speaking with gambling expert Michael Shackleford, who is also known as the Wizard of Odds – and I ask him all about blackjack, We videotaped his Interview with Mike in Las Vegas in September 2010, and I’m sure that it will help to answer many of the questions that you have about blackjack and how you can be a long-term winner at the game.

What is the object of the game of blackjack? The object of blackjack is to get more points than the dealer without going over 21. How is the casinos mathematical advantage determined in blackjack?

The casino gets its advantage in blackjack because the player has to act first, if both the player and the dealer bust, the player loses now. How is the house advantage calculated in blackjack, you might ask, it’s very calculated, can be done a number of different ways, but basically you need computers to either simulate a game or run through every single combination of the ways the cards could play out. Assuming the player plays correct strategy and under most common sets of blackjack rules with basic strategy, the house advantage is gon na range anywhere from about 0.25 percent.

All the way past two percent for horrible games, like those that pay six to five on a blackjack, Is a single deck game, always better for the player. The number of decks is very important in blackjack the fewer the number of decks, the better the odds for the player, however, be careful. The casinos know that the players know that so they’re trying to trick the players with single deck games that pay only six to five on a blackjack.

It’S much better to play an 8 deck game that pays 3-2 on a blackjack than a single deck game. That pays only 6-5, in other words, what that they pay on a blackjack is much more important than how many decks they use.

What are some rule variations and how do they affect the casinos advantage? The rules have a lot to do with the house advantage in blackjack, and the rules vary significantly from casino to casino and table from table within the casino. The most important thing the players to look for with good rules is that they pay 3-2 on a blackjack.

If they don’t walk away, makes no difference what the other rules are. Once you find a 3-2 game, then it’s good, the fewer the decks the better. If you can play a double deck game, that’s better than a six deck game and other good rules to look for are: does the dealer hit or stand on a soft 17?

It’S to your advantage.

If the dealer stands on a soft 17, it’s good! If they let you double after a split, it’s good, if they let you surrender it’s good, if they let you resplit aces, Can you explain what a continuous shuffler is and how it affects the game?

A continuous shuffling machine is a time-saving, shuffling device that was invented. So that the dealers don’t have to shuffle the cards every single time they reach the cut card.

The way a continuous shuffler works is, after the dealer has dealt around, they will scoop up all the cards put them in a little pile and feed them into the shuffling machine.

There are usually five decks of cards in the shuffling machine, and the Machine will randomly place those discards back into the shoe. Another question I get asked a lot is: are the odds a worse in a continuous shuffle game? Actually, the odds are a little bit better.

Just a little bit better in a continuously shuffled game, it’s mathematically complicated to explain why. However, the player should also keep in mind that, because the dealer isn’t taking breaks to shuffle the cards, there’s going to be more hands per hour likely in a continuously shuffle game, and that’s going to be more money that you can expect to lose per hour. What is basic strategy Blackjack basic strategy is a strategy that tells you the mathematically, correct way to play any player hand and any dealer up card.

It looks like this to use it. You would look up your hand going down this way across the dealers up card. This way, for example, say I have an ace in a seven or soft 18, a dealer showing a 10 most players with incorrectly stand. On that hand saying well, an 18 is good enough, but you look at the chart and It’ll say say H for hit.

So the odds favor hitting in that situation, Any good blackjack player should memorize this basic strategy.

Once you memorize this, you can cut the house advantage down under good rules to about 0.25 percent, considering the comps you’re gon na get from the casino it’s like free entertainment. Can a player be a long-term winner using a progressive betting system? Well, first, let me explain what a progressive betting system is. The most common one is called a martingale and the way that works is every time you lose a bet.

You double your bet.

The next time, so let’s say you start with a dollar bet you lose, then you bet two. You lose then bet four.

You lose that you bet 8. You lose that you bet 16 and then let’s say you win that you would win 16, but you will have lost 8, 4, 2 and 1, which add up to fifteen. So no matter with the martingale. As long as you eventually hit a win, you’re always going to net one dollar for every single win sounds good.

No, because, no matter how much money you have its eventually gon na happen that you hit that string of losses, and you don’t have enough money to double again now.

A lot of players falsely believe that these that these betting systems, like this win because most of the time they do but the day that you can’t double your bet, that last time is gon na, be the day that you have given back everything that you ever Won up until that point, computer simulations have shown that no betting system can survive the long-term. They can’t. Not only can betting systems not overcome the house advantage, they can’t even dent it and please no matter what you do never pay for a book or a website that is selling betting systems. These are all charlatans and scam artists.

They do not work over the long run. How can a player be a long-term winner at blackjack? Probably the most common way is through card counting, which absolutely does work.

Ther are a lotta movies about it and books about it.

The basic principle is: is that when the remaining cards in the shoe are rich in tens and aces the odds favor, that player when the remaining cards are rich in small cards, the odds favor the dealer. So the players going to bet more when the deck is rich in good cards and he’s going to make adjustments to his strategy to um, to hit less and double more in the situations when the deck is rich in the good cards, Can a player be a Long term, winner, using basic strategy, the basic strategy is great. You can cut down the house advantage to 0.26 percent under liberal strip rules. However, you can’t overcome the house advantage with basic strategy alone.

The casino is always going to have a slight advantage, so the player should not count on winning long-term with the basic strategy. However, if the player factors in comps and tournament, invitations and other niceties that the casino gives you much like in video poker, you can come out ahead with the basic strategy.

Does it matter where you sit at the table? One question I get a lot is: does it make any difference where you sit at the blackjack table, whether it be first base or the first player to act or third base the last player somewhere in the middle? The odds make absolutely no difference.

Another common myth is that the third baseman controls the game for all the players and if he makes a bad play its gon na up cause everyone to lose. That’S absolutely a myth. The odds are the same, no matter how the third baseman plays his cards Since blackjack is a game of skill.

If you are at a table with a lot of bad players, does it affect your odds of winning? Blackjack is absolutely a game, a skill.

However, what matters is your skill. What the other players are doing makes no difference at all. It’S a common myth that bad players at the table cause everybody to lose. Absolutely not true.

You could be playing with the world’s worst blackjack players and its not gon na make any difference to you over the long run. Does it matter if you play at a full table or an empty table.

Mathematically speaking, the odds, don’t matter whether you’re playing at a full table or the or an empty table, however, at a full table, you’re going to be getting a lot fewer hands per hour.

So if you’re trying to minimize your expected losses per hour, then it’s better to play Casinoslots. If you want a lot of hands per hour, obviously you should be playing by yourself now when the casinos calculate comps, they go by average bet and time played. So if you’re trying to get the most comp mileage out of your play, play at a full table because you’re gon na be betting less money, but still getting the same benefit as a player playing by himself. Should a player ever taken insurance Unless you’re counting cards?

Absolutely never take insurance.

The house advantage on the insurance is 7.7 percent, it’s a lousy bet and before you ask, don’t take insurance or even money. Even if the dealer has an ace up, it’s still a lousy bet try to get the full 3-2 pay out. Now.

There is an exception for card counters. If somehow you know the remaining cards are rich in lotsa tens, then insurance can become a good bet, but if you have no idea, if you’re, not tracking, for that always decline insurance, What is your best advice for blackjack players? My best advice for blackjack players is to seek out games with good rules 3-2 in a blackjack, preferably double-deck, preferably the dealer stands on a soft 17.

You can look up the house advantage for any set of blackjack rules on my website and there’s lots of other books and sources that give you that information as well. Then you should play good strategy. The basic strategy is a great place to start. This will cut down the house advantage to a very thin amount if this is too complicated.

I have something on my website: called the wizard simple blackjack strategy, which is just about 16 rules of thumb that will get you very close to the house advantage that you could get with the basic strategy.

Would you suggest going to comedian Jimmy JJ Walker for blackjack advice? No problem, they don’t know, but thank goodness I came in the professional. Is here leading the way Your best piece of advice, rather blackjack players Never hit on 12.

That’S a cardinal sin never hit on 12 ever, never Absolutely not. How can people people learn more about you and your work If you want to improve your odds in any casino game, I welcome you to visit my website. Wizardofodds.Com it’ll show you the correct strategy to at least a hundred different casino games, or you can buy my book gambling 102, which will show you how to play the most common casino games.

Don’T forget that you can see more of our educational gaming videos on our YouTube channel just go to

Get in Some Practice

  • February 8, 2018

While veteran players may feel that they have more than enough experience, many of those who have been playing a long time will still test out their newer strategies in a practice setting before trying them in a high stakes game. For those who are just starting out, a practice game or several can make a big difference in their performance later on as they get more experienced with the games and how they operate on each of the sites they plan to play in. It is far better to learn the ropes in a sandbox game than risk blowing cash because the player didn’t understand all of the rules and features of the site.

When getting started in the world of online bingo it can seem as if the smaller rooms would be the ideal place to play because this offer less competition and a greater odds of winning, but this is not the way that all bingo strategists think. For some, the real gold is in the big rooms where there are a huge number of players and thus, a much larger jackpot. This is certainly a personal choice for players, but it should be said that the size of the room really does make a difference because if a player wants to win a huge jackpot it is almost always better to pick a large room, but if they just want to score the cash more easily then a smaller room would be smarter as a means of reaching that goal.

Choosing the right games means choosing games that have fewer players and the games with fewer players can mean waiting until the last minute to join a game. This enables you to get an accurate depiction of the number of players that are taking part in the game and therefore increases your chances of winning.

Thanks for reading this article, I hope, you have learned something new. I really enjoy sharing my passion with you. Be sure to check other articles about games and casino. Stay tuned for new materials. Be responsive with your game and your money, Good luck, and don`t forget to have fun!

Secrets of the Game of Blackjack

  • January 23, 2018

Now these days the online casino is one of the best and most popular gambling played by the casino lovers. Blackjack is one of their first choices among the different kinds of online casino games. You will discover without any techniques within the online game like blackjack, especially by using usage of every part in the online game presented through online sources. One can find honestly hundreds of WebPages that provide priceless guidelines in addition to techniques to create cash through trying to play blackjack. There are lots of online sources wherever you can perform online also.

One can find radical details about several successful techniques needed for blackjack, through going to these kinds of online sources. These kinds of complete dark-colored jack online sources will let you within betting techniques, empowering to beat those odds. Employing these tips, you can succeed cash even within true to life casinos, in addition to on-line casinos. You can run into several techniques, especially by using techniques that they are used in addition to offers like blackjack card counting that could end up being found on-line.

Most are selecting trying to play blackjack online a lot more exciting compared to true to life casinos. First matter it really is far more convenient to learn the experience on-line, wherever you can simultaneously endure that guidelines, turn out to be trying to play the experience. Almost all tips for success can be purchased for nothing about these kinds of online sources. They will offer you a strategy to have fun in addition to make money in the good deal. This specific belongs to the key causes of its growing popularity.
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