Technological Thoughts by Jerome Kehrli

Agile Planning : tools and processes

by Jerome Kehrli

Posted on Wednesday Jun 14, 2017 at 08:42PM in Computer Science

All the work on Agility in the Software Engineering Business in the past 20 years, initiated by Kent Beck, Ward Cunningham and Ron Jeffries, comes from the finding that traditional engineering methodologies apply only poorly to the Software Engineering business.

If you think about it, we are building bridges from the early stages of the Roman Empire, three thousand years ago. We are building heavy mechanical machinery for almost three hundred years. But we are really writing software for only fifty years.
In addition, designing a bridge or a mechanical machine is a lot more concrete than designing a Software. When an engineering team has to work on the very initial stage of the design of a bridge or mechanical machine, everyone in the team can picture the result in his mind in a few minutes and breaking it down to a set of single Components can be done almost visually in one's mind.

A software, on the other hand, is a lot more abstract. This has the consequence that a software is much harder to describe than any other engineering product which leads to many levels of misunderstanding.

The waterfall model of Project Management in Software Engineering really originates in the manufacturing and construction industries.
Unfortunately, for the reasons mentionned above, despite being so widely used in the industry, it applies only pretty poorly to the Software Engineering business. Most important problems it suffers from are as follows:

  • Incomplete or moving specification: due to the abstract nature of software, it's impossible for business experts and business analysts to get it right the first time.
  • The tunnel effect: we live in a very fast evolving world and businesses need to adapt all the time. The software delivered after 2 years of heavy development will fulfill (hardly, but let's admit it) the requirements that were true two years ago, not anymore today.
  • Drop of Quality to meet deadlines: An engineering project is always late, always. Things are just a lot worst with software.
  • Heightened tensions between teams: The misunderstanding between teams leads to tensions, and it most of the time turns pretty ugly pretty quick.

So again, some 20 years ago, Beck, Cunningham and Jeffries started to formalize some of the practices they were successfully using to address the uncertainties, the overwhelming abstraction and the misunderstandings inherent to software development. They formalized it as the eXtreme Programming methodology.

A few years later, the same guys, with some other pretty well known Software Engineers, such as Alistair Cockburn and Martin Fowler, gathered together in a resort in Utah and wrote the Manifesto for Agile Software Development in which they shared the essential principles and practices they were successfully using to address problems with more traditional and heavyweight software development methodologies.

Today, Agility is a lot of things and the set of principles of practices in the whole Agile family is very large. Unfortunately, most of them require a lot of experience to be understood and then applied successfully within an organization.

Unfortunately, the complexity of embracing a sound Agile Software Development Methodology and the required level of maturity a team has to have to benefit from its advantages is really completely underestimated.
I cannot remember the number of times I heard a team pretending it was an Agile team because it was doing a Stand up in the morning and deployed Jenkins to run the unit tests at every commit. But yeah, honestly I cannot blame them. It is actually difficult to understand Agile Principles and Practices when one never suffered from the very drawbacks and problems they are addressing.

I myself am not an agilist. Agility is not a passion, neither something that thrills me nor something that I love studying in my free time. Agility is to me simply a necessity. I discovered and applied Agile Principles and practices out of necessity and urgency, to address specific issues and problems I was facing with the way my teams were developing software.

The latest problem I focused on was Planning. Waterfall and RUP focus a lot on planning and are often mentioned to be superior to Agile methods when it comes to forecasting and planning.
I believe that this is true when Agility is embraced only incompletely. As a matter of fact, I believe that Agility leads to much better and much more reliable forecasts than traditional methods mostly because:

  • With Agility, it becomes easy to update and adapt Planning and forecasts to always match the evolving reality and the changes in direction and priority.
  • When embracing agility as a whole, the tools put in the hands of Managers and Executive are first much simpler and second more accurate than traditional planning tools.

In this article, I intend to present the fundamentals, the roles, the processes, the rituals and the values that I believe a team would need to embrace to achieve success down the line in Agile Software Development Management - Product Management, Team Management and Project Management - with the ultimate goal of making planning and forecasting as simple and efficient as it can be.
All of this is a reflection of the tools, principles and practices we have embraced or are introducing in my current company.

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Bytecode manipulation with Javassist for fun and profit part II: Generating toString and getter/setters using bytecode manipulation

by Jerome Kehrli

Posted on Monday Apr 24, 2017 at 10:38PM in Java

Following my first article on Bytecode manipulation with Javassist presented there: Bytecode manipulation with Javassist for fun and profit part I: Implementing a lightweight IoC container in 300 lines of code, I am here presenting another example of Bytecode manipulation with Javassist: generating toString method as well as property getters and setters with Javassist.

While the former example was oriented towards understanding how Javassist and bytecode manipulation comes in help with implementing IoC concerns, such as what is done by the spring framework of the pico IoC container, this new example is oriented towards generating boilerplate code, in a similar way to what Project Lombok is doing.
As a matter of fact, generating boilerplate code is another very sound use case for bytecode manipulation.

Boilerplate code refers to portions of code that have to be included or written in the same way in many places with little or no alteration.
The term is often used when referring to languages that are considered verbose, i.e. the programmer must write a lot of code to do minimal job. And Java is unfortunately a clear winner in this regards.
Avoiding boilerplate code is one of the main reasons (but by far not the only one of course !) why developers are moving away from Java in favor of other JVM languages such as Scala.

In addition, as a reminder, a sound understanding of the Java Bytecode and the way to manipulate it are strong prerequisites to software analytics tools, mocking libraries, profilers, etc. Bytecode manipulation is a key possibility in this regards, thanks to the JVM and the fact that bytecode is interpreted.
Traditionally, bytecode manipulation libraries suffer from complicated approaches and techniques. Javassist, however, proposes a natural, simple and efficient approach bringing bytecode manipulation possibilities to everyone.

So in this second example about Javassist we'll see how to implement typical Lombok features using Javassist, in a few dozen lines of code.

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The Digitalization - Challenge and opportunities for financial institutions

by Jerome Kehrli

Posted on Tuesday Mar 21, 2017 at 09:52PM in General

A few weeks ago, I did a speech about the Digitalization and its impact on financial institutions, both in terms of challenges and opportunities in the context of my role as Head of R&D in my current company.
I am reporting here my speech as an article.

Even though the Digitalization and its impacts is something so widely discussed and studied nowadays, even in banking institutions, I still find it puzzling that so many of them struggle following the pace.
Having said that, many others on the other hand have well understood how much technology is about to disrupt the banking business just as Uber has disrupted the transportation business and AirBnB the lodging business and many good and enlightening initiatives start to flourish in the news.

But still, it seems to me that most innovations in banking are really coming from small players or even startups - think of fintechs - instead of coming from the big players of the banking industry. For instance, paying everything with a cellphone is a thing for a few years now in many African countries while it's not at all in Europe, even in Switzerland, THE country of banking.
Especially in Switzerland, financial institutions struggle keeping up with evolution of their business coming from the digitalization on one side and the regulatory pressure as well as the reduction of the margins on the other side.
Discussing this very matter further exceeds the scope of this article of course but I want to report below my speech notes and present what I see as the most important challenges and opportunities for the banking industry coming from the digitalization.

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Agile Landscape from Deloitte

by Jerome Kehrli

Posted on Thursday Mar 02, 2017 at 11:51PM in Computer Science

I've seen this infographic from Christopher Webb at Deloitte (at the time) recently.
This is the most brilliant infographic I've seen for years.

Christopher Webb presents here a pretty extended set of Agile Practices associated to their respective frameworks. The practices presented are a collection of all Agile practices down the line, related to engineering but also management, product identification, design, operation, etc.

The Agile Lansdcape from Deloitte
[Click to enlarge]
(Source : Christopher Webb - LAST Conference 2016 Agile Landscape -

I find this infographic brilliant since its the first time I see a "one ring to rule them all" view of what I consider should be the practices towards scaling Agility at the level of the whole IT Organization.

Very often, when we think of Agility, we limit our consideration to solely the Software Build Process.
But Agility is more than that. And I believe an Agile corporation should embrace also Agile Design, Agile Operations and Agile Management.
This infographic does a great job in presenting how these frameworks enrich and complements each others towards scaling Agility at the level of the whole IT Organization.

To be honest there are even many more frameworks that those indicated on this infographic and Chris Webb is presenting some additional - reaching 43 in total - in his presentation.
But I believe he did a great job in presenting the most essential ones and presenting how these practices, principles and framework work together to achieve the ultimate goal of every corporation: skyrocketing employee productivity and happiness, maximizing customer satisfaction and blowing operational efficiency up.

Now I would want to present why I think considering Agility down the line in each and every aspect around the engineering team and how these frameworks completing each other are important.

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Bytecode manipulation with Javassist for fun and profit part I: Implementing a lightweight IoC container in 300 lines of code

by Jerome Kehrli

Posted on Monday Feb 13, 2017 at 09:30PM in Java

Java bytecode is the form of instructions that the JVM executes.
A Java programmer, normally, does not need to be aware of how Java bytecode works.

Understanding the bytecode, however, is essential to the areas of tooling and program analysis, where the applications can modify the bytecode to adjust the behavior according to the application's domain. Profilers, mocking tools, AOP, ORM frameworks, IoC Containers, boilerplate code generators, etc. require to understand Java bytecode thoroughly and come up with means of manipulating it at runtime.
Each and every of these advanced features of what is nowadays standard approaches when programming with Java require a sound understanding of the Java bytecode, not to mention completely new languages running on the JVM such as Scala or Clojure.

Bytecode manpipulation is not easy though ... except with Javassist.
Of all the libraries and tools providing advanced bytecode manipulation features, Javassist is the easiest to use and the quickest to master. It takes a few minutes to every initiated Java developer to understand and be able to use Javassist efficiently. And mastering bytecode manipulation, opens a whole new world of approaches and possibilities.

The goal of this article is to present Javassist in the light of a concrete use case: the implementation in a little more than 300 lines of code of a lightweight, simple but cute IoC Container: SCIF - Simple and Cute IoC Framework.

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The Lean Startup - A focus on Practices

by Jerome Kehrli

Posted on Saturday Jan 28, 2017 at 11:05AM in General

A few years ago, I worked intensively on a pet project : AirXCell.
What was at first some framework and tool I had to write to work on my Master Thesis dedicated to Quantitative Research in finance, became after a few months somewhat my most essential focus in life.
Initially it was really intended to be only a tool providing me with a way to have a Graphical User Interface on top of all these smart calculations I was doing in R. After my master thesis, I surprised myself to continue to work on it, improving it a little here and a little there. I kept on doing that until the moment I figured I was dedicated several hours to it every day after my day job.
Pretty soon, I figured I was really holding an interesting software and I became convinced I could make something out of it and eventually, why not, start a company.

And of course I did it all wrong. Instead of finding out first if there was a need and a market for it, and then what should I really build to answer this need, I spent hours every day and most of my week-ends developing it further towards what I was convinced was the minimum set of feature it should hold before I actually try to meet some potential customers to tell them about it.
So I did that for more than a year and a half until I came close to burn-out and send it all to hell.

Now the project hasn't evolve for three years. The thing is that I just don't want to hear about it anymore. I burnt myself and I am just disgusted about it. Honestly it is pretty likely that at the time of reading this article, the link above is not even reachable anymore.
When I think of the amount of time I invested wasted in it, and the fact that even now, three years after, I still just don't want to hear anything about this project anymore, I feel so ashamed. Ashamed that I didn't take a leap backwards, read a few books about startup creation, and maybe, who knows, discover The Lean Startup movement before.
Even now, I still never met any potential customer, any market representative. Even worst: I'm still pretty convinced that there is a need and a market for such a tool. But I'll never know for sure.

Such stories, and even worst, stories of startups burning millions of dollars for nothing in the end, happen every day, still today.

Some years ago, Eric Ries, Steve Blank and others initiated The Lean Startup movement. The Lean Startup is a movement, an inspiration, a set of principles and practices that any entrepreneur initiating a startup would be well advised to follow.
Projecting myself into it, I think that if I had read Ries' book before, or even better Blank's book, I would maybe own my own company today, around AirXCell or another product, instead of being disgusted and honestly not considering it for the near future.
In addition to giving a pretty important set of principles when it comes to creating and running a startup, The Lean Startup also implies an extended set of Engineering practices, especially software engineering practices.

This article focuses on presenting and detailing these Software Engineering Practices from the Lean Startup Movement since, in the end, I believe they can benefit from any kind company, from initiating startup to well established companies with Software Development Activities.
By Software Engineering practices, I mean software development practices of course but not only. Engineering is also about analyzing the features to be implemented, understanding the customer need and building a successful product, not just writing code.

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DevOps explained

by Jerome Kehrli

Posted on Wednesday Jan 04, 2017 at 09:56PM in Computer Science

So ... I've read a lot of things recently on DevOps, a lot of very interesting things ... and, unfortunately, some pretty stupid as well. It seems a lot of people are increasingly considering that DevOps is resumed to mastering chef, puppet or docker containers. This really bothers me. DevOps is so much more than any tool such as puppet or docker.

This could even make me angry. DevOps seems to me so important. I've spent 15 years working in the engineering business for very big institutions, mostly big financial institutions. DevOps is a very key methodology bringing principles and practices that address precisely the biggest problem, the saddest factor of failure of software development projects in such institutions : the wall of confusion between developers and operators.

Don't get me wrong, in most of these big institutions being still far from a large and sound adoption of an Agile Development Methodology beyond some XP practices, there are many other reasons explaining the failure or slippage of software development projects.
But the wall of confusion is by far, in my opinion, the most frustrating, time consuming, and, well, quite stupid, problem they are facing.

So yeah... Instead of getting angry I figured I'd rather present here in a concrete and as precise as possible article what DevOps is and what it brings. Long story short, DevOps is not a set of tools. DevOps is a methodology proposing a set of principles and practices, period. The tools, or rather the toolchain - since the collection of tools supporting these practices can be quite extended - are only intended to support the practices.
In the end, these tools don't matter. The DevOps toolchains are today very different than they were two years ago and will be very different in two years. Again, this doesn't matter. What matters is a sound understanding of the principles and practices.

Presenting a specific toolchain is not the scope of this article, I won't mention any. There are many articles out there focusing on DevOps toolchains. I want here to take a leap backwards and present the principles and practices, their fundamental purpose since, in the end, this is what seems most important to me.

DevOps is a methodology capturing the practices adopted from the very start by the web giants who had a unique opportunity as well as a strong requirement to invent new ways of working due to the very nature of their business: the need to evolve their systems at an unprecedented pace as well as extend them and their business sometimes on a daily basis.
While DevOps makes obviously a critical sense for startups, I believe that the big corporations with large and old-fashioned IT departments are actually the ones that can benefit the most from adopting these principles and practices. I will try to explain why and how in this article.

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Blockchain 2.0 - From Bitcoin Transactions to Smart Contract applications

by Jerome Kehrli

Posted on Tuesday Nov 22, 2016 at 09:29PM in Computer Science

Since Satoshi's White paper came online, other cryptocurrencies have proliferated on the market. But irrespective of the actual currency and the frequently debated deflation issues, the actual revolution here is the Blockchain protocol and the distributed computing architecture is supports.

Just as thirty years ago the open communications protocol created profitable business services by catapulting innovation, the blockchain protocol has the potential of being the same kind of breakthrough, by offering a just as disruptive foundation on which businesses start to emerge. Using the integrity lattice of the transactions, a whole suite of value trading innovations are beginning to enter the market.

The key innovation here are Smart Contracts. This relatively new concept involves the development of programs that can be entrusted with money.

Smart Contracts are autonomous computer programs that, once started, execute automatically and mandatorily the conditions defined beforehand, such as the facilitation, verification or enforcement of the negotiation or performance of a contract.
They are most of the time defined in a Programming Language, which in the case of the Ethereum Blockchain 2.0 technology form a Turing Complete Programming Language.
Smart Contracts are implemented as any other software program, using conditions, loops, function calls, etc.

If blockchains give us distributed trustworthy storage, then smart contracts give us distributed trustworthy computations. To illustrate a possible use of smart contracts, let's take the example of travel insurance: finding that 60% of the passengers insured against the delay of their flight never claimed their money, a team created during a hackathon in London in 2015 an Automated Insurance system based on smart contracts.
With this service, passengers are automatically compensated when their flight is delayed, without having to fill out any form, and thus without the company having to process the requests. The blockchain's contribution here consists in generating the confidence and security necessary to automate the declarative phases without resorting to a third party.

The main advantage of putting Smart Contracts in a blockchain is the guarantee provided by the blockchain that the contract terms cannot be modified. The blockchain makes it impossible to tamper or hack the contract terms.
By developing ready to use programs that function on predetermined conditions between the supplier and the client, smart programs ensure a secure escrow service in real time at near zero marginal cost.

Smart Contracts enable to reduce the costs of verification, execution, arbitration and fraud prevention. They enable to overcome the moral hazard problem. The american cryptograph Nick Szabo is deemed to be the inventor of the concept, whom he spoked about in 1995 already. He used to mention the example of a rented car, whose smart contract could return the control to the owner in case the renter forgives the paiements.
Interestingly, as a sidenote, Nick Szabo is also believed by some to be one of the person behind the Satoshi Nakamoto identity.

In a general way, Smart Contracts from the heart of the Ethereum blockchain. Even if Rootstock aims at enabling the implementation of Smart Contracts on the bitcoin blockchain, the development of Smart Contracts technology is really rather related to Ethereum. The next versions of Ethereum are increasingly targeted to offering end users an App-Store-like User Experience to Smart Contracts.

This article intents to be a pretty complete introduction to Blockchain 2.0 technology and Smart Contract applications, detailing both of them as well as list the state of the state of the art of possible use cases being currently studied or discussed.
A big part of this article focuses on the Ethereum blockchain.

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Comet: having fun with the Java HTTP Stack

by Jerome Kehrli

Posted on Tuesday Nov 01, 2016 at 11:54PM in Web Devevelopment

Wikipedia's definition does a pretty great job in introducing comet:

Comet is a web application model in which a long-held HTTP request allows a web server to push data to a browser, without the browser explicitly requesting it.

This says it all. For a long time, Comet - which is more an umbrella term regrouping several techniques - was pretty much the only way to get as close as possible to Server Push in Web application, plain HTML/Javascript applications on top of the HTTP protocol.
All methods have in common that they rely on browser-native technologies such as JavaScript, rather than on proprietary plug-ins.


In the early days of the World Wide Web, the browser would make multiple server requests: one for the page content and one for each page component. Examples of page components include images, CSS files, scripts, Java applets, and any other server-hosted resource referenced in the page.

Ajax - Asynchronous JavaScript and XML - went a long way towards making this model evolve. It allowed far greater control over page content by providing the ability to send server requests for as little, or as much data as the browser needed to update. In addition, its asynchronous nature supported multiple simultaneous calls - even while other elements downloaded.
One problem that Ajax did not adequately solve was the issue of data synchronization between the client and server. Since the browser would not know if something had changed on the server, Web applications typically polled the server on a periodic basis to ask if new information was available. The only possible way as to use Polling where the browser would poll the serve rat regular intervals to find out about new events and updated data.

To circumvent this very limitation, developers started to imagine techniques aimed at getting closer to server push, either using the Forever Hidden iframe technique or the Long Polling XMLHttpRequest technique. Both these techniques are grouped under the umbrella term Comet or Bayeux Protocol.
Now of course these techniques have respective advantages and drawbacks that I will be discussing later in this article.


For many reasons, mostly robustness and universality of the solution, I am favoring the Forever Hidden iframe approach and I have designed quite some time ago a Comet framework making use of this technique to provide Server-Push to Plain HTML/javascript web applications.

The forever hidden iframe technique is the one I found most seducing for one very good and essential reason : it's the most robust one from a technical perspective. It has drawbacks of course in comparison with other techniques, but I still deem it the most solid one, and in some situations it was even the only one I could make work.
Its principle is straightforward to understand: an iframe is opened on a server resource and the HTTP response stream is never closed by the backend. The iframe keeps loading more javascript instructions as the server pushes them in the response stream.
Having said that, I have to admit ... It blocks a freaking amount of threads in the java backend, it shows the annoying loading icon on the browser, managing errors is a nightmare ... but it always works, in every situation, and at the end of the day considering the kind of business critical applications I usually work on, this is what matters the most to me.

Now of course, WebSockets tend to rend all Comet tecnniques kind of legacy.
But still, I end up deploying comet techniques instead of WebSockets in many circumstances. You may wonder why ?

WebSockets are no magic silver bullet

  • Most importantly, when we have to support plain HTTP connection and bad HTTP proxies which let a WebSocket being opened but don't let anything pass through
  • Implementing WebSockets efficiently on the server side is more complicated than Comet and requires most of the time specific libraries, sometimes pretty incompatible with some Application Servers
  • With WebSockets you are forced to run TCP proxies as opposed to HTTP proxies for load balancing
  • When I have to support old version of Internet Explorer, such as IE9, in banking institutions that have a bad tendency to use pretty old version of software
  • Many other reasons I am detailing below ...

The first problem above is the darkest one regarding WebSockets in my opinion. This proxy server issue is quite widespread.
Nonetheless, "You must have HTTPS" is the weakest argument against WebSocket adoption since I want all the web to be HTTPS, it is the future and it is getting cheaper every day. But unfortunately there are some context where we have to integrate our web application on plain HTTP and one should know that weird stuff will definitely happen you deploy WebSockets over unsecured HTTP.

lightweight, simple and robust Comet framework

This is the main rational behind the Lightweight and simple Comet Framework for Java that I am introducing here. I am using this framework, that I've designed long ago and somewhat maintained over the years, each and every time I encounter issues with WebSockets.
To be honest, I always consider it somewhat a failure since the standardization of the WebSocket specification should prevent me from reverting to this Comet Framework so often, but surprisingly it doesn't and I end up returning there pretty often.
Again, the forever hidden iframe Comet technique always works!

Anyway, this Lightweight and simple Comet Framework for Java is pretty handy and I am presenting it here and making the sources available for download.

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Snake ! Reloaded ...

by Jerome Kehrli

Posted on Saturday Oct 22, 2016 at 02:06PM in OpenGL

I needed to have a little fun recently when slacking on my computer at night so, as is often the case in such situation, I spent some time on my snake project again.
I implemented a few evolutions as explained below and am now working on making the auto-pilot algorithm a little better.
It's funny how this snake application is something on which I get over and over again years after years, trying to make it better, reworking it, etc.

The first post on this blog about this app was there :
Yeah, well, that doesn't make me younger, does it ?

The snake project

Snake is a little C++ / OpenGL / Real-Time project which shows a snake eating apples on a two dimensional board. It really is very much like the famous Nokia phone game except the snake finds its way on its own.

No nice textures, no sweet drawings yet, the world elements are mostly simple spheres. Trivial OpenGL features such as fog, lightning and shadows are implemented though.

The auto-pilot is still pretty stupid at the moment and the snake ends up eating itself quite fast.
This is the thing on which I am working now.

Snake Application Screenshot

It still is a game as the "user" can at any moment deactivate the auto-pilot and take the control of the snake himself. At any moment, the auto-pilot can be re-engaged again or deactivated.

The project is open-source'd under GNU LGPL license and if you're interested in OpenGL, Vector Geometry, Real-time C++ Programming, or simply Algorithms you might very well enjoy having a look at the source code provided here.

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Agile Software Development, lessons learned

by Jerome Kehrli

Posted on Wednesday Oct 19, 2016 at 02:51PM in General

After almost two years as Head of R&D in my current company, I believe I succeeded in bringing Agility to Software Development here by mixing what I think makes most sense out of eXtreme Programing, Scrum, Kanban, DevOps practices, Lean Startup practices, etc.
I am strong advocate of Agility at every level and all the related practices as a whole, with a clear understanding of what can be their benefits. Leveraging on the initial practices already in place to transform the development team here into a state of the art Agile team has been - and still is - one of my most important initial objectives.
I gave myself two years initially to bring this transformation to the Software Development here. After 18 months, I believe we're almost at the end of the road and its a good time to take a step back and analyze the situation, trying to clarify what we do, how we do it, and more importantly why we do it.

As a matter of fact, we are working in a full Agile way in the Software Development Team here and we are having not only quite a great success with it but also a lot of pleasure.
I want to share here our development methodology, the philosophy and concepts behind it, the practices we have put in place as well as the tools we are using in a detailed and precise way.
I hope and believe our lessons learned can benefit others.
As a sidenote, and to be perfectly honest, while we may not be 100% already there in regards to some of the things I am presenting in this article, at least we have identified the gap and we're moving forward. At the end of the day, this is what matters the most to me.

This article presents all the concepts and practices regarding Agile Software Development that we have put (or are putting) in place in my current company and gives our secrete recipe which makes us successful, with both a great productivity / short lead time on one side and great pleasure and efficiency in our every day activities on the other side.

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Ethical hacking : a glimpse on local program vulnerabilities exploitation techniques

by Jerome Kehrli

Posted on Saturday Oct 08, 2016 at 12:19AM in Computer Science

Ethical hacking is a very interesting field, and a pretty funny hobby. Well, y'a all penetration tester out there, don't get me wrong: I am well aware that Penetration testing and Ethical Hacking is a full and challenging Software Engineering Field and an actual profession, don't get upset.

I am rather saying that studying vulnerabilities exploitation techniques in one's free time is pretty fun and intellectually rewarding. With the all time and everywhere connection of everything for all kind of usages (understand Internet of Things), current focus in the field of vulnerabilities exploitation is really on Web application, networks, distributed systems, etc.
In addition, most recent progresses in CPU-level protections and compiler-level protections have made local programs exploitation techniques somewhat outdated and such techniques are not very much presented or discussed anymore.

During my master studies, I followed an extended set of lectures on Ethical Hacking and Software Security in general and got quite interested in the field. I wrote a paper for a study in the context of the university at that time which I am reporting today in this blog.
The following article presents various classical vulnerabilities exploitation techniques on local programs.

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Blockchain explained

by Jerome Kehrli

Posted on Friday Oct 07, 2016 at 12:01AM in Computer Science

I interested myself deeply in the blockchain topic recently and this is the first article of a coming whole serie around the blockchain.

This article presents an introduction on the blockchain, presents what it is in the light of its initial deployment in the Bitcoin project as well as all technical details and architecture concerns behind it.
We won't focus here on business applications aside from what is required to present the blockchain purpose, more concrete business applications and evolutions will be the topic of another post in the coming days / weeks.

This article presents and explains all the key techniques and mechanisms behind the blockchain technology.

The blockchain principles and fundamentals are really coming initially from the design work on the Bitcoin. Most of this article focuses on the design and the principle of the blockchain put in place in the Bitcoin system.
Some more recent (Blockchain 2.0) implementations differ slightly while still sharing most genes with the original blockchain, making all that is presented below valid from a conceptual perspective in these other implementations as well.

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The Blockchain ...

by Jerome Kehrli

Posted on Wednesday Oct 05, 2016 at 05:17PM in Computer Science

The blockchain and blockchain related topics are becoming increasingly discussed and studied. There is not one single day where I don't hear about it, that being on linkedin or elsewhere.

I kept myself busy on other topics these last years, mostly large scale information systems and analytic systems architecture in the finance business so I really missed the Bitcoin and blockchain hype.
I've been to an OCTO Technology event recently on the Blockchain. To be honest I went there more for the pleasure of seeing my former colleagues than for any specific interest on the topic. Yet I listen carefully to OCTO's presentation ... and I didn't imagine I would be so much intrigued and soon passionated by the subject.

I strongly believe the blockchain technology has the potential to be one of the most disruptive progress in computer sciences of these 10 last years. I studied and keep studying all the technical details, evolutions and business implications of this technology and will post various blog articles in the coming days / weeks about this topic:

Big Data and private banking, what for ?

by Jerome Kehrli

Posted on Wednesday Oct 05, 2016 at 10:50AM in Computer Science

Big Data technologies are increasingly used in retail banking institutions for customer profiling or other marketing activities. In private banking institutions, however, applications are less obvious and there are only very few initiatives.
Yet, as a matter of fact, there are opportunities in such institutions and they can be quite surprising.

Big Data technologies, initiated by the Web Giants such as Google or Amazon, enable to analyze very massive amount of data (ranging from Terabytes to Petabytes). Apache Hadoop is the de-facto standard nowadays when it comes to considering Open Source Big Data technologies but it is increasingly challenged by alternatives such as Apache Spark or others providing less constraining programming paradigms than Map-Reduce.

These Big Data Processing Platform benefits from the NoSQL genes : the CAP Theorem when it comes to storing data, the usage of commodity hardware, the capacity to scale-out (almost) linearly (instead of scaling up your Oracle DB) and a much lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) than standard architectures.

Most essential applications for such technologies in retail banking institutions consist in gathering knowledge and insights on the customer base, customer's profiles and their tendencies by using cutting-edge Machine Learning techniques on such data.

In contrary to retail banking institutions that are exploiting such technologies for many years, private banking institution, with their very low amount of transactions and their limited customer base are considering these technologies with a lot of skepticism and condescension.

However, in contrary to preconceived ideas, use case exist and present surprising opportunities, mostly around three topics :

  • Enhance proximity with customers
  • Improve investment advisory services
  • Reduce computation costs

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