Audiobook: The Martian (Andy Weir)

Posted by on Nov 9, 2014

themartianI listened to a great sci-fi audiobook last week: The Martian by Andy Weir. The plot is that a human mission to Mars goes horrible wrong a few days after arrival. The crew has to evacuate when they get in a big dust storm. During the evac the main character Mark Watney is heavily wounded, and believing he didn’t survive it, the other astronauts leave Mars.

Imagine being the only person on a planet, with broken machinery, no way to communicate and very limited food. What would be your plan?

Watney writes a log of all of his experiences and tells us all about the science and calculations he uses to fix things, create water and how to grow food. On Mars! Of course the story also switches to what is happening at NASA back on earth and to the returning spacecraft with the other astronauts.

The narration of this audiobook is excellent. Even when I arrived at home I stayed in the car for a few minutes to finish a chapter or a section of the book. Regarding the story I like the fact that there is no unnecessary/unwanted deviation from the core storyline. So no romantic bs woven into it.

In 2015 a movie will be released based on this novel. Director is Ridley Scott and Mark Watney is portrayed by Matt Damon. Looking forward to that one!

The Martian – Andy Weir – ISBN 978-0091956141 – Audiobook version

Posted in: Books, Review

The End of Work

Posted by on Jan 12, 2014

raceMachSo, where did all the jobs go? And where are future jobs coming from? I recently read the 2011 book Race Against The Machine by Brynjolfsson and McAfee and these guys have an interesting view on these questions.

To answer the where did all the jobs go question the authors take another direction than the standard “the economy is not growing fast enough” or “the economy is stagnating and productivity has stopped rising” reactions. They came up with the End of Work argument, which I don’t think I have heard somewhere before as the reason for the current – and constant – high unemployment.

This End of Work idea states that we don’t have too little technological progress, but instead too much! Fewer people are needed to produce the goods and services we require, and all of this is caused by computer automation. But, not only automation of the “dump & easy” repetitive tasks, also more advanced work is evaporating. Think of translating a conversation in real-time or driving a car. 15 years ago this was almost science fiction but today Google is pretty far with these technologies. And once these jobs are gone they just won’t come back anymore.

The big question is who will be effected most by this End of Work. This is actually the interesting part. If we divide the labour market in low, middle and highly skilled workers, surprisingly the workers in the middle category will be effected most, and not the low skilled workers. Why? In an era of more and faster automation it probably is easier to automate the work of a bookkeeper, translator, call-center agent or taxi-driver, than the work of a gardener or hairdresser. For the latter types of jobs you would need very sophisticated and expensive robots, while a translator will be easily substituted by a free Google Translate service. Imagine the impact this will have on our society.

Here in Holland the babyboomers are leaving the workforce since a few years. This would mean more room for younger people on the job market. But I still don’t see any positive effect on the unemployment rate. Two years ago I even did a SAP BI project myself to fully automate the work of two office employees that were about to retire. And they indeed weren’t replaced by new hirees anymore…

Obviously the jobs that require a lot of teamwork and creativity will stay in high demand. I was happy to see that they specifically named jobs in data visualization and analytics as highly valued, so we are probably safe for now. On the other hand, if you are in a traditional type of job where someones tells you exactly what you have to do every day, you will get in real trouble sooner or later…

Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee – ISBN: 978-0984725113

Posted in: Books, Featured, New technology, Other, Review

Book review: Mastering SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for OLAP with SAP NetWeaver BW

Posted by on Mar 29, 2013

hilgefortanalysisolap1SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for OLAP is probably the one BI4 tool I have spent the least time in yet. It can be seen as the successor to the BEx Web Analyzer and it is the web counterpart of SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for Office.

For my projects this might be a very useful tool to offer to our users since it is fully integrated in the BI Launchpad platform and doesn’t require any locally installed software (in contrast to the Office edition, which uses an MS Excel plugin).

Ingo Hilgefort wrote an eBook that is fully dedicated to Analysis OLAP in combination with SAP BW as a data source: Mastering SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for OLAP with SAP NetWeaver BW.

I picked up the Kindle edition at which was quite cheap at $14,51. I think if you are living in the USA the price will be even lower (around $10) due to ‘some’ taxes we have to pay in the European Union. Anyway, with or without taxes this obviously is no money for this kind of content.

After positioning the tool within the SAP BusinessObjects BI portfolio and discussing the data connectivity options the book quickly dives into the details. Since it is focussed on SAP BW environments as a datasource only, literally all the BW and BEx stuff is discussed: BEx Query elements, variable types, hierarchical functionality and so on. For every one of these features it is stated how Analysis OLAP supports it. Also some comparisons are made with the BEx Web Analyzer and Analysis Office.

Next the book demonstrates in a step-by-step manner the features of Analysis OLAP. Here a load of screenshots are used, so it is very clear what you have to do. I didn’t have access to an environment with Analysis OLAP when reading the book but with the clear texts and figures I could easily follow what was happening. The book ends with a chapter on deployment of Analysis OLAP which gives some interesting performance tweaking tips.

hilgefortanalysisolap3 hilgefortanalysisolap2

I got the book on my Kindle, which is a small device and has no colors. A lot of tables are used in the book and the formatting of them gets messed-up on my Kindle. The screenshots are also quite hard to view. Luckily I can also use the Kindle app on my Mac to view the details. Unfortunately the indexing from chapter 4 and up doesn’t work. So you have to scroll page by page to the right section if you want to look up something in stead of just clicking the section in the table of contents. Hopefully Ingo will fix this and also keep updating the contents of the book every time a new service pack is released. Good stuff!

Mastering SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for OLAP with SAP NetWeaver BW [Kindle Edition] by Ingo Hilgefort.

Posted in: Books, Knowledge sharing, Review, SAP BusinessObjects

Book review: 100 Things You Should Know about Reporting with SAP Crystal Reports

Posted by on Nov 9, 2012

100 Things You Should Know about Reporting with SAP Crystal Reports by Coy Yonce has been on the market for over a year, but really hasn’t gotten a lot of attention yet. Maybe the reason is that Crystal Reports isn’t that new and interesting anymore compared to the other SAP BusinessObjects tools and solutions like HANA. Also there are already a lot of books published on Crystal Reports in the past 10 years. In the past months I had to create a series of Crystal Reports in a very short timespan so I decided to pick this book up for some quick tips that could save me some time.

The approach of the ‘100 Things’ series is very different from other SAP books. It won’t teach you the very basics of report creation and it won’t discuss every menu option available. Instead it covers 100 very practical tasks you might want to achieve in Crystal Reports and it shows you the steps to get them done. I like this approach, which falls within the same philosophy we used in our SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 cookbook. This means that some level of experience in using Crystal Reports is required.

I’ve been working with the ‘newer’ SAP Crystal Reports for Enterprise 4.0 which is mainly aimed at report creation on top of SAP BW. This book is written for SAP Crystal Reports 2011 but I guess that over 90% of the material is usable in the Enterprise version without a problem.

Each tip starts with a short introduction or case to explain the purpose and goal of the tip. Next you are taken through the steps and code. I think that about 70% of the tips use some kind of code, but in most cases these are single line statements that are not that complex, so don’t worry. A tip covers 2 to 4 pages.

Some of the tips that I found interesting are:

  • Suppressing duplicate rows
  • Designing a cover page
  • Creating a formula to calculate an average/minimum while ignoring zero values
  • Showing visual indicators
  • Creating tool tips
  • Formatting dates in a chart
  • Creating effective report templates

Also there are a bunch of tips that go beyond the standard Crystal Reports functionality and show some nice third-party solutions you can use in Crystal Reports, for example to create barcodes and QR-codes in your report.  The final 5 tips talk about monitoring and improving report performance.

So if you find yourself Googling a lot to make your Crystal Reports better you should really check out the table of contents of this book. If there is one tip in it you can use immediately I think this book is already worth the money.

100 Things You Should Know about Reporting with SAP Crystal Reports by Coy Yonce, ISBN 978-1592293902.


Posted in: Books, Review, SAP BusinessObjects