Winter Retreat at TNG
Learning by doing - that's the motto of our annual winter retreat. In small groups, we code, tinker, ponder and discuss - the topics are as diverse as our colleagues.
At this year's retreat last Friday, March 19, exciting topics such as "Smart Home with Home Assistant", "Self-built video chat - how hard can it be?" or "Quantum Computing with Qiskit" were on the agenda. Sounds exciting? In the next weeks you will find project reports on our Linkedin page.
Even though we were not able to celebrate and feast together in a hotel in the mountains this year, our colleagues were of course still taken care of. Each of them received a surprise snack box, delivered to their door, which they could open and enjoy throughout the day at their leisure.
We also didn't forget to have fun! In the evening there was a wide selection of activities including painting, model building, a cooking class, and much more.
From the ocean to the model - the Glomar Explorer in Lego
At the Big Techday 2019, the journalist Josh Dean spoke about the secret "Azorian" mission from 1974. The CIA wanted to salvage the sunken Russian submarine "K-129" with the "Glomar Explorer", a ship specially designed for this purpose. All was planned and executed in secret, without the knowledge of the Soviet Union. Even though the mission was only partially successful, as the submarine broke during the recovery, the Explorer was a technical marvel. However, a functioning model has never been built, as far as we know.
Challenge accepted: TNG contacted Pawel Kmieć a.k.a. "Sariel", a highly creative Lego model builder, who'd already presented his inventions and design work at the BTD 2017. We brought the idea, budget and enthusiasm, and Sariel took on the task. His work in progress was shown at the BTD 2020 and since then, completed - Thanks, Pawel!
The model, which is three meters long and not only looks extreme, also swims in real life and is able to grab a model submarine with its gripping device. So while we hope for the Corona virus to be pushed back by vaccines, our big model is also patiently waiting in our office for the summer we are all longing for - and a swimming pool...
Atlassian apps ready for Data Center
Using Confluence Data Center or Jira Data Center? Great! The most popular apps developed by TNG are now available for you.
Atlassian discontinued all server products last year. Because of this, the data center products will become even more important in the future. We are following this trend and have revised some of our apps for use on data center products. Maybe you can find something of interest for you?
- Multivote & Enterprise Survey: Conduct surveys inside Confluence
- Page Gardener: Keep your Confluence pages up-to-date
- Table Enhancer: Enhance your Confluence table by adding row numbers, sorting and showing a complete line
Big Techday 2021 – now in autumn
Since 2007 TNG has organised the Big Techday: an annual science and technology conference with a focus on IT. There will definitely be a Big Techday in 2021 as well. But it will be postponed from May to September 2021, so that there is a better chance of it - at least partly - taking place in person. In any case, TNG is determined to make it a fantastic event with many diverse and fascinating talks.
Modern identity and access management: Configuration as code for Keycloak with Terraform @TNG
Consider a company that grows steadily in employee numbers and the amount of web services it uses. Additionally, consider the time spent (wasted) logging in to many of those web services separately each and every day – for each employee. The advantages of a company-wide identity and access management (IAM) including a single sign-on solution (SSO) become quite apparent. Keycloak uses open standards to authenticate users of a company's internal applications, and also supports external services, such as Slack or Zoom. Unfortunately, it lags behind on what has become the standard for maintaining IT systems: Configuration as Code (CaC). That's where the Terraform Keycloak Provider comes into play. Here at TNG, we have adopted and contributed to this quite mature open source project.
tl;dr: We contribute to and use a Keycloak provider for Terraform to manage our authentication server. Quick and reliable iterations on this very critical infrastructure component are now possible using our usual software development methods and high standards.
We compared several candidates with respect to the required additional development effort and our stability goals. The Kubernetes Keycloak Operator is a relatively young project and thus not battle-proven enough for our purposes. Another way to abstract the Keycloak API is the Keycloak Ansible provider. However, here we had non-optimal experiences from previous projects, including a challenging state of the tool's documentation. The third candidate we looked at and finally chose to use, was the Terraform Keycloak Provider. Importantly, it supports LDAP user federations as well as an adequate number of Keycloak's role mappers and it enables automated provisioning alongside manual configuration.
At some stages we had to patch the provider. The maintainer, Michael Parker, reacted quickly and we collaborated on our pull requests. By now we gathered quite some experience extending and maintaining Keycloak via Terraform. To us, it seems as straightforward as manual configuration in the UI. Terraform modules hold our client configuration and allow us to tune and test different parameters quickly. Any misconfiguration can be quickly fixed by rolling forward or rolling back to a working version. Furthermore, we mitigate missing features in the provider by completing the configuration manually. This hybrid approach also allows lightweight experiments by falling back to the UI.
After transforming our Keycloak configuration into code, the migration of our Keycloak instances to Kubernetes was a non-event. As it should be.
What do think? Feel free to reach out in case you have questions or need some support!
TNG sponsors Advent of Code
Puzzle Advent calendars are all the rage - and so is the Advent of Code, an Advent calendar with small algorithmic puzzles. A number of colleagues use the daily challenges as finger exercises or to learn a new programming language. We even have an internal leaderboard that shows who was the first to find the correct solutions. So it is only natural that TNG help support the Advent of Code as a sponsor. Eric Wastl, the brains behind the Advent calendar, was a speaker at our Big Techday 2019. Have you cracked all the puzzles yet?
Every year at TNG...
...we celebrate the Christmas season together with good food. In addition to a big Christmas party, there is traditionally a japanese themed Techday with delicious sushi and the board game "Go". Like so many things this year, we have also moved these traditions to the virtual world. On December 4th we celebrated the first virtual Christmas Techday and spared no effort: Sushi or Bavarian snacks were delivered to all TNG colleagues for a virtual lunch together. Afterwards there was a holiday speech by our partners. The traditional "Go lecture" with the opportunity to try your hand at the game was also a must this year. To round off the event, there were many leisure activities in the evening. Our event location was once again our Virtual Office - this time in a festive design. The different activities ranged from a virtual Art Night, to baking cookies and various tastings.
TNG in times of COVID-19
Even in these difficult times the TNG employees gave everything and made the most of the current situation by using virtual formats for lectures and events. Two of our colleagues presented "Deepfakes 2.0 – How neural networks change the world" at various conferences, such as the Java Forum Stuttgart, as well as on the TV program WDR reporter. In summer the JungChemikerForum was pleased to host TNG for the lecture "Artificial Intelligence in Chemistry". At the beginning of autumn we topped it off and were not only part of the EnterJS but also of the Developer Week, one of the largest independent developer conferences in Europe, with the lecture "Automated Testing of an Angular Application".
TNG is Intel® oneAPI Technology Partner
TNG is now officially the first German Intel® oneAPI Technology Partner. We support Intel® in the area of Artificial Intelligence and help companies to implement and roll out projects utilizing oneAPI on various hardware. The advantage of oneAPI: Write your software once and deploy it not only on CPUs but also on GPUs, FPGAs, TPUs and other acceleration hardware.
TNG can also support your oneAPI project. We have many years of AI experience and have successfully implemented projects with this new technology. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us!
Surveys and polls directly in Confluence
It's finally here! Our completely renewed and extended survey and voting app for Confluence, "Multivote & Enterprise Survey", is now available. Still included is our Multivote Macro (whose previous version was the most popular polling app for Confluence), alongside a new Survey macro for complex and dynamic surveys, where later questions can be configured to display or not depending on earlier answers. We at TNG use these types of surveys for tasks such as organising company retreats, where, for example, we display selections of Saturday's retreat activities only to those that indicated participation on Saturday. Other use cases include employee surveys and feedback-gathering on company-wide issues. Please visit us at Atlassian Marketplace, where for a limited time we offer 50% discount on the new version of the app.