The Cloud is Dead, Long Live the Cloud!

Talking about “The Cloud” is boring.  That’s because the term has been hijacked by ‘has-beens’ and used to death.

CloudKing

BUT – the technology itself is compelling and the offerings from   providers get better every day.  The challenge that I have using AWS (Amazon Web Services) is that the latest releases surpass the documentation, so it can be a burden to find the latest information that maps to the product.  It’s even more difficult to search for a problem-resolution because many of the answers and work-arounds are based on older releases.

All that being said, however, I really like the cadence and pace of evolution that cloud providers are well, providing.  The ability to stand up applications platforms is amazing.  I can terminate and create a new WordPress Server and content in minutes, not hours.  I can add Widgets and Plugins as I like and will continuously improve as I see fit.  But the best part of controlling my own site is that I can run it very inexpensively, track costs and performance, and adjust extremely quickly as the breadth and depth of usage increases.

I’m going to be writing about my journey with improving the MotownHitsvilleUSA Museum digital presence, starting February 1st.  It’s a labor of love that will take their website into digital curation and be a global illustration of what a “King of Apps” can be!

P-Cz

Enter, Stage Right

It’s been too long.  You may have heard.  I’m gone, I’ve retired.

StageRight

When I left Compuware I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to do.  I am a big fan of Amazon Web Services and, as a programmer, know the power that one person could have armed with cloud architecture and programming skill.

I spent my first month setting up my office and cloud environment, then catching up on programming languages that were new to me.

HINT: coding is coding, it’s all ones and zeros to me.

Cloud stack built, coding set, now the hard part – finding all the API’s I need and getting all the moving parts to work properly.

Now, finding the projects.  First ones are easy – move my web-site to AWS and finally dig in to projects I want to work on, like creating a Curator Management System for Motown Museum.  That’s gonna take some time.

In the meantime I’ve also found a lot of people as passionate about building cloud apps as I am and finding customers willing to partner up on projects.

Let the fun begin!

P-Cz

Exit, Stage Left

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  • One of the things I always ask startup ventures is “What is your exit strategy”.  Many entrepreneurs have no idea what their exit would look like, many say the obvious “sell to Google, Facebook or any other company with deep pockets”.That’s not what I’m looking for.When I talk to folks about their exit strategy, I’m looking to see if they have guiding principles that will get them there safely.  A company that is not ‘clean’ will not exit cleanly.  There’s too much to hide.  No matter how you ‘muddy the waters’, new investor will find out.


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    “Pay Your Taxes, Sleep Well”This was the best advice I got from a tax-consultant, years ago. He was doing the taxes for my company and we discussed different ways to reduce tax burden.  He said that he knew people who ‘cheat the system’ and then spend an enormous amount of time covering their tracks or looking over their shoulders instead of growing their business fairly.Think about it.  If you want to sell your company, IPO, merge, whatever the exit, you better have clean books and a clean conscience.  If you’re not paying taxes, or manufacturing sales, or cooking the books to make them look better, you’re in trouble and will be in a situation where you just cannot exit.


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    Years ago I talked to a CFO friend and asked him how much pressure there was to do things that weren’t financially ethical.  He told me that the stress was there but anytime he was asked to do something he thought was wrong, he imagined himself doing the ‘perp walk’.  “Orange just isn’t my color” was one way he explained it.Do not be tempted.  You can’t hide lies.  People will know, whistle-blowers will whistle, employees will talk, the IRS and the FBI know how to get to the truth, and investors will find out.

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    So, as you start your business, any business, keep the exit in mind as a goal and a guiding principle to maintaining you ethics and morals.  However you exit, you’ll enjoy the journey with a good night’s sleep.P-Cz

The Enchanted CIO

 

Once upon a time there lived a prince who received no respect from the king or his subjects.  Everyday he awoke and worked very hard at his princely duties, which was to ensure that the subjects of the kingdom were satisfied with the king and were able to do their jobs.   Of course, they were subjects, so they were all very unhappy and expressed their dissatisfaction from the prince who, after all, had no real power to make change and therefore relegated to the role of appeasing the subjects.   But he did his best, every day. “You have to be enchanting”, he said.  And that’s not necessarily a skill included in most prince’s job-description these days.

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Enchanting?  CIOs?  I just threw up in my mouth a little bit… This bit of storytelling was inspired after reading this article by Nicole Laskowski who was summarizing points made at Gartner Symposium. The majority of content came from Gartner analyst Dave Cappuccio but also includes a quote from Damon Mayes, a director of educational and information technologies at NorQuest College in Alberta, Canada where he said; ”You have to be enchanting” when speaking to the business in attempting to show value from IT.OK, let me comment on the bulk of the article, David’s Top 10 IT Strategies for 2014.  *Note – I was not at the event, so I am entirely depending on Nicole’s article for comment.


1. SDN and 2.SDS- Software-Defined Networks and Software-Defined Storage.  Great concepts – using a software abstraction layer to manage my networks and storage across many vendors.  It would solve hardware vendor lock-in but, then again, am I now locked into the software provider?  And it’s all really part of SDDC, the Software-Defined Data Center.  In any event, all those things will go into my 2014 plan, because it reads well.  As for budgeting and project-planning?  I think that it will probably push out a year, but worth keeping an eye on what’s happening in the industry and doing some hands-on research.3. Hybrid Cloud Services – My approach to hybrid clouds is to build in a public cloud first, test scalability and security, and pull back functions and services that I need back into my private cloud.  Hybrid magic cloud, voila!

4. Integrated Systems – Nothing new to see here, folks.  Move along!

5. Applications acceleration – I’m all for this concept, I take it to the extent of Lean Development, just make sure you’re not building a MVPOS!  (you know what I mean).

6. Internet of Things – Yea, yea, I agree but only us smrt people know how to build the back-end to support this.  If you haven’t already figured out how to do this, I suggest you spend the rest of 2013 learning about it so that you can budget and build this into your 2014 plan.

7. Open Compute Project – A couple months ago I set out to build a Hadoop Cluster on Raspberry Pi, but then discovered that somebody already did it!   I thought that it was cool enough to do anyways, but the jerk installed it in an Ikea drawer.  This type of enchanted brilliance just couldn’t be matched, so I shelved it.

8. Intelligent Data Centers – Sounds like a lot of coding effort to me, who’s got the time?  We’re all still trying to transform our legacy apps.

9. IT demand – Take away the BYODs and bring back green-screens.  That’ll shut them up and reduce capacity. 10. Disruptive Workforce – Now you’re talking.  Don’t hire anyone younger than 60 and move your development efforts to senior care centers.  Being one myself, I see nothing better than laying down some wicked code before I hit the shuffleboard court.

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Back to the eCIO…Webster defines Enchanted as “being or appearing to be under a magic spell”.  Based on that definition, I contend that every CIO I’ve ever met is enchanted.  We walk around all day appearing  to be under the influence of a magic spell, so I’ll accept that excuse.

No, not these shoes. (Attribution: Glamhag)

OK, I gotta wrap this up.  What do I think is the most important technology that CIOs should be incorporating into their 2014 IT strategy?  Shoes.  Walking around, talking to your internal customers, your stakeholders and your executives is more important than anything else you can bring in.  Shoes are great technologies and have the best ROI.  Learn how to use them.  They are also multi-purpose, since you can use them to kick someone in the can if they’re not doing the right thing.

And if you can find some Enchanted Shoes, so much the better!

P-Cz

Nicole, Dave or Damon – If you’re ever in Detroit, I owe you lunch.

The Programmer’s ‘Code’

 

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Reading about programmers in government,
in businesses and start-ups and, being a
programmer myself, I’ve been thinking lately
about the power that programmers have, yet
there are no ethics written down. Medical
professionals have the Hippocratic Oath to
guide them to practice medicine honestly.
Other professions have oaths as well,
perhaps they’re just good intentions. I’m
really not sure how serious people take oaths and vows anymore, but that’s a blog for another day.
I think that when programmers consider their career, they should adopt their own code-of conduct.So, here’s mine:

  1. Stick to moral Principles. I don’t care what they are, but be true to yourself. Think about what guides your life, be it spiritual or not. Don’t trade money or security for your principals, it’s not worth it. I once designed some code that turned out to be ‘not quite ethical’ (the system has not been in production in decades). I was working on well-defined specs and didn’t realize the implication. I ended up ‘technically redeeming myself’ by creating a reversed-engineered version of the code that looked for ‘non-ethical’ transactions for a company that had to handle the processing of the original system.
  2. Purpose. By programming with a purpose, I mean choose projects that are meaningful to you. Do you really want to be programming on a non-value app, or do you want to work on great projects? It’s up to you. I prefer to work on projects that truly do something valuable. 
  3. Problem-solving . This goes along with #2, except it’s specific to working on code that tackles a problem and simplifies a complex process. This also goes with job satisfaction, since doing thought-experiments , working on puzzles, and coding all day is fun!
  4. Intellectual Property. Do you own the code you wrote? If not, is it legally licenced and properly attributed? Be honest.
  5. Avoid Patents. OK, this is personal. I understand patents for defensive purposes, especially in a large company, but if I was a start-up, I’d avoid them like the plague; move fast and let the trolls chase me. If your company requires you to submit patents, think about the value of the time it takes to do so, and whether or not having your name on a patent really has some stature. I’m happy to say that I’ve avoided having my name listed on any patents, yet I have coded some really cool stuff. Think I’m violating your patent? I’ve invested my expertise in understand decades of ‘prior art’, so bring it! Be Proficient. Know your craft, try to constantly get better. You will never know everything, but learn something every day. Focus on quality code.
  6. Be Prolific. Get into a cadence that allows you to produce a lot. Think about good literary writers. They are very disciplined and use their routine to produce. Find quiet time, whether it’s early in the morning (like me) or late at night (like everybody else) to grind out deliverables.
  7. Patience. Let the solutions come to you. We’ve all had that experience of solving our coding problem while showering or driving. There’s enough work to put something aside and let your brain solve it at it’s own pace. This is the essence of good problem-solving.
  8. Performance. Maybe this should be #1. Always think about performance when coding. In my early days I was forced to write performant code because hardware resources were scarce and I had to deal with a lot in the ISO Stack. Things are much easier at the hardware level but there are a lot more opportunities to write bad, non-performing code these days. Educate yourself on good coding, use instrumentation and every tool available and, most importantly, give yourself the time to write code that performs! Want to discipline yourself on performant code? Write an Android app!
  9. People. Computers are our friends, people are jerks. No, be nice, as your mother taught you. Have respect for your peers, empathy for your customers, mentor younger professional, be empowered, but realize that designers, testers, project-managers all have their roles to play in technology success. I know it’s hard, but be especially nice to your Salesfolks. I love sales professionals; they’re fun and they give you a direct line into understand the value you provide to customers.
  10. Professional. I hate to break this to you, but YOU ARE NOT A ROCK-STAR!  Rock stars are rock stars and I know a few, programmers are nicer, have longer careers and (eventually) have more money and fun!
  11.    Meritocracy. This is actually my favorite. I love development environments where the best idea wins and we all rally around it. That’s real teamwork, not “let’s try every idea” or “your idea stinks and I hate you”. Learn how to objectively analye proposed ideas and how to negotiate. Because if another person’s idea doesn’t work, you’ll quickly figure it out during your next sprint and pivot to something better, maybe your idea!
Peace! P-CzAbout Paul Czarnik
Paul is the CTO of Compuware where he provides technology strategy and investment leadership. A venture-technologist and programmer at heart, his hands-on experience and technical diligence model help with M&A activities and incubator/startups. Contact him at @PaulCzrnk to chat about IT Transformation (even though he hates that word), agile delivery, lean startup methodologies or music.

Paul serves on the boards of, iRule, the Motown Museum and the Admission/Retention Committee for Wayne State University.

The Singularity is Nearer, but Not for the Reason You Think

 

10/07/2013
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If you don’t know, the Singularity is Near is a fun book, written by Ray KurzweilQuoting Wikipedia, “Kurzweil describes his law of accelerating returns which predicts an exponential increase in technologies like computersgeneticsnanotechnologyrobotics and artificial intelligence. He says this will lead to a technological singularity in the year 2045, a point where progress is so rapid it outstrips humans’ ability to comprehend it.”Kurzweil is simply relying on the continuance of Moore’s Law which, simply put, is that computing power doubles approximately every two years.   So, what could accelerate The Singularity?  Technology would have to advance at a 2x increase, which I contend would be possible with quantum or DNA computing, but there’s a simpler explanation.CALL IT “MORON’S LAW”I contend that The Singularity will occur two decades sooner, or in 2025 because, (wait for it)…Humans are Getting Stupider, uh, Less IntelligentAs reported in the Huffington Post (where I get all my sciencey knowledge), IQ is on the decline, an average of 14 IQ points since the Victorian Era.  What’s causing this?  There is a lot of debate on environmental factors, nutrition, nurture, and the education system.  But, IMHO, the dumbing down of our intelligence is due to… computers!    That’s right smarty-pants Kurzweil, despite the fact he created the worlds-best synthesizers, he forgot to calculate that as computing power increased, so did the human reliance on that computing power.  As intelligence decreases, so does the    acceleration of the date when technology exceeds human’s ability to comprehend it.

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What Does it Mean?In 2011, when Ken Jennings lost Jeopardy to IBM’s Watson, he wrote underneath his Final Jeopardy answer “I for one welcome our new computer overlords.”  Social media companies and the government already have computers tracking your every move, both online, in the public square and even in your home*.  If you want a preview of the future, watch THIS.What Can We Do?Even though The Singularity is upon us, computers are not ready to take over.  What we need to do is accelerate even more the date of The Singularity.  Since innovating and advancing computer power seems beyond our capabilities, we certainly can accelerate the decline of our collective IQ rate, very simply.  Get on the couch and watch television, download more moronic apps onto your phone, text your friends about everything you’re doing.  My hypothesis is that we’ll become so useless that The Singularity will become irrelevant and when it happens, no one will even notice.So smrt, right? PCz*Hint – beware the cat About Paul Czarnik Paul is the CTO of Compuware where he provides technology strategy and investment leadership. A venture-technologist and programmer at heart, his hands-on experience and technical diligence model help with M&A activities and incubator/startups. Contact him at @PaulCzrnk to chat about IT Transformation (even though he hates that word), agile delivery, lean startup methodologies or music.Paul serves on the boards of, iRule, the Motown Museum and the Admission/Retention Committee for Wayne State University.

Opportunity, Risk, and the Technology Gap

 

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You know them well – ready-to-go-technologies to leverage and disrupt.

Let’s just call them big-data, cloud, web-services and mobile-OS, although each term has been hijacked, scrubbed and polished to sell you something much less than the technologies really have to offer.  You have to be savvy enough to see far beyond the hype.

BUT…

…The technologies themselves don’t really matter, because there will always be something new.  Who cares?  Just pick up the next innovation as it comes.  It’s about continuous disruptive evolution.  Give me a problem to solve and I’ll solve it fast, today.  I have a full technology toolbox and I’m looking for business problems to solve, and if your business model is fat, dumb and happy, I’m going to disrupt you and take away your customers.  Go ahead, start a project; I’m leaner, I have smarter developers and I want to put you out of business.

Welcome to the New Normal.


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Opportunity and risk are the result of the technology gap and closing that gap should be your number-one priority.

–  Risk is doing nothing.
– Opportunity is exploiting everything
You think you know your competition?  Think about this: your competition is two students coding fast and furious on laptops out of their dorm room.   They’re just looking for that lucrative business model that everyone may think has already been solved, but they’ve figured out a way to do it better, faster, cheaper.  And that business model may be YOURS.

What to do? Act. Now. You can and should close as much of the gap as possible by leveraging service-based solutions that don’t provide any differentiated value.  This is commodity work; let someone else do it.  Delegate it, give it to someone who is really good at executing a project plan.  But get it out of sight so that you can use your brain and your talented staff to implement the differentiated technologies that will move your company forward and disrupt your competition before they disrupt you.

Example:  TV remote-control units have been mostly infrared units, requiring line-of-site to your video/audio system.  iRule, a Detroit-based startup (disclosure-we are an investor), saw the opportunity to create a remote-control app that leverages equipment you already own (smartphone, tablet, wifi) that not only creates a better user-experience (you can now put all your equipment out-of-sight) but also a cheaper alternative to the really expensive, proprietary systems.  They saw the technology gap in the older business models and had the brains, brawn and well, intestinal-fortitude to take on the risk for the sake of the opportunity.  They’re succeeding by not only continuously exploiting the technology gap but disrupting the competition’s business model.

I could go on and on, but so can you.  First, take a look at the technologies available.  Research them, then learn them, then, take a look at your own business.  Are you exploiting these technologies?  If not, take a REALLY close look at your competitors and ESPECIALLY start-ups.  If you see the disruptive threats, and chances are you will, get moving.   If you don’t see them, still get moving and disrupt yourself!  The Old Normal was about complacency – the New Normal is about cadence, continuous change at a continuous pace.

But, most importantly, make sure you have the technical talent on your team who deliver disruption to the marketplace.  I’ll talk more about this talent and what they’re looking for as we further explore the New Normal.

P-Cz

About Paul Czarnik
Paul is the CTO of Compuware where he provides technology strategy and investment leadership. A venture-technologist and programmer at heart, his hands-on experience and technical diligence model help with M&A activities and incubator/startups. Contact him at @PaulCzrnk to chat about IT Transformation (even though he hates that word), agile delivery, lean startup methodologies or music.

Paul serves on the boards of, iRule, the Motown Museum and the Admission/Retention Committee for Wayne State University.

“Everybody Codes!”

paul czarnik warcryThat was my battle-cry when I ran all the development labs which ran hundreds of product development projects a year with 1,500 technical folks.  Now, I did have specialists who did not code, but when I was hiring new talent, programming ability was high on my list of requirements.  When it comes to these non-coding functions, I was looking for a basic understanding on how code and data work.

Here’s why.

Programmers are problem-solvers and approach problems in a very unique way.  That is why there is only a small percentage of the population whose brains are wired this way and the solutions we build incorporate both engineering and creative disciplines.  Now that may seem counter-intuitive to the ‘build to the requirements’ approach, but most differentiated solutions that I’ve seen are based on technology exploits that most users are not even aware of, much less design for.  When you have an organization that’s steeped in code, everybody understands each other much better.  It’s easier for technical writers, QA specialists and Project Managers to do their job when they understand the thought-process that their development team is using.  As a technologist and business-leader, my coding background help me to communicate, motivate and reward programming excellence.  We even came up with a term, “Eagles” for the most proficient and prolific developers.  These folks were amazing and a convocation of Eagles could outperform departments of regular programmers.  Plus they were smart, and funny, and a joy to work with.

“I believe in Salespeople and Programmers”.

I’ve said this a million times and I’ll say this until I’m done.  This approach is perfect for the “New Normal“.  If you remember, the New Normal is the reality that technology has become so pervasive that it is becoming a company’s primary way to engage with their customers.  And in order to support this, every company must think of themselves as a technology company first, their main product or service is secondary.

BUT

If you want to consider yourself a player in the New Normal, you must truly invest in technology talent.  It’s amazing to me when I run into companies that claim to be technology companies when they do not have hard-core coders on staff.  They either outsource them or they believe in using “off the shelf” solutions.

Well, it used to be amazing, but now it’s just annoying.

As a person who has been fortunate to be surrounded by scary-talented programmers, I am going to start to take a hard-line towards these companies, because it’s just a waste of time and talent to acknowledge companies who produce no true, differentiated value with their technology.  I’m talking to 99% of the startups I run across and many good-size corporations.  They’re technical poseurs and they seem to get all the press these days.  It’s gotten to the point where I’d rather code than blog or attend industry events.  (Maybe I’ll start blogging in code)

I’m going to continue writing about this, because the New-Normal is real and I want to help companies understand the value of programmers, how to hire them, how to retain them, and how to leverage their skills to help your company compete and win!

OK, to sum it up, my favorite phrases:

  1. “Everybody Codes”
  2. “I believe in Salespeople and Programmers”, and…
  3. …oh yes, “Shut Up and Code”

P-Cz

About Paul Czarnik
Paul the former CTO of Compuware, a venture-technologist and programmer. His hands-on experience and technical diligence model help with M&A activities and incubator/startups. Contact him at @PaulCzrnk to chat about IT Transformation (even though he hates that word), agile delivery, lean startup methodologies or music.

Paul serves on the boards of, iRule, the Motown Museum and the Admission/Retention Committee for Wayne State University.

Transforming IT (and me) into the ‘New Normal’

pervasive-technologyTalking about the ‘New Normal’ is fun, until your CEO asks “what’s your plan?”

We, like most companies, are going through change which requires dramatic transformation in the way we do things.  Extreme application agility and operational leanness are mandated to service the way the business needs to run.

Welcome me to the New Normal.

As I’ve written about in the past, the New Normal is the reality that technology has become so pervasive that it is becoming a company’s primary way to engage with their customers.  And in order to support this, every company must think of themselves as a technology company first, their main product or service is secondary.

Working for a technology company with the main product being technology products and services means that EVERYBODY thinks they can do IT’s job better, faster and cheaper.  In many ways this is because EVERYBODY hasn’t considered the things that IT does very well, like securing business information, maintaining audit standards, ensuring export compliance, IP protection, disaster-recovery, business-continuity, keeping the networks operating, the data-center certified, should I continue?  IT all looks easy until you’re sitting across the table from an auditor explaining process-control and systems-of-record. #shoemakerschildren

Doing important work, however, doesn’t absolve us from transforming IT, because the business needs technology services that brings us closer to our customers.  Transformation requires a good hard look at some of the heavyweight systems and processes we’ve accumulated and quickly abandoning them while maintaining high service-levels and best practices.

ITIL, CMDB, CMMi?  We have to lean this out.  We need problem-solving and critical-thinking and most of all, quick delivery.  This requires staff that are adept to change and finding technical solutions to difficult problems.  That means taking the concepts and best-practices of, well, best-practices and incorporating them into the IT processes and services without the costs and burdens of implementation and certification.  Sacrilege, I know, but internal customers are asking for agility and value more than certificates.  Perhaps a lean MOU (memorandum of understanding) with customers and a simple RACI(responsibility assignment) matrix will serve as a guideline.

So, where to start?  We start by taking a good long look at budgets and staffing.  Hardware and software maintenance?  Are we getting value for that maintenance contract?  This is going to sound a little strange coming from a technology executive, but we should be getting discernible value for our IT spend.  Looking at budget also requires a good long look at contracts.  Many of these can be rewritten to our benefit if we work closely with vendors who are considered REAL partners.  Partners negotiate because good contracts bring more business.

What we don’t want to do is indiscriminately reduce headcount.  The New Normal requires new skills and people that have deep technology expertise are easily re-purposed.  Sometimes leaders have to encourage and mentor change, but it is quite easy if we are direct and transparent with staff.

OK, that’s all nut-and-bolts savings and we’re in the middle of executing projects based on these opportunities.

But the New Normal requires that we invest in areas that provide differentiated value to the top-line as well as the bottom-line.

So, how do I do that?  As a technologist I need to focus on ‘gap technologies’ that will elevate our business value to our customers.  If I write about it here, I’m giving away the differentiated value that we’ll provide to our customers.

How about you?  How can I help?  Let’s talk.  Give me a call, send me an e-mail, meet me at the Detroit Hard Rock, let me buy you lunch in our cafeteria.  Because differentiated value starts with a real conversation and, as much as I love to talk, I love to listen even more.  Hopefully we both gain from each others experience.

P-Cz

Filed Under: Tech Talk
About Paul Czarnik
Paul the former CTO of Compuware, a venture-technologist and programmer. His hands-on experience and technical diligence model help with M&A activities and incubator/startups. Contact him at @PaulCzrnk to chat about IT Transformation (even though he hates that word), agile delivery, lean startup methodologies or music.

Paul serves on the boards of, iRule, the Motown Museum and the Admission/Retention Committee for Wayne State University.