28 June 2008

i shoulda done this in the first place

So when I got the laptop this spring, I grabbed a new wifi access point to upgrade from 802.11b to 802.11n (draft). After looking at the prices on Apple's base stations I opted for a non-apple solution, and got one of the best reviewed base stations I could find. I intentionally avoided the fancy options, as I just use it in basic bridge mode and let my main linux box to the routing between the wired and wireless networks. It worked "ok" as long as my laptop was in the office. But as soon as I got out of the immediate room the AP was in, signal was inconsistent and connections were poor at best. Sitting in the living room, about 12 linear foot from the base station, through the ceiling and floor, I was lucky to get a connection, and usually had about 80% packet loss. Forget about connecting form the couch by the tv.... that woulda been 3 walls and 40'.

As I'm looking at ripping up the office next week I was really wanting to have the wireless *working*, I decided to take the plunge and grab an apple airport extreme and give it a try.

I'm posting this from the couch, just did a ping for 20 minutes... not a single lost packet. Going to have to do a test tomorrow to see just how far I can roam on this network. :)

18 June 2008

fixer upper?

I don't recall buying a fixer-upper. But I seem to own one. The microwave/rangehood died the other day, now the disposal is leaking like a sieve. What's next?

08 June 2008

onward and upward

(This is part 2 of a 2 part pair, the previous part was published last week, and details the "why" of my recent job change. This post focuses on there "whereto".)

Some have said my current hairdo is a dead giveaway as to my future path. They're right.

Those that read part one will know that one of the reasons I'm leaving is the lack of passion for what we're doing in the organization I work in. That's hardly something you can say about where I'm going. Passionate, driven, committed. Those all barely begin to describe the crew that runs SmugMug. So it's no wonder I've been a very happy customer since August 2005.

Another item I bemoaned about my current situation is not being able to do any real engineering.... that will be changing. :)

But one of my favorite things about smugmug... the deep connection to the customer that everyone has. Everyone in the company spends time on the support desk. At least 2 hours a week. Can you imagine Sam P. or Lou G. spending 2 hours talking to our customers? Yeah, me neither.

07 June 2008

Celebrating a Milestone

I tend to mark milestones in life differently than most folks.

When I graduated University and got a JOB at IBM I did my hair in purple for a week or so.

When we got engaged and bought the house, I permanently died my hair blue. To this day (6 years later) there are neighbors that still speak of me as "the blue haired kid".

Now, I'm leaving IBM and moving along... time to do it again.

UPDATE: hahaha... I love Rochester. Got called a "freak" in the hallway the other day. It was hard to keep a straight face when I told them I'd rather be a freak than be intellectually infinitesimal. Not sure they got it; but didn't feel like stopping to explain.

Second UPDATE: Spent much of the day in the Twin Cities... specifically in the SouthDale mall at the Apple store. Got several positive comments on the hair... no negatives... though one elderly woman looked at it a few times before shaking her (blue haired) head and walking away.

03 June 2008

So long, farewell...

(This is part 1 of a 2 part post. Part two is up now.)

Are you sitting down?


I'm leaving the embedded Linux team I've been with for 5 years now.

...and the Linux Technology Center too.

...oh yeah, and I'm quitting IBM as well.

So far, almost everyone has expressed shock somwhere along that sequence of revelations. Some at the first, some not until the last. Almost universally folks have asked "why?" In this post I hope to explain that question.

First and foremost... I need a change. I'm an engineer, or at least I'm supposed to be, but it's been quite a long time since I've done any actual engineering. I spend my days lately sheepherding younger engineers along doing the real work... and sitting in meetings, negotiating and planning and coordinating. While there is some enjoyment to be had there, it's not much. I've also gotten the message, loud and clear, that as long as the top of our organization remains the way it is, my career isn't going anywhere... I'm stuck where I'm at. So I'm sitting in a job that's becoming progressively less fun, and is becoming more obviously a road to no-where.

A very close second, is that I no longer see the passion I used to see and want to work with, in the group I'm with, or in the company. Once upon a time, I would have been comfortable to say that most of the engineers I work with have a Unix box as their primary system... some might have a windows machine as well, but it certainly wouldn't be their main system. I can no longer say that. In fact I have actually heard *complaints* about having to work on Linux systems in the lab, and how poorly supported their windows workstation is. For too many folks, the LTC has become just a job... the passion has left.

So that explains the first two. Why leave IBM? Afterall, one of the things I've said repeatedly is that my favorite thing about IBM is the wide breath of what we do... there's always something new in some other part of the company. One of my friends in the company has a long story about why his IBM Badge is one of his most prized possessions, sadly I can't seem to find it online. Well, I probably could find something elsewhere in the company, at least two other groups have expressed a desire for my skills... but frankly, there are some things going on in the company that just make me want to retch. Several I can't talk about, but here are some I can:

When I was hired, the sentiment was that IBM only hired the best. I can't count the number of times I've heard that. Not any more. Recently I was asked to review a resume and talk to someone that was being looked at in an area that didn't have a lot of Linux skills in house, but was in need of expanding them. Their candidate was great, would have been a tremendous addition to IBM in any capacity, but most certainly would have filled the needs of the organization. I gave their management a very positive review. A week later they asked me to look over the resume of someone else... for the same position. This second candidate... well... not very impressive on paper, and worse across the lunch room table. They hired the second one. When I asked why later, I kid you not, the answer was "We didn't think we could afford the first kid, so we didn't even make him an offer." Now I don't know what the first candidate asked for... we purely had a technical conversation... but I do know the second kid was asking for almost as much as I make, 2 bands, and at the time, 9 plus years, above an entry level college kid. Now I'm not saying that hiring at IBM is purely broken... they do occasionally get some very good people, but it seems to be an accident now, instead of intentional. At least in the US.

Which brings me to another thing, which is related. The group I've been in, Systems and Technology, is about to get new leadership at the top. The guy coming in has a number of nick names in the company... "the hatchet" is one of the few repeatable in mixed company. His modus operandi is to replace expensive US staff with cheap off shore staff, because after all, engineers are plug replaceable. Interestingly, while he's shipped line work to the four corners of the earth in search of cheap labor in all categories, he's omitted one: executives. Apparently his "they're just as good as we are" mentality stops at his own staff. Heaven forbid it should be suggested that *he* be replaced with a cheap Indian executive. Heck, with the exchange rates we could get two... one in India and one in Brazil for the amount he likely costs us. And while eventually we'd likely be able to bring them up to speed in the company and get them managing it just as well as he was... about a year short of that we'd have had 100% turn over in those replacements and they would have only passed on a small fraction of what they learned to their replacement. I don't want anyone to think I'm being geo-bigoted here, so let me point out that I've had the pleasure of working with some very good engineers in China and India, many of whom I would welcome working with again. But the hiring practices we've started to use here, seem to have been started there... and those few gems in the rough seem to have been the exceptions, not the rule. In the end, I expect his tenure at the helm to be bloody, but it has a chance to be cleansing. That same chance has been missed previously however in other groups he's worked at, where some of the best people have been the ones cut, and the local but cheap lower quality replacements kept.

A few others for the IBMers reading this... I won't bother to go into details, as I expect most of you to cringe with recognition just from the names: BSOs, CEPT, ABAT, IT-SAS and a hand full of other "sounds great in theory, let's rush it into production before anyone realizes the shortcomings and has a chance to stop us." acronyms, the great sametime witch hunt, lotus notes, off shoring key infrastructure support.

So, it's time to bid auf wiedersehen to IBM... so long, and thanks for all the fish.

(see also, part two which is up now.)