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September 03, 2010

Two Decades in IT

Last June was the anniversary of my twentieth year working in information technology.  I had been doing it so much earlier just for fun, so why not get paid for it?  From humble beginnings building PC XT clones from inexpensive Taiwanese parts in a Cupertino storefront, to working desktop support, managing IT departments and network engineering, it has been an interesting ride.  I have been blessed over the years with people who took chances on me, seeing potential in a young (read as cheap) and hard working employee. 

 

(Photo Courtesy of Alexandre Jorge on Flickr)

Based on my experience here are my recommendations to young folks just entering the workplace:

You don't have to take the first job you are offered, but don't hold out for some huge salary right out of school.

IT certifications may get you in the door, but you'll have to prove you skills at one point or another, so learn how to do your job! 

On the same page as the one above, your money is better spent finishing a degree than on ANY certification.  

 

If you are reading this and helped me out along the way:

Thank You!

June 25, 2010

Electronics Class

When I was in High School, we were lucky enough to have the ability to take two years of Electronics as electives.  I think they have some sort of robotics program or something now, but back in the day it was pretty basic.  You learned the basic skills like soldering, etching circuit boards and learning how to use a multimeter and oscilloscope.  Often times we received donated equipment and components from local high-tech firms like Measurex, HP and Apple.  Beyond that, there were several life lessons that were not intended.

 

(Photo Courtesy of Ravi Gaddipati on Flickr)

I learned several key things from my classmates that still ring true today:

  • Shorting a line cord does not always blow the breaker.  Non-functioning breaker = BAD. 
  • If you fabricate an enclosure out of sheet metal and the circuit board runs on 110VAC, there is a reason to use nylon spacers between the base of the board and your case.  (Or you receive a quick lesson in impromtu arc welding)
  • It is not a good idea to discharge a 1/4 farad capacitor using human skin as a conductor.
  • Use as much safety equipment as you can, because often times the safety interlocks become broken or are disabled over the years.  (You know about this one Jerry)
  • As long as the paralysis doesn't last more than one period, everything is cool.
  • Sometimes teachers just don't want to remember how to pronounce your name, because it causes them endless amusement. 

May 06, 2010

Before it was "The Shack"

When I was growing up, one of the things that I loved to read was the Radio Shack catalog.  It was full of wonderful electronic gadgets and parts.  These items branded with Tandy, Realistic, Optimus, Archer or just Radio Shack, were never deemed the highest quality and NEVER was on the high end of user interface design, but always did what it needed to do. From 1939 to 2003, Radio Shack produced a catalog of what was available through their chain.  Not everything was stocked in their stores, but anything in the catalog was available in a few days at any of their stores if you special ordered.  A fellow by the name of Mike has meticulously scanned and indexed all of those catalogs and put them online for your viewing pleasure.  I found a ton of things in here that reminded me of my childhood.

Radio Shack Catalog 1939 - Cover 

Before Radio Shack re-branded itself as "The Shack" and changed their focus on selling cellular phones, it was a place where you could buy a wide array of electronic components from individual resistors to stereo receivers.  I used to head out to the Radio Shack with my Mom to pick up replacement vacuum tubes for our little black and white travel TV as well as take advantage of their battery of the month program.  A lot of things about my childhood were Radio Shack branded.  My first radio was a Flavor Radio in Blueberry (1979 Catalog, Page 170).  My first foray into playing with electronics was with a 50 in One Project kit (1983 Catalog, Page 133).  I could go on and on about random stuff I purchased there over the years or drooled over.  Even when everyone would refer to the place at "Rat Shack" or "Radio Crap" or whatever other childish term, you still knew that in a pinch you could buy the part or cable there.  And it would work.    Good times...

Link:

 

February 16, 2010

8 Bit memories

When I was flying the day before yesterday, I was reminiscing about the days before the ubiquitous MP3, when the the Microsoft WAV and SoundBlaster VOC files were too bloated and the AdLib ROL files were too tinny.  At this sweet spot in time there was something beautiful called a MOD file.  These hybrid files were multichannel audio files that allowed samples to be played back in sequence as music through expensive sound cards of the time. I spent the summer of summer of '88 scouring FTP sites all over the Internet for precious MOD files.  At that point in time I was able to FTP them to a SunOS host that had a HUGE 56kbps circuit, then download them at 1200bps using ZMODEM to my super pimped out V20 based 10MHz XT clone system.  I was living large.    

 

It may seem silly now to kids that have 16gb flash based iPod systems, but it was a big deal at the time to generate sound from a computer that could only beep in a few tones.  Storage was a huge thing too, you could fit dozens of these on a 1.2Mb floppy disk (yes kids, we actually did use 5.25" disks).   

The thing that surprised me, is that there are a bunch of file repositories on the web that have archived these gems.   While I don't have a machine at my house that can run ScreamTracker properly, it turns out that WinAMP and XMMS have the ability to do playback on this format.  I'm going to queue a few up and take a time machine back 20 years. 

Hey Rod!

Links:

 

October 17, 2008

Spelling Errors

When I was in my first year of college I was working part time at a defense firm that would end up shaping my career.  When you are young and new to a group, you take things at face value and assume that intelligence is at play.  At least I did.  Anyways...

One of the contracts the firm was working on had to do with a software package called costumer.  I took it at face value, but wondered if it was some secretive government codeword, or some elaborate project name to mask the identity of the end user.  About six months into my employment I asked about the program name and learned the humorous truth.  A young programmer was told to generate an executable file for their customer.  Being literal, yet spelling impaired, the programmer generated costumer.exe.  Once it was delivered, it was set in stone.  It wasn't a spelling error, but a well thought out program name. 

 

(Photo courtesy of locket479 on Flickr)

I wouldn't be suprised one bit if the legacy of this lives on.  I recently ran into a current version of software that was generated at that firm (which is defunct now), that is still in use today after almost two decades.  I wonder if they see the sad jokes are still built into the source code [i.e. using the variable willy, so that you can free(willy)].

July 08, 2008

If you don't understand, you are the other 10%

A former colleague of mine had a twist on the Pareto Principle (otherwise known as the 80/20 rule) which he called the "ten percenters".  In the IT world, I have found this (henceforth to be referenced as the TASH Principle) to be somewhat true, that 90% of your time is spent placating the most vocal 10% of the end user population.  The inverse to this is that work done the other 10% of the time to service the other 90% of the population will account for 100% of your progress towards any organizational recognition if effort.  This 10% of the end user population is the same group that causes people in help desk or desktop support IT jobs to go slowly insane.

 

The TASH Principle 

May 02, 2008

Web 2.0 troubles; Tangible memories of 1.0

The dot-com 1.0 meltdown was awful, and I hope that when the 2.0 bubble bursts, people are able to find new employment and stability in the valley.  Thinking about all this impending doom and gloom about a 2.0 burst, I've transported my mind back to an easier and simpler time, the year 2000.  It was already a few months in and guess what, no nuclear holocaust, no flickering electrical grid, no contaminated water, and just a few hundred thousand personal web pages that were computing that it was 1900.  Not so bad, eh?

The 1.0 company that holds a place in my heart forever is WebVan.  Officially it could be acceptable as a time management  tool for the busy professional, but truly it was an enabling tool for the chronically lazy.  I'll paint a scenario for you. I'd schedule a late evening delivery with my groceries for the week.  I'd get home from work at about 6:30, get a knock on the door from the cheery WebVan driver at about 6:45, and at 7:00 my groceries were put away.  I was in a magnificent cucoon in my Sunnyvale apartment.  Far from the hurried crowds at the Albertsons, far from the cries of babies and the chatter of soccer moms.  The produce was top notch and well picked.  Did I mention that they delivered beer as well?




I know that Safeway does this type of delivery service in my neighborhood now, but I'm in a different place in my life.  I want to go out and experience my surroundings.  I want to hear the chatter or my neighbors and their kids as they melt down in aisle 7 over a box of pop tarts they aren't allowed to have.  Life outside the consumption cucoon is so much more rewarding, and sometimes very amusing.

 

March 22, 2008

Nerd Camp

 

When I was a wee lad in Junior High School, my mother found an interesting summer camp in the local paper.  This "inventors" camp was hosted at Cogswell College, when it was still using the campus on Bubb Road in Cupertino (where UC Santa Cruz Extension satellite campus is located now).  Every weekday for a while, I'd ride my bike down the freight train tracks to arrive each day for a whole lot of eye opening.  Sitting in college classrooms and filling our heads with knowledge.  Playing in the computer lab and pirating Apple ][ software (I'm sure the camp didn't approve that one).  We had full reign of the facility and enthusiastic camp leaders who really treated us like little little inquisitive adults, instead of silly kids.  We even had sessions on patent law, but I don't think the intellectual property law stuff really registered in our middle school brains.  ;)

 Hubble Space Telescope

(Photo Courtesy of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Some of the fun day trips we were taken on included:


The reason I've been thinking about this particular incredible summer has to do with my overall educational experience from K-12.  Experiences like this camp helped me figure out what I wanted to do with my life, more than any class or guidance counselor in school could have ever given me.  While traditional school prepared me for the rigors of the college academic life, it never helped me make the connections between the practical applications of math and science in a career setting.  Thanks for signing me up Mom!

If you are a parent stumbling across this, think about enriching your child's educational experience beyond the scope of their school.  Sites like (http://www.bayareakidfun.com/pages/campsscience.html) can help you find a fun place for you child to find some inspirations and have fun.

It looks as if Cogswell has continued on the summer camp tradition in spirit.

March 09, 2008

I am the walrus, koo koo ca choo

Time to take another trip back in the time machine...

Recently I was working on a project that involved setting up a 56kbps X.25 leased line (I know, very embarassing!), which it turns out is not supported by AT&T in Northern California anymore.  This got me thinking back to my high school days.  You see, growing up in Cupertino was a nerds dream.  All of the parents worked in some sort of high tech venture and pushed for the best of everything in regards to their kids education.  (Four options for the educational path of my Asian friends: 1. Doctor 2. Lawyer 3. Engineer 4. Disowned/Disembowelment)  Sometimes it seemed like Apple computer delivered units by the dump truck load.  High home values led to higher property tax revenues, which in turn led to really decent school funding. 

Through some sort deal, the school received a grant from NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View to provide us with network connectivity.  So we had our leased line installed and down plopped a Sun 3/60 workstation (with Black and White frame buffer nonetheless and running in text mode) that served the school as an e-mail and ftp server.  All the things that kids take for granted today... DNS, HTTP, graphical user interfaces (it wasn't even running X-windows, since it was stripped down to be a server), high speed networks, firewalls, and tons of other stuff wasn't even thought about.  This machine was the infamous walrus.mvhs.edu machine before the Fremont Union High School District pulled the rug out of the mvhs.edu domain name and took control of the IT infrastructure across the district. 

What did the kids get out of it?  Live shell access on a real live Sun box, tons of storage for all the ROL and Scream Tracker files you could download from ftp sites all over the world, oh and you could use Gopher.  I'm pretty sure that the goal wasn't to have the students do that, but hey, we didn't get into that much trouble.  Gopher sucked then and still pretty much sucks, but hey, we had it.  Before ICQ, YIM, AIM and the other instand messengers, there was IRC.  What we had was amazing, unfettered and unmonitored network access.  Whether they realized it or not, they were treating young adolescents as responsible adults, which was appreciated.  With DSL, Cable Modems, 3G cell phone networks and other ways of getting fast IP connectivity these days, I'm not sure if kids these days understand the giddy feeling you got from watching the hash marks fly across the screen on your ftp session to Finland.  Getting called out of Mike Ivanitsky's Chemisty Honors class to do some mundane unix task was truly an amazing feeling.  (BTW: R.I.P. Mike Ivanitsky, you were a decent teacher, I just hated Chemistry). 

Just think about it, it was your tax payer dollars at work to get me to learn SunOS.  What do I do now?  I manage large clusters of Solaris and *nix systems for the government.  Pretty good ROI

I fear that schools in Nigeria may be more adept at unix like systems than kids in the US.  Kids, there is more to computing than MS Office and Facebook.

(Image Courtesy of hack.org) 

March 08, 2008

Text to the future

Lately I've been thinking about the old days when you were getting on the BBS systems ultra fast at 2400bps and making fun of your fellow dorks for only getting only at 1200bps. 

Experiencing the Internet in text takes a bit of getting used to.  The old handy friend for browsing HTTP pages on the command line is Lynx.  Noted for it's speed and simplicity, you can access the text-internet with almost no bandwidth.       

 

 And if you are trying to surf the web from a real VT100 terminal, this is the only game in town!

 

(Picture courtesty of vt100.net

February 28, 2008

FCC Spectrum Auction, memories of years past

Recently there has been a lot of articles about the 700 MHz FCC auction.  With Google and a bunch of other big heavy hitters going after the auction, it is an exciting time for wireless.  It got my mind spinning back to the year 1994. I think I can hear Stone Temple Pilots if I listen hard enough...

The company that I was working for at the time had partnered up with one of the IVDS license holders to create an asymetrical link demo for their newly minted 218-219 MHz license.  The ink was barely dry on the paperwork before we were commissioned to have a system up and running.  Older Ham radio folks get all worked up on this subject, as the lower end of the 1.25 meter band was "stolen" from them for the use of United Parcel Sercvice on an unbuilt truck tracking data network.  When the UPS license expired, this prime 1 MHz chunk of bandwidth was auctioned off in metropolitan regions, with an A and B license holder scheme, similar to the old AMPS cellular network in the US.  I can't remember the specifics on license costs, and I'm really too lazy to look it up.  500 KHz per license holder is a pretty huge chunk of spectrum.  While small compared to the 700 MHz band, around 200 MHz you have some strange propogation characteristics.  While it is VHF and works in a fairly line of sight manner, you also get some interesting multipath and beyond the horizon propogation without a huge amount of power.

If you think back to 1994, this is a time when 14.4kbps modems were a BIG deal and it cost and arm and a leg to get 128 kbps access via ISDN, so you can imagine that trying to figure out how to use 500 KHz of bandwidth to push data down to end users was very exciting.  The first demo used a ton of ham radio equipment purchased from Ham Radio Outlet and modified for use on this project.  The head end used a computer to take serial input from up to four sources, channelize it, then push it to a SSE satellite modem that used QAM modulation, but I can't remember exactly how many symbols.  The IF coming out of the modem was 70 MHz, so a custom mixer was used to take the output up to the RF frequency.  On the receive end a Standard Electronics ham radio HT (in layman's terms a walkie talkie), was used to receive the signal.  The IF of the radio was tapped, and run into an SSE modem that demodulated the signal, sent it via synchronous serial to a computer, and in turn the computer output a regular RS-232 signal.  The cool thing about this, is that what this ended up doing is to create an end to end one way RS-232 path that was transparent to the other equipment attached.

 

(images courtesy of DTN via archive.org

The first application of this was the use of a DTN networks box.  People on both coasts of the US probably have no idea what I am talking about, but DTN pretty much has owned the technology market for farmers from the beginning.  Basically at the time they transmitted their data to a Ku band satellite transponder, which you pick up at your location with a 36" dish and run it to the DTN box, which is a very simple teletext device connected to a TV monitor.  Crop reports, futures reports, etc.  Very cool and very simple.  

 

To test reliability we installed the head end unit in San Francisco on the top of the Hilton.  In the pre-9/11 days nobody even asked questions when you were hefting 1/3 rack of equipment through the kitchen and on to the roof.  Our equipment was installed along side the pager transmitters and other radio gear in the shack on the roof.  We tuned up a ham radio Ringo Ranger for the 1.25 meter band and started transmitting.  I think we had 50 watts of power or somewhere near it.

In the days after the installation we spent the evenings driving up and down the peninsula to see what type of coverage and interference we were getting.  With three in the mini-van, one drove, one watched the HP spectrum analyzer and one manned the rack.  We had incredible coverage all over the bay with the exception of Daly City.  It is amazing what you can do with a meager signal when it is transmitted from high enough and transmitted with forward error correction

 

In the end, the whole system wasn't developed, the IVDS license holders lapsed and just became an unhappy memory for company management.  I imagine there is some ham club in the south bay that has been active on 220 MHz in a big way over the years due to all the equipment we sold off for surplus over Usenet, back in the days when it wasn't just porn. 

When I think back to this whole experience it makes me smile.  This is the first time that I really got to work hands on with RF equipment other than just talking with friends on the CB.  The engineers that I worked with spent the time to explain things to me, even though I didn't have the math and physics background at the time to truly understand all of it.  I hope that every kid that has a fondness for technology has a chance like this to learn on the job.  It didn't pay a lot of money, but it was better than bagging groceries or flipping burgers. 

 
Oh, and BTW, whenever I think about RF spectrum these days, I think about this XKCD comic

Flatulence. The Internet. Demographics.

I was recently looking through the logs to this web server, as I was bored at the time, and ran across the page that continues to get the most hits.  When I was a freshman in college I ran across a text file that described in detail the chemical reactions that cause flatulence.  Being amused with the serious treatment of something so silly, I converted it to html and put it on the web. 

If you want to check it out, here it is:

THE FACTS ABOUT FLATULENCE - by Margaret C. McDonald 

This leads me to believe that the theory that I came upon in sixth grade is actually a law.

FART = FUNNY 

Seriously, ask any man or boy in the key demographics of 1-18 and 18-35 and you will find this to be fact.  I am sure that there are rules, specific limiting factors, and other constraints to which this is true, but I'll leave that for the internet to figure out.

Attached is a fake graph of these demographics, which proves my point.  This is the internet, I don't need proof.  Trust my numbers, even if they are completely fabricated.  You will find a resurgence in flatus humor in retirement.

 

 

February 08, 2008

xmas.c

I haven't done any major C programming in several years.  One of the programs that I squirreled away for over ten years is this xmas.c program.  I used code2html to make stuff look much prettier.

The original text version is available here

-------8<-----CUT-HERE------8<------------------------ 

/* xmas.c
Merry X-mas Everyone */


#include <stdio.h>
main(t,_,a)
char *a;
{
return!0<t?t<3?main(-79,-13,a+main(-87,1-_,main(-86,0,a+1)+a)):
1,t<_?main(t+1,_,a):3,main(-94,-27+t,a)&&t==2?_<13?
main(2,_+1,"%s %d %d\n"):9:16:t<0?t<-72?main(_,t,
"@n'+,#'/*{}w+/w#cdnr/+,{}r/*de}+,/*{*+,/w{%+,/w#q#n+,/#{l,+,/n{n+,/+#n+,/#\
;#q#n+,/+k#;*+,/'r :'d*'3,}{w+K w'K:'+}e#';dq#'l \
q#'+d'K#!/+k#;q#'r}eKK#}w'r}eKK{nl]'/#;#q#n'){)#}w'){){nl]'/+#n';d}rw' i;# \
){nl]!/n{n#'; r{#w'r nc{nl]'/#{l,+'K {rw' iK{;[{nl]'/w#q#n'wk nw' \
iwk{KK{nl]!/w{%'l##w#' i; :{nl]'/*{q#'ld;r#n'}{nlwb!/*de}'c \
;;{nl'-{}rw]'/+,}##'*}#nc,',#nw]'/+kd'+e}+;#'rdq#w! nr'/ ') }+}{rl#'{n' ')# \
}'+}##(!!/")
:t<-50?_==*a?putchar(31[a]):main(-65,_,a+1):main((*a=='/')+t,_,a+1)
:0<t?main(2,2,"%s"):*a=='/'||main(0,main(-61,*a,
"!ek;dc i@bK'(q)-[w]*%n+r3#l,{}:\nuwloca-O;m .vpbks,fxntdCeghiry"),a+1);
}

/* Here's The Output


On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me
a partridge in a pear tree.

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me
two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me
three french hens, two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
five golden rings;
four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
six geese a-laying, five golden rings;
four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me
seven swans a-swimming,
six geese a-laying, five golden rings;
four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
eight maids a-milking, seven swans a-swimming,
six geese a-laying, five golden rings;
four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
nine ladies dancing, eight maids a-milking, seven swans a-swimming,
six geese a-laying, five golden rings;
four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
ten lords a-leaping,
nine ladies dancing, eight maids a-milking, seven swans a-swimming,
six geese a-laying, five golden rings;
four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me
eleven pipers piping, ten lords a-leaping,
nine ladies dancing, eight maids a-milking, seven swans a-swimming,
six geese a-laying, five golden rings;
four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a-leaping,
nine ladies dancing, eight maids a-milking, seven swans a-swimming,
six geese a-laying, five golden rings;
four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree.


*/

syntax highlighted by Code2HTML, v. 0.9.1

February 01, 2008

NeXT up, a letter to Mr. Jobs

 

 

Even back in 1988, I had excellent taste in computers.  I'd often ride my bicycle down to the local Businessland on De Anza Boulevard in Cupertino and play with the computers.  I still don't know why the sales staff never kicked me out, as I was not going to be able to afford their offerings.  It was at this computer store that I was first introduced to the NeXT computer.  At that point in my life I hadn't had access to any real UNIX machines.  I mean, I had played with A/UX running on a Macintosh II, but that wasn't a real experience.  The sexy magnesium case, the futuristic optical drive, and the high resolution display was enough to make a young boy's heart go aflutter.  At $6,500 USD this was nothing that I would be able to own, but I could still covet it.   In junior high school, you tend to think (or at least I did) that you are filled with incredible insights.  Due to the fact that I was not encumbered by attending high school yet, or being told that some ideas are stupid, I sat down and wrote Steve Jobs a letter.  In said letter I let Mr. Jobs know that he would have a better chance selling the computers if he added a 3.5" floppy drive and added support for a dot matrix printer.  I just didn't get what he was trying to do.  I wanted a cool computer that was inexpensive, while he was selling the design for the future, which nobody was buying in quantity just yet.  Whether or not Mr. Jobs read that letter directly, or even knew it was from a nerdy 7th grader, I will never know.  Sometimes I wish that I saved a copy of that letter, other times I am glad I didn't since I would most likely come off as an arrogant little twit.  I did get a nice form letter back from the corporate offices and a marketing poster that I cherished for many years.  

When I entered my professional life of providing IT services to various parts of the government, I saw the tail end of the NeXT legacy.  I almost had a tear in my eye when I was visiting a nameless government agency that was a large NeXT customer.  They were dumping several thousand NeXT cubes and pizza boxes to move to Windows NT.  The computers were stacked to about chest height along the hallways, waiting for destruction. Oh, the humanity.

If you are nostalgic, you might want to check out the original brochure.

 

January 31, 2008

Computers of the future in the past

Recently I was going through a whole bunch of stuff in my garage and came across a whole bunch of glossy literature for equipment that one of my previous employers, Signal Science, used to sell to the government.  It has been a good four years or so since I have seen a real VT100 type terminal in use anywhere.  For the time, this puppy, the ELPS-97 system was state of the art.  Now I am pretty sure that you could do all the same ELINT tasks performed by this system on a desktop PC and 200watts of power, versus 5KW

 ELPS-97

You may ask, what is this young lad's connection to this...

In college I had the task of surplussing the last of these systems that was used in house.  With elbow grease and a hack saw (yes, a manual hack saw and a package of several blades) I cut up one of these into small enough chunks to fit on the lift gate of the truck from either Halted Specialties or Weird Stuff Warehouse.  Sometimes I wonder what was done with the VAX 11/780.  I hope that someone was able to salvage it and build something similar to the VAXbar built by Vance.

Signal Science was a great place to work.  That is where I got my real start in the IT industry and exposure to people that I still consider close personal friends today.  Even though I had a lot of tasks to do there that nobody else wanted, I also received encouragement and mentoring at a young age.  I just hope I have the ability to give some sixteen year old kid the chance to cut up a Sun server cluster so I can pass on the IT torch. 

 

Continue reading "Computers of the future in the past" »

January 30, 2008

Mountain Dew and expanded consciousness

Many people have asked me about my love of the soft drink Mountain Dew.  OK, it was really only my wife asking.  Everyone knows that Mountain Dew is a tasty green elixir that is up there with Slurm when it comes to how addictive it is.  When I was an undergraduate at Chico State, I often drank several cans or bottles of it to assist in my studying.  Yes, I actually put Chico State and studying in the same sentence.  I digress.  A few months after I finished my degree, I was working for a company called Signal Science in Santa Clara and ran an all nighter on a project I was behind on.  The attached picture is what I personally drank in a 12 hour period.  When I think about (1) the caloric intake in sugar alone (2) the damage to my kidney function, it makes me shudder.  These days I stick to the Diet Dew.

12 Hours of Mountain Dew Drinking

From the Pepsico website I calculate that over a 12 hour period that I consumed (32cans x 170 calories) 2040 calories in sugar.  The follies of youth.  During my college years I actually put together a website chronicling my love of the stuff, but unfortunately that host is now offline.

 

 

Waffle BBS, DSOTM and the loonies involved

In the days before the Internet was something that was commonplace or commercialized, the BBS was king.  One place that holds a place in my heart eternally was a BBS run out of silicon valley called the Dark Side of the Moon.  This single line BBS ran a type of software called Waffle BBS, which happened to run on MS-DOS easily, and could interface with the UUCP network allowing Internet mail and Usenet access.  All that is find and good, but the real gem of this place was the completely insane populace that spent time interacting on this system.  I met some really odd ducks, and connected with people that would help me with my career in the next decade. 

As a cultural artifact I give you the Dark Side of the Moon X-mas card from either 1991 or 1992.  And yes, some parties involved there went on to Internet fame with rotten.com and nndb.com.  I will always remember (408)245-SPAM. 

DarkSide408245SPAM-XMAS-card.pdf