Admittedly, I’m getting pretty tired of waiting for the flying car I was supposed to have by now.
On the other hand, as a technologist, I’m frequently surprised at the amazing Science Fiction gadgets that we take for granted every day (many predicted by Star Trek).
Now, I’m one step closer to a Star Trek-style Replicator. It doesn’t have voice control, and won’t make “Tea, Earl Grey, hot”. But fortunately, it doesn’t make something almost, but not quite, exactly unlike tea.
It does, however, make real-world, solid objects out of plastic, directly from the output of 3D modeling software on my computer (including spare parts for the printer itself). And that’s pretty cool! Even cooler – the price for a device like this is becoming very affordable. The smaller version is available in kit form for US$549.
I started down this road by backing the Printrbot project on Kickstarter last year. Brook Drumm had the idea of producing an affordable 3D Printer kit. He thought he would be making between 50 and 100 kits. The project was fully funded in under 45 hours, and he ended up with over 1800 backers, and over 1400 kits to be produced. Of course, it took longer than expected, but it was a lot of fun following the project as Brook quit his day job and started a new full-time business of producing the Printrbot and its variants.
In early July, the kit arrived, and I spent any free time I could find building the printer.
The Printrbot started off as a RepRap design, where all of the major parts were themselves 3D printed, and held together by standard parts from your local hardware store. In trying to scale up, both in printer size and in number of printers to be produced, the design changed to one using fewer 3D printed parts, and using laser-cut wood parts for major structural elements. This allowed for making the kits more quickly, as well as making the printers more structurally sound.
I’m excited about this! I’m always finding myself wanting to repair something and in need of some small part, either unavailable or difficult to obtain. I should be able to design and make my own replacement parts now. And I already have a request from one of my SCUBA diving buddies to produce a part he needs for his underwater camera.
Also, there is a wealth of designs already out there. Check out Thingiverse to see what others are designing and releasing to the public.
5 October 2012 Update
Today is my first day back at a full-time job since my RIF at Sun Microsystems (and the beginning of this blog).
It’s been a tough 19 months. I still can’t believe that it took this long to find a job, but I know a number of other folks still looking, and for those of us over 50, the IT job market has been very slim.
Fortunately, I’ve been able to pay my bills, due largely to the very generous severance package from Sun, and also to a couple of brief consulting gigs, several Voice Over jobs, unemployment benefits, and a few months of part-time work at Trader Joe’s.
Now, I’m back to being an SE for a hardware manufacturer. I started today at Isilon Systems, a maker of scalable Network Attached Storage for the Data Center, where I’ll be covering US Federal Civilian Agencies. This should be fun – I’ll be drawing on the basic skills I built over 17 years at Sun, but will be learning an entirely new product set to apply those skills against.
I like the fact that Isilon is a small company – fewer than 500 employees. I’ve always done well at small companies, and I often thought that the reason I did so well at Sun for so long was that Sun behaved like a small company until very near the end.
Of course, this advantage won’t last. Three days after I signed my acceptance letter, Isilon was acquired by EMC. Still, this should allow me to establish myself at Isilon while it remains a small subsidiary of EMC before the corporate culture changes to that of a big corporation.
One thing for sure – it will be an adventure. Thanks for sharing this ride with me, and keep checking in on this blog to see what happens.
I spent 17 years at Sun Microsystems, and while it had its ups and downs, I never had any doubt that it was the best job I ever had. So, one of the things that saddened me about being caught in the layoff 9 months before the acquisition of Sun by Oracle was that I couldn’t be there to say goodbye at the end. Sun was extremely generous to me, and I bear no grudge.
Suddenly, though, a couple of months ago I got a call from an Oracle Sales Rep looking for help with one of his Financial Services customers. Turns out that the customer wanted to buy Sun Grid Engine (a product in which I had specialized), along with a support contract and some consulting to help them get everything set up. Unfortunately, there was nobody left to sell the product, support it, or teach them how to use it.
So, here I am in Austin, Texas for a week of doing what I used to do. I’m building a computing grid for a customer with some very technical and complex workloads, and wearing the old Sun shirts again. And after 15 months away, it really doesn’t seem strange to be traveling again, and things are going quite smoothly. At the end of the week, the customer should be self-sufficient, and probably won’t need me to come back.
I fully expect that this will be my last time setting up Grid Engine for a Sun customer, so…
Goodbye, Sun! It was great to know you.
It was one year ago today that I received my RIF notice from Sun (and started this blog). It seemed inconceivable that I could go a year or more without finding a new job, but here I am, still hunting.
IT jobs, and probably all jobs, were incredibly scarce in 2009. I’m beginning to see signs that the situation is improving. I’ve been getting more interviews in the past couple of months, but that doesn’t mean a lot until I can actually land a position somewhere.
While it is somewhat depressing, the experience hasn’t been all bad. I had the opportunity to get some up-to-date studio training and set up my Voice Over business, and have been doing some long-overdue work around the house.
Also, thanks to the very generous severance package from Sun, I’m still paying the bills, and I’m not desperate (yet).
Anybody need a slightly used Technology Evangelist?
As reported by Reuters, the go-ahead has finally been given for Oracle to acquire Sun Microsystems.
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I’m happy that the end of uncertainties stemming from over a year of this acquisition process (first with IBM, then with Oracle) will allow things to finally move ahead, and for customers to begin making forward-looking decisions for their computing hardware purchases.
On the other, the culture at Sun is about to be irreversibly changed, as Sun sinks below the horizon and becomes part of the largely-soulless software giant.
I will also miss the huge number of friends I made in my years at Sun (at the time of my RIF notice, I had been there almost precisely 1/3 of my life), and being part of a company where, as Scott McNealy said, we “Kicked Butt, Had Fun, Didn’t Cheat, Loved Our Customers, and Changed Computing Forever”.
OK, I’ll admit that I’m more sensitive to this than most, since in my last job I was a specialist in the SPARC microprocessor architecture.
Today, Oracle actually mentioned SPARC in an ad in the Wall Street Journal.
This might not seem like much, but it’s a huge change. There hasn’t been any marketing mention from Sun about SPARC systems in nearly a year (the newest SPARC server, the SPARC Enterprise T5440, was introduced in October of 2008).
While my little team travelled the Americas telling anyone who would listen why SPARC was still important, the Sun executives simply stopped mentioning SPARC, instead talking up the x64 products which are, let’s face it, almost identical to everybody else’s x64 products.
Even Jonathan Schwartz hasn’t blogged about SPARC in over two years!
Then, my whole SPARC team got torn apart, and most of us were laid off in May in preparation to sell Sun to IBM.
But IBM isn’t buying Sun. Oracle is (probably). And while Sun hasn’t mentioned SPARC in advertising in a year, suddenly Oracle has.
Makes me feel good.
…at least for some people, at least at this moment.
I’ve been waiting for the iPhone version of Google Latitude for months. It’s a nifty way to find out where your friends are, or which ones are close by. It might seem like a loss of privacy, but if you’re already blogging, tweeting, and/or Facebooking your life away, this shouldn’t bother you too much. Also, it has some pretty nice privacy features to allow you to hide when you want, as well as to control the quality of position you show on a person-by-person basis.
The Latitude page has been saying that it’s coming soon for iPhone and iPod touch for quite some time. I’ve been using it on my laptop for several weeks, but if I want to keep my location updated, my phone is the obvious choice of device from which to do it.
If you have an iPhone, chances are you can get Latitude working, though it might take a few tries. On Mobile Safari, browse to m.google.com/latitude, and you will either get right in to Latitude, or you will get a “Coming Soon” page (which is what I got, at first).
Just keep reloading the page every once in a while (I had to do it 6 or 7 times), and you may eventually find yourself using latitude. Press the “+” on the bottom toolbar, and add a shortcut icon to your Home Screen, so you can get back to it.
13 December 2010 Update
After nearly a year and a half, Apple have finally allowed the Latitude iPhone app onto the iTunes App Store. Google had originally submitted their app, but Apple “suggested” that it be released as a web app, instead. Get the app here (US iTunes Store).
Posted from Rockville, Maryland, United States.
I know I’m ranting, here, but I just can’t help it. So, I apologize in advance.
I was a vocal opponent of hardware dongles and key disks way back in the 80′s, and I thought we were beyond that, until I started looking into Digital Audio Workstation software for my home Voice Over recording studio.
After reviewing what was available, I settled on Pro Tools, since I needed an interface for my studio microphone anyway (XLR connection and 48 volt power), and Pro Tools came bundled with a pretty good one. I only bristled at the hardware dongle aspect for a moment (the software won’t run without one of the approved audio interfaces attached). I acquiesced since, for my purposes, I’d need to have one attached to do anything useful (you can’t do much voice recording without a microphone).
Upon installing Pro Tools, I quickly verified that it wouldn’t start without the interface, then I connected the interface (Digidesign Mbox 2), and it started right up … almost.
Now, even though it would seem that the presence or absence of the Mbox2 effectively implements any needed copy protection, on the first execution of Pro Tools I still had to enter:
- A 14-random-character ID
- A 4-character “Release Code”
- An 11-character serial number
…for the connected interface. WTF?
Pro Tools comes with a wealth of plug-ins, many of which look really useful. In addition, the package I purchased included a bundle of added plug-ins. On going through the packaging, I discovered that these additions required key codes to use, and these codes reside on a USB dongle (a PACE iLok). But, in addition to requiring the presence of the iLok, the first time I tried to use them, up popped a dialog requiring entry of:
- A 14-random-character ID
- An 11-character serial number
Cryptic software keys are bad enough, hardware dongles are almost always bad, but both?!?!?
Maybe it’s just me, but this really bothers me.
A reader has pointed out that DAW applications (and all audio apps) are heavily pirated. I still contend, however, that no copy protection scheme has ever managed anything more than to temporarily slow down the pirates and crackers, and at the cost of unduly punishing legitimate users.
The more egregious the copy protection, the more you alienate your Paying Customers! And for the others, it only needs to be cracked once. Copy protection has never made good economic sense, and it still doesn’t.
Since Sun didn’t turn my email account off immediately, I spent most of yesterday frantically trying to identify any web sites where I might have used my sun.com email address as my login and get it changed before it was too late.
Thankfully, the practice of using an email address as a userid isn’t as common as it once was, but I’ve been active on the web since 1993, and have a lot of registrations scattered about.
As I feared, a number of these sites allow changing your email address, but only after sending a confirmation message to the original address, with no clear way of making changes should that address become unavailable. I’m sure I didn’t catch them all, but at least the ones I still use regularly seem to be done. Now, I’ll have to make a habit of checking the settings every time I log in to a site to be sure that they’re not sending stuff to the old address.
It feels a bit strange, but after almost 17 years of having the same primary email address, I suppose there is bound to be confusion and cruft left behind for quite some time.
Of course, I have seldom used my work address for non-work stuff in recent years, but not too long ago, it was uncommon to have more than one email address. Today, I have seven email accounts going to my iPhone, and there are several more on top of that which I only check on occasionally.
While I was trying to do all of that clean-up, I installed WordPress and got my first blog entry published, and packed up gear I had at home. After taking the gear back to the office, I met with a couple of ex-Sun friends for dinner and a few beers.
My RIF package just arrived via FedEx, so I’m going to spend some time figuring out what my benefits are. Looks like Sun is being very generous, so I should have some time to reflect on what I would like to do going forward.
I don’t need to rush around for anything today, so I think I’ll take in a movie (probably Watchmen) this afternoon.
Well, as you can see, this is a brand new blog.
My first ever, in fact, so bear with me while I flesh this out.
It seems like the right time to do this, since I was laid off today from Sun Microsystems, where I have been working for nearly 17 years. I’m still coming to terms with it, but I think this is not as bad as it might seem. I’m going to treat this as an an opportunity to try something new, hence the initial name of this blog.
And I have experience to help me. I was (very nearly) laid off in 2004, but was called back at the last moment. If you’re interested, you can find an email I sent out about that experience here.
The link in that message is very old and won’t work, but it referred to the announcement that Sun was going to develop the world’s first publicly-available Grid Computing Utility. I worked as Lead Engineer on the project, and we did it. It was kind of cool. Anybody could use our Compute Grid for $1 per CPU/hour.
So, it begins again. Thanks for taking this ride with me.
Posted from Rockville, Maryland, United States.