Debugging

Staring at one’s code should be considered one of the most obscure and low yield methods of debugging computer programs. Furthermore it should considered downright dangerous to the tender psyche of programmers, especially when particularly virulent snippets of code stare back with vengeance,mayhem and just plain malevolence clearly observable in their glyphs.

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Troglodytes vs Spacemen

There is a little urban legend that when the Americans went to space they invested $1M to create a space pen whereas the Soviets used pencils, because simplicity is best!

Apart from the fallacy of the premise because sharpening a carbon based pencil within very sensitive electrical equipment is more or less a recipe for disaster, there is another very important reason why I do not buy the simplicity clause.

The Americans and through immigration to the USA the whole world, are dreamers. They dreamt of a new frontier to explore, new science to be imagined and new technology to be had. On the other hand the Soviet mentality has never been the exploration of new frontiers. It has been the establishment of a new world order via a degenerative downward spiral to cave dwelling times. That is why it was the troglodytes’ pencil vs the spacemen’s pen.

Garbage dumps

Amazon created the disposable computing paradigm.

Start ups latched on to it only to showcase the disposable enterprise paradigm fueled by disposable funds of various investors.

Much like the disposable razors or diapers, they are thrown away after very little use.

This whole new paradigm of business is very disposable, it smells like garbage!

OpenStack

My openstack experience from two years ago can be summarized in the following bullets:

  • openStack tries too hard to be Amazon compatible with all the bad legacy that issue brings with it
  • No easy way for windows support. The low level disk emulation driver required XP to jump through hoops. I hate to think what may happen with window 7,8 etc.
  • Notoriously undocumented and difficult to set up. I am a 20 year linux veteran with extensive low level programming knowledge and I only managed to set up my toy cluster in about four days. Imagine an enterprise support team trying to pull that off.
  • Tech support ! yeah right, all the companies supporting openstack are pumping money into development. Only a tiny handful are actually operating it with heroic devops teams!
  • No real economies of scale. Nodes MUST have a lot of local storage and images are shuffled through the net quite often. It only makes sense when using cheap SATA drives, but that does not funk well at enterprise grade data centers.
  • All in all it plays the role of disposable computing so well that it is, well, disposable

Regression Testing woes

In one sentence:

Regression testing, albeit assumed to be an engineering endeavour, more readily resembles the dark rituals involving an occasional sacrifice or two that are performed by self flagellating half mad covens under a pale moon.

Linux administrators’ Expertise Levels

This is my list of levels of expertise in systems’ engineering, linux/unix administration and generally in the field of IT where I happen to make my living. Take with a pinch of salt and a shot of tequila.

  • Tinkerers do not care about downtime, they will watch a movie instead.
  • Amateurs think that by moving to AWS they will have no downtime.
  • Beginners can handle downtime with a dash of panic.
  • Seasoned Engineers handle downtime just fine.
  • Experts have a gut feeling for it and when it will happen.
  • Masters can tell you what will fail why and when, before you even realize there is a problem.
  • Zen Grand Masters avoid all this _sh.t_ completely and opt for a beach instead.

Oddly enough tinkerers and Zen masters follow the same path and the term Expert does not appear in the original Hacker’s Dictionary .

Cook me up some intellect please

Knowledge here, knowledge there, big data everywhere, no stop let’s watch a cooking show on TV for a break.

Cooking as done by master chefs and grand gourmands is a very interesting occupation. They take ordinary ingredients most of time like tomatoes and oregano and create food, interesting food to eat. Sometimes they combine uncommon ingredients in unknown to this day ways over substrates of known ordinary ingredients to sculpt culinary experiences. Do you see the difference?

Data , big, small intermediate is no more than one’s ordinary ingredients. Let’s call that knowledge. One can do a lot of things with ordinary knowledge, cook up a better spagheti or a better baked beans dish with healthy side efects to boot.

What distinguishes this kind of cooking from gourmet cooking is a few megatons of restless intellect, a need to create, change , alter, leapforg or down right mutate the known sturdy facts. That kind of need is not present in traditional recipes neither in knowledge bases nor big data collections.

That kind of mental itch and output is uncommon and we call it talent but it is not part of a divine providence, it can be grown, cultivated if you wish with common ordinary means: Just watch a cooking show and start thinking of your common ordinary knowledge as tomatoes and potatoes. They are essential in creating your food but not enough to catapult you to stardom. Look for uncommon recipes, novel ingredients, astounding combinations, iconoclastic approaches. Immerse into divergence, surprise yourself in the way you view your data through a flour sieve but don’t use your ordinary super market provided cereal flours. Watch the masters do an ordinary thing, prepare sustenance in extraordinary imaginative ways.

If one can create a sustained intellectual gourmet kitchen in one’s organization then that organization has a chance in this current amazingly volatile new age for mental gourmands.

Great places to work

Yesterday I had a revelation, I like my place of employment, but why do I like OpenBet more than some others that I have been through?

So I started to wonder “What makes a great place to work”? The free coffee, snacks, perks, see-saws, ottomans, laptops, massages, to be paid on time etc. etc ? Quite frankly I believe that it is the complete lack of office politics and to some extend I have to congratulate the absence of middle managers for that.

OpenBet, at least its Athens branch, is practically a flat organization. Almost all employees are at the same level of hierarchy even though the place is rife with senior and junior titles. But even that is not enough to create a good work place. The magic glue is the employees themselves. All of them are highly skilled engineers, I mean come on some PMs have Math PhDs, they are sure of themselves and their abilities and are productive too. If one gets stuck the whole team falls upon him/her to help them out. There is no jockeying or jostling for position, the position is the quality of the code produced as it should be for software engineers. I just wish all the “Greek Managers” would come by for a visit and see what is going on here, it would be a great eye opener.

As Sartre said “Hell is the other people”, I am just contend that my colleagues are not daemons 🙂

So many quotes, so little wisdom.

There are too many quotes from so many famous/important/pretty/rich/whathaveyou people. We are being overwhelmed with trivialities in the form of quotes.

I have observed that nations with limited culture and traditions of tolerance and exchange of ideas tend to reduce their collective knowledge into a jumble of quotes. I am starting to believe that the modern entrepreneurial ecosystems, the business nations, are in regression by the simple observation that there is a sea of quotes available online but the wise people who condensed their wisdom into such a quote are inexistent. What I am trying to say is that we are being inundated by pretentious self-important quotes that contain no more than common sense observations.

I too am fond of a clever pun and a fan of Heinlein’s quotes. But Heinlein always had a story to go with the quote, he never hid behind them or left them dangling like participles . So please, offer me not the quotes of such and so a billionaire, successful guy or girl or not. I would rather have a good story to read with a bit of a hidden value and a quote that is more than what I utter in every day life.

Internet Gold Rash

Pun intended, read on.

I remember reading about the gold rush. Actually there were many of them, and after the dust settled down only the grocery store owners had made any money. Those professionals became wealthy, if not rich, because they enabled the fools to go kill themselves over some nuggets of gold in grizzly infested territories.

Likewise during our very own gold rush, the Internet buble’s rush, there are bunches of “entrepreneurs” trying to strike gold and a few grocery store owners who make the money. Oddly enough today’s store does not even provide axes and spades but abstruse advice on how to “Entrepreneur” with a passion and expect to find gold nuggets. Even more peculiar is that they get paid for enabling others to become gold diggers.