Monday, February 23, 2009

never leave your computer

I'm back from a week of my son's mid-winter break.

We rented a neat house above Truckee (high high above Truckee) with a mess of friends and totally recreated. Cooking, playing, sledding, skiing. It was really great - what was better was re-introducing the kiddo to sledding. Just a "That's AWESOME!" after a snowbank drilling crash was enough to forgive him the snowball to the back of the head. Or the ones at the shuttle buses. Or the shovelful of snow down my back - something about this trip brought out his inner Calvin. We had a couple of days in deep snowstorm and then a few more in blue sky sunny weather - making Mitchell a very happy ski-woman.

Upon return I fired up my main development machine and was greeted by a growing stream of I/O errors as I did repository backups. (system.log and console.log, via the Mac OS Console app) This machine is one of the monster QuadG5's which still rips along nicely. Those machines have had a significant number of failures in their liquid cooled housings, so I'm always a bit on the lookout for goop leaking out. But nothing like all these hundreds of channel resets!

What?! This was only happening on my firewire buss too. Gah.

I've spent a fair number of hours doing all the various dances - different disks, Diskwarrior, reformatting, juggling cables, making coffee.

It was a firewire buss-powered camera, last used just before I left to Skype with Zach Thomas of Aeroplane Software, which was screwing everything up.

I was fretting about the gigabytes of data on those firewire drives... man it would hurt to lose that. But now as it's spinning out again to the backup drives I'm going to go get some pasta and celebrate.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Interesting speakers from Davos II: Thulasiraj Ravilla

Thulasiraj Ravila comes to Davos under the Social Entrepreneur program. He has founded a set of non-profit eyecare centers in India - the Aravind Eye Hospitals. I actually met him previously, but wanted to mention this years great mad scheme.

You've heard about off-shoring the analytical bits of health care, such as X-Ray image review, or CAT scan analysis. The central idea is that over the interwebs the images gathered from remote sites can be analyzed by skilled experts most... anywhere.

Of course this is all wrapped up in big science and big bandwidth and big hospitals and big universities.

He's built and is running an inversion of this scheme.

He's using small towers with low power mini WIFI repeaters to send simple eye-chart exams from rural health workers to his central eye hospitals.

No big science, a private low speed network, and the benefit of early diagnostics. Wow!

Interesting speakers from Davos I: Benjamin Zander

I have to leave some notes somewhere - in a chronological order...

Some of the new-to-me-this-year interesting folks. ( yeah, you previously met facinating people you I'll have to catch up with! :P The obnixous type-A multi gazillionares who elbow and foot-stomp into buffet lines I won't document for you. )

Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. He lead a very exciting session titled "Managing Complexity: A Different Approach." Mitchell and I sorta kinda stumbled into this one, and were immediately entranced. He was leading an accomplished quartet through an interpretation of Mozart with a great deal of humor, jumping up and down, leading astray and back, and fun.

As he was doing this he dashed back and forth across the Congress Center's main hall scribbling madly on various large notepads.

I think his message, that a simple and difficult attitude shift from "what must I do to kill these goals off" to "what can I contribute?" has got to me one I pick up. The programmer psychology is so much "goal.goal.goal" with a tied in reward system for those little stinky goals that one spends a lot of time down in the pit. The trick has to be to have the second outlook - "what can I contribute" utilize the skills of the first - and step back up when done. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak don't miss it.

Mitchell and I are still practicing his gesture for acknowldeging mistakes: you must stand up, raise your hands over your head and yell "How Marvelous!" It shakes off the stigma and the laughter wipes some of the slate clean.