SGL Vlog: Leaving Geneseo

Download the SGL Video Blog from March 25, 2007 – Leaving Geneseo in 640×480 Xvid (Recommended for Computer Viewing)
Download the SGL Video Blog from March 25, 2007 – Leaving Geneseo in iPod MP4
Download the SGL Video Blog from March 25, 2007 – Leaving Geneseo in 320×240 Windows Media WMV
Stream the SGL Video Blog from March 25, 2007 – Leaving Geneseo in 320×240 WMV from OurMedia
Stream the SGL Video Blog from March 25, 2007 – Leaving Geneseo in 320×240 FLV from YouTube

This is my “farewell” video blog post from Geneseo, New York. This was Dominica and my first home that we purchased in July, 2003 and this past weekend we completed the packing process and the house is ready for the movers to take everything away. It is sad selling our very first home and we wanted to have a little video to remember it by. I didn’t have much time to shoot the video so this was taken after the packing was done and we were about to walk out the door, most likely for the last time. Unfortunately because of when I had to shoot the video and the fact that the lights in the house had been packed the basement is almost entirely unlit and is almost impossible to see and the entire house is completely full of boxes so the impression is quite different than how the house was while we were still living in it.

This house was very special to us. It was the first home that either of us ever bought. It was the house that we bought to move to when we got married having bought the house just a few months before the wedding. It was the only house that my mother and my paternal grandmother would ever see of mine. It was the only house that Mr. Humphries would ever live in. It was house where we got Oreo. It was where we spent the first almost four years of our married life together. It was the house that we bought with the intention of building the ultimate theatre room in the basement which we never got a chance to finish. A house can be a very nostalgic thing. I can see why people can be so reluctant to leave a house that they have lived in for a long time. This house was the home that I have lived in more than any other since leaving my parents’ home.

The structure is an end-unit ranch style townhouse right on the end of the village of Geneseo. We start in the driveway where you can see Dominica’s 2002 Mazda Protege 5 waiting to take us back to Newark. The garage is painted in a wine colour that Dominica was very excited about. We never quite finished doing the trim in the garage. We only just put working locks on the house after many years of using defective ones that had come with the house. We should have just left them. There is a lot that we had planned to do but never got around to doing. When we bought the house we were one of only two structures in the complex. We were the fifth unit to be filled and the last of the original buildings. No one new moved in after us for quite some time as an entirely new building had to be built. As the camera swings around you can see the finished development with many new homes almost all occupied. The landscaping and other niceties were never quite finished and I seriously doubt if they ever will be.

When we first moved to Geneseo there was just beginning to be speculation that a Super Walmart might be built somewhere close to us to replace the aging Walmart that was located over in the plaza near Wegmans. At the time the project sounded absurd and highly unlikely. But it wasn’t long after moving in that construction began and for some time now there has been a Super Walmart just behind the house which is just barely visible in a shot looking over the deck. The Tim Hortons was built next to the Walmart and for a while we went there on a regular basis.

In the basement you can just barely make out the baker’s rack located in the “server alcove”. That alcove was a major selling point of the house for us and it served as the location for several servers and related networking and power equipment that ran for almost every moment that we lived in the house. The hum of those servers was a part of our lives.

The theatre is the saddest part of the house. We had had such dreams of making that into an amazing theatre and listening room. We never even got to the point that we put down carpeting. The walls are painted black but were to be carpetted as well. The screen area was painted with a carefully formuated Benjamin Moore paint very carefully to make an excellent movie viewing surface. With the projector mounted near the back wall it was able to fill every inch of that screen area. As the camera turns around you can just make out the mounts where the stereo and theatre equipment had been mounted to the ceiling behind the seating area to make it accessible without interfering with sound or image. The amplifiers had been mounted into the ceiling to get them completely out of the way.

The last room in the basement was my office for the more than the first two years that we were in the house. That room was originally filled with bookshelves and desks. It was also the hub of the old Age of Empires II Friday nights games. But after Andy moved out I moved my office to the second bedroom and the basement mostly sat undisturbed.

I hope that you enjoy this short video of my first home. I didn’t want this important memory to be lost and so I recorded it here. There is no talking in the video – it is just a chance to share in a significant moment of our lives. We are excited about moving on to new opportunities and adventures. The house has been all but empty for a long time. We use it on a regular basis and dad has been there almost every other day. But it doesn’t feel like home anymore.

March 28, 2007: Another Allergy Day

I had to get up a little earlier than usual this morning and go down with Dominica and Oreo and help Min get a urine sample from Oreo for her to take to his vet at the Rutherford Animal Hospital so that we can find out how he is coming along. So that cut another half an hour off my already short night. This has been the week of no sleep for both dad and I. Me with work and him with working on our house in Geneseo.

The tentative closing date on the house remains this Friday but it is looking unlikely that they will be ready to close by that time. I found out this morning that I will not need to be at the closing in person and that I can take care of all of the paperwork from my end via parcel post which will make my weekend a world easier. I had no idea how I was going to manage getting up to Rochester this weekend in addition to everything else that needs to be done. I really just want to get some sleep at this point. I am going to need a vacation very soon.

I had a big scare this morning and spent most of the day being pretty sure that I had to leave from the office to drive out to Pittsburgh, work all night (or at least a couple of hours) and then drive back to New Jersey so that I could work all day without any sleep at all if I even managed to make the drive. But they called this afternoon and it looks as though I don’t have to go down there today. Oh boy do I hope that I don’t have to drive there today.

Today was actually quite slow at work. Almost nothing happened and I spent a lot of my time waiting on other people for resources that I needed. I took advantage of the opportunity to work on SSL-Explorer and managed to get a fair amount of stuff working with it. The biggest wins are that I now have instant messenger access back to home, SSH access and a remote desktop. I don’t have NX working which would be the best and I don’t have HTTP Forwarding yet but one thing at a time. Today qualifies as a pretty major victory.

Today is another one of my weird and as yet unexplained “allergy days”. These new allergies are completely baffling me. I have heard from many sources here that New Jersey is the land of allergies and that almost everyone who moves here has never had them before and gets them after a few months of living here. Mine started around August or September, if I remember correctly. They are strange. They come upon be quite suddenly. I can’t find any correlation between fresh air or stale air, warm weather or cold, open windows or air conditioning or heat, etc. I can’t even find a correlation between being in New York or New Jersey. Generally I wake up in the morning with it and it last for two to three days. And it is nothing more than an insanely runny nose. I don’t understand it at all. Having lived my entire life without any allergies at all and then getting hit with these so quickly seems unlikely. And they manifested themselves for the very first time during a trip back home to Geneseo but since then have almost always been in New Jersey.

YouTube (Google) announced the first YouTube Awards which are probably well worth checking out.

I was able to escape the office at a reasonable time and was home just a little after six.  Dominica did some shopping after work and she and Oreo weren’t home until long after seven.  We spent the evening just relaxing and enjoying having an evening when we didn’t have to frantically try to get tons of work done.  It was a good change.  It was off to bed early.  Tomorrow is looking like it will get to be a doggie – daddy day for Oreo and I.  He is very much looking forward to it.

March 27, 2007: An Empty House

This morning dad met the moving company at the house in Geneseo and supervised the emptying of the house. By one this afternoon they were done. It is hard to believe that our house is empty again. We moved all of that stuff into there in July of 2003. And now it is out.

I learned today that, not surprisingly, Radio Disney has been promoting torture, killing and racism. It is amazing that the FCC allows Radio Disney to stay on the air. As Disney is seeking legal measures to cover up any reporting on what Disney considers appropriate programming for children (they legal force anyone repeating their on air vomiting to be silenced under so called “copyright” laws which are not supposed to prevent news reporting) people have begun to go after AT&T who pays for the time slot. That means AT&T and Cingular subscribers and others need to think long and hard about what types of minority hatred they are funding with their cellular subscriptions or long distance plans. Companies with this type of agenda have no place in this country. I hope that the American public wakes up and does something about it. The type of rants heard on Radio Disney are clearly the voices of terrorist seeking to strike fear into the hearts of Americans. In a time when the US government is willing to remove any amount of our civil liberties under the guise of anti-terrorism how it is possible to have a group so clearly attempting to garner support for illegal, quasi-military terrorist actions via the public’s airwaves is unthinkable.

In positive news, In-N-Out Burger pulled advertising from Radio Disney upon learning exactly what type of content their money was being used for. Good for them. I bet their customers appreciate knowing that their burgers aren’t paying for something evil. I wish that AT&T felt that their customers cared so much.

I decided that since it is now Spring that it is now time to move away from SGL’s winter theme and onto something more, well, green. Time for life to renew itself once again.

I got home and Dominica sent me over to Food for Life again to pick up dinner and bring it home.  She did a bit of homework before we had dinner and then we watched a little of the third season of the Facts of Life.  I had a lot of work to do tonight so I didn’t get much chance to relax.

I ended up working until three in the morning but got a ton of work done.  My big triumph for the night was installing SSL-Explorer which is an SSL VPN solution.  I have been wanting to try it for a while but have not had an opportunity or a burning need but that has changed in the last year so I thought that I would give it a try to see how far that I could get.  It took several hours to get it up and running correctly on SUSE 10.2 but it worked and I am very excited to get to put it through its paces tomorrow.

Women in IT: Barrier to Entry

I was reading an article in InfoWorld today talking about the low numbers of women in IT. Anyone who has worked in the field and most who have not know that the IT industry is practically devoid of women. In fact I was surprised that women make up almost 25% of the field. In my experience the number is dramatically lower. I wonder if to make the numbers seem so high they are taking only a subset of the field or perhaps including some pretty far reaching support personnel. My personal experience across many vertical industries and in companies of many sizes and geographic locations is that women represent no more than 10-15% of the field. Although recently I have begun to see this number rising but only through my increased interaction with IT professionals in Europe.

Articles abound discussing why women are not being encouraged to enter IT or why so many women are now exiting the field but I want to discuss a particular area in which, I believe, women are being hampered from entering deeply into the IT workforce but that is very often overlooked – the physical asset management career phase.

In almost any IT professional’s career, especially one who takes the fast track and wishes to start working in IT from a young age and looks to get experience possibly during high school, instead of college or coinciding with college is often tasked with working in an extremely physical environment. Whether you are talking about that first job placing monitors on desks and crawling on the floor to plug in desktops or if you are racking and stacking servers in the datacenter – the first several years for the average IT professional entering the field is likely to be very physical. The facts are that the equipment involved in the IT industry is, on average, quite heavy but most jobs remain closely tied to the hardware and going through the hardware management stage is critical to most IT job paths. There is a reason why the CompTIA A+ exam is expected for almost any IT professional in her first several years of employment.

Working with the physical hardware has a lot of advantages. Knowing intimately how a server goes together or what types of racks use what hardware or how many hard drives fit into a chassis can be important even when reaching into high IT ranks. Of course this knowledge can be gained through study instead of first hand knowledge but this is much more difficult and the results are not the same. In an interview I can state that I have first hand working knowledge of myriad hardware platforms. Even now with over a dozen years of experience in the field it still comes into play in almost any interview or discussion. The ability to lift a Compaq Proliant 6500 or a 2200VAC UPS unit were major factors for me getting work at one point. They allowed me to do tasks without assistance and to take jobs that may not have been available to someone with left lifting power.

I once worked a desktop support job that involved moving eighty-five twenty-one inch Sony CRT monitors along with their desktop counterparts. They had to be moved from the back of a tractor trailer and brought into an office building and placed on desks all over the office. They had to be unboxed and hooked up. It was an entire evening for the crew spent just doing heavy lifting. It wasn’t the part of the job that we were getting paid for but the company didn’t want to hire a separate moving crew just to move some computers so they paid us to do it. But even the crew of almost all early twenty-something men were completely spent by the end of the evening. It was a grueling task and the job barely allowed enough time to get home, sleep and return before more work had to be done. Work like this can be instrumental in getting one’s foot in the door of the industry.

Today desktops are becoming smaller and the switch from CRT monitors to LCD has helped reduce the size and weight of desktop computers immensely. More computer users have chosen laptops which makes the job even easier yet. But currently these weight reductions only affect the PC support role jobs which are generally at the beginning of most IT professionals’ careers. These are gateway positions – important in teaching scope and breadth to up and coming IT workers but seldom a target or stopping point on the career path. It is not uncommon for these jobs to become dead-end jobs for those unable to make the next logical stop – the datacenter.

In the datacenter the equipment that is dealt with every day is very heavy and cumbersome. Equipment ranges from back-breaking 4U rack mount servers to fork-lift only cabinets. Heavy floor panels with razor sharp edges are often moved routinely to gain access to under-floor cables. In large datacenters servers may be rack and unracked daily. Heaving lifting is and will continue to be a core function of datacenter work for some time to come.

Many women are not capable of physical datacenter work and far fewer would want to do it whether or not they were able. Very few men look forward to racking servers – it just isn’t pleasant. But the server technician step can be a critical step on the IT ladder. It gives desktop support personnel a direct link between desktop support and system administration. For people looking for something similar to desktop support but more technical and challenging it can make a more attractive career target. It gives IT professionals hands on training in the equipment that they will be making decisions about later and a more clear understanding of the limitations and capabilities of the machinery. As humans we learn best by doing and leaving a piece of the chain a mystery makes it seem more difficult and complicated than it really is.

Almost everyone that I know in IT has either spent time working in a datacenter or intends to do so at some point. Only career programmers tend to avoid this step and generally only those who spend long years in college to get around it. Many programmers go through the server tech stage as a means of fast-tracking their careers and broadening their horizons.

I don’t have a useful solution for the industry. Right now we are affected by a multitude of problems that seem superficial on the surface but may be having a dramatic impact on the industry’s ability to attract and retain a female workforce. As time moves on desktops will continue to be reduced in weight and the Deskside Support roles will become less physically demanding. Eventually the datacenter’s mainstay equipment will weight less that eighty pounds and when it does many more people will be in a position to work in that environment. But for now we are challenged by an industry so broad and so complicated that senior IT managers, system architects, engineers, administrators, etc. are all expected to have paid their dues at some point in a demanding physical equipment environment. This is not to say that there are no means of reaching the higher echelons of the industry without having worked in the datacenter. Not at all. But the reality remains that there are vastly more opportunities for entry into the field and for early rungs on the ladder for people capable and willing to take on unpleasant and physically challenging positions.

And the winner is…. BluRay

People like to complain about the format war and how it will negatively impact everyone we they search for the “next generation” video format.  Well, I have two things to tell you.

One: BluRay started in the lead and was the only format with the headroom to handle current video technology let alone future video technology.  BD was such a no-brainer than it was hard to believe that anyone was seriously considering HD-DVD.  Even BluRay isn’t a very impressive format for what we need today but HD-DVD completely misses the mark.  The public has moved passed HD-DVD without blinking.  BD has very short to live.

Two: The age of physical media for content delivery is all but over.  Sure with the advent of 1080p video and lossless eight channel audio suddenly downloading content is too much for the average consumer but this is just a temporary swing.  When DVD first released the thought of downloading a whole DVD from the Internet was the stuff of science fiction.  Sure we could hypothesis about it and we knew that someday it would happen but actually doing it seemed a lot way off.  By halfway through the DVD lifespan Internet connection speeds and backbone capacity had increased so dramatically that consumers in most markets can download an entire DVD image or video files of similar quality in minutes.  Minutes!  My cheap, bottom of the line Internet connection in Newark will grab a DVD in about eight minutes.  Imagine what people in markets with really high speed connections can do!  Already there are a lot of services allowing you to download “rental” movies and some places allowing you to download movie purchases.  As our speeds continue to increase and as people connect more and more devices to their televisions that can surf the Internet and play movies we will see people using physical media less and less at a fantastic rate.  The idea of instant gratification is too much for most people to resist.  The fact that a download is cheaper will play second fiddle to the convenience factor.

Add to this important facts like that BluRay just hit the critical 100,000 units mark two months ahead of traditional DVD which, as it was, was one of the fastest adopted new technologies ever.  BluRay is set for rapid market domination.  And consider that DVD was essentially unrivaled and BluRay has this stigma of HD-DVD to contend with.  And now Microsoft has released their new XBOX 360 with HDMI (the killer feature of PlayStation 3 until now) but decided to forego including the HD-DVD drive as the market has shown little to no interest in it.  If Microsoft isn’t going to promote their own format who will?  HD-DVD is dead.  BluRay won.  Game over.

Now if only BluRay can hold out against the Internet for any length of time.  I predict rapid proliferation of simple file formats that are carrier agnostic and transparent and almost instantaneous switch from physical media to the online media world.