Meet the New Gig… Same as the Old Gig

I’ve been thinking a lot about work lately. Wondering what it is I expect from it other than the paycheck which is nice. What do we all expect from it? Some folks have told me that there is a thrill and enjoyment to it when all the factors come together. Their lives are all in jive and all their indicators are pointing in the same direction with the same declination. How many of us are like that though I wonder. Doing Project Management, I’ve come away with a few things after so many years of the doing of it.

Its enjoyable and I get a sense of accomplishment as I turn the pages of the plan and see the teams coalesce into a single unit that delivers the required solution but goes an extra step out of pure joy. I worked for stupid company doing professional services consulting in Palo Alto and was told time and again to simply “delight the customer”. At the same time, when one of our consulting groups did not do that the sales executive and I were expected to bail them out. This happened more than once. But the company said what a delightful and fulfilling place. Blah, blah, blah. We could not wait to leave. So we did leave. I got little sense of the first pole of existence there. No markers to a team fulfilling its destiny. Just a bunch of people voicing their common desire to find joy but delivering much less. Perhaps it was just me though and my expectation at doing professional services consulting.

Its fulfilling part of the time but the rest I suffer. There is some percent of time when I get a sense of accomplishment (this is not joy) but the rest of the time its marginal and I do it those times to get the money. I’ve done this a few times. The pay was good. The job sucked. The job was good. The pay sucked. Nothing has ever come close to being the joy I felt at doing archeology in the field with like-minded scientists. We crossed over this marker many times. Somehow in IT though the arrow points at the suffering part more than the fulfillment part. We somehow think we can just change jobs or contracting companies and it all will come back. Bad news. It does not. The current job will always suck and the last one is a faint memory and the next one rules.

Its merely survival and I could be a lifeguard at a county pool. When I reach this exciting zenith; I wonder why the hell I am doing what I am doing. It comes down to money. Money is the root of all evil but we need those roots. Lets face it. When we operate at this level, we really would prostitute ourselves. Become whores of the company. Take the $$ and run. Anyone care to speculate where this falls on your work spectrum in IT? Being a whore means perhaps an expectation of an orgasm at some point unless you just fake it all. The problem is that the job orgasm is soon over and you’re left with the other condition which takes most of the time.

Those are the things which I believe rules in IT. Perhaps our ride is across all three things and we never have time to adjust. When did I last enjoy the first thing? Probably at a startup I was with so many years ago. Life shadows this. Divorce comes along and it touches almost all the factors of life. It makes work, friendships, colleagues at work, home life, relationships at whatever level all suspect. Just like work. The divorce pole operates to take me down, sideways, then up again.

I need a vacation.

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Migrating to Chrome (books/boxes) One User at a Time

Sometimes its not the major educational or other institutions which carve out the niche and use cases. Its more of a single user at a time that we can get to the platform and ecosystem with rational explanations. Its not about cost only and that’s why the cheapo Microsoft laptops will ultimately fail because simply “undercutting” does not battle the value proposition of the chrome devices. I believe the real value is in a few areas which will prove out with competition and the disruptive value that the OS has:

  1. The virus free proposition. For users like my friend Free, a user of the Apple OS and iMacs and whatever else Apple; its not running AntiVirus or Malware applications which suck up precious use times. This is a common use case I think and a value people really want that are not techno geek lords. Free is just a user type guy. He wants a device to browse the web, watch YouTubes, pay online bills.
  2. The synchronicity proposition. Who says that you have to initialize each and every device you happen to get? This use case syncs the applications, data, bookmarks, even wallpaper between multiple devices without an issue. Buy a new device? Get the apps you have already installed on one over to the new one by simply booting and logging in.
  3. The system update proposition. What does a user like Free want? Updates to just flow with no real issues. This works out so very well on chromebooks. People just take the whole process for granted and the updates flow. For a non tech geek lord user, the update process should be a given.

Important Propositions

The cloud proposition. If you are going to go to Chromebooks, use a cloud provider to store things even if you use things off the network. Don’t lose the cherished photographs, files, mp3s, whatever. Sign up and use one. I use Google Drive. Use Google+ for photos and Google Play Music for music files. This takes out the worry and heart/head aches with a failing hard drive in a more traditional use where everything is stored on the local drive and at the worst possible moment will fail.

The use proposition. Be sure to weigh in what you expect to use the device for. The worst thing for us habilis is to have a tool which does not work for a reason or two. You cannot proselytize a device which simply does not meet expectations and then walk away from that non tech geek user with no explanation. Everyone out there is not like you. They don’t know rsync from ssh. Be a good friend and tell the the truth.

The support proposition. I’ve found this one more than a few times in our shared home. I’m kinda looked at as the defacto network, tech support, and hardware technician. People have all kinds of devices and I cannot support them all nor do I really care to. Be comfortable for what you sign yourself up for. Chrome devices are easier to support I think because of the value propositions above. Non technical users I feel will find a browser-centric environment okay if that’s what they want to do. If what they want is to browse the web, watch videos, do online banking, then their use cases fit. If they want to run photoshop or heavy monolithic applications; its probably time for a gut check reality session.

Final Expositions

Chromebooks are not being sold because they are cheap only although that could be a reason. There are value propositions which will mean they are sold in ever-increasing numbers even with cheapo windows laptops. The cheapo windows laptop is still a windows laptop after all. It still has the same foibles and curses and pluses and advantages but I believe the core issue is the core OS. My value propositions which make a chrome device win out can be done to a Windows system but it takes WORK. And its still a monolithic device.

Choose well. I did. My Toshiba Chromebook 2 is all I could ask and even more. But I know what I have asked it to do for me. If you are helping a friend be sure that you understand both systems. Don’t be a friend that steers a friend to a place where he cannot use the tools completely.

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Sharing a House enables Insanity

I’ve lived in the same house with a rotating group of room-mates now for over a year. Its been as Charles Dickens could say “the best and worst of times”. Living with a bunch of people has a few drawbacks and a few positives. Never have I seen in my years such a collection of characters that have tromped in and out of this place. Some I think should have been given away to a state run institution way before they ever graced the doorstep of this place. Others have come and gone with eviction notices pinned to their doors.

Free and I are the only two left with any history of this place. Both of us here over a year now and its been a strange period of time. At the best of times, I have this bubble where I can escape to on a given Friday night. Drink my quantity of beer and not delve into the darker times. I am able to just get as drunk as I want to get without really concerning myself with the inner workings of the house. Other times, these distinct personalities emerge like characters in some shoddy fiction. Here abstracted for your enjoyment is a list.

Person 1. I have a slight case of bi-polarity but I am medicated so I can deal with society and its demands. I am doing much better now than before. I have things under control.

Person 2. I am a veteran. I lived in Tokyo and studied. I go to Thailand every year. I study eastern religions. I meditate every day. I actually am most likely crazy and I will call the police at the least notice and blame another person for stealing statues and pouring energy drink all over some briefcase or satchel. Other than that, I’m completely okay and will never bother anyone.

This is a cross-section of a piece of society which is out there. We almost had a Person 3 who really had some issues but luckily for us we stopped there and did not move forward with him. We almost had a Person 4 who made weird statements about the room.

I don’t know who else shares a house with others out there. This is the stuff that novels are made of folks. I’ll let you get on with Friday now. My plans are to eat the great food my house mate and buddy Free makes. Then drink copious amounts of beer. Then try to forget things after I go for a nice long walk this evening. The walk is important today. I want 2 hours out.

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Upcoming travel

I will probably be taking off in a few weeks on a week long vacation and road trip. The plan at this point is to drive north of San Francisco along Highway One and see that part of the coast. I don’t remember seeing it before but I think my ex-wife and I did the drive and its locked away in some dusty synapses that don’t link properly any longer.


I want to take my time and stop at a few of the smaller places for days if possible so I would do a longer in time drive and stop more frequently with less miles accumulated. One place I would stop for a few nights is Gualala which is not on the map. There’s a hotel there which looks to be the place for a few nights. The SeaCliff Motel looks stunning and I could imagine kicking back with a wood fire, some beverages, and just staring at the compelling land and sea scapes.

Its a few hour drive for me from the East Bay so I would most likely leave early on a Saturday morning in a Enterprise Rental Car and get there first. I could see spending two nights at the SeaCliff and doing absolutely nothing.

After the stop in Gualala, I’d start driving north again. My next stop could be in Fort Bragg up the coast a bit and I think the Surf Motel would be a likely candidate for a stop.

The idea with the drive is to go south to north along the Highway One route with no big hurry ups and no amount of miles to do. I may stop inbetween Gualala and Fort Bragg as well. I read a few sites about the drive north. Both offer a slow view of the drive. The first one spells out a longer drive which I would not do this time in the interests of seeing as much as I can. Budget Travel offers a nice view of the daily escapades of such a drive. Finally, one can never go wrong with reading up on the wikipedia for the entire route.

The best thing to me is to do this with no preconceived mileage ideas or travel times and just go until I say stop. I don’t want to tackle too much and then feel rushed at the end.

Coming back will most likely be along Highway 101 but I may swing over to Chico and see my friend Ed at the tail end of the trip. I’ll post some more about what is coming up that would make this trip possible. At this point, revelations may come this Friday. Still waiting to hear.

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Chromebook Hacks and Fun

I decided today to hack the Toshiba Chromebook 2 just a bit. First off I enabled the Developer mode on it which deletes all local files. Duh… Who cares? Then I downloaded crouton which is a mega script to install some version of Linux. I went for the cli-extra distribution since all I really want from Linux at this point is to be able to run ADB and Fastboot on the chromebook. I had to install a few packages on my so-called chroot and then I was able to add in a PPA to get adb and fastboot on the chroot-ed Linux install. I also added a crosh window app so my sessions are windowed sessions kinda like the rxvt or xterm sessions everyone remembers.

One of the things I wanted to see was how much of the 16gb of storage this would take. At this point I have 9gb left which seems fine to me given that most of the things I do are “out there”. I also wanted to see how integrated the solutions were. The copy and paste of links works a treat and the shared directories do not require any additional mounts or edits to files. On the ChromeOS the Downloads directory is right in my home directory on my Linux chroot. Sudo works just like you think it would as well. I connected my Nexus 9 and got the prompt to save the “fingerprint” of the device being used. All good there. It will be interesting to flash the factory image next on the Nexus 9 when we get to that point. I also plugged in a 64gb USB external drive and Ubuntu mounts it up under /media and sets the sharing and permissions correctly so I can create and edit in the mounted file system. This gives me an additional 64gb of space to play around with mounted up under linux.

Just a few of my basic beginner notes on the whole chromebook hacking:

  • Be patient when the device goes into developer mode. It does some stuff to enable it and reboots a few times. Patience is a virtue.
  • Remember to re-download the crouton script since the change to Developer mode removes all the local files.
  • Get the ssh server app from the web store that google provides. This will let the crosh window app work correctly and you don’t get a full chrome tab taking up space.
  • Remember the commands to launch the chroot or just leave the chroot running all the time. It don’t matter :-)
  • Check how much disk space you’ve used by opening chrome://quota-internals
  • I have to remember to change the display resolution since my old eyes cannot handle what this thing can do. You can use chrome://settings/display for that.

By doing the hacking exercise, I got rid of the need for my x220 laptop basically since all it did was be there for adb and fastboot at this point and my chromebook is 95% useful. At some point, google will just include the tools so I won’t need the chroot any longer. Until then, I had fun hacking up my chromebook to do a chroot mini distribution of command line tools on ubuntu. The chromebook is a disruptive little thing which has advantages at so many levels. It easily becomes my daily driver for most things and then you can hack it and extend it as well.

Very cool. Thanks el goog and Toshiba.

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The 14

Yesterday was my long walk day. I did about 5.6 miles in a few hours and was just heading back to a few turns which would lead me home when my trusty Nexus 6 pinged me with a text message. Turns out my debit card was compromised and the bank was letting me know they shut it down and reimbursed me the amounts that had been fraudulently charged. That meant, my evening pizza may be at risk since I had no cash and no real way to get money or charge things. I was despondent and miserable a bit heading back home. As I got on the major street by the house; I looked down at the sidewalk a few times.

And there it was!

There was a little roll of either dollars or other money. I just stopped. No one was there or anywhere around. No real way to return it. It was lost and I was there. I took the money and opened up the bills. There was $14.00 there. The pizza I wanted cost 11.00 at Mountain Mike’s Pizza and I left a two dollar tip and I had my pizza. Were there some guilt feelings? Perhaps a moment. You never know who or why that money turned up missing from another person. It was left there for me to find though and I have no idea how long it was sitting out there in plain view for all to see.

I felt somehow blessed that in a moment of need for something I wanted I had found a thing. I felt that someone else lost a thing they valued but no real way to know who or why. I spent the money on pizza and then sat watching movies and drinking my evening beer to complete beer drunkedness.

The 14 made me feel both good and bad but the idea that somehow it was just sitting there and it was enough to tip the pizza place and get my pizza really made the moment feel good.

Now I’m back with a good debit card and its Saturday and I’m a bit hungover and feeling good. We’ll BBQ today and I’ll enjoy the moments of things even more. That 14 was a blessing and thanks to whoever left it or lost it. I was not so needy as you may have been and I apologize if you were or are.


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Life on the Android Light Side

I got my new laptop; the Toshiba Chromebook 2. Its a really nice device and the screen is gorgeous. Its a good general purpose laptop and for about 90% it just works for me. The part which is missing is being able to fastboot flash on it. I could install crouton and Linux on it but I also still have my sturdy X220 laptop running Debian testing which can do the goods. I also put away a Nexus 9 and 7 tablet and am only using the Nexus 6 now. Its a really nice phone and can do duty both ways for me. I chromecast from it, read the news, read my kindle books on it. Its a great size mix for me that fulfills the needs for a single device quite well.

One of the steps I want to get to is to find a good custom ROM based which I can follow for awhile and then move away from the factory images which need the fastboot binary. This way I will no longer need to have adb or fastboot. I’d need to have this to oem unlock a new thing but the Nexus 6 will last me for some bit of time. Perhaps by then the chromebooks will have adb and fastboot. If not I’ll still have the x220 laptop with linux on it to make things right.

I’ve noticed a few things moving to a single device. The whole android update cycle is much easier and running a custom ROM and tracking my applications and what I need is so much better with a phone that has 64gb of storage room. Android on the tablet form factor has issues for me. I don’t feel that we are seeing the best devices we could see and all of them lack in some regard or other. I could never just use a iPad Air 2 even though I have tried a few times. Its just so different. When I get to using one it suddenly occurs to me there is no real comparison between the two platforms. This runs contrary to what everyone wants in the press and the tech rags. They forever want the comparisons of what is better. Its too bad really. Both have something to offer but we are forever the victims of who did what better and not what each one brings out. We want to have a comparable thing so everyone says both come in at this point and do this or that. But the truth is there is so much difference in how the two work, we’re forever lost.

The final point for me for Android light is how portable it can all really be. With a so-called phablet, you can get this and that easily and not sacrifice. Android light gets me closer to a solution which can be used in so many different ways. Combine my chromebook and the Nexus 6 on the road on my trips and I get the best of both breeds. The chromebook offers a full on laptop experience which is easily used given I have a tmobile hotspot too. The phone offers all the views of things I like. Games, news, maps, mail, web. I especially like YouTube on it.

I personally think the days of the tablet are limited. People have run out of uses and will move to a more portable solution be it iPhone or an Android phablet. Its the natural order. We’ve had the run of tablets. Now we want super mobility and I think chromebooks and phablets give us the mix. A six inch phone is only as good as it can be and we put our uses to it to make that much better. You can stick with the devices and all the sizes but I think the world is imploding in on itself and we will see new dimensions of how the phone can be used. Some years ago in Chennai India with my first Android phone, the HTC Magic, it dawned on me what we had. I just knew that in some years a revolution would happen. Even with the Magic on airtel with no Android Market it was evident. Soon I would get the HTC Hero in Singapore when the Magic gave up after so many flashings of ROMs. I rememvber sitting in the Hotel New Woodlands and seeing the Magic start acting up. I knew then that the duty free shop in Changi would have a customer. Over perhaps a last meal in India, preparing to leave in 2009; the truth was there. There were the wild days of all those sweet desserts that Android gave us but perhaps a word on Lollipop. For those that think this is all confusing they should consider how software and especially open source software works. You should stop complaining and learn your phone. Flash a factory image. Get a boot loop and fix it. Install TWRP and a superSU. Make it do stuff. This to me is the power of the Nexus brand. The other stuff like OTA updates are just so much crying in the woods..

Now back to the Light side. Because its the right side.

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Changes this Friday

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the technological doodads and gizmos I need in my life of late. Nexus 9 tablets, Nexus 6 phones, Linux laptops. All of this in some attempt to stay connected or have a variety of devices with the same footprints to keep me informed and able to be reached. It seems to me that at this point there are way too many devices to actually ┬ábe used in what I want going forward. The whole tablet thing seems particularly vulnerable and when I compare the Nexus 9 tablet quality to a high definition chromebook like the Toshiba Chromebook 2; I don’t understand why I use the tablet whatsoever.

I also don’t think tablets are fulfilling the same technology needs as when I started using them. They seem frail and on the Android side, there has not been a killer tablet ever. Each one requires these updates all the time, factory images, OTA support. I feel dragged down by the need to do these things. I would like a lighter existence not hampered by carrying so many different plugs, adapters, drives.

I’m tired of having to flash things, to track bugs, how the Nexus program has changed to a group of complainers who don’t even understand how to use fastboot or adb or manage a device which is not meant to be a commercial success but a reference footprint.

So, in short, this Friday, I divest myself of the gizmos. The Linux laptops, the Nexus 9 tablet. It all goes. The replacement is a chromebook which will do all the things and still let me have the google tools I have become dependent on.

My goal is to simplify what sits on my desk. It goes down to a Nexus 6 phone with chromecast on it and a chromebook laptop that I am buying today. All the other stuff goes away and gets stacked in a closet. While I’m on the subject of the Nexus 6 phone, its clear that the phone and its affiliated root and custom recovery has become less than necessary with how the applications work these days. We just don’t need root as much as we used to.

For interest only; I am buying the Toshiba Chromebook 2 which will deliver this week. When I boot it up, all my stuff comes to it automatically. I love Android and its stuff. I don’t love all the issues and fixes and complexity.

When I post next to the blog, hopefully its a kinder and simpler world with only one nexus device which I actually really enjoy now.

Update of sorts.

I just ordered the chromebook with same day delivery from Amazon for a bit more money. Today by end of the day, things will be different at least for me. No more tablets big or small and plugs and adapters and worries about bug fixes and updates. The nexus 6 and the chromebook is all I need.

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New Travel, New Year

This is the start of the travel planning year. I have two vacations already defined and perhaps a third in the wings for this year. The first one will be around April and will take me up to Portland for a few days of walking, eating, drinking. April is the perfect time for Portland. Before the tourist season and the weather may not be totally inviting to many. But for walking; its ideal. Much like Seattle was in November. I’ll fly up and train back so I can keep my united frequent flyer miles active.

The next trip will be a road trip up the coast from San Francisco to Fort Bragg. I have not done that part of the drive yet so need to see a part of the coastline which I have read a great deal about of late. This trip will take about 4 days as well and be done in a rental car.

The final trip this year is to Japan using my miles. My goals are to spend a few days in Tokyo and get back to a few places and then train down to Hiroshima. I’ll stay at Hiroshima for about 3 days and then back to Tokyo and back home. I don’t see a pressing need to visit India or Singapore any longer. Just adds more time and expense. Japan is what I want.

Lurking just ahead of me is a bigger and more aggressive plan next year. I will simply disappear in 2016 for months and perhaps longer. I know what I need to get this done. Many factors in my life will come together and I will be able to do the trip to places and do times in the places with no hurry. I already know what I want from this. Fly to Japan and take the Ferry boat from Osaka to Shanghai. Then train to Hong Kong. Stay there for whatever time and then Singapore beckons a 24 hour train trip to Chiang Mai Thailand. A month would be perfect in Thailand. This is only the barest of outlines and there are so many places inbetween here and there to see while I still have juice in my life to do the things. I’ll get back after months with no car, no home, but money still in the bank. I may hit the road again and do the train trip here I have wanted for so long. The amtrak across the USofA completely. I merely want to have months and months of travel with nothing holding me back or pushing me forward. Its not the destination or the road or the signs or the places. Its the movement I miss so much. I once said in my earlier blog while sitting at the Changi Airport in 2011 eating a breakfast it was “not being here or there”.

I miss that sensation. I also want to simplify down to a level of only a backpack and a tablet. No phone, no pool, no pets. Stay tuned here to see me start outlining the grandest of trips. I know what I need to do for money and for time and what I want. Its time to get what I want. I’ve given for years and sometimes I’ve felt used and abused. People have felt its okay to do that to me and if they cry and make a mess of emotions, I’ll just not erase those etcha sketch lines. Wrong bucko.


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I want to be alone

So what did she say?

In the movie Grand Hotel, she says,

I want to be alone

She also clarified a line attributed to her outside of the movie as being the same. It became

I want to be left alone

Why is that important and who really cares? Lets face it, Greta was a beautiful and sensuous woman who never married, never had children and lived life the way she wanted. I started on the trek to find out because of a Van Morrison song I happen to like a lot.

I ended the 30 minute quest before a meeting I have coming up because the quote always intrigued me and left me wondering. The song by Van I always felt was much like a lot of his other work. Darkly beautiful, sensuous, willful, emotionally binding but right under the surface. Just perhaps like Greta herself.


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