Today I did some work from home and caught up on my timesheets and invoices. Not a very interesting day in some ways. But…
I did go out this afternoon with Justice and Haifa. Haifa slept the whole three and a half hours we were out, but Justice and I had a lot of fun. The outting actually started very nicely: Justice and Haifa were arguing in the car about where they wanted to go. Justice wanted to go to the toy store (Mastermind), and Haifa wanted to go to the mall. I told them that we should consult about it. So we each said a prayer: Justice and Haifa said “O God! Guide me…” (actually, that link goes to an updated translation – Justice and Haifa say the older version). Then we each said what we wanted to do. I said I wanted to have fun. Then we decided that we could all do what we wanted by going to the toy store first and then to the mall. Then Haifa fell asleep… We hung out at Mastermind for a while, then we went to a park. Justice and I played on the jungle gym which include an underground tube for speaking through. We ran back and forth once between some football/soccer goal posts. After a while, we went to the mall. At the mall, I got a hot almond milk bubble tea, then we went to ToysRUs. Justice played an XBox game there which has a little cat and has something to do with time sweeping. One other interesting thing was that Justice really wanted me to buy him something. I told him about detachment: being happy even if you don’t get what you want. He didn’t want to do that so he cried a little when we left the mall with no new toys.
Two days ago I moved my server. I have purchased a low-end business class ADSL internet connection from Bell. They now route my class-C IP set (204.83.35) to my home. The technician came and installed my ADSL filters and router, called the tech center, and voila! my IP set was re-routed… Unfortunately they didn’t tell me that’s how it was going to happen. I had told them that I would need to give the word to re-route so that I could move my server in an orderly fashion. Instead, I realized my IP was moved because I couldn’t reach my server anymore. I quickly took the van up to Barrie to the colocation facility of Apexia Voice and Data, grabbed my server, came home, and plugged it in. Fortunately I didn’t need to change any settings on the server to get it up and running again. Thanks go to Shane at Apexia for all the great help he has given me over the few years that I have been with them. Now I get to spend time reconfiguring my home network so that I can cancel my Rogers cable internet service.
Christian sent me this interesting article about programmers as artists.
Here’s a complete PhD thesis paper on the software engineering analogy [pdf] (a little different from the construction analogy).
My friend Charlie has started a blog. He suggested that I start adding some photos to my own, specifically my avocado project. Unfortunately I have some technical difficulties (not enough usb ports on my laptop) so I cannot upload the photos right now.
More news about my Software Construction Analogy paper: there is another article on kuro5hin.org, this one about software architecture. It refers to my article. I have also participated substantially in the discussion there. I’m hoping that in a few weeks I will be able to publish a more scholarly attack on the software construction analogy. Eventually, I would like to develop the ideas into a full book. How many words are in a standard technical book? Addison Wesley, one of my favorite publishers, has some guidelines for book submissions.
Today was a crumby day. I had a very bad headache that started last night and continued until this evening. It seems to be gone now, but I didn’t make it into work. I have an important deadline coming next week so that was very frustrating. Tomorrow I have a morning meeting with the CIO of the organization I am working with – I hope I feel much better!!!
I wanted to thank a couple people for putting comments about my Software Construction Analogy paper on their blogs: Seth Dillingham, and Eric Hancock. Thanks!
I went to see the movie “Dreamcatcher” today. It was okay. The real reason I went to see it was to see the Animatrix short that precedes the feature. I am very much looking forward to the Matrix sequals coming soon…
Yesterday I got the dance pad for the StepMania dance game for PC. I tried it out briefly last night and did about 20 minutes with it this evening in Jersey City. I love it!!! I fully expect to get really good at it and get lots of exercise in the bargain. There are a couple minor problems tho: the pad is a thin flexible plastic thingy that slips easily both on my carpet at home and on the hardwood in my apartment. Not only that, but in my apartment, jumping around on the hardwood is a bit tough on my feet. So, I’ll probably buy some stuff to make it better, like a thin dense foam underlay and some sort of system for holding it in place on both hardwood and carpet. I was also thinking of putting some sort of ridges under the pad so that I can feel when my feet get out of place.
The last two nights have been very interesting and somewhat intense. On Thursday night, when I arrived home, Melanie was very upset and depressed. We ended up talking for quite a while about happiness. On Friday night, after returning home from the Feast of Baha, we started to do some work on our finances. We discovered that in the 12 months of 2002, we only reduced our current unsecured debt by $5000 or so. This is a far cry from our goal of almost eliminiating it. Not only that, but our current debt has increased since then. We talked for a long time about how I approach our finances very optimistically and how that is very difficult for her. One thing that I understood clearly was that we have very different thresholds of fear regarding our finances. She considers almost any unsecured debt as fearful. I have only been afraid since June of 2001 when I lost a contract. Since then we have been struggling very very hard to get our finances under control. Moving twice has not helped 🙂 In fact, moving this last time, from California to Ontario, cost us personally about CA$25,000!!!! (A big part of that is because we could not get out of our lease in Daly City, but it doesn’t include the cost of movers since those were paid for by the company I have a contract with.)
Here is the email discussion I referred to a couple days ago regarding career strategy advice:
—– Original Message —–
From: “Mishkin Berteig”
To: “Greg Matthews”
Sent: Monday, March 17, 2003 7:16 PM
Subject: Re: Seeking Advice — Computer Science
Greg, I’d be glad to spare you a few minutes. See my responses below… — Greg Matthews wrote:
My name is Greg Matthews and I am a Computer Science student at the University of Windsor. I am currently preparing to go into my final year of studies with plans to graduate next April (2004), and I have decided to go into this last year with a strategy to best prepare me for my job search after completion.
Good idea 🙂
I am currently seeking to find some advice from professionals within this area and I was hoping you might be willing to answer a few questions for me that might help me better plan for my future career. Would you be spare a few minutes to answer some questions for me?
Here are my questions:
- In your opinion, what is the current state of the job market for IT professionals?
Bad, but not insanely bad. Basically, if you are pure comp-sci with no other skills and no experience, things are going to probably be rough. Even with other skills and experience things are tough. But they have improved substantially since 2001 which was a completely dead year!
- What caused you to go into your specific area of IT and if you were to start over would you still take this path? If not, what?
I got onto my path accidentally in some ways, and quite deliberately in others. For example: I never expected to work with Java, partly because it didn’t really exist until I got out of school. However, I quite deliberately did not stop learning after I finished school. The path I have taken, which could be summed up as “Object Oriented Guru” (and along which I have not yet reached the summit), was only sorted out after I got finished my degree and had some work experience.
- What IT professions (if any) would you recommend staying away (possibly due to over-saturation/high-competition or otherwise)?
It is difficult to say. The problem with the IT industry is that it changes quickly. (That is also an advantage, of course.) I honestly don’t think it is possible to plan even a year ahead in terms of any specifics. Use your education to go as broad as possible: theory, math, business, languages (computer and human), humanities and social sciences, science etc. This is so that you can know what you are talking about no matter where you find yourself in a year or two or five… If you are not already well-read, it is probably urgent to try to broaden your horizons. In the long run, prepare to always be learning! Other than that, choose what is most attractive to you. I chose programming because that is what I enjoyed most. If you like fiddling with hardware, follow that, etc.
- What advice would you give to a person looking to get started with minimal previous experience? How can I get my foot in the door without experience what would an employer look for?
Well, there are lots of possibilities. Get involved in or start an open-source project. It doesn’t have to be big or take a lot of your time. Make sure that you advertize any personal projects you have done. If you haven’t done any, you might be in trouble so I would suggest you get moving on that. For me, personal projects meant stuff related to AI. Just do something that you are interested in.
- Is additional education (Masters or MBA) important in today’s market?
A post-graduate degree is not necessary, but professional training can be very helpful. For example, take a seminar course on Project Management, or a software development methodology such as RUP. This will likely cost you a couple thousand, but believe me it is worth it. If you can’t afford that, or find the time, do a ton of reading in a subject related to the computer field, but not really computer sciency.
- What would you consider to be ideal entry-level positions to gain the best experience and opportunity?
Two things to consider: 1. your first job should be with a small local technology startup where you are either the only technical person or one of two techies. This allows you to get experience doing everything, and that is criticaly. After a year, or at most two, get out of that job and find one with a big tech company such as IBM, Sun or Microsoft. These can be hard to find but they are excellent. After that, your career options are pretty much open. Whatever you do, don’t take a first position with a large company if you can avoid it because you risk being pigeon-holed into a specialty that may not suit you. (Caveat: if the position is exactly what you are hoping to do for the rest of your life, then go for it!)
I would greatly appreciate if you could answer any of these or offer any additional advice you may have to offer.
Thanks in advance!
Do you mind if I put up your email and my responses on my weblog? I will happily remove your name if you desire, or link to your home page if you want…
– Greg Matthews
I think that the summary to all that I said is:
- have a broad foundation of education
- be flexible
- continue learning outside of school
- try doing things you enjoy
- don’t get pigeon-holed early on
Interestingly, non of that advice is specific to the IT field and represents a fairly “liberal”
approach to education and work.
Some links: Charlie Kirby’s cool site and his other cool site.
Some people might think this would be a good place to say something about the “war” with the USA and Iraq. So there, I did. But that’s all I’m saying about it 🙂
One hour later… okay so here’s a link about the war.
I had an interesting suprise last night. When I broke the fast, I went to one of those buffets where one loads up and then the meal is weighed. It seems that I put over a kilogram of food in my plate!!! With that, and drinking a half litre of water, my measured weight would instantly jump by 3 or 4 pounds!!! Now, of course, weight does not correlate with number of calories, and in fact some of the food I chose had a very high water content, but still it was a suprise. I shall try tonight to eat less, although I missed breakfast 🙁
Why did I miss breakfast today? Well I forgot to bring my cell phone charger with me to Jersey City this week. Thus, it has run out of batteries and can no longer be used as my alarm clock. I downloaded some trial clock software which will play mp3’s. I set it up, tested it, and then set it for the morning. For some reason it did not go off and I slept in. (It seems that I had accidentally left the alarm “off” even though I had set a time for it.) Arg.
Melanie’s dad, Benny, had a party at our house for his 56th birthday. We had a great (fabulous) meal care of Linda, Benny’s girlfriend. The other highlight of the evening was the DDR game running on a PS2 that Kristine brought over (this was the second time). So in respect of that we have some links: the flash version, open source PC version StepMania, free PC version Dance With Intensity. I guess I’ll have to buy a dance pad 🙂
Christian sent me this link [PDF] – it’s a bit of a read but it’s worth it if you are interested in advertizing, promotion, media, internet chat or communities.
Someone emailed me today with questions about career strategy.
Yesterday I submitted an abridged version of my paper “The Software Construction Analogy is Broken” to Kuro5hin. It was submitted at 9:30 pm EST, and posted to the front page of Kuro5hin at around 11:00am EST today. Someone by the name of Hamis Harvey has already written some very intelligent comments on my article on his blog. The larger paper itself deals with the same topic but provides a substantial set of scholarly references and notes as well as some differences in the text. The paper is not yet complete and I am grateful for the many excellent comments people have made on Kuro5hin. I intend to honor those comments by making my paper even better (and of course acknowledging the sources of the improvements!). Thanks K5!