Older blog entries for jlbec (starting at number 12)

lmb has a rather interesting take on the american freeway. I'd prefer to drive on them too. I didn't get to ride with the autobahn man on Saturday, riding with uzi instead. He drives fast enough himself, and has a nice musical selection.

Bryce is rather happy to have his UK keyboard. More power to him. I hated UK keyboards when I was over there. Give me a PC 101 anyday. Sun keyboards suck too. Backspace is just too small.

Work happens. They were supposed to drop off our other car yesterday morning around 10:30 or so, so I waited at home. And waited. And waited. They got the car to me at 15:15. I was not happy. So much for work. I suspect I might actually get some done today.


I am now officially on the West Coast. Moving has happened. I hope, for her sake, that dria's move goes much easier. Every little problem that could pop up did. I have to say that the movers themselves were tremendously nice, and I thank the heavens for that.

So all the stuff is a mess in the new place, and we have one of the two cars. Cool. I can actually come to the office now.

In other things, I suspect I'll have to do a CipherSaber sometime, and certainly need to get some home net soon.

I could use good karma too

Well, my life is being packed away as we speak. Tomorrow the truck comes to pick it up. I feel empty somehow. Not empty of feeling, but empty as in cleaned out. As if my life no longer has meaning.

Either this means that materialism does define us, or I really need to get rid of some stuff!

Adrian has this to say about me:

jlbec: know from lots of irc channels (all of them??).
I don't quite know what to make of it. I'm only on maybe three IRC channels. If that's all of them, the rest of you aren't talking, no matter what you think :-)

OTOH, I've met Adrian at RH and expos, and I've been following his LDAP/KRB explorations with great interest. I managed to get way too used to the convenience of the DCE/DFS environment, and I'd like to see what can be done in the free/open/not dying soon world.

More packing............................................

lilo updated his collaboration comments based on a discussion we had. I'm not sure we got everything covered, but hey, we're collaborating! Rob, I would say that I function between Journeyer and Novice on your collaboration scale. Like most folks, I probably hover in the Apprentice range. I certainly can have my BOFH moments, dipping into Novice territory. I also can be extremely collaborative. I've done quite a few (as we all have) projects without any friction and with a reasonable exchange of ideas. That said, my forays into Journeyership are probably near the bottom, because I am nowhere nears a Master :-)

I've learned too much. Now I force myself to spend time on nice accessor methods rather than permitting direct data structure access. It's the Right Thing, but it is more work. Add to that my tendancy to overarchitecture....

I've been up too late lately. I think that will get better. It is weird not to have to show up at the office.

I have this strong urge to post a submission to FreshMeat.

Wheel 0.51
Joel Becker - April 20th 2000, 23:12EST

Wheel is a surprisingly useful tool to enable mobility and ease-of-use. It reduces friction and encourages synergie across long distances. It can also make difficult tasks easier, by providing a means to leverage those tasks in an effective measure. I'm really amazed that no one has come up with a utility like this before, as it is a relatively simple concept.

Changes: Reduction in ovoid shape, as symmetry seems to facilitate better use.

Urgency: medium



lilo has posted a very intersting diary entry on collaboration. It would appear that I am a Novice in this regard, as I am a dedicated BOFH. But what do you expect after three years as a large-scale sysadmin?

Actually, I don't know where I would fall. I think I have rather good communication and collaboration skills. I find myself working well with others. I do get stubborn with my ideas and opinions. But I hold that if you can conclusively show me why my way is wrong, and your way is right or at least better, I will change my view. I hold others to that same standard. Some people cannot handle that, and they are poorer collaborators for it.

I'm not sure I totally agree with the catergorizations either. The LART and the flame are useful tools in some situations. The DoS and 'rm -rf /' are not. Sure, people love 'rm -rf /' jokes, but only complete jerks actually do it.

I do agree with the fact that many technical Masters in the free software community are Apprentices in collaboration. Sometimes, maybe, they have to be.


Thinking about it, I'm amazed that the last time I built a parser in C was over three years ago. I'm glad I'm not a sysadmin anymore. No, parsers aren't hard. But they present a nice small batch of thought. Especially when it's been a while.

I've been enjoying using Glib's GScanner lexer. It is rather nicely configurable. As it is oriented on a C-like syntax, I've been mostly using it so I don't have to write the file handling. The number of options is rather broad, so in other circumstances it could be even more useful.


Is everyone moving right now? It would certainly seem that way.

I have the car movement squared away. I haven't heard from the stuff movers since they came to estimate my place. I suspect I'll have to call them. Gotta get a phone line in the new place too. It looks like I won't be able to get DSL, so cable it is. This is a big improvement. Here in RDU, I have 33.6 and have to love it.

The discussion that elise and lilo are having is very interesting. I once worked a company that placed a great emphasis on project managers, and they seem to have mixed blessings.

At this place I used to work, there was a "People Manager" that did all of the resource/budget/people work covered by elise's "People Manger" and "Budgets & Purchasing Manager". This was enough work in and of itself. They were responsible with deciding what projects you worked on, what classes they would pay for you to attend, whether to fight for more workstations, and all the other "people" tasks. A large job in and of itself. So large that my department had two of these managers.

There were "Meeting Managers" too, but they seemed a lot less useful. They co-ordinated meeting times and minutes. They asked "piercing" questions that probably only resulted in their name being heard. Many meetings I was on were run by actual project/task workers. These meetings were much better. This is not to belittle the Meeting Managers I knew, as they were often bright enough and I was friends with some. But a person familiar with the task is going to have a giant advantage, and it shows. This sort of task can usually fold into one of the other management catergories. A People Manager can handle meetings about department protocol, and a Project Manager can handle meetings about project tasks.

Projects were managed by "Project Managers", who fell rather within the lines of elise's description. Every project spanned multiple departments, so these managers had no real authority with regard to the employees. They could only make decisions on the project.

I can't say whether Project Managers are a great idea. I've seen a lot of issues with them.

One of the benifits of Project Managers is that they are focused on the project. It is their responsibility to keep it on time and on target. They do not have other distractions (aside from other projects they manage, of course) to keep them from this. It seems obvious that separating this role from the "People Manager" is very benificial.

Unfortunately, their entire appraisal rests on the project finishing on time and on target. So they need a target. Often I have been asked for specific dates six months down the road, when the Project Manager and I both knew that the dates often changed 3 times a week. They still needed the dates so they could "have their target".

Once that target is set, it could get even worse. In elise's description she mentions:

In addition, this person should also be able to alter expectations should a project need more time than estimated originally.
Now, the Project Managers did have this ability. But think on how bad it looks for them to admit they got it wrong. Most people, on the face of things, know that sometimes estimates are off. When you are three levels of management removed on an important project, it becomes a big issue. At least some folks worry that it does. They think that the Higher-Ups might pin the project delay on one of two things: "The Project Manager failed to lead" or " The technical staff failed their tasks." A Project Manager position comes with relatively good compensation. They take steps accordingly. Everyone has seen the Blame Game in action. It's part of life.

Someone has to manage the project, of course. And projects get managed, whether well or poorly. I know of great Project Managers at my former job.

Not surprisingly, good Project Managers are that rare cross-breed. A technical person that got into organizing things, and it stuck. These are rare.

A technical person that is forced into taking charge will likely find it boring, and they will not keep up with the responsibilities of the job. To the project participants, they will be a "great" manager, because there will be little to know "busy work" and a lot of good discussion. The learning curve will be nil, and they can speak on an even footing. The Higher-Ups will hate the unlucky person, because no reports are done, the project might go over (because it has to), or any other lack of administrative fealty.

On the other hand, a generic management type that moves from "People" managing to "Project" managing will have to struggle to understand the project at a level near the participants. This is not because of stupidity, but because of background. In addition, they will pay the most attention to the administrative detail, not the real needs of the project. The dreaded "administrivia". The technical staff will be, at best, annoyed by this approach. Superiors will be pleased with this person's management, but they are even more vulnerable to project failure/delay, as management is their skill. They may feel the need to protect their image. This is obviously a stereotypical case, because bright managers can surely do good with the staff, and with superiors. In addition, not everyone is out to promote their image by backstabbing others. But I'm sure everyone has known at leat one coworker like that.

These are stereotypical cases. Why? Because they occur often. Protecting your image at work is something everyone does. The difference is the image you are protecting. A coder might want things done the Right Way, and so a "yes man" image to the boss is less important. A manager might covet being everyone's friend, and so win less favor with his boss. In a world where you do have to pay the rent at the end of the month, most folks choose to further the image that gets the most raises, and keeps the best job.

So the best project manager is the one who can work on the project and manage the project. This is two separate skill sets that are very vast. If you find one of these people, they're a keeper.

I suspect that with more proofreading this could have been more eloquent, but right now I don't care. So it wanders a bit.

I can only hope that my move can go as well as dria's is. I really do. Because it has been a pain so far. Moving sucks, IMHO.

She's also right about the "go find a book" bit.

In other news, I'm hacking on interesting things and liking it. I had forgotten how nice it was to just hack at something, and know that I am allowed to get somewhere with it. I should do this more often :-)

I have a place in CA now. I wasn't so much amazed by the rent. I expected that. Everyone warned me. The thing that got me -- even though I was warned also -- was the lack of availability. I understand about tight real-estate markets. I don't understand a grand total of three available places from all the entries in the Apartement Guide, various newspapers, a rental magazine or two, and multiple online searches. We called them all. Three were available by the time we called. Many had messages that said "this apartment is rented, but we now have such-and-such available". When they'd call me back, that such-and-such was gone too.

I got lucky. The first available place I visited, while not perfect, was certainly a decent place. So I took it.

Here's fog in your eye.


I've been avoiding the diary page, because of my hasty remarks at the end of last year. I didn't want to call attention to them. Now that I'm moving on, I feel better about posting. I still have to remember not to post while upset :-)

Time to test the left coast.


And no, I'm not at MIT.

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