4 Oct 2011 oubiwann   » (Journeyer)

Two Months at BlueLibris

Back for a Quick Write

Well, I've been at BlueLibris for two months and a day, now... and each one of those days I've wanted to blog about something that's happened. On occasion, I've G+'ed about something, but in general I've just been too busy to take a breath, much less use that breath to write some informal prose.

I've taken a few photos during this time, and put them up on flickr in this set; smaller versions are peppered throughout this post :-)

The First Day

Half Moon Bay, about 30 minutes from work.
I was born in California, but left when I was 8 years old. I returned after high school and lived for 2 years (1990-1992) in Northern California to attend language school. As a consultant and later an employee of various companies, I made regular trips out to the Valley and Bay Area, so was no stranger when I arrived in August this year. However, it was quite a shock to be actually working and living here!

After I left Canonical, I headed out from Colorado and took a few weeks off to go on a meditation retreat up in the Siskiyou Mountains or Oregon. This area was deeply reminiscent of the Colorado mountains, of which I am so fond. Such environs are my natural habitat... so imagine my shock when I was hurled 50 years into the future, deposited in something like a night scene from Bladerunner. 'Cause that's exactly how it felt :-) Not bad... just very, very different. Even though I'd been to the Valley a bunch of times in the past 10 years or so, it never really hit home... until it was my home.

Note the executive dress: shorts and flip-flops.
In the morning, the bright sun washed away visions of flying cars and robots. I was greeted by palm trees and traffic. After an hour commute from the East Bay to Menlo Park, what I had only seen in Google Maps was now staring me in the face: my new office building :-)

At 9:00am, I had arrived early, so the place will locked up tight. I took that opportunity to meet some of the neighbors, walk around a bit, and then read up on the interested facilities we were renting for our offices.

The text describes the facility's power.
I'd seen the solar panels of the building in the Google Maps satellite view, and had just assumed that this was a common accoutrement of California architecture. Turns out, our entire complex is soloar powered -- 100%! Our laptops, servers, monitors, microwave, fridge, and air condition all run on the Sun :-)

This was covered in great detail by one of the boards posted out in front of our small office complex. Eventually, Soroush showed up, I introduced myself, and we made our way inside.

The inside was even cooler than the outside :-) There's a large open space where most people sit, a dark cave for the software engineers, an unused loft upstairs that looks down over the open space, and a cute little kitchen area upstairs.

The Intervening Weeks

Within a day or two, I'd purchased some bean bags, nerf guns, nerf balls, action figures, and die cast cars. It was starting to feel like a start-up :-)(And the nerf gun fights are a regular brain-break for many of us!). A few days after that, Tim Hyland bought some sling-shot monkeys... I think we use these even more than the nerf products!

Playtime aside, the work has been very grueling. We all work late hours (but have a good time hanging out while we do so!), wear many hats, and have more responsibilities than we care to enumerate. Equally, however, we're all deeply invested in the company, believe in the services we're providing to the health and other industries, and most of all are committed to the success of the company. Most of us were involved in ventures during the dot boom/bomb, and accrued wisdom from that area on how to conduct ourselves responsibly, even in the midst of all the excitement our innovations are generating.

I look forward to the time (soon!) when I'll be able to post more about these :-) For now, though, I can be very general and give a brief overview of our tech.

Our Technology

Matt playing along with a thumbs-up :-)
I worked on several device projects for Canonical, but never were we actually building our own hardware like we do at BlueLibris. This has been a fascinating introduction to a part of the tech world with which I am starting to gain some familiarity: circuitry design, component integration, plastics work -- the list goes on and on. Soroush Salehian and Matt Maibach lead these efforts, with Ram Fish weighing in regularly with his extensive EE background. These are the guys iterating on the hardware for our real-time, 3G health monitoring device.

As events are generated on the device, they get pushed up to "the cloud" where additional processing and heuristics are performed. We're working with lots of maths, machine learning, custom algorithms, etc., all in a distributed computing environment. We're using nosql solutions for long-term storage, and a Python-based framework for web management tools. We're in the process of converting the original application into a JavaScript-driven suite of applications. We're also giving the Python an overhaul in anticipation of significantly increased load and general usage over the next year (we've got some exciting partnerships and customers -- both existing and forth-coming). Henry Messenger and myself are working on these bits right now. To get the device talking to the cloud and collecting all the right data, we have the talented Kent Ryhorchuk hacking like a madman and consuming the APIs we're providing him.

There are other software development efforts in the works that I can't really talk about... but given the space, I'm sure you can imagine the possibilities :-)


Syndicated 2011-10-04 17:55:00 (Updated 2011-10-04 17:55:57) from Duncan McGreggor

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