Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Worker's Revolution

No, I'm not talking about the failed Communist movement or even Socialism, both of which have been shown to be failures - but that's a whole other story. What I'm talking about is the over-worked American worker. Downsizing by companies has the effect of separating the wheat from the chaff, but at a certain point you're throwing perfectly good wheat away.

They fired someone at work yesterday. Probably the best thing for the company and for the fired person. It however further affirmed something I have been noticing lately, especially in the IT sector. People are fed up. 60-70 hour weeks are no longer unusual, leaving people little time to have away from work, and it seems on the surface that they are working so hard and gaining so little from it. Sure, they can have four or five TVs in the house, three cars in the garage, and all kinds of material things - but there is a lack of 'life enjoyment'. I've noticed more and more people getting pissed off and leaving for other employment, or working for themselves. A scary prospect, not having that employer 'net' that gives you that paycheck every week or two. However, we need to support our extravagent lifestyles.

Now you might think that I am saying there is something wrong with material gain. There isn't - however I think the mental price people are paying to have all their 'stuff' is too high. I say that, yet I am sitting in a room in my house with 4 computers - one for each member of the family. You think that would be enough, yet I still want more. I have so much stuff I never touch, so why would I want to add to it?

I don't. In fact, I stopped buying a lot of the things I would want in the past, knowing that it would only end up in some box in the basement never to see the light of day again. But I digress...

Anyway, I see a slow movement away from the 60+ hour weeks and back to the 40 hour weeks. Away from the high-pressure but high-paying jobs back to something more sane. I've made that decision myself. Money will be secondary to having a job that is more fun and having less responsibilites. Well, maybe not less responsibility, but allowing me to have a life outside of work where I don't think about it when I'm not there.

So, if you are one of those people who work 12+ hour days and never see a weekend free, think about why you are doing what you are doing. Is it really worth the effort? Do you really think that you are going to get rich by working for someone else? Probably not. You have to take that chance and strike out on your own if you want to make it big and are willing to put in the hours. Otherwise you are just letting your current employer take advantage of you, and they would drop you like a hot potato if it would raise the company stock prices.

Sunday, May 26, 2002

A Face Only A Mother Could Love

Was surfing around my usual pages, and come across this news article about Facial Recognition. Very interesting technology. In fact, my company sells digital photo identification systems to Law Enforcement organizations. There is quite a few people worried about the 'Big Brother' aspect of this technology. In fact, I agree with them in principle, but the technology is very inaccurate.

Our senior programmer, in reaction to our competition adding facial recognition to their products, did quite a bit of research into adding it to ours. This programmer is a true wizard, very strong background in mathematics, and I've always found his cognitive and logic skills without equal. He put quite a few hours into trying to create an accurate system, one even better than the current crop of systems. He even developed a mathematical formula that could be used to break a person's features down into a unique number.

Problem is, it wasn't very accurate. In fact it was so bad that he didn't even bother to add it to the main product. Didn't meet his standards of quality. Now before you go saying that maybe his standards are too high, think about the logic of facial recognition. You take a normally clear "mugshot" and compare it to some fuzzy black and white photograph through some crappy convenience store or bank video camera. They don't even come close. OK - Lets say best case scenario, you take a super-high quality high-resolution camera and place it with perfect lighting to catch people as they walk by. The camera even has the ability to instantly focus correctly based on distance to the target. You had better hope that everyone looks at the camera straight on if you want any semblance of accuracy.

Now the media jumps all over this technology as if it is perfected. Well, we all know about how accurate the media is. I mean they are always careful to check their facts and do sufficient research on something before they publish a story, right? Ha. I've still got that bridge to sell you if you believe that. I believe there is one high-profile story in the UK where it has worked, but the problem is its impossible to know how many times it has failed. Since if you can't identify the person, you don't know if they got away. Yet there will be millions spent on this technology by Government, until someone finally admits its just not good enough. Sort of like speech recognition software. In fact, this article speaks about just how bad the technology is. Note that it states that different facial expressions can fool the software.

So, I wouldn't worry about it if I was wanted for a crime, but I don't like the idea of cameras left on and recording the general public's activities. The investment needed and man-hours required for cameras to provide real security is huge compared to the results you will get. Usually its lazy Law Enforcement practices that let the bad guys get away with what they are doing. I should know, being a former Police Officer myself. To get really controversial, the big hoopla about racial profiling going on now doesn't help either. Oh boy, now I'm going to be labeled as a racial bigot and intolerant, yet this is the farthest thing from the truth when it comes to a person's national origin. To me, actions and other non-racial indicators are more accurate and effective in determining criminal intent.

Anyway, I don't want some bureaucrat or politician using my or anyone else's private actions as something to hold over our heads. We have little enough privacy as it is. This just makes it even more intolerable.

Friday, May 24, 2002

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom....

Tick-tock, Tick-tock. A time bomb at work. Waiting to explode. Everybody is quitting, it's pretty sad. Such potential wasted. The president of the company finally sees what is going on, but he's not making drastic enough steps. The vice president wants to sit down and talk with me before I leave. Well, I have decided to not hold back, since I found out that he dislikes the CFO as much as everyone else.

Enough whining from this lemming, and off to the good stuff. OK - Maybe geeky stuff.

I ordered a couple of fans from MaxCooler for my overheating computer. A high speed Delta Fan. Sounds like an aircraft engine, the wife hates it. But I can feel the air blowing out of the front of the case, even though the fan is in the rear. Also, the fan when I bought it was rated at 68.5CFM, but now they list it at 80.16CFM. Muahahahaha! Feel the power. Now of course, I have to keep my music turned up to cover the noise, or wear headphones. Picked them up at the Radio Shack outlet store here in Columbus for $24.99 - They are normally $49.99 - We're dealin'! (The outlet store is next to Ricart Automotive, one of my company's clients.) Lots of neat discount stuff, at the outlet store it is the price it should be.

Installed RedHat Linux 7.3 on my laptop. A dual boot system with Windows 2K on the other partition. Works like a charm. People ask me about XP. In my opinion, its a mistake. It's just 2000 with better backwards compatibility with games, and the of course annoying registration function. I'll stick with Windows 2000 Professional for a long time, and will probably end up on Linux completely if Microsoft sticks with their current subscription model.

Anyway, now the kids are playing on Linux on my computers, my oldest, being 6.5 years old, can log in from the console prompt. Just like her Dad, she'll rule the world someday through computers. Its sad, a family of 4 with 4 computers. Mine being my new notebook system, though I'm typing this on my custom built system that my eldest now uses.

Pretty pathetic, eh? Well, the wife both hates it and likes it. She hates it because I am on the computer all the time, but likes it because I don't demand as much sex anymore since I am distracted. Not that she'd give it up anymore. I have to look into this female viagra.

Friday, May 17, 2002

He's Baaaaaack

Wow. 13 days since I last 'penned' anything here, and a lot has happened. Had a job interview today, went well. Told my employer I was seeking other employment a week or so ago. They took it well. Asked me to give 4 weeks notice if possible, due to the fact that I am a key person in almost all facets of the business.

Enough about me.

In a related note, looks like the technology industry is back on the rise again. If you know me in person, I've been predicting a rise in technology business either late this year or early next year. It appears I am right on target. How did I know? Well, it's like this, IT 'stuff' has a shelf life of about 2 years. Once it starts getting that old, its time to replace it - unless you bought 'bleeding edge' stuff to start with. Usually its just worn out, or its so out of date that newer stuff can be had that does the same job that takes up 10% of the space, costs 25% as much and runs 1000% faster. Also has more features and is probably a lot more stable.

The tech boom of the 90's was not due to the 'dot-coms', though they did contribute to it. It was the trillions of dollars that were spent around the globe on Y2K. Even the dot-coms had to spend money on Y2K upgrades. The 'dot-com' money was a drop in the bucket compared to Y2K budgets. It was as if the floodgates had opened for IT managers, and they found themselves with huge budgets to deal with Y2K. Not missing an opportunity, as they were used to being the poor stepchildren of the company when it came to handing out purchasing money, they bought, and they bought, and they bought. Bleeding edge stuff. Stuff that would only be used at 5-10% of its capacity. Routers, switches, servers, new PCs, you name it. Easier to replace with Y2K compliant items than to fix the old crap, that was their mantra.

It worked. No Y2K nastiness. However, they found themselves with a lot of equipment and a fleet of PCs that were hardly used. Now 3 years later, the stuff is old, especially the PCs. 1999 was the era of the 200-300Mhz systems. Those just won't cut it anymore. Its time to replace. So watch for the Computer OEMs to start having good profits again. I wish I had money for some stock.

Saturday, May 04, 2002

Party Time!

Talked to a friend today on MSN messenger. Handy little program. Makes communications instant and un-intrusive. Anyway, looks like he has a job spot for me. Looks pretty good. I feel a lot better about things now. Funny how something like this can make things so much easier.

Going to a local Restaurant/Sports Bar tonight to watch the NASCAR race. OK you lemmings, stop chuckling. I know you think that NASCAR is for uneducated inbred rednecks, but it appeals to a wide audience. I appreciate the engineering that goes into it, and even though it looks like they are just going round and round in circles, it takes quite a bit of skill to keep those cars from wrecking into one another at speeds close to 200 mph. I mean just try to image going that speed even around your city's outerbelt (sans traffic). Now put a bunch of cars out there with you, all trying to go just as fast, some a few inches in front, a few inches behind, even bumping you from side to side, and on either side of you going into turns.

You might think you're a hot-shot driver, but its not a easy as you think. I know, I've been in a car doing 110 mph down a street on a Sunday afternoon.

Friday, May 03, 2002

Now on to Geekdom

OK Lemmings, its time to get down and dirty. I wanted a pretty decent notebook computer to haul around and do work on. I can use it when doing security and network analysis tasks. So I bought a Netlux 7321.

Can't beat it for the price. Got Windows 2000 loaded up and all my tools. Then I went to install RedHat Linux 7.2 so that with a dual-boot system I could have maximum flexibility for software selection.

Damn thing runs Windows like a champ, but Linux won't stay running for more than 15 minutes.

It was heat.

Turns out the Linux doesn't support ACPI correctly so that the power can be turned down on the CPU when it gets too hot. Therefore we have all sorts of kernel panics and the like. Too bad. I have half of the hard drive reserved for linux. Going to have to wait until the next distro release and hope they get ACPI working better...

Thursday, May 02, 2002

It's Deja Dot-Com..

If you've even read this, and I know no one else has, you know I've been complaining about work. So have my other tech-co-workers. I've even seen some grousing from the sales people. Well, if you had the CFO from hell, you would too.

So anyway, we have this mandatory meeting to discuss a new opportunity for the company. All of us tech-heads about fell out of our chairs when they told us they were in effect bringing in a consulting company to sit with us while we do our jobs and help us do it even better. How insulting. You see, they think we do a shitty job, even though we do get praised from time to time. Problem is, all the guys I work with do a hell of a job, and put forth 110% effort on behalf of the customer. Management talks about how they want to do what the market tells them, but the problem is that you get so bogged down in paperwork, you end up taking too long to get the job fixed. If you just do the job and help the customer out, you get bitched at because we aren't getting paid for that type of service. Its a lose-lose proposition. Now they are going to baby-sit us. Just farking amazing. Money is always so tight, yet they waste it on headhunters and consultants. What a joke. Oh, and yes, we have those Airon chairs.

So now all the tech guys are looking for jobs. One of them said to me, "If they wanted to get rid of us, why didn't they just tell us." The sad thing is that management doesn't understand how insulting what they are doing is to all of us in the tech-side of the business.

I can't wait until May 31st. Either I find a new job by then, or I'm giving my notice and doing consulting.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Yes, this is still here. Why are you looking?

Oh look. I didn't fall off of the cliff. Neither did you. It's been a few days, and of course work rears its ugly head and gets in the way of pure recreation. After all, who wants to type inane stuff into a heap of plastic, silicon, and metal when there's so much other stuff to do, like watch Mortal Kombat on TBS.

What a sorry movie. Bad acting, bad costumes. Bad everything. Goro looked way too skinny and oh-so fake. Why am I watching it? Maybe because I have the ultimate in sensory overload. Surfing the web while watching Cable TV on my PC. Hopefully I can multitask.

Rayden is still cool.