Friday, January 28, 2011

My review of Google OS (on the Cr-48)

First, I am typing this on the Cr-48 running Google OS. I signed up for the pilot program a couple of months ago and didn't give it any further thought. After all, what are the chances of them actually giving me a unit? Well, guess what was waiting for me when I arrived home this evening? Yep! A brand new laptop (more like netbook) with Google OS installed. These are my initial reactions:

  • when I first heard about Google OS being based upon the chrome browser, my first thought was how will they deal with the *claustrophobia* that some people (ok me) will experience at being confined to a single window? Well they didn't deal with the issue. So that was the first thing I noticed. It just feels like I am being confined to a single browser instance
  • What do you mean "everything is in the cloud"? Literally, everything is in the cloud! There's no file system. Personally, I think it's a mistake that Google didn't even create an abstraction to replace the file system. Nothing says that your "c:\" drive or your "desktop" has to be physically on the computer. Google could have compromised by layering a facade over cloud-based storage (i.e. Google docs) to make it look like a normal computer. That was one of the first things my wife asked me when she saw the Cr-48.
  • The hardware is surprisingly devoid of any branding. It's just a little black box. No serial numbers or model numbers. Since these units are just for testing the OS (as opposed to actually being for eventual sale to end users), I suppose the lack of identification can be excused.
  • A lot of noise has been made over the keyboard lacking a dedicated CAPS lock key (it's been replaced by a search button)..but I think the bigger deal is getting rid of the Function keys. Ever tried to figure out the combination keys to activate the functions keys on a laptop? Is it Fn+F7 to switch to an attached external monitor? Who knows...it differs on each laptop. On the Cr-48, the keys in the top row by default perform the actions depicted on them. Wanna increase the volume...no Fn key required. 
  • I am not sure what the official battery life is but the unit is saying I have over 6 hours left on an 86% charge. That's pretty good.
  • You know all those junk documentation and papers that come with new Windows computers and laptops? Well none of that here. Just the laptop, 1 page for the FCC radio interference warning and another page to describe the keyboard layout. No mini-booklet containing outdated OS information. No restore disk.
  • It has an SD Card slot but nothing happened when I inserted a card. And trying to attach a file to a gmail message presented me with a blank "file open" dialog.
I am going to try to use the laptop 80% of the time over the next few days and then write another post. BTW, when Google OS was first announced 18 months ago, I called it vaporware

Monday, January 24, 2011

Why I left Aquilent

I wrote the bulk of this post in November last year. Since then, I have indeed left Aquilent and now work at NIH.


How do you keep employees happy?

I am sure most people will immediately think of money when asked this question. To me, it's never been about money. Sure, everyone wants to be adequately compensated and certainly I wouldn't volunteer for a pay cut. But it takes more than money to keep a good employee happy. I am careful to qualify that with "good employee" because a bad employee will stick around and take the money. I think a key aspect of what keeps employees happy is how good the daily work experience is (from the employee's perspective). If your employees hate coming to work each day, you can be bet no amount of money will make them happy or keep them from leaving.

Why am I talking about this? Well it occurred to me while riding the Metro to DC (where I am working on a SharePoint implementation project...feel free to Google that..I'll wait). So while on the metro for my 1-hour commute to work, I realized...why the heck am I doing this? The best part of my work day is leaving work for the train ride home. I remembered when I used to work on NASA projects calculating optimum download windows for scientific data from NASA space satellites...when I used to work on a site that the Navy uses to procure billions in service contracts...when I used to work on stuff so cool that I literally came in to work so excited I couldn't sleep...when I came in early, planning to leave early only to have to stay late because what I was working on was just so cool and interesting. Now, I am enduring a 1-hour commute to DC (on my own dime at the rate of $15 per day) to install and configure SharePoint.

Another reason is I just wasn't being put on projects that I wanted to do. SharePoint development is a very marketable and in-demand skill that I happen to have. But it's not what I like to do, at least not in the context of developing intranet sites. I mean, really, where's the fun in developing an intranet? So while it's great that Aquilent is getting more and more SharePoint projects/website development work, it's not in my best interest. It doesn't make me happy and (even worse) it takes me farther and farther away from what I really want to do. At some point this year, something a co-worker said to me caused me to think back to the last time I wrote code. I was shocked to discovered it was more than 1 year ago. In that time, I had been doing SharePoint administration and support.

Finally, let me describe an hypothetical situation for you and you tell me what you'll do. Say you have openings for technical leads on 2 projects and you have an in-house resource that has the technical knowledge required on both projects. However, this resource has been an integral part of the first project (in fact, he was 1 of 3 original developers of the project). In addition, this resource has been with the company for 10 years and has indicated that he'll like to work on the first project. So here's the dilemma: you are definitely going to need to hire 1 new person (since you have 2 openings). So do you:
  • put the in-house resource on the project he wants, has the technical knowledge for and (very important) the domain knowledge OR
  • put the in-house resource on the project he doesn't want; ask him to pay $15 per day to commute to DC and hire someone brand new without domain knowledge for the second project?
If you pick option b, I definitely can't work for or with you. Why lose the domain knowledge of the in-house resource if you don't have to? With option B, you have 2 people on 2 projects that they have no experience in. With option A, you only have 1 person on a new project. To me, this sort of decision is a no-brainer.

So yeah, I can sit around and count the money but the daily experience sucks. What good is getting well paid every 2 weeks when you feel like quitting every single work day? Funny thing is, this is the reason I left Sprint 10 years ago. Back then I asked myself: "Did I spend 4 years in college so I can spend a sizable chunk of my life stuck in beltway traffic?" Today, the question is "Did I spend 4+1 years in college and 10 years working for this company so I can spend 2 hours of each work day of my life commuting to DC? So I can be told to take a pay cut (that's what I think of having to pay $15 to commute to DC)? So I can be put on projects that do not advance my career (along the path that I want)?" The answer to all those is no and thus am leaving Aquilent less than 2 years after writing "Why I am still at Aquilent".

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The federal govt is huge

I know that sounds like an obvious observation but until you really think about, you may not realize how big the federal govt really is. I just started working at the National Institutes of Health (which is 1 of 12 operating divisions under the Department of Health and Human Services). HHS itself is 1 of 15 federal executive departments in the United States. With me so far? So at orientation, I found out that NIH employs over 27,000 employees! NIH is the largest consumer of electricity in Montgomery County! 27,000 employees in an agency within the 10th largest (of 15) department in the US. According to wikipedia.org, as of 2007 the federal government employed 4.2 million people! Wow! That makes them by far the largest employer in the country. For comparison, the largest private employer in the US is Walmart with 1.8 million employees. That means the federal govt employs more than twice as many employees as the largest private employer. That's some serious clout.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Crime against humanity

So I just got a new job and along with that comes the task of setting up a new PC from scratch. First thing I did was install CCleaner and check out all the programs that have been set to run on start up (i.e. programs that run every time you start your computer) Since these programs are configured to run on start up, you would think they ought to be very critical components of your computer. So why is it that every self-important software company seem to think their programs belong in this category. For example, if Adobe Reader doesn't start every single time I boot my computer, is that really a big deal? So why the heck does Adobe think they need not 1, not 2 but 3 programs starting up every time I boot up? Why does Sun (Oracle) think I need to update Java (a program almost no one uses except for server applications)? Why does Apple think Quicktime needs to be started along with the computer? For one thing, the idea of having Quicktime is like appendix in humans i.e. absolutely useless!

I don't know how it is on Apple computers (am sure it's heavenly and magically) but I blame Microsoft. For making it so easy and open that every tom, dick and freaking harry can do whatever they want. If this were a MAC, every software that needs to run on startup would need a permission slip from Steve Jobs.