07 May 2018
One of the nice things about starting at a new company (or, in this case, starting a new company), is that there’s no baggage. Whatever new technology is out there, as long as it’s not cost-prohibitive, we can kick the tires and give it a shot.
It’s been incredibly freeing and inspiring. Every single point of friction I’ve dealt with in the past is up for discussion on how to eliminate it (or at least mitigate it). Every bit of tech debt, every sunk hardware cost, is all erased.
This freedom can be a little daunting, and can lead to paralysis if you treat every decision as equal. If every choice you make goes through a long, arduous decision tree, demos, a bake-off, negotiations, and, finally, a winner, well, I wish you luck in enjoying your success ten years from now.
But, instead, if you enjoy making quick proofs of concept, making decisions knowing that they’ll work today, but maybe will need to be replaced in a year or two, then you can move fast and take advantage of everything that exists today that didn’t exist the last time you were starting things.
As a small company, the difference between Google and Amazon (and Azure, to be honest), is basically nil. You pick the one that you’ve got the most comfort with, and maybe the one that offers the features you need in some specialized technology (machine learning or kubernetes support, etc.). You buy a billing system rather than build one. You buy mail servers (really, a service) rather than run your own.
The most freeing thing is that I’ve been able to work with our team to bias towards services rather than servers. It’ll cost us more in the short-term, but with a small team, that’s a cost well worth paying. When we’re big enough that the cost matters, we’ll be big enough to hire an ops team to manage a bunch of servers, or, more likely, Amazon/Google will have driven the cost of those services down even more.
As we piece together our architecture, there’s going to be very few pure servers in our stack. API Gateway, Lambdas, Dynamo, ECS/Kubernetes, and S3 will let us build out an entire web application without having to really manage a single server, and (in theory), with a setup that will scale as large and fast as we want.
Once we start driving real customers, we can re-evaluate our pain points (both from performance, maintenance, and cost). But this process lets us get to a customer launch so much faster (and with a smaller team) than it would have been possible just a few years ago.
Along those lines, to do this with a small team, and these pieced together services, you need to have automation baked in. We’ve chosen Terraform for our infrastructure automation, which probably deserves its own post at some point.
But just make sure that you’re not managing your infrastructure and deployments by hand. The tooling is so easy now that having good practices built in on day one will force you to have good habits, and will let your team have a much greater velocity.
In the end, as long as you know that you don’t know everything, you can make intelligent, small bets, move fast, and know that you can replace or improve bad decisions later.
07 May 2018
I’m pretty sure I’ll finish going through my 2017 backlog in the next couple of weeks. I may just give up and post my top 10 songs of 2017. I’m serious, I’ll do it.
I’m 99% sure I know what it is, but I think I’ve got to make it through maybe one more album.
19 Feb 2018
Real law abiding gun owners would dump the NRA and join a new organization that was actually designed around protecting the rights of gun owners and not a thinly veiled lobbying organization for the gun industry. It won’t be long before membership in the NRA will be viewed as a stain on your reputation. Like being a member of NAMBLA.
Hell, that should be the new slogan.
The NRA. You might otherwise know us as NAMBLA.
16 Feb 2018
Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about a bad experience I had with a recruiter who was cold calling me about a role I had open. Multiple phone calls, changing numbers, no voice mails. Over and over.
Last week, I had three recruiters from the same firm call me. No big deal, right?
Well, they called 12 times in 15 minutes. From four different numbers: office, cell, different cell.
No voice mails. They then Linkedin messaged me three times in that same window.
And, the piéce de résistance, one of them then blind texted me.
I messaged them back on Linkedin and politely suggested I would never do business with them. One of them had the decency to apologize. One said, and I’m not kidding, that they would be that aggressive working to fill roles for me.
That’s not being a recruiter, that’s being an asshole.
This used to be a good firm. I worked with recruiters there in the past. I won’t any more. They clearly run something that’s closer to a boiler room/sales shop than a recruiting firm. If that’s how they treat me, as a potential client, why would I ever trust them to bring me quality candidates?
There’s enough good recruiters out there that I can afford to never work with these folks
13 Feb 2018
I got some AirPods for Christmas. They’re awesome. I wear them everyday on my commute, when I’m running, and around the house. The pairing experience is great. Just a well designed product.
I pay attention to what people are carrying and using when I’m out and about, and taking the subway to and from work (and Celtics games), I do a lot of people watching. Prior to Christmas, I rarely saw AirPods. Lots of (wired) Apple headphones, lots of Beats, lots of other headphones. Few AirPods.
Yesterday, it dawned on me. At least 5% of the people in the car I was riding had AirPods in. Given that they are still in short supply, I’m guessing that Apple has another hit on its hands. Similar to the Apple Watch, where it’s clearly a hit, but Apple isn’t comfortable breaking out the numbers yet, I expect the AirPods are proving to be a big winner for Apple.
13 Feb 2018
I got my HomePod on Friday and I used it most of the weekend. As a speaker, it’s way better than the Echo Dot that we had sitting in the living room for quick music. It’s not as good as the Sonos system I have doing surround sound for my TV (two Play:1s and a soundbar).
But it’s way more convenient than the Sonos, or the Sonos plus Echo combo. And it sounds really good, even though it’s a mono speaker. I’ve been using it to play podcasts when I’m cleaning or making dinner, which is also great.It’s also nice to be able to say “Hey Siri, play the playlist ‘go to sleep’”, and it plays the songs I use to help put the kiddos to bed.
On top of that, if you’re in the HomeKit ecosystem, it’s really nice. I don’t have to have my phone around, or wait for the watch to respond to turning the lights off, or turning up the heat.
As a smart speaker, it does the basic blocking and tackling. Getting the news update from NPR is nice, finding out how many tablespoons in a cup, or the score of the Celtics game. All easy. It doesn’t do anything more advanced than that, and I don’t have any of the personal things turned on (messages, calendar, notes) because it doesn’t know how to handle multiple users yet.
If the Echo and Google Home hadn’t been out for a couple of years now, this is a home run. But since Apple is coming to market late, it’s a mediocre smart speaker that sounds great.
But if you’re a big Apple Music user, and a big HomeKit user, I think it’s a really great speaker that has some decent smart features. I’d love to have one in my office.
02 Feb 2018
I’m a sucker. I bought one. We’re an Apple Music home (my wife augments it with Pandora, but I’m pretty much fully Apple Music at this point), and we’ve got a lot of HomeKit accessories. To me, that was enough to give it a shot.
Then I had this long thought about how any application that uses iOS’ native audio player should allow for Siri commands like “Skip ahead 30 seconds” or “Go back one minute”. Apple, why shouldn’t that work? I mean, when I’m out running with my AirPods, skipping ahead a bit would be super helpful. Or, if I throw a podcast on the upcoming HomePod and it gets to a boring part, why can’t I jump forward? Or jump back if I missed something important?
Then I tried it.
Really, at this point, I just want Siri to add the ability to do things in other applications. I’d like to say “play the next podcast in Overcast” and have it work. They’ve done that with To Do and Notes apps. I hope they open it to all apps in iOS 12.
I’m looking forward to the HomePod, even if my podcast usage is not in Apple Podcasts, which will diminish the HomePod a bit. I listen to enough music that being able to throw a song on the HomePod while I’m rocking a baby(ies) to sleep is a compelling feature. And it’ll sound a lot better than the shitty Alexa speaker.
15 Jan 2018
A while back, I had an issue with humidity in my basement, which lead to me getting a dehumidifier and running it 24x7x365. For a while that meant walking into the basement, grabbing a bucket, carrying it outside (or upstairs to a sink) to empty it.
After doing that for a couple of weeks, I invested in a condensate pump and some tubing. Quite handily, I had an old dryer vent in the basement that I had plugged with insulate. I simply ran the tubing through it, down the side of my house, and my dehumidifier could helpfully remove excess moisture, dump it into the condensate pump, which would periodically shoot it out through the tubing out to the back of my house to drain.
That worked nicely for about two years until last week. All of a sudden, the condensate pump couldn’t clear the water out, and would just run forever.
It’s been incredibly cold (which should have been the first clue, but I’m a bit dense), which means it’s not been humid, so while I investigated, I figured I could get away with just draining into a bucket for a little bit.
I could get a snake up into the tube without a problem, but when I ran water up, I could see that it was eventually getting blocked, though I couldn’t tell by what. My hypothesis was that it was&emdash;scientifically&emdash;“gunk” that had collected in the tube. I tried running a few things through (washer fluid, vinegar), but no go. I figured I’d have to wait until the spring to be able to remove the tube which was now under a couple of feet of snow and then either replace it or clean out the obstruction.
That is, of course, until our multi-week cold spell broke with three days of over 50 degrees. And, of course, the tube was no longer blocked.
The cold spell, probably combined with some “gunk”, had lead to the tube being blocked, and either ice or air trapped behind the ice prevented the condensate pump from clearing out the water. When the unseasonably warm weather melted all of our snow in three days, it also melted the obstruction. Things went back to normal.
Until last night, when the temperature dropped again and things froze again. At least now I know what is going on. With the snow melted, I should be able to find the obstruction, thaw it, clear it out, and get the pump running consistently.
There are certainly better solutions to this, like an actual drain in my basement, but this was a $40 solution that has lasted over 2 years, and if I’m a bit smarter, probably could last 5 more.
10 Jan 2018
My boys, at 4.5 months. Wearing their Hamilton onesies.
02 Jan 2018
Over the summer, when I had some down time, pre-babies, I was doing some cleaning and used a service called Decluttr to sell off some older hardware (an old Macbook and an Airport Extreme). These were really old hardware that no one would take, so it was this or find a recycler. I figured the $10 bucks I’d make from Decluttr would be worth it.
When I got the new iPhone X, I checked out Decluttr to sell back my iPhone 6S. They made a really good offer (about 50% more than any one else), and my previous experience had been good enough, so I decided to go with them.
Normal shipping, device gets to them. Then they tell me its been flagged and they can’t take it. I follow up (takes nearly a day to get a response). They use some service called CheckMend, which seems to be a service used by some cell companies (which would presumably include AT&T, since they’re my provider) to ensure you don’t sell a phone before you’ve paid them for it. The phone has been flagged—they cannot accept it, legally.
That’s all fine. I pay the $1 to get my report (which, honestly, should be free since it’s my phone, but whatever) and I ask their support and they confirm my suspicion: AT&T uses them, the flag on my phone is just a flag that says it was being tracked at some point, and it should be ignored.
I reply to Decluttr with that info, with the info from AT&T that my phone was fully paid off, and request that we finish our business. They reply back that the flag still exists (even though CheckMend says to ignore it), but they can offer me half price for the phone.
Well, if that doesn’t smell like a scam.
Clearly, they deal with enough phones to have seen that AT&T puts this check on phones. And they’ve dealt with CheckMend enough to know that the flag on my device was one that’s put on every phone that’s leased (which is likely the vast majority). But, my guess is that Decluttr leverages this situation to get devices for less than they offered. Many people probably don’t have the time or energy to hunt down why this “flag” was put on the device. So they take the 50% offer and Decluttr gets to advertise a high sale price, but not actually pay it out.
In the end, I got my phone back and went with Gazelle. I will say Decluttr was upstanding in shipping my phone back to me.
That’s not enough to keep me as a customer. I won’t be using Decluttr again. I tried to find contact info for anyone at Decluttr (or their parent company), but you get forced into their support team. Should someone at Decluttr see this and want to ask me about it, feel free.