Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I've recently encountered a fair amount of confusion within my extended family over exactly what is is that I do for a living these days. This seems like a quick and expedient way of explaining it.

I get the impression that there may be little distinction out there between people who work in computing environments; that we're all members of a computing-service "cloud" that primarily exists to fix applications and hardware on your laptop or desktop computer.

I don't actually do that.

Let's analogize with the automobile business.

The corner mechanic/technician fixes your car which consists of diagnosing what seems to be wrong and replacing the component or subsystem that's failed.

A customizer may upgrade your engine or modify the car's body. He probably knows a bit more about the internal workings of the machine than the street mechanic because he has to make modifications.

The automotive engineer is the guy who designs the parts of the car and tests them. He has to know even more about how the car works and how the parts get integrated, but he probably should't be your mechanic.

The architect of the car understands the physics of the engine ( how much torque gets created by internal combustion, for example) and the aerodynamics of the car travelling at 70mph. Based on that knowledge he can design an truk to have certain performance characteristics and an Indy car to have different characteristics.

I'm a systems architect. I have to understand the physical characteristics of CPUs and memory chips, network components, disks, etc. Then I can design a supercomputer to analyze prime numbers or a monitor for a network with 10,000 computers connected by fiberoptics.

That's what I do.

I don't really fix them and I'm not the guy you want to ask about why MS-Office doesn't do a certain thing. I wouldn't be able to tell you. But if you're able to get the answer to a web-based query of 10 billion records in less than 2 seconds, thank an architect. If you go to Ebay and it's always up, 24/7, no matter how many individual computers fail or disk drives break, you can thank an architect for that, too.

So when you get ready to put together your next start-up company and you need to figure out how to get data from Sydney, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, and Nairobi all graphed on the same web page within 3 seconds of the customer clicking the mouse, call me. I'm usually available.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

What am I Studying? -- 9/28/2008

  • The score to Ralph Vaughn-Williams' Fantasy on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

  • Java GUI programming

  • Cache object-oriented database (for ComputeSpace)

  • Blackberry Pearl User Guide (It's not as intuitive as one might assume!)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Presidential Debate #1

Roberto DVR'ed the debate and we sat down and watched it later in the evening. Just before Bill Maher's show on HBO.

All I can say is that no opinions in the room were changed.

Bill Maher was, at times, entertaining and, at times, just vulgar in his discussion of the debate.

Next up: Biden/Palin. Ought to be hilarious!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What am I Studying? -- 9/24/2008

  • Google Site APIs (building a collaborative workspace for ComputeSpace developers)
  • Javascript (Building expanding and collapsing trees for a web-based log-viewer)
  • Norwegian (Taking the one-minute Norwegian course daily. My company's engineering staff is in Oslo)
  • Samuel Batber's Concerto for Piano ( Want to play it)
  • Prokofiev--Alexander Nevsky and Lt. Kije Suite (Jerry Goldsmith used a lot of "quotes" in his Star Trek scores when referencing the Klingons. [They're Russians!!]. Those have been passed down to every other composer scoring for Trek. Just listen to how Dennis modified the DS9 theme when Worf joined the crew. It's Lt. Kije.  Though, oddly, those themes never show up in the practical music scenes that feature Klingon opera.  It's not Russian at all.  Interesting choice, though, since the Worf character was raised by 2 Russian scientists.)

And that's the study routine for today.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

First Assignment: 9/16/08

Paul expressed a desire for me to be the "glue guy" on the team. The guy with a set of skills that allow everyone else to function at a higher efficiency.

My first assignment was to implement a common tool in windows to allow useful manipulation of probe log files so that we can more quickly glean the information we need from them. The formats of these files can vary quite a bit.

I started out by taking a look at Kiwi Log Viewer since it seems to be the most popular tool on the freeware side of things. But it isn'tt robust enough to do what we need.

Skipped through a few more apps and then Dan and Paul recommended I take a look at Notepad++. While I admit it's very robust in it's feature set, it's based on a language, Scintilla, which I don't know and the learning curve would be significant. Scintilla is a pretty full featured language; more than just a scripting construct.

I spent all day yesterday getting into it after which I felt that too much time would be wasted attempting to get proficiency with it and I would be the only person in the shop who understood it which is bad policy.

Continued the search. This morning I spoke with Werner and he turned me on to 4 different apps. One of them, LogParser seems to be just what the doctor ordered.

It's based on SQL, is powerful and flexible, and free.

I'm working with it today. Hopefully I can do a demo at tomorrow's Brown Bag meeting.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Househunting -- 9/8/2008

So far I've gotten 5 responses to my ad on Craigslist. I'll be checking out most of them this evening after work before I head back across the Bay.

(A) is the location of my office.

View Larger Map

386 Meridian(C) is the closest, but I think the one in Belmont Hills(D) may be the poshest. I'll update this with pictures later.


What am I Studying? -- 09/08/2008

Today started out with a particular focus on learning all the internal architecture and functions of Nimsoft's NimBUS platform.

Lots of documentation and kit installation.
Read up on the M2Z/T-Mobile conflict over broadband wireless spectrum. If M2Z has their way it'll bring another 100 million American users onto the Internet with ubiquitous wireless broadband. T-Mobile has issues with that.

Recent studies suggesting that there are some negative side-effects to the use of pyrethrins and pyrethroids as pesticides. I remember when they were hailed as the replacement to organo-phosphates which were way nastier chemicals.

Listened to a review of Steven Johnson's Mind Wide Open about brain science. I've liked his other books so it'll make the list. If you love me, it's on my Amazon Wish List.
My Amazon.com Wish List

Read an overview of the instrument packages on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

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If you're looking for the Court Cannick who's architecting ComputeSpace for education or the Court Cannick who built NetworkMathematics for systems management or the Court Cannick who engineered the storage systems for SETI@Home or the Court Cannick who produced Physical Science Journal for Storer Cable or the Court Cannick who lectured on Space Colonization at CMSI, then you probably have found the right Court Cannick.  Otherwise, keep looking...