Saturday, May 19, 2007

The sum of Small Transitions

I don't normally write one of these "no stuff, just fluff" articles, but I don't have anything interesting (i.e. code related) to write about this week. The reason I don't have anything interesting to write about are a series of transitions I am going through these past two weeks or so, which are contributing to this situation. So I thought I'd write about the transitions themselves, which are probably quite uninteresting by themselves, but maybe a little less so if grouped together. So anyway, you've been warned.

Glasses to Contact Lenses

Most people automatically assume that this switch has something to do with vanity or being fashionable, but my reasons were solely to do with costs. My insurance coverage provides me with a free eye exam and subsidized lenses every year, and a subsidized frame every other year. My insurance agent would probably say "free" where I say "subsidized", but I use this word because the coverage amount is insufficient to cover what most people would consider decent eyewear. As a result, I end up spending about $100-150 on lenses every year, and an additional $150 or so every other year on frames.

I have been looking at contact lenses since last year, because I calculated that one would spend in the region of $50-$100 on contact lenses over the insurance coverage amount, which is much better than glasses. However, there is definitely a barrier to entry, since you would have to de-condition yourself to not take evasive action (i.e. blink) while you push a plastic thingy into your eye. I chickened out last year and got myself glasses instead, but this year, I decided to bite the bullet and go for it.

The optician provides some training before you can start using contact lenses. It took me over a half hour the first time I tried to put them on myself (at his office). Since then, its gotten easier, and I spend about 3-10 minutes inserting them every morning and about 3-5 minutes taking them off every night. I especially enjoy being able to slip on a pair of $10 sunglasses on sunny days and still see through them.

Engineer to Manager

I also got promoted to a management position sometime last last week. I have had mixed feelings about the promotion. I have actively shunned these positions in the past, because I love to write code, and once one goes into management, there is less time to do this. Not that I am an engineering super-hotshot, of course. There are people in my group who are technically superior in various ways. However, I have been noticing quite a few of my colleagues (in past jobs) go into management, and quite a few of them made the transition from effective engineer to effective manager quite well. Some have even become more effective engineers as managers, since now they have the help of a bunch of people as smart as they are to carry out and implement their ideas. So that gives me hope that perhaps I can do the same.

I know its too early for me to have a "management style" yet, but what I would like to have is more of a collaborative style than one where I tell people to do something. The closest analogy I can think of is a quarterback in (American) football, as opposed to a coach. The quarterback is not necessarily the best player in the team, but he is generally one of the better ones. He has to throw/kick/run with the ball same as the rest of the team, but he also has to understand and communicate strategy, so he ends up working harder. And no, I am not a Monday night football guy, about the only game I see is the Super Bowl.

32-bit to 64-bit

I also bought a new laptop last Saturday. I used to have a Toshiba Satellite with a 2.8 GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor and 512MB of RAM. The new one is a Fujitsu Lifebook with AMD Turion 1.85GHz Dual core processors and 2GB of RAM. The review is not so great, but it seems to work for my use. Not sure if the switch to 64 bits actually bought me anything, probably not, but I thought it would be cool to have a 64 bit machine. And if I ever wanted to go beyond 2GB of RAM, a 64 bit machine would be able to take these.

Fedora to Ubuntu

I have long been impressed with Debian Linux, mainly because of its promise of install once, upgrade forever, even across major distributions. My first Linux system was Redhat 5.x, and I have been using Redhat all the way through 9.x, then switched to Fedora when Redhat started on their dual licensing model. My old laptop started with Redhat 9.x and currently runs Fedora Core 3. Ubuntu is getting quite popular lately, and a colleague was kind enough to burn me an ISO of the live CD, and its based off Debian, so I thought of giving this a try on my new laptop.

Modern Linuxes are a breeze to install, and the process of overwriting the 32-bit Vista Home Premium operating system that the machine came with with the 64-bit Ubuntu 6.04 took about 15-20 minutes. However, there is a lot of other software that I need to install which does not come built in with the OS, so I spent the better part of the day installing these and making these work. I still have to move the data (basically code which I write for fun, and which is not checked into any code repositories) off my old laptop to my new one.

Backpack to Messenger bag

So far, I've been carrying my laptop to work and back in a backpack, and I have always thought of the guys carrying the messenger bag style computer cases kind of cool. Backpacks remind me of the time I went to school, and I daresay that the messenger bags look a little more like the owner is actually going to work, and since my old one was coming apart at one of it seams, I sprung for one for my new laptop.

What I realize now is that the messenger bag may be good for bike messengers, but for people who have to walk part of the way to work or navigate narrow aisles aboard public transport, the messenger bag is an ergonomic nightmare. I keep bumping the bag into other people and into turnstiles and such, and its also harder to carry than the backpack. I'll probably switch to a backpack once this gets a bit old.

So what was my point again?

No real point, really. I just thought it was kind of odd being hit by so many little changes at the same time, so I thought I'd talk about it. Unfortunately, the sum of all these little changes meant that I did not have any time or opportunity to do my little experiments that I do in my spare (commute) time and blog about. I have been working harder at work, obviously, because in addition to doing my own work, I have to assist and guide others. The latter is actually quite a large time sink, something that surprised me when I thought about it. I also was going back and forth between my new laptop and my old, which meant that I ended up not doing much work. Hopefully, come next week, I will be able put my new laptop to good use.

6 comments (moderated to prevent spam):

Harith Elrufaie said...

Very interesting, Sujit. Keep writing more.. and congrats for the promotion, I am sure you'll do great.

Sujit Pal said...

Thanks for the good wishes, Harith. I am still learning the ropes at the moment, but I have a good mentor, so hopefully, one day I'll become as good as the guys who I was talking about.

Debasish said...

Congrats on the promotion ! Your blog About Me still describes you as Senior Software Engineer. Time for a change .. !!

Sujit Pal said...

Thanks, and yes, I will change the About Me today.

liquid said...

I have to say that at the first glance I thought that "oh, we use slow HttpInvoker, we should change it to RMI or Hessian" but then I read and all of this is nice when You do not need stronger security or you have heterogeneous environment all written in Java... I guess that speed is not all what matters.

Sujit Pal said...

Yes, RMI and Hessian make sense when you have a client who understands it, so all-java becomes a necessity. For heterogeneous environments (in my case PHP/Java), we settled on using XML-RPC and JSON as the payloads. Agree with you on the security aspect also, but usually most of my work involves communicating between internal apps behind a firewall, so I am not very much up on security, as some people here at work (who do have to deal with external apps) will testify :-).