Logtar’s Next Phone

I now have a history with eating crow when I make a strong stance on some technology. I remember my disdain for the XBoX when it came out and the horrible design of their first generation controllers… what do you know, they came out eventually with superior controllers that were completely wireless and just awesome… to make it worse, I have a modified remote for the xbox that we use to watch digital content so I don’t even know if the actual controllers are even charged right now.

I have called the iphone many things. I don’t hate apple, I actually enjoy their products and one of my best friends is a developer that has many times suggested that I leave the whole windows development world and try the green pastures of awesomeness that it is to develop for apple.

When my wife got her first iphone I hated it. It seemed to hate me back. I could never quite get the hang of typing on the on screen keyboard. I stuck with my conviction and entered the smartphone market first with a blackberry that I loved, and later on with an andriod… who I have mixed feelings about. Even though it has a slide down keyboard, I now use the on screen keyboard almost exclusively.

My wife then upgrade iphones and her old one became an itouch by all intents and purposes and I started using it. Little by little the reconciliation with the device begun and I started to play with it more, and more and more. I use the thing more than my android now.

The thing that pisses me off the most about smartphones is battery life. Even after all the hacks you can do to make them waste less energy, they all end up drained after heavy use. And guess what… we have like 3 different iphone plugs around the house and even in the car, so when thinking about my next phone it is a consideration that I have plenty of places to power the device back up.

I looked at the latest android devices and the next entry for motorola is not even 4G… its almost like waiting for a device that is outdated before it is even released. The other option would be an LG with an android OS… but apple is just making a better product.

Then I read an article about how much of the iphone does apple really make. While the article is almost taking a shot at apple for basically not “building or putting together the hardware” which is mostly manufactured by samsung. The real reason the iphone is successful is because it has a superior OS.

No matter how much you love the android OS, apple’s user experience is more intuitive. Even after being an android user primarily, things just happened a lot easier when it came to using the android. Getting music into the device, downloading podcasts, getting games, even web surfing sees easier on an outdated iphone.

So I am getting ready to cook that crow and probably make an iphone my next smart phone choice.

GPS on a Plane

Listening to the news about the French plane that went down over the Atlantic it came to light that there are no radar stations keeping track of your location once you get a certain distance from land. I thought the routes that were flown were always pretty close to land or islands that still kept radar contact. Then what troubled me is that the aviation “expert” said that the technology we use is still WWII era type of equipments. I immediately was baffled.

I know a jet mechanic for a private firm that has four private jets. They have their own hangar and travel all over the world. This mechanic was in charge of all operations and would sometimes travel with the planes when they were going overseas. Each plane pretty much always had a mechanic in the crew, because when overseas they did not trust anyone to fix their planes. I had a chance to learn a lot about these planes thanks to my friend.

I had never been inside of a private jet, or a private hangar for that matter. It was amazing how different they were from commercial planes, the equipment, the amenities. Heck, it made me even dream of someday owning a plane. He also told me about the history of planes and how much they had changed… and how much they had not changed. He liked the subject and I was pretty receptive to learning more about planes.

My interest for planes picked up a lot after I read the Michael Crichton’s Airframe because it had to be more fiction than actual. I mean the dude did bring dinosaurs to life and oversimplified quantum physics, he could not possibly be this spot on with the air travel industry, could he?

Then the “expert” on the news added insult to injury. We have GPS in our mobile phones and cars, but most planes don’t have GPS. That is when I fell robbed by the knowledge that my friend gave me. I had assumed that airliners had better technology, or at least updated technology than a private plane. I know hindsight I should not have assumed that, but technology wise, how easy is to add GPS to a plane or even simply send off a signal that records simultaneously what the block box records?

Five years ago I would have said that the amount of data being recorded was too much, but after visiting the AMC Main Street and now knowing that terabytes of data are being moved so quickly and efficiently made me question why the air industry is not moving faster than the entertainment industry. If internet access is already being offered in some planes, why aren’t companies installing systems to have constant data communication with a plane?

I am not thinking of just after the fact studying the reasons for the crash either. My train of though is more towards being able to rescue people from the middle of the sea by knowing their exact location after a catastrophic failure.

From what is known about this crash it is possible that lightning might have been the culprit here which would have taken out the electrical system. I think that if the systems in planes were better from a technology stand point, we would not be wondering where the plane went down (or if the plane went down) like we were initially. I seriously think that technology has to be a priority for airlines, specially if they are flying over large bodies of water away from radar.

The Nice Programmer

I dislike the fact that many people think that computer programmers are hermits that like to live in little cubicles under the fluorescent lights. What does not help is that there are plenty of them that do think that computer users are just the enemy trying to break down the precious system.

The reality is that programming is something that requires concentration. To truly solve a problem with good logic you need to use your brain power to make sense of the steps that have to be taken. It sometimes takes time and then peace to be able to translate the thought into actual code.

Some programmers are always coding in their heads. I have actually woken up in the middle of the night with the solution to a problem and if I have remote access I log in and either solve the problem or send an email to myself. Trying to remember the next day is kind of difficult. Some programmers like to walk while they are solving some logic issue in their head so to other it looks like they are in a completely different world. I don’t pace when I think, however I do listen to music a little too loud and the more input the more I am able to work out a problem, but I am not the norm.

I think that this is where the problem with communicating with the mythical creature the programmer is comes from. You see a dude walking down the hall that does not acknowledge the world around him as a rude person. I think both sides feed off each other and the disconnect just becomes greater and greater. I have seen it in several organizations.

One of the most frustrating things as a person is to be ignored. While users would probably think that they are ignored the most on the equation, programmers are also only approached when they are needed for something. Like Milton in Office Space, they are the lasts ones to get the piece of cake if they even get any.

I will never forget the day that a user had a problem at one of my previous employers and I showed up at her desk. She was a middle age woman that I later found out was actually married to a programmer. When I said hi to her and asked her for more details on what was wrong with her report she looked almost scared. She then said, a programmer never talks to us. I later found out who the worse offender was in our department who even refused to talk to the help desk people.

I cannot solve the problem for everyone but I did find out how to make it better, at least for me. Start communication with people on a regular basis. I am not talking about full on water cooler talks with people but just saying hello in the morning when you walk in the office. I have observed that most people do not do this, or don’t like it. A good morning goes a long way into making you look more personable, specially for a programmer.

Money Talk

Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems is probably one of the biggest pieces of wisdom to come out of a rap song. Even thought not many people will come out and ask you, how much money you make, plenty will start the getting to know you process with what do you do for a living. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with that, the reality of relationships is that they all have some kind of basis in also economic principles. If I cannot afford to go to a luxurious vacation, or the trendiest night club where a bottle is over 100 bucks I am going to have to decline invitations. However, it is all personal choice and not a rule. I know people that have plenty of money but still prefer to go to the local watering whole.

Most employers have a do not talk about your salary policy. I completely agree with that notion and never want to find out what my coworkers make. It is bad every single way you look at it, if you make more they feel bad, if you make less you feel bad, if you make the same probably both of you are going to feel either more qualified or harder working than the other. I also saw how a company finding out the IT department’s salary wreck havoc on many relationships there.

My first job out of college I was lucky enough to have landed before I graduated. At graduation I had a job and an above average salary for a recent graduate. While this was not the best job I have ever had it did teach me a lot about what it is to be a professional. I learned many lessons that I apply even today, and even though at the end I felt like money wise I was getting the shaft, I still have to thank them for the opportunity and experience I gained in my years there. We supported a sister company with their system. It was a call center and many of the people that work there became friends with us over time. We would go there to set up something new on their computers or just to install new servers. I used to go there a lot because of some sales call where they needed technical people as well as doing some business analysis for new reports and features.

The president’s secretary was a chatty girl that always wanted to know more about you than what was really appropriate for a professional setting. I did not dislike her but I always had my guard up when I was around her. For corporate reasons the company decided to merge health plans, our company had 10 employees the call center about 100. The little snag came about when a report with our salaries came through the front desk before being handled by HR. The president’s secretary took it upon herself to disseminate our salaries to certain people and before the end of the day we were the talk of the call center.

Our next visit there was not pleasant. Some people had looks of resentment on their face, others were right out rude towards us. “You make too much money seemed to be the theme.” Nobody wanted to exchange pleasantries and we became relegated to only communicating to the people that were at “our level.” It was sad, but it was a reality I had to learn, some people cannot handle the thought of you having something they don’t. Envy is a powerful demon to have descend upon you… it can override even knowing a person for months, even years.

Since leaving that first job I worked on consulting and made almost triple what I made on that first job. I was never completely happy with consulting for a set firm because at times they put their needs before the client’s needs. I have enjoyed consulting independently a lot more, but what I truly love is working for a set company where I am part of the staff. I do not make nearly as much as I could have if I consulted but I am very happy… more money means a lot more pressure plus a lot more traveling and that gets old quickly.

One of the past companies I worked for I was making good money but not my best paid job. I tried not to think about what other people made, we had a pretty large department and I had made some personal relationships there. My boss ruined that when he informed me while giving me a review that I made a lot more money than the other people that worked there. It was a strategy to make me swallow a 3% raise when I was really expecting something around 6%. After the speech of insurance and other potential bonuses he dropped that nugget on me. It weighted heavily on me that I made more money than others. While the biggest reason for me making more money was because I had some very specialized certifications the company need to be supported, it did not feel fair. Some of the people working there had been loyal to that company for more than 5 years and now I knew what range they were on. One of my friends there told me he was interviewing and I was happy for him until it did not pan out because he was not going to make much more money and the move meant more drive time. He told me how much he was offered and even that was about 20K less than what I made… it made me feel pretty horrible because he was a very hard worker that was dedicated to doing a good job… maybe he did not have as wide range of skills than I have and some of the technologies he was working on were outdated, but overall I felt we should have been closer in range.

Many companies clean up their IT department as soon as they are getting too expensive. It is not an uncommon practice that almost fuels the job hopping IT professionals are sometimes famous for. You get new unexperienced people and pay them very little and let got of your seasoned people that are costing you too much. I am lucky that I don’t have to worry about these kind of problems anymore and that I have no clue what the other people at my company make. Ignorance is truly bliss when it comes to how much other people make.