Blog Post

Hi again. Been a while…

After about a year on Apple’s customer software seeding team, I scooped up an opportunity to move to software engineering proper, and now work in Apple’s Mac OS X Server organization on the iCal Server team. My role is not a full-time software engineering role writing code all day every day, but rather more like a mix of software engineering, IT, and QA. This suits me well, and so far it’s good times.

San Jose has been particularly awesome this summer in terms of climate enjoyability, and we’ve been BBQing a lot in celebration. Normally I’m not one to host gatherings, but fortunately my roommate is, so I’m social by inheritance, which might sound annoying but actually suits me perfectly.

About a month ago (as I was between jobs), I spent a few days in Vegas hanging out with a bunch of online buddies in person for the first time, and that was a hoot. Normally we just yell at each other over ventrilo (voice conferencing software) as we continue our shared and endless quest to make progress and have the funs in the world of warcraft. We’ve been improving lately, and as of this writing are ranked 512th worldwide and 238th in the US out of something like 10k guilds.

Let’s see… been listening to:

  • The new Vibert release.
  • Isolee (which used to be available on bleep… a couple EPs on itunes though. Each of the 3 full length albums are great.)
  • Boxcutter, still. The Glyphic release, in particular (watch out for the rock group called Boxcutter – totally different, but unfortunately they are grouped together on the itunes store:)
  • Finally got around to picking up Cylob’s Bounds Green.
  • Still lots of Zappa. There’s so much material… Still eagerly awaiting the possible eventual release of the full-length Roxy concert video. The portion that has been released is pretty much fully epic, and I can and do watch it over and over (though I usually start at about 11 minutes in ;)
  • Other stuff, but I think I’m tired of listing and linking for a while…

What else… well, back in June, I participated in Apple’s yearly Worldwide Developer Conference. This year as with last year, I presented demos for the session about upgrading and migrating Mac OS X Server. The purpose of that session is to cover best practices and shed light on edge cases for people who have existing Mac OS X Server deployments and wish to upgrade them to the forthcoming release (in this case, Snow Leopard Server). My methodology (much to the chagrin of server engineering) is usually to pick on the parts of upgrade and migration that are broken, to make sure our customers know about these things, have an appropriate workaround, and just generally don’t get burned.

This year it was a big hit – even more so than last year. OS X Server admins love seeing the process of finding and working around real-world problems (i.e. software bugs), because that’s usually the hardest part of their workflow. This time around I did three demos: the first demonstrated things to do and check before an in-place upgrade; the second demo covered how to asses the correctness of an in-place upgrade after the fact, and deal with a couple specific kinds of fallout (due to known bugs that existed at the time, but which have since been fixed); the third demo covered migrating data from a 10.5 server to a different 10.6 server. Doing all of this live on stage with an actual running server presents some logistical challenges. For example, it takes a bit of time to actually perform an installation of the OS… so I used VMWare Fusion to create multiple virtual machines, each one with snapshots of just where I need to be in order to perform the salient portions of the demo for a live audience. It was really fun and well-received, and the cherry on top is that it wasn’t even obvious that I was using VM software :) This session is available on iTunes, but unfortunately not ala-cart… you kinda have to buy the whole Mac sessions track to get it. Mine was session #622.

In closing, I’d like to also say a few words about the current political climate as it relates to another of my traditional axes for grinding: religion. For the most part, I see people becoming increasingly more disconnected from the world around them – at least in the United States. Folks are able to go about their lives, sliding along nicely in the groove that is presented to them, without really knowing or caring what’s going on elsewhere. Traditional communities built around locality are being replaced by virtual communities that span the internet, and I think that has a significant effect on how people process and reconcile information about things outside their immediate purview. Additionally, it’s pretty hard for a person to keep up with current events around the world, and what they might mean for us here – I certainly don’t purport to be any kind of expert here, though I do try to pay attention and think about such things (typically via public radio and various podcasts). Finally, consider the difficulty in fully understanding things that happen in our own government. The new health care legislation makes a good example, because few people will read the entire (thousands of pages of) text of the proposed solutions. The point behind all of this is that there is lots of room for doubt and uncertainty. One might even say it’s the logical and necessary conclusion, because it’s probably impossible for most average folk to have well-informed opinions about all the important matters in life – not because they aren’t smart enough, but because they’re busy living their lives.

Unfortunately, lots of humans react very poorly when presented with uncertainty and doubt. They would much rather be certain than uncertain, even if that certainty is formed through a less than rigorous thought process. Humans have an amazing capacity to abandon logic and reason in favor of self-supporting belief systems, because people don’t want to be wrong about what they believe – I mean they REALLY don’t want to be wrong – to the extent that the support system becomes incredibly elaborate, perhaps even incorporating elements which are impossible to disprove.

In my own humble opinion, while I think sometimes certainty can be a comfortable feeling, I also recognize it as a potentially dangerous thing. Very dangerous. If you combine the human desire for certainty with the human desire to not be wrong about beliefs, things begin to get dark and nasty. The world is constantly changing – the same goes for the people living on it. Things that were held to be true decades ago may not be considered true today – perhaps because of scientific advances (e.g. genetics), perhaps because of cultural advances (e.g. abolishment of segregation, women’s lib, etc).

All of this comes together in quite a frappe when you mix the suggestible masses who want to be certain with con artists who wish to obtain support or buy-in from people, most of the time for selfish reasons. The skepticism and distrust that should be applied universally is typically only applied to those on the ‘other side’ of the issue at hand, as if important issues have two sides. This theme is stronger than ever in many of today’s mass media news outlets. Everybody has to pick a side, and not only that, they have to burry the other side. The whole business is sustained quite nicely here via a two party political system that seems to be fueled primarily by atrociously bad memories on the part of the constituents.

I humbly suggest that doubt and uncertainty are not scary things, but rather wonderful things. There is so much in the world to know and do, that if you’re not curious about things, you aren’t asking very good questions of yourself. The hilariously ironic part about all of this to me is that it’s much easier to achieve ‘not being wrong’ by simply limiting the number of declarative statements that are made than it is to build and defend an elaborate support structure. This probably sounds a lot like full-on Nihilism, but that’s not my intention… though I think it would be nice if folks were *more* Nihilist than self-righteously assured that their belief system is The Way. Thanks for listening :)

About dre

I like all kinds of food.
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