classic beard

More Jobs!

We're still trying to find a support engineer. This is tricky because so many people with support on their resumes are good at regurgitating training and (more usefully) "giving good phone" - our support people need to be able to diagnose complex systems issues, often over the phone (though you've got all the local systems you need to duplicate and root-cause the problem); work closely with engineering; figure out the system from manuals and stories - if you're motivated enough you can put time into *building* training programs, but we don't have formal training yet... customers are actually reasonably sophisticated early-adopter types, but the problems run from network/install issues, integration issues, all the way to linguistic questions. Talk to me directly, or email me at work...
classic beard

My Next Car

I've mentioned this before, but the Tesla Electric Sportscar has gotten a bunch of new press lately, reaffirming for me that, once they open the New York sales and service office and I can drive one home from there, that I'm getting one.

  • Paul Boutin (anyone here remember him? Media Lab dude in the late 80's, famous at the time for answering the question "What's the biggest technological challenge of the next decade?" with "There are only seventeen thousand three letter acronyms" :-) got a chance to test drive one, and wrote it up for Slate.

  • Wired has a Tesla photodismantlement - shots of the motor, batteries, and conventional parts.

An interesting he brings up in the article is shifting - like the electric Wrightspeed X1, there isn't any. The article points out something I'd never really understood before - "shifting" really is a kludge, an artifact not of driving, but of "primitive" internal combustion engines...
classic beard

Things happen


Missed October, but I have been writing - just not here. I finally got a technical blog together... or rather, turned my README files into blog entries (easier to code around than to change habits, of course :-) The RSS feed is here but there isn't yet a matching HTML page; the individual projects already have their own renderings (and individual feeds, if you only want the Rants page and not the rest of the coding projects.

Update: The RSS feed for everything is probably more interesting than just the python one, though it's still overall a highly technical space.

As part of putting the tech blog together, I realized that I'd actually managed to write code and prose combined at about half the rate expected from NaNoWriMo without particularly trying. There are threshholds of course and technical material is pretty much entirely unlike novel writing, but it does mean that if I ever getting around to writing a technical book, it's not unreasonable to get it started in a few months of spare time. (Not that I particularly want to write a book, though I have gotten a kick out of getting published in the past - but if there's ever (again) something I'm uniquely suited to write, I intend to do so. The time for a kerberos or zephyr book was about 10 years ago, though, and "Startup Infrastructure and Culture Building" is more of a howto or a "hire me to do this on the side while I'm solving hard engineering problems too", and it'll be kind of boring to read unless you're in the middle of putting something together... and most of the tools are changing in real time, especially if you're not paranoid and buy into using lightweight web1.9999 services instead of infrastructure.)

Hmm, I still haven't written up Iceland stories. There's a chance of another (shorter) trip to Iceland (or possibly Stockholm or even Rome) before the end of the year. And then there's this "Interesting python job in Stockholm" note that I just got (but it doesn't sound like short-term consulting so it's not a real option - it's just that usually, when I'm not looking, things like this don't fall in my lap, so it was a bit of a surprise. And one problem with being a "startup specialist" is that Europe (except perhaps for Ireland?) is startup-hostile, even with other reasons to spend time there.) Two words: "tiramisu shake" :-)
mini, for driving articles

Derailment avoided

I stumbled across this job description a week or two back. Firmware Engineer at Tesla Motors. My first thought was "ok, they're trying to be hip and advertise to joel's readership, that's kind of cool". Then I read the details...

You wouldn't know it from my current resume, but between my hobbies, my embedded work at Cygnus, and the deeper parts of my development upbringing (summary: when you start coding on an IMSAI front panel, anything higher level feels easy :-) I'm actually qualified for this job. Realizing this startled me. I'm sure that they'll have better candidates, of course, from people who actually do this for their careers... but I do interview well and if they're looking for enthusiasm too I might have a chance...

"The successful candidate will split their time between the auto shop and the office. Testing involves driving an electric sports car." That sounds like a huge amount of fun :-)

Of course, my current job is
  • interesting and challenging
  • filled with interesting people
  • makes a difference, potentially at world-scale
  • well-aligned with what I'm demonstrably good at
  • actually in New England
I think five years ago I'd have taken it, though...

One could however argue that electric sports cars lead to electric mundane cars and trucks, which leads to vast reductions in foreign oil dependency, which leads to a reduction in terrorism (or at least enables telling the middle east to sod off, which works as a first approximation) which makes it important in the longer run, while being mostly fun in the present. And it's not like California lacks interesting people (Tesla is right off El Camino in San Carlos, a little north of Palo Alto...)

In the end, I settled for writing a cover letter (and not sending it), and eagerly awaiting the car actually showing up on the market (unlike the T-zero which never really made it out of prototype and technology demonstrator mode.) I did also check on linkedin to see if I had any introduction shortcuts, and did, via an obvious-only-in-retrospect path.

So no major life derailment today! I'm sure this leads to an interesting mix of "aww" and "whew" reactions from the people in my life :-)

update 2006-09-27: The posting is gone; last I looked it had had over 1000 hits so I'm sure they filled it...
classic beard

"There was supposed to be moon-shattering kaboom!"

This weekend (currently late saturday night, but there's still a 7 hour window...)

The SMART-1 solar-powered ion-engine probe ran out of Xenon (reaction mass) a while back, and completed its primary mission (engine demo :-)

Since it was going to impact the moon anyway, they've used the remaining hydrazine in the navigational thrusters to adjust its terminal orbit - so it will impact in a known place, throwing up a mass of dust that *should* be visible from earth... the second url has "where to look" details.

(I'm going to try to lashup my new camera to the telescope and do some practice shots later this week, but it's too cloudy tonight...)
classic beard

I'm baaack

Originally uploaded by Mark Eichin.
Lots of writeups to follow - for that matter, lots of pictures not yet sent to flickr, though a reasonable set of highlights are there.

Icelandair gets major points for Not Being Stupid in these trying times. I still want a transatlantic-capable yacht, though.
classic beard


Originally uploaded by Mark Eichin.
Finally got to spend some time around a real waterfall, to get over the disappointment that "Danforth Falls" was. (It turns out that my reference for "standard waterfall", Kent Falls in Kent, CT, is the most impressive waterfall in the entire state, and probably outdoes everything in MA as well...)
mini, for driving articles

More Cars...

An electric-motor manufacturer has build a high performance Hybrid Mini Cooper - the QED (Quad Electric Drive), 65-80mpg on fuel, up to four hours on battery (70Ah 300V LiPoly, plus an 11Farad ultracapacitor) - does regenerative braking, 600-900 miles range, 150mph top speed (which is a good trick given that it is a motor per wheel and no gearing...) It is wall-chargable as well. Not a product line, but they are entertaining offers to build more...

On the SmartCar front, someone Greece built a SmartCar for the US market - by upgrading it to a V6 diesel and chassis from a Unimog, monster tires (2ft ground clearance), and otherwise offroading it, calling it the forFun2...

And back in the pure electric side of things, remember the Corbin Sparrow (popularly resurrected in the second Austin Powers movie)? Three wheeled motorcycle-licensed one-person vehicle, looks like a deformed jelly bean, two wheels in the front, went under a few years back... Turns out that you can actually buy an electric version called the NMG-1 ("No More Gas".) Only 30 miles range, 70mph - probably makes it an acceptable city runabout, actually....
classic beard

Cameras, again

So the Nikon Coolpix S4 lasted 2 months, almost exactly. It appears that the aperture (iris) is stuck at "pinhole" - not all the way shut, so it's been possible to take some pictures with second-long exposures, in daylight - not, in practice, actually useful.

I've asked around on dpreview in particular, to see if there are suggestions; this camera was the only one that came close to what I wanted (the only compromises were size and lens-ring, and having the 10x lens made the latter OK, as you can probably see from some of the pictures I've gotten out of it) but if it's this fragile, I'm not sure I want a second one.

One alternative (only 5x zoom, but "pistol grip" style) is the Sanyo Xacti CA6 which is about the same size, and can shoot 6MP stills while shooting video. However, it doesn't ship until some time in August, and I'll already be out of the country again...

edit 2006-07-25: gave in and got a second one, which I will treat more carefully, while looking into warranty and repair options for the first one. Turns out that taking pictures is important to me after all...
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