My tenure at Hostway has come to an end. Long live Hostway.

I put in my two weeks notice, then walked away a free man yesterday afternoon. It was a long, tangled, messy 4 years, 5 months, 3 weeks. I learned a lot while there, but the biggest lesson of them all is that I do not want to do public-facing technical support ever again. There are too many parts in motion at all times; there are too many façades to keep up; there are too many unfunded and untenable expectations to uphold to get through the job with any shred of self-respect. I found I couldn’t exceed because the constant and random barrage of imperative demands kept me out of focus.

I also learned about networking, how server farms and monitoring systems work, how to file tickets, how to make things talk to each other, and how to deal with remote teams. Which is the set of traits that landed me my next gig.

On Monday, I will start as a contractor for a research team at Samsung. I’m not fully clear on the particulars of the job, but it will be very much like what I did in the product development labs at AMD: benchmarking & power measurement. My new job will also entail the care and feeding of a collection of testing platforms, rescuing any devices that lock up, making sure remote engineers can reach the platforms, working on automation and reporting software, etc.

It will be an uphill climb. But if it means I don’t have to deal with downed servers, failed hard drives, and pissed-off customers, then I’ll be as happy as a clam.

Fat, Thick, and Dirty

I finally did it. I soldered a pair of PL-259 connectors (screw-on type) onto a 28′ (8m) length of scavenged RG-8 cable. And it works. It really, really works.

PL-259 soldered connectors RG8 coax
PL-259 connectors, kinda soldered, and they actually work.

Of course, they’re really, really dirty.

PL-259 soldered connectors RG8 coax
Dirty solder. So, so dirty.

And it took me 2 hours to f’n do it.

But it works.

Tiny, Cheap, Expensive

Picked up an RTL-SDR software-defined radio dongle. Because reasons.

After an evening of driver hell, I decided today that maybe I should read the quick-start instructions. Gosh, they’re more helpful than I imagined. Finally got the SDRSharp software to recognize the dongle and start tuning and decoding radio.

Unfortunately, my poor old laptop is just too slow. Once it gets a buffer of samples from the dongle, decodes them, processes them, runs them through several filters, displays them on screen in the FFT and waterfall views, and then finally outputs them to my soundcard, the audio is supremely distorted, as if it just can’t fill the audio buffers fast enough to keep them from looping internally. It just sounds like a cheap digital stretch of whatever audio is going in.

I’m sure the SDRSharp application could have been written to be more efficient, but my dual-core 1600MHz machine just can’t handle it. Maybe I’ll get a new laptop, or actually repurpose my music workstation tower to run my ham radio shack. For that, I need to rearrange my apartment and actually get new furniture.

See? It’s true. Amateur Radio is a hobby where you just dig a hole in the back yard and throw money into it. Nothing you get is ever enough.

Radio is hard.


Putting in my two-week notice got me feeling like:

Not Sure giving the middle finger salute to the House of Representin

Really, it’s been a bumpy four years, five months at my current job. I had been looking for a while, and an opportunity jumped into my lap and grabbed me by the collar. So after a rollercoaster few weeks with subtle acts of subterfuge and hookie, and after a few last-minute snags due to the holiday, the last stop was pulled out this afternoon and I dropped my notice on my managers who played it off as if they had suspected it all along and saw it coming.

Kinda obvious, really.

The future is going to be heavy with study and learning how to take sips from a raging firehose. The work will be hard for a while. But I’ll be doing it elsewhere. I won’t say where just yet, but I will be back in a product development lab, so that’s nice.

I consider my four years in IT customer support as my time wandering in the wilderness. It’s like I was ejected from the dojo, walked the earth to gain some wisdom, and now I’ve returned home to work with Sensei again. Home to where my only customers are internal. Home to where I don’t have to blow hot air and say, “our engineering staff (me, on shift) is currently investigating your issue and we’ll have more information as it develops. Thank you for your patience.”

Ugh. So glad to be done with that. Product labs don’t give two shits or a good god damn about customer reviews or net promoter scores or phone metrics. They answer to the development cycle. They live and die on the quality of the dataset. They move at a less immediate pace, allowing more thought and creativity and headspace in what needs to be done to get the results and validate the design.

So countdown two weeks: format and reinstall. Wish me luck.