I love My Job(s)
I love my jobs(s). All three of them. My first job is as CTO of Network Magic where I help set the vision and technical direction. My second job is the backend-systems guy/accountant/handyman for my wifes Art Schools in Seattle. And my third, but no less important job, is as Technical Head of Household for my home and many of my friends and relatives.
One essential enabler for each of my jobs that I always take for granted is the ability to use networks. It’s a powerful thing that has affected my life in many ways, yet it does so with ease and somewhat transparently.
Let me walk you a few hours of my life this weekend, and touch on how much I rely on “networks” to perform my jobs and stay in touch.
This weekend was the final weekend before the launch of Network Magic 3.0. It’s been a huge push and the team has been working hard on some of the features since Christmas. We had a number of bugs spring up last minute, and so a fair amount of the team is cranking away in Seattle as I type.
Not me. For better or worse, I had a trip planned to Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington. My wife (Theresa) and I own some land up there and it’s infested with Gorse – a noxious weed that we have to keep under control by law. So while the team works hard on squeezing out the last of the bugs, Theresa and I have been working hard cutting and chipping and poisoning big bushes of this weed we inherited.
We’re done weeding now and it’s early evening on Sunday. I’ve been sitting on the couch of Nigels cottage on Orcas for several hours – with surprising productivity. The cottage has a pretty cool Wireless setup. It has an 802.11 network, which is hooked to a 900Mhz wireless WAN network to a small ISP on the island. The link is speedy enough that my location is somewhat irrelevant.
The team is working hard and just released the latest ‘Release-Candidate’ to the Dogfood alias. We are hoping that these are the final bits that we will release to our customers on Monday and they need some final testing to make sure everything works ok. To do my part, I needed to put on my THH hat and install it on every PC in my home. Only I am on Orcas… no problem…
My first mission was to get the Network Magic 3.0 Installer from our private corporate network into my home network. So I used VPN to tunnel into our corporate network. To transfer the file to home, I used a share that I had previously shared out using FolderShare that I have setup between my work machine and my home machines. I dropped the new build into my shared folder on my work pc, took another sip of tea, and watched some ducks flying over the orchard and land with a splash in the pond. Before I look back at the keyboard, the bits are already in my home waiting.
My second mission was to get onto my home PC and install Network Magic. For this I used Remote Desktop to connect directly to my desktop. In seconds, I’m in and using the PC as if I were there. Once Network Magic was installed there, I opened another Remote Desktop connection and connected to the Server in my basement. 5 minutes later and Network Magic is up and running on all PCs in my home.
My sister in law, Becky called on my mobile phone, which gets surprisingly good coverage at this remote location. While I was talking with her I found a potential show-stopper bug in Network Magic. For some reason our new wireless connection manager was not able to connect to this wireless network in WEP-Shared mode. I sent a quick IM to Matthew - our development manager back at the office. He wasn’t aware of the bug, and so I grabbed the logs from the log-directory and sent them over to Matthew via email.
I hung up my conversation with Becky and noticed that I had a new voicemail at home. I have a Voice-Over-IP phone with Vonage and it delivers voicemails as a .wav file direct to my email inbox. I listened to the message and it was my mum – calling from England. I looked at the clock – it was way past midnight UK time – too late to call.
The Release-Candidate build of Network Magic was looking good. Time to turn my attention to my second job…
Theresa has two art schools in Seattle, in the same way I do at home, we have dynamic DNS (via the Network Magic Net2Go Service) setup at each location and I can securely tunnel into the machines there too. It’s the end of march and we need to file quarterly payroll taxes. I “remoted” into the Art School computer, opened up QuickBooks and spent a quick hour reconciling the accounts. While I was doing this Theresa mentioned a bug on the Art School web site. I flipped Remote Desktop sessions – back to my office PC again, debugged the problem and propped a new version of the code to the website. All in the bat of an eye. And then carried on with the accounting work.
I checked email and got mail from Libby and Tim. Our site goes live tomorrow and we’re going to put a blog up there. I want to contribute some articles... I scratched my head for inspiration and then reflected on the last few hours on the couch. Wow. Amazing how much technology I used and how many PCs I interacted with. 802.11 networks, 900Mhz networks, cable modem, DSL modems, corporate networks and even cellular networks. Now, you could argue that I’m some kind of alien freak of nature and nobody else would ever be so extreme. But it really struck me how much remote-desktop, remote-email, remote-access to voice-mail and cellular networks have liberated my need to be chained to a single office PC. I think there are more people like me that would love to be so unchained, but don’t know all the technical mumbo jumbo to make it happen. That’s what we’re planning to solve here with Network Magic. Easy Networking for normal people – not alien freaks like me.
Then my final epiphany came…. All this time I’ve been sitting here on the couch, warmed by the glow of my laptop screen, Theresa has been laying in the last few rays of the sun, feeling the grass between her toes. Perhaps all this technology really isn’t as liberating as I think it is…