Avi Freedman's Tech and Biz Topics

on internet plumbing, gadgets, nerd herding, and other related topics

Future Blog Topics/Thoughts (Will Take Requests)

A few people write me most weeks asking to cover something in networking, storage, working in big or small companies, or other geekly areas.

I’m moving my master list of potential future topics here and will extend it over time.

… The hardest decisions to make are the ones where you can’t identify an obviously better or worse choice. Just choose. (triggered by http://lifehacker.com/make-tough-decisions-and-move-on-with-the-two-minute-ru-615962167)

… Do what you are passionate about because you can be world class at it – I administered the Sun networks for they wanted me for physics and math at Temple University. Profs wanted me to switch majors to both because I could be a top student in their topics but I knew I’d be a Salieri or worse, never great, never seeing the problems and geeking and dreaming the solutions. (triggered by http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2013/07/08/math-science-popular-until-students-realize-theyre-hard/)

… On partners and cofounders – make sure you’re a match in values and goals, of course. Ideally you could all represent biz, tech, internal managemen, finance, marketing well enough to speak with the ‘voice of the company’ to insiders or outsiders, and sync with the others/the domain expert partner. At Akamai, working with Jonathan Seelig (had run the network group, + did BD, + was cofounder) and Tim Weller (CF) was amazing for this reason as we worked together.
(triggered by http://blog.aha.io/index.php/how-to-choose-a-great-co-founder/)

… Link to Matt Ringel’s Akamai post about “don’t spend more than N minutes before asking for help”.

… On hiring – compsci degrees used to ensure that you had written a program of more than a few hundred lines and had worked on a team. Often in the compiler or OS classes. Now we have github and OSS, but fewer universities seem to be doing this. Still, asking about both of these things is useful. Not to strictly no-hire but to know if people have worked in teams before, in particular.

… I used to think every manager should ideally be able to (train to) do the job of everyone in their org, except for maybe CEO. Have seen many horror shows where that was not true. Now I think everyone should have a good BS detector about the functions/roles/tech/mktg/other specialty in their org. Don’t have to do the job but have to be able to make decisions that are consistent and usually correct when there is disagreement. Some people have exceptionally strong BS detectors. Some can just do it all and/or come up to speed super fast. Ideal is both of course.

… Passive/aggression is still hard for me to see and deal with quickly enough. Another, worse, behavior is people who treat me one way because they respect me or feel they have to, but shit on the peons. KEY: Friend the peons and look for people engaging this behavior. They will eventually shit on you. Briding the spark gap is easy for me because I can geek for days on anything of moderate interest. Use such conversations to hear about the from-the-trenches view of the company and people in it. Don’t take any one or two data points too seriously. Develop a drama and agenda detector as well (can be hard).

… Topics in content storage: Erasure coding and its applications.

… Praise people when they do a really cool hack. Even if just in private. Much more harmful than lack of well-places praise is when people get publicly congratulated for wiping their ass well and getting all the klingons. This happens when management in larger companies doesn’t have good BS detection and doesn’t engage enough to stay in touch with the clueful peon class.

… ATT negotiation story – what was said in Mofo bathroom.

… Danny Lewin’s greatness: Being the best but encouraging teams to form and be successful. Bridging the spark gap between clueful ‘peons’ and managemnet in a biggish company was one of the key things he did. Lead from the front, be the hardest working and care the most.

… SDN: What people are excited about ; old-school SDN + config management ; what seems to make sense now and for who ; what seems most likely over the next 1-3 years

… Pressplay story. Write tools or even scripts. If your data fits in RAM on reasonable machines (96gb-1tb now) sometimes clustered fancy solutions are wrong. (triggered by http://www.chrisstucchio.com/blog/2013/hadoop_hatred.html) (http://onstartups.com/tabid/3339/bid/3055/Startups-and-The-Problem-Of-Premature-Scalaculation.aspx)

… But any time you need to buy one bigger machine to replace one other machine and you do it 3 times, get a scale-out soltion.

… Virgin America is awesome. I pay $200+ to upgrade for cross-continental first class vs free upgrades on USAIR if the base fares are the same. Power outlets, seats w/ legrests that go up, can climb out of a window seat without disturbing the guy/gal next to you as much; flight attendants aren’t too loud, quieter 1st class passengers, happier passengers, better food; in 1st class all bags go up top so no worries about bringing a larger laptop case/backpack.

… In PHL airport, if the C line is long, go down to the train. The same platform does C+D terminals. D now has Prepass. But Southwest doesn’t participate. Pthhhhhpt.

… Great people are just people. If you have passion and are pretty smart they will respect what you do and have done. Steve Bellovin story. (ispired by https://medium.com/design-startups/3600f4672b3e, on “Act as If”)

… For super loud flights (Southwest in particular, but pretty much any airline including frequent USAIR 1st class) – highly recommend http://www.earplugstore.com/snproinwhnom.html – not cheap but works well in combo with folding hearing protection (from a shooting range). On the other hand, it’s worth engaging the person in the seat next to you if they want. Regularly have very valuable, fascinating, and profitable conversations (at reasonable volumes) that way! Hearing protection is more for remote passengers who talk loudly, especially if traveling together.

… Remember and be grateful for each step above student wanting to play with fun stuff and/or have money and freedom to do what you want. Remember that when you get frustrated with work/job/customer/employees/investors. When I was in school if someone had offered me $100k/year inflation adjusted to play with computers and networks for the rest of my life I would have signed pretty quickly. Life is much better now with fun geek stuff, freedom, creating things so it’s hard to get too frustrated with bad results.

… Net Neutrality isn’t black/white. Comcast can have their network back when they repay all the subsidies they had by being a monoploy. You also on the other hand can’t tell networks they can’t investigate, block, and rate-shape ddos traffic and traffic that is causing other problems for most customers (though again generally this is not ‘authorized/requested/desired’ traffic in some sense).

… Settlements and traffic ratios can be engineered by the clueful. I pay more if I send you more traffic? I’ll get content providers. The reverse? I’ll get or build search engine customers.

… How netaxs got peering with UUNet, Sprint, ANS, and other biggies of the day.

… How I learned to program – BASIC, C (badly), 6809 assembly, PDP assembly (ahhhh), C (much better), LISP, Scheme, Perl

… Replacing myself with little scripts at united engineers my first week on the job. Write tools. Be lazy. Don’t be overbearing about being clever, though (the politics of it all)

… Riff on Joe Greco’s 2000-ish Usenet architecture description; describe modern Usenet architecture and tools.

… Managing people with geek binary-itis (an “asperger” symptom). Explaining that “it is not sufficient to be correct” and in particular, that if people are being happy and productive there need to be good reasons to go bother them to assuage your geek OCD.

… Technical product management – biggest frustration I had at one large company I was at over many years. I recognize there are many kinds of skills but I do feel that people in product management for tech (especially infrastructure-related) services have to be intellectually curious, read GigaOM, TechCrunch, see what’s coming in how customers, vendors, and service providers are changing. One point of validation: One TPM I was frustrated with over many years asked for and got some raw feedback from me (not personal attack, more functional), took it to heart, and has advanced far organizationally and in the work he does.

… My mother told me – remember that the annoying person you’re dealing with may be in a position of power or influence over/for you in the future. Cultivate friends and treat people well and it will benefit you. Have definitely seen the multi-decade benefit of this.

… Intro to diabetes – Type 1 is no insulin produced. Unknown if viral or autoimmune. Type 2 is insulin resistance. Treatable with drugs. Can lead to Type 1-like function, needing insulin injections/pump. 2 big problems: Low blood sugar causes strange behavior, car accidents, coma, some evidence of long term heart and other damage. Bigger problem is that high blood sugar for (?reasons not well understood?) damange small blood vessels. Causes problems w kidney, eye, heart, hands, feet/legs.

… My disc herniation story – chiropractic, accupuncture, physiatrist, orthopod, physical therapy, and a conversation over poker leading to the super traction machine that fixed it (DRX-9000).

… Starting in a small open-plan office for non-coders, or at least having people work in the same area some of the time, is a great way to sync, ask questions, and generally be high-bandwidth and on the same page. I didn’t understand how powerful it was because the office space we had at netaxs was just 2 rooms where we could at least somewhat hear all converstaions. When we moved to a bigger set of offices, things definitely changed and groups became more insular and isolated.

… If you’re a founder, don’t work from home if you have people in the office. I did that at netaxs and things stalled.

… Agonostic vs atheist. Igor said he’s a militant atheist. I say he’s an agnostic; that is, willing to believe that it’s possible to be presented with evidence of a higher power and not be crazy, but seeing no evidence proving it without requiring faith to date.

… I was never impressed with program correctness proofs. The same logic and problem staement errors are likely to creep in to proofs. I think iteration is a great process, and am a big believer (because it has worked for me) in quickly building “running specification” to give to actual engineering-minded coders. Jeff is a better programmer than I am so encouraging that he agrees. (triggered by http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2004/11/good-programmers-get-off-their-butts.html)

… about netflow ; netflow for netops ; for ddos ; for forensics ; for SDN ; for network view of APM

… Yes, I drink 6 liters/day of diet soda. Being 300 pounds again would be more unhealthy. (triggered by http://loneprairie.net/diet-coke/)

… Why it’s always nice to be in silicon valley in summer and winter (for an east coast guy). (triggered by http://swizec.com/blog/weather-the-best-thing-about-silicon-valley/swizec/4771)