Happy Sysadmin Day

It seems it is once again System Administrator Appreciation Day. The one day a year (last Friday of July) where everyone stops and shows their appreciation to their systems administrator or team of systems administrators. Some of us are still called “operators” or more likely we are just known around your office as the “IT team”, the “Ops team”, the “computer guys” or any combination thereof. Regardless of how we are referred to, we are the people whose sole purpose in life is trying to make your life easier, better, and more secure. If you don’t have a lot of problems with the computers or network, it means we are doing our job well. If you do have some problems with the computers or network, rest assured that it is not our fault, however we are the ones working through the nights and giving up our weekends to resolve these problems almost always caused by others.

So make sure and stop by the IT dungeon sometime today and show your appreciation to your sysadmins. If you aren’t sure how to show your appreciation, a friendly greeting, a thank you, a cup of coffee, donuts, coupons for a free lunch, taking us out to lunch, or even just cold hard cash are some of the ways that you can tell your sysadmin how much you appreciate them.

Irssi and Screen and Growl, oh my!

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been getting accustomed to my new job here at Mozilla. Something that is used very extensively here is IRC chat. Since the last time I used IRC for work was about two jobs ago, back when I was solely working on linux desktops, I didn’t really have much experience with the various IRC clients available for Mac. Colloquy is pretty nice, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it store my channel passwords, such that the client will automatically reconnect after waking the computer from sleep. X-Chat Aqua was also pretty nice and had some good features as well as being very customizable. I would recommend this to anyone that wants to really tweak their IRC experience.

However, one feature that neither client offered is, of course, staying connected to the IRC server when the computer is asleep. It is quite useful for me to be able to log into the IRC channels that my colleagues are on and be able to scroll back a ways to see what the current conversation is about, or to see if I missed anything that is important to me. The obvious solution here is to use an IRC client running on a remote machine that is always running. Most people I’ve talked to use the Irssi running in a screen session on a shell server somewhere. This is a perfect solution to the stated problem.

Using this method to connect to the IRC does bring up one whole new problem. Since I am in anywhere from 7 to 10 different IRC channels at a time and have work to do that doesn’t involve watching all channels all the time, I’ve relied on Growl notifications to alert me whenever someone mentions my nick. This is one feature that most people have to give up on in order to stay connected using Irssi in a Screen session. Well, I did some research and found a couple of pages on the internet that provided very useful information to make possible using Irssi in a screen session on a remote server and still get Growl notifications anytime your nick is mentioned! Here is how to do it:

First of all, I won’t go into setting up Irssi or Screen. There is more than enough documentation on the web to help with doing that. Also, I don’t want to take credit for figuring out how to do this. Most of the information came from this page.

First step:
Download this script, unzip it and place it in your ~/.irssi/scripts/autorun/ folder (create this directory if it doesn’t exist yet).

Second step:
Make sure your SSH public key is on the remote server where you will be running your irssi instance.

Third step:
Create a script on your local computer. I named it “growl_irc.sh” and placed it in my ~/bin/ directory, which I have added to my PATH variable.


#!/bin/bash
# Kill all current fnotify sessions
ps | awk '{if($0 ~ /fnotify/ && $1 ~ /[0-9]+/ && $4 !~ /awk/) print $1}' |
while read id; do
kill $id
done
# SSH to host, clear file and listen for notifications
(ssh username@hostname -o PermitLocalCommand=no \
"> .irssi/fnotify; tail -f .irssi/fnotify" |
while read heading message; do
growlnotify -t "${heading}" -m "${message}";
done)&

Fourth Step:
Download and install growlnotify. It is in the DMG in a directory called Extras that you can download from http://growl.info/

Fifth Step:
Write a simple script, which opens an SSH session to the remote host and also starts the growl_irc.sh script. I call it “irc” and put it in my ~/bin/ directory:


#!/bin/bash
~/bin/growl_irc.sh
ssh user@hostname

Sixth Step:
On the remote server, I wrote another little wrapper script to resume the screen session. It just has one line:

screen -raAd

This can also be called “irc” or this line could be added to the .bash_profile file, if that is all the remote server will be used for.

So now my workflow is as follows: Open a terminal, type irc, once logged into the remote server, type irc again and I have my Irssi up and running with working growl notifications. Enjoy!

Extra tips:
Since I don’t want my irssi window to get lost among all the other terminal windows I have open, I use Terminal.app for regular terminal work and iTerm for Irssi. This way I can have default window sizes and colors for Irssi be different than for other terminal stuff.

You can configure the growlnotify Application in the Growl Preference Pane to make changes to how long the notification stays on screen, etc.

If you read the manpage for growlnotify, you can find ways to tweak the notification’s icon, etc.

Look at the scripts available on http://www.irssi.org/scripts to find how to change the appearance of Irssi, i.e. to get colored nicks and a list of active nicks in a channel on the sidebar, reminiscent of X-Chat or other GUI clients.

German Superstitions

After my last post, I started thinking about all the humorous superstitions that I have come across during my time in Germany. I would like to point out that I am no doctor and don’t actually know if any of these are valid or not. I just think they are funny. Also, I’m not trying to rip on Germans here. As an American, I can think of an equally long list of ridiculous superstitions and behaviors that are stereotypically American. This is meant to be funny.

1) A draft is detrimental to one’s health.

I’m not sure what the reasoning or background to this one is, but I see it all the time. If I am sitting in a train in the summer and the temperature is approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit (see below for superstition about air conditioning), I might think it is a good idea to open the tiny little window that would allow a tiny bit of airflow into the passenger compartment. Every time I have attempted this or seen it attempted by some other unknowing tourist, the idea has been shot down either by a) an old lady that will give the evil eye, stand up, march over to the window, make a big fuss and slam the window closed as hard as possible and yell “ES ZIEHT!!!” (English: There’s a draft!), march back over to her seat, sit down and glare at the offender for about a half an hour to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. b) The conductor will come by and lock all the windows as soon as the train starts moving to make sure that we don’t ever get into situation a.

2) Stale air.

This one isn’t really so unreasonable, but it is still quite funny to witness. Every German has to open every window in every room of the house for at least 20 minutes per day. It makes sense of course to air out each room. It helps avoid mold problems and such and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a German use an air freshener because of this habit. What is hilarious is when this requirement somehow conflicts with the first superstition about a draft. The problem is that if you open two windows on opposite sides of an apartment, there will be a nice breeze that flows through the apartment. This may never happen. You must first open the windows on one side of the house and after closing them you can open windows on the other side of the house. You could also open them all at once, but you must make sure that every single door is closed to ensure that no air actually moves. If you plan on leaving the room you are in, you should close the window first before opening the door, otherwise you might create a temporary draft and the door will slam behind you. Every person has their own morning ritual about airing out the apartment. It is pretty standard and all windows and balcony doors in Germany have three modes: closed, swinging open and tilting open. The “tilting open” mode is usually the only one used for airing out a room as that minimizes the draft.

3) Air Conditioning is bad for you.

I’m not sure if it is because it is “artificial air”, or because the air is dry, or what the deal is with air conditioning, but Germans are deathly afraid of it. At a minimum it will give you a cold, but it could very easily disrupt your Kreislauf (English: blood circulation). I’ve never seen an apartment or house anywhere in Munich with air conditioning. I’ve seen fewer than 10% of businesses use air conditioning in the summer, and it seems that only in recent years is it becoming standard equipment on cars, although I’m pretty sure this also only applies to imports. In the US you can’t buy a BMW without air conditioning. Here, you have to pay extra for it, since only a fool would use it anyway. The few times I’ve seen air conditioning in use here, the temperature is just 2 or 3 degrees below the outside sweltering heat, so it is pretty much useless anyway. At my office, only the server room is air conditioned. I used to keep it at 16 degrees Celsius, and I enjoyed going in there during the summer. My boss told me it would be fine to raise the temperature up to 20 degrees. Yesterday I was showing the new sysadmin the server room and he was shocked that we are running at 20 degrees instead of 25, which would be plenty cool. I think mostly they are afraid of abrupt changes in temperature.

4) Abrupt changes in temperature.

I had a German ask my advice about traveling through Death Valley once. I told him not to worry too much, since all rental cars these days have air conditioning and Death Valley is pretty cool. You drive around comfortably, stop and get out for a bit while being amazed at how ridiculously hot it is, look around, get back in the car with the A/C on full blast and drive home. He said he was pretty sure that that would severely affect his Kreislauf and was considering skipping the trip altogether.  Recently it has been quite cold here in Munich. Way below freezing a couple of days. I’ve heard complaints that the regional trains use heaters in the passenger compartments, because while it is nice and comfortable during your hour long commute, once you get to your final destination, you are pretty much doomed to instant death as soon as you step off the train into the cold outside.

5) No swimming after eating.

Now, I’ve heard this one in the US as well. I should probably submit it to Mythbusters for a final confirmation, but from what I understand, if you eat a full meal and then immediately go swimming afterward, your body will tend to cramp up, making swimming and breathing difficult and there is a possibility of drowning if you are in a deep area and unsupervised. That sounds perfectly reasonable and whether it is true or not, I can accept that and don’t plan on sneaking off to an abandoned pool right after eating a 7 course meal and jumping straight into a deep end. However the way I’ve seen German interpret this “guideline” about eating and swimming is along the lines of if you ingest anything regardless of how minute, and within precisely 30 minutes happen to submerge any part of your body in water deeper than a small puddle, not only will every muscle in your body cramp up immediately, your Kreislauf will go into shock and you’ll be dead within minutes. True story. I vividly remember when I was a child of about 11 years old, there was an outdoor swimming pool nearby and during summer vacation it was great to get a bunch of friends together and two or three of the moms would come along to supervise and we’d all go to the outdoor pool for an afternoon. The moms would usually just gossip and sunbathe and all of us kids would go swimming. There was a small water slide and a few diving boards. There was a big grassy area to just lounge around and sunbathe and hang out and there was even a small concession stand. Well, after swimming for a bit and just enjoying the afternoon, it was time for a break, so I headed back to where the moms and the towels were. Two of my friends were sitting there, one of them enjoying a popsicle and the other was eating a small basket of fries with ketchup. As is the social norm whenever you see your friend eating fries, I went ahead and reached over and grabbed one and popped it in my mouth. About 5 minutes later I decided that it was boring there and got up to go lounge with my feet in the pool in the shallow area where all the toddlers hung out. Well my foot almost got to the water when I was swept up by my friend’s mom, who was frantically screaming and rushing me back to where everyone else was and was yelling at me along the lines of “I can’t believe how foolish you are! Have your parents taught you nothing?!? You almost died just now!!!!”. Completely confused by this, I asked what miserable fate I had barely escaped thanks to her watchful eye over me. The response was “Don’t you know that you have to wait 30 minutes after eating?!? I saw you eat that french fry and I want you to sit down here for 30 minutes before you even think about going back to the pool!”.

6) Kreislauf

The German language has a neat way of turning concepts into neat little nouns that can be put into the singular very easily. In English it is more difficult to refer to ones blood circulation, because you aren’t talking about the blood itself, but rather the motion of it throughout your body through veins and arteries. Anyway in German this whole concept is known as “Kreislauf” and apparently this is the sole determinant of your current condition and you can feel the most minute changes. Now, I’m no doctor and just because I have never been able to actually *feel* the blood pumping through my body outside of my feeling my pulse, I can’t really say they are wrong about this. I just think it is funny that pretty much every German I’ve met has this at the top of their worry-list and I’ve never even heard of anything close from Americans. When conversing with Germans, it is normal to ask how things are going, how are the kids, how is the Kreislauf, etc. Pretty much everything in life can affect your Kreislauf and it is of utmost importance to not disturb it. For instance the reasoning for not eating a heavy meal in the evening is because it is bad for your Kreislauf. When a German has just returned from a trip abroad and had a long flight, you always have to ask how the flight was and the answer will almost always be “well, it was a good flight, but I can always feel it in my Kreislauf when I fly for so long”. Every aspect of a German’s life is to appease the Kreislauf. The only reason for working out, eating healthy, getting exercise, sleeping the proper amount of time each night and going to bed and getting up at the same time every day is for the Kreislauf. It is also the only reason that Germans have to have 6 weeks of vacation per year, and the only reason to go hiking in the mountains. It is to recover the Kreislauf. By law every German gets at least 4 weeks of vacation per year and most people get 5 or 6, and by law you have to use it all the year you get it, because if you don’t, your Kreislauf suffers from it. The way that Germans know when they’ve had enough to drink is because they can start to feel it in their Kreislauf. As consequence to drinking too much, Americans get hangovers. Germans get hangovers too, but don’t care about them. The real problem is the almost irreparable damage to the Kreislauf. It actually goes so far that you can go to any doctor in Germany and say that your Kreislauf just isn’t feeling like it should and he’ll immediately prescribe you two weeks off from work. You can call your boss any day and just tell him that something isn’t right with your Kreislauf and you will be sympathetically told to stay home with pay and try to relax so that you can recover.

6) Sore throat? Wear a scarf!

The only real reason to wear a scarf in Germany is to help heal a sore throat. I actually don’t see too many men wearing scarves in cold weather when they are healthy, but as soon as you start to get a cold or a sore throat, you put on a scarf and don’t take it off for a couple of weeks. Germans will wear a scarf in bed if they have a sore throat. I’ve confronted Germans about this before, like when walking into a friend’s house in mid-August and it is sweltering heat outside and inside and my friend comes to the door wearing shorts, t-shirt and a scarf. “What’s with the scarf?” – “Oh, I have a sore throat”. Perfectly logical. After asking what the scarf does for the sore throat, I just get a blank stare and something like “everybody knows that when you have a sore throat you have to wear a scarf. It is the only cure!” This is so deep in the culture and it is quite hilarious. It is so standard that all you have to do is start wearing a scarf indoors and the first person you see will offer you some tea and give you a “I hope you get well soon!” without even having to ask if you are sick. It is just a direct correlation. All people that have sore throats always wear scarves and all people wearing scarves indoors must have a sore throat. I’ll point out that there are also some gay and metrosexual men that will wear scarves indoors as a part of their outfit even when they don’t have a sore throat, but you can usually tell by the kind of scarf it is.

7) Others.

There are many other superstitions that come up from time to time, but I’ll stop here for now and I’ll update this post with more as I think of them. There are also some smaller ones, like “women who sit on concrete surfaces will become sterile” and “when riding on the subway, you have to sit facing the direction of travel”, but they aren’t universally accepted like the rest of them.

Back to the States… Again. Mozilla-style!

As I hinted in my last post, I’ll be moving to California this month. It is almost hilariously ironic that pretty much exactly two years ago I did this exact same move. Back then I moved to the Bay Area, stayed with a friend for a few months while looking for work, only to find a job back in Munich. So now I’ve been in Munich again since mid-2008 with my wife and we’ve decided that although living here is nice, it isn’t really where we want to spend our future. Life as an expatriate can be fun, but it can also be difficult. One can’t really compare the different cultures to each other as there are so many differences, yet so many similarities. It pretty much comes down to how you like your day to day life. Sure it has been great living two blocks away from the Oktoberfest, but that only comes around once a year. Yeah, it is awesome to be able to head on down to the Hofbräuhaus after work and drink with the locals, or get authentic Italian food and great Indian food on pretty much every street corner. These are some of the things that make Munich a great place to live. But it is the day-to-day life of paying too much rent for a small apartment, waiting for the bus that is never on time, getting dirty looks from old ladies on the bus, people shoving you off the subway when you aren’t walking fast enough for them and people never apologizing when they run into you. Getting to work and trying to fit in is always awkward. The strange social norms here are quite comical at first, but after a while you just kind of want to kick the next person you see wearing a scarf indoors “because of a sore throat”. Germans are deathly afraid of abrupt temperature changes, air conditioning, and in some cases heating. I actually heard someone complain recently that the train they took to work had the heater on when it was below freezing outside. It’s great for the hour train ride, but once they get off the train at the destination, the cold air outside will instantly send their body into shock and only if they are extremely lucky will they avoid instant death. I know. It sounds funny at first, but seriously I don’t think I can take it anymore.

Ok, so to shorten this long rant I will get to my point. Late last year my wife and I decided that we would start considering the possibility of moving back to the US. I casually applied for some jobs here and there with no real hopes. Then I found my holy grail. I noticed that Mozilla was looking for a Systems Administrator. This had kind of been my dream job ever since I was in college. Back then, we’ll say 2005 or 2006, I was just starting to get into open source software and linux and servers and really becoming a computer geek. Anyway a good friend of mine got an internship at Mozilla in Mountain View and after he moved there from Oregon, I decided to go visit him. While I was there, Mozilla was hosting an open house of some sort and I got invited to go check out the company behind everyone’s favorite browser. I was truly amazed when I got there. The people were all really friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about open source and making the web a better place. I had no idea that anything like this existed. Everyone I met seemed extremely happy, everyone loved their job. I thought I had a good job at the time, but never had I seen everyone at my place of employment be genuinely happy to be at work every day. I got the feeling that there was no such thing as a disgruntled Mozillian. I was impressed. Unfortunately I didn’t see myself ever getting to work there, because they already had desktop support people, and that was pretty much the extent of my experience at the time. They were still a pretty small company and were mainly focused on hiring developers and such. I wrote it off as a dream that would never come true and always hoped that someday I would find a place to work with such energetic colleagues. Well to date this hadn’t happened. I graduated college, entered the real world, got a job at a small tech firm which seemed like a good place to work, but once I got there I realized that there is no such thing as a “fun” place to work. Yeah, you have good days and bad days and you have fun with what you are working on, but I haven’t encountered anything like what I saw at Mozilla. So once I saw that they were looking for a Sysadmin and the job description pretty much matched my experience exactly, I applied for it. I couldn’t reasonably think that I would be so lucky to get an interview, but I could dream. Things that good just don’t happen to me. Plus it all seemed to perfect to really work out. The timing was right. They were looking for someone, just as I was getting disgruntled with my current job. My wife and I decided we would love to move to Northern California if the opportunity ever presented itself. But again, we didn’t really think I would get this job, it was just simply too good to be true.

Well, after two months of phone interviews, a trip to California and back, pleasant experiences all the way around, I was offered the job and of course I accepted it. It took some negotiating with my old company to let me leave in a reasonable amount of time (normally you have to give 3 months notice to quit a job in Germany), and I have to stick around long enough to train my replacement, but in less than a month I’ll be starting my dream job in the heart of the Silicon Valley. Now the stress of moving is starting to hit me. Gotta pack everything, plan everything, cancel cell phone contracts, utilities, apartment, find a new apartment, figure out how to move cats internationally, figure out how to get my car from Oregon (it has been sitting for two years), etc., etc.

Happy New Year!

We just spent New Year’s Eve in downtown Munich at the Marienplatz, where there didn’t appear to be any official or formal fireworks going on, but the Munichites are never to disappoint with an awesome, albeit very unsafe, firework show of their own. It is a spectacular show and being right in the middle of it feels like there are bombs going off all around you. Of course like any Munich event where mass amounts of people are gathered in a small area drinking mass amounts of alcohol there are the obligatory ambulances driving through the crowds here and there trying to save people from their own stupidity. My friends and I survived the event though and will always cherish the memory. Also here is a little video clip taken right around midnight. There was no countdown that I could hear, but you can tell when midnight hit because of the density of fireworks going off.

This will likely have been our last New Year’s in Munich for a while, as a move to the San Francisco Bay Area is in our immediate future, but more on that later.

Happy New Year!!

Happy 4th of July!

I just wanted to wish everyone a happy 4th of July, all the way from Munich. We are celebrating today with some Americans and some Germans and doing a real American style grillfest, albeit an indoor one, due to the rain forecast. But it’ll be Hamburgers, Louisiana Grillers (some kind of bratwurst labelled as such, not sure if they have any affiliation with the State of Louisiana), all grilled on a family sized George Foreman grill. To top it off, we got 10 cans of “Stars and Stripes” brand root beer and Karen made a beautiful American style Duncan Hines yellow cake with “whipped-fluffy-white” frosting:

Happy 4th of July!!

New Server, New Theme, Database Troubles

A few weeks ago, my websites were no longer available.  Without any explanation or reason from my webhost, any visit to justindow.com or dowhaus.com resulted in a weird “This website is suspended” page. I couldn’t figure out a reason for this, since I could still log in to my account just fine and all my registrations and payments were current. Instead of messing around with their support people, I decided to take the opportunity to change hosts. I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time. I just wasn’t impressed with the speed of their server. Also, they had recently “upgraded” my account to have unlimited storage space, but this also was just an empty promise, since the actual hard drive that housed my account was nearly full, with only about 3 gigs of space on it. So the idea of keeping them around for remote backup purposes also didn’t work out.

Anyway, I moved my domain registration and websites, and am now much happier with the performance. I have much more control over my DNS entries server software.

During the move I encountered a small problem with my WordPress database that this blog uses. At the old webhost, the database was set to use latin1_swedish_ci collation. When dumping the database there and importing it into my new server, all the German Umlauts and other non-ASCII characters were mysteriously changed to illegible strings of nonsense. I am no SQL expert and wasn’t sure where the problem was coming up. Re-dumping the database to a textfile using mysqldump and then opening the file with vi showed all the umlauts as a weird string. Dumping the database and piping the output through iconv and into a text file showed different weird strings. None of which ever converted back to legible characters, no matter how I tried to view the file (vi, kate, less). I also tried a few different settings on the new database server, like creating the database with the same charset. Nothing I tried seemed to bring my Umlauts back. :-(

I eventually gave up, opened the dump file in vi, identified the character strings that needed converting using this guy’s blog post as a guide, and did a quick “search and replace” with vi:

:%s/oldstring/newstring/g

I ran that on each string in the list and re-imported the dump into the new database. After then having some trouble logging into the blog’s admin area, I found it was useful to rename the Plugins directory. After the plugins get deactivated, adding them back in one at a time worked fine. It choked on one of them, but it isn’t one I use anymore anyway. Now my blog is back up and running and things are looking good.

Meet Maeby and Lucy

Meet Maeby and Lucy. They were born on September 16th, 2008, so they are 6 weeks old today. They are super friendly and don’t seem to be afraid of anything. They are busily exploring our new apartment and trying to find ways to cause trouble.

We had been looking for a set of kittens ever since we’ve had our new apartment. We really wanted to get Molly back, but her current owner doesn’t want to give her up, so we had to start fresh. After a few weeks of looking, I realized that it is rather difficult to get kittens in Germany, since they don’t seem to have pet stores that sell them. Most of the kittens in the newspaper ads cost money, or require some kind of strict background check before they let you have them. After being rather discouraged, I came across an ad for 4 young kittens for free. By the time we got out there to pick two out, there were only two left, so the choice was easy. Maeby is a short-haired little cutie, while Lucy has long hair and a pretty little face. They are both very cuddly and figured out the litterbox system right away. :)

Married!

Well it has been a long time since I’ve posted to the old blog. And although I have had plenty to rant about lately, it seems I haven’t had the motivation to actually rant about it. So here is a non-ranting post. I have great news. I got married last week on August 9th. The wedding was a huge success. A lot of close friends came and family traveled from all around the world for that special day. Everything went smoothly and it was the happiest day of my life. Now my beautiful new bride and I are living back in Germany, since I am now working there again with a new job. (Yeah, really a lot has happened since I last blogged. More on that later…). So I just wanted to post up here to let folks know that I am still alive and things are looking up for me personally and professionally.

Here is one of the highlights of the wedding:

Yup, that is Mike V. jumping to grab it. And never one to disappoint, he was successful.

I want to thank everyone that contributed to this wonderful day and all the hard work and money that was spent on it. Thank you Dennis, Tara, Melissa, Jessica, Michelle, Heidi, Karin, Travis, Fred, Luke, Reed, Mike, Rand, Sandy, Dennis, Niel, Alexandria, and well the rest of you know who you are. Thank you very much for everything, and thank you Karen, my lovely wife, for making me the happiest man ever.

Back in the States

It has been quite a while since I updated my blog. That is mostly because I’ve been quite busy lately, completely re-organizing my life. At the beginning of February I moved from the beautiful city of Munich, Germany to the small town of Vacaville, California, which is somewhere between Sacramento and San Francisco, right where I-80 has all the potholes. I’m pretty sure one could get rich around here being an auto mechanic specializing in suspension repairs…

I chose Vacaville, because it seems to be a good central location for finding work in either Sacramento or the Bay Area, and I will probably move to one of those places once I find something. I have a good friend who is nice enough to let me share his apartment with him here in Vacaville for the next couple of months, while I plan my wedding (yes, I’ll be getting married in August!), and sort out what I’m going to do with my life. :)

I got engaged back in October, at which point it became clear that I need to find a better-paying job than what I was able to get in Munich. Either that or move to a place where the cost of living isn’t so high. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Northern California, so that is where I ended up. I quit my job in Germany at the end of January, and flew into SFO the first week of February. The weather here is pretty nice, but I do miss the cold and snow in Munich.

At my previous job, I learned quite a bit about embedded systems and gained some experience with openembedded.org, as well as ARM-based Debian and even dipped my hands into an interpreted dialect of LISP known as PicoLisp and started learning some Python. My strengths, however, still lie in system administration and networking, whereas programming and scripting is something I’d rather do as a hobby than a career. I have found a new interest in communications-based software and hardware as relates to routing, wi-fi, 3G networks and so on.

On the desktop side of things, I am now using a Mac as my primary workstation. I received a Mac mini for Christmas, and after bumping it up to 2 gigabytes of RAM and a 7200 RPM hard drive, the little $600 machine outshines my far more expensive Vaio notebook, and as far as the OS is concerned, I couldn’t be happier. I am able to take care of just about everything that I need to with it. With MacPorts, I have all my favorite Linux-type software available and it is nice that a lot of proprietary hardware just works on it, whereas on Linux sometimes it is a pain to get stuff working. Not that I don’t love the challenge. :) Of course I’m still running Linux on my server/media center, and couldn’t be happier with it, but in the future I think any notebook computer I buy will be an Apple. I’ll be staying with Linux for the media center, until there is something as good as MythTV or even MythTV itself running well on OS X. And by “as good as”, I mean it has to be free and open source. :)

That’s about all for now. Things are going pretty well. The weather is nice and stores are open on Sundays, so being back in the States is working out so far.

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