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Talkin’ Tech

My “new” laptop is still in the shop (getting hinges replaced, hopefully), so please excuse any typos I don’t see before this goes live. The keyboard on this laptop is shot (which is largely why I replaced it with the new one six months ago), and I tend to miss random letters due to the “mushi-ness” of the keys…

I really, really miss my newer laptop. *sigh*

But at least I have this old one to use while it’s gone, and my Neo to write on (also bought because of this keyboard – desperation begets a lot of creative problem solving). So I’m fumbling along, though the screen on this laptop doesn’t treat my eyes as nicely as the new one, so I have to watch my time on this one as well.

I know, I sound like a spoiled child here, but even though we were poor for most of my childhood, my dad was always a tech guy, so we always had computers (generally scrounged from wherever he could find them). I played games on DOS systems when I was a kid, and wrote my first “Hello, World” program in Basic on a Tandy 400 connected to an old TV for a monitor (I was pretty young then). Yes, I also programmed a turtle to move all over the screen, and wrote a program to make the screen flash different colors. It was fun. And kind of annoying in a big hurry too.

I had email before any of my friends (and had a bugger of a time trying to talk them into getting an account even later in college), I was on the internet before there were any kind of graphical “web sites” to visit, and I fought with my college professors because they wanted me to use the antiquated Mac systems at the school to write and print papers, and I wanted to use the far better computer and printer I had at home. Only one English professor won that battle, thank goodness. Sheesh.

Aside from being a self-employed computer guy, my dad also had a sound board, professional mics and speakers, and ran the sound for our local church, church camp, and various freelance events around town. Needless to say, as a youngster I was often found pulling cables on the weekends – either computer cables for offices or sound (mics, speakers) cables for whatever event Dad happened to be running sound for – pretty much always through the floors or ceilings, because kids are very conveniently sized for that sort of work. Kid fingers are also conveniently sized for those teeny-tiny computer components and screws, and I often helped my dad take apart or repair various types of hardware. I really didn’t retain much of that – hardware interested me far less than what it could actually *do*.

I did a little programming in C, and then…then there was HTML and graphical web pages and I built my first web page in high school, before anyone I knew was really even “online”. It was hosted on my dad’s server (of course), and I tweaked and updated it pretty much daily – it had a blog-type journal page, a reading journal of sorts, and a few other pages that I don’t even remember what was on them. I liked building it so much that I decided I would start a side business, and I opened up “Arachnid Industries” for freelance web design in college. I designed simple web pages for a couple of my history professors and worked on a few for clients of my dad as well. I’d decided long before that I didn’t want to be a programmer like my dad, but building simple web sites was just fun.

I sort of “fell into” the county web development job after college, and while I have had to learn quite a bit of programming over the years (web development is mostly programming now – a far cry from what it was at the beginning), actual software programmers don’t consider web developers “real programmers”, so I think it’s safe to say I’ve avoided becoming a programmer “like my dad”. Although I do know a fair amount of SQL, which is generally considered a “real” programming language. *sigh*

And of course I recently gave up my web dev job to move into a database admin position at work, though I’m still doing enough web development to stay up to date with that (for now, at least). And I’m doing a little freelance web dev now that it’s not a conflict of interest with my day job, which is kind of fun (working on something new is always fun).

When you think about it, it’s kind of mind-boggling, the amount of tech that’s been developed just in the years that I’ve been alive. Far more than I’ve actually experienced, to be sure. It’s fascinating, and the impact to global society and civilization is also…well, mind-boggling. People explore the question of what would happen in an apocalypse “all tech is gone” situation all the time, but I also kind of wonder where we would be if things had developed differently, or slower, or just not at all? And what might have happened to delay or prevent the development of some of the things we take for granted today?

Deep thoughts for a Monday morning, I know. But hey – at least this post is on time this week. Progress!


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On Problem Solving & The Magic of Showers…

Believe it or not, I’m glad it’s Monday (yes, it’s 12:30am as I write this, but still…Monday). I know, I know. It’s completely preposterous, but Mondays are actually rarely bad for me (Tuesdays are generally my “bad” day of the week), and I solved a programming problem in my head while in the shower on Sunday, and I’m excited to get back to work and see if my solution will hold up in a test. Excited, I tell you. It’s a most frustrating/perplexing problem I’ve been trying to solve.

The thing is, the solution was right there the whole time (as they generally are). Staring me right in the face and waiting for that “ah-ha!” moment to finally kick in (after which the solution laughs and points and makes fun of how long it took me to find it). But I’ve found that there are several things that have to be in place before that ah-ha moment can happen:

– The mind has to be relaxed
– The actual root of the problem must be discovered
– The problem has to be examined from all sides, not just one or two

In my case, I had to get away from my normal work environment (hence my mind chewing on it this weekend). It’s been a bit more stressful than usual lately, and I just needed to be away and without pressure for a little while. I also had to “lead” myself into finding the root of the problem. There were many symptoms masking it, but when I finally did find the actual root cause of my problems, that’s what pointed me toward the proper perspective to attack the problem from.

Once I switched perspectives, the solution I needed suddenly just popped right into my head. And it was so simple that I actually spent quite a bit of time thinking about all the potential reasons it wouldn’t work because it just seemed so easy.

We shall see after I’m able to set up a test, but I’m very, very optimistic.

The million dollar question here is: If I hadn’t taken a shower yesterday, how long would it have been before I came to this solution? Not that it really matters, but…I’m willing to contend that the shower was integral to finding the solution when and how I did.

Because showers are magical, of course.


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