Behind the old basement wall. If there were a construction analog to the old sailing adage, “If you can’t tie knots, tie lots,” this must be it.
I doubt I made it into the final cut, but these are my people.
I laughed when Facebook bought Instagram for $77 million per employee. Now I see they are buying WhatsApp for roughly $320 million per employee (or $500 million per engineer).
When I see these numbers I think two things: one, why did I pick hardware over software? And two, the next ten years will bring us more of the breathless optimism, teenage millionaires, and worldwide financial catastrophe that defined the last tech bubble.
If you are an engineer and you’re really bad at what you do, read on! Choose your industry and I will predict your fortune:
Home routers and cable modems
You have a fascination with blindingly bright, narrow viewing-angle blue LEDs flashing incessantly in dark rooms.
Automated teller machines
You like needlessly loud fan noise, antiquated displays with bad viewing angles, parallax error between buttons and UI elements, obsolete operating systems, and input lag while performing simple tasks.
Printing (err… 2D printing)
You enjoy unpredictability. While your colleagues made precise, error-free image deposition possible, you worked tirelessly to ensure that only sometimes can the printer be detected on the network. To make sure the driver is cumbersome to install. To obfuscate the front-panel UI. And to guarantee that the printer drops off the wireless network periodically. You like to keep the users guessing.
Home security systems
The 1980s called. They want their beige plastic and 2-line alphanumeric LCDs back.
Heat-sealed clamshell packaging
You are a bad person.
You don’t want one of these in your house. It’s supposedly the best, most modern, most efficient oil-fired boiler you can get and, in defiance of all sound reasoning, the previous owners of our house opted to invest in it just a couple of years ago.
The heat hasn’t worked reliably since we moved in. Over more than six service visits in the last two months, the root cause has been variously diagnosed as: out of fuel, bad fuel, fuel line improperly run, clogged fuel filters, dirty combustion chamber, unstable chimney draft due to blockage, improperly sized burner nozzle, bad CdS photocell, bad pressure switch, and improper fuel/air mixture.
They changed or adjusted everything. It’s possible that everything was indeed broken. Doing my own diagnosis, I even found stripped gears in the motorized zone valve controlling the flow of hot water into the radiators, which was causing all kinds of additional problems (like the house heating to 90 degrees when you take a shower on a warm day, and the boiler controller “timing out” on startup on cold days).
Interim solution: a Raspberry Pi (purchased 30 minutes before closing at the local Micro Center) that I wired to the boiler controller. Now, when the boiler shuts down prematurely, my phone receives a notification within seconds. And I have a detailed, timestamped log of odd behavior for the service guy.
Finally, a breakthrough last night: a buildup of “scale” inside the combustion chamber was blocking the pressure switch port, causing unstable pressure readings. You should see the amount of solid pollutants that accumulate inside this thing. Why does anyone in the city still heat with oil?
I was recently doing some historical research on my house when I came across a 1910 “jury list” for my neighborhood. For some reason it also lists the residents’ occupations. Some good ones:
- asbestos [!!!]
- floorwalker [??]
I wonder how quaint our jobs will sound in just a hundred years.
by Jonathan Franzen
A great book about a guy from Minnesota.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
by Stieg Larsson
I am the last person in the world to read (and thoroughly enjoy) this novel.
by Dave Eggers
Predictable, creepy, and fun. A book of our times. Like it on Facebook!
The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation
by Jon Gertner
Definitive proof that I was born a generation too late to achieve greatness.