Starting a new chapter

August 23rd, 2015 No comments

Since my life-changing event back in March, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many different people and learn about several organizations, each one different from the others. I have also spent a significant amount of time determining who I am professionally (my strengths, weaknesses, and motivations). That combined with my belief that technology can truly make a difference in people’s lives and it has helped direct my search.

Through a most interesting series of events that I’m unable to adequately explain here, I learned of an opportunity at Edify which is a very special non-profit organization that is best summarized from the website: “To improve and to expand sustainable, affordable Christ-centered education in the developing world.” They achieve that by supporting private schools through small loans, training, and technology. To date, they have partnered with over 1,600 schools and have impacted the lives of over 300,000 students.

After many conversations it became more and more clear that there was a unique match between their needs and my background and skills. I’m happy and proud to say that they have invited me to join with them in their work and start tomorrow as their Vice President of Information Technology. I cannot convey how excited I am for this opportunity and look forward to making an impact in ways I surely couldn’t have previously imagined.

Having the Summer off to enjoy my family was a significant blessing. In light of having just taken my oldest child off to college for the first time yesterday, it all couldn’t have worked out better. Yet another sign that the Lord’s plans are the best.

Categories: Christian, Family, Geek, Thoughts, Work Tags:

Watching a log file in a bash script

August 9th, 2015 No comments

For the last few months, I’ve been doing some contracting developing automation scripts in bash. It’s been a fun diversion from my job search and leverages my sysadmin background. It has also improved my command of vi and several tricks in bash scripting. I wanted to share one that may be of help to others.

In the scripts that I wrote, it was necessary to kick of a long-running process and then act on entries written to a log file. I created a watcher routine to accomplish this:

01  successfulRun=0
02  keepRunning=1
03  while [ $keepRunning -eq 1 ] && read -t 3600 line; do
04      case "$line" in
05          *completion string* )
06              echo "Completed successfully. Exiting monitor."
07              successfulRun=1
08              keepRunning=0
09              ;;
10          *error string* )
11              echo "ERROR entry found in log. Exiting monitor."
12              keepRunning=0
13              ;;
14          * )
15              echo "Just another line. Monitor continuing."
16              ;;
17      esac
18  done < <(tail --pid=$$ -n0 -F ${logfile})

It’s a general while loop, but there are some useful features. First, in line 3 is “read -t 3600” which allows the loop to break if nothing gets written to the file for an hour (3600 seconds). After the loop, if keepRunning is 1 and successfulRun is 0, I know it timed out.

Lines 5, 10, and 14 allow for cases for any strings encountered. For my uses, I was looking for a success string which meant my script could continue on. Similarly, if an error string is encountered, I exit accordingly. The last one (line 14) is the default case, which probably isn’t needed unless you want to provide feedback of progress.

The last feature is in line 18. The –pid=$$ option allows the tail command to close the logfile when the parent script completes. That allows for a very nice wrap-up no matter what happens. Nice, huh?

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Enjoying doing the geek thing

July 26th, 2015 No comments

Since I have time on my hands, I have been enjoying working on a handful of projects to scratch various ‘itches.’ Some have been long-standing items on my to-do list and others are areas of interest that would normally be relegated to the “someday/maybe” list.

A geek’s closet

All my various tech do-dads and thingamabobs have been in drawers in the den or elsewhere and were reasonably organized but still a hassle to access and dig through. My wife ran across an interesting picture on Pinterest and showed it to me asking if I’d like to do the same with our hallway closet. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance. It also allowed an opportunity to work with my son on installing the shelving.

All organized

There’s some more work still to go into it before I’m done. The two cardboard boxes need to be replaced with something better and I’m going to install some LED strips on the inside of the door frame for better lighting.

Amazon cloud

I’ve worked with Amazon’s web services (AWS) both professionally and personally but only to a limited degree. For PlayStation, I generated various financial reports based on usage and personally I’m using their email service to handle outbound email from my mail server.

To address the task that follows and to satisfy my own curiosity, I spun up an instance in their Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). EC2 is very often what is being referred to when someone uses the overly-used “cloud” term. It’s just a virtual machine that is running somewhere in one of Amazon’s datacenters. Nothing mystical, but quite convenient when you need to set up something like…

A secondary mail server

For various reasons, I really like being in charge of my own services. The web server hosting this very page you’re reading also handles my email. I hardly have much email traffic, but the server is offline from time to time so it’s appropriate to have a secondary mail server available that can receive incoming messages relaying them when the primary server comes back online. With my newly-minted EC2 instance, I was able to get that going in just a short while and checked-off a big to-do item.

Raspberry Pi 2

For father’s day, my family got me a Raspberry Pi 2 to upgrade the previous model I’d been running upstairs (as a secondary DNS server). It kinda amazes me how capable a machine it is for only $35.


The Raspberry Pi 2 is considerably faster than the previous generation. Having some available computing overhead, as well as a slightly-more complicated infrastructure at home (due to the EC2 instance), I wanted to get some monitoring going. I dabbled a little with Nagios, but quickly remembered why I don’t care for it. After researching alternatives, I settled on Zabbix and just got it running this afternoon. It’ll take some time to get everything configured just right, but that’s part of the fun.

bash scripting

Due to a somewhat strange set of events, as I write this I’m making my living on a short-term contract developing some automation scripts in bash (a command-line shell on UNIX/Linux systems). It’s drawing on my older SysAdmin skills and has been really fun made even better by the fact I’m doing most of it from home via VPN. Not too shabby.

I have other projects I want to get into so I may write a follow-up with how those go. Now, back to Zabbix…


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Teaching to the Test

June 5th, 2015 No comments

This Saturday is my daughter’s high school graduation ceremony. It’s a celebration of all of the hard work she has put into learning and preparing herself for adulthood. As my wife was going through various papers and projects of her school career, she found this from when my daughter was in first or second grade encouraging everyone to do well on the API test:

The API Rap

It really reminds me why we decided to homeschool our kids. In the five or so years since we took responsibility for their education, I am certain they have learned from more subjects, gone more deeply with ones of significance or interest, and developed skills to more fittingly equip them for college and beyond.

I’m exceedingly proud of both my kids and very much like the people they have become. Would they have become quality people if they stayed in public school? Probably, but I have no doubt they are even better for having not.


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Whose problem will I solve?

May 27th, 2015 No comments

When you work in IT, your daily job is using your experience and skill with technology to solve problems facing the business. Not surprisingly, in the weeks following my departure from my previous employer, it has been a little tough to no longer think about the projects and challenges I had been facing for weeks or months (or even years). Don’t fret, I hardly loose any sleep over things any more as I spend my days with my family. That’s been a total plus of my present situation.

As I interview with companies and discuss the various challenges they face, I find myself contemplating how I would go about addressing them. Some are quite familiar while others are unlike anything I’ve faced before. Which challenges will I ultimately be called on to address? Only time will tell.


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14 Years, 5 Months, 22 Days

March 24th, 2015 No comments

That is how long I worked for my now previous employeer. Yesterday, I was included in a round of layoffs that hit my organization. That is quite a long run and I am thankful for the many opportunities I had and the numerous people I was fortunate to work with. Honestly, we accomplished some great things:

  • The launch of the PlayStation 2, PSP, PlayStation 3, PS Vita, and PlayStation 4
  • Development and release of countless titles from small download (PSN) titles to well-respected AAA ones like God of War, Uncharted, MLB, Last of Us, and most recently Bloodborne
  • The integration of new studios and the spin-off of others
  • The relocation of a studio to a new state-of-the-art location
  • The progression of game development from CD to DVD to Blu-ray and similar development footprints from 100’s of MB to 100’s of TB of storage
  • The growth from region-specific development to a fully world-wide development, QA, hosting, and IT organization
  • The evolution of servers from physical to virtual and a similar progression of hosting from thousands of physical servers to private and public clouds

In large and, more likely, small ways I strived to make a difference and am proud of my legacy there. I wish those that remain well. It is a great group of people that are smart and very resourceful. I hope to work with them again.

It is challenging as this is the first time in my entire career that I don’t know what’s next. That’s ok. I’ll be working again soon. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the time with my family.

Categories: Family, Friends, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Work Tags:

A fun morning in the snow

January 1st, 2015 No comments

While continuing the relaxing break from work on this last day of 2014, we woke up to a dusting of snow at the house. Around town was much the same with up to 8-10″. Oh yeah, we live in Southern California at about 1,000 ft. elevation; Rare, indeed. It last snowed about 10 years ago but melted just about as soon as it hit the ground. This time, it closed down roads and even the freeway.

Image Sources:

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This time, there were no exceptions

October 26th, 2014 No comments

I previously wrote about how I use an Automatic Link with my car. While it has been an interesting and useful device, it’s been exceptionally hard to get a perfect score for an entire week. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable consistently driving under 70 mph, but driving in traffic, it is exceptionally hard to not get ‘dinged’ for hard breaking.

After over a year of trying, I finally got a full week of driving with no events, exceptions, or gaps. Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I don’t have to get annoyed whenever a little thing causes a blemish on my score.

I wonder if I should see how low a score I can get?

A perfect Automatic score

A perfect Automatic score

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A Retina Desktop is Possible

September 11th, 2014 No comments

Retina LogoI now have a working retina display on my Late 2012 Mac mini at work. I previously wrote about it late last year and occasionally experimented with normal HD LCDs but really wasn’t going to be able to do anything without an UltraHD display to test with. Recently, I asked the desktop team and they happened to have one that wasn’t in use. I was able to borrow it and worked more seriously on seeing if this was indeed possible.

The quick-and-dirty how to can be found at the mac-pixel-clock-patch page on Google code. You have to patch a single file to enable the higher 3840 x 2160 resolution, but that, plus a UltraHD display, and you’re in business. Having 3840 x 2160 (UHD) display rendering a 1920 x 1080 (HD) screen makes for a nice experience, indeed. Look at the picture on the right or screenshots of my previous article.

For work, I got a pair of DELL 2414Q 24″ LCDs. They’re nicely made and look quite good. I run one in landscape and the other in portrait so I can display content as appropriate (e.g. spreadsheets vs. web pages). If I were using only a single display, the story would be over. The problem is that the Intel HD 4000 video hardware on the Mac mini isn’t up to the challenge of driving two displays at that resolution. It just can’t throw that many pixels out that fast (just shy of a half billion pixels per second). I would get close, but it would result in the video flickering with pixel ‘junk’ over large portions of the screen. I could get one looking great over mini DisplayPort or HDMI (3840 x 2160 @ 30 FPS) but the moment I connected the second display, problems. I tried customizing lower FPS modes to reduce the total pixel clock demands, but no luck.

The DELL UP2414Q I use at work

My workaround is driving the portrait display at 1920 x 1080 (1080 x 1920, actually) over a USB to HDMI adapter (via DisplayLink). It’s only HD with a variable refresh rate, but it does allow me to have both displays active.

Rumors are that Apple will be revising the Mac mini next month which should improve the video hardware enough to work. We’ll see. For now, though, I’m satisfied and enjoying the experience.

Categories: Apple, Geek, Links, Macintosh, Work Tags:

Two Games I’m Looking Forward To

June 12th, 2014 No comments

I was able to visit E3 yesterday in Los Angeles. As expected, there were plenty of games and even more people. Interestingly, the two games I’m most interested in weren’t playable or even present (on the floor, at least). I’ll just have to be

No Man’s Sky

This is an amazing looking game made up of a team of four. It’s procedurally-generated world and universe that will encourage exploration. I’m up for that.

Mirror’s Edge 2

I really liked the original and it went years with only rumors of a sequel. Last year they announced development and this year gave a little more information, but it clearly has some time to bake still since EA wasn’t showing it in their booth.

Neither has a release date, though, so I’m not expecting either until late this year, at best.

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