Changing chapters

After a little more than two years, yesterday was my last day with Edify. God truly orchestrated the strange series of events that led me there and I am so thankful for how I was able to play a part in the growth and development of that organization. Even in two years, the addition of staff, of countries operated in, and programs offered was great to watch. I can also honestly say that I was part of a family and that I have made some lifelong friends as a result.

Tomorrow, I start my new chapter with ProSites as their IT Director. Like any other new job, it will be certainly a whirlwind of new faces, names, practices, and projects. In getting to know my new boss and some of the upcoming plans, I’m excited to dive in.

So, if yesterday was my last day with Edify and tomorrow is my first day with ProSites, then I guess that means today, technically, I’m unemployed. It’s kind of a strange feeling. I wonder what I can watch on NetFlix…

Not just a team, but a family

Not surprisingly, in working for Edify I’ve learned that life in a non-profit requires being very thoughtful and judicious about how we use our resources and spend our money. Certainly, we could expand our manpower by hiring more staff or simply ‘throw money’ at every challenge that arises. That doesn’t work very well in the long run. In daily practice, the challenge is to find creative solutions or strategic trade-offs to keep our focus on our mission: To improve and expand sustainable Christ-centered education globally.

I’m happy to say that there is one thing, which comes at great expense, that is one of our wisest investments of our time and money: our annual team meeting. Each January, our (growing) team gathers to spend time together in fellowship, devotion, training, and sharing. In the past, the meetings have been in San Diego, but this year’s was our first in the field: Ghana.

When you think about all of the effort and expense that goes into flights, visas, lodging, food, and all the related logistics, it would be so easy to for our management to decide against it. Instead, the commitment to the time by our founders and senior management gets stronger each year.

I was fortunate enough to join Edify shortly before last year’s meeting so the one I’m just now returning from is my second. We now total 53 with over a quarter added in the past year alone. As I’m involved in getting each one set up and oriented, I have the benefit of being familiar with names and roles from the start. Hearing their voices on a weekly prayer call or other phone conferences only goes so far to really get to know people. Seeing them in person, sharing a meal, trading stories, is the only way to truly make a connection. That I did at every opportunity.

I can honestly say that my family has grown considerably since I joined Edify. It’s an honor and a pleasure to share my time and talents in service to them and our collective goals.

I have been blessed by the opportunity I’ve had. I cannot wait for us to be together again in 2018!



Old-Fashioned Drone Video

Back in my early Sony days when I worked at RedZone Interactive, a friend and I got into RC planes. Since the rest of the studio didn’t generally roll in until about 9:00 or 10:00, we had the opportunity to take our planes out in the lot behind the office in the mornings while the winds were quite gentle. It’s a fond memory.

About the same time, I saw online a wireless video camera that was about the size of a matchbook and immediately thought of attaching it to the plane to get a cool POV video while flying. I should note that this was 2004. GoPro didn’t exist yet let alone the whole ‘sports camera’ category. Neither did drones that are so common nowadays. Am I a trend setter? Not really. I just thought it was a fun idea.

Not surprisingly, it was very jerry-rigged. The camera with built-in transmitter was mounted on a stick protruding from the side of the canopy attached to a 9v battery for power. The receiver was on the ground attached to a video camera recording the results. My friend had to spend the entire flight watching the small screen on the camera while constantly adjusting a tuning knob on the receiver to keep the signal usable. The results are pretty poor by today’s standards, but I think it turned out pretty good, all things considered:


Fun times. I still have the plane, though I haven’t used it in years. I just may have to pull it out and see if it still works. I probably won’t bother with the camera.

14 Years, 5 Months, 22 Days

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.

IRC: Our IT secret weapon

While I’ve be using this Internet thing for many (many) years, I never really got into the whole IRC chat. When I transferred into the IT group almost six years ago, I was introduced into the internal IRC server that they used regularly.

For the unfamiliar, IRC is a chat server and protocol developed in 1988 that enables standard text chat rooms. It’s nothing special but utility items rarely are. It’s how you use it that makes it work.

Did You Know? Our original IRC service we hosted was on a racked-up PlayStation 2 in one of our data centers?

Six years ago, the IT group I joined was relatively small and we were all in the same hallway. As a result, coordinating and collaborating wasn’t a challenge. Our IRC server was in use back then but was mostly for color commentary on recent events or sharing other geeky tidbits (this was before Facebook and Twitter). As our group grew, however, we became more spread out and IRC started taking on a more tactical vibe. That trend continued as we spread out and more people were still working together on projects. Worst yet, it was becoming more commonplace that you didn’t even know who the right individual might be regarding a particular service or skill.

Today, our IRC server has over a dozen different channels with fun and more business-like exchanges happening every day in each. The real strength, however, is when something has gone sideways. If a system has gone down and our NOC pages one or more admins to work on something, our IRC server becomes exceedingly useful so that status and collaboration can be easily done. Transcripts are often utilized for updating tickets or producing root cause analysis (RCA) documents.

Did You Know? I have the fortune of working with ‘Dalvenjah’ of DALnet fame?

Having not used IRC before I joined the team, I have since grown to truly feel badly for any IT shop that doesn’t use it or something similar. I can only imagine how worse-off we would be if it wasn’t available.

Sharing and the death of blogging

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I haven’t been blogging much. I really want to but just haven’t made the time for it. Sure, I’ve been busy, but is that really an excuse? I’ll try to step it up and have some captive time coming up which may give me ample opportunity.

One of the other reasons for me, appears to be the same for many of my friends: sharing. With Facebook, Google Reader, Twitter, FriendFeed, and related social sites, it has become exceedingly easy to just share a link to an interesting article, video, or picture rather than produce anything yourself. I’m not complaining, I’ve discovered by way of friends many interesting things. It’s just unfortunate that it has become the de facto expression of people (including myself).

If you still blog, kudos to you. Please keep it up. The Internet will become a very boring place if everyone just keeps recycling the same ol’ thing.

Have we hit bottom?

No, this is not about the national or world economic “crisis.” This is far more important. I am writing about my work, my job, and my ever-illustrious team of guys at work.

As you have seen in previous posts, tweets, and if you read between the lines, the lack of them, things have been quite stressful at work. Video games, being a luxury, are subject to soft sales when people are worried about their jobs which results in a “do more with less” mantra which can be especially frustrating in IT when things cost what they cost and doing without only works in the short-term. I have also had a position open since February which really was needed to be filled back when I was promoted to manager last November.

While the ink isn’t dry, I am happy to say that a fifth member will be joining our elite team of geeks. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that shortly, we won’t need to be doing things part-way due to the workload. We’ll finally be able to get to all those things we know we should but always seem to never address.

Other changes at the office include just that, offices. We’ve moved around and while the current configuration is less-than-ideal, we are working towards a “center of excellence” which will allow us to work more closely with colleagues of another group which will end up making each of us better as a result.

Hope is a good thing, but only if it is realistic. You can dream all you want, but if there is no way to get there, there is no drive. No passion. Not only will things be different a year from now, they will be better and we’ll be stronger, smarter, and most definitely better looking.

In all sereousness, stress has been a frequent companion for most of this year. If it wasn’t for the skill, dedication, and flexibility of my guys, the moral support of my wife, and the strength of my savior, Jesus, I don’t think I would have been able to hold it together. Thanks to all of you.

A little playing around

As I mentioned in a previous post, a few colleagues at work have several of the ever more popular netbooks. One of the guys has been opting to use his personal one and leaving his work one sitting largely idle. He was kind enough to let me take his Acer Aspire One for a spin. At the same time, I’ve been taking a look at the recently released Windows 7 beta. This post is a mini review of both.

Acer Aspire One

First, the Apire One is certainly a cute system but it’s not without its faults. The screen is 8.9″ and 1024×600. It’s enough to get work done, but you don’t realize how spoiled you get with screen real estate until you don’t have it. The one I’m borrowing has a 6 cell battery (rather than the standard 3 cell) which gives it about 4-5 hours of use which is quite nice.

Acer Trackpad

For the Acer itself, I really dislike the fact the trackpad buttons are on the left and right rather than below which makes it awkward to use. Also, due to the smaller form-factor, my palms hang off the side which causes the case edge to dig into them. Of course, if I wasn’t quite so lazy it wouldn’t be a problem.

I’m watching the upcoming 10″ Aspire which has a normal trackpad but with all the other features. I’ll be keeping my eye on it and may look to get one for myself. As solid-state disk (SSD) gets cheaper, the idea of a 64-128G flash drive instead of 2.5″ disk is attractive as the drive on the Apsire is just noisy enough to be noticeable (though not bothersome).

Windows 7

If you know me or have read this site, you know that I’m a Mac guy. I’ve used Macs since 1986 and while I have access to just about any type of system in use, if I’m trying to get something done, I use a Mac.

I do use Windows every day and have since Windows 3.1. Microsoft has done some good things and some bad things. I’ve been using Windows Vista for a bit now and have been underwhelmed but I do think it isn’t quite as bad as the general public perception.

Windows 7 Screenshot

Windows 7 was released as a public beta a few weeks ago and I first created a VM on my MacBook and most recently installed it on the Acer. I can honestly say, for Windows, it is a nice operating system. Netbooks are, by design, lower end systems. As operating systems evolve, they generally require more and more resources. Vista’s requirements have been a source of complaint and at least one lawsuit. Windows 7, as I’ve seen, is far more efficient and runs quite nicely on the little bugger. It’s taken some effort to find proper drivers for things like wireless, touchpad, and video, but even stock, the system was usable.

Having a system you can simply cary around makes keeping a computer handy easy. Of course, I personally hope that Apple jumps into the game, but I’m not holding my breath.

For Sale: Storage Robot (Drobo)

Over the summer I purchased a Drobo “storage robot” from Data Robotics for my home server/media center. It is a four-bay USB storage device that accepts any number and combination of SATA drives to build a larger virtual volume which can be used on either OS X or Windows. I intended to write about my experiences (receiving it the day before they upgraded the product, a bad first unit, some early driver bugs, etc.) but never got around to it.

In spite of some of my earliest experiences I am quite a fan of the device and have not regretted the purchase (only the timing). It is a flexible and well-performing method for keeping my pile of data safe with plenty of elbow room.

Why am I selling it you ask? The truth is, I’m not a typical user. The system it is attached to serves numerous roles. It is the server for our domain (web, mail, DNS, etc.) and also the home media server (iTunes, iPhoto, file server, and El Gato EyeTV DVR). The end result of all of this disk I/O is that when EyeTV is recording a show from the USB TV tuner and writing to the USB storage while other disk activity is going on (home directory syncing or Time Machine backup), it will often skip frames. That makes for a very annoying viewing experience. If the disk is idle and just recording there isn’t a problem and recent firmware updates for the device have helped considerably, but the fact remains I’m expecting server storage performance from a device that was not really designed or intended for such use.

As a result, I decided to purchase a gen 2 Drobo which adds a FireWire interface. Having a dedicated bus for storage will alleviate the problems I’ve been experiencing. Of course, if I had just waited a week before purchasing the original unit, I wouldn’t have had to do this.

To keep our budget in check, I am selling the original one to recoup some of the cost of upgrading it. That means you get to benefit from my bad timing. If you are interested in purchasing it (you’ll have to supply one or more of your own drives), make me an offer. I’d prefer to keep it among my “friends” and family to avoid hassling with eBay or craigslist but am motivated and will sell it one way or another.

A good time in life

Things are really good right now:

  • The people at work are some of the sharpest I’ve ever had the honor to work with.
  • I still have more things to do than time to do it but that is improving daily.
  • My family is healthy (mostly) and we just love spending time together.
  • Becky and I are going to be able to spend some good time together this weekend.
  • I finally got my PS3 back at work and was able to get a new TV for it as well.
  • I really enjoyed my two most recent reads by John Eldridge: Wild at Heart and Walking with God.
  • My progression towards manager is slow but still progresses. In fact I’m being included in a trip next week to visit Insomniac (the studio that produced Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet & Clank, as well as Resistance: Fall of Man.

I have no question that I am blessed. The real question is what the Lord has in store next and if I’m paying attention enough to not ignore it.