Red Echo

August 24, 2011

Between work and Burning Man, I’ve been very busy lately.

This article from the Guardian is a remarkably sensible, thorough look at hackers, hacking, and most especially hackerspaces.

August 19, 2011

Today marks the end of week two at Google’s office in Seattle. So far so good: I’m still busy trying to figure out how things work, and haven’t actually written any code yet, but that seems to be normal and nobody expects otherwise. The project is reasonably interesting, and work practices require a reasonably low level of overhead.

Preparation for Burning Man now occupies all of my free time. I was hard at work on a custom tent, designed for better playa comfort than a standard camping tent, until I somehow managed to misalign the timing on my industrial sewing machine. I didn’t know that sewing machines had such a thing as timing, and I have no idea what I did to cause this problem, but the big green beast won’t make stitches anymore. I took it down to C. H. Holderby this morning for service, but they don’t expect to have it back to me til Tuesday, and that’s too late to get the project done before the trucks leave. Oh, well, I guess I’ll be enduring another crappy tent experience this year after all.

The Shame Project light hardware is done. We had a last work party this week and built all the wiring harnesses that will power the lights. After a 48-hour soak test, the lights are still burning bright and the power supplies are barely warm, so that counts as success. The software is not quite done, but the boards are designed for in-field reprogramming, so I can actually keep working on the code until the last minute if necessary. The big issue is that I haven’t gotten the network going yet. Each board has two serial ports, so I can connect all the lights in a daisy-chain; my plan was to use the hardware UART for one of the ports and a bitbanged software implementation for the other. I’m using the NewSoftSerial library for the software port, but I haven’t yet gotten it working correctly; it will receive data, but seems to lock up after transmitting. Oh, well, more debugging this weekend.

I should really get a bike, pick out a wardrobe, and pack up my gear pretty soon, but it’s been tough to feel motivated. I’m not actually excited about the playa experience this year; I’m going because of the Shame Project and not so much because I want to go hang out in the desert. It’s too easy to think of the heat and the dust and the general nuisance of it all. But I’m excited about the art project: this is the biggest canvas I’ve ever had to paint on. Yes, the groovik’s cube was bigger and more visible, but my contribution was purely technical. With the Shame Project, I get to present an evolving lightscape of my own imagination, projected across the skin of what counts as a very large building in playa terms. It’s a great opportunity and I am excited to see it all in action.

August 5, 2011

Google orientation week has gone well. There are three more lecture sessions on my calendar today, then I’ll go pretty much straight home. I had originally planned to stay Friday night and go back Saturday, but there’s not much to do in Mountain View, and I’m eager to get back home to Ava.

I suppose the real test will come when I show up at my Seattle desk and start figuring out what I’m actually going to be doing, but so far I feel like the orientation curriculum has done a good job of ramping everyone up at a steady, manageable pace. I’d probably enjoy myself more if things moved more quickly, but it’s better than being overwhelmed right up front. We’ve had overviews of the dev tools and the whole data-center architecture, an explanation of the search system, and practical exercises with the custom source-control and build tools. There is a lot of learning ahead, of course, but at least now I know what the general layout is and where to start looking for things.

Google really seems determined to take care of its engineers. It sounds almost too good to be true, but they’re walking the talk.

August 1, 2011

I have survived my first day at Google. I have a badge and a laptop and no idea how to actually do any coding. I expect that some training session during the remaining four days of orientation week will touch on that topic.

The Central District News published an article about ALTSpace, with pictures. Whee! We come off sounding pretty cool, even.