azureabstraction > out of the blue

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Someday I might take the time to categorize my entries. Until then, forge your own way in the world, miserable roustabout.

Starting on Amazon Silk

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Two weeks ago I started work at Amazon Web Services. AWS is Amazon's cloud computing platform, which provides processing power to individuals and organizations that don't want to maintain their own server fleets. I'll be working on Amazon Silk, which is the browser for the Kindle Fire, Amazon's tablet device.

That Silk is a part of AWS is both unusual and exciting. Traditionally, the browser would simply be an application on the device. Silk is what we call a split-architecture browser. This means that some of the processing occurs on the device, and some of the processing occurs on the cloud — in this case, AWS. Offloading some of that processing to the cloud, taking advantage of intelligent caching and image optimization, can do a lot to increase battery life, reduce data consumption, and improve performance when browsing the web.

I have a lot to learn. Not only will I be working with new technology, doing Android development and an unprecedented (for me) amount of concurrent programming, but I will also have to learn the Amazon ecosystem of software, libraries, and tools.

Really, it's just what I needed at this stage in my career. I've experienced a number of environments: educational, during my time at college; self-taught, from all the projects I've done on my own; and startup, from my work at Zebigo. Now I'll dive into corporate, and see where it takes me.

Faith in Humanity —

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Okay, this just pisses me off. At the Arboretum in Seattle, a large park filled with rare trees from around the world, some imbecile came in the night and chopped down a rare south Asian conifer. The tree is worth $10,000 simply because of its rarity: the region it comes from is under significant ecological threat through habitat loss. It was a transplant meant to safeguard a rare species from extinction. This was not a shady collector plotting his heist, carefully digging up the specimen to hide in his secret greenhouse. It was cut down. Officials believe someone was looking for a free Christmas tree.

It is painful to me that such dedication and care can be undone by one idiot with a saw.

Geological Wiki-Hole

Monday, September 14th, 2009

I just escaped a geological wiki-hole. I read about the Cascade Arc (home of the only historical eruptions in the United States), Mount Rainier (a surprisingly prominent mountain), plutons (subterranean crystallized igneous rock intrusions), the Volcanic Explosivity Index (Yellowstone tops the scale), Puget Sound (a flooded glacial fjord system), the most prominent peaks in the United States (fun to play with the table sorting), the Yellowstone Caldera (every 600k to 900k years; last one was 640k years ago), topographic prominence and isolation. Among many other things.

Isolation is probably the coolest thing I learned tonight, because of how a list of isolated peaks gives you a nice cover of an area, a division of peaks that doesn't favor one or another region too much (especially Alaska or Colorado). Topographic isolation is the distance before you reach a point of higher elevation. So for the United States you start at Mt. McKinley (Alaska). Then you fly far off to Mauna Kea (Hawaii), to Mount Whitney (California), to Mount Mitchell (North Carolina), to Mount Washington (New Hampshire) and to Mount Rainer (Washington). It's basically like demarcating a watershed.

I am also enamored of prominence. You find prominence by going down in contour lines until you reach a ring that contains a point of higher elevation. The easiest explanation is via rising sea level. To find a peak's prominence you raise sea level until it is the highest point on its island. The prominence will be the height of the peak above that imaginary sea level. It has to be specially defined for Mt. Everest, since nothing is higher. Every other peak is recursive. The most prominent peaks in the United States are Mount McKinley, Mauna Kea and Mt. Rainier.

Science and the internet… a dangerous combination.

Living with Jezebel

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

Last night at 9:50 we arrived in Seattle at our new apartment. Since it had been a long day of packing and cleaning Sarah's old apartment, we went to sleep after we got all of the boxes inside. Today has been full of unpacking, but we aren't even halfway done. It will be a week of that: wake up, do work, unpack.

It is a very good thing my parents were able to come help us move. As it was, we just barely fit everything into my parents' truck and Sarah's car. We made do by piling everything carefully into the bed, and then tying a futon mattress on top to keep everything pinned down at 70 miles per hour. The load was just taller than the cab. I have never before slept on a bed that looked like it had been driving down the highway (bug splats all over one end). That is on the to-do list: clean the mattress.

I'm looking forward to exploring the Fremont neighborhood. We got breakfast today at the Fremont Sunday market, but that's just dipping our toes in the water. Good times ahead.

Fall is Breaking

Friday, September 4th, 2009

It cooled down today. This morning gusts of chilly morning air blew through the room, sticking the half-curtain thing out horizontally (apparently it's called a valance, but I could never use that word seriously). Now there is no wind. The cold air sinks down from the window above the bed. Cold feet. It's coming time for fleece blankets and comforters at night, and fires in the fireplace. Perhaps there will be occasion to sleep by the hearth.

Arwen welcomed me down to the farm sometime in October. She said I could sleep beneath the aluminum roof of the top floor of the silo, which just begs for a night of torrential rain followed by a bright morning walking around in the scent of rich, rain-soaked dirt.

I think weather affects me in the broadest sense. Although I delight in the extremes of a perfect thunderstorm or a day where the clouds have gone crazy, it is the larger trends that deeply affect me. The first rain, the first cool day after summer, they are robin-of-spring harbingers. I like the time between solstices, when the changing of seasons brings out patchwork weather. When it is neither too hot nor too cold, or at least never for very long.

I am looking forward to Seattle for just this reason. In Spokane, Spring and Fall are fleeting. Before long it settles to one unfaltering extreme or the other, goes on for an eternity. I am looking forward to fog, drizzle and overcast. Back to the West side.

Laptop Keyboards Are Not Durable

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

I was talking to Gadget from study abroad, and we got to comparing keyboards:

Smurf: I'm hard on my computer keys…. Some of the letters are worn off, and my left alt key has fingernail pits.

Gadget: that coating they put on keyboards is worn off all my keys from typing so much, well all of them except the number keys and the f keys

Smurf: Do you not have letters?

Gadget: nah i have letters. theyre getting worn down though. half of the S is gone hahaha

Smurf: I no longer have an N. My O is just a speck on the upper left. E is a broken vertical bar, and S is two short curved segments. M, H, R, T and C have the most trouble beyond that, though a number of others have pits and blemishes. A is lame, missing its right leg.

Gadget: ooo! my A is missing its right leg too! sounds like youve done a fair number on your keyboard hahaha. most of my letters are just chipped a little bit

Smurf: Oh, and of course left alt is gone, left ctrl is missing pieces. I was just looking at letters.

Gadget: even my touchpad has been worn smooth

Smurf: Ooh, forgot about my arrow keys. Apparently I'm harder on down than up. Left and right are both more troubled than up, but not almost disappeared, like down. Looks like backspace is having problems, too.

Gadget: hahahaha i must have some industrial paint for my arrow keys because they are immaculate

Smurf: I should take a picture of my keyboard and post it on my blog with pieces of this conversation. :P

Gadget: yes!

Jezebel Fremont

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Sarah, Paff and I looked at apartments in Seattle yesterday. Sarah had done a lot of online research and arranged for tours. One stood head and shoulders above the rest. It was our top choice before we even visited; touring it just cemented its position. Now we just have to wait to wait for our application to go through.

It's a little apartment in Fremont, hidden on a back road but right next to Fremont Avenue. A ten minute walk (if that) down the hill and you're in the bustling center of the neighborhood. It has a beautiful view over lower Fremont and the canal, and is surrounded by trees.

When we were doing the research, I compiled the apartments Sarah had found onto a Google Map. Paff reviewed it and determined that they needed easy handles for reference, so he tacked on common first names to each. I added a last name based on their neighborhood for easily finding them in the list. When Sarah found a second batch of apartments, she gave them a collection of slightly less common first names: Jezebel, Erasmus, Tabitha, etc. Thus was Jezebel Fremont named.

She has a fireplace. A dishwasher, washer and dryer, garbage disposal. She allows cats. She is a 4 mile walk to Pike Place, and much less than that to Aaron and Soren.

I am excited.

Kitchen Day

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Yesterday was a kitchen day. A few days earlier Sarah and I went huckleberry picking with her friend Cody. So we had waffles with huckleberry syrup for breakfast. Then I made a huckleberry pie. The crust was a little finicky to handle, probably because of the warm house, but it turned out flaky and delicious when the pie came out of the oven. For dinner we made Indian food. Sarah made the naan, and I cooked a lamb curry with spiced rice. We had it, of course, with a pot of chai tea. Quite satisfying.

Of course, now we have to clean the kitchen again….


Sunday, July 26th, 2009

On Wednesday I leave for DEFCON 17, "the world's largest annual hacker convention" [Wikipedia]. I am meant to learn more about web security there, which is why my employer is paying for my trip and expenses. I'm obviously more excited about being surrounded by hackers and nerds than about the Las Vegas part, although the city ought to be interesting to see.

I will either not bring a laptop, or I will wipe mine before going, for obvious reasons.

Here is a sampling from various FAQs:

Q: Is there a free network at DEFCON?

A: Yes. It would be fair to describe the network as ‘hostile’. It has been described as ‘the worlds most hostile network’, but such descriptions are just attempts at flattery. It is recommended that if you want to connect to the DEFCON network pretend that you are sharing out your entire hard drive to 5,000 hackers. You may want to bring a ‘clean’ computer that you don't mind being infected/hacked/etc. It is considered very poor form to attempt to Dos the network; while the DEFCON staff may not do anything about such attempts it is reasonable to assume that ‘peer justice’ may be meted out. If you're unhappy about the possible risks associated with connecting to DEFCON networks there are a couple of options: refrain from computer use for a few days or connect using another network elsewhere in Vegas (another hotel or something).

Q: What is there to do at DEFCON?

A: DEFCON is a unique experience for each con-goer. If you google around you'll find dozens of write-ups that will give you an idea of what people have experienced at DEFCON. Trust write-ups more than media articles about the con. Some people play capture the flag 24×7, while many people never touch a computer at DEFCON. Some people see every speech they can, while others miss all speeches. Other activities include coffee wars, WI-FI shoot outs, robot contests, TCP/IP contests, movie marathons, scavenger hunts, sleep deprivation, lock picking, warez trading, drunken parties, spot the fed contest, charity dunk tanks, the Black and White Ball. Because DEFCON is what the attendees make of it, there are more events than even we are aware of. Half the fun is learning what happened at DEFCON after the fact!

I'm looking forward to it. Anyone know anyone else who is going?

Logan Roll

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

At Happy Sushi in Logan, Utah, Sarah and I shared a sushi roll that was unconventional and delicious. We might have to try to recreate it sometime. Here is the information from the menu.

Logan Roll: Tempura shrimp, cucumber, and crabmeat inside. Topped with avocado, salmon, thin-sliced lemons and finished with special sauce.