Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Random Ramblings - November 2011

I want to get some thoughts out 'into the world', but I haven't found time to write up individual blog posts. This is my attempt at getting back into blogging on a regular basis.

Quick Personal Update

I'm taking an interest in programming again, after a 15 year hiatus. Much has changed in the field, but it hasn't been too difficult to get caught up. I am taking a pair of Stanford online courses, which have been very interesting. This first is Intro to Databases, and the second is Machine Learning. Machine Learning has been especially eye-opening.

I have also been reading a lot lately. If you read Moneyball, you should check out Michael Lewis's December Vanity Fair article. In some ways it is a prequel to the book, as it attempts to explain how people fool themselves into making irrational decisions. A great book (short, only 20,000 words!) is Race Against the Machine. It relates our technological progress to current unemployment in the US, plus it gives some predictions on the future effects of computational gains in computers. If you read this blog, you're probably well-positioned, but it was interesting none-the-less.

One last link is from slate.com: Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period. This is a habit I've had since high school, and I've been trying very hard to break it. For now, each of my sentences ends with three key strokes... two spaces, following by a backspace. :(

Technology

I'm beginning to like Cisco's ASDM firewall GUI (Gasp!). I recently helped a company turn up a few ASA-based VPNs and I found the VPN wizard to be quite intuitive. If it wasn't for a Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) mismatch, the activations would have gone very smoothly. Alas, one of the VPN devices was an old Pix, and the version of ASDM I was running didn't support the device.

I am becoming a Mac guy. I've used a Macbook Pro for about a year now, and I've pretty much become a convert. I cannot say it makes life any easier, but the laptop is much more stable than my old Windows machines. The lack of MS Visio is the only major issue I've faced. I tried OmniGraffle, but I was not impressed.

Amazon Web Services might be taking over the world. It may not make a ton of sense for established companies to migrate to AWS (unless they want to blow up their infrastructure teams), but if I worked with a startup, there is no way I would build my own data centers. AWS, or cloud computing in general, might end up as a key differentiator between older companies and newer ones. The ability to scale quickly (both up and down) is bigger than I originally imagined. The most difficult part of AWS seems to come when you attempt to integrate legacy systems and AWS-based ones. That's the major advantage a startup would have.

Closing

That's all I have to say today. Let me know what you think of this format, either in the comments section or via email. I occasionally feel guilty about not writing more content on this blog, but professional and personal commitments make it difficult to find the time.
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