Saturday, December 21, 2013

Silicon Valley Silicon

Pictured here is a historic bit of Silicon from Silicon Valley.

Now, for the full story ...

TheHackerCIO is done with Cassandra training. Done meeting with clients.  Now it's time for fun!

For example,  spending the afternoon walking around Stanford. There is little better place for a long walk than a University Campus. I've walked them all over the US and Europe: Prestigious and not, picturesque and ugly, techie and Liberal-artsy. I've strolled through Dartmouth, Brown, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, U Penn., UCLA, USC, Cal State Northridge, CalTech, Santa Monica City College, the whole constellation of colleges found in both Oxford and Cambridge, the Sorbonne. I never made a complete list. But that would be fun. Someday.

It wasn't an ideal time to tour the campus: most everything was closed; it's close to Christmas. But I got a good sense of the layout. The Packard building right next to the Hewlett building. That was a nice touch.

Stanford has a symbiotic relationship with Silicon Valley.  It's the intellectual core of the valley. Many startups came from Stanford graduates, such as Google's Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who were grad students when they developed "BackRub," a new approach to web-page search ranking. David Filo of Yahoo did his masters work at Stanford. Stanford has close ties to entrepreneurial business.

The Hwang Engineering Center has a first edition of Donald Knuth's famous The Art of Computer Programming. And this, pictured above was supposed to be the first ethernet board used to make the historic first ARPA-net transmission from UCLA to Stanford Research Institute.  For the managers reading this, that amounts to the first internet transmission! Or maybe it was the first Ethernet board, invented by nearby Xerox PARC place. It depends on which student you talk to. Maybe it doesn't matter.  Who knows if the "accidents of preservation" resulted in the actual first board being kept for posterity! The amazing part is how central to every aspect of technology development Silicon Valley has been: from making computer intercommunication possible (Xerox's ethernet card), to making the first internet communication, to creating the mouse, and window-GUI -- everything seems to flow out of the valley.

And that makes me happy to be in this place, as ...


Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Joy of Failure

Of bitter failure and TheHackerCIO, I sing, O Muse.

Anyone read the Illiad's opening lines?

Today, TheHackerCIO experienced failure. A lot of it. Yesterday evening, I deliberately tried something "off script" from my class instruction on  Cassandra. I've been attempting to recover ever since. I've been behind the class all of today, desperately attempting to catch up. Desperately attempting to repair my Cassandra cluster.

But I'm not that unhappy about it.

As "The Villain's Lab" today puts it:
I would rather have problems thrown at me, and iterate through a million choices to find the “right one for right now” than have all the right answers the first time.
Actually, to be honest, I would rather have all the right answers the first time, but that isn't realistic. And I know that I'm going to learn more, learn faster, and get more insight into production problems and issues by breaking things and then attempting to fix them.

So, while I only got to Lab #10 so far, out of 16; if that's all the further I get, yet I played with rebuilding my cluster and debugging a data consistency problem, I got a much deeper understanding from the tutorial than what comes from merely following the script, cutting and pasting in the commands, and grabbing a cup of coffee.

Not that I would have minded a nice cuppa ...

But I encourage you, O fellow technologists: type in the commands when you're doing tutorials -- build your muscle memory. Don't rely on cut-and-paste, what will that give you? When you don't understand why it's done one way and you think it should be done another, don't miss that opportunity! Try it! You'll break it, and you may spend the rest of the day recovering, but you'll learn. And the chance to learn is irreplaceable.


P.S. At 4:30pm, my instructor gave a "final exam", in which he said not to use the script, because "If you use the script, you're a cheater. You learn by suffering." Apparently he's learned the Joy of Failure as well as TheHackerCIO!


I Remain,

TheHackerCIO in Silicon Valley

I Am The Audience

"Who do you write the blog for," Someone asked me today. The answer is simple, yet incredibly liberating. Plus, it's an answer everyone should copy. I write the blog for my own personal consumption.

I am the audience.

If anyone else enjoys it, that's gravy. It's all part of "my work, done my way." But this comes from something deeper and more fundamental. Let's start over with that, and progress forward. It's about:
  • "My thought, done my way."
and then:
  • "My work, done my way."
and then, naturally, the consequence is:
  • "My writing, done my way."

If you think about it, there really isn't a reasonable alternative. You can't think someone else's thoughts. You are the only one doing your work. And the same goes for your writing. Anything else is absurd. Like trying to digest the meal someone else ate. It just "ain't gonna work." So why try?

I've written before about the liberating power of not caring. When you don't care about the consequences of speaking the truth, it lifts a great weight from your spirit!

But this is not the advice I was given in college. Nor is it found in the many books on writing. They tell you to carefully consider your audience. But when you use TheHackerCIO's approach, and your audience is your self, and if you know yourself, then it's never a problem to write for that audience! You will know what you like and what you don't.  And coupling that with not caring about the consequences means it doesn't matter if you lose audience from a particular opinion. I write for myself and for those who are going my same direction: to discover those of similar mind and values; to seek those who are --ultimately -- like myself! So I can't possibly fail. Even if only a handful follow my blog, I've discovered the segment I want as readers. And if no one reads it but me, it's the best of all possible audiences.

It's a most demanding audience, by the way. I have tough, rigorous standards.

Naturally, you have to count the cost of this policy. You may publish things that get you kicked out of Senior IT Executive Forums. Same thing with asking questions. If you don't consider the audience or care about consequences, you might be asked to leave some Meetup. Or even a job. But do you really want to be part of such a forum, meetup, or workplace, where you must gingerly consider everything you're going to say? Where you must concern yourself, not about reality, answers, and  truth; but about whether your question or level of understanding will offend someone? Again, do you want to put yourself in an environment where your state of knowledge must be hidden from others, as you pretend to have a knowledge you lack? If you do choose this, note that you have hindered yourself from ever attaining a better understanding! You can only do it on the sly, without revealing your actual state.

That's not a way I'd want to live.

And neither should you.

I Remain,


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Introducing a DevOps Blog

A new blog about DevOps has just started! And it comes from a regular reader here. Find the first posting here.

TheHackerCIO cannot endorse everything he's going to say before he says it. But he knows from brief discussions with the author, Marc Mercer, that it's very promising. Marc gives every indication that he is basically in sync with TheHackerCIO's approach, thoughts, and values.

I hope he regularly posts about DevOps, especially if his first posting is an indicator. He starts where one ought to start, that is, at the beginning, at the very definition of DevOps.

It's amazing how helpful it is to know what you're talking about. :-)

A lot of managers should follow that policy.

Just Sayin',



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

When a Delete is a Write!

So Cassandra -- a No-Sql database -- has a few peculiarities that might take newbies by surprise. One of them is that deletion involves a write!

Before we take a brief look at that, do you know the story of Cassandra from Greek mythology? Cassandra was so beautiful that Apollo wanted to have carnal knowledge of her. She refused. Consequently, she was cursed by Apollo with prophesying the truth, yet with no-one believing it. Personally, TheHackerCIO knows how she felt. All the time I tell the truth, but it seems that very few actually believe it. It's enough to drive one crazy.

I wonder at this choice of mascot for the NoSql database which trades off consistency for availability per Brewer's Conjecture (A.K.A., "The CAP Theorem"). Is it that Cassandra will always return the truth, but we the DBAs won't believe it?

Well, leaving off the speculation, let's return to the peculiarity mentioned before: how can a delete be a write operation?

Remember, Cassandra uses an immutable data model. Data just continues to be written out to represent all changes. One consequence of this is that updates and inserts really are interchangeable. They call this the Cassandra "UpSert," because if you insert and a row with that primary key already exists, then it simply becomes an update. Conversely, if you update a row and the primary key involved doesn't exist, Cassandra will simply insert it. That is, either way, you will "UpSert" a row.

Another consequence of the immutable data model is that delete operations are really just "marking for deletion." We're all familiar with this from the file-system, but to have a database that does this adds a few wrinkles. For instance, you now have to deal with "compaction," where the deleted data element no longer remains within the working set of data elements.

So, for people from the relational database world -- and aren't we all -- you need to spend a little time wrapping your head around the world of NoSql in general, and Cassandra in particular.

As you do so,

I Remain,


Monday, December 16, 2013

The Unbearable Laziness of Outsourcers

Foreign outsourcers are a real PITA. TheHackerCIO now Unlinks from them as soon as they message him in a manner revealing their failure to read *anything* about me prior to hitting "send."

Their laziness seems to know no bounds.

For example, this came today:

On 12/16/13 1:59 AM, <<Name Deleted>> wrote:
Dear James,

Hope to pay your attention to some business opportunity.

I can assume that your compay needs from time to time some IT developement resources.

We offer to you our team as a base for your Ukrainian IT development center in order to develop some projects for you on demand or offer our developers as remote members of your development team.

One of our new proposal is <<Name Deleted>> system for logistic and transport (we offer specialistes with long experience and we can form full team under your request).

Moreover we can propose Billing systems development team:
<<URL Deleted>>
10year + of billing system development for Austria Telecom.

If an idea of co-operation could be interesting for you let's discuss all possible working models.

Hope to find some way of the mutually beneficial cooperation.

We are ready to earn trust incrementally.

<<Name Deleted>>

And here is TheHackerCIO's reply:


Hi <<Name Deleted>>:

You could have "earned my trust," by reading my LinkeIn profile where you would have immediately seen this: 

ATTENTION RECRUITERS, OUTSOURCERS, & BUS. DEV. : Learn about my strongly held opinions BEFORE you Message me, by reading my blog, especially the FAQ at

In general, if you do some research about me & show some thought in your request, I'll LinkIn with you.

Please follow those directions, and particularly, read this entry:

Furthermore, I'm blogging about your appalling failure to follow these directions. Read it here:

Finally, I'm unlinking from you, and placing you on my internal "banned list," for "failure to do any research before messaging me." 

Thank You So Much,


Maybe they cant read!? But if so, then they ought not to try outsourcing.

I Remain,


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Have MacBookProRetina, Will Travel

Silicon Valley is where the heart is, for TheHackerCIO. And today, he's on the road heading up there!

Meetings with Clients ...

Training on Cassandra ...

And following the Geek Silicon Valley guidebook, to see as many Geeky points of interest as possible.

What could possibly be better?

I mean, learning new, cutting-edge, exciting technologies ...

Meeting important users and technologists ...

And touring the Mecca of Geekery.

That sounds like Nirvana.

And, it gives you a good indicator of topics coming up this next week, so stay tuned!

I Remain,