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In a Nutshell (part one)

I imagine I have written enough "opening" rambles, so thought I should cover some information about myself, where I came from and where I see myself going. I was born on August 23, 1972 in Connecticut. Maybe a little too much "where I came from," alright, we'll skip ahead. I began my professional computer career in the fall of 1989. PCs were still "IBM clones," DOS was the platform and you still had to low level format a hard drive for the controller it was connected to (mostly MFM with a few RLL thrown in). Ahhh, the good ole days of writing batch file startup menus for the computers.

I learned a lot apprenticing at that first job: monitor repair, printers, operating systems 101, networking and even managed to install an AS400. We had a joking statement for working on monitors and the need to discharge the caps,
"You know it's not the voltage that kills you..."

<pause and wait for the people "in the know" to say something about it being the current>

"It's your neck snapping when you hit the wall behind you."

A bit morbid, but if you have ever been hit with a discharging capacitor while sitting at a workbench, you know there is some truth to it.

Good times were had for several years, but as with all things they had to come to an end, for it was time for me to move on and learn more in pursuit of my dream of robotics. And so I enlisted in the US Navy as a Nuclear Electronics Technician. I learned everything you never wanted to know about electronics in a quick six months. Rumor had it that the course was basically a two year MIT electronics program crammed into six months. Considering the flunk out rate and long hours nearly everyone put in, I would not be surprised were it true. It was also one of the only times in my educational career that I can remember being even remotely challenged, something I greatly enjoyed.

Fast forwarding again, when I left the Navy I once again embraced the computer field, just in time for AT&T GIS to begin their Windows 95 roll out, which I was lucky enough to be a part of. (Side note: if you do the math at this point you might notice that I did not stay in the Navy for the six years normally required for a Nuke, which was mostly because I was no longer a nuke.) From there I went on to a variety of differing companies learning all that I could from each; playing with different applications, differing hardware, a variety of OSes and networks.

At some point I started collecting certifications. Not for any real purpose, just mostly in competition with friends and coworkers. I had possessed a few at the beginning of my career, but they were required per the company I was employed with. These new ones were more of a fun thing. Unfortunately, and there always seems to be an unfortunately, having too many certifications can sometimes wind up being a bad thing. Had it not happened to me directly I would have never believed there was such a thing as being over qualified; that was a myth after all. Of course until Bank of America I would have never believed in such a thing as being "too ambitious," but that is a story I will likely not bother to share.

Specialization became a huge thing for a lot of companies, which likely was part of the whole over qualified thing, but it left me at a crossroad in my career. Play dumb, which I just can not bring myself to do, specialize in a certain field, which feels like playing dumb with a different label, or find another option. I suppose I could have played ball and labeled myself as an Exchange Expert, or a SQL Expert, or Oracle, or any number of other things that people were looking for. I knew the information after all, but it would be wasting knowledge. So I found something else.

The Three Princes of Serendip

Once I set out on something I move forward in a very fast pace. Information is absorbed at alarming rates, options are weighed and a decision gets reached. Were my brain possessed of a gag-reflex I am certain it would explode within hours of beginning any project with the sheer volume of data that is force-fed into it. Of course a good chunk is lost minutes after it is processed, but not before a decision is made on the information. Thanks to the Information Age that we live in, I don't really have to worry about holding on to all of it anymore, which makes decision making move even faster.

When it came to creating a weblog of my own I went at it with the same, not-so-reckless, abandon. I consulted with friends, viewed websites, read the propaganda, looked at other weblogs and even took a look at the products offered directly through our web host. And then I stopped, took a breath and went over to the SANS Institute website. All the weblog scripts and engines and backends I could remember at the time were sent straight into their search bar. Unfortunately for me, all of them returned results, and relatively recent ones at that.

If you are not familiar with the SANS Institute, they are IT when it comes to IT Security. Training, articles, research, advice, certification; they are the people you go to in order to get the information you need about IT Security. So when articles came up in my search for my weblog choices, I was a little put out. Each of these news blurbs contained some sort of recent exploit or loophole in the security of the web application, which is not generally a good thing for any application, let alone one sitting open to everyone on the Internet. The more exploits that show up, the more you will likely want to find a different program.

So I began looking further, refining my search and looking at security as part of the key ingredients for my new weblog application. Some how, on page 87 of my google search or so, I came across an interview type article about Stefan Esser leaving the PHP Security Team. Well, I needed a break from the search so I read it. While the article was informative, it was that glorious shining link pointing to this man's, this PHP Security Guru's weblog: http://blog.php-security.org/

Should you not have guessed by now, Stefan Esser uses Serendipity for his weblog. A quick check over at SANS and a few other security related sites revealed to me what I already knew, this is a pretty secure piece of coding. There was one entry from version 0.7-beta1, but I am good with that.

After looking through the Serendipity website and installing a test of the software on the Proverbs server, I was hooked. Easy to setup, easy to use, customizable beyond belief, a ton of plugins, very nice layouts and it hit the marks for security. For me, however, the best part is the affirmation that I get to keep "Serendipity" as my favorite word.

The One Tool

A friend of mine, Liz, made it a point to note the lack of a particular object in the banner image, as well as the entry regarding said image. To be completely fair, this object really has no place among all the other tools and parts depicted, and I shall explain why.

If you were to ask an auto mechanic to take a few photographs of items that represent their work or what it was that made them passionate about that work, they would likely produce something along the lines of a tool chest, a beefed up 427 engine with dual four barrel carbs, the vintage car owning that engine, perhaps a good ratchet set or even an air ratchet. You would probably not see a hammer. Yet, now that I penned that simple word, the name to that auspicious tool, the hammer, you probably have started to become aware of just how many mechanics love that implement.

It is used for everything, and never far from the reaching grip of a good auto mechanic. A tool that has become a very extension of their being, one they never put much thought into, but one they would be lost without. For myself that tool, that mechanical part of me, is the dremel; and it is that very thing which Liz noticed was missing (or rather assumed was buried under everything else).

Unless you are a dremel owner there is no way for you to fully comprehend my meaning when I say that there is nothing I can not do with a dremel. Beyond the regular cutting of objects, sanding and grout removal lies the pure beauty that this tool encompasses. If required, or even provided the proper opportunity, I am adamantly certain that I could not only build you an entire house using only my dremel, but could perform brain surgery in the newly constructed kitchen to remove the disbelief you would be feeling, followed by a complete teeth cleaning to show off the perma-grin splayed across your face. Drinks would be mixed inside intricately carved glass bowls followed by a fantastic barbecue cookout in the backyard gardens; and all of that, even the fire used to cook the food, would have been mixed by, carved with, spit roasted on and hedge-trimmed by my trusty dremel.

That is what the dremel is, at least to this owner. It is the one tool to rule them all, and had Gandalf possessed such an implement the LOTR movies would have lasted a short 15 minutes with the quick work the dremel would have made of the One Ring of Power.

A Thousand Words

I do believe I have about finished the major design work on the site and settled on a theme that seems to suffice, for the moment at least. I reworked a few minor items, mostly noticeable only to myself, and added a "StumbleUpon" link for the entries. It seems to be what all the cool kids are doing these days. Alright, so perhaps it is mostly us geekiarchs. The remainder of the site shall forever, or at the very least a few days, be a work in progress.

Now, while I seriously doubt I will be able to produce a thousand meaningful words on the subject, I thought I might spin a few about the top banner image. I had a picture taken of a few odds and ends that tend to continuously find there way onto my workbench. Not being content with a mere photograph, I was required, per the code of all who work with technology, to "tweak" the image inside Photoshop to suit my tastes. As I look at the image for ways to best describe what is there, I am struck by just how delightfully the picture has captured my passions.

Going across from the left to the right, we first can see the head of my digital calipers. Unfortunately, the Sherline Lathe would not quite have squeezed into the 944X160 pixel image, but suffice to say the two really go hand and hand for me. I have only been machining for a short while now, 6 odd months, but there really is no replacement for properly manufactured parts, and the curly-qs produced are an added bonus. Of course the Maxim's Maxim had no small part to play in my diving head first (more of a belly flop, truth be told) into micro-machining, but that is a story unto itself.

Moving along we come to a circuit board, complete with all manner of components firmly soldered into place, not to mention a few LEDs. And who doesn't like LEDs? It is not just any circuit board, but rather the controller board for the Sandwich Line Following Robot by David Cook. Properly named "Herbert." The robot, not David. Of course all my robots are named "Herbert," is it really that surprising?

Resting atop the PCB board are a few miscellaneous parts including a micro servo used for, you guessed it, robotics. Directly below is yet another in the series of the robotics madness, a standard universal breadboard, showing off the latest in fall fashions with it's test circuitry all ready to assist in the solar charging of the NIMH battery pack used to power Herbert the gutter bot, with it's MAXIM (no relations) 8212 IC and MOSFET accessorizing the package. Excuse me, I seemed to have geeked out there for a moment. I am sure I have a prescription for that some place.

Now where was I? An Intel Pentium chip WITH MMX technology of course. Leading us into the Information Technologies field and my love for computers. Yes, I am as surprised as you are that I still have one of these processors. No, you can not have it. It was used in the picture mostly because I did not have a spare "modern" processor floating around, and I was afraid the 80X286 processor in my closet would have dated me too badly. I have a sixteen year old daughter to do that.

The last two objects rounding out the image are a soldering iron and a spool of inductive coil (aka copper wire), pretty self explanatory. Not quite the extravagant finish one could hope for in such a list. If only Sherline produced a Mill that would fit in the picture, now that would have been an ending. C'est la vie.

Oh, incase you were wondering (because who wouldn't, right?), the binary code at the top and bottom reads "I Am. When?", and the vertical states "Now" Four words instead of a thousand, but they will do.

Whispers

At some point in every person's life there is a voice, a soft whisper, a feeling that resounds throughout the very core of your being, louder than the roar of a volcano erupting and, yet, still quieter than a butterfly's wings; telling, begging you to fulfill a destiny. It is a simple thing to miss, or ignore, and easier to misinterpret, but for some it becomes a guiding call for them. There life's work. A blessing, a curse, a dream and a madness.

When I was still very young I heard that whisper, and while at the time I could not comprehend what it was or what it meant, it has become an obsession of mine; leading me unwittingly throughout my life. Simply, Robotics. It is what brought me into the field of computers, both as a programmer and technician. It is what lead me to join the United States Navy as a Nuclear Electronics Technician. It is what brought me back to computers in the networking field, and further into programming. It is what has made me a technology geek. And I loves me some technology.

Of course there are sides of technology I hate, mostly what people do with it. In particular I have an intense dislike of communications technologies. And not just for the obvious reasons that would lead one to hate mobile phones (which I do and refuse to own), but mostly due to the anonymity they can provide. Or rather that some take advantage of. While I do use much of the same technology that I dislike, I use it with a set of principles that precludes me from hiding behind the phone receiver or the keyboard. If you would not be willing to spend the time speaking directly to a person, face to face, then there is no reason to use other methods. Further, if you would not be willing to say those same words aloud to that same person, then those words are not worth uttering.

Pretty easy. Of course I have digressed from the purpose behind this post: Technology and Andrew Maxim - Chapter 1 - Why I blog. It is my hope to make use of this blog, this conduit into my world, as a means of releasing the random thoughts which so often keep me from sleeping at night. Whether it is a reply to a newspaper article I might have read, or my drooling over a new technology, or a random observation, or even, on rare occasion, a little insight into how I see the world. It is these things that I will likely post on, and should you not have noticed, it covers about everything.

It is also my desire to use these entries as a means towards refining my writing style. I have been told that I am a decent writer, I have even been published a few times in the past, but as any perfectionist will tell you, I can be better. So this will be my medium, the keyboard my pen, and the electrons flowing across these computer systems, this technology I enjoy so dearly, shall be my ink. I hope you enjoy.

Over Constructed

Alright, so the title for this entry really should be "Under Construction," but for me those words splayed across a web page with the obligatory yellow hardhat, and perhaps a flashing orange light, bring on too many painful memories of Internet years gone past. I just can't bring myself to speak of it, the pain haunts me so.

In reality I am working on tweaking the layout and function of this site, not to mention playing with Serendipity, the power behind the pretty screen. Thus far I like what I am seeing with Serendipity as a backend, and am quite content with the choice. Now granted with the PHP applications developed by myself and others who have worked with Proverbs in the past, we probably could have come up with something that would have been exactly what I wanted. The main problem? I have no idea what I wanted for this, and still don't.

I am also horrible at designing nice layouts, as anyone who has used Helpdesk ver 1.2 or the original design of the Proverbs Web Calendar can attest to. Function always comes first in my mind, but I digress from the substance of this entry. I settled on Serendipity for a variety of reasons that will eventually, one can hope, be a blog entry of its own. It seems quite powerful, secure (well as secure as anything on the Internet can be), and versatile. Of course I broke it within 48 hours.

So now that I set it all up, made a post, tweaked it, broke it, attempted to fix it, wiped it clean, reloaded it, tweaked it some more and am finally getting around to my second posting; I guess you could say I have a little bit of time vested into this application. And, by-golly, it is going to work for me and be exactly what I want it to be. Whatever that is.

As such, if you (all of you, any of you, anyone, "Hello, is this thing on?") are reading this, expect a little virtual dust, and perhaps a few flying cobwebs from the part of my brain that contains PHP knowledge, while I go through and over construct this new web site. Did you see how I brought that right back around to the title? Sorry. Anyway, thank you for your patience, whoever you are.

I Am. When?

I had decided a while back to do something with the Proverbs webspace, to put it to some use other than wasted Internet space. Not that Proverbs, LLC is gone, just that the purpose of the company's website, to provide "off the shelf" software via the Internet, is no longer needed. For quite some time the only item available through the Proverbs website has been our Event Calendar and I have been musing over what to do with the space.

I have also been mulling over writing further magazine or Internet articles for publication, if not a book (I know grand designs and all that). Unfortunately, life has always had a way of stealing my time away, as is the case of most everyone I imagine. Or is it that I, we, have refused to free up the time to do these things?

Perhaps, perhaps not. What I do know is that there are many projects which I have been tossing around in my head, some started and stopped, others put to the back of my mind only to resurface at another interval along this road we call life. These projects are important to me, such as my writings, or in some cases ramblings, yet I, we, always seem to find a way to push the majority aside to pursue other aspects of life. Never taking the risks, never tasting the rewards, or the failures.

And this is what IAMWHEN is about. For all the times I have been asked, or have asked myself, "Are you going to do this?" and responded "I Am." For all the times I have, to that very response, found myself asking "When?" Well... Now. So without further rambling, and on behalf of myself and Proverbs, LLC, I present IAMWHEN.COM