Developer on Fire
Posted by bsstahl on 2018-12-13 and Filed Under: general
I was recently interviewed by Dave Rael (@raelyard) for his Developer on Fire Podcast. I had a great time talking with Dave about a lot of different things, both professional and personal, and got to name-drop just a few of the many people who have been a part of my journey over the years.
I also took the opportunity to talk about a few things that have been on my mind:
I hope you enjoy this interview and find something of value in it. If so, please let me know about it on Twitter @bsstahl.
On the Shoulders of Giants
Posted by bsstahl on 2018-03-11 and Filed Under: general
I recently gave my very first Toastmasters speech. I’m rather proud of it. It certainly didn’t go perfectly but was a good introduction to Toastmasters for me, and a good introduction of me to my Toastmasters club.
For those who aren’t familiar with the process, everyone’s 1st Toastmaster speech is called an Icebreaker and is a way to introduce a new Toastmaster to the other members of the club. In my Icebreaker, I chose to introduce myself to my club by talking about just a few of the people who I feel made important historical contributions that paved my path to today.
The transcript and video of this presentation can be found below.
I like to describe myself as the kind of person who has a list of his favorite physicists and favorite mathematicians. The thought being that just knowing I have such a list tells you everything you really need to know about me. Today I'd like to tell you a little bit more about me, to go a little bit deeper, and tell you about me by telling you about just a few of the people on my list and why I find them so fascinating and so important.
We start in ancient Greece in the 4th century BCE. Democritus of Abdura develops a theory of the composition of matter in the universe that is based on what he calls "atoms". These atoms are physically indivisible, always in motion, and have a lot of empty space in between. He is the first person to develop a theory like this, of the creation of the universe and the existence of the universe in a way that is explainable, that is predictable, that we can understand. As such, may people consider him to be the first scientist. It is this reasoning, that the universe is knowable, that has made all technological advancement that we've had since, possible.
One such advancement came in 1842 so let's jump forward from the first scientist to the first computer programmer. Charles Babbage has created his Analytical Engine, and Ada, Countess of Lovelace, translates an article on using that machine to calculate the Bernoulli numbers which was a well known mathematical sequence. She created notes on this article that describes the inputs and instructions and the states of all the registers of the machine at each point in the process. This, deservingly so, is considered to be the first ever computer program. But more than even creating the first program, Ada Lovelace recognized the capabilities of these machines. She recognized that they could be more than just machines that analyze numbers, they could analyze anything that could be represented by numbers. She predicted that they could be used to compose music, create graphics, and even be usable in scientific experiments. This recognition of the computer as a general purpose tool, rather than just as a fancy calculator, is what made all of society's advancements that were based on computers and computer processing, possible.
There are many other people on my list that I'd like to talk about: Nicola Tesla and Alan Turing; Grace Hopper and Albert Einstein.
But there are really two modern physicists that played a greater role than any in my path to today. The first of those is Carl Sagan. Dr. Sagan had the ability to communicate in a very accessible way his almost childlike awe and wonder of the cosmos. He combined the resources and knowledge of a respected scientist with the eloquence of a teacher and a poet, and made science and scientific education available to an entire generation as it never had been before.
Perhaps the most significant reason though that Carl Sagan has become important to me, especially in the last few years, is that he reminds me, quite powerfully, of number one on my list, my favorite physicist of all, my father Hal Stahl, who passed away on this very day, two years ago. Dad's specialty was optics, he loved to play with light and its properties. He also loved math and its power to explain the concepts in physics. Like my father I love how math, especially calculus, make the calculations of practical things feasible. So much so, that had I recognized the power of physics combined with calculus, before I learned to make computers do my bidding, my career might have taken a slightly different path.
I hope I have given you a few insights into my worldview through the lens of those I idolize. I like to think that my list shows the value I place on education, especially STEM. It also shows that I recognize the value of collaboration and understand how much of what we do depends on those who came before us. Isaac Newton famously stated, "If I have seen farther [than others] it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." My list of the giants on whose shoulders I stand can be found on Twitter @bsstahl. To me that list represents just a few of the many without whom our work and our world would not be possible.
Video: On the Shoulders Of Giants
My Comments to the FCC on Net Neutrality
Posted by bsstahl on 2014-06-14 and Filed Under: general
There is no question that the Internet has played, and will continue to play an ever increasing role in our lives, both in terms of our daily activities, and in how we guarantee and monitor our freedoms. More and more of our citizens' speech occurs on the Internet every day. Additionally, more and more new businesses are starting up on, and because-of, the Internet.
If a small number of individuals or companies are allowed to determine which speech is heard, or which companies are allowed to thrive, much of what we strive for in our society will be lost. Gone will be the opportunity for a free and open debate, the type of debate that helps our citizens protect their rights. Gone will be the ability for anyone with the skills and drive to start a business and participate in our economic growth. It is up to the Federal Communications Commission, the representatives of We the People of the United States, to protect our rights and guarantee equal opportunity for everyone to use, and be heard, on the Internet.
I urge you to deny any proposal that would create an Internet "fast-lane" for anyone able and willing to pay bribes to the few communications providers who make up the Internet backbone in this country, and to protect the public's rights by classifying the Internet as a public utility.
User Experience Done Better
Posted by bsstahl on 2012-02-02 and Filed Under: general
The camera-phone shot below was taken at John Wayne-Orange County Airport (SNA).
You'll notice a column of arrows along the right side. These clearly indicate the direction the reader has to go to get to that gate. It's the little things that make all the difference.
Tech Bubble -- Version 2.0
Posted by bsstahl on 2011-01-31 and Filed Under: general
In Lived Fast, Died Young, Left a Tired Corpse, Jeff Atwood speaks of both the successes and failures of the original .Com Bubble and posits that we are entering another bubble at this very moment. As someone who participated in bubble 1.0 (2 startups, only gained experience to show for it), I plan to watch both of the documentary films that Jeff mentioned with the goal of being able to identify when I see the same things occurring again. However, the part of the post that struck closest to home for me was the very end, where Jeff states:
Yes, you will have incredibly lucrative job offers in this bubble. That's the easy part. As Startup.com and Code Rush illustrate, the hard part is figuring out why you are working all those long hours. Consider carefully, lest the arc of your career mirror that of so many failed tech bubble companies: lived fast, died young, left a tired corpse.
Thinking about the time I spent in these .com startups, and thereafter with smaller (non-corporate) customers, I am struck by how uncomfortable I was with the non-corporate culture. Put another way, I am startled by how comfortable I am now that I am back working in a very corporate environment. I spent the first 11 years of my career at a medium-sized corporation that became a large corporation while I was there, and have spent the last 4 years at a medium-sized corporation that is rapidly growing. In between, I spent 10 years hopping around between .com startups and consulting gigs all over the country. While I enjoyed the travel and the fast-paced, rapidly changing environments, I found there was something very significant missing for me at these assignments.
It is clear to me now that the startup game is not, and never was, for me. I don’t think it is the long hours either since it is not uncommon for me to put in extensive hours when I have a deadline to meet no matter where I am working. More likely, it seems to me, is that I have process to lean on when necessary. That is, when I see something that doesn’t make sense, I can lean on the corporate culture to a large degree to either fix it, or to start the process to change it. While this change may not happen as rapidly as in smaller companies with less process, it is also less likely to cause “ripple-effect” changes that create problems elsewhere because the process identifies those potential problems. I know this will seem counter-intuitive to many, but it has definitely been my experience that the process of larger corporations solves problems quickly enough, and causes fewer tangential problems. Perhaps this is because I feel comfortable examining the origins of a process and changing or eliminating it if it no longer makes sense. That is, I am able to use the effective processes effectively and eliminate the ineffective ones. I’d like to think that is the case but I also recognize how self-serving a supposition that is.
When the next bubble comes and the job offers flow freely again, just keep in mind that, aside from figuring out why you want to do what you do as Jeff said, you also need to figure out in what environment you are most comfortable doing it. Many feel they are more comfortable in the low-resistance, low-process environment of a startup. Of course, most startups fail…
Will "Augmented Reality" Finally Make My Life's Dream Come True?
Posted by bsstahl on 2009-10-27 and Filed Under: general
Your Augmented Future: The 3 Hottest Videos From International AR Symposium
Be sure to see the 2 videos linked in the above article from the International AR Symposium. Aside from the cute factor of the Eye Pet and the WOW factor of the AR Sketch demo, there is the very real possibility that my dream of being able to write code anywhere, via a Heads-Up-Display in my sunglasses, is coming close.
These exciting examples of Augmented Reality have little to do with mobile location awareness, a nice reminder that there's a whole lot more to the field. Mobile AR browsers are the best known commercial services so far, but academic research on other forms of AR has been going on for years.
Ready to browse and interact with data on top of the physical world, through webcams, mobile phones and increasingly svelte AR glasses? A future when such experiences are mainstream may be fast approaching.
Posted by bsstahl on 2009-03-04 and Filed Under: general
My apologies but we have had a major server crash and are having to rebuild everything from scratch on a new server. I expect the archives to be back up shortly. In the meantime, I will be able to continue my irregular posting schedule from this point forward. I appreciate your patience and indulgance.
I've Accepted a Position at US Airways
Posted by bsstahl on 2008-06-13 and Filed Under: general
I'd like to announce that I have decided to accept an offer of employment with US Airways, designing and developing software for their Airline Operations Development (AirOps) group. This offer follows approximately 1.5 years of working for US Airways in AirOps as CopperByte, Inc.'s primary customer and my acceptance is testament to the fact that I have found it to be an outstanding place to work. We have worked on some fairly exciting projects during my time with AirOps, often using the latest-and-greatest technology from Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and others. I look forward to continuing this work.
It should be known that I will continue my relationship with CopperByte, Inc. as an owner and director, and will occasionally participate as a developer and architect, primarily with regard to our not-for-profit endeavors such as with the Pueblo Grande Museum and GIPhoneHome.
I probably don't need to mention that the usual caveats apply here. All opinions are mine and mine alone; US Airways has, and will continue to have, nothing to do with this blog. All information contained herein is entirely my responsibility.