ianmacd is currently certified at Master level.

Name: Ian Macdonald
Member since: 2000-05-09 08:27:39
Last Login: 2016-02-18 20:08:37

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Homepage: http://caliban.org/


In March 2000, I left my former home of Amsterdam in The Netherlands to assume the position of Senior System Administrator at Linuxcare's head office in San Francisco.

I stayed with Linuxcare until the end of June 2001, my 16 months there forming perhaps the most interesting of my career to date.

I'm currently a system administrator for Google in Mountain View.

I used to be a keen Z80 hacker in the eighties and early nineties, and have a fair amount of free CP/M software to my name. I've penned everything from Pong games, to VT100 emulators, to serial drivers.

I also used to hack a lot of Pascal and Modula-2 back then as well.

My main pastimes these days are hacking ba sh and Ruby code.

I've written a number of Ruby modules and small utility programs, such as a signature generator for e-mail and news.

My most popular project, though, is ba sh programmable completion, a collection of functions to intelligently complete the most frequently used UNIX/Linux commands. This project is one of the top 50 most popular on Freshmeat and rated in the top 10 by its users.

After many happy years of Perl use, Ruby has now become my programming language of choice these days.


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Too much has happened over the last six months to bother going into much detail here.

In short, the Killing Joke concert I mentioned was so good that I deliberately missed my flight to Austin for it and consequently also missed the Ruby conference. Oh well.

Christmas came and went. As usual, we spent it on the east coast in Providence.

Sarah and I spent a week in The Netherlands at the end of April. We had a great time, but we were quite busy, so we hardly got to see any old friends.

Google has filed to go public.

Our plan to return to The Netherlands for good has now been postponed until the summer of 2005.

Finally, I've installed Moveable Type at home, so my blog will now be maintained there. This will be my last posting to Advogato.

I wonder whether anyone is still reading this? I would set up a blog, but I wouldn't update it frequently enough, so why go to the trouble?

We're going to see Killing Joke tomorrow at Slim's in San Francisco. That'll be a real blast from the past. I haven't seen them since 1993 (I think) in Amsterdam's Paradiso.

After that, I grab a night flight to Austin, Texas for the 2003 Ruby Conference.

What else has happened in the last few months? Well, Sarah and I spent a couple of weeks in Iceland to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary. That was in August and early September.

In October, we moved from Menlo Park to Mountain View, another Silicon Valley town.

At the end of October, we spent a few days in Maine for the wedding of John, my brother-in-law, and his then fiancée, Sara. I then spent a couple of weeks working from Google's New York office, which was a pleasant change from the Mountain View office.

At the end of those two weeks, we headed up to Westpoint, in New York state, where Lauren, Sarah's bridesmaid from last year, was getting married to her fiancé, Brian.

So, the last few months have been all about weddings, moving and travel.

I'll be looking forward to getting home from Austin and not having to travel for a few weeks. Christmas is just around the corner, though, and I'm sure that'll see us in Providence again.

Apart from that, there's no real news to report.

It really is a small world, I tell you.

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah and I travelled to the middle of the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii's Big Island. One sunny afternoon, we drove via Saddle Road from sea level to the base of Mauna Kea, where we started our ascent of the volcano along its narrow, winding road.

At 9,000 feet, we pulled into the car park of the visitor centre, where it was pouring with rain and freezing cold. The air was also decidedly thin. Not two hours earlier, we'd been lying in the lukewarm water of Hapuna Beach under a baking sun.

As we parked our 4 wheel drive vehicle and headed for the visitor centre to gather information about the conditions at the summit, a man walked up to us and asked if he could hitch a lift to the top.

As soon as I heard him speak, I recognised the distinctive lilt of Bruce Perens, Electric Fence author and one-time Debian project leader.

An hour of acclimatisation later, the three of us drove slowly to the summit at a height of 14,000 feet. There, we walked around the shiny domes of the observatory and light-headedly discussed Linux while reeling from the altitude.

To make the experience complete, we tagged onto the last half an hour of a guided tour around the observatory.

There, in the control room of one of the telescopes, we spotted a couple of unmanned PCs running Linux (unmanned, because the astronomers work only at night). xscreensaver was running, but the owner of the machine had not locked his session, so I nudged his mouse to see what was he running. Some specialised astronomical application was busy gathering information I could not recognise.

A whiteboard behind the astronomers' desk contained the networking information for their station, which was presumably connected over microwave to the University of Hawaii. Bruce and I took photographs of the PC and the whiteboard, while the other tourists looked on, bemused.

Anyway, you fly to an island in the middle of an ocean to try to get away from it all for a few days, and end up running into a famous Linux personage whose software you've used, whose papers you've read and whose talks you've attended.

Who'd have thought?

Everyone seems to have a weblog these days, which makes me curious how many people Advogato has lost over the last year or so, as people decide to host their own diary amongst links to the fast and fatuous.

Given that I can't seem to drum up any regularity to my postings here, I don't think a blog for me would really be worth the effort of setting it up in the first place.

For anyone who cares, here's a brief update.

I'm still working for Google, coming up on two years of employment now. The company has grown 400% in number of employees in that time, which effectively means I work for a very different company now than the one I started at two years ago. It's been an interesting, if not particularly rewarding experience.

Recently, Google acquired Blogger, an event of some significance to many, but something quite meaningless to me.

Sarah and I are off to Hawaii in a couple of weeks for our third trip to the islands. This time, we're visiting the eponymous island, also known as the Big Island. I can't wait to go to Volcanoes National Park. It's only for a long weekend, but I can't wait.

July will see me fly to Canada to attend the Ottawa Linux Symposium, which I haven't been to since 2000. That'll be a lot of fun. Sarah will be joining me later in the week.

That'll be quite a romantic trip in a sense, as I spent a month in Ottawa in the summer of 2000, when Linuxcare packed me off to their Canadian office when I couldn't stay in the US any longer on my visa-waiver.

Our much vaunted return to The Netherlands has been put on hold, as I sacrifice the short-term comfort of living in a sane society in order to vest in more stock. The hope is of an eventual pay-off that will guarantee some long-term happiness. It goes well against the grain and I feel like a whore, it must be said, but if the pundits are right, this strategy might just pay dividends in the long run. I certainly don't intend to sacrifice my ideals for a cash gamble ever again.

I really can't say when we'll leave the US and return to Amsterdam, but it's definitely still the long-term plan.

I've been very busy with Kerberos V and LDAP coding in recent weeks. This has seen me pull my rusty C skills out of the cupboard, which has been surprisingly rewarding and revitalised my interest in the language.

I've eaten way too much food lately and purchased far too many DVDs. America rubs off on you if you're not careful.

It's hard to imagine I left Linuxcare some two years ago. I have such nice memories of the place, that my departure seems much more recent.

It's even harder to believe that it was five whole years ago that I started work at Sonera (then Telecom Finland) in De Meern in The Netherlands. That's undoubtedly the most important and most fun job I've ever had. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Man, I wish I could go back in time and experience some of those times again.

Well, I don't have much else to say for myself at the moment. Nothing "adventurous and revolutionary" looks likely to happen any time soon. I live in suburban hell and numb the pain with material acquisition, a kind of socially encouraged heroin. Oh well, nothing is forever.

What can be said about this week? Words are not enough to express my disgust for George Bush and his loathesome band of war criminals as they lawlessly ravage Iraq, causing death and destruction in their wake. These grey-haired, impotent old men sicken me with their lies and deceit, their cynicism and overbearing self-righteousness.

I can only hope they are one day forced to answer for their actions at the International Criminal Court in The Hague (but, of course, Bush opted out of that, too, didn't he?)

In other news, Sarah and I spent a week in Amsterdam last week, seeing old friends and generally just hanging out and taking in the old home atmosphere. We also viewed a few flats with a view to moving back there.

Lastly, my green card was granted earlier in the week, signalling one of the final stages in my immigration saga. It's a provisional one, of course, which we'll need to petition the INS to convert to a permanent one a couple of years from now.

How ironic that I should be granted the right to live here at a time when it is so unpleasant to actually be here, knowing that my taxes are being used in support of this corrupt regime.

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