The Panacea-Tool Incident

A few years ago — 2014 maybe? — we were in the early days of distributed teams and were spread across three timezones. Timing was awkward. So, many of us would start our day from home to join calls and meetings. This was, for us the beginnings of regular telecommuting. To help ease the communications challenges, we also embraced the concepts of video conferencing, screen shares, and multimedia to communicate.

One morning, there was expert brought in to demonstrate and train the lot of us on the new Panacea that the company had invested in: an app that would help manage all of our systems. It was a unified, do-everything tool that would provide visibility of specific known-states and anomalies on any number of systems across our several geographic locations and datacenters. It would pin down the precise, exact origin of a problem, and eliminate the need to log into a server (via SSH, of course) ever again… in order to resolve the issue.

Anyway, while doing the demo, there was this one error that would occur, which would prevent moving any further with a demo or training.

It was something about a missing object, or log file, or permissions to it.

If only there was a tool that had the power and capacity to identify the problem and resolve it… we could use that. It would be a perfect opportunity!

Their sales engineer was stumped.

After he fought with it for half an hour or so, I suggested, that we take a quick look at the actual logs on the system. Odds are pretty good that they’d indicate where the problem was. There was no harm in checking.

“No!” he’d assert. “That’s the wrong way!” And we endured continuous rants of frustrations and borderline vulgarities from him. “This guy!” he had jokingly exclaimed, “What you want to do is impossible!

Oh, I’m sorry… I thought you had used the word, “IMPOSSIBLE.” just there.

Challenge accepted.

I quickly shared my screen and jumped over and skimmed the actual logs from the app on the server itself. Let’s see… at the end of the log file, it had logged that it had crashed. Why? Scroll up a few lines and… permission denied trying to write to one of its own files.

“Oh! I’ll just ‘chmod’ that file so its owner can write to it…”

He boisterously interrupted, “If that’s it, I’ll buy you a steak dinner!”

**tap,tap,tap** **Enter** “Okay, all set… let’s give it another try really quick…”

The problem went away. He was clearly offended that somebody could’ve done it “the wrong way” to find the problem and fix it so quickly.

Took about 20 seconds.

And the really amusing part is that all of this was perfect scenarios to demonstrate the power and capability of the app itself.

Getting a bit more challenging…

My soldering is improving.

This is a DSO 138 Oscilloscope that I assembled from a provided combination of discrete parts. The purveyors only ensured two required SMD* chips were factory-attached.

At the US$22 entry price, including the housing, it was a fun and affordable project.

If you take one of these on as a project, be sure to do its calibration before assembling into the housing.


I’m sure there are also 3-wire or 4-wire probe combinations that I can add on in the future.

Next: Maybe I’ll start on a QRP-Labs QCX transceiver and see about obtaining a CW paddle… or maybe just turn it into a WSPR beacon.

*SMD chips are so small that they are often beyond the ready ability of most kit-builders because; they’ll require specialized special equipment to make them visible and differing soldering techniques.

Technically correct…

Whenever I see wordy output or excessive logging data, I’m reminded of that old joke about a Microsoft Engineer vs. a pilot.

It’s thorough, complete, and technically accurate… but completely useless.

Found originally back in the early 1990s, reworked/reworded over time, pasted here for posterity, and because I don’t want to go following dead links again:

A helicopter was flying around above Seattle when an electrical malfunction disabled all of the aircraft’s electronic navigation and communications qquipment.

Due to the clouds and haze, the pilot could not determine the helicopter’s position and course to fly to the airport.

The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign, and held it in the helicopter’s window. The pilot’s sign said “WHERE AM I?” in large letters.

People in the tall building quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a large sign and held it in a building window. Their sign read: “YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER.”

The pilot smiled, waved, looked at her map, determined the course to steer to SEATAC airport, and landed safely.

After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how the “YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER” sign helped determine their position.

The pilot responded “I knew that had to be the Microsoft building because, like their technical support, online help and product documentation, the response they gave me was technically correct, but completely useless.”

Life With a TBI

My head [is] so full of things to say or share or do… but sometimes, before they get out, I forget.

So I take notes.

Lots of notes.

Sometimes actually writing things down.

Ideas, thoughts, stories, plans, sketches, pictures — our current technology helps me maintain focus.

Alerts = Interruption + 1

I had yet another audible alert trying to get my attention.

Because I use several virtual desktops, and don’t have everything avilable on screen all the time, and because developers don’t have a consistent/meaningful method (the Apple Notifications concept is really useful, but isn’t well-adopted), that alert could have come from anywhere.

I can’t see everything all the time, so there was no way to see whether the alert came from any particular app.

I spent like 10 minutes trying to figure it out. I clicked through every open app to see if they each had their own, recently-added component or feature, or additional alerting/notification panels.

No idea what it was.

Then, another alert chimed away. Exactly the same sound. Definitely an alert. But from where?

Then it dawned on me: I’d heard that same alert maybe a month or two ago.

It was just my AirPods giving me the polite notification that a pod’s battery had 10% remaining.

So, I’m not complaining about Apple. Not at all. I’m not even complaining about getting this kind of alert: it was saying, effectively, “headphone batteries are getting low”. In fact, an improvement might also be an additional ability for the AirPods to invoke the connected device’s Notifications panel.

What I’m really more annoyed about is the proliferation of notifications in general. However trivial they might be perceived, are still interruptions to your workflow.

The regular frequency of SMS/text messages? Interruptions. Paging alerts? Interruptions. Getting FaceBook/Youtube/Twitter/etc alerts? Interruptions. Alerts about truly trivial tasks? Interruptions. An inconsequential outage of something that’s unused? Interruptions.

Oh, and if you insist on having so much involvment in all of that assorted tech that you want to get endless interruptions, fine.

But if you insist on also having audible-alerts that can be heard by anyone else within earshot: not fine.