The World of Jay Little
The Last Moment Before Change
9/23/2016 9:31 AM
Here I sit mere hours before a big decision I've made will become official. I've long followed a rule requiring me to sleep on big decisions so here I am, unable to sleep because I'm so excited. That's because when the opportunity was presented to me yesterday afternoon I already knew what my answer was going to be (which is typically the case). Spoiler: I'm saying yes and obviously I'm feeling good about that. This is new territory for me in a number of respects though. For starters, I'm making a change in my career that doesn't involve leaving my current employer. That's definitely not how I usually roll. This is largely the result of the realization that I don't really want to change employers. Switching to a new place every year or two has gotten very tiresome and never seems to result in the benefits I was expecting beforehand. Also I really like working for Paylocity. Me working out of my home office suits Annette and I perfectly so it's a benefit that I'm loathe to relinquish.

More interestingly this decision will put me into a position in which I'll be forced to exist outside of my comfort zone and by that I'm referring to CRUD software development. That's where I've spent my last 16 professional years. It's neither real nor unreal though after 16 years I've become exceedingly good at prospering within this world. I've written hundreds upon hundreds of CRUD screens over that time and even come up with multiple ways to pump out these screens in assembly line like fashion (if anybody reading this does UX, know that your tears are like chicken soup for my soul). That's because unlike a lot of other people I've worked with, I don't believe each and every CRUD screen neither has to be nor should be a pretty and unique snowflake.

But I digress. Maybe that's just part of the bitterness that comes with rigid, consistent and utterly predictable familiarity. Or perhaps that statement is simply a symptom of a conflicting attitude which inevitably makes a change of this magnitude become more desirable. Either way the idea of creating, exposing and supporting a load testing framework is very interesting to me. Not only is it something different, but there is a real chance I might actually learn something that isn't transient like lets say a "flavor of the day" single page application framework.

Am I moving up the org chart? Nope. Though to be honest, my org chart aspirations are minimal at best. Whether a dev or a dev lead my intention is to work my ass off and write as much code as possible because solving real problems through code is what truly interests me. Besides, I'm not 100% sure being a lead is for me yet. The last year and a half has really only served to confirm how ill-suited I would be for such a position. I've had a lot of opportunities to inspire and lead others mostly as a result of unofficial de-facto acquiescence on the part of others and I honestly think my results haven't been that great. It's been a mixed bag at best.

I tell a lot of people, "I got into this career because I like code better than people" and that remains the case. If you ever interview me, that will probably be the most honest thing I'll say to you as an interviewee. I've been saying it for years too. Though it wasn't until the last year and a half that I began to realize how true it actually was. Leading people is frustrating and tiresome. It's a constant grind. It can also be very rewarding, but I haven't experienced that part as much as I would've liked. I think that is largely because my leadership style is firmly rooted in the "lead by example" approach to doing things because that's what I respond to personally.

I believe that my approach to leadership failed because it was tailored to me. I hate being micro-managed. I hate being under a watchful eye. I want to be given a problem to solve (not a task mind you, but a problem) and given the breathing room to examine and attack the problem from all different angles. Thankfully I've largely been blessed with managers that allow me to work this way, and that includes my current manager as well. Sadly I'm starting to realize that what works for me doesn't work for others and maybe this is why my attempts to lead others other the last year and a half seem to have fallen flat on their face. Or maybe I'm just not qualified enough yet to know what success actually looks like from the other side.

The truth is, I don't know what the solution to this particular problem is. I need time to think through it. I also need to work through it. I'm going to do that while making a lateral move in the organization because at this point, I think that's best for everybody. Serving the coffee before it's had time to brew never ends well and this situation is not the exception to the rule. I will miss my current team and I will definitely miss our customers. I won't miss CRUD screens so much, at least not at the moment. Perhaps in a not so distant future I will long to feel their embrace once again. Only time will tell.
Goodbye Windows 10 : Viva La Linux!
7/31/2016 12:25 PM
Yesterday was a red letter day for me. Two decades after using Linux for the first time, I have finally managed to fully convert all of daily driver devices to boot Linux. Any of you who know me, know that for years now I've been running Linux natively and in a single boot configuration on whatever primary personal laptop I happened to be using at the time. You might also know that just over a year ago I managed to get my wife using it on her laptop. But I never fully converted to Linux. My dirty little secret was that for years I have run a desktop as my so-called server and that desktop has always run Windows. Once upon a time I even went so far as to run some version of Windows Server on there, but in the last few years it was dialed back to just running client versions of Windows.

"But why?" I can hear you asking. That's a great question. Honestly? I was lazy. When I built my current desktop machine in November of 2014 I had originally intended to load it up with Linux. I did exactly that. But lo and behold my luck was poor as this was the first machine I had built in 11 years and I had received a bad motherboard. The end result of this was that after plugging more than two USB devices in, the system would become very unstable. I had no idea whether I had a hardware or a software problem. I decided to narrow that problem down by installing Windows. After installing Windows, I found that I had the same issue only there it required one more USB device to recreate it.

Nevertheless after this discovery, I exchanged the motherboard for a new one and all of my problems were solved after installing it. However at this point, I was very frustrated with the process and since Windows 8.1 was already installed and all of my files were sitting on NTFS partitions (over 2 terabytes of files) both internally and externally, I decided to stick with it. In time I came to rue this decision especially after I began to be subjected to the nonsense that is/was the Windows 10 forced upgrade campaign waged by Microsoft.

Eventually as a result of that campaign, I upgraded to Windows 10. To be fair Windows 10 does offer some improvements but overall, I have no love for it. Technical considerations aside, Windows 10 represents the height of arrogance from the operating system division at Microsoft. It is their way of attempting to change the rules for billions of users under the premise that anything offered for free is allowed to fill the role of a trojan horse. Does that sound extreme? I'm sorry, but truth is generally best served black without any additives. To be clear, I'm not claiming Windows 10 spies on you. I'm not claiming it's a security risk. All I'm claiming is that the tactics associated with the forced upgrade to Windows 10 have eroded enough of what little trust I had left in Microsoft that I'm no longer willing to trust their operating systems in any significant way. News of antagonistic changes made to Windows 10 Pro as part of the so-called anniversary update became the straw that broke the camel's back. While reading/raging over a story covering those changes that I saw posted on reddit Friday morning I thought to myself, "Why the fuck do I even care? Why haven't just installed Linux on that desktop and moved the fuck on already?"

Nevertheless I obviously knew I could do everything I needed to do on Linux. I had been planning on it for years. I had slowly converted all of my workflows and server jobs to use utilities and programs that also existed in Linux over the years. The only thing stopping me was that I really didn't want to spend my time moving around a couple terabytes of files (mostly my retro gaming and retro software collections) as I wasn't going to seriously consider running a Linux OS and storing my files on a NTFS filesystems. It is a massive pain in the ass. But I finally started consolidating those files on Friday morning into a single NTFS partition and by Saturday morning I was ready to install Linux. After installing it, I created my new ext4 partitions and copied the files off the NTFS device. As of this morning, everything is now back up and running again.

It occurs to me though that the problem I had with Windows 10 is demonstrative of the core risk we take when using proprietary software. We are in essence putting our fate into the hands of others. Once upon a time many years ago, I argued on this very website that open source software couldn't ever live up to the expectations of end users because there was no financial motivation present to force the authors to take end user feedback seriously. But I realize now that the core mistake I made was in confusing software that was free as in beer and software that was free as in freedom. Windows 10 is/was an example of software which is free as in beer. It cost me nothing to acquire, but did nothing to enhance or promote my freedom as a user and offered me no real control over my end user experience. Whereas Linux is an example of software which is free as in freedom. Though in this case it cost me nothing to acquire, the hood is unlocked so I can tinker. I can dive as deep as I'd like and configure the system to function however I see fit. I can't do this with Windows 10 mainly because Microsoft doesn't consider it in their best interests to let me.

Does this mean I'm against proprietary software? No. I write proprietary software for a living and will likely continue to do so short of a career change. Besides, I'm an indie and retro gamer and the vast majority of software in my collection is proprietary and closed source. But at the end of the day a video game isn't a threat to my freedom as a user. It is merely a source of entertainment that I can choose to take or leave without any true consequences. Operating Systems on the other hand are a different story. Which OS you choose has a ripple effect on nearly every other subsequent software choice you will make. It's a massive decision and its not one to be made lightly. So it's a real shame that so many do take the decision so lightly.
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