State of the Nerd Report

I’ve never really consistently given this personal blog of mine much love. Instead, I’ve tried to support larger soapboxes from which to either share my own stories or coordinate and recruit for others.

I’ve done a good bit of writing over the last couple of years for Red Hat, and now for Bronto. I had a piece on OpenSource.com that got a good bit of traction. But most of my writing for the last four months has been going into Autism Daily Newscast.

ADNewscast reached out to me last December through social media and asked if I might like to contribute a guest article from the perspective of an Autistic professional to help others like me to get started in their careers. I submitted the article, and it was well-received, so they asked if I’d like to write another.

Next thing you know, I’d become a Staff Writer, and was in charge of the weekly Careers column. I don’t always know what I’m going to write about next, but it’s been good for me to knock out an article every week and to get into the habit of writing regularly.

Then last week my Editor in Chief asked if I’d like to take on a larger role with the site and join the team of Editors. I did accept that role, and it’s proving to be a rewarding one.

I am autistic. This is not something that was known to me or the people around me for most of my life. But I know it now. And so much of the mysteries of my life make sense now. How come people sometimes say I talk too much? Or too little? How come I sometimes don’t know when to shut up? Or sometimes I can’t speak at all? Why, during periods of prolonged stress (often over really petty things) do I hide in a dark, quiet place and just silently decompress? Why do I have a long trail of broken but intense friendships smoldering in my wake? Most of these mysteries have now been answered with that new fundamental understanding of my self.

I’ve since been “out” about it more. I’ve made my needs known. I’ve engaged in self-advocacy, because those who claim to speak for people like me are often not themselves autistic. The largest Autism advocacy groups that you can think of have no legitimacy. So now I have to face people who dismiss me as being “too high functioning to understand their child’s needs”.

Thirty years ago, I was your autistic child. I was the kid that quietly read the dictionary from cover to cover, and then moved on to the encyclopedia. I was the kid who had memorized the taxonomic classification of every fish species in the public aquarium. I was the kid who would “spaz” (melt down) or simply and quietly shut down when things got to be too tough. I was the kid who was always being told “look me in the eye”, even (especially) when it seemed impossible for me to do so.

I know what it means to be that autistic kid, even if I didn’t know that I was autistic at the time. I’m very comfortable in knowing that I’m in a stronger position to advocate for autism than the parents who have never walked a mile in my own shoes.

As such, I’ve largely been disengaged from tech geekery at home for awhile. I’m getting more and more plugged in to the community of my peers, finding my voice, getting more comfortable with the knowledge that I am different and I do need and deserve some understanding in order to better succeed in this world.

And I’m not going to fight this just for myself; I’m going to fight it so my autistic daughter, who I understand better than Autism Speaks ever will, can enjoy a better chance of success when it’s time for her to live as an adult in this world that will never understand her.

Patterns for Success – Landing the Job: An Overview

Welcome to my first of what I hope will be many contributions to the Autism community via Autism Daily Newscast. As a high functioning autistic person with a well-established career in the software industry, I expect to research and share with you patterns for success in your career endeavors. While it is frequently a challenge, I’m convinced that success can be yours.

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Service Oriented Architecture vs. Dunbar’s Number

I’ve got a bit of a problem in that I spend most of my career working in engineering space, but most of my thought capital is spent on larger problems of organizational design, technical strategy, laying down foundations today for problems we’re going to need to solve in a year or more. This frustrates my bosses to no end, who just want me to build a server or swap a bad hard drive out or any other of a number of mundane day to day sysadmin tasks. I’m left without much of an outlet for this stuff besides meetup groups and, when I find the time, blogging. Thanks for humoring me.

One of my frequent frustrations is we tend to carry too much legacy around in how we work, in how we organize. We do things all wrong because, well, that’s how we’ve always done it. But I’m thinking farther out, and I see many operations teams on a collision course with the hard limits of the human brain. To wit: the hierarchical limitations of Dunbar’s number and the human neocortex.

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create a tor-only VLAN with a Raspberry Pi

I’m a big fan of the Tor Project. It’s really encouraging to see more people using it, and more people setting up bridges, relays, and exit nodes.

What I’d like to see more of is publicly available networks that transparently redirect clients’ Internet connectivity through Tor. My first step here is going to be aimed more at someone with the means by which to set up many wireless access points on a campus, like perhaps an office building or a University. In these environments, it is typical for wireless networks to be created on different VLANs, with multiple SSID’s advertised, and each SSID being linked to a different VLAN. Often you might have a staff SSID and a guest SSID.

But because the host is concerned about bad behavior or misuse of the guest network coming back to haunt them, access is extremely locked down. Perhaps they only allow simple web browsing and nothing more. And access is not granted without knowing a guest network password, or having to go through a captive portal.

Let’s dispense with all of that and use an inexpensive Raspberry Pi Model B to create a Tor-only guest VLAN. (more…)

illumos makes a comeback in the homelab

Up until a couple of years ago, I was becoming increasingly active in the illumos community. I’d given a talk on the subject at Triangle DevOps, and indeed my most popular entries on this blog tend to be the ones relating to SmartOS. But something happend in my professional career, a conflict of interests, that compelled me to pull back from that community for awhile. The conflict is now gone, and hot on the heels of illumos Day 2014, my interest is re-invigorated. (more…)

women in open source: revisited

The other day, I posted some thoughts capturing a conversation that happened in the illumos community over the weekend. If you missed it, head over first to The illumos Number That Bothers Me.

The conversation can’t die there. We’ve got to take pro-active steps to better understand how we got into this gender monoculture in the first place, and be catalysts to the change we wish to see in our community. I’ve been looking around a bit since then and found a few resources that should hopefully help to get the ball rolling. (more…)

20130120-illumos

the illumos number that bothers me (and what we need to do about it)

I just got back late last night from Surge 2014 and illumos Day, which immediately followed Surge the next day. There were some great talks going on, which I’m sure I’ll also be writing about. But the first speaker in particular dropped something on me that’s bothering me, and it should bother pretty much anyone that hears it.

Garrett D’Amore, founder of the illumos project, crawled through all of the commits and made a really interesting discovery. This is a four year old project, and remains relatively obscure (though some very visible things have come out of it, like zfs). In those four years, about 150 unique contributors have committed code into illumos-gate, the shared core of the illumos ecosystem that distributions are built on. Now on the surface, this number sounds pretty wicked cool. illumos is a fairly unknown project, sadly, so to score commits from 150 engineers sounds like a really good thing. Or is it?

Of those 150 unique commiters, 0 of them were women.

Zero. Zilch. Nada. None. (more…)