Friday Mar 13, 2009

Interview -- Second Part

Sun's web team has just posted the second part of the interview that Janice Heiss conducted with me recently.

Janice has also written a very good summary of the interview. In conducting the interview, Janice gave me an opportunity to go over some of my own thinking in the subject matters we considered together. I'm truly grateful to her for turning this into a productive conversation that goes well beyond the expected questions. Thank you Janice.

This interview was originally conducted for java.net and Sun Developer Network

Monday Dec 22, 2008

Conversation with Lenz Grimmer

You can read my conversation with Lenz Grimmer or look at other interviews conducted by the MySQL community team. 

Friday Dec 12, 2008

Is Project Management Dead?


The PMBOK book comes to you courtesy of Project Management Institute.
It is considered a standard for project management.
Chapters 1 to 3 are "must" reads. The remaining chapters are further, very useful elaborations of the material in these earlier chapters.
When you read chapters 1 to 3, think of what it would mean to apply the concepts in some project you're facing: Perhaps, you're organizing a large conference, a wedding, or the construction of the next space shuttle.
See which concepts are applicable where.
I used the book, along with cases form the real world, to teach a semester-long graduate course in project management at NPU last summer.

Far from it.

Projects are about unique objectives attained within defined duration.

They are inherently different from operational work.

By the very nature of how we operate as human beings, any cooperative activity involving more than a two or three interactions per person contains within it the seeds of error, missteps and failures. (This may have to do with the common size of family units in some of our societies.)

The whole practice of project management involves instituting processes that meet in anticipation of these errors and failures, handle and check them when they occur and make the necessary adjustments in order to digest the uncertainties that future brings.

If future could be perfectly predicted, there would be no need for project management. If groups could cooperate with a guarantee that no failure or shortcomings would occur on the way to the objective, there would be no need for project management.


Sunday Jun 08, 2008

Subtle Significance of Job Satisfaction

I quote the following passage from the conclusion to Dennis W. Organ's paper ("The subtle significance of job satisfaction," Clinical Laboratory Management Review, (Jan/Feb 1990) 4, no.1, 94-98):

Management research and theory have taken a long time and a torturous path in catching up with the insights of Chester Barnard. More than half a century ago, Barnard noted the essential condition of the "willingness of persons to contribute efforts to the cooperative system." This quality of willingness "is something different from effectiveness, ability, or value of personal contributions...[it] means self abnegation." Willingness is characterized by "[an] indefinitely large range of variations in its intensity among individuals" and, within individuals, "it cannot be constant in degree." Finally, this "willingness to cooperate, positive or negative, is the expression of net satisfactions and dissatisfactions experienced or anticipated."

Barnard underscored the very nature of organizations as cooperative systems. Rules, structures, policies, job descriptions, sanctions, incentives—they all play necessary roles in collaborative endeavors, but as derivatives of, not substitutes for, the underlying disposition to cooperate. Such a disposition can be sustained only by a sense of organization as a microcosm of a just world. Occasional inequities can be tolerated if there is faith that the system works fairly over the long run, with self-correcting tendencies. When faith leads to a narrowly defined, quid pro quo contractual relationship, the disposition to cooperate ebbs. Surveys show that most of the nation's labor force begins work with a fairly high degree of job satisfaction and that most of the people, most of the time, will describe themselves as "all in all, satisfied." There is a generally prevalent inclination to give the employer the benefit of a doubt—"I'll assume you're treating me fairly until you persuade me otherwise." So the disposition is generally present to render a substantial contribution via OCB [Organizational Citizenship Behavior]. A good-faith effort by managers to provide a "square deal" will do much to ensure the quality of OCB.

Wednesday Jan 09, 2008

3 days late

My family and I were supposed to be back at work and school this Monday but it was not meant to be.

Like the German soccer team, Hansa Rostock, we also got stuck in the heavily snowed out Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKIA) in Tehran. (Hansa Rostock had a friendly with Iran's B national team last Saturday. Besides the really bad whether, one may blame the delay on the lack of adequate winter equipment and staffing at the new airport which just opened a few months ago.)

When we disembarked Saturday night, GMT, it should have taken us 20 hours, including layover and taxi rides to and from airports, to get from my parents' home in Tehran to our home in the South San Francisco Bay Area. Instead, heavy snows in Tehran and its international airport undid all our planning, and the same trip took 100 hours to complete, including two nights of stay at hotels in Tehran and Frankfurt due to cancellations, delays and missed flights. These 100 hours include, among other delays, taxi rides, check-in and re-booking waits, etc., 7.5 hours of sitting in a plane stuck in a snow blizzard, 10 hours spent reconsidering options while waiting for word on the weather in the transit zone of IKIA, a night at a Tehran hotel, 10 hours of waiting for news form the airport, 10 hours of waiting at the airline check-in at Tehran to ensure that we could restore our place on a new flight, now as "stand-by" passengers, another 7 hours of sitting in the plane while the path out of the gate was blocked by planes abandoned in snow, and a night spent in Frankfurt due to a missed connection. All this and more after our early morning Jan. 6 flight was canceled due to heavy snow. (I guess this was my birthday present.)

My wife and I missed three important work days, which we now have to "account" as vacation, and the kids were automatically dropped from the school rolls but we hope to be able to overcome these problems.  

The only positive thing I can say about this experience is that we made and met a lot of good friends on the way -- others who were going through the same or very similar ordeals, connecting through to other locations in Europe, Canada and the U.S. 

I will post photographs and videos later. 

Tuesday Jun 26, 2007

Constellation in Dresden

I still remember using Sun Microsystems Inc. machines when I was a graduate student doing scientific computing work at University of California, at Stanford's CTR and at NASA Ames. One particular summer, in 1987, my objective was very clear: to compute conditional probabilities of rare events based on direct numerical simulations of chaotic physical systems. Even back then it was clear that the world of supercomputing and scientific computing machines was a changing and difficult world to satisfy.

Scientific computing bars have been continuously rising since engineers and scientists used the first digital computers in the 50s and 60s to perform calculations resting on all kinds of scientific problems.

Sun broke into this market in a big way when it first introduced its scientific computing desktops and graphics stations in the mid 1980s, and later, its bigger computing servers.

Now, Don Clark of The Wall Street Journal has reported Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Constellation announcement at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Dresden, Germany.

[Sun Microsystems Inc.] says it now has technology to build the world's biggest scientific systems.

The Silicon Valley computer maker today is providing new details about a massive machine called Constellation, which includes an unusual high-capacity switching system for passing data among thousands of chips that act as electronic brains in the system. Sun developed the machine in collaboration with the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas, which is installing the hardware in its facility in Austin. 

Andreas Bechtolsheim, a Sun co-founder who is its chief architect, attacked the problem with a massive switching system -- with the code name Magnum -- that by itself can manage high-speed data traffic for 3,456 calculating engines in a supercomputer, Mr. [John] Fowler said. Other approaches would take 300 smaller switching components, the company says. Mr. Bechtolsheim even designed special cables so that just one-sixth the number of wires is necessary to assemble a system.

When we talk about the Constellation, we are talking about hundreds of teraFLOPS.

Sun Microsystems High Performance Computing group is one of the sponsors of the ISC meeting.

Tuesday Jun 12, 2007

Homeostasis of Sleep

In the modern, high-pressure work environment of places like the Silicon Valley, many of us work hard and sleep little. People often speak of "making up" lost sleep, but Charles A. Czeisler, sleep and fatigue researcher at Harvard Medical School, reminds us that potential to sleep only grows with every waking hour (HBR, Oct. 2006):

Most of us think we're in control of sleep -- that we choose when to go to sleep and when to wake up. The fact is that when we are drowsy, the brain can seize control involuntarily. When homeostatic pressure to sleep becomes high enough, a couple of thousand neurons in the brain's "sleep switch" ignite, as discovered by Dr. Clif Saper at Harvard Medical School. Once that happens, sleep seizes the brain like a pilot grabbing the controls. If you're behind the wheel of a car at that time, it takes just three or four seconds to be off the road.

So, getting enough sleep should become a high-priority commitment.

Thursday Nov 30, 2006

A City on the Human Scale

I've been staying at Trondheim, Norway, for work-related meetings. Trondheim is not only an attractive university town with a rich history but also an urban area fit for human scale.
 

Friday Nov 10, 2006

Give Me Sun Ray

Good, timeless ideas keep reincarnating in better ways. 

We talk a lot about mobility and about devices. I have been mobile--moving around quite a lot recently among various Sun campuses and spaces in the San Francisco Bay Area, roaming through offices and conference rooms.

I now have a new office in Sun's Menlo Park campus and what I want more than the laptop that may be on its way (my laptop had a hardware failure some time ago), is a Sun Ray, even in my office. With a Sun Ray, my session is always there, and a card-key away, and because I do not have to carry anything but my cell phone and my corporate card-key, it makes me even more mobile--every pound counts. (The wear and tear on Sun Ray keyborads tell me I'm not alone.)

So, when do I use the laptop? When I go on trips where there is no Sunray, when I'm lying down on a bed or a sofa to work or when I'm trying to build,  test or demo a piece of software in the absense of a Sun Ray. Sun Ray is by far the best equipment for the corporate worker who is not doing any of these latter tasks in environments where Sun Rays are missing--and let's remember that few corporate workers are engaged in these sorts of tasks on a regular basis.

I can even leave this entry as it is, run to my next meeting and if my party is late, insert my card key in a Sun Ray and do a final edit at this very point, where I am. That typo is now gone .... next one for the next stop ....

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