Thursday Dec 27, 2007

What is the UK OS Ambassador for Education for?

I have been a Sun OS Ambassador since 1999. Most of my focus has been to maintain the relationship Sun has with Universities in the UK, so I have taken the unofficial role of UK OS Ambassador for Education. I worked at a University in the role of Systems Administrator and as a researcher and doing some teaching, so it is a natural fit for me. Its really good to see Universities at the top of Sun's corporate agenda again in a meaningful way. The most visible activity which shows Sun is \*really\* serious about education again is the Campus Ambassador. I thought it was worth listing the range of activities I have been involved as OS Ambassador since 1999 and if you are either a UK Campus Ambassador or work in a UK University and think that I might be of use, it would be a pleasure to help/pay you a visit or "get the right person" to help/pay you a visit.

  • Solaris technology demo. Has been DTrace, ZFS, Zones over the last few years, but a wider range is possible.
  • Invited talks to 2nd year Operating Systems courses.
  • PhD external examiner in areas related to Operating or Distributed Systems.
  • Our new system is slow/does not work and we can't get this issue resolved (yes, it does happen, though not very often and working in Service really helps on this one).
  • I don't know who else to talk to in Sun, I know you are not the right person, but can you find them.
  • We need someone independent to help us with Strategy Facilitation (I can do quite a good impression of a Management Consultant without any dress sense). Most of this is using techniques from the Kepner Tregoe Rational Process toolbox.
  • Free performance analysis via SharedShell if I can blog about it.
  • Student Mock Interviews and "how to prepare for interviews in industry" lectures.
  • Department Industrial Liaison boards.
  • Account team has a quick technical question and does not know where else to ask it.
  • Outside/Independent member of an interview panel.

UK OS Ambassador for Education is one of my hobbies, a bit like rock climbing, fell running or restoring a 1973 Muir-Hill A5000. Having a day job in Support Services means I only get to spend a day or 2 a month outside the support dungeon doing Ambassador type work.

If you work in a UK university and think any of the above might help you, drop me an email and I look forward to meeting you.

Sunday Dec 16, 2007

The brightest person I know retires

Working at Sun, I know lots of very bright people. I am also Sun's UK OS Ambassador for Education so I get to meet lots of Sun's brightest customers doing research into things I readily confess not to understand. So when I suggest that a particular individual is the brightest person I know, he is drawn from a wide and fertile gene pool so to speak.

Horst Holstein was probably further up the queue than anyone else I know when brain cells were being handed out. His research quality in the application of heavy maths to Geophysics and Bioengineering is world class. I remember dropping in to Horst's office one night in the University at Aberystwyth while I was writing up my PhD at about 9.30pm to say good night. I enquired about what Horst was doing and he commented his was working a research paper extending the work of a Russian mathematician to which the only reference was an obscure paper in Russian from many years ago. He said the maths was easy to grasp, but there were a number of Russian phrases he was struggling to translate.

I was lucky enough to be supervised by Horst for about 6 months while I worked in Aberystwyth in around 1993. It was early in my PhD where I was still looking for a research topic and Horst let me have the space to explore various areas of the literature on distributed systems and had wisdom to suggest an alternative supervisor who was more aligned with my interests. This was probably a very good thing as my little brain was just not up to the level of maths that Horst operates at.

I also remember Horst's skill at handling problem students with a mix of sympathy and respect. He helped me out with some of my more wayward tutees a number of times.

Horst has a reputation in Aberystwth as a 1st rate violin player and can speak a number of eastern european languages.

The skills that Horst does lack are skills of self promotion. Given the quality and volume of the body of research work that Horst has produced, I personally find it a travesty that Horst was not been given a more senior position.

Horst has been working 1/3 time for the past 3 years, so you would expect him to put his feet up now. His plans are to do research at an institution in Australia early next year for a few months and then carry on his research at Aberystwyth without having to worry about teaching or administration.

World class researcher, musician and nice chap, enjoy your retirement!

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clive

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