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I am not Generation Y

We’re going to take a short break from our usual techno/gadget/software blog posts and talk about a topic that’s come up a few times in discussions both at home and at work. But first…

Some backstory

I’ve never really felt like I fit in anywhere. I know, I know what you’re saying as you read that. I can hear the exasperated sigh from this side of the screen. My story goes a little deeper than that though.

I’m originally from a small town called Rockford, Illinois, about 80 miles north of Chicago. I was 2 when my parents moved back to PA, so I only have faint memories of the big corn field that was behind my parents’ house there. It actually doesn’t really matter though, because we could have been from Canada, England, wherever. The point is we weren’t from the town we moved into.

When my parents moved into the house I grew up in, we were pretty much immediately branded as outcasts. See, my Dad was working for GE’s Aerospace division (what is now Lockheed-Martin), and they were the ones who moved us back from Rockford. Well, once people got wind of that, that explained why “we were so different from everyone else”. Not only were we from out-of-state (hilarious, because both my parents lived most of their lives in PA), we were taking away jobs from local people who “deserved” those jobs at GE. There were a few people in the neighborhood I got along with, but for the most part, we didn’t really interact with anyone there.

This continued into primary school. I was pretty much immediately branded a nerd and geek and every other derogatory term 8 year olds can come up with. Kids are real jerks to each other, and the memories are still very much real in my head these days. I unfortunately picked up most of my grandfather’s photographic memory, so much of those early years I can replay pretty easily given the right circumstances and focus.

Reality sets in

At one point, around 7th grade, I realized school really didn’t matter. Gasp, horrors, I know. My teacher assigned us some BS assignment to “research the career path you want to take” because you know, at the age of 12, you know exactly what you want to do when you grow up (to the 5 people who did – good for you. You’re the outliers.) I thought I wanted to be a chef, so I researched away. What I came away with profoundly changed me: school really doesn’t matter (oh, I also didn’t like cooking that much). In the long run, the only thing anybody cares about is what you’ve experienced, and what you’re going to do for them.

This naturally led to me starting to slide, but my 8th grade teacher, Mrs. Dooling(sp?), she saw through me and read me like a cheap romance novel. She did her homework, and pulled all my standardized test scores. She took me aside after my 8th grade scores came in, and she said “Matt, you know something? You’re smarter than all these other kids here. I’ve got years of tests here that show it. You could be at the top of the class. But that doesn’t interest you, does it? You better get your act together.”

I don’t know if she was right or not. To be honest I like taking standardized tests. They have a certain rhythm about them, and once you find that rhythm, you can pretty easily manipulate them. One thing that she was right about was I needed a focus. But really, school wasn’t going to be it.

Moving forward

I skated through high school, where my earlier suspicions that school doesn’t matter became clearer. I did the whole “honor program” crap that no one really cared about in hindsight. The only reason I dealt with it is it was the only way to get into AP courses, which actually held “real” value in the form of college credit. “You’re telling me I can get done with this school crap sooner if I do this? Ok, sounds like a plan to me.” The only real thing I walked away with was a love for technology, which led me to college.

College was what I felt high school should have been. The classes were challenging, the material seemed relevant enough, and the people seemed interesting. I finally connected with a group of people who I felt really cared, were genuinely good people, and didn’t judge me for my oddball attitude towards life.

Still though, while college was probably the most pertinent education I had since reading and writing and arithmetic, I still felt like I would’ve learned what I learned on my own. And for the most part I did, in dorm rooms with friends late at night churning away on some dream project that never culminated into anything, but allowed us to teethe on technology.

During college was when September 11th happened. Soon afterwards, the IT industry bubble burst, and I was thinking “What the heck am I gonna do with this degree when I get out?” Unemployment in the IT sector was in the double digits, with people 20+ years of experience over me clamouring for the same jobs I was going for.

I am not generation Y

I had come to the conclusion during college that the era of my parents was over. There was no guaranteed job for me coming out of school just because I went to college. My mother at the time was pushing me to continue on to my Master’s degree, at which point we had a large argument about the future and how I felt they were wrong. In hindsight that was probably the only argument I ever won with my mother, and it was a “long-term” win for sure.

The only way I was going to make something of myself was to work extra hard, have a bunch of irons in the fire, and continuously evaluate each one of them to see which one was glowing brightest. I knew technology was becoming interconnected, and during college I had read about the work being done at MIT with touch and wearable tech. So when I caught wind of Apple making an “iPhone”, and that it would run OS X, I started learning OS X development. Shortly thereafter, the iPhone launched, and well the rest is history.

The road to get here though was extremely rocky. To this day I’m still owed money by old freelance clients, got shafted plenty of times, worked for some real assholes, and learned a bunch about how the world works. I also met a lot of great, smart, talented individuals who I keep in touch with to this day.

What kills me is, after all this hard work, dedication, reinventing myself from a hardware IT professional, to a web software developer, to a desktop/mobile software developer working with low-level programming languages, that I then get branded as Generation Y: the entitled generation.

The first time I heard the term I had to go look it up. I knew the term Generation X of course. That was the generation after my parents, born in the 60s & 70s. Generation Y apparently falls on the late 70s and 80s kids. We’re riding the coat tails of our parents, the Baby Boomers. We think we’re entitled to jobs because we went to college. We crossed our T’s and dotted our I’s. So where’s my signing bonus? Where’s my $50k – 70k a year paycheck?

Wait, what? You’re kidding, right? My generation really can’t be like that. They read history, about the steel workers, the car manufacturers, the dotCom burst, right? There’s no way.

Then I read letters like this one: Why I stopped following my dream and gave up teaching. And I just gag. So you thought that just because YOU REALLY LOVED SOMETHING that you would have the opportunity to ply your trade? Hold on, let me introduce you to at least a dozen people I know who are examples of that not happening.

Hey guys and gals of my era, here’s a piece of free advice: get over yourselves. Our parents, and our Generation X forebears, screwed us over. The house down payment is the new wedding ring, thanks to our parents. You’re not going to find a job easily because our parents outsourced them all to China, India, etc. So wise up, stiffen your lip, and put on your game face.

I really, really hope that isn’t necessary though. I hope there’s a silent majority of us Generation Y’ers who are just heads down, working their butts off to make something of themselves, because that’s the only way this United States is going to keep going. I just have to hope, because I really don’t fit in to “Generation Y” .

PS4

Playstation 4 Blu-Ray disc load times

A friend of mine asked me if the PS4 loaded a Blu-Ray faster than the PS3. Naturally I read this as “Please benchmark the PS4 for load times across a selection of discs and provide data for my own analysis.”

:)

The reason I read it like that is because Blu-Ray disks require programming, and thus not all disks are created equal. Some have ads, some use the Internet to get additional content, some have no menu at all, and so on.

So, I picked two re-issue discs and three native digital discs (were not converted from film / originally released only on DVD). As a bonus round, I also tried a 3D Blu-Ray which the PS4 currently does not support (meaning I can’t replace my Panny Blu-Ray player yet. Boo, Sony!)

In no particular order:

The Last Starfighter:
14 seconds to load disc (appeared in the PS4 menu)
43 seconds to get to the menu

Shawshank Redemption:
14 seconds to load disc
15 seconds to get to the FBI warning
15 seconds to get to the first WB logo
15 seconds to second WB logo / movie starts with no menu

The Avengers:
18 seconds to load disc
16 seconds to display the avengers logo
10 seconds to language selection menu and to start playing previews (the PS4 displays the pop-up menu to then skip thru – a nice touch).

The Hobbit:
17 seconds to load disc
20 seconds to some disc spinning icon
10 seconds to WB logo
13 seconds to menu

The Hobbit 3D:
17 seconds to load disc
21 seconds to disc spinning icon
10 seconds to disc error

Scott Pilgrim:
14 seconds to load disc
45 seconds to universal logo (a bunch of different loading indicators appeared during this time)
28 seconds to play a comcast ad (yuck!) – Trying to get around the ad was a PITA and no menu displayed to get to me to the actual menu to play the movie.

So on average it’s about 15 seconds to get the disc to load up, and another 50 seconds to a minute to get to something meaningful. That’s on par / a tad slower than my Panasonic 3D Blu-Ray player, but I imagine there will be a patch in short order to enable 3D Blu-Ray playback, which will also change these times (better or worse).

Apple

Why a Mac Pro?

I was involved in a lengthy/argumentative discussion about Apple’s Mac Pro and its “validity” as a workstation machine. One of the main arguing points was the price, and that for the price, you were over-paying for Apple’s design which was “silly” for something like a workstation which is just supposed to be as fast as possible.

So, being an engineer and a developer who has grown up in the “data” world, I decided to build a system to match Apple’s and do a quantifiable comparison. Now, I understand Apple gets much better pricing than I do, as do all the other OEMs, but I wanted to build something so that I could closely match Apple’s systems – I can’t find HP or other high performance workstations that come close to the specs from Apple without spending significant $$$. If you find something that closely matches, feel free to hit me up.

So, on we go then. Here’s my build to match the $2999 price point from Apple. I predominantly use Newegg for hardware, and didn’t stray too far from them in general.

Processor

Apple appears to have chosen Ivy Bridge Xeon E5s, specifically the E5-1620V2. This isn’t available from Newegg, but PC Connection has one listed for an estimated street price of $332.02.

Memory

Apple will be using DDR3 ECC memory clocked at 1866 MHz. This is also not available from Newegg even though sources dating from 2011 say modules from Samsung have been around a bit. For now, I’ll use 1600 MHz modules from Crucial in the 3 x 4 GB configuration Apple states which run $162.99.

Motherboard

This is one of Apple’s secret sauce things. The E5-1620V2 runs in Socket 2011. Newegg lists no Socket 2011 server-grade motherboards with Thunderbolt, which is typically what goes into a workstation for Xeon-grade hardware. Asus does have a few motherboards with Thunderbolt, but none with Thunderbolt 2, and none that will house a Socket 2011 Xeon. So, I decided to side with the processor, and picked out decent looking and affordable Supermicro motherboard for $319.99.

PCIe Flash-based storage

Another one of Apple’s secret sauce options, PCIe flash storage is mostly in the realm of high-end server hardware, although OC-Z has been bringing a number of more affordable units to market. Newegg thankfully stocks these, so I picked a model that closely approximated Apple’s specs (1.5 GB/s reads & 1.2 GB/s writes). Newegg sells it for $639.99 but is out of stock at the time of my research. The same drive from Amazon is $589.99 so we’ll go with that. It’s important to note that these RevoDrives aren’t easily made into boot drives either, which means we could need another SSD just to boot from.

Graphics Cards

A third secret sauce; the FirePro D300 is an unannounced model from AMD. So I picked out something that kinda approximates it for $449.99, or just shy of $900 for 2 of them. Note there’s a cheaper version that’s Dual DVI, but we live in the future, right? DisplayPort all the way!

Power Supply

Apple pointed out how much more efficient the new Mac Pro is over the outgoing model. So naturally, I wanted an efficient power supply. I went for an 80 PLUS Gold power supply from Seasonic, who ironically is likely to also supply Apple’s components, for $129.99. I could have spent more on beefier internals / more wattage, but this seemed a good compromise between price vs beef.

Case

Apple’s case and thermal design is nothing short of beautiful. Since we’re arguing for price vs performance though, I went with a reasonable case that everyone loves and should give us enough room for $99.

Operating System

Some would argue Linux/BSD if you’re doing HPC work, which in this case this would be free. However, much of Apple’s target audience is Video / Animation / Design (ignoring the sizeable iOS and OS X dev communities), and they will need an OS that runs Adobe programs. So, the only alternative to OS X is Windows 8.1 Professional, which for an OEM copy runs $139.99. Yes, I could have picked Windows 7. It’s actually more expensive though because Microsoft is really trying to get people to like Windows 8.

Final Price: $2,673.99

So yeah, I can hear it now. It goes something like – Ha! We saved, like, a little less than 300 bucks (including shipping and tax). Suck it Apple Fanboys!

The problem is, in this configuration, I can’t even be sure the system will boot because of the RevoDrive, and adding a semi-decent SSD boot drive (which you now will have to micro-manage Windows not installing everything to it) and you’ve sucked up most of the $300. Additional caveats include:

  • No 4k monitor Support
  • No Thunderbolt
  • No USB 3.0 and only 2 USB2 Ports
  • Probably doesn’t have enough fans for cooling out of the box

Once you add the appropriate amount of fans for cooling, it’s probably louder than the Mac Pro. And significantly uglier. And has no lightup back panel. And has no option for warranty support (something workstation purchasers generally go for because workstations are critical pieces of equipment).

In closing, I think the Mac Pro is probably Apple’s best attempt yet at closing the price gap with standard Wintel machines. And it does it looking, sounding, and performing better while at it.

Glass

Day 1 Review of Google Glass

Glass SetupLiving in the future is kind of awesome. Wearable computing is one of those things I’ve looked forward to since I initially researched it in college, and now hear I am as part of the Google Glass Explorer program. Being objective about the device is going to be difficult. :)

The interface feels good, although if you’re a shutterbug like me you’re going to quickly fill your carousel. Thankfully Glass will act like a camera when you plug them into a computer (unlike my Nexus 4) so you can manage photos.

I’m still playing with different cards, and they all take an unknown amount of time to show up. Google is still working through a bunch of sync bugs between the Android app and the Web interface. I set everything up through my Nexus 4 and the companion MyGlass app, so supposedly I won’t ever have to goto the web interface, but after trying to edit contacts on the phone I will probably do that in the future on the web.

The device itself is lighter than I expected, more comfortable than I expected, but also more “in your face” than I expected. It definitely takes some getting used to having it sitting there just above my horizon line.

I also am getting my fair share of strange looks. I opted for the cyan/blue model, so I expected that a bit. While I was ingressing a group of teenagers walked by and said “Is that Google Glass??” And I didn’t realize they were asking me for a second, but then responded “Yup!” They then said “How is it?” to when I responded “Awesome!”

Their final query as they were walking away down the block went something like “Then why are you still using your phone?” I chose not to yell “Because I play ingress and I’m in NYC!” because that wouldn’t have made much sense, but it does raise a good point.

So fair Glass is very focused around sharing photos and videos. There’s no way to compose an email, or write a text post to any of the social networks it supports. I imagine that will change as the Explorer program progresses, but for now I still need my phone for more than just its cellular modem.

Overall I’m really liking it so far, even if the battery is very quick to drain under medium-to-hard use. I already carry an external battery pack for keeping my phone alive when I’m ingressing, so keeping the Glass up will not be an issue.

I’ll try to keep up posting these to give my initial, granted subjective, impression of Glass over the next 30 days. Stay Tuned!

iOS

Internationalizing an iOS App

We recently launched in Spanish and Portuguese on MeetMe, and I got an opportunity to discuss the process and some of the issues we encountered working to internationalize an iOS application (and backend). Head on over to the engineering blog at MeetMe to see what was entailed – http://engineering.meetme.com/2012/10/i18n-on-ios-meetme-style/

iOS

NSLocalize(THIS!)

I recently gave a lightning talk at Philly Tech Week with Dallas Gutauckis and Chuck Greb, along with several other mobile developers from the local Philadelphia area. My talk focused around iOS’s localization abilities (and inabilities) and general pointers about localizing mobile apps. Reception seemed good, and overall the entire Mobile Lightning talk went well. I’d love to do another, although 5 minutes is pretty tough to talk about anything and be informative.

You can grab the slides here. Feel free to post a comment and let me know your thoughts.

General

Control+Alt+Delete

So I’ve finally decided to reboot my blog, after several failed attempts. We’ll see how I go this round, although I’m already liking this new version of WordPress a lot more.