Welcome to Us in Orbit.
This site is a personal blog and article site for Bob and Angeliki, it doesn’t attempt to document our lives but aims to be a vent for thoughts and information.
I (Bob) was formerly a lecturer before being tempted back to industry, but I like to offer my assistance to anyone who has an interesting question. So if you have some challenges, if you want my opinion then please contact me and I will consider publishing a response. I would also like to offer consultancy on a commercial basis if you are venturing into areas where I might be useful. Students are welcome to pose me questions related to their studies, although I don’t expect to be doing your work for you and I will be unlikely to provide references sufficient to make my words truly authoritative.
This is an email I sent out today to someone I am working with elsewhere but I also think it’s about time I shared my recent thoughts to a wider audience:
All current issues aside the work I have been doing over the past year has presented a few issues which are encouraging me to wonder if there is place for a corporately sponsored open STB project. I know there is Dreambox but these are expensive and have had various political issues. I also know there is MythTV and the others but they are heavily PC dependent. The concept would be an open platform based on a modern STB design optimised for simplicy and power (possibly a PVR). We could manufacture in modest volumes enough to supply the demand and possibly could sell them at wholesale pricing. It would be a hardware only sale with software to be determined on the project basis. We could support the project through administration and hardware, but further we can drive the project by offering ‘bounties’ on features that are requested by potential corporate customers. In effect we could offer two teirs of product software the "community edition" which is free, but offers only community support and the "commercial edition" which would offer features for the ‘bounty’ with a professional code compile service for validated code.
This is just something I am bouncing around in my head and I wanted to put it around before I built a proposal out of it. Please let me know your thoughts on this.
I think it could fly, I think it could be useful and I think it would address many peoples problems. I’ve had requests for close to 50,000 boxes on different projects, but because each one of them was so small there was no way we could put development resources behind them. Put together that much hardware is reasonable business and I think something that’s worth paying attention to. The ‘bounty’ would fund peoples time to work on the project, or perhaps reward them for their work.
I welcome your feedback…
I recall when I was in college, in my first year I was one of the few people who owned a computer and that was fine. People used my computer occasionally and that was fine. Then in my second year I moved into a new halls of residence and more people had computers. I found myself being called upon to fix these machines and it began to get a bit tedious. Luckily a friend of mine was studying computing and had a machine of his own. He had learnt a lot quickly and when we lived in halls together in the third year I vowed to play dumb. Whenever anyone asked about computers I pointed at my friend and let him deal with it. I would follow along and when he got stuck he would look at me and I would step in and offer my sagely advice. It was like a plot from some modern Kurosawa film.
I have continued in this vein for some time now, despite knowing a heck of a lot about IT I choose to avoid IT responsibilities. I offer advice, I step in where required but as I put it to anyone who from my childhood who said they had expected me to go into IT:
"I want computers to work for me, I don't want to work for computers."
I started at my new company two weeks ago exactly, it is a small branch office which co-ordinates a great deal. But there are less than a dozen people here. IT is co-ordinated from greatly afar and this arrangement has so far just about worked. The guy who sorts things out does his best, but there is only so much someone can do when they aren't on the same land-mass as you and it isn't really their job to do IT. The result is that things here aren't as slick in the IT domain as they could be. So I have stepped up and said that for the time being I will gently increase my responsibilities and improve the services here.
My hope is that I won't get stuck as "the it guy" and I will be able to get on with my real job as the technology expert for our products. Sometimes I hate computers and sometimes I enjoy them, so I have to be in a position to say 'no' and thus I have promised no SLA for this task I have undertaken. The advantage, however, is that I think I can build it in my image and get things working right!