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Monday, November 19. 2001
Well, it's over...
Watching the World Trade Center towers crumble was also watching our dream crumble. We were raising $1.5 million. We had a $1 million pledged. we had another firm with a terms sheet that was apparently willing to put up the other $500,000. However, one week after the bombings, that other company called us and told us that in the post 9-11-2001 environment there was no way they could provide us with the money we were after.
We were crushed. We wanted to still make a go of it, so on October 1, we laid off my friend and partner of seven years, John; my friend and partner of two years, Scott; my friend of three years, Brian; and two wonderful employees, Doug and Kyle. We were now looking for $400,000 to last us six to nine months. We couldn't even come up with that. So on November 1, 2001 we all said goodbye to the dream.
Now I'm looking for work. If you are interested in hiring a really talented hard working computer nerd with incredibly diverse skills, I'd encourage you to look at my resume.
Sunday, April 1. 2001
This is not an April Fools column. As you can see from how infrequent my entries are, I have little enough time to write, much less write an April Fools entry.
Tomorrow is my first day of work as Chief Technology Officer for HyperLINq Technologies, Inc. I'm quite excited. John, Chris, Scott, Brian, and I have worked hard to get to this point. Doug and Kyle have been huge helps also.
Last week was a very difficult week. On Monday we started to hear rumblings that maybe all was not well with the man who was supposed to come in as our new President and COO (Rick). Tuesday that was confirmed in a meeting that Scott, Chris and I had with our Angel, Jim. He told us that Rick was wondering whether he would be able to work with John. I got to deliver the news to John. That was exceedingly difficult because John is my friend, not just my business partner. John had an awful afternoon on Tuesday.
On Wednesday I had lunch with Rick. Rick is a wonderful guy, and he wanted to get my input on how best to deal with John. I told him that there were a number of ways we could make things work, and that he didn't need to be too worried about John. On Wednesday afternoon I got to share with John in great detail where the problems lay, and what might be possible options. John had a worse day on Wednesday than he did on Tuesday.
Wednesday evening I called the man John considers as his mentor (he also sits on the board of Avalon). I told him where the trouble lay and he called John and scheduled breakfast together for Thursday morning. When they arrived back at our offices after breakfast it was evident that John had done a lot of soul searching. He informed the rest of us that he would not accept the role of CEO of the new company, and that he would encourage Rick to take that role. I can't fathom how tough that decision was for him, but I appreciate it greatly, probably more than he will ever know.
Thursday afternoon John and Rick met and ironed out their problems. John took the title of Vice President of Business Development, and Rick agreed to take the CEO spot.
Friday morning John had a meeting with Wayne our lead VC, followed by a HyperLINq board meeting. John still sits on the HyperLINq board, Rick has been added. Including Wayne and Jim, that gives us a four person board at the moment. The board meeting put together salary information for everyone, and Friday afternoon all of us got offer letters from HyperLINq.
Now I just have to decide whether or not to sign mine...
Sunday, February 25. 2001
OK, so I admit it, I'm officially freaking out. I'm working on a project for a client that should have been done months ago, but with two weeks between each of my requests for information from him it has dragged on and on and on. I discovered today that something isn't quite right with the project, and I can't figure out what's not working correctly. At the same time that I'm wasting valuable development time working on this project, My "Real" project is starting to slip. Not much, but it is. So, I'm officially freaking out.
Aside from the frustration of this project, things are actually going fairly well. There are several people who are really interested in coming to work for us. We are hiring at a whole new level from what I'm used to doing, so it is exciting and scary at the same time.
One of the things I was responsible for was hiring a contract technical writer. Stephen came to work for us just over a week ago and he has already got the framework of an excellent user manual created. Not only does he appear to be a good writer, but he has proven that he is capable of self direction and can learn without having to bother me with lots of questions--very impressive. We used Ace Communications for our technical writing needs. I can't recommend them highly enough.
I'm doing something that I never thought I would do. I'm using Vim as an editor. The first time I saw Vi, I laughed (of course the first time I saw Linux I laughed too). I couldn't fathom using an editor that was so strange. Well, I got fed up with XEmacs, it just doesn't think the way I do. I started looking for a new editor. I tried many different editors, the most useful of which was Glimmer However, while I enjoyed it (I particularly like the tabbed interface), it just wasn't complete enough for me. I also suffer from tendonitis, and when a contract coder I'm working with found out about that, he started in on me about Vim. So I started using it. I haven't stopped!
Tuesday, February 20. 2001
I am not a lawyer, and boy am I glad...
Today we were stood up for the second time by our intellectual property attorneys. Once, I understand, twice, I'm pissed off. I think it may be time to find a new attorney, but that is a huge pain in the rear.
Intellectual property is a huge part of any software company's life. We are using code from projects under the GPL, we are writing our own code and have no idea how we are going to license it yet. We are using code from another company that is completely proprietary.
We need our IP attorney to "get it" and then guide us through all the thorny issues that arise on this path. Unfortunately he's not coming through for us.
On the bright side of the IP front, we got some test logos from our graphic designer this week. Some of them were quite excellent and he is now hard at work refining two or three. It's exciting to decide on the new look for the new endeavour.
I've really got to get better at this writing stuff. So much has happened since I last wrote...
We flew John up from Santa Cruz. John used to work for the company that supplies some of our core technology. Mergers and acquisitions happened and John became redundant and had to find new work. We are pleased that he is willing to come and be part of our Advisory Board. He is also going to help us in a consulting role. As the person in the world who knows the most about this piece of our technology, that is quite a coup, and I couldn't be happier.
We are trying to recruit a new president and COO. His name is Rick. He has had a lot of experience at high-tech startups and has proven to have a good track record. He comes to us at the request of one of our primary investors. Knowing that there are any number of annoying human beings that we could be saddled with as we try and raise our management profile, its extremely nice that Rick is not in that category. We have been mutually interviewing each other for the last couple of weeks. Yesterday I spent two-and-a-half hours with him at lunch I think he will be an excellent fit and am really hoping that we can get him on board.
It's kind of scary to be thinking about hiring a new President. John has always been the boss. Now we are looking at hiring a new boss for everybody but John (who will remain CEO). It's a great responsibility. Fortunately we really believe that we can work with Rick and that he would be a valuable asset.
I think I have written about wanting to hire my friend Randy. Well, yesterday I got e-mail from him showing the first signs that he might actually be willing to make a change. It would be really good to have him.
We have a guy named Eugene who has been helping me with some of the coding. He is not really an employee, and has been working for stock in HyperLINq. Unfortunately he has a problem with showing up at the office. I'm at my wits end. We are now at crunch time for our development project and he doesn't even bother to show up! Unfortunately I don't have the power to fire him, and at this late date, anything I can get out of him is better than nothing, but it still really annoys me. I don't quite know what to do about him.
The weather out here as been exceptionally nice. On Wednesday John, Chris and I took a couple of hours off in the afternoon to go on a motorcycle ride. It was wonderful. The next day the weather was not quite so nice. John and I had a Software Association of Oregon meeting to attend that was being held at the conference center at the Oregon Zoo. It hailed on us on our way to the zoo--quite exciting!
We use Python for all our coding projects. It was pretty cool to see that Disney has started managing their computer animation projects with Python instead of Perl.
Sunday, February 11. 2001
It's been a week since we got back from Linux World Expo at the Javits Center in New York City. I really wanted to write while I was there. You'd think that for $200 a night, you could get a decent internet connection in your hotel. John, Chris and I discovered that $200 a night doesn't necessarily buy a whole lot in Manhattan.
Our trip started out wonderfully, Portland International was pretty much shut down due to fog. Our first flight was cancelled. Fortunately, my favourite airline, Alaska got us on a flight to LA from where we grabbed an American flight into JFK. We finally got to our hotel just after midnight.
We were staying at the Roosevelt in Manhattan. To all appearances it was one of the poshest places I had ever stayed, how quickly I was disabused of that notion! On arriving at room 305, we quickly discovered that our door keys wouldn't work. The bellhop quickly ran downstairs to check on what was wrong. When he returned we discovered that we had been moved to room 344. So, we tagged along and found our new room. It was tiny, and there was no roll-away bed. They eventually delivered a roll-away for Chris and John and I took the two doubles. It wasn't long before we were all sound asleep.
We woke up the next morning to the sounds of the big city. For the most part we were refreshed. We decided that the best way to see the city would be to walk to the Javits Center, so we checked our map and headed out on a walk across Manhattan.
We stopped for breakfast at McDonalds, saw Times Square and eventually arrived at the Javits Center--That place is impressive. My first impression was that there were lots of exhibitors, but not many attendees.
We saw quite a few interesting things, but nothing we felt was revolutionary. The most impressive things to me were Evolution and Red Carpet from Ximian and Nautilus from Eazel. The Ximian booth was by far the coolest and most unique at the show.
We had a series of excellent meetings with the folk we went to meet with. How all of the contacts we made eventually come to fruition will be very interesting.
One of the highlights for me was getting to pinch hit for my friend and former employee David Mandel at a panel discussion about Linux and Education. I was disappointed at the attendance, but met some really interesting people.
A couple of other notes about the hotel. When we returned to the hotel after the first day at the show, our room had not been cleaned! I went to the front desk and asked about it. I told the girl I was in room 344. She didn't believe me. I said look under the name John Shepherd. She didn't believe me (we were still registered in room 305). She asked me to run back up to the room and call her to prove to her what room I was in!
Also, I have the misfortune of suffering from migraine headaches. Fortunately, I have a prescription for a drug that usually takes care of them. I forgot my pills, and had them UPS Next Day Aired to the hotel. Of course they managed to get that messed up, and told me that my package had never arrived, and that if it had arrived it would have been rejected because my name was not on the room. Since I wasn't having any headaches I let it go at that. However, just to make sure that my medicine wouldn't stay in New York while I travelled home, I asked again when I checked out. I was informed that all packages are kept for seven days, and that yes my package really was in the hotel!
Needless to say, we won't be returning to the Roosevelt Hotel.
This week was Kyle's first week of work. What a great asset he will be as I now don't have to worry about being called away from my coding tasks to resolve network issues.
Tuesday, January 30. 2001
Tomorrow John, Chris, our angel and I head off to New York City for Linux World Expo. We will be meeting with one of our partners, and hopefully a couple of other folk. I'm looking forward to it as New York is one of the few major US Cities that I have never visited.
David, a friend, and the president of our local LUG was supposed to participate in a round table on Linux and Education at the show. It appears he will be unable to do so, so he has asked me if I would be willing to participate. We'll see if that actually happens as I have not heard details from him yet.
I told you about the system engineer from my ISP. Well, he has accepted our offer, and will be starting on February 4th. I'm looking forward to his contribution to the team. I'm sure I will be able to learn a lot from him.
On a related note, I have a friend who writes really good code and has written a commercial product that is sold all over the country. He works for a company in Salem. He would be a real asset to us, but he has completely ignored anything I've got to say about coming to work here. If he's not interested, I wish he would just say "There's no way." Instead of completely ignoring the request. It strikes me as odd. However, there's plenty of time for me to work on him before we actually need to fill the position.
Wednesday, January 24. 2001
Today was a bit strange. We have a contact inside a rather large company here in town. He was able to get a chance to set up a test install of our system at his company. This was such a big deal, that all sorts of people were really excited about it.
Chris and I got on site, got our server set up, and started talking with the man who was the project lead. He started telling us about all sorts of requirements that we had not known prior to going, and that would have kept us from going and embarassing ourselves had we only known.
Well, we didn't embarass ourselves, our stuff worked as advertised, it was just totally unacceptable for their current needs. I guess I should be disapointed, but I'm not, nor are Chris and John. The trip wasn't a complete bust as we were able to do a demo of our really cool stuff for another tech guy at this large company.
We also had a major breakthrough in application delivery today. John actually ran through the office to accomplish a task today! I've never seen him do that. It was pretty cool. So, I guess the low of the bad test scenario, was balanced by the great high of this new application delivery mechanism.
Yep, it was rather strange, but we are getting used to strange around here.
On a completely different note. The only response I have gotten so far on my want ad for a Python programmer has been from a head hunter. That pretty much sucks. However, We also need a new system engineer to offload some of my work, and to learn how to deploy our tools...
I have a long relationship with my ISP. They have treated me well for the last 5 1/2 or 6 years. One of the things I like about them, and the reason I recommend them to all my clients, is the fact that I can pick up the phone and call their system engineer directly. Well, aracnet.com just got purchased by another local ISP. Their system engineer is now redundant and looking for work. We need a system engineer. He's coming in for his second interview tomorrow evening. I'll let you know how it turns out.
Wednesday, January 17. 2001
We need to hire a programmer. I need a good, experienced Python coder. Yesterday we were given permission to start the search for one, so I posted the following job announcement on our local user group list.
Avalon Technology Group, Inc. is looking for a new Python programmer to work
for its new startup company HyperLINq Technologies, Inc.
- Demonstrated excellence and skill at using Python & Tkinter
- Familiarity with object oriented design and coding
- Excellent understanding of both Linux and Windows 95/98
- Ability to work with others in a small, closely knit development group
- Ability to solve complex programming problems
It would be nice if:
- You have experience as a system administrator
- You have experience with Zope
- The position will start out as part time (20-30 hours per week) with the
opportunity to move to full time with full benefits and incentive stock
- Please send resumes and any other pertinent information to
So far, I have yet to receive a response. I don't know why, and I'm just a bit disappointed. I would have thought that there would be any number of people who would jump at the chance.
I don't know whether to blame my requirements, the initial part time nature of the job, or what. We are so new at this and I have so much to learn. I just hope I can quickly learn what was wrong with my job posting.
Wednesday, January 3. 2001
Today was a real test for our tools. The students from the high school where we have been working all returned to class. Things worked exceptionally well! We now have a real, valid, proof of concept site up and running. It is very exciting! We know things are going well when the teacher who got us in to the school starts asking if we can put our stuff in his other labs.
We're facing a development time line dilemma. Is it better to have a small set of tools called v1.0 quickly and then provide quick upgrades. Or is it better to have a complete set of tools that take six months to write, and then have a well defined but significantly longer upgrade schedule? Or, do you hire more programmers to shorten that six month cycle?
We don't know the answers to these questions yet, but we are working to find out what is best for our customers, and what is best for our little company.
Happy New Year to anyone who might be reading this. Stay tuned, it's going to be an exciting year!
Tuesday, December 26. 2000
Welcome back! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. My family and I certainly did.
Last Friday was an excellent day for us and our fledgling tools.
We got the lab at a local highschool working quite well. Late in the day we brought in some people to put a load on the system. Things worked better than expected and we were all pretty pleased. Then, unfortunately, the server crashed. We're working on diagnosing the problem as I sit here typing this, but we're pretty sure we had some sort of motherboard failure. We rebooted successfully and started evertything working again, and were quite pleased, but the hardware failure cast a pall on everything we had accomplished.
Chris and I were still very pleased, but my friend John was very unhappy, and he let us know about it when we got to work. Usually when John and I "discuss things loudly" I'm the one who is in the wrong. However, this time John was wrong, and nothing Chris and I could do would convince him that his viewpoint was wrong.
During these discussions our angel (who had also seen the failure) arrived to discuss some other matters. We asked him what he thought of the situation on Friday, and he saw things correctly (i.e., the way Chris and I saw them!).
The really cool thing about that whole situation is that everyone is still friends. We have made commitments to eachother and while we disagreed quite vociferously, we remained friends.
I'm sure it won't be the last time that some of us hold "animated conversations." However, the confidence that these guys are my friends will get us through those situations.
Friday, December 22. 2000
The last three days have been amazingly eventful. Chris and I have been doing our second test installation in one of the computer labs at a local high school. Since this is our biggest test install to date, we really didn't know what to expect. However, we did expect one thing, and that was, that the information about the hardware involved would be correct. Oh how wrong we were!
We are working with old equipment, little did we know just how old. Some of the machines in the lab turned out to be 486's with 8Mb of RAM. The really cool thing is that all our stuff worked! We had to make a few tweaks here and there, but everything works and works beautifully.
We are really excited. Not just because things seem to be working so well, but because of the new body of knowledge we now have. I was able to write a couple of neat little programmes to assist us on our way that are now checked in to our CVS repository to be used at a later day in some of the larger pieces of software that we are writing. Our database of product notes has grown significantly, as we catalogued every defeat followed by every victory and lastly, Chris and I have discovered that we can work pretty darn well together.
This is only a test installation, but it is already apparent that when our final tool set is released it will rock the world.
Tuesday, December 19. 2000
We're installing a new test site tomorrow. There are thirty machines for us to connect with our tools. We needed to build a new server for these folk. They have some unique space requirements (they need about 72Gb of storage). This calls for RAID.
We didn't get the parts for the server until yesterday, and we were unable to get some of the drives to work. We ordered a couple of more drives UPS Red and had them here this morning. We again attempted to get the server running and still had trouble. It appeared that the SCSI support on the mobo was bad. So, we replaced it. Then we discovered that the new board wouldn't support the 600Mhz processors we were putting in. Fortunately we were able to flash the BIOS. Then we discovered that one of the new drives that we were sent was bad. Fortunately we had a drive we could use as a spare and it worked. So, after three hours of thinking life pretty much sucked, all of a sudden it didn't.
We also needed to provide support for a specific network card which we had thought we had support for. I couldn't get the card to work. I tried various and sundry drivers in the vain hope that one would work...no luck. I was finally able to glean enough information about the NIC, and presto it worked perfectly. So, after three hours of thinking life pretty much sucked, all of a sudden it didn't.
We use a proprietary tool that requires a specialized license file. We were sent a license for this project over a week ago, but we couldn't get it to work. I called the company last week and they told me they would get back to me yesterday, they didn't. They did, however, call today, and we were able to get the licensing issues straightened out and everything works great. So, after a few days of thinking life pretty much sucked, all of a sudden it didn't.
I don't usually put personal stuff here but...
I have a friend who has Cystic Fibrosis. He has lived far longer than the doctors original thought he would. He's married, has a couple of kids and is starting to get pretty sick. He's being evaluated for some lung lobe transplant surgery. My wife just called a few minutes ago to tell me that he is in the hospital with a bad infection. The doctors don't seem to be too worried, but for some reason I am. So, if you are the praying type, please pray for my friend Larry.
Thursday, December 14. 2000
Today we had our first design meeting where the three head developers were in a room together to talk about new features for new tools that we are writing. It was quite an experience having three guys with various skills and various ideas working toward the common goal of the final product. I was encouraged by the depth of insight that was shown by everyone.
I've always been fascinated by Object Oriented Programming. I attempted to learn C++ early on, but while I could sometimes break my C habits, it was a tough row to hoe. I wrote one useful C++ tool using mostly OOP paradigms. My current favourite programming language is Python. It is very object oriented, and I have far less difficulty translating problems into Python's OO mechanisms than I had with C++. I'm still not a great OO coder, though I am getting better. One of the reasons I'm getting better is a book called Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object Oriented Software by Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson and John Vlissides. This is an excellent book and I can't recommend it highly enough.
Tuesday, December 12. 2000
I've never been a particularly good manager. I've always been able to rely on either my wife or John to take care of management details for me. However, I've also never been in charge of a software project before. I've discovered something about myself, and that is that I have the entire project mapped out for the next six months. The problem is it is all in my head and I am having to learn how to impart that information to others.
We've contemplated hiring me a boss. A concept to which I am not at all averse, but which brings with it a whole new set of problems. A couple of days ago, I wrote about how we need to take care of our existing customers as well as build the new company. Unfortunately there are a couple of projects that I am the only one capable of doing the work on. So, how do I not go nuts, drive my partners nuts, and not let down my customers all at the same time? The solution it appears is to hire a new me to take care of some of our customers.
A week ago we got an e-mail from a guy for whom we set up a server and who colocated on our T1 for a while. He's looking for work. He also is one of the few Python programmers I know. Since we use Python a lot. He may be the perfect fit. He's coming to talk with John and me on Monday.
Another task that I have needed to accomplish is providing a system for documenting all of the random and not so random stuff that crops up during the development process. Being a huge fan of Zope I started looking for a Zope based solution. It appears that a ZWikiWeb could be the perfect solution. I got it all setup and configured and was able to start moving some of our development documents over to the ZWiki in less than an hour. Pretty Cool!
I've got a hideous cough at the moment. I've been coughing since sometime in the middle of October, but it seems to be getting worse. Today I finally went to the doctor. He had no idea why I'm coughing, but he gave me some really strong cough syrup. So far it sort of works. It doesn't completely kill the cough, but it doesn't put me to sleep like he said it would.
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