Dec 312013

Parenting is hard. The occasional highs are very well worth the sometimes long steep monotonous path separating them. This section has been particularly steep and unusually long. As a highly self-critical person, I’ve been struggling with what I must be doing wrong. Why won’t they listen? Why won’t they learn this? Why do they repeat this behavior? What am I doing wrong? That’s an awfully egotistical and self-important viewpoint.

I’m reading an excellent book, “Parenting Beyond Belief”, which is a collection of writings from a wide variety of sources. Tonight I read a short article titled “Thoughts on Raising a Curious, Creative, Freethinking Child” by Robert E. Kay, MD. In this short list of 15 ideas, Dr. Kay emphasizes the importance of realizing that children are who they are. They are their own best teachers. They will learn when they are ready and receptive. They will learn from your example, not from what you say. They are more likely to cooperate than to obey. Being an adult is often easier than being a child due to the general lack of freedom afforded a child.

This piece offered me some solace. In his words: “You can’t make another human being eat, swallow, pee, poop, think, learn, work, talk, confess, agree, or believe, so don’t even go there. Do yourself and your children the favor of trying to see through their eyes, of trying to understand the reasons behind the resistance.” If it is my job to model behavior and offer experience and exposure to new ideas, rather than directly transfer knowledge and experience, I can do that. I mostly do do that. If the temper tantrums, the angry words, and the spiteful glares are part of the process and not my fault, then maybe we can get through this. Together.

May 292013

Dvh3 with Master Jung after his first belt test.

Dvh3 with Master Jung after his first belt test.

My son and I started taking Taekwondo together about six months ago. During this time, he has learned that there is a lot more to martial arts than kicking and punching. He has learned that it is about focus, discipline, confidence, and today: family. A week ago, he was working to receive his green stripe which is basically approval from the Master to proceed with belt testing for rank advancement. He didn’t make it the first time, nor the second. He choked back tears and the Master said to him, “Why are you crying that you didn’t make it, instead of congratulating those that did?” I worked with Devon nearly everyday at home until, on the third attempt, he received his green stripe. It really meant something to him. He had legitimately earned it. It wasn’t just a participation award.

Over the last couple of months, the Master has been encouraging higher ranking students and those with their green stripes to help the rest of the class. He forces students to stand up to him. If they aren’t trying their best, he will tell them they can give up, “It’s OK”. Those that have learned will stand where they are and shout “No Sir!”, “I can do it, Sir!”. They are building their confidence, and it’s wonderful to see.

Today was the second to last chance for green stripe testing. Five students in a class of 18 had not yet received their stripe. Four of those students received their stripes, but during the final skill test, one young boy lost his confidence, missed a step, and failed. The Master sent him back to wait while the other student finished his test. Like my son the week before, he choked up and tried to hold back the tears. The Master explained that if he cried, he was giving up, he could go home. It was OK. He tried to stay strong, but he was quickly losing the battle. The Master asked another student what he should do. “He should ask to try again, Sir!” “Yes.” “Can I… try… again… sur…” “Not while you’re crying, stop crying and ask me again.” This went on for a bit. It was awkward. The other students, myself included, looked at the ground, feeling badly for him.

Out of the blue, the small hand of a seven-year-old boy went up in the air. “Me Sir!”. “What?”. “Can I practice with him, Sir?”. Silence. The Master accepted my son’s offer to help him try again. The look in the Master’s face was one of surprise, approval, and pride. Tears welled up in my eyes. He tried, but he was demure. His shouts were grunts. He failed again. This time, instead of listening to a lecture from the Master, another student offered to help. Then another. I finally raised my hand, following my son’s lead, and gave a small bit of advice for him to remember to be confident, to shout loud, and make each move count. He tried again. He stood tall. He shouted with confidence. He passed. The class clapped furiously. The Master was proud, the lesson learned. I wiped my eyes.

I have been proud of my son on many, many occasions. Today, he surprised me with a courage, confidence, and compassion that I found truly remarkable. For a seven-year-old boy to look up and assert himself in support of another student to an intimidatingly powerful authority figure is an incredible thing. Today is the proudest day of my life to date. Congratulations son. You did what 16 other students, most your senior in both age and rank, should have done. Your father was among them. You set the example.

May 032013

After running faster than I’m able for a long while now, I’ve finally hit the wall. No, this is not a running post, this is me hitting that point in my career where I am involved in far more things than I can possibly keep up on entirely on my own. As my colleague, Sarah Sharp, has recently expressed (more eloquently than me), HALP! Darren doesn’t scale! To help unblock those of you waiting on things from me as well as to restore some semblance of normalcy to my life, I have created the start of a halp list. It will likely change format and location, but for now, it’s available here:

If you, or someone you know, is looking to get involved with the MinnowBoard, the Yocto Project, the Linux Kernel, or Real-Time Linux, there is something here for them. Just have them contact me and I’ll gladly help them get started.

Jan 102013

For over a decade or so we have been using GNU Cash to keep track of our personal finances. We, and by “we” I mean Mary Lou, have been meticulously recording every expenditure from mortgage payments to sodas from the gas station and reconciling them with our bank statements. As we tend to use credit cards for the points, each purchase involves 4 entries in the ledgers (debit from the credit card, payment to expenses, debit from the checking account, payment to the bills envelope (virtual account within checking)). As life gets more and more hectic, this is becoming less and less appealing. We have also struggled with the granularity of our envelopes and expense categories, continually tweaking them to balance between simple entry and detailed reports.

A friend recently reported using and being a fan of their automated expense categories. They have a number of appealing features – like mobile access, email notifications, and lots of useful reports. These are things I either can’t do or take too much time with our current system. However, the aggregated financial service scares me from a security perspective.

Mint claims no money can be moved around from within Mint. OK good. Let’s assume for a moment that they have reasonable encryption and security processes in place to prevent a hacker from mining my passwords to my financial institutions. There is still the risk of exposing our financial information to anyone who manages to acquire our password. Single point of failure. I’m not sure exactly how much damage someone could do with the read-only access, but I’m sure someone more clever than me can come up with some way to do something devious with it.

To address the common defense of “ is far more secure than the average laptop.” Undoubtedly true. They aren’t more secure than MY laptop though, at least not by much. They are also a much MUCH bigger target than the average laptop since there is so much bigger a reward waiting for a would be hacker than pictures of grand kids and a few weeks worth of CPU cycles for the latest bot net.

Now stepping back and not making the assumption of good security practices at Let’s assume they have every intent of having good security protocols in place, that doesn’t guarantee successful implementation of said protocols. So if some new guy, or even their senior security gal who had a late night, introduced a bug which caused the plain text password to be stored in an identifiable memory address for a short period of time and some creative villain noticed and managed to glean a few of these passwords, the results could obviously be catastrophic for those users.

So to all of those of you who are more security savvy than I am on a deeply technical level, please weigh in here and let me know your thoughts. I’d like to use the service, but I need to be convinced the risk is a reasonable one first.

Jan 312012

As we’ve poured over listing after listing, looking for that ideal next home, I believe I have recognized a trend that once again places us in the minority. No surprise there. Unfortunately, this trend not only makes it harder to find a place we like, it also makes it harder for us to secure funding. Here’s why.

According to Susanka in “The Not so Big House“, there are three key components to designing a home: Quantity, Quality, and Cost. You can fix any two of them, but the third must be allowed to adjust. It appears to me that the U.S. housing market prefers to focus on Quantity and Cost, and to maximize those, Quality suffers. This appears to be the case on through about 3500 sqft and $500k, after which there are options where Quality and Quantity are fixed, and the cost increases. Unfortunately for us, we would prefer to sacrifice Quantity for Quality, and, as is the case for most people, we have access to a limited quantity of dollars. Finding a well built home with quality design, fixtures, mechanicals, cabinetry, and finish carpentry in our price range has proven difficult – not because such a house couldn’t be built for the price, but rather because the market is flooded with larger lower quality homes.

The second fallout of this priority inversion is that securing a loan to expand our own home or fix-up a new one is made more challenging. These loans, such as the 203k, are based on the future appraisal value of the home after the renovations. Just as quantity trumps quality in the available inventory, it also wins out in the appraisal (no surprise again). Adding on to a house achieves a higher appraisal-increase-per-dollar-spent ratio than does improving the quality of the home.

So where does that leave house-snobs like us? Well, I suppose it leaves us in the position of needing to save even longer to be able to renovate an existing home (either ours or another of suitable size and location) so that we can bring more capital to the table. Save more? Borrow less? That’s down right un-american. So… the minority… again… still.

Jan 152012

Dear LazyWeb,

We’re exploring ways to gain some added space for our growing family. We’re considering adding on (or digging under) our existing house, as we like the area, the schools, and are comfortable here. We’re currently in the 26 Corridor and we like it, but I’m finding our money goes further if we look in south Beaverton (for example). Now is a great time to buy and we’re exploring the real-estate market. Finding an appropriate neighbourhood is such a chore, and I’m hoping you all can help us here, LazyWeb style. We’re looking for someplace with (in order of priority) good schools, young-family-friendly (high households-with-kids ratio, easy access to parks, bike/pedestrian/dog friendly). We’re hoping for something from 2500 to 3000 sqft with 3+ bedrooms, a den, and a large bonus/play room. Space for my woodshop is a huge plus. We’d prefer not to be on a postage stamp lot (8k sqft lot would be ideal) and would love Craftsman/Bungalow architecture (even if a modern interpretation thereof).

If you have ideas of areas we should explore, please share. Add a comment here, to Facebook, or to Google Plus and let us know what you like about the area.

Oct 282011

Today concludes my eleventh day in Prague attending three conferences and enjoying a few quick days of vacation with my wife.

Carsten Emde of OSADL was kind enough to invite me to speak on the Yocto Project at the Realtime Linux Workshop. I thoroughly enjoy hearing from members of industry, academia, and the Linux development community all at the same conference. I received a lot of positive feedback regarding the Yocto Project and collected my fair share of “todos”. Spending time with the leading Linux kernel developers is always inspirational for me, I invariably return with renewed commitment to improving my technical skills. After so many of these events, I consider these people my friends, and I so enjoy the trips that they feel more like a social event than a professional one. That, in my opinion, is how it should be.

Mary Lou joined me here in Prague while Grandma and Grandpa Mickelson braved our two children so she could get away for the needed break. She joined us on an OSADL sponsored walking tour of Prague covering the caste, lesser town, old town, and new town. We enjoyed the sights, the food was great, and some quiet time alone in a place where we had no responsibilities was wonderful. Her visit was long enough that she got to relax and enjoy her vacation, as well as look forward to getting home to our kids, our home, and our life.

Following our break, the Linux Foundation events began. The Embedded Linux Conference Europe (ELCE) and LinuxCon were held in parallel here at the Clarion Congress Hotel Prague. I spent a good deal of time at the Yocto Project booth, talking with attendees and catching up with team members. People were still trying to figure out how to spell Yocto a year ago when the project was announced. Now that the message has gotten out, there was a surge of interest – largely from people tired of maintaining their own frankenstein OS and looking for a solution. Others came by to be mesmerized by the Yocto Project 1.1 contributions visualization video rendered with the excellent gource project.

I attended excellent talks from Jonathan Corbet of LWN fame, Mathieu Desnoyers (EfficiOS), Grant Likely (Secret Lab), Stephen Rostedt (Red Hat), Frank Rowand (Sony), and Koen Kooi (beagleboard). The hallway track was also excellent. I met with developers and friends whom I only see online, including someone I had never met in person and hadn’t heard from in nearly 10 years when we hacked on some opensource projects together.

I wrapped it up with my presentation on tuning Yocto Project built images for tiny systems. Despite an imposing stack of 48 slides, I delivered the talk in the allotted time with room for questions without sending my audience into a speed-talk-stupor. I received some valuable feedback and made some useful contacts.

I am now exhausted mentally and physically. While I’m rather dreading the travel home, I’m very excited to be home with my family again.

May 282011

As many of you are aware, I have been thoroughly enjoying working at Intel since September 2010. It provides me numerous opportunities to learn new things and advance my existing skills. It is also a very high performance culture with numerous incredible people to model. Coming to Intel as Kernel developer has its challenges. As a kernel guy, people expect you know the low level architecture – but compared to 10+ year Intel veterans (kernel or not) I find I have some catch up to do! Besides just Intel architecture, there are countless other things I want to learn and skills I want to develop.

  • Improve my git fu
  • Follow LKML,oe-core,poky
  • Contribute to PREEMPT_RT Linux
  • Master perf and lttng, in addition to ftrace
  • Internalize the nitty gritty details of the hardware boot process
  • Learn to use Eclipse (mostly so I can understand how others work)
  • Sort out GUI application architecture abstraction (for braindump)
  • Master the programming problems in texts like Hacker’s Delight
  • Read all the Linux kernel books ever written… or maybe just the ones on my shelves currently
  • And that’s just the mostly professional stuff…

I find I can make it partway into a small subset of these, but before I can truly master any of them, I’m pulled away onto some other high priority thing which brings an entire new set of things I need learn more about. I need to be able to assimilate information faster! My eyes and my brain just don’t seem to have the required bandwidth.

What are some ways you have found to master new skills and make deep technical information your own while keeping up with a dynamic work environment?

May 282011

I listened to another great story on OPB radio on the drive in to work today. Peter Thiel has offered 100k grants for a select group of students to drop out and try their hands running a technological startup. He made a couple of points that I found to be worthy of repeating and pondering. As I value education I’ve never stopped to question its impact on my successes in life; I’ve always taken for granted that my education played a significant role. That is where I was introduced to programming, where I stumbled onto internships, from which sprouted my budding career as an enthusiastic Linux kernel developer.

Peter raises the should-be-obvious question about causality, that I’ve been known to raise myself regarding numerous other topics. Do college grads succeed because of their education? Or did they get accepted into college because they have what it takes to succeed anyway? Indeed, college admittance criteria has risen, and desirable universities are harder and harder to get into. If these persons would succeed regardless, then the seemingly universal acceptance that a college education is a virtual prerequisite for success comes into question. If it isn’t, then this incredible demand for education, and the equally incredible cost of education may stand on shaky ground.

While I still hold to the believe that a college education is a very good thing, I think there are many people in this world who could lead more successful lives if we as a people placed more value on vocational skills. Craftsmanship in this country has to be at all time low, and our shop-by-price-alone culture is largely to blame for this in my opinion. Some organizations fight to revitalize skilled trades. This Old House has run internship programs for this purpose. Peter is doing a similar thing, but with a skill that is traditionally accepted as coming from college educated professionals.

Peter also claims that college can sometimes be used as a crutch to avoid making some of those hard life decisions. If you don’t know what you want to do when you graduate high school, don’t worry about it, go to college, you’ll sort it out there. I can see some truth in that from my experience with the university. It can be difficult to see through the academia to what lies beyond. For some, study for studies sake is enough, but I think for most of us, it needs to lead to something more tangible. If I were to take what I’ve gleaned from this news story back with me 15 years, I hope I would have been able to adjust my focus away from the grade to retaining applicable knowledge, and discovering how I could do something with that knowledge – before I graduated and had to decide between the real world, or maybe putting that off while I pursued another degree…

Mar 132011

We are being harassed by collections agencies looking for individuals we do not know and do not live here. We recently changed our number for a similar problem with agencies looking for individuals with the same initials (m. hart) as our previous public number. We now have a private number, but that number has been associated with persons with unpaid debts in the past. I am extremely frustrated that the primary use for my phone service is for collections agencies to try and reach people I do not know. Phone service providers need to provide their customers with a means to prevent this. For example, a blocked number list that I can add numbers to from the web interface. The caller should just hear the phone ring and never be directed to voicemail or receive any kind of message. If something doesn’t change soon, I am considering canceling my voip service since I strongly object to paying for a service which provides more rights to collections agencies than to me.

For now, I’ve filed complaints against GE Money with anyone who will listen and will be canceling every account I have with them. Good-bye GAP card. If you object to being called repeatedly at inconvenient times, having your child woken up early, and being lied to over the phone – consider doing the same.