Arguing with Coworkers about Money

I used to work for an incredible dot com, Terabeam. We made gigabit Ethernet laser hubs that could connect buildings blocks and blocks apart, without radio licenses, without digging up streets and without phone companies.  But we never got the price point right and our burn rate with 400+ employees was incredible and layoffs came in 2001.  Round after round after round.

I made it to round 4.

I came away from that with anxiety about profitability, which was later compounded by the bottom line obsession at a large medical device manufacturer and trying to get our own little company going.

I believed that maybe if everyone worried about profitability maybe Terabeam’s fate could have been avoided.  Maybe if I could have learned how to price my time better our little company would have made it.

And so I argued with an esteemed coworker this past weekend that everyone should worry about profitability.  Everyone should fear killing the fragile golden goose.  I was sure I was right then, but the more I think about it, I am not so sure.  Not at all.

It comes down to trusting my leaders to make sound financial decisions and for me to let go of the layoff-triggered need to control and avoid that happening again.  As an engineer I should strive for cost effective, innovative software that securely meets our users needs, and I should be prudent with my expenses, but I think now that I have been worrying about profits WAY too much, and should instead fixate on what I can create or improve.

I feel some creative energy freeing up already.  Blogging one’s way through a 14 year old scar can be so… freeing.

Time and Effort

I found this post by Liam Campbell encouraging. In “Work is Better Than Talent” he writes:

Design is not an exclusive club. You don’t need talent to get in, the same way that you don’t need a signet ring and a secret handshake. It’s a skill that you gain with time and effort, just like anything else.

Time to practice.

Satellite UTC Clock Powered by Arduino and Adafruit GPS

It works!  I recently blogged about getting the Ultimate GPS Breakout up and running while doing some validation of my iOS app, and I was delighted when a four digit display module I ordered arrived in the mail this past week.

After a bit of soldering and tinkering with the example code, I was able to get the UTC time reported by the GPS Breakout to display on the LED display module (including blinking the colon on alternating seconds.)

Complete details on how to wire it up are included in the source code, which is available on GitHub.

Packet Radio Transmitter is Working

The mini DIN plug I needed arrived in the mail on Friday.  OMG such small pins to solder.  I really need to buy a proper magnifier.  Connected my Yaesu FT-7800 to the Pakratt.  Discovered that the USB interface is not (yet) recognizable by my MacBook.  Connected it instead to trusty old Trinity, an old PC of mine.  Also not recognized.  Downloaded drivers for USB serial port bridge.  Then it was recognized as COM9.

Hah!  Hyperterminal is no longer included with Windows.  So sad.  Found and downloaded it.  Installer looks like something out of 1992, but it worked.  Spent the next hour tinkering with the TNC settings, setting it to my call sign, adjusting the threshold so it actually received packets.

So. Much. Setup. Required.  No wonder most people don’t do this.  Such incredible barriers to entry.  That’s something I’d like to work to change.

Because it took so long to setup I missed an excellent space station pass, but managed to get my BEACON text set with my lat and long and was delighted to see my call sign (KF7APE) appear on as a result.


Now, I just need the Space Station to pass overhead again.  Patience required :)

Chrome, JavaScript, and a Spacecraft for All

Just stumbled across this on the web – looks like the Googles were busy last year with a cool interactive visualization of the recently “re-discovered” ISEE-3 spacecraft, with all sorts of Chrome, WebGL and JavaScript goodness.  Take a look at

For Want of a Mini DIN Plug

Picked up a packet modem today (an AEA Packratt 232 USB – thanks Rob!) – it will let me use the Mac to transmit to satellites and the space station – so I can do more than just listen.  But… I need a special connector for my radio, so I’m now patiently waiting for yet another small package to arrive in the mail.

When working with hardware, it seems there is a lot of waiting for small things to arrive in the mail. :)  I guess it’s the hardware equivalent of compiling :P

And yes, I scoured the house for an old PS/2 keyboard to cannibalize, to no avail.

And yes, I’m totally going to use this to integrate APRS geolocation into a MapKit app on OSX.