Touches of civility at the University of Kentucky

Muskoka chairs at University of KentuckyThis week I have been working at the University of Kentucky. It is in Lexington, which is a small city of a little over 300,000 people. The over 3 square kilometre central campus dominates the south-central downtown. I found touches of calm civility on the campus, such as Muskoka chairs that are placed at numerous spots on the bluegrass lawns between the buildings. There weren’t many students around, as the academic year has finished. There were a few, though, making use of the chairs. As this is the 21st century, they were all — quite naturally — reading from tablets or smartphones, and not books.

Umbrellas at University of KentuckyAnother civilized touch was the boxes of umbrellas placed at the entrances to buildings. Kentucky isn’t famous for horses and lush bluegrass for no reason: it rains frequently. With free grab-and-go umbrellas, you’re unlikely to be caught out in the rain on your walk across the campus. The Kentuckians I met and worked with were all friendly and warm, and the campus of the University of Kentucky reflected this welcoming spirit.

Amazon Web Services Systems Operations

Amazon Web Services Systems Operations“Move to the cloud!” is the clarion call to the world of information technology these days. We don’t have computers anymore, we have instances of compute services. We don’t have networks anymore, we have virtual private clouds. We don’t have hard disk drives anymore, we have storage objects. It’s all somewhat abstract, but very exciting. It is the latest and most powerful way to make good on the old Sun Microsystems slogan from the 1990s: “The Network is the Computer.” My employer, ExitCertified, delivers training for Amazon Web Services in North America. I teach AWS Security and AWS SysOps, and this certification reflects a big part of what I’m doing when I’m “on platform.”

Honeymoon Island, Florida

Honeymoon Island, FloridaFrom time to time, I find myself working in places like this. After teaching a computer class near Tampa, Florida, I drove west until I hit the Gulf of Mexico. This is what I found. Honeymoon Island State Park is an oversized sandbar, really, and a quiet retreat that is favoured by locals and given a miss by tourists. The State of Florida protects it as a nature reserve, but as long as humans keep off the fragile dunes we are welcome on the narrow beach and in the warm waters of the Gulf. It’s tough for me to complain about work travel when what you see here can be one of the side benefits.

ExitCertified in its second decade

ExitCertified has come out with a short promotional video in commemoration of our 10th anniversary of doing business as a company. On camera and giving a retrospective are the two owners of ExitCertified, Tim Mabey and Hees Ham, and all four of the surviving “originals”: me, Mark McCreath, Kevin Woodburn, and Peter Durst.
You can see my few seconds of online fame at the 3:11 and 5:45 marks of this video.

Michael MacKay’s Technology Musings

Michael MacKay's Technology MusingsA technology blog, written by me, debuts this week on the ExitCertified web site. I am delighted to have this forum to present my ideas about computers, autonomous technology, and what it means to live in the Universal and Homogeneous State.  Click on the badge to the right to visit and read my first two articles, on the need for low-level security training and an appreciation of the life of Dennis Ritchie.

ExitCertified Ten Year Anniversary

ExitCertified Ten Year Anniversary Presentation PenSaturday night was the annual Christmas party for the ExitCertified Ottawa and Montreal offices, this year held at an Elgin Street restaurant in downtown Ottawa. The turn out was substantial, with almost everyone from both offices attending along with significant others. There was a special mood of celebration, as we are now marking our tenth year of doing business – a remarkable achievement for any high technology company.

I am one of the originals, having delivered training to the first paying customers ten years ago. I gave a short speech at the Christmas party, as did my fellow “Old Guard” colleagues, Peter Durst and Kevin Woodburn. The owners of ExitCertified, Tim Mabey and Hees Ham, were patrons of the night’s festivities, and they made a point of presenting me and Pete and Kevin with beautiful boxed and monogrammed commemorative pens. I am proud to receive this gift, because I am proud to have served ExitCertified from the beginning. Thanks, Tim and Hees, and onwards and upwards for the future!

Multimedia Video Presence at ExitCertified

Multimedia Video Presence at ExitCertifiedThis week I am teaching a VERITAS Cluster Server class in Montreal. It’s not straightforward classroom instruction, though. As well as the customers right in front of me, I have some who are taking the class from my company’s New Jersey location, and some who are taking it from our Philadelphia location. ExitCertified has a distance learning audio-visual system that we call Multimedia Video Presence, or MVP. The point of it is to allow customers to get a full instructor-led classroom experience without having to travel away from where they live and work. With lots of network bandwidth and some fancy cameras and monitors, it works out pretty well.

Compounding all the technical wizardry, the customers are connecting to remote cluster nodes, that are physically in California, to do configuration and trouble-shooting tasks. The entire experience is therefore quite abstract and virtualized, and would be unimaginable without the Internet.

The photo shows the classroom in Edison, New Jersey, with the first students settling in in the morning. Beside that is me in the Montreal classroom. Finally, on the screen to the right, you see one of the slides I’m sending to the remote locations and projecting in the local classroom. The flat-screen monitors are each 1.3 metres across.

ExitCertified at Blue Jays game

ExitCertified Toronto at ball gameInformal corporate team-building was on the agenda last night, with much of the ExitCertified[11] Toronto crew (plus visiting instructors) taking in a Blue Jays baseball game. We used the occasion of three visiting instructors from Ottawa (me, Pete Durst, and Mike Stapleton) as an excuse to watch the Jays play the Orioles at the Skydome on a pleasant summer evening. The turn-out was substantial from the Toronto office: Jim Harper, Myles Brown, Emilie Lavictoire, Kathryn McGoey, Angela Messina, and Amanda Allen, along with significant others. The photo shows (farther back) Jim, his wife Linda, Angela, her husband John, and Kathryn; in the foreground are Mike S. and Pete. The Toronto Blue Jays beat the Baltimore Orioles 3 – 0. Discussed with great seriousness was the fact that the scoreline for the Jays was 11010000x, and should we count this as winning 208 to nothing in binary? Or include the unplayed bottom of the ninth inning and say that the Jays won 416 to nothing in binary? Countries have gone to war over less, but a falling out amongst us Unix zealots was luckily averted.

Also discussed with great seriousness (over drinks at the pub, after work) was the need for ExitCertified to have a corporate anthem. You know — a song to inspire the workers as we gather for our morning stretches and listen to stirring speeches by our higher-ups and betters, exhorting us to increase productivity and improve the bottom-line. I have come up with this draft, as a humble offering to my cohorts:

ExitCertified company song
(translated from Japanese)

Oh, I would lay down my life for the ExitCertified Corporation!
Munificent Tim! Beneficent Hees!
We workers thrive by your on-site guidance.
The green thermometer — you are my beacon and my hope.
“Percentage to goal” — we march under your banner.

Honourable customers!
Thank you for remembering to wear pants to class.
There is not a wide enough variety of muffins in the break room.
I am ashamed — I will do better next time.

I have a family but I have forgotten their names.
Happy is my life, for my hotel room has free WiFi.
The ‘Net is my succour and my comfort.

ExitCertified, I would stick my arm in fire for you.
Up to here, I would!

But I don’t do Windows.