tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

Archive for the 'Work' Category

I r l33t h4x0r

As you might have guessed from the title, this is another geekspeak-heavy post. I’ll try and make it digestible for the less technically inclined, as usual :p

This past week I took part in a course at work, meant to help Amazon employees understand Amazon Web Services (Click here if you don't know what those are). They’re basically a bunch of services that we vend to software developers to use in building applications. Examples of this are the Simple Storage Service (or S3) which is a simple data store which charges users based on how much space they use. There’s also the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) which is a service that lets developers purchase computing time to perform tasks that they can’t do with the resources that they already have (like, say, running complex operations on data sets). In any case, as part of the course, we had to build something using the services that we sell, without access to the internal tools that make our lives easier.

I teamed up with a friend from my team, and we set to work building a system that would allow people to search for MP3 downloads on the Amazon.com MP3 store (shameless plug!) using the lyrics from the song instead of the title or artist name. We did get it working successfully (about half an hour before the deadline), and presented it to the entire class. At the end an award was given out for the best project.

We didn’t win, but it didn’t bother me that much, mainly because of something else I found out from one of the facilitators of the course. Apparently, while testing our code over the weekend, we generated so much traffic to one of the services that the engineer who was on call for the service that week got paged, and had to figure out who or what was creating so many requests to the service.

So, we didn’t win, but we did cause some poor guy to get paged over the weekend.

Sometimes, it’s the little things in life that matter. :D

I’m looking at following and ’s lead and ditching LiveJournal for my own webspace. Not so much because I disagree with their policies, but because I want a lot more control over what I can do with what has essentially become my little corner of the Internet. Does anyone know of any good hosting services? I’m looking at running either WordPress or a Ruby-based content management system called Typo (because Ruby is one of my favourite programming languages). The idea behind running the latter is that I can modify the code if I feel like I need to (I don’t know PHP).

So, any suggestions/recommendations?

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This is a load off my mind

17-month OPT extension for F-1 students with US science degrees

This means that I won't have to travel anywhere this year, although I may have to next year depending on how things work out with my H-1B application. Still, it's one less thing to worry about.

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Not long now…

Amazon's going to be filing for my H-1B visa on Tuesday.

Just for some perspective, there are 65,000 H-1B visas given out every year to foreigners who want to work in the United states. The actual number of applicants is something like ten times that number, so what USCIS ends up doing is running the applicants through a lottery and picking 65,000 names at random.

Yes, whether or not I get to stay in this country will depend on some programmer's implementation of int rand(). You can probably imagine what I think of this process, so I won't vocalise it.

If I fail to get it with this filing, I can only apply next April…and my existing visa expires on July 9th, meaning I'll have to leave the country. I'll have to do this even if I get the visa (since it only takes effect on October 1st) but in the event of a longer delay I'll have to look at the possibility of moving to another Amazon location. Truth be told, the prospect of having to uproot myself from a fairly comfortable existence isn't really doing much for my peace of mind at the moment. It was easy enough to push to the back of my mind when the date was months away, but now it's pretty much all I'm thinking about.

Maybe I'll try to drown it out with caffeine tomorrow morning.

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Just got back about an hour ago.

There was a reorganisation of my group at work about a couple of months ago, and our new boss held an “offsite” for us to get together and discuss possible long-term directions for where we wanted to take our group's products. It was a pretty interesting discussion, although I found that I wasn't quite able to contribute in the capacity that I might have wanted to. Afterwards we went out to dinner at some way-too-expensive restaurant while swapping anecdotes…a good time was had by all.

One of my recent obsessions has been BBC comedy panel shows, particulary Never Mind the Buzzcocks and Qi. The former is a music-themed panel quiz show with new guests every week, and the latter is a show devoted to dispelling “general ignorance,” and is hosted by one of my favourite British actors/comedians, Stephen Fry. Both are hilarious when at their best, and have introduced me to a few more interesting personalities like Bill Bailey and Noel Fielding. Unfortunately, since these shows aren't available through any legal avenues in the US (the BBC does do Region 1 DVD releases, but the most recent show they seem to have is the new series of Doctor Who and Torchwood) I have to watch them though…other means.

It's kind of odd that I find shows like that much more entertaining than most of what shows up on American TV…then again, I haven't owned a television subscription for about a year now, so I probably have no right to make the comparision. I never did watch anything more than Scrubs, Mythbusters and Stewart and Colbert when I did, though. I'm probably missing out, but I really can't give a crap. :P

On a somewhat related note, I looked at the Spring anime season lineup, and there is nothing that looks interesting to me. I might watch Code Geass 2 out of boredom (seeing how I wasn't that impressed with the first season), but that's all. Might be a good idea to go out and get some older series on DVD – I already bought a Vision of Escaflowne boxset, so I might look into other old shows like Cowboy Bebop that are available at a reasonable price.

Watching DVDs on my computer is rather a pain, though.

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