Unlike most years, this holiday break I didn’t actually take a break, so I left my usual retrospective literally until the last moment.
Besides the usual amount of binge reading, I’ve been spending my evenings going through training materials and corporate onboarding documentation of various kinds, which, despite fun and eye-opening, has left me with very little time to do anything else but relax and take my mind off work.
The good news is that a fair amount of my gripes from last year are gone – I no longer have to worry (much) about the telco/internet business firsthand, and even though there was a massive amount of stress and uncertainty involved at first, it turned out to be a pretty decent year – I worked with people from all top three cloud providers, herded a few unique projects and ended up joining Microsoft a few weeks before my former boss left SAPO.
Things just dovetailed together, really. But this year was indeed one to remember – in fact, it was the end of an era which, for me at least, began nearly 20 years ago when I left college (ironically, at about the same time SAPO began, but without any connection to it until five years ago) and decided I wanted to do networking and Internet stuff.
Now I help people build their own networking and internet stuff – and more. I’m an Azure Cloud Solution Architect; or, rather, am stepping into a new role entitled Data Solution Architect, focusing on large scale data processing, machine learning and other neat stuff like IoT, but all of it atop the kind of networking and computing infrastructure I wish I had all these years.
And I still think the second image in this post captures the gist of what it feels like sometimes, and that’s great.
That Windows Thing
Hasn’t been a problem, really. In fact, I’m drafting this on OneNote, inside a Windows 10 virtual machine that is fuzzily located somewhere in Ireland and instantiated on demand whenever I need a desktop environment on my iPad, when I need to do a demo with a “second” computer or (as is the case today) when I all I have is someone else’s laptop (in this case, the kids’ slowpoke netbook).
It’s insanely fast (even though I’m using only a single-core VM), works great and solves all of my computing needs except two: the deeply ingrained habit of reading all my e-mail with Mail.app (which I can’t anymore, except for personal stuff) and the need for UNIX tools (Cygwin is nearly there, but I’d rather spin up a new VM and SSH into it than do all the tweaking I used to do back in the day…)
But the gist of things is that I’ve found I can mostly do without my office laptop as long as I have something that can run 1Password, Outlook and OneNote – like my iPad, which is where I catch up on internal e-mail and manage my notes and to-dos late into the night.
Even though there might be some C# in my future, Python, at least, is very well supported and runs fine on Azure at many levels. Together with R, which I’m getting re-acquainted with, it is at the core of what little development I have to do, and that’s enough for now, at least until I catch up with the state of the art in Spark and Hadoop again.
Tooling is plentiful, full-featured and in a continuous state of flux, and there is plenty to enjoy at both ends of the spectrum. Take Visual Studio Code and PowerBI, for instance, which scratch two of my biggest itches and leave me needing little else so far, and consider that the latter also works perfectly well in a browser (any browser), and that most other tools actually require little else but a browser these days.
Not having a Mac laptop at home was something I “fixed”, at least temporarily, by gifting one of the new (and highly controversial) new MacBooks to my wife. I have zero complaints with it, partly because I spend most of the time using my (utterly amazing and highly recommended) iPad mini 4 for everything that doesn’t require extended keyboard input or multiple monitors. For the latter, I still have a battered Mac mini driving two 22” monitors in my home desk, doing double duty as a photo processing station and high-end thin client1.
But the MacBook is the laptop I’d buy for myself today. This because it’s incredibly compact, utterly silent and has an incredible touchpad – I’d probably be on the fence if I’d gotten a Surface instead of a ThinkPad, but it’s worth noting that I caught myself touching the MacBook’s screen a couple of times like I do on my office laptop.
I have no clue. I do have some concerns about it essentially being downhill from here, largely because Portugal is the financial equivalent of Swiss cheese right now – but without the Swiss, and probably without the cheese too if both politics and banking maintain their downward spiral.
The IT sector here is a bit uneven, too, with large corporations hemorrhaging (or mismanaging) technical skills and mid-to-large companies trying to grow but lacking pragmatism (or, simply, as is the case of a lot of Portuguese startups, the ability to stay the course), but the past two months provided me with a fair amount of insight into a few exceptions, and it’s going to be interesting to watch how things go.
And, of course, there are sound prospects at work. I’m guardedly optimistic towards next year in that regard and will be keeping an ear to the ground for telco and internet stuff, but the only thing I’m really curious about in that field is whether hosting the Web Summit here in Lisbon will help create sustainable businesses or simply provide fodder and limelight for the same bunch of wannabe entrepreneurs we’ve been plagued with over the past ten years or so.
Oh, and I’m positive that there’ll be a new iPhone. No clue whether the next watch will actually look like a proper one, though.
Happy New Year!
Incidentally, Remote Desktop works beautifully not just with multiple monitors but also touch events across everything I have with a touchscreen, which is a definite plus for me and kind of sums up my priorities where it regards hardware in general. ↩︎