Notes for June 3-16

These past two weeks were too messy and haphazard to consider as even remotely productive–the and the took over most of it, and having two bank holidays this past week was only helpful in the sense that it dampened down things a bit–but still made it hard to relax.

I had just started a couple of new hardware projects, so I froze them: took notes, labeled all the 3D models with TODOs, put the existing parts into project boxes and am dropping in additional components as they arrive–I’ll eventually get back to them, but not just yet.

In the meantime I retreated into books, TV, routine sysadmin stuff and reaching out to people across Europe while generally trying to completely disconnect from work when I wasn’t on the clock (with the exception of a few calls I had to take during bank holidays).

Apple Intelligence

I’ve been mulling the and trying to read the lea leaves (I had plenty of time to watch a dozen sessions or so), but a few things seem certain:

  • Apple Intelligence will take a while to roll out, and I would be surprised if it were available in the EU at the same time as in the US (even for those of us who are either bilingual or have their phones set to US English).
  • The on-device inference approach seems to validate what I have been playing with–small, quantised models, fine-tuned for local context and common tasks.
  • There is no killer app. I have never believed there was one (except perhaps RAG applied to tailored problem domains), and the lack of emphasis on conversational features is refreshing to say the least.

I haven’t installed any of the OS betas (and am unlikely to, since I want to minimise distractions), but I am curious to see what will actually be available come October.

LLM Consolidation

Although I’m pretty happy with the performance of the AMD M780 iGPU to run phi3:instruct, increasingly warm Summer days and a few ollama bugs prompted me to move all my machine learning stuff back onto borg and rely on the RTX3060 as my main inference node.

My Macs can certainly pull their weight, but I need just one stable API server for my GPT sandboxes, and I’d rather that be CUDA-based.

So I removed the from my cluster, replaced the original SSD with , and turned it back into a Steam box that is perfectly capable of streaming 1080p games around the house.

Hardware Reviews

I’ve got four or five pieces of hardware to finish reviewing, and will be trying to get those published one by one as a way to slowly get myself back on track.

But suffice it to say that, right now, and even as they went for an IPO, I’m positive we’ve hit “peak Raspberry Pi”–there’s no question the RK3588 boards I’ve been testing are solid hardware platforms (and much better than the Raspberry Pi 5 performance-wise), and you don’t really need a “full” Pi for most electronics projects…

The After

As you may have read in the news, Microsoft decided to lay off several hundred people from Strategic Missions and Technologies and reorganize the Azure for Operators unit.

Life right now.

I , but as someone who’s been nine years at the company I can certainly describe what the fallout from this looks like at a personal level:

  • I was, miraculously, not impacted (yet).
  • Hundreds of people with extremely rare industry expertise (some with over 35 years in telco) are now looking for new jobs across the US, EMEA and APAC.
  • Psychologically, everyone who remained is still very much in shock–this was the third round of layoffs we went through in the past few years, and the others were rough, but this one was particularly brutal.

So, to ground myself a bit and put things into perspective, I decided to tally all the previous catastrophes and career-defining moments I “survived”:

  • My decision to leave Andersen Consulting (where I was stuck doing SAP and brain-damaging, primitive intranet stuff) to join an upstart ISP that went on to become Novis (and subsumed by what is, today, NOS).
  • My decision to leave that ISP and join Telecel (which would later become Vodafone Portugal) and build a few iterations of their ISP services, e-commerce stuff, etc, all of which went through various reorgs and shutdowns.
  • in that ISP, which was a seemingly unending political struggle.
  • The shutdown of various internal projects as a slow, protracted part of the Vodafone “transition”–which caused no end of fear, uncertainty and doubt.
  • The stupefyingly bad decision by Vodafone Group to, in the early 2000s, outsource most of the IT functions to EDS and IBM and move all knowledgeable people to those companies, therefore paralyzing most service launches and causing us years of protracted pain.
  • The folly of Vodafone Live! and the insane way in which telcos tried to stem the tide of mobile internet access while racing after the next thing in order to avoid becoming “bit pipes”–which inspired .
  • My first heart surgery, weeks before one of my kids was born.
  • The , in which Vodafone first tried to compete with the iPhone, and that I had to do a fair chunk of damage control on.
  • The even worse decision to spend billions on to, again, compete with the iPhone, which meant I slogged for two years to try to build something I never believed in only to see Samsung sideline the custom hardware they’d built for us and launch the Galaxy brand.
  • My move to SAPO and various culture clashes between the Portuguese approach of overpromising and generally winging it and my attempts at a degree of method and practicality.
  • The sacking of my entire C-suite as Altice bought Portugal Telecom and began years of quiet corruption that only recently came to light.
  • A particularly career-defining moment in my early years at Microsoft (when the transition to Azure and cloud-first was upending the status quo) during which one of my fundamentally incompetent managers told me I would not last the year–I went on to not only prove them wrong but to work on several key projects that paved the way for my move to an EMEA role.
  • My second heart surgery, the year before the pandemic.
  • And, after some of the best years of my career at Microsoft Consulting in EMEA and the opportunity to follow someone (whom I still very much respect to this day) to Azure for Operators to help structure their professional services, that eventually resulted in what happened this week.

All of these have one thing in common: I had, at best, the illusion of control, but, most often, no ability whatsoever to change the outcome.

And as someone who’s profoundly self-driven and hyper-focused on constantly figuring out the next steps to fix things, being bereft of control and facing a completely unhinged situation (or having agency but being unable to focus it), is the kind of thing that really doesn’t let me sleep at night.

But I’m also writing this to remind me that all of those situations had a before and an after.

And that I shouldn’t really blame myself to be too close to the before to anticipate what could go wrong (well, , but I can’t write about that…), or (most importantly) forget that there is always an after.

I’m guessing that for the people who have been let go the after currently looks like a blank. Or a turmoil of uncertainty. Or, if you’re the eternally optimistic type (I’m not, but I acknowledge such people statistically have to exist), a bundle of unexplored possibility.

One of the things that keeps going through my mind is that in a job market that is ripe with ageism, where the 5G hype is visibly dying and telcos are left trying to figure out how to recoup the massive spectrum licensing investments, things seem insurmountable1.

But, again, there is always an after, and that very much depends on finding your sense of purpose.

Even though I technically still have a job, I’m also struggling with that–in all the previous reorgs and shutdowns I went through, finding my purpose again was, unequivocally, the hardest part, so I’m starting small:

  • I’m trying to ground myself on “real life” and my hobbies, so that I have a constant reminder that life will go on.
  • I’m trying to help those impacted as best I can (wading into the quagmire of LinkedIn “open to work” posts is depressing, but re-posting them or doing referrals to folk I know might help).
  • I’m taking calls from other “survivors” and commiserating (of course) but also trying to instill a sense of immediate purpose so that people have some sort of short-term goals while the org reforms–if that means skipping rank and pinging a VP to get some immediate clarity on what we can do, so be it.

And, of course, like any sane person in the technology industry, I am pondering what to do myself. The past few years have demonstrated that job security is no longer a matter of proven technical acumen or delivering consistently good impact, but rather the luck to survive pivots–almost as if big tech was going startup again (with all that implies).

But my key point with this post is the following: the various crisis and setbacks I went through during my career (and life, although I wish I could disentangle them more easily sometimes) taught me that there are always hidden opportunities somewhere, as long as you keep your wits about you and leverage your agency and sense of purpose to rooting them out.

So go out, touch grass, talk to people, form a plan, and get to it.

  1. For me there’s the added complication that I live in Portugal and that remote jobs for principals (or anything equivalent in terms of local executive technology management) are pretty much non-existent, so yes, I am really glad I wasn’t impacted–yet. ↩︎

Notes for May 27-June 2

It’s definitely getting summery, and this week marks the first time I turned on the office AC this year1. Other than that, a couple of bank holidays (in the US and here) made for a slower week than usual, which I have been taking advantage of to make my life somewhat more orderly.

Foam, My Killer

I have been trying to use for ages now, but it’s always felt unwieldy and broken, and none of the “one app to note it all” approaches sits well with me, so I decided to go down the editor enhancement route and started using Foam.

Foam is a extension that got three of my key requirements just right:

  • It was able to open this site’s (mostly ) source tree–around 10000 items, not all of which are public–and not crash
  • It was also able to use the vast majority of the front matter metadata with zero tweaks and enable me to navigate the site by tag, which is going to help a bit with consistency.
  • It focuses on the essentials for jotting down and relating ideas while leveraging everything else I already have in my editor.

I’m now using it to manage my Drafts namespace (which is a sort of “limbo” folder for drafts that I’m not actively working on in iA Writer), my home documentation (which I’m maintaining in mkdocs-material and a few other things, and the fact that I added each of those progressively over a few weeks tells me it’s working for me.

And since my writing workflow typically begins in and ends in with a long chunk of revising and focused editing in iA Writer, adding Foam at both stages makes a lot of sense.

Cleaning Up Self-Hosted AI

This was a cleanup/consolidation week for more things than notes–I also did a bit of infrastructure cleanup and moved a few of my support containers to other machines.

This because my workflow, other than SBC tests, can now be clearly split into three kinds of resources:

  • Sandboxes (Node-RED and Jupyter)
  • Stable tools (Open Web UI plus a few AI workflows implemented in Piku)
  • Model hosting (I have the and both acting as GPU servers, but I only really need one)

I also spent a little while playing with ChatTTS and got it to run on Metal. CPU generation was still much faster, but I blame that on my lack of familiarity with mps and the relatively newness of the code.


My replacement with Bluetooth arrived, so I spent some time looking at SpaceMouse in and and did the following.

This led to my filing #5153, PR #5155 and PR #103 across and the spacenavd library both it and are using.

Sadly the implementation is just… bad, so I either have to wait until someone sorts it out to match ’s or add yet another Summer project to my list.

I also got in a couple of new magnetometer/accelerometer boards I had ordered weeks ago, so I might have another go at implementing mine…


I found a battery replacement for the early review unit I was sent, and it was a trivial thing to unscrew the lid, pop it out and access the battery:

iFixit would probably give this a 9/10, but only because the adhesive under the battery is quite stubborn.

The original battery was stamped 3045130 3.7V 2000mAh and the replacement reads 3543114 3.7V 2300mAh, so this was also sort of an upgrade–but I searched for a compatible form factor rather than extra capacity, and I’ll take the extra as a bonus.

So far it’s only charged once and slowly decreased to 85% charge with half a week’s use, which is similar to the replacement unit I got and good news altogether.

  1. After of fiddling with my heat pumps, I’m happy to report that mel-ac-homekit has been working reliably for the past six months, and I might even install a couple more controllers on the devices we had ↩︎

The TP-Link L-SG108E

It’s been a while since I wrote about networking gear, largely because I used to spend a good while working on it and that broke my . But home networking being what it is these days, I thought it would be a nice change from my usual fare.


Notes for May 20-26

This week I spent a fair bit of time watching Microsoft Build recordings–partly because it has some impact on , and partly because it was brimming with stuff I can actually use.


The Keychron K11 Max

A few weeks after I posted my , Keychron reached out to ask if I wanted to try out the K11 Max, a compact Alice layout keyboard–and I ended up saying yes.


Notes for May 13-19

This was a moderately intense week work-wise, but I had a few hours in the evenings to continue my tests of RK3588 boards and, of course, fiddle with ’s API.


The SpaceMouse Wireless

This is a tale of ancient wizardry, yearning for control, failed prototypes, and just plain bad timing. Let us begin.


Notes for May 6-12

Thanks to the lethargy brought upon by allergies and the beginning of the warm season, this was a week where most of my free time was spent fixing things and building tools.


Notes for April 29-May 5

Following up on my , I upgraded my ’s firmware to the latest iteration, which didn’t really fix its display (it now displays thumbnails, but all the responsiveness bugs I mentioned in my are still there).


NC Editor, an (iPad) Patch Editor for the Circuit Tracks

A couple of months ago, Deepsounds reached out to ask if I could have a look at their patch editor, to which I enthusiastically agreed since I was actually in the process of to my and designing printable DIN to TRS adapters so I could use both together.


The Big Blue Room

Sometimes I leave the house and go to exciting places, meet great people… and have lunch with them.

Plug-and-Play KlipperScreen for the TwoTrees SK1

Like I wrote on , the comes with a somewhat serviceable, but quite buggy screen that uses the Nexion UI toolkit. At the time I was already able to use CYD-Klipper to have a remote display, but I’ve been investigating ways to get KlipperScreen working, and finally set up a single-cable, plug-and-play solution:


Notes on LLM GUIs

This week’s notes come a little earlier, partly because of an upcoming long weekend and partly because I’ve been mulling the LLM space again due to the close release of both llama3 and phi-3.


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