I’m not going to mince words here: it sucked. There were some redeeming aspects to it, though, and I think it’s worthwhile picking up from last year and highlighting the differences.
Even though I still have the feeling I didn’t make the best of it, I should point out that we had a pretty decent Summer vacation this year–it was probably the longest single break I had since the pandemic (or, like I now like to think of it, our flavor of the Jackpot) began, and although it wasn’t productive in the way that I aim for in most of my leisure time, it almost made up for the past few years.
I have also found the time to read a bunch of books (although, worryingly, less interesting ones than last year) and spent an inordinately high amount of time watching video in the evenings. And, again, I that’s something I need to cut down on next year, heavily.
Work and Industry
It will come as no surprise to anyone that this wasn’t the best year for tech, and although I am in an interesting part of the industry, I have to be honest and acknowledge that I’m not feeling like I’m learning anything I like. I keep learning about new solutions, products and internal processes, but the passion for it just isn’t there.
The reasons for that are, as usual, manifold:
- The war has impacted everything (customers, projects, investment, etc.). Companies everywhere are laying off staff due to economical pressure, prior mismanagement in pie-in-the-sky startups, or other factors.
- A lot of the tech (especially telco components) take a long time to refactor as cloud native, because, well, the need to account for telco SLAs in cloud resilience implies profound design changes, and network functions don’t magically become Kubernetes pods just because 3GPP said so.
- My move into a principal architect position has meant a little more distance from a lot of the day-to-day technology discussions and into the realm of processes, statements of work and, generally, paperwork, and it is killing the engineer in me.
This latter part is not a new complaint (in a way, it was worse when I was doing mostly business management), but I’ve been able to compensate by doing random hands-on work and discussing with engineering teams the requirements for taking some solutions to market.
But, overall, I have to acknowledge that I am very much not happy with what I do, even though I have pretty much zero complaints about where, how and with whom I am doing it with.
The Twitter meltdown and the way pretty much everyone I know in tech just walked away from Twitter due to the way Elon is handling the company–but, most importantly, the people formerly in it has driven home (again) the point that no matter whom or where you work for, you’re completely on your own where it concerns deriving meaning and satisfaction from it, so I’m very much making that a top priority I need to focus on next year.
Home Office and Personal Gear
Other than the iPad Pro and my new thin client setup, there is little to write about. There have been no major changes to my home office – merely refinements, like my music setup and more, arguably better sensors.
The biggest change has probably to do with my tending to mix it up a little. I grow weary of sitting in the same place all the time and occasionally set up shop elsewhere in the house for an afternoon or so.
Perhaps the biggest difference where it regards last year is that my standing desk setup has been losing the fight against my widescreen monitor and my new improved (but as yet undocumented here3) video call setup, so I have been using it much less.
Having an Xbox in the house has made a bit of a difference, but I still find myself hopping onto xCloud game streaming once a week or so at the end of the day (I have the Mi Stick plugged into a secondary monitor, and it works great as a client).
I’ve staunchily resisted getting a Steam Deck both because I honestly believe something lighter and quieter would be nicer, and also because there is a niggling voice at the back of my mind telling me to just get a PC with a discrete GPU I can stick in a closet to both run my VMs and stream games to whatever I have on hand.
Over the years I made a few dubious purchases in terms of cheap gaming handhelds (like the Retroid Pocket 3 novella) and secretly wish I had the time to play more, but it never quite pans out, so they’re turning into cautionary tales.
Paradoxically, I’m finding myself more and more interested in self-hosting. My homelab keeps growing, but only virtually and even that because I want to have a ARM hardware test environment for some of my projects (and some ActivityPub stuff).
The Lenovo Flex 5 I bought last year has been doing great as a “lab” laptop and as a way to do some CAD stuff.
I don’t love the thing to bits like I do the MacBook Pro, but I do like it, and it and my thin client have become little havens of dubious sanity in between work and actual play, to which I expect to add more CPU (and, hopefully) GPU capacity next year.
Somehow, I still found the time to do stuff that makes me happy. Or at least less generally annoyed with things.
It’s now actually been 20 years, and I already wrote more than enough about it and what it’s been like. I’m happy with the way the static site approach has been working out, if not with the limited time I end up spending on writing or improving the experience (other than some inspired hacks).
I’ve made a few CSS tweaks here and there and wish I had the time to do a full overhaul, but the current layout works, is still very readable, and does not get in the way.
Rewriting the engine in Go dropped off my to-do list because Python is still the most effective way to do what little the engine does, but to do that I also have to remove some dependencies–notably parsing and text formats, since there are no decent Textile parsers for Go nor any real interest in supporting the format from my side.
So I’m still converting the content to Markdown, but with nearly 9000 posts and Wiki pages here, it may take a while yet. I’m not in a hurry.
My drafting process, though, did change a bit. I still write during leisurely breaks in a process of slow, steady accretion over time (which is why I sometimes write about stuff that happened months ago), and might start out with a short note in
vim or whatever else is at hand. But the end drafts are now almost always run through VS Code and ImageOptim (which somehow still doesn’t have an official M1 build).
VS Code gives me a consistent experience for linting1, spell checking and previewing that actually syncs between devices along with my Drafts folder, so I don’t feel any need for another note-taking or drafting application.
Although I spent a little while fooling with the Novation Circuit Tracks and other gear that I’ve yet to write about, one of the year’s unfulfilled projects was to build a little box that would double as a DirtyWave M8. That, like the MiniDexed I built earlier in the year and the Norns from last year, is something I end up having time (and patience) to patiently nudge forward every month or so–if I’m lucky.
I keep learning new things about music, but practicing (even if just jamming) is something that just doesn’t seem to actually happen–I end up coding or writing instead, which are quieter, less time intensive occupations in the evenings, and often kick myself for not having a go at it some time in the quiet mornings my US-centric schedule affords me.
Although it’s been in the background for a few years, I’d say converting my Prusa to Klipper was the thing that brought back 3D printing as an active hobby, and likely the one I spent more “unplanned” hours on the entire year. So much so that I even got a new, smaller 3D printer (more on that early year, I suppose).
But, in short, besides spending a good while printing dozens of Gridfinity storage boxes of various kinds (and, yes, the occasional printer mod and replacement part), I also revisited Cura and OpenSCAD, from which I went on to discover SuperSlicer and FreeCAD. It still is a very gratifying hobby as far as honing skills is concerned, and I will be stepping it up a bit…
Electronics and Assorted Hardware
Besides the usual messing about with MCUs and a stack of Raspberry Pi Pico Ws waiting to be put to use, I’ve also been looking at ways to do my own PCBs for a few things (like a MIDI port for the MiniDexed and assorted other ESP8266-related things). I have four or five little projects of that kind cluttering my desk and shelving, and like 3D printing, they are a fun way to relax and tinker around with stuff I should ordinarily not need computers for (although of course I’ve been tinkering with KiCad, etc.).
I would like to devote more time to this as well, but there just aren’t enough hours in a day.
Health and Work-Life Balance
Well, I got COVID, for starters. And a few other minor niggling ailments throughout the year, all of which I can blame on work…er, lifestyle.
Seriously now, working in alignment with US East Coast time has been easy from a professional perspective. I always tended to work late (although over the years I’ve managed to largely stop revisiting work after dinner), people are more adroit and civilized than in most places I’ve been through, and other than the current context I described above, the levels of stress are manageable (really, at least so far).
But my 4-hour shift is somewhat sub-optimal as far as exercising is concerned, since I end up having meetings from noon onwards. This completely kills not just any opportunity to go out for lunch and socialize, but also the exercise associated with moving about to do so (walking around the block is pretty pointless where I live, and I seldom leave the house without a purpose).
And it means a lot of meetings, which is is one of the reasons why I mentioned my standing desk setup isn’t as used these days.
Being sedentary has had a noticeable impact on my well-being, and spending a couple of half hours a day on an exercise bike doesn’t help with posture (but standing or walking at length does).
I keep meaning to buy or build a proper standing desk that can hold all my gear, but it’s surprisingly hard to find an equivalent, nice 180x90cm tabletop2, and I never seem to have the time to follow up on this and just do it.
Weirdly enough, I’ve found that the Oculus Quest has consistently been a great way to exercise–by no means as effective as the amount of walking I did before the pandemic, but infinitely less boring than an exercise bike, forces me to move muscles I actually forgot I had, and is a great way to unwind both before work (when I’ve finished morning chores and errands) and after work (when it’s typically too dark and/or pointless to go out).
So maybe the Metaverse is actually in my future. Who knows, right? But one thing I fervently hope for is that things can only get better next year.
IKEA has finally started selling their nice “butcher block” KARLBY countertops in nearly the size I want over here (183x63cm, so 27cm shorter than I need). ↩︎