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Tales from the Robotics Lab: File Server Failure

Tales from the Robotics Lab: File Server Failure
A bit of preface: I'm a young PFY who's still in high school, with the hopes of eventually working as a sysadmin. After each school day, I spend 3-12 hours as the electrical lead, sysadmin, and programmer on my high school's robotics team. This is one of many tales about my adventures supporting our team in our technical endeavours.
The familiar tone of the bell rings in the background as I make my way out of class, and walk behind one of the classroom buildings. I find a few of our team members already waiting outside the corrugated steel door, and shortly later our $headmentor arrives with the keys. After he unlocks the door and we set up, I walk over to the CAD / Programming corner, and turn to $programminglead
$me: Hey, $programminglead, you know that old computer we have that's running Ubuntu? I haven't seen anyone using it other than when you were doing a test deploy of your personal project on it. Does the club really use it for anything? I have an idea...
$programminglead It's not used for much, really. I was testing $project on it, but it's not club related. From what I can tell, there's not much in the way of important data on it, anyways. What was your idea?
$me: I've noticed we have a problem with club members not having a centeral place to store files, such code or CAD files. I was wondering if it would be possible to turn the old computer into a local file server for the club.
$programminglead: It sounds like a good idea, and I don't need to test that project anymore. Feel free to tinker around with it.
$me: Awesome, thanks! I'll see what I can do with it.
$programminglead makes sure any data is copied over from the old computer, and I unplug it, dust it out, and look at the internal configuration.
It had an 80GB SATA drive and a 250GB PATA (IDE) drive in it. I decided to install Ubuntu Server onto the 80GB drive, and use the 250GB drive for the SMB shares. Our budget for that school year was pretty small, so we didn't have the money to buy new components for it. We really should have...
--Several months of tinkering over the summer later--
At this point we have the desktop-turned-server set up, running Ubuntu 14.04 Server, and serving out SMB shares, with a good portion of our data copied over to it. We talked with school IT and got an old unused monitor, and wall-mounted it in our shop next to the networking equipment (read: consumer-grade router and an old laptop screwed and velcro'd to the wall. Might write another take about that mess in the future). A bit of bash scripting later, and the monitor gives us an overview of drive space, network bandwidth, access logs for the samba shares, git server logs, as well as doubling as the monitor used by the server.
One day, we open up the shop, and I walk in, switch on the server, and then grab my laptop. Fire up PuTTY, connect to the server via SSH, and I start working on some of our internal git server scripts. After working on those, I log off and head over to do some soldering. About half an hour after that, I walk by the server and see that the status monitor is blank.
Weird, I think to myself, I was just using the server not too long ago. Why is it off?
Looking down to the server, I see a distinct lack of it's blue power LED. I bend down, press the power switch, and turn back towards the soldering bench. I take a few steps, when I hear a sound that both stops me in my tracks and chills me to the bone.

Whipping my head around to look at the monitor, I see it stuck at the POST screen. I scan it and see the following at the bottom of the log.
** S.M.A.R.T. Disk failure on disk IDE-0 **
** Press F1 to continue **
My heart skips a beat. As I grab a keyboard, plug it in, press F1, and wait for it to boot, my heartrate begins to increase. We didn't have much of a budget left, so we were still running off of the two original drives. The IDE drive was the data drive, it had all of our recent work on it. We didn't have RAID, or a way to protect against hardware failure. We didn't have backups, either.
The screen clears and the login prompt appears, snapping me out of my train of thought. It got to the login prompt, so it was somehow still able to mount the drive.
[email protected]:~$ sudo watch -n1 smartctl -A /dev/sdb
The first thing I check is the smart stats. 2000 or so reallocated sectors. Raw read error rate somewhere in 6-7 figures. Generally a lot worse than when I last checked the stats. I grab my laptop and an ethernet patch cable, and proceed to connect to the network. Thus began what was, at the time, the most nerve-wracking file transfer I had ever done.
[email protected]:~$ rsync -AazhP [email protected]:/mnt/shares/* ~/Desktop/RFS_Backup
I rsync'd a copy of the data onto my laptop, keeping an eye on the dying drive and watching the SMART error stats climb during the transfer. I made sure to transfer our data off in order of importance, which was lucky for me. After starting on some of the less-important files (IDE installers, local game manual copies, etc. ), the transfer halted.
[email protected]:~$ multitail -cS syslog /valog/syslog
Checking the syslog, the drive disconnected from the system and was unable to be read from. The IDE drive officially bit the bucket.
[email protected]:~$ sudo shutdown now -P
The server powers down, and the room gets a lot quieter. I pull the system out from under the desk, unlatch the side panel, and pull out the dead drive.
It was a maxtor drive, I think to myself, that explains a lot.
Grabbing a roll of red masking tape and a sharpie, I label the drive as DEAD, and take a minute to breathe. Sliding the drive off of the workbench, I get up and track down $headmentor.
$me: Hey $headmentor, we just had the only data drive in the storage server die. We just about lost the entire last year's worth of work. Luckily the important stuff was backed up the important stuff before it died. Would it be possible to set aside a section of the budget to get a proper RAID setup for the server?
$headmentor: Send me an email with a parts list. Try and keep it under $200 if possible.
$me: Got it, thank you. I'll get on that.
Fast forward a few weeks, and we got the server set up with a 4x250GB RAID5 array for data, and a 2x80GB RAID1 mirror for the OS drives. Also I took the time to write a backup script, keeping both the OS array and the storage array backed up to my home server. We also improved the monitoring scripts to keep track of drive health too.
So this was the first of (hopefully many) tales I will be posting here. Let me know what you guys think!
submitted by networkarchitect to talesfromtechsupport

[Table] IAmA 9 year Microsoft veteran that left last year to start my own software company. AMA about Microsoft, my decision to leave, the trials of building your own start-up, or anything else!

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Date: 2012-09-07
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Questions Answers
Why does Windows still have many of the same problems that it had 15 years ago? Bonus points if you don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about. Also, who's idea is it to, rather than fix existing problems, just pile more crap on top of it? You really have to understand how Microsoft works for me to answer this question. Microsoft is not one Borg like company where somebody hands down orders from high above. Nobody stands on a stage and says 'DON'T FIX PROBLEMS, PILE ON CRAP'.
There are people that create overall strategies and guiding principles, but after that it is up to every individual team to decide how to apply them. And usually its not even a big team, it could just be a single PM, Dev, and Tester who owns a particular feature that will end up making the decision.
So you have thousands of these little feature teams that are trying to do the very best they can for the customer given limited time and limited budget (and unfortunately, sometimes limited experience). Each one looks at their bug backlog, customer requests and feedback, and new features they want to implement. Not everything fits in the schedule and so they need to decide what gets postponed. Also keep in mind that new features sell products, just fixing bugs gets you dinged for not being innovative.
So for every problem you have in mind, just imagine it being owned by some PM . He looks at the data and sees that only a couple of customers have complained about it and it has existed for 10 years. He probably assigns it a P3 (the lowest priority) and moves on to the other 200 problems that he has to evaluate. He then has to decide which issues are more important than new features which can help customers as well. At the end of the day, the P3 is what will get cut so that more important work can get done.
Also, try to remember all of the problems that you don't have anymore. I love Windows 7, it is by far the best OS I've ever used. There are hundreds of things that used be painful 15 years ago that I don't even have to think about anymore. It's easy to notice all of the things that are still problems, but try to have some perspective as well.
Now there is one other type of problem that exists in release after release, and those are problems in which fixing it would break backwards compatibility in someway. 99% of the crazy hacks in Windows or weird functionality are done to protect backwards compatibility.
Also keep in mind that new features sell products, just fixing bugs gets you dinged for not being innovative. This one line explains it. Microsoft probably fires developers who make a quality product in order to keep the others 'innovative'. That's not true. Releases that just have bug fixes are called service packs which Microsoft does all the time, customers expect new features when you release new major versions of a product. That's all I meant.
I agree that because of the variety of devices Windows needs to support, Microsoft has a much more complicated beast to tame, but disagree that people will simply jump ship in response to a large change. Who would they jump ship to? Linux basically. If corporations were tasked with rewriting everything, they might as well rewrite it on a free platform instead of Microsoft. Lots of companies are already heading that way on their own, giving them a push by breaking backwards compatibility would be a horrible idea for Microsoft.
Am I the only one who initially read that as, "9 year old Microsoft veteran..." ? :) That would have made an even better story. Alas, I'm actually 12 ;)
How much were you banking with Microsoft ? My last year at Microsoft I made about $225k with bonuses and vesting stock. The paycheck is definitely the hardest part about striking out on your own, but I don't regret it at all.
How many hours do you work for the above salary ? I gave everything I had when I worked at Microsoft, it's just how I do things. A lot of the time that I was putting in 60 - 70 hours a week. This was mostly because I wasn't interested in managing people so I was producing results that had to compare against people with teams or 10 or more people (Microsoft doesn't calibrate individual contributors differently than managers).
Why quit before bidkat takes off ? See above :) I don't do anything halfway and wanted to be able to devote all of my time and energy.
Were you ever a programmer ? I have a BS and MS in Computer Engineering which involved learning how to program. I was never a developer at Microsoft but I did create some tools for Program Managers to use and created prototypes for different things.
Can you explain your patents, how to get software patents? My patents are for obtuse uses for things involving virtual machines, role based security, and differential compression algorithms. Not sure how many people would find that interesting, but they added to the Microsoft patent war chest. At Microsoft, everybody is encouraged to apply for patents for novel ideas and they have a process that is streamlined to do so. Anybody can file a patent though, just need to hire a lawyer which is incredibly expensive to make sure that your patent can be enforced. I barely could understand my own patents after they went through the legal machinery.
What level were you when you started, and when you left? Level 59 (Program Manager) when I started, Level 65 (Principle Program Manager) when I left.
How much did the work load and pay increase through each of the levels? My work load increased pretty significantly with each level since I had to start competing against leads and later group program managers. I always had an uncanny ability to take on more and still produce good results.
Also, did you every think about becoming a lead? I'm debating on how hard I want to work for a promotion vs. just chilling. I never wanted to become a lead because managing people isn't my strong suit. I wanted to become the best PM that I could and I think it took most of those 9 years to achieve my goal. If you are just thinking about chilling, please think about taking up a job somewhere else. When you decide to chill, you are not just affecting your career, you inadvertently affect those around you negatively.
how the heck did you get promoted that many times in 9 years? I got promoted that many times because I produced more results than anybody else and had an amazing manager that made sure I got rewarded for it.
What kind of pay did you start at? $70k base salary.
How many hit points did you have by the end of your time there? Around 6.5k, leveling at Microsoft is surprisingly similar to WoW.
Not bad.jpg. I was very happy coming out of school.
With some heavy armor and a few more years you could have tanked the Google! I hear he's unkillable in this version. Need to wait for the next patch.
Did you have any other experience when you got hired? I am graduating in a year, I have made some of my own programs and have lots of programming experience, but have never technically gotten paid to do coding. I had experience from paid internships, which probably helped. These days technology companies are hiring a lot of people out of school and its fine if you don't have real job experience. I interviewed plenty of people in your position, as long as you know your stuff that's all that matters. The honest truth is that big companies know that college grads can code and do the work and they can hire you for a relatively small salary compared to people with job experience. Plus, you haven't learned any 'bad' habits from other companies yet :) The biggest problem you'll face is just getting your resume in front of the right people. It's unfortunate but most jobs are filled because somebody knows somebody and can route their resume through the HR jungle. Having a good LinkedIn network makes a huge difference - for anybody just starting out, connect to everybody you know on LinkedIn. You can never tell who might land in a position that can help you out someday. LinkedIn is way more important than Facebook in the real world.
Why is microsoft not allowing us to have a start menu in windows 8? they are actually putting measures in place to make sure we can't install 3rd party start buttons. Why? From what I've read in various blogs, it was a design decision that a few people that are pretty high up felt very, very, very strongly about. I miss it too.
How much money did you save up for your start-up? You need to save up enough to support yourself for 3 years when you are doing a start-up. This includes the money for equipment, hosting, SSL certs, lawyers, etc as well as food, rent/mortgage, and other living expenses. So that's what I did. Figure out your costs for a year, double it (you'll always miss expenses) then multiply by 3. That will give you enough runway to build what you want and give it time to become successful.
Did you get any investors? I actually started off my career in hardware - I did VHDL design for Motorola on some of their security processors. If you love hardware, specialize as much as you can and become the best at it that you can. At Motorola, I found that upward mobility was pretty limited because the people you are competing against have been doing hardware design since they were using paper and pencil. It was going to take 8+ years to move up from a junior engineer looking at waveforms all day which is when I decided to move to software.
Programming and Hardware go hand in hand don't you think? The best thing I found about software is there are a million places to get paid to do it and if you don't like any of those places you can start your own company with a laptop and an Amazon account. That's something you can never do working in the hardware industry (FPGA or VHDL).
I'm finishing up my EE degree and currently working in the military RF field. We have FPGA with clocks up to 2GHz, do you think it would be worth trying to understand both worlds and jumping into a little bit of VHDL or should I stay specialized in hardware? Really it all depends on where your passion is though. Do what you love.
So basically, you need to make bank in order to do a start up or find investors. :-/ Or drastically minimize your costs. If you are young and are in college, or just coming out of college this is definitely pretty feasible (and the reason why most start-ups are run by people in their early twenties). The younger you are, the more risk you can take as well since you generally have less responsibilities. If you have 3 - 6 month runway, that can be enough it is just much riskier. But if you fail, the consequences are also generally much smaller (you just need to find a job).
As you get older, you have more expenses and more responsibility which makes going down the start-up path a little riskier. The way people in this situation manage the risk is by having a 3 year runway.
In the end, if you are passionate about it, I honestly believe that anybody can find a way.
Ever get hit by a flying chair at Microsoft? I almost got punched by a tester once, that was an interesting experience. No flying chairs though.
How do you feel about MS longterm especially given the controversy over win8's design? I think Microsoft has a lot of challenges right now to overcome as a company. I don't think Win8's design is the biggest threat to their long term success.
I want to hear he details on you getting punched! It was the weirdest thing. I was having a very heated discussion with a tester over something pretty minor. Realizing it wasn't worth fighting for I finally told him, 'Okay, we'll do it your way' but he kept wanting to argue and so I was like 'Why are you still arguing, I agreed to do it the way you want.' then he almost punched me. Instead he punched the glass pane next to my office door and almost broke it. I kinda wish he had, that was a tough working relationship.
I'm using Vista on the "office if @ home pc" and fooled myself into thinking it's nearly as good as Windows 7 thanks to all the updates. Windows 7 is substantially better than Windows Vista no matter how many updates you stick on it. I would highly recommend an upgrade.
Am I fooling myself ? Also, what kind of car do you drive ? :) I drive a Honda Civic. We all have different priorities :)
We can agree that iOS is a child's toy though right? A very valuable, incredibly well designed, amazingly timely child's toy. Yes.
Do you have any advice for someone who's joining MSFT fresh out of college? Every group at Microsoft is different, try to find one that matches your interests and where you respect the leadership team and enjoy your co-workers. Every manager is different, finding a good one that has your best interest in mind is a key to success. While you will be in charge of your career, it is incredibly important to have a manager that will defend you when needed and find opportunities when they come up. Always do more than your asked, it's expected even if it isn't mentioned. Look for gaps to fill before anybody realizes that they are gaps. I built a very successful career just doing that.
Did you find your hardware experience came in handy while at MSFT? I used 0% of what I learned about computer engineering at Microsoft. You will use all of the soft skills though: being able to ramp up quickly on new topics, understanding highly technical issues, solving hard problems, communicating with others, and writing skills. Nobody will ask you to draw a transistor though ;)
What are some of the big changes you have seen happen to the company throughout your 9 year duration? Microsoft has changed tremendously in the last 10 years. As the stock price has remained flat, people need to compete with each other to earn more money. This internal competition isn't healthy and why it's so important to find a good team. If you PM me the teams that you are looking at, I'd be happy to give you my thoughts.
How do you feel about SaaS? SaaS is basically just another name for a web site. Enterprises couldn't justify spending millions of dollars a year to use a web site, but call it SaaS and they throw money at it.
Why did you leave? Were you just unhappy at Microsoft or was it for the urge to start something yourself? A little bit of both. I had been working with an amazing team of people for about 6 years which was a really fun time for me. But after tackling the same type of challenges for so long, I wanted to try something new so I moved to a different team at Microsoft. It was at that point that I realized what I was really looking for wasn't at Microsoft. It's been the best decision that I've ever made.
Learning how to program...can you elaborate on that? Anything specific to learn? At the minimum, I would say you need to learn enough so that when you need to do accomplish something specific you can Google your way through it. This means understanding the basics like if statements, for loops, variables, classes, and data structures like arrays, lists and maps. With a good foundation, the language you end up using to writing your code doesn't really matter.
If you can automate Excel or Photoshop, you can save hundreds of hours and make yourself that much more efficient. If you can make a website you can reach the world. If you can make a web service or a flash game or an iPhone app you can make a living. I literally can't think of a single occupation where it would not be a huge advantage to be able to automate tasks or distribute information or provide a service for others.
If I asked you to code up a version of the game Hang Man and you knew where to start and could get it working, then you are most of the way there. Not everybody is going to code for a living and not everyone needs to be a superstar developer (I know I'm not!) but just a basic understanding will open up a lot of opportunities.
If you are just starting out Link to www.khanacademy.org is pretty cool.
Other than this AMA what are your strategies on getting your product out there? Advertising on Reddit :) We've also been reaching out to various blogs and buy-sell forums to get the word out.
Our biggest strategy though is somewhat counter intuitive. We decided not to provide a way on our site to actually see what auctions exist. This means that it is up to the sellers to post a link to their auctions on things like Twitter, Faceboook, forums, Craigslist, etc. As sellers work to spread the word about their auction, they are doing an awesome job spreading the word about BidKat as well.
Over the short run that sounds okay, however over the long run I feel like that could stump your growth. Why not allow people to have the option of making their auction public/ private, allowing people to search for items. If you give people the option they will just click public and assume that you'll bring in sufficient traffic to sell their item. We'll lose out on the secondary advertising, which will prevent us from having sufficient traffic to sell their item. Microsoft and Ebay both tried to compete with Craigslist like this and both failed. If it didn't work for a billion dollar company, I don't see how it could work for us.
Where is your company located? Were you bootstrapping off your savings? How long until you expect your startup to profit? We are located in the beautiful city of Seattle, WA. Yes, we are bootstrapping this off of savings (taking money from investors too early can be pretty dangerous). We're expecting it to take about 3 years to turn a profit - which I define as making up for my lost salary. BidKat is just the first service and not one that we counting on making a lot of money. It was just an itch that we personally wanted to scratch.
Why the disconnect between the consistent failure of MSFT where it competes with Apple and Google and the willingness of those in the MSFT ecosystem to criticize top level management? In other words, why does no one have the guts to say that Steve Balmer has to go? Lot's of people say that, both internally and externally to Microsoft. There are entire articles written up detailing the reasons why he needs to go. There are a couple of problems though. First, he still has the full support of Bill Gates. Second, who would replace him? Investors look around internally and don't see anybody they really want as CEO for various reasons. Most also think hiring externally would be a disaster because of the realities of the Microsoft culture. So say you have the power to kick him out tomorrow - who do you put in their place and what strategy do they take?
Keep in mind that while Microsoft has had lots of failures in the consumer space (personally, I believe Bill Gates was ahead of the curve but the stars didn't align), they are incredibly dominant in the enterprise space and still bring in billions and billions of dollars a quarter. While the fights with Google (which is personal for Steve) and Apple (which was personal with Jobs) are the most visible, Microsoft directly competes with over 50 different companies and is beating the vast majority of them.
What is the ms culture? What do you think of sinovsky? Is he a viable alternative (if the new metro environment is successful)? Microsoft is a really big place and there are lots of different cultures across the different teams. That's why when you work there it is really important for you to find a good fit. Some teams are very developer centered like how they were in the late 90's, some teams are very PM driven and customer focused, and lots of teams are in between.
Personally, I think Sinofsky is really great a managing large projects and making sure they ship. I don't think he is a visionary leader and I don't think that he gets his employees to their highest possible potential. Is he a viable alternative? No idea, time will tell I guess :)
What's your opinion of the Linux Kernal? I use Linux for all of my development and production servers. It just works and works well with very little maintenance. As for the Kernal itself, I've never done any hacking on the Kernal, but I appreciate everything that Linus has done :)
At Microsoft you worked on Windows Server and on Azure. What led you to switch from those technologies that you were familiar with to the world of Linux. What dev stack are you using right now and how does it suit your business better than the alternatives that Microsoft has to offer? Two reasons, cost and the open source community. For BidKat, I used Ubuntu 12, nginx as the front end web server, node.js as the backend, with Redis.io for caching and mongoDB for my database. Total cost of the stack is $0.
The open source community around node.js is pretty amazing which made development much easier. Out of the 8k lines of code in BidKat, I only had to write about 3k of them. Everything else was available in open source libraries that come with full test suites. I took advantage of expressjs for serving the web site, connectors for Redis and mongoDB, mongoose for ORM, mustache for HTML templates, mocha for my test harness, and a bunch of other smaller libraries.
Developers that use Microsoft aren't as big into open source which means the community isn't as developed. For my needs, Microsoft's stack would have simply cost me more and provided me less.
What cms did you use ? or was this all custom ? BidKat is completely custom code, no CMS was harmed.
What was your favorite thing about working for them? My favorite part about working for Microsoft was the people that I got to work with. Microsoft has some of the smartest, most dedicated people that I've ever met. They made going into work enjoyable even through the distractions of re-orgs, calibrations, and office politics.
A PM who wrote code? I call shennigans. I know right? I actually checked code into the production branch a few times to fix a couple of UI bugs.
Who did your QA work? I'm always interested to hear how people who strike out on their own find people to QA their stuff. We did it ourselves with the help of friends and family. I wish I could say it was all automated with unit tests, but that wouldn't be true. We just use it a lot, log errors, and fix things as they come up. Luckily we're not building things for the government or medical industries so the worse thing that happens is a user might see an error.
Definitely learned some lessons for next time, and our next service will in fact have a fully automated test suite.
From the view of source, looks like it is made page by page then linked together? It took about 5 months from start to finish. Basically we started with a bunch of wire frames and ideas of how we wanted it to work. Once we had that done I built out the server component (the piece that actually saves the auctions, negotiates with buyers, and tracks offers). Once that was in good shape, I built out the actual web site page by page, slowly adding new functionality.
Another questions, how do you get sleek looking boxes and buttons like that ? The buttons and boxes look great because we have an awesome designer - I can take no credit for that. You can read more about the design process at Link to bunkat.wordpress.com
I just have to say your mascot is awesomely adorable. Thanks! Our sock puppet mascot was hand sewn by our amazing designer. I'll let her know you like it :)
How did you get the job at Microsoft and did you like working there? That's an interesting story actually. I was just finishing up my Master's thesis and had no real job prospects. I turned down an offer from Motorola (wasn't interested in hardware design anymore) and was planning on starting my job search after my dissertation. Out of the blue, I got a phone call from Microsoft asking if I would be interested in applying, even though I had never even sent in a resume or applied for a job. A phone screening and interview later, I accepted a position. I've never heard of anybody else getting hired like that, so I don't suggest it as a sound strategy :)
Like any big company, Microsoft has it's positives and negatives. Overall, it was a really positive experience for me. I learned a lot from a lot of really smart people and worked on some really interesting problems. Regardless of what you might hear, there are definitely much, much worse places to work.
I work in MS Licensing at a LAR, how did you feel about the nature of licensing server products such as ServeCALs? Do you feel that licensing and software development ever clash? Microsoft definitely has the most robust software licensing model out there, with numerous agreements, clauses and subclauses...sometimes it feels like licensing is only there to force revenue generation, would you agree? Licensing is definitely only there to force revenue generation :) There were many times when I was on an engineering team that we were asked to cripple our products in weird ways to support some new licensing scheme (which they would then want to change 1 week before shipping). For my start-up, I use no Microsoft software at all because of all the crazy licensing. I don't have the time, money, or knowledge to deal with that.
I think Microsoft will need to address this problem soon because they are quickly losing out on a whole new generation of software developers. It will be a big problem is Microsoft loses their dominance in platforms.
For server side applications I think they are irrelevant, and it has been for awhile. I get a headache of just thinking about their licensing options, that is no innovation. Well, I admit that is innovation on how to squeeze more money out of their customers =) I think we'll disagree on this one, I think the Reddit admins would disagree as well. This particular site requires lots of server side applications, quite a few of them are very innovative. Server side applications are not just client side applications with licensing fees :)
I am curious to pick up programming, is there a very basic website and / or book to use? Also did you see the Microsoft article in vanity fair on steve ballmer? what are you thoughts on that goofball? I'd start with Link to www.khanacademy.org if you are new to programming. I like the approach that they use where you actual play with the code and see the results.
People think lots of different things about Ballmer, I'm not sure myself if he's the best person to be heading Microsoft right now. However, for people that have worked at Microsoft, the Vanity Fair article didn't ring very true. They had a story they wanted to tell and they told it.
How difficult did economic regulation make starting your own business? I filled out an online form and sent the great state of Washington $150 and boom, we had a business. Now hiring workers is a little trickier, but as a couple of co-founders starting an LLC we haven't had to tackle that problem yet. So, as of right not, not difficult at all.
Do you make enough money to pay at least the minimum wage in Washington or is that going to be a problem? We don't currently have any employees, just founders which aren't currently taking a salary (there is no requirement that founders make any money). Luckily there was no expectation that we would be rolling in the dough 3 weeks after releasing our first service, so this isn't going to cause any problems.
Based on this and other replies of yours, it sounds like regulations make it difficult to hire people. I'd say costly, not difficult. I could hire somebody tomorrow if I could afford them. As a small business owner, I'm looking forward to providing a living for other people someday. This includes making sure that they have appropriate healthcare and insurance. I'm not trying to get rich here, I'm trying to make a living doing what I love and hopefully being able to help other people do the same.
Why does Microsoft Internet Explorer act up on my computer? Like, one time I was looking at Facebook, and the text in posts started going to all kinds of weird icons. I had to change browsers. I now only use Firefox or Chrome because of this. If it worked fine, I would still use it. Anyway, do you have any idea why this would happen??? I have no idea, I use Chrome :)
How can you possibly produce any software that does not violate a MS copyright or your confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement? The confidentiality/NDA agreements I signed are for discussing unreleased products or plans. There is nothing that I worked on (except for a few tiny things) that fits in those categories anymore. In terms of copyrights, I don't use any of their copyrighted terms anywhere.
Microsoft doesn't chain you to a desk for life. You are allowed to leave and work elsewhere :)
Did you ever make eye contact with Bill Gates? The closest I ever got to Bill Gates was at the annual company meeting when I was in the stands and he was on the stage. I have actually bumped into Steve Ballmer on a number of occasions though.
Literary? Yes, twice actually. Last time was going through the doors at one of our cafeterias, I think he was showing some of the interns around. I was talking to one of my friends and walked right into him. Oops.
If I want to find a job at Microsoft, what can I expect from the interview by being a computer engineer too? Would they focus the interview in programming/algorithms/etc? Your type of interview will heavily depend on the role that you are interviewing for and the team. If you interview for a developer role, then yes there will be programming and algorithms questions. If you interview for a program manager role (works with dev and test to define requirements for products), there will be some high level programming (if the team is an engineering team) but it will be more focused on problem solving, your thought process, how you deal with ambiguity, and how you resolve conflict.
One question that I liked to ask PM candidates was to design an elevator system for a new hotel. It usually took 40 minutes to walk through and covers almost everything a program manager has to be good at. I'd be happy to grade responses if anybody wants to take a shot :)
Last updated: 2012-09-12 04:35 UTC
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