30 Years

I’ve passed 20, then 25-year milestones and while it was very nice to hear from co-workers and friends on those dates it wasn’t significant. Hitting 30 years is surprisingly different for me, it is unbelievable to hit this milestone. I’m fortunate to have more than a handful of co-workers who have longer tenure than I do, some more than a decade ahead of me. It is these people that are showing me the way forward from here.

I’m proud to be a technical leader in my area. Recognized as a “Master Inventor“. Called upon to mentor and coach people both in my group and outside. I regularly work with customers, consultants, and other companies. Sometimes I even get my hands dirty with code and the work of keeping some of our cloud services going. 30 years in, and there is still plenty to keep me actively engaged and looking for the next hill to climb.

Now, 30 years counts all my full-time work. The company I started at: Object Technology International, was purchased by IBM and we were granted our tenure at that company as IBM tenure. I have many great memories of the work we did at OTI. Inside IBM we continued to make our mark in the Java space. I did a stint in Corporate helping communicate technical strategy. My most recent chapter is about building IBM Cloud. While this has all been within “one company” I’ve had a lot of different jobs over the years.

One of the things that I find attractive about computers is what they enable a single individual to accomplish. That is still true, but I’ve learned that the real magic is when you get a team of people working together to solve a problem that a has real impact. It is all my team members, past and present that I’m thankful for.

IBM continues to be a great place for me. I hope to continue to grow and learn. I’ve certainly become a better person over time, and I hope that I’ve helped others build their skills too.

None of my accomplishments would have been possible without the support of my wife and kids, to them I am forever grateful.

The Culture of Disposable Technology

I really like taking things apart. When it comes to smart phones, the Nexus 4 was the last phone I really did any actual tinkering around inside. That phone had a 7/10 repairability score on ifixit, not bad. I had replaced the battery multiple times, and even the motherboard.

My current phone is the Google Pixel XL, it also surprisingly gets a 7/10 on ifixit. Looking at the battery replacement guide, it seems the display is likely to break when you pry it off. This seems much worse than the Nexus 4 to me since other than the screen, the battery is probably the next most likely component you’ll want to replace.

It wasn’t always this way. Removable batteries were common, that is before the rise of smartphones. Some lay the blame on Apple and the iPhone, but the industry as a whole needs to own this problem. The rate and pace of improvements has driven this issue, it’s quite common to replace your phone after 2 years – why make anything repairable?

Even the latest macbook pro has a removable cover.


Imagine if we put a few screws on the back of the Google Pixel XL in the same style? The battery is stuck right on the back cover.

The only hitch is the battery connector is on the wrong side of the circuit board.

It might be awesome to create after market phone bodies which enable easy repair, but re-house the existing electronics. While it’s unfortunate that modern screens are glued to the frame – I can deal with that being a part I need to replace as a whole. The structural benefits of the screen being firmly affixed are worth that. The back of the phone, other than possibly being a water-resistance problem, seems like an obvious location for access to the inside.

There is a security story here, making it hard to open the phone means you can trust the insides haven’t been tampered with. For the majority of users, this isn’t a key part of their threat model. Also, everything is broken anyways. Tamper proof stickers are also an easy solution to that. I’d even be ok if the panel on the back was glued on – and removing it voided my warranty.

It is probably a difficult business case to justify building an aftermarket phone body to re-house the electronics. Still I can dream.

The trend of making the screen the thing you need to remove to get into the phone is a bad decision for repairability. If the latest macbook pro can have screws on the underside, why can’t modern smart phones?

There is some hope if we look at the maker community and projects like kiteboard. There is also the Fairphone as an option, but it is not available in all countries.


Wow, 2014 seems to have zoomed by and I only manged to make 3 posts to this blog. There was some (non spam) comment activity from folks who’d found articles I’d written that were useful to them – getting feedback is always nice!

I was quite busy with my work on JavaScript runtimes (specifically Node/V8). You can check out the IBM DeveloperWorks page and grab the product of my team’s efforts. Folks that are keen to see code – should check my GitHub account and you’ll find ports of V8 for PowerPC and s390/zLinux.

Late in the year I switched roles at moved to the team that is delivering container runtimes on the IBM Bluemix cloud. We managed to rush something out the door for DockerCon Europe. It even made the IBM www front page:

Still lots to do in this rapidly evolving space, so it should be an interesting 2015 (which might keep me away from doing side projects).

Despite the fact I didn’t manage to turn out very many posts here, I was tinkering away in my limited spare time. From the top of my head: I fixed an XBox360, did lots of 3D printing (including some 2 color prints); modified my Printrbot to be more reliable; replaced some capacitors in a failing DSL modem to fix it; charged a FitBit using a hacked USB cable.. maybe I’ll try to post up a few of those as I do have notes (each of these posts takes a couple of hours usually).

So there you go, I’ve managed to break the ice and start writing here again. I have some work related stuff that I’ll be posting up here soon and hope to document some of the tinkering projects I’ve done (and have queued up) as well.