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Harold Blount - Experiences:

Where I've been .. first thread
Where I've been ... second thread
What I find interesting ...
NOAH - my ark
Live-Debian .. I'm hooked!

I see my history as a collection of many threads of activity and pleasures ..
I've captured just two of those threads in the following  ..  I can see more coming!



Where I've been ... first thread

  • 1980-1985: Arctec - cold region engineering consulting firm - in Ottawa (now called Fleet Systems)

    • Instrumentation Engineer doing data collection and analysis on Canadian and US Coast Guard ships. Lots of fun coming up with instrumentation packages (in early days of Apple II's!) to collect real-time data while breaking ice in Arctic and Antarctic. Lots of software and 6502 assembler, data acquisition systems etc.

  • 1985-1987: Siltronics - Bipolar design house - RF and in the pager business - built up a fab for bi-polar when times were tough and died under the weight of this and other expansions.

    • wrote diagnostics software to debug in-house PC based parametric testers, designed interface boards, managed building and debug of analog and digital boards and supported tester in-house.

  • 1987-2004: Mitel-Semiconductor - later Zarlink Semiconductor - 17 years in many aspects of digital and analog development from test to design.

    • started as test engineer, worked as a design-for-test engineer in silicon design and eventually became an RTL designer and then project leader and then manager over 17 years across a large variety of projects

    • projects included phone chips (DFT,ATProgramG, adpcm (modeling), U-interface (DFT, verification), echo cancellers (RTL design, synth, atpg), Mitel custom DSP Core (RTL design, lex/yacc), VDSL datapumps (architectures, uport design, methods)

    • tool development for simulation environment (design and test users), (casper, tmenu and many others using C and perl mostly)

    • tool and methodology training for many groups in Mitel Semi

    • developed some innovative mysql tools to manage projects and capture corporate knowledge (product development methods)

    • lead xDSL and, more recently, echo canceller chips

    • managed growth of xDSL team hiring algorithm and software people

    • built a fabulous team spirit and convinced the team that they could do it .. and they did!

Where I've been .. second thread

  • Linux server development

    • developed skills in linux systems and s/w development on home server .. perl/squirrelmail/fetchmail/mysql .. while building tools such as a family tree database shared amongst our families

    • developed a server for the Ottawa Outing Club to get them off of dbaseIII and into a web-based intranet solution that would be scalable and supportable for years to come independent of Microsoft OS migration and supportable remotely.

    • brought in some of the first Linux boxes at Zarlink to speed up simulations in algorithm group

  • Perl/Tk

    • developed a database solution for the Peterborough Community Care Centre to get them off of dbaseIII and into a windows based system .. Perl/Tk with a windows perl compiler for easy distribution.

What I find interesting ...

  • problem solving .. and it can be any problem .. I just like problems!

  • writing software .. and creating solutions that surprise and please my friends and customers.

  • focusing in on methodologies

    • how you do your work determines your success and pleasures

    • every problem/project often requires a different methodology .. that's why it's not easy to 'crank' out designs!

  • working with people .. leading them in problem solving and helping them focus for success.

  • taking people cross-country skiing in the Gatineau swamps on a sunny day in February and helping them see what's important in life.

NOAH ... my ark

  • Everyone thinks they can do it better .. me too! .. so off I went re-inventing the ubiquious 'Document Management System'!
  • actually sold some licenses .. thanks guys for the support!
  • actually realized that the only way to make money is to charge for support .. but I'm retired! .. so no support .. so now it's opensource!
  • I'm amazed at the downloads I still get for NOAH .. hope it is meeting your needs!

Live-Debian ... I'm hooked!

  • It is amazing what can lead to what .. and that's what happened when I started to play around with Live-Debian for my basement server .. here is how it played out:

  1. bought a VIA low power fanless motherboard (fanless power block too!)
  2. installed Live-Debian (the old casper version) on IDE flash with the usual fetchmail, apache2,exim4, bunch of perl modules, imap-courier, squirrelmail etc.
  3. setup data on hard disk and setup a spin-down timeout to save power
  4. bought a power meter .. measured around 20watts .. can't remember exactly now!

  • This server is still running and about once every 6 months I come up with a reason to reboot it. Well, ok, a few times it has run into trouble .. probably a /tmp/ overflow or some syslog issue I'm guessing.

  • I liked this Live Debian approach so much, that I started setting up the same arrangement on my desktop .. i.e. running a live debian os booting from hard disk but running mostly in ram except for /home directory. See www.tailwind-live.org.

  • Then my MOM said she wanted a computer .. so I gave her a similar arrangement but this time set it up to automatically re-install all her configuration files on reboot to make sure that she always starts up in a known state .. and arranged for icedove to open up on boot.

  • Then along comes John and he has a project with FreeWRL and wants a Live DVD to demo FreeWRL .. so off we go again but this time with a Live-Debian using the latest kernel/Testing release and building in Graphics Card support for Nvidia and ATI. I can't say the DVD itself was a success but it forced me into looking at graphics cards and latest drivers and add documentation in grub.

  • All is good .. then my friend Zlatko says he's got a MOM too! .. and she needs something even simpler! ... so we start with a keyboardless computer with a panel of pushbuttons .. and again the latest version of what I now call Tailwind-Live only this time we run the /home in ram too and download the environment from a webserver with local cache. This is the birth of Pushbutton Linux and the MyPlace concept after moving to an MSI touchscreen all-in-one computer.

  • What's next? .. hard to say, but I'm amazed that there is notmore talk about using ram-based Live Linux systems on desktops to reduce support issues .. it works so well!

Harold Blount - info [at] nordicwind [dot] ca

photos by Blount

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