Throughout most of my life I've either been a runner or a cyclist. What draws me to these activities is the ability to work into a steady, consistent rhythm. Feet hitting pavement. Legs spinning. Steady breathing. I can find myself almost in a trance - enjoying and focusing on the work at hand. It's not until I take a break or the work is done that I notice what is around me such as the sunshine or a nice view. I enjoy both the work and the surroundings, it’s just hard to pay attention to both at the same time. For the last nine months I've been deeply engaged with a client. The work has been good and challenging. That client engagement is coming to an end. Now I’m able to devote some time looking at current industry and technology dynamics.
From a technology and professional perspective I'm still drawn to most of the same topics I have been in the past; understanding multi-company and industry business ecosystems, open source communities and results, and automation in general (including seeing how data from devices can be analyzed and leveraged by other solutions). I am less drawn to OpenStack, whose future role seems questionable. OpenStack was born in a time when the unit of computing was the virtual machine. Now containers and container orchestration (Docker, Kubernetes) are on the scene and those two technologies seem to be of greatest interest to those creating cloud environments.
With this intense client work ending, I have time available to pursue some technology projects that have been on my radar. With the current availability of amazingly inexpensive and capable hardware (such as the Raspberry Pi), along with a wide variety of free (open source) software, there are opportunities to create some pretty neat solutions.
I live in Ft. Collins, Colorado. The town is known for its craft beers (e.g. New Belgium Brewing - the home of Fat Tire Amber Ale) and infamously known for its trains which, literally, run through the middle of town. These trains, which number roughly 6-10 each day, severely disrupt traffic flow.
I live on the south part of town – with an unobstructed view of one of the train tracks. I would like to build a camera and software solution that will, upon seeing a northbound train, send an alert to subscribers. This way drivers can receive advanced warning of an approaching train and take action (e.g. cross the tracks sooner rather than later) before streets are blocked and traffic is snarled.
Today the music streaming device in my house is an iPod Touch. I hate it. But there is one thing I hate even more; iTunes. It is simply horrible. It is the only software I’ve ever seen that has a feature (called "View Duplicates") to deal with a bug (i.e. duplicate songs appear in the library unexpectedly). Uh – rather than providing a feature to deal with the bug, how about you just fix the bug? I'd like to move to something else so creating a new playlist doesn't elevate my blood pressure.
I want to create a Raspberry Pi-based music streamer that pulls music from my music library that is already stored on a Linux-based server on my home network. There are a few open source solutions that look like they will enable this capability. We'll see how they do.
Free Home Phone Line
A Raspberry Pi and Cisco VoIP converter, coupled with some free software (FreePBX and Asterisk) in theory can be combined to provide a free phone land line using Google Voice. I really don't need this...at least I don’t think I do. If it works well it might be fun to kick Comcast Digital Voice to the curb. At the very least it will be fun to see if I can get it all to work.
So, in addition to experimenting with these projects and reporting their results here on this site, I'll continue my normal industry and technology investigations and observations. I will also share perspectives via my blog. Of course, since I like meaty challenges, I'll be looking for my next client engagement as well. If you would like to talk about your company's business strategy, customer needs, or some other business need, just let me know! Until then, I'll be working on Fort Collins's transportation challenges while listening to music and contemplating a breakup with Comcast Digital Voice.
Addendum: The day after I wrote this post I attended one of my regular weekend spin sessions at the local club. The instructor happened to play Led Zeppelin's Kashmir - the song that does the best job of helping me forget my surroundings and focus on the exercise.