Posts Tagged ‘Silicon Valley’

Last night a MacBook saved my life!

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Actually it wasn’t last night it was the whole of yesterday. Yesterday the worst nightmare of the jet-setting software engineer happened and my work laptop developed a bad fault. The Dell’s hard drive became very unreliable! It wouldn’t boot properly, spent time just thrashing, and generally was show signs of hardware faults an imminent failure.

Combined with virtualization my MacBook came to the rescue. I dislike Fedora as a Linux distribution however, for the current client, I have to use it. On the Dell I run Ubuntu with Windows XP in a virtual machine so it is a simple matter to run Fedora Core 8 in a virtual machine as well.

So when I realised that my Dell would just not boot I set VMWare Fusion and Slax, a lightweight distribution with XFS support, downloading on my MacBook and headed off to Frys Electronics. At Frys I bought a USB2.0 to IDE/SATA cable, a new 200Gb 7200RPM 2.5 inch Toshiba HD, a 320Gb 2.5 inch Maxtor external USB HD and some blank CDs.

When I got back to the office I set up work e-mail on my Mac and Skyped and wrote e-mails until Slax had downloaded. I then burnt that to a CD and used it to boot the Dell and tried to access the failing HD. I did manage to read my home directory so I copied across the virtual machine files and some other data on to the Maxtor USB drive. This took some time so I then set the download of an ISO image of Ubuntu 8.04 going so that I could install it on the new HD I had just bought.

Once the data had been copied on to the Maxtor I installed MacFuse and NTFS-3G on to my Mac so that I could read and write NTFS (by default OS X can only read NTFS). Fired up VMWare, pointed it at the VM files I had copied, and it just worked! I have to say that VMWare on OS X is a delight. I will write more about this in another post. Having the same virtual machine running meant I could start working again. This was some five hours after starting the working day.

In between waiting for builds, CVS and other time consuming processes, I swapped the Dell’s old hard drive with the new one I had bought at Frys. I then set an install of Ubuntu going from another CD burnt using my Mac. Finally I used the USB 2.0 to IDE/SATA cable to connect the old hard drive and recovered more data.

This morning I was back to using my Dell If I had still had my old iBook I would have been held up somewhat more since I could not have run VMWare or the virtual machines on PowerPC architecture. And because it is a Mac it comes supplied with an awful lot of useful software which just made bringing the Dell back up easier. I am so relieved I had it with me.

Back in Sunnyvale

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

Well I’m back in Sunnyvale and have been for two weeks. I’ve just been busy working and socializing so not really had a proper chance to update.

I seem to be such a frequent visitor to SFO that I was recognized on the way in at the border. The down side is that I am well and truly in the system.

My trick of trying to rent a popular model worked again and I was upgraded to a nice black Mustang free.

New shiny black Mustang.

The first few days I was here with a colleague. Since I know the area I took him out for a meal to a restaurant I know. It’s a great Japanese steak and fish place in down-town San José. The chef cooks at the table. It is part cullinary expertise and part showmanship. Anyway the food was divine.

Flaming heck!


I do love the infinitely refillable diet coke they have over here. It is often needed after a long day in the lab.

Anyway back to work. Another update when I’ve finished sorting the photos taken with my DSLR so far.

I’m home for a while

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Yesterday (per the calendar but not me) I went in to the office to finish off a couple of things then I met up with two friends and had a great Indian lunch at a buffet place in Mountain View. I then said my goodbyes, gave hugs and kisses, and drove up to SFO and the start of my journey back to Yorkshire.

SFO is very much referable to LAX. Its quieter and nicer to wait in. When I got to check in there was almost no one waiting. Frequent flyer miles mean I can use the business class queue and so I had rapidly checked in my case and confirmed I could carry the guitar on to the plane. Alas I could not upgrade my seat as I had a discounted ticket. Half an hour later I was through security and sat at the gate.

As the client had bought the flight I was in cattle class at the back of the plane. This wasn’t too bad though because you learn tricks when you fly a lot. For example the back row in the centre is often empty so you can fold up the arms and lay out across all four seats. I always choose the isle seat of one of the rows of two seats where the plane narrows right at the back. This means that (a) you’re first in economy on the plane; and (b) you usually have the seats to your self and you have space next to the seats for storage. As they promised my guitar was stored in a storage cupboard on the plane. I like flying Virgin Atlantic.

It was quick flight today. Under ten hours SFO to LHR. I read a bit (Manifesta – young women, feminism, and the future), watched Dexter on my iPhone, played some Final Fantasy IV on my DS, watched a couple of movies on the in-flight entertainment system, and slept.

My case was checked right through to the final destination so at LHR I collected the guitar and walked and bused from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1 for my connecting flight, passing through passport control and security again. Half an hour later I was in the BMI business lounge. I was pretty tired by this point and the quietness of the lounge was just what I needed. Then it was on to the next flight.

The domestic flight would not take the guitar on board so I had to get it tagged and they put it in the hold at the gate which has to be better than have it go through the whole baggage system. A quick flight and I was at LBA. A ten minute wait for my case and the guitar, which was brought through to me, and I was done. It was very very windy and cold. The landing was interesting and the wait for my ride back home freezing. Apparently its not that cold its just that I’ve gotten used to northern Californian climes.

The guitar made it all the way back in perfect condition only for me to break a string whilst tuning it!

Geek company spotting – AMD

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

AMD’s head quarters are about 5 minutes walk from where I’m currently staying…

AMD Headquarters

AMD Headquarters

Where I am working…

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Yesterday I decided to take a few photographs with my iPhone on the way from the office to the sandwich store here in San José.

Looking East

Looking east towards the mountains

Looking West

Looking west towards the office


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I am not a number!

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

My stay in Sunnyvale is in a hotel that caters for longer stays.  I’ve got a proper studio apartment with a kitchen area, a dining area, a sitting area, a sleeping area, a dressing room and a bath room.  I’m the upper floor of a little house of which there are many.  It kind of reminds me of a The Prisoner that great 60s TV show.  The staff even drive around in little golf carts.  I just hope there are no roving balloons around…

I am not a number

I am not a number

Living on the Hell Mouth

Friday, September 26th, 2008

I’m currently based in Sunnyvale, CA, USA. Yes I know it was Sunnydale in Buffy but it was poorly disguised 🙂 I’m keeping a watch out for demons and vampires. So far so good.

I’m actually working on site at a client who is based in San Jose just a few miles further south where I’m helping integrate software on an embedded Linux platform. Its the third time I’ve been out here and probably not the last. Its an easy commute from my accommodation, just a quick blast down the 101 Freeway.

As a geek, one of the things I love about the valley, is that everywhere I drive there are companies and institutions that mean something to me and place names that are so familiar. Yahoo, Apple, Google, SGI, Macrovision, Intel, HP, PayPal, NASA’s Ames Research Facility, Stamford, Berkeley, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Cupertino, Santa Clara, Los Altos, and so on. The list is endless. If I was a bit younger and a bit more single I’d probably look to work out here.