Monthly Archives: February 2012

Geek Power

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After my last blog, it was clear that I needed to acknowledge the unsung heroes also known as Geeks.  From his book Leading Geeks, Paul Glen defines them (…uh, us) as “… the highly intelligent, usually introverted, extremely valuable, independent-minded, hard-to-find, difficult-to-keep technology workers who are essential to the future of the organization.” Another characteristic of Geeks, according to Glen is that they lots of love, caffeine, carbohydrates, and saturated fat.  Picture courtesy of Efrain Fernandez

 

Maybe it is no surprise that these workers are hiding in data centers, heads down developing web sites, or fixing problems on laptops – drinking Red Bull and eating pizza, of course.  Yesterday’s Geeks are masquerading today as CIOs, CTOs, or some flavor of manager or executive (before Red Bull it was coffee or Mountain Dew and pizza). And what of this thing called programming?  Who does it now?  Well, Geeks did and they still do!

 

I found a blog from a retired Geek who can’t get programming out of his system and furthermore understands the value of the skills needed to support heritage code that solve celestial mechanics problems for NASA.  Yes, his name is David Eagle, he’s still going a bit of work for NASA Kennedy Space Center and he is a Geek.  He loves to do the things that Geeks love to do – which is to solve problems.  He admits: 

 

“The computer programming I do is not all about making money. It’s a way to keep my mind sharp (and to prevent it from totally turning to mush!) and it’s fun, too. I’m currently semi-retired, working part-time at Kennedy Space Center.  After 30+ years in the business, it can be hard to just walk away. I love to solve problems, especially those that involve optimization of space flight mechanics problems.”

 

A Geek after my own heart.

 

Geeks are people who deliver technology innovations no matter what era you are from.  When you find them, give them a hug.  You may in fact wonder if you are a Geek.  Here are some clues (feel free to add more).  You know you’re a Geek if …

 

…you see the world in 4K pages.

…you have an iPhone, a blackberry, an iPad, a laptop, a PC, and a MAC. 

…you know what thrashing is and believe it is inherently evil.

…you know what ASP, HASP, and JES are but can’t remember your kids’ names.

…you loved Geometry and hated the prom.

…you can’t remember phone numbers but you remember IP addresses.

…you use the terms do-loop and no-op in non-technical contexts.

 

More …?

 

Linda Cureton, Geek CIO

 

 

 

The End of the Mainframe Era at NASA

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This monthmarks the end of an era in NASA computing. Marshall Space Flight Center powered down NASA’s last mainframe, the IBMZ9 Mainframe.  For my millennial readers,I suppose that I should define what a mainframe is.  Well, that’s easier said than done, but heregoes — It’s a big computer that is known for being reliable, highly available,secure, and powerful.  They are bestsuited for applications that are more transaction oriented and require a lot ofinput/output – that is, writing or reading from data storage devices.  

Source: IBM archives - www.ibm.com

They’rereally not so bad honestly, and they have their place.  Things like virtual machines, hypervisors,thin clients, and swapping are all old hat to the mainframe generation thoughthey are new to the current generation of cyber youths. 

In my first stint at NASA, I was at NASA’sGoddard Space Flight Center as a mainframe systems programmer when it was stillcool. That IBM 360-95 was used tosolve complex computational problems for space flight.   Backthen, I comfortably navigated the world of IBM 360 Assembler language and stillremember the much-coveted “green card” that had all the pearls of informationabout machine code.  Back then, realsystems programmers did hexadecimal arithmetic – today, “there’s an app for it!”


 But allthings must change.  Today, they are thesize of a refrigerator but in the old days, they were the size of a CapeCod.  Even though NASA has shut down itslast one, there is still a requirement for mainframe capability in many other organizations.  The end-user interfaces are clunky and somewhatinflexible, but the need remains for extremely reliable, secure transactionoriented business applications. 

 

//LCURETONJOB (NASA,CIO)