Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Advice for people seeking signatures in books

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

Microsoft’s Raymond Chen published a book in late December. Naturally, he has lots of people who ask him to sign the book. My book doesn’t sell as well as his does (as I write this, my Amazon rank is #10,314, and his is #7,720*). He has a great piece of practical advice for the aspiring author signature collector: tell us what to write!

When you stop by to ask me to sign your copy of the book, give me some idea what you want me to write. I’m happy to do it, but you have to give me something to work with.

It’s really good advice. Unless I’ve thought about what to write, it’s generally pretty hard for me to write something clever. The easiest book signing I ever did was when somebody asked me to sign a book “To X, the smartest guy I know.” I had no problem complying with his request, though I did add a twist. I put his request on the title page, but on the next page, I wrote “NOT!” in big letters. I was lucky; he loved it.

[*] Before you write and point it out, yes, Amazon sales rankings can be volatile, and don’t always reflect reality. However, I would be surprised if more people wanted to know the guts of 802.11 than to learn why Windows has been hosed by being backwards compatible.
Yes, I know the problems with Amazon sales rankings, and how silly they are.


Thursday, October 26th, 2006

It certainly has taken me long enough to start my own blog. I’ve been at it since December 2002, when I first started blogging for O’Reilly.

Professionally, I’m a network engineer, which means that I’m a plumber for your data. Fortunately, when networks have trouble, the results may be ugly, but at least they’re generally sanitary. I took up residence in Silicon Valley after graduating from college and worked for a series of security companies. During those heady years, I liked to say that “I help build the Internet,” which generally worked as an explanation until the Al Gore “inventing the Internet” controversy. In those early years of my career, I learned that network address translation is evil, and that just sticking a firewall up doesn’t make your network secure.

In 1999, the large company I worked for acquired a little company that made wireless LAN hardware. I thought that 802.11 was the coolest technology I’d ever worked with. In those days, it was enough to walk up to somebody with a laptop and an 802.11 card, ask for a website, and pull it up in a browser. Even though it wasn’t fast, and certainly wasn’t secure, I knew I had to be a part of it. I now work on 802.11 full time, and I’m a voting member of the IEEE 802.11 working group.

Somewhere along the way, I had to prove that my liberal arts education was good for something more than just engineering, and I wrote a few books for O’Reilly. The only one that most people have read is my book on 802.11, which is now in its second edition. Writing is good for a variety of reasons. For me, one of the most tangible benefits is that it keeps me busy learning about new technologies. In 2005, I spent a good chunk of my free time learning about HDTV by using MythTV. To keep myself busy in 2006, I decided to start running Asterisk at home to learn about VoIP.

In my career so far, I’ve held a variety of positions that have required a great deal of travel. Leaving my own country has shown me that there’s a whole world out there that lives differently from me, and it’s been one of the best ways to help me appreciate where I do live. I started with most of my travel in Europe, though lately, I’ve been spending more time in Asia. Sadly, the list of the fifteen countries that I’ve visited does not yet include either Italy or Ireland.

While I’m traveling, I often take photographs. I have no professional training, so I rely on the large capacity of memory cards to take lots of pictures and throw most of them away. In this space, I’ll only be showing off the few pictures that are worth looking at.