On being without an office, and shades of things to come?

19 03 2007

Today was a great example of the ups and downs of being without an office. I’m sure most folks realize that, being a fulltime consultant has it’s positives and negatives.
I’ve been on the job with this client for over 2 years now, and things don’t look like they’re going to slow down any time soon. My job description can best be summed up as “Platform Architect” – designing this company’s next generation architecture. The work involves a lot of research, tinkering, exploring, and learning – the deliverables are rarely better defined than “Come up with a way we can do X”
On the one hand, I get a very open and free schedule, with no hard deliverable deadlines, no “What? You’re leaving at 4:55?”, and all the long lunches I could want. On the other hand, I don’t get the typical office interactiveness most folks take for granted. My ‘office’ at home is an L shaped desk with all my computers on it, which is all of 3′ from my bed. A ‘break’ is walking from there to the kitchen to make coffee. It can get a little lonely.
Fortunately I have lots of folks I chat with on IRC and interesting stuff to research, but sometimes I just Gotta Get Out.
My current favorite watering hole is Panera Bread in Framingham, MA. It’s all of 3 miles from the house, conveniently on the way to Zach’s school, and they provide free wireless. That, combined with a $1.50 cup of coffee that can be infinitely refilled and a set of comfy chairs by a fireplace, makes for my Office Away from Home for the times I just need to get out.
This evening had me settled into said Comfy Chairs[tm] working on long and vexing problem trying to… (if you’re averse to long strings of corporate buzzwords, technology references, and other geeky-hoi-palloi, you might want to skip to the next paragraph)… trying to get JBoss AS, running under EasyEclipse to fire up in a standard configuration, allowing for a Terracotta server to act as a DSO cluster server for instrumented classes as distributed in an EJB3 based SOA. The twitch was getting JVM versions to match so the boot-class wrapper for the JVM would allow for the Terracotta cluster to come up, and be accessible remotely from the JBoss hosted app.
Got that? Okay – the nutshell of this was – I got it working. With not a little help from the Terracotta folks on IRC. The baselien concept for this stuff is fascinating, but implementation, when much of this is still in ‘beta’ form, can be maddeningly difficult to get working. In the end, it’s all running, and now I have enough structure in place to actually learn the system.
What made this interesting was about halfway through this intense mishmash of XML configuration files, crashing applications, and “wait, what version of what is where?”, I heard a familiar voice in the background… after a few minutes I looked around, and chanced to run into Dwight, who was picking up some edibles for his family. It’s unusual for me to see someone I recognize during my ‘work day’ (even though it was in fact about 6pm), but I found myself sort of pleased at the interaction.
What does this have to do with my future? A lot, since sometime in the next 3 months, Mosaic will be breaking ground. This means that soon my home office will include our common house, where I’ll happily be able to sit in front of a fireplace on a comfy couch, and pretty much everyone I see wandering by will be someone I know very well.
How wonderful.

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