Archive for January, 2010

Mar Rover Spirit Permanently Stuck


The Sad News

I was quite disappointed to read a number of articles in the news last week (ABC News –  Mars rover to remain stuck forever, and New ScientistTrapped Mars rover’s driving days are over) which announced that Spirit (one of the Mars Rovers) was permanently stuck. The idea that these little rovers continued to drive around the Martian making scientific discoveries, well past there expected “use by date”, was very appealing.

The stories that these rovers continued to tell, making discoveries, photographing new vistas, has been one of the most entertaining in current space exploration. The discoveries that these two rovers have made of the geological history of Mars, have been very entertaining, and revealing.

NASA does not have many ongoing projects, which surfaces regularly in the popular press. These rovers have been one of the success stories for NASA. The rovers have continued to work well past their “use by dates”. This has continued to keep the “message of space exploration” in the public arena.

The Future For Spirit

If NASA can get the rover aligned appropriately (to maximise the solar cell sunlight collection), and if it makes it through the Martian winter (without freezing), then it will become a “stationary science station”. What the rover will discover about the Martian Weather, and the composition of the core of Mar, we will wait and see. But, the excitement of finding new rock types, new geological features, and building an understanding of the geological  history of will be over.

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An interesting first week


Well, week one down, in the new job. It has been an interesting week. The highpoints of the week included:

  • Getting a work pass. As I mentioned in this previous post The First Day in the New Job getting back that piece of identity was an important step in the starting in a new organisations process. It certainly put me in the “I’ve started” a new chapter frame of mind.
  • Two days of Scrum training in the Old Parliament House. Scrum is an interesting approach to the development of software, focused on a couple of key points:
    • Getting the feedback loops working effectively. These are loops within the team (facilitated by the daily Scrum Meeting), and with the Product Owner, and users.  How Scrum would work in an maintenance environment is one question I’m not sure of the answer of. I’ll probably blog more about scrum and its benefits, pitfalls, and outcomes as I see it in action.
    • Getting a team of developers to self optimise. One of the purposes of the Daily Scrum is to give to team an opportunity to self optimise. The premise which is at play is the teams commitment to getting the product done (the definition of done is something which is negotiable in the scrum methodology).
  • Finishing playing “bouncing ball” (I hope). The last part of the week had me at one desk, and my IT equipment installed at another. Hence, the first bounce (to the IT gear). Then I expressed the opinion that the initial location was probably the most effective for the work I have ahead of me. Hence, the next bounce, back to where I started, after the equipment was moved. It took some time for the network to be activated in my new location. But, by Friday afternoon, I and my IT gear have landed in the location I think will be the best.

The “sideways points” (not sure they were highpoint, or low points either)of the week included:

  • Being invited to participate a staff selection process. This is one thing I did do a lot of many years ago. My journey through the previous organisations IT ranks did not include performing this function. So, another job to do, but not one which I have any worries about performing (apart from the time which the process will take out of the week).
  • Moving from home baked DVD’s of music, to an MP3 player. I was advised that the unofficial policy is not to use home cut DVD’s or CD’s. So, I’ve acquired a 16meg MP3 player. I’ve probably spent most of the last 24 hours loading, converting from wma to mp3, cleaning out image files which are of no use. The nett result will be a goodly slice of my music collection on the player. Converting lots of wma’s to mp3 has shoehorned a significant amount of extra music onto the device. I’ve a bit of rock and blues on there at present. I’m also toying with the idea of building a manager program to do the following:
    • Automate the conversion of wma’s to mp3’s.
    • Clean out the “redundant files”.
    • Help identify (and remove) the duplicates (the problem arises when different albums have the same songs on them – best of collections do this quite frequently).
    • Give a more convenient interface to mange loading music to the unit(s) (I suspect that this will not be the only mp3 player – I love a variety of music to listen to). I’m starting to get feed-up with Windows Explorer (it does the job, but could be a bit more friendly for the task).

The “backwards steps”. The major ones in this category are:

    • My previous organisation. Why? Well they forgot to pay me for the bulk of the fortnight I was working there. A phone call on Thursday uncovered the fact that they had “forgotten me”. The promised that they would pay me by Wednesday. In their defence they have the pay system in apoplexy trying to put through the pay rise. The back pay from which I’ll have to chase as well (I suspect).
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Well, the first day in the new job


Yesterday, was the first day in the new job. There as a small bit of the “new boy at the new school” about it, but it was not a big part of the day. Most of the day was consumed with meeting people (I hope I start remembering all those names), and a couple of external activities (a physiotherapy appointment to continue sorting out my back, and another with my GP to puck up some more repeats on some of the prescriptions).

The major achievement for the day was getting a work pass. The feeling that I’ve now established my working identity in the new organisation as definitely there. Which follows on from the “Betwixt and Between” blog post.

The new job, to start with, looks like being a data warehousing project. The design and implementation of data warehouse is a class of IT problem which I’m very well equipped to tackle. class of The replacement of a SuperWeb solution, with a Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services solution also greatly appeals to me. I’ve not previously had an opportunity to implement a Microsoft solution (my previous organisation being heavily an Oracle shop). Also, the appeal is doubly satisfying as removing SuperWeb is very satisfying (the previous organisation did use it, and it was a choice I never supported, for multiple reasons).

The data warehousing project exposes a number of big question in my data warehousing style, approach and understanding. Which I’ll have to work through with the new organisation and the analytical clients of the data warehouse. These include:

  1. Data management principles. I’m not sure how mature this organisation is in understanding the benefits of good data management principles. Some of those principles data management principles start to manifest themselves in the design decision which data warehousing solution must make.
  2. A Variables Dimension. Stylistically, I “like having one of these”. From an data management perspective, it allow the identification of the same measure across all analysis outcomes. The question is “Are the users of the analysis cubes ready for this?”. Another question I have is “How do Analysis Services, and Excel Pivot Table, react to having this form of construct”. I’ll have to wait and see on this one.
  3. Conformed dimension. These are cornerstone of the “Kimball Warehouse Bus”. They, from an analysis perspective, should allow for the pulling together of multiple cubes, and the standardisation of the label sets which also enables analysis. Another question is “How well does Excel Pivot Table, work with this construct?”.

I’ll continue to blog about these concepts, and the progress of the implementation project. I’ve a bit of evangelising and training to to to spread some understanding of the approaches which I’ve detailed above.

Today, I’m off to a Scrum Project management training course. This training will prove to be interesting. I’ve had an interest in this style of project management for a while. So, some formal training on “How to do scrum” will be useful.

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