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OT I/T vs. Metal trades

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  • #16
    Originally posted by dan s
    No offense taken,

    I'm usually a very laid back guy that will bend over backwards to help you. What sets me off is someone try to blame/force/ something on my guys that's inappropriate. That's when I drop the sledge on them if you will. Usually said individual quickly, reverts back to acting in a professional manner. Hence how I earned the reputation of being someone not to mess with.

    I have my B.S. in computation physics, and spent two years as a paid research assistant, and I can say from experience that physicists have a lot less crap to put up with. The only time I can remember the PHD's wigging out was when it came time to renew grants.

    Ahh, I gotcha. I don't blame you; IT seems to get a bad rap no matter how good they are. I think people have unrealistic expectations when it comes to computers.

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    • #17
      I'm a research engineer at a large not-for-profit research institute. Almost everything I do involves software that isn't very research oriented but is highly technical. It's maddening to build systems composed of software logic with no physical manifestation.

      My biggest successes in the company have been in emergency reverse engineering of file and data formats. In one of my favorite and most recent projects, I had to reverse engineer the data format of an electron microscope to be able to use it for research measurements in a way the manufacturer never imagined. I then implemented the software to convert the data to another badly documented format so that it was compatible with the researcher's analysis tools on which I took over software maintenance.

      The most frustrating thing to me is to build technologies that just work as they were supposed to even when the situation is complex. It is frustrating because everyone thinks the answer is obvious and that it's a two week project when in reality you have to make a silk purse out of a sows ear.

      The worst one of these projects entailed 80hours a week plus for two years. It looked simple but among the tasks, I had to reverse engineer the disk format for the disk of an ancient unix system and write a driver of sorts for it under solaris. Then, when I had the data, I realized that I needed to write a recursive descent parser (the front of a compiler) to pick out the needed data. The data was not designed to be machine readable and human readable data by virtue of its inconsistency is very hard to parse. It was made worse by the fact that it had to respond to messages it hadn't seen before and that I did most of the development in a hotel room. All this was accompanied by constant bitching, schedule changes and design changes from the client and the user. Oh and did I mention the months of travel to dumpy hotels outside of dumpy military bases? The best however was the contractor cabal that once tried to manipulate the government into having our team arrested for embarrassing them by blaming us for an imaginary security violation.

      Hours spent under extreme pressure using a hex editor desperately trying to figure out data formats (like that scene from The Matrix where they look at the raw data on the screen and learn to interpret it) probably take years off your life.

      Doing machinery work and epoxy granite research on my own is much more fulfilling to me and seems more likely to make something of lasting value than pushing bits like ever shifting piles of sand. What I have learned from the experience is that if you don't seek out new ideas and implement them, and instead wait for someone to tell you what they want done, then you risk becoming a slave once you get bored with the situation.

      --Cameron

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