Glen Campbell

Former slide rule team member

Ham radio

In what is apparently the ultimate in nerdiness, I have been interested in amateur (aka “ham”) radio since high school. I didn’t get licensed until 2006 (as a Technician class), however, and I really haven’t been all that active.

Recently, however, I’ve renewed my interest, and last Saturday I passed the FCC Element 3 exam to get my General class license. The Technician class only gives you access to VHF and UHF bands, which essentially limits you to local contacts (unless you know Morse code, which I do not). With a General class license, however, I’ll have access to all the available ham bands, including the high-frequency (HF) bands that give me the ability to have international contacts.

Actually, I’ll have access to those bands once I get some equipment to use them; until then, I’ll have legal access but not necessarily physical access.

Rather than clutter up this blog, I’ve started a separate blog at to track my (mis)adventures in ham radio.

Doing it right

Last week, I attended a meeting with many of my peers where one of the other managers expressed frustration at having to (re)build a configuration management and deployment system for each new project. Why don’t we just do this once and be done with it? she asked.

It’s an excellent question, and one that many organizations fail to recognize. I came back to my desk and tweeted my version of it:

The tweet rapidly took on a life of its own; by now, it’s been retweeted more than 100 times.

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The management transition

Most software development organizations have a fairly clear path for their individual contributors. Whether they call the job “Member of the Technical Staff,” “Software Developer,” or “Programmer,” a young developer starts at a level 1 and moves up, usually to about level 4 or 5. At this point, successful individuals are usually faced with a choice: whether to continue up the technical path, or move into management.

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Happy birthday

In April, 1991, lots of things were happening. My wife, Anita, was pregnant with our first child (due at the end of May), and I had two job offers in front of me. One was as a systems administrator for the University of Texas Balcones Research Center, and the other was a technical writer for BMC Software.

I ended up accepting the BMC job, and scheduled my last day of work (at the Texas Education Agency) for Wednesday, April 17, with a start date on my new job of April 22. That gave me five days in which to be unemployed; I planned on going fishing.

Plans were changed.

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Sacred spaces

Every organization has its “sacred spaces,” those physical locations that help contain the identity of the organization. For decades now, for example, Silicon Valley prided itself on the “open” culture, represented by cubicles that even the senior management shared. When I worked for Yahoo!, for example, the CEO had a cubicle (he or she also had a private office, but we weren’t supposed to know about that). This meant that the CEO was “one of us” and was supposedly approachable.

In reality, of course, different people have different needs. People involved in design or technical support need to collaborate; their workspaces should foster open communication and easily sharing graphic, visual elements. Sales people need to keep their energy levels up; they tend to rely on a team of people to help support them through sometimes challenging periods. (Of course, these are gross generalizations and do not apply everywhere, but that’s the value of generalizations.)

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This is my variation of Alton Brown’s Stovetop Mac’n’Cheese. I chose to modify his, not because I think I’m a superior chef, but because his recipe used strange volumes of ingredients; for example, his version calls for 10 ounces of cheese, but all the bagged shredded cheese in the grocery store comes in 8 or 12 ounce packages.

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The best luggage I ever owned

I have been traveling on business fairly regularly since 1993, when I became a consultant for Evolutionary Technologies International, an enterprise software vendor. When I first became a consultant, I went out and spent $50 on a wheeled carryon bag. After a month, it was utterly decrepit, so I replaced it with another $50 wheeled carryon, but of a different brand. After another month on the road, that bag, too, was destroyed.

Instead of spending another $50 on a wheeled carryon, I asked my fellow consultants what they were using. Six of the seven were using Briggs & Riley wheeled carryons. The B&R carryon cost $250, but it’s hard to argue with results.

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