Originally Published: Tuesday, 5 October 1999 Author: Matt Michie
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Day in the Life

"Alarm clocks are tools of evil."

Trent was intent on ignoring the abomination pounding in his ear as long as he could, but it was impossible to float back into the dream he had been brutally yanked from. Funny thing was he didn't remember setting the damn thing last night. He'd intended to sleep in today. In fact, Trent deserved it. The long hours slaving in front of the terminal was beginning to extol its price on his body....

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"Alarm clocks are tools of evil."

Trent was intent on ignoring the abomination pounding in his ear as long as he could, but it was impossible to float back into the dream he had been brutally yanked from. Funny thing was he didn't remember setting the damn thing last night. He'd intended to sleep in today. In fact, Trent deserved it. The long hours slaving in front of the terminal was beginning to extol its price on his body.

Physically he looked relatively young. He could have used a haircut and the stubble sprouting from his face indicated he hadn't shaved for a couple of days. But cleaned up and dressed in some fashionable threads, he could have blended into any trendy coffee house with no problem.

Trent could never seem to be able to get back into sleep after he was awake. So consigned to being miserably tired this morn, he began the daily routines. He called out with his booming voice, "COMPUTER, BEGIN BREAKFAST."

He'd had too much Star Trek lingering in his soul when he programmed the house subsystems. The computer acknowledged the commands, and one of the Linux boxes stashed in the closet spit out a series of orders to the coffee maker and toaster. The kitchen appliances were connected to the house Ethernet, each with their own IPv6 address. It was a joke taken too far by Trent and a couple of hardware hacker pals. He would have dismantled it since it was clunky and impractical, but Trent couldn't bear to give up the bragging rights it afforded him.

Briefly he considered jumping in the shower, but an errant thought was tugging at his mind. Instead, he shrugged on a t-shirt and some sweats and shuffled into his "hacking den". Trent had spent many frustrating hours with the house architect, endlessly revising designs until this room fit his needs perfectly.

The room was constructed in the shape of a pentagon with windows inset into each of the sides. They had recessed the entire structure half way into the ground in order to improve insulation efficiency as well as aesthetic appeal. There were plenty of Ethernet jacks, electrical outlets, and phone connections scattered at the base of each wall. The windows had cost a fortune, but Trent hadn't regretted his no compromise approach on them. They could be electrically tinted from perfectly clear to near black. Trent had coded several programs which varied the tint on each of the five windows based on the season and time of day to allow the optimum amount of light to pass through. Outside the windows were heavy rolling steel shutters he'd had imported from Europe. During the day they were rolled up into a recess in the wall. At night a cron job on the main Linux box rolled them down for increased security. He had tens of thousands of dollars worth of electronics he preferred to keep out of prying hands.

He plopped into his favorite chair, now warped into the shape of his butt after thousands of hours of hard use. He logged in to his box and was immediately notified that not only did he have new e-mail, but several were high priority. Suddenly, the thoughts that had been bouncing around unconnected in Trent's brain gelled into coherency. He had been hacking around on an intelligent agent program written in perl that would scan incoming e-mails for certain key phrases. If there were enough matches to score beyond a certain threshold and he hadn't read the e-mail in x number of hours, certain tracking algorithms would kick in. So far, the only one written was to check the time and then to start blasting the alarm clock if Trent was asleep. It was mostly there for debugging purposes, and Trent had forgotten to remove it the last time he was working on the program.

With a short sigh, he scanned through the headers of the unread mail. The agent had already marked several of the ones it had determined as urgent in red. Trent quickly read through them and found he had been offered a contract to add some features into a program he had written awhile back and released as free software into the 'net. He was still the defacto maintainer even though he didn't contribute most of the programming talent these days. His job was mostly acting as the benevolent dictator, deciding what features would go in the "official" distribution. The more people that used his program, the more patches flowed in, and the greater recognition and accolades he received. In fact, this recognition had helped him land a job in a startup company several years back. Not only did they do some revolutionary programming, but they made pretty good bank off the whole IPO thing. It allowed Trent to "retire" at 29. Now he did the things he wanted to do and occasionally he contracted out for some freelance programming.

Looked like a company out of Tokyo was using his software and needed some custom enhancements. As he knew the code inside out he was the first person they came to. Trent looked over what they were requesting and it was all quite resonable, especially considering the money they were throwing at him. It wouldn't take him more than a week of coding with a couple days of testing and documentation. He replied to the e-mail agreeing to accept the contract. Immediately after, Trent began to sketch out some ideas on a pad of paper sitting next to him. The smell of freshly brewed coffee and toast began to waft into the room as the free software hacker began another day at work.

Matt Michie is a student of Computer Science in New Mexico. He maintains a small Web site at web.nmsu.edu/~mmichie.




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