Starting a company when you have a family

At the end of 2014 I decided to create a company that I could launch any personal projects under commercially.  I’m by far no Silicon Valley hot shot programmer who has companies knocking at their door.  Instead I’m someone who enjoys writing code.  The first application I release commercially was Weather Pilot for BlackBerry and Android.  When I first developed the app I was only married.  Since then we’ve had two kids and my free time has dropped off significantly.  No, it is probably more like an exponential drop that nearly resulted in the disappearance of free time.  Still, as I adjusted to the change I was able to get back to working on my projects.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to write about what it has been like creating a company while having a family and a full-time job.  I’ll go over how I’ve managed my time, family, integrated learning into different aspects of life, and my goals for the next few years.

Is global warming real?

Ocean view with clouds

Sunny day on the Atlantic

It doesn’t matter whether global warming is real or not.  The way I look at the atmosphere is much like a lake.  It is fairly self-sufficient on its own and short term changes are dealt with as long as things go back to normal.  But when a short term change becomes the norm the lake changes.

The example I like to use is a bit vulgar but gets the point across.  If one person defecates into the lake it isn’t a big problem.  The lake can handle the contamination and not impact the rest of the ecosystem.  When there are two, still not a problem, but when there are hundreds or even thousands of people all defecating into the lake the impact can be felt across the entire lake.  The water becomes contaminated, if not poisonous, and the species that used to rely on the lake either die or move to another lake.

What I see is the burning of fossil fuels and release of large amounts of methane into the atmosphere as the equivalent as defecating in the lake.  Whether it will cause global warming or not isn’t the problem.  We are literally poisoning the air we breath and not worrying about the future generations that will deal with our ignorance.  Just look to the large factory centers in China for an example of how bad things could be if there aren’t any meaningful regulation.

We can add natural cleaning filters by replanting forests and even look towards technological solutions for scrubbing the air.  But we can only clean so much before the system is overwhelmed.  We have to change our lives, how we make money, and how we grow our food.

As to whether I believe global warming is real or not, I do believe it is real.  I find it impossible to believe that you can pump large amounts of energy trapping gasses into the atmosphere for over a hundred years with no increase in ways to remove said gases and expect the planet not to warm.

We need A.I. powered traffic signals

How often have you been at a stoplight waiting for it to turn green and there is no one else on the road?  It is 3am and every soul for fifty miles is sleeping except for you and the local police and there you are waiting for the light to change.  This waiting shouldn’t be happening.

We should have traffic signals that utilize multiple sensors to see what traffic is currently at the lights as well as the traffic coming down the road from a farther distance.  If the traffic lights for a local area are all connected then they can communicate with each other to pass along details about the number of vehicles, speed of travel, and size of the vehicles to the lights nearby.  With this information traffic should be able to flow more efficiently by timing the lights so that lanes with more vehicles will have longer green light times.  And when a signal senses that there are no other vehicles on the road except for the single person waiting to turn left at 3am it will turn all other lights red except for that person.

The technology is here.  By using thermal, video, LIDAR, and many other types of sensors the signals can get a good understanding of the road.  May signals are already wired up to communicate with each other so that they stay in sync so there shouldn’t be a need to lay down new wires for the communication.  If anyone knows of research already being performed in this area let me know.

Why I became a Software Developer

Why I became a Software Developer is something that I get asked often at interviews and persons looking to get into the career field.  Some people started working with computers and coding early in life, others fell into it after their original career path didn’t pan out as expected.  For myself I took more of a middle ground.

Growing up I always wanted to be a weather forecaster.  The power of the atmosphere amazed me and grabbed my attention.  As a kid I was glued to The Weather Channel, this was back when they actually focused on weather, caught the Penn State University Weather World channel whenever I could, and listed to the NWS Weather Radio broadcasts anytime a big storm was forecasted for the area.  I even had my own map of The United States on a chalk board that I would update with the latest front placements.  As you can guess I wasn’t necessarily the most popular kid in school.

Meuse Argonne American cemetary

Army patches on the stained glass window in Meuse Argonne American cemetary

So after high school I joined the Air National Guard as a meteorologist.  I always wanted to be in the military and loved learning about weather so the two seemed like a great fit.  Once boot camp was completed I then proceeded to study forecasting, observing, and briefing weather for nearly a year with the Air Force.  Eight hours a day, five days a week, my job was the learn everything they threw at us.  Once that year was completed I had come to the realization that weather was not a career choice for my civilian life.  College would have to focus on my backup plan.

While I was negating any cool points I had earned studying weather in high school I also started learning how to program.  Coding was amazing, you could take a blank screen, write some lines of code and create whatever you imagined.  You became a god, the Alpha and Omega of your application, your limit was knowledge and imagination.  This feeling grabbed hold of me and stuck around while I was training with the military.  Once my training was done I started college and changed my major over to Computer Science immediately.

From the first class I knew it was the right choice.  The professors and faculty in the department made me feel at home.  It was a small department, about half a dozen professors, but they all genuinely cared about the progress of the students.  The classes they taught kept me hooked with the constant revelations of new concepts and with the burst of interest in Internet technologies going on outside the classroom the future looked bright.

Since graduation I’ve stuck with the career.  I’ve worked in various fields ranging from finance to government research to defense.  The problems being solved have never been the same and the field has changed drastically since I first started my studies.  This career is one where success can only be had if you are willing to continually learn.  You don’t have to pick up every new language or framework that comes out but you do need to atleast dig deeper into the technologies you already know.  For myself I initially tried to learn about all of the latest concepts coming out.  It was great reading about them but at the same time drained my energy as I tried to learn them all.  To combat the potential burnout I’ve changed my tactic and now focus on a few specific technologies.  The change couldn’t have come at a better time and has kept me excited about what the future holds.