Posts Tagged 'Caffeine'

October 28, 2010

Settling In

One of the small thrills in life is settling into a new house. While moving can be stressful, once you get settled into your place, there’s a certain feeling of pride associated with the new move. In the not-too-distant past our staff moved over to the new corporate headquarters in Dallas. Given, there’s the obvious unpacking and exploring every nook and cranny. Once you get settled in, though, set up all your stuff, and explore every corner of the new place, you can finally hang your name on the mailbox and call it your own.

It’s a far cry from our previous space (equate it to moving from a decent apartment, to a squeaky clean new house, full of nifty bells and whistles). We’ve got a brand new A/C system (that works almost too well in the opinion of some), a sonic-style ice machine, and room for three new datacenter pods. We’ve got coffee makers in almost every department (what’s a large scale data provider without caffeine). We’ve got a nifty display in the NOC that gives us an at-a-glance idea of what’s going on within our network. That’s just a few of the things. Ask anyone in our new “house” and they’ll tell you they like the new digs.

I’ve gotten fairly well settled in, and am starting to fall into my new daily routine at the new home. Admittedly I got lost the first few days, but now I can navigate with a fairly reliable degree of certainty. I can locate the coffee machines blindfolded as well. I’m also enjoying the privilege of working so closely with our other departments, now that we’re all housed in the same location. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what the future has to offer in our new home.

-Matthew

August 24, 2010

Sippin Syrup

Here on the SoftLayer overnight shift (aka "team undead"), the technicians (aka "SLombies") often find it difficult to get a full 8 hours of sleep.
Quick science lesson: the body produces melatonin when it is dark outside. This regulates the sleep cycle. So it's only natural that it is hard to sleep during the day.

Initially I had been drinking a beer or five to go to bed every morning. Since I don't want to have liver failure at age 43, I decided to check out some alternatives. I used Unisom Sleep Tabs for a while, but I have been looking for substitutes, since they are essentially the sleep inducing antihistamine contained in NyQuil. The warning on the box says not to consume any alcoholic beverage with these, and it doesn't recommend long term usage of the drug.

The new alternative: relaxation beverages
A relaxation beverage is the polar opposite of an energy drink. It is designed to calm and slow you down. They have ingredients such as: kava kava, valerian root, and melatonin. I have tried two different brands: Drank and Sippin Syrup. These are both references to the "purple stuff" drug that is created by mixing codeine and sprite. There is also a Purple Stuff brand (codeine free, of course), but I have not had an opportunity to try this yet. You can get it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/16-Pack-Pro-Relaxation-Beverage-Classic/dp/B002SMZM92.

Drank
You'll often find Drank at a 7-11, but sadly the 7-11 near me stopped carrying it. It has a grape soda flavor, and it certainly lacks the medicinal taste of most energy drinks. It is in a standard 16oz energy drink sized can. It will knock you out pretty easily. You can buy it by the case from the website: http://www.drankbeverage.com/

Sippin Syrup
This one is my favorite. It's effectiveness is very similar to Drank. The best part about this one is that it comes in a resealable container, so you can have just half a dose if you are already tired. It comes in 3 flavors: Purple (grape), Kandy (cream soda), and Griptonite (grape apple flavor). There is also a low carb version called Sippin Syrup Zero, which doesn't really interest me personally. They make a concentrated shot version called a Lil Sip. When I ordered, they were nice enough to send me a free T-shirt as well. You can order it by the case (12 or 24 packs) from their website: http://sippinsyrup.com/

I have been getting much better sleep these days! I highly recommend either of these products.

-Mark

Categories: 
July 15, 2010

Oh How I Love You Caffeine, But Should I Trust You?

While we've discussed how much us techies love, crave, and abuse caffeine what are some questions that may come up on the most abused substance in the world? What side-effects are there? How much caffeine is too much caffeine? Are there any benefits?

Generally, you'd want to stay with around 1-2mg's of caffeine per pound of body weight. Which, for the most part, a 1-2oz shot of espresso or a cup of coffee all come out to approximately 100mg's of Caffeine. A lot of this is based on tolerance but the most common side-effects from caffeine "intoxication" can cause things like insomnia, a rapid heartbeat, irritability, muscle twitching and increased urination. Speaking of which, much like after drinking alcohol you must make sure you keep yourself hydrated. You know where this is going, if you plan on mixing caffeine with alcohol via the common Jager Bombs, Cherry Bombs, Vegas Bombs, Bombs, you should be warned that this can lead to bad decision making.

Aside from the obvious benefit of caffeine providing that extra "pep" in the day, it has been shown in many studies that Coffee (the most common source of Caffeine) is extremely high in antioxidants. It has also been found to be a cancer fighter including reducing your chances for cirrhosis and liver cancer which is the #3 cancer killer. The ingredients found in Coffee most definitely synergistically work together and would be the best choice by far if compared to your endless choices of energy drinks. Most energy drinks also contain the same array of ingredients, B-Vitamins, Taurine, Caffeine, Ginseng, and Guarana (pre-cursor to Caffeine). If you are still determined to get an energy drink shoot for one of the coffee drinks unless coffee just isn’t your thing.

Always keep in mind that if you feel like you NEED Caffeine to keep you going day-to-day it's likely that the Caffeine from the day before kept you from sleeping as well as you could have. I always recommend a Caffeine detox to keep your tolerance down and to avoid getting dependent on it but man those headaches make me want some coffee!

-Thomas

P.S. If some of this didn't make sense, I may have rambled on a bit and I confess.. I drank a Venti Starbucks Double Shot on Ice with an extra shot of espressob(6 shots total of espresso)...

For more info on Caffeine Wikipedia is THE place to go: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caffeine

Categories: 
October 20, 2008

Can I Touch Your Meatball, Please?

A few years ago I injured my arm. I won’t go into details about the stupid things some of us do when we are off work, but the long and the short of it was that I ended up with a broken elbow. The surgery to repair the damage left me with a knot near my elbow. Hardly noticeable, in my opinion, but there if you know what you are looking for.

Not too long after the accident, my son, who was 5 going on 6, asked if he could have a friend spend the night. Sure. I picked the two of them up, loaded them in the back seat, and headed for my house. When we reached the first red light between the school and my house, I snatched my Diet Mountain Dew from the console and took a big swig. I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned my head. It was my son’s friend.

“Mr. Francis,” he said shyly. I thought I knew what was coming. His mom had been very specific. No caffeine.

“Yes,” I replied quickly tilting the bottle to my lips operating on the premise the best defense was a good offense and if I just drained the soda entirely my problem would be solved.

“Can I touch your meatball, please?”

About then is when the carbonated soda came spewing forth from both nostrils.

“What?” I sputtered, my eyes watering and my nose burning. I checked the rearview mirror certain Chris Hansen from Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator” was going to smiling at me from the backseat along with an entire NBC camera crew. There was no Chris Hansen. Just my son and his school buddy giggling.

“Your meatball,” the kid said, pointing to the bump near my elbow. My own child nodded enthusiastically.

Ah, now I understood. There had simply been a miscommunication.

Certain the last thing I needed was some kid going home telling his parents Mr. Francis let him touch his meatball, I politely told him not only could he not touch my meatball but it would be best if we didn't talk about my meatball at all. Both boys seemed mildly disappointed but quickly got over it when I suggested we make a detour for the nearest McDonald’s.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago when we had our monthly development meeting here in the SoftLayer headquarters facility. Our VP of Development, Matt Chilek, gave us a talk about the importance of clear and concise communications. Specifically error messages in the portal.

The SoftLayer customer portal is probably the most sophisticated tool of its kind for remote management of servers. So no matter how much testing we do internally, now and again an error will pop up. Sometimes, these errors are legitimate bugs. Other times, they are runtime issues, such as a temporary outage of a database or some support hardware. In either case, how we present the error to the customer is of the utmost importance.

I’ll give you an example. The first time I worked on the WSUS update page in the portal, if my application failed to get a response from the MS Windows Update Server I threw up an error message: “fatal error”. Which is accurate. Sort of. The error is fatal to the application at that particular time. But that doesn’t really give the customer or our datacenter technicians a lot to go on. A better error message is “No response from WSUS server @192.100.12.1. This server could be temporarily offline for maintenance or updates. Please try again in a few minutes. If the problem persists contact technical support.”

While both error messages alert us that something went wrong, the second lets us know what the error was. Exactly which hardware was the culprit. And that the issue might only be temporary so give it a few minutes before crying that the sky is falling. Clear. Concise. To the point. That is the only way to keep a tool as complex and feature rich as the SoftLayer portal from overwhelming our customers and employees alike.

So the SoftLayer development team is making a concerted effort to do just that. And we could really use the help of SoftLayer employees from other departments as well as our customers who use the portal on a regular basis, in pointing out any areas where the language used or information presented is not as clear as it could be. It only takes a minute to fill out a ticket with a note to the dev team, and, in the end, it is you who will benefit.

Alright, I suppose I should get back to writing code instead of writing about writing code. But first I think I’ll make a quick trip to the employee break room to grab some caffeine. And if by chance you run into me in the hallway, no you can’t touch my meatball—so don’t even ask.

-William

Categories: 
February 6, 2008

Big Business is Messing with my Caffeine Fix!

Most of the posts here have a technical spin, and well deservedly, but this one is a little different. This is my version of an open letter to the CEO of Starbucks and any other CEO out there who is messing with my daily life by putting the idea of "conquering the world", over the needs of the people that will get them there -- the consumer. So here goes my rant:

Dear Mr. Starbuck's (aka Howard Schultz),
As a frequent patron of your fine establishment for many years, covering many locations in multiple states and multiple countries, I need to ask a personal favor. PLEASE stop messing with me, with the idea of me being anyone other than 'big business'. See I live in Dallas, Texas and this past weekend I had the urge to actually forego my normal $5 cup o' java at any of the 50 Starbucks within the 4 mile radius of my house and actually go to a local establishment that has some great beans. I wasn't going for a cup, but I was going for an actual bag of beans that I might be able to take back to the house and brew a random cup of sissy coffee (the flavored coffees that actually make hair fall off your chest, rather than put it on there like the SENOMA blend from the aforementioned Starbucks). BTW, for you Dallas'er's my preference for my random sissy coffee fix is a Cafe Brazil.

Location aside, I drive past the 50 Starbucks in route to the closest Cafe Brazil which is about 5 miles away. My coffee of choice is the 'Snickerdoodle', so I was thinking I will big bag it and get a pound, maybe two, to ensure my fix is completely covered. I walk in to the aroma o' joy that comes along with a coffee house. To an addict of caffeine, it's kind of like Vick's to a cold! All employees eye me and my girlfriend as we smile our way to the counter. As we are walking up, something just isn't right and we can tell immediately something is amiss. Where are the bean's that all of the other locations have? Where are the grinders? Being sure they are in the back or on the other side of the restaurant, I say with confidence, I want the biggest bag of beans I can get my hands on. The response, without a bat of an eye, was "not here sir, Starbucks forbids it!" WHAT THE $!%$? Again, the CSR at the counter say Starbucks told the landlord that they forbid anyone else in the shopping square to sell Coffee Beans to- go and went as far to tell me that he could not even pour me a cup of the coffee in a to-go cup, as per this was also forbid by Starbucks. This disappointment was seen in both of our faces and the CSR could tell that tears may be near, so the obligatory 'sorry' was thrown out with a 'can we do anything to make this right' comment?

This is unacceptable to me. As the loyal readers of theinnerlayer and all of the employees of Softlayer can attest, Caffeine in any form is like the blood through the veins of this company. Pound for pound, employee for employee, I would challenge the caffeine intake of Softlayer against any other company in the world. Pot after pot of, yes Starbuck's, is brewed hourly, if not minutely. Literally, cases of Monster are brought in weekly to support the efforts here. With the new JAVA Monster, the numbers may just fly right off the charts. Hence, the frustration

Mr. Starbucks, as one of the founders here at Softlayer I can tell you that all of us think about dominating our segment of the world, planned for it and expect it. Surrounding myself with the smartest people I have ever been around gives me a comforting feeling that all of these goals will be achieved. With the support of these smart people I refer to, we all have a standing order internally that to get to our stated goals; the idea of alienating customers by self serving goals has to nipped in the bud. We are a services company to the masses which means we believe that natural competition is healthy and that continuing to strive to build the bigger, better solution, customers will always be the winner in the equation. If we believed that exclusionary practices and pure heavy weight domination was the proper way to win, we would have thrown our money that way, but the open market allows us to stay at the top of our game, remain cutting edge and push for innovation and automation that will allow us to grow our customer base because we have a better solution for the customer, not because we don't allow the customer to have any other option. I/we may be a small fish in the pond so to speak, but I think you might be able to learn something from my statements. I'm off to get my fill of caffeine, but not sure Starbucks will be my first choice for the next short while.

Sincerely,
One un-caffeinated, unhappy customer
(Sean Charnock)

Categories: 
December 4, 2007

Team SoftLayer

When we first opened our doors, Jeaves and Josh used to split 24-hour shifts in the DC to provide 24x7 support coverage, and there was a “napping couch” in the office for the occasional overnight work shift up in Plano. Most of us had a toothbrush if not a change of clothes in our desk drawer, and a fun Friday night entailed sitting around a whiteboard talking numbers, and coming up with new ideas for the datacenter.

Team SoftLayer is much much larger now, but the spirit is much the same. This picture is from a swingin’ SL party we had a few Thursdays ago, where the office got together to label power cables for the new Seattle DC. There are members of Dev, Sales, Accounting, Marketing, & Management here working together. It makes me so proud.

November 21, 2007

There's Too Much Blood in my Caffeine System

I've never been one to do things in half measures. Growing up, my tree-house had 3 stories, a deck and indoor plumbing- if you can call a garden hose run up a tree "plumbing".

Softlayer has been a good fit for me because we're not used to doing things in half measures here either. Within the last two months we've announced the addition of Passmark certification, Rescuelayer, Urchin, StorageLayer, EVault Backups, Load Balancing, KnowledgeLayer and even a new datacenter.

All of these things require countless hours to implement. There's development to be done, as well as testing, building, re-testing, documenting, and then some more testing. These things can stack up on you pretty fast if you're not giving them your full attention.

In this 100mph lifestyle, I have found that there is one friend that I can count on to never let me down. My friend will always be there when I need him to get me through the hard times.

That friend is caffeine.

In previous blogs we've seen how dependant our Sales team is on their caffeine fix, and it's no different for the Support team. However, we're much more versatile with our means of intake, and it's important to keep a well stocked fridge to keep everyone happy. Nothing can ruin your morning faster than coming to work to find that the supply of caffeine has been depleted overnight. The vast emptiness of the refrigerator echoes your cries of despair, and your mind scrabbles for a contingency plan. Wasn't there a 7-11 close by? Does Starbucks deliver?

There are as many methods of caffeine delivery as there are species of beetle, but here are some of our favorite ways to curb the insanity:

Monster – The undisputed king of the castle. Monsters disappear faster than we can chill them, and it doesn't matter what flavor we've got.

Upshot – These little guys will pick you up and shake you, and in a serious way. They've got a lot of kick for being as small as they are, which means that you can down 3 or 4 of them without knowing what you've just done to yourself. Plus, they're easy to hide from your caffeine deprived co-workers when they're on the hunt.

Coffee – Believe it or not, we're not big coffee drinkers in the Support department. Still, there's nothing quite like a hot cup of joe to get you going.

Soda – We keep a well stocked supply of various kinds of sodas for when we're all out of serious caffeine. They're usually the last to go, but they get the job done.

Caffeine has helped me through so many late nights and pressing deadlines that I can't even look at it as a vice anymore. It's evolved from a crutch to an extra set of legs.

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I hear the coffee pot percolating.

-Jeaves

Categories: 
October 4, 2007

Office Politics

Back in Computer Science 101 I was promoted to Assistant for the Networking Staff at Kemp High School, in the tiny town where I grew up. The networking staff consisted of exactly two people: a brilliant Pascal programmer with a penchant for networks and a veteran of the mainframe days, who would happily lean back and tell old war stories about 130 column chain printers and tape drives.

One thing I noticed upon entering their office was the strong smell of coffee in the air. Indeed, they had a large pot of coffee on perpetual brew. And these two techies would drink it down as if it were water from the river of life.

Fast forward 5 years. I'm now one of those techies, but I never got quite a taste for coffee. My coworkers, however, live off the stuff. That's when disaster struck.

Now, if you've not been in an office environment for a while, or you haven't worked in IT, the enormity of this disaster might be lost on you.

The office supply company has stopped producing SoftLayer's preferred blend!

Shockwaves rolled through the company, as the news was blasted from email to email. A democratic process was set up to choose a new blend from those that are left.

Votes have been cast left and right. Active campaigns for specific coffee blends can be heard in the aisles of the company. Some are moved to poetry on one blend or another. One vote for a specific blend reads like this:

How does this affect me?
Will this make me a better person? These and other such questions must be asked when sampling a new coffee.As the day goes by a fall back onto a sure thing is essential. Sipping this flavour of coffee is not unlike slipping into a pair of your most favourite and comfortable slippers after a long day af the office. It does indeed lift the spirit.

Dare I say that Kenya AA gives us another reason to love life and love living it. The spirit soars until it becomes unbeatable. We cannot combat this or even hope to understand this cosmic handshake. This coffee is a reflection on a productive lifestyle.

It has a hallowed place in our break room. It also smells better than the other coffees.
- Klaude

It looks like the leadup to the 2007 SoftLayer Office Coffee Blend Election will be quite the hot topic for weeks to come.

A consensus is starting to build, and soon these harsh days will be behind us, and work will proceed as usual.

However, there are some (and I am in this camp), who see this as a bigger issue. Yes, we have successfully saved the day by switching blends of coffee. And like some hard changes, it looks like this change might be for the better. But as everyone knows in IT, the cycle of obsolescence is a fact of life. Some fear that this is just the start of a long, trying cycle of acceptance and rejection; there's a low level tension that the choice being made right now must be made right, lest the coffee industry decide that our newly selected blend should also fade away into the night. Is there no solution? No solid ground? Some demand that we get approval of a blend from a standards body, such as the IEEE, to make sure that various vendor's competing blends are compatible with our tastes. Is this the solution to our problems?

This has caused me to worry about the future of IT. Will technology be dictated by the whims of the coffee industry?

Here are the originals. [1, and 2 (ghost writer?)]

-Zoey

Categories: 
June 20, 2007

An Interview With an Elevator

SL: Good morning, thank you for taking the time to meet with me.
Elevator: Ding.

SL: Excellent. How would you describe the costs maintaining efficiencies in a hosting environment?
Elevator: Going up.

SL: Well, I think that’s obvious, depending on where you start. Perhaps a better way to phrase this would be, “How would you recommend leveraging existing technologies to implement an efficient execution of a hosting environment?”
Elevator: Ground floor

SL: Well said. I agree that it becomes difficult to put solutions into place after-the-fact, and that in order to run smoothly one must start with a solid plan and avoid retrofitting later. That ends up being far too costly and stifles resources a company should be using to grow their product. How would you describe the attitude of most large hosts with regards to “going green”?
Elevator: Please step away from the door.

SL: I too think that many datacenters out there are concerned with “stepping through” as it were to move operations in that direction. But, since the datacenters can hugely benefit from cost-savings due to reduced expenditures for cooling and power, it is very much worth the shift. What factors outside of the DC could play into making this shift easier?
Elevator: Lobby

SL: Well, I’m not sure that lobbying is the answer, though it may help. Really I was asking about computer manufacturers making the shift to properly-matched and high efficiency power supplies and processors. New technologies are making it easier for younger companies to go green, and older hosts are left trying to figure out how they can turn thousands of antiquated servers into efficient appliances. This goes back to your earlier comment regarding starting out with a solid plan making it easier to
Elevator: Ding

SL: Don’t interrupt me. Easier to maintain a plan than adjust and retrofit to a new one.
Elevator: Second Floor

SL: I’m not sure why you said that, it doesn’t make any sense. Having a host that doesn’t play catch-up constantly benefits the customer in several
Elevator: Ding

SL: Stop it.
Elevator: Third Floor

SL: You’re an idiot. I’m going to go interview the printer.

Categories: 
June 12, 2007

Being Green

For so many years growing up, I heard the "Sam I Am" / "Green Eggs and Ham" comments when being introduced to other kids. At this point, you would think I would hate the color green. On the contrary - being green is good.

One of the biggest costs in a datacenter is power, and if you're involved in datacenter operations you get to experience first hand the challenges of juggling power, cooling and floor space availability. If you use less power, your electrical costs go down and your cooling costs go down and there is a ripple affect across the entire facility. In an effort to reach that goal, we do everything we can to hone down the power requirements of our servers. We start by using 240v circuits to the rack. Doing so eliminates the need to step down to 110v which is much more efficient and it helps eliminate harmonic feedback in the circuit. Add to that “less heat” which means less wear and tear on the servers and that is a good first step.

Once you get power to the server, it helps to spec your servers properly. A properly sized power supply can save more than 25 Watts per server. When you multiply that by just 1,000 servers, that's a cool 25kW of power savings. When you multiply that by the number of servers in our facilities? Well, it's certainly worth the exercise of making sure we are ordering the proper equipment.

Aside from server equipment and datacenter power, SoftLayer has recently joined the Green Grid (more info). We are looking to use that association to join the likes of AMD, Intel, Dell, HP, IBM, Microsoft and many more to help reduce overall power consumption by datacenters. There are many lessons yet to be learned by IT companies to help reach that goal.

Being green is not confined to datacenter facilities. On SoftLayer Truck Day, we receive hundreds of cardboard boxes. Rather than just throwing those all away, we work with a local vendor to make sure the cardboard and packaging materials inside get recycled. Each server comes with various parts that are not needed (it's cheaper for the vendor to just ship the servers with all misc parts than it is to strip specific parts from specific orders). It would be easiest to just deposit all of those unneeded parts into a dumpster, but being green means doing more than just whatever is easiest. We sort spare power cords and recycle those for the copper. We sort screws and sell them to a local vendor (and use the money to buy Monster). Any spare part that we have not found a specific destination for, gets donated to a group that sells the parts and makes donations to charities.

Being green not only makes good financial sense, but it also makes good ecological sense. And – it keeps us stocked with Monster.

-SamF

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