I haven't blogged on this website in well over a year. In fact, in 12 years of writing on this site I've only published 599 posts. That's on average 50 posts a year. I think I've figured out why it has been so hard for me to add content and posts to this site in the way I had hoped. I was focusing more on getting posts perfect than on getting the basics covered and published.

In order to get back to writing more content more frequently I'm trying something new. I've created a new website with a new approach to the process of writing and publishing content. If you've enjoyed any of the posts on this site over the last 12 years I hope you'll take a few minutes to check out my new engineering notebook website at You can read all about this change and the tools I used to create the new website by reading this post.

While I'm not abandoning this website or taking any of the posts down, I plan to write all new posts over on the notebook website. I sincerely hope you'll check it out. Thank you so much for reading the content I've posted here and providing me with feedback over the years. I greatly appreciate it.


Installing and Configuring NTP on Linux

Posted by Aaron West at 12:03 PM in Linux

Many of us navigate life each day with a smartphone. And on that smartphone is an atomic clock of sorts. No it isn't a "real" atomic clock but given a smartphone is typically connected to cell towers and/or a wi-fi network the time and day on a smartphone is generally correct. I'd be willing to bet many of you use your smartphone as your daily watch. We've pretty much come to expect we will always have the correct time (within a few seconds) available at a quick glance.

Servers should be no different. During the past four years I've been responsible for leading the technology team at Dataium. We have a fair number of servers which make up our instrastructure, from basic CentOS virtual machines to clusters of database servers running open and closed source database packages. One thing we figured out early on was just how important it was to ensure our various machines have the proper day, time, and time zone configured. There are so many different reasons why this is important and we've been bitten several times when we deployed a new machine and forgot to ensure time synching was set up.

In this short post I cover how to install NTP (Network Time Protocol) a daemon which runs on a Linux box and keeps the system clock up to date. I also cover a few things I've run into over time in installing and using NTP. This post, like so many of my others, is geared specifically to CentOS but the principles can be applied to other Linux distributions such as Ubuntu.

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Things We Believe In

Posted by Aaron West at 4:27 PM in Dataium, Personal

During the last two months I've been reflecting on characteristics and beliefs of our engineering team at Dataium. I wanted to come up with a few key things which, when communicated to others, would describe some of what makes us "tick." Sort of an elevator pitch to a potential new hire or a way to describe some of our philosophy toward technology and business. The resulting list below isn't exhaustive but is a few of the things I picked out to share. These are things most engineering teams should aspire to in my opinion.

Things we believe in:

  1. making mistakes and learning from them
  2. ..but trying to do it right the first time
  3. short projects (30 days is a long project)
  4. what we've built is never good enough (for us or our customers)
  5. there's no task too small or menial
  6. tracking our time
  7. tracking our successes and not just failures
  8. logging everything
  9. the technology we currently use isn't necessarily what we should be using tomorrow
  10. open source software is generally "better" than closed source
  11. we can build our systems and write our code better than anyone else (such as outsource partners)
  12. being a generalist is infinitely better than being a specialist
  13. trying new things and new approaches often
  14. our team can accomplish anything


Photo of a large crack

Through my career working in technology I've become accustomed to hearing certain phrases from programming and engineering folks. These phrases may seem rather harmless on the surface but I've seen how they can tear others down and create a divide between technology staff and others in the workplace. I've heard these phrases hundreds if not thousands of times, so much so that I cringe each time I hear them. After the break are some of these phrases and ideas on what you can say instead.

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Best Hello World Ever!

Posted by Aaron West at 4:28 PM in Personal

Even the best Hello World programs have nothing on this version. Everyone, meet Sam West. Right now he's in China but we hope to bring him home before Christmas.


I've been using Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) since January 19 when my Wi-Fi only Xoom received an update from Motorola. On February 25 I upgraded from a Motorola DROID X to a Samsung Galaxy Nexus and since then all my mobile devices have been on ICS. So I've had a fair amount of time to test drive the OS in both tablet form and phone form and it is a very nice update. Here are a few of things I like in Ice Cream Sandwich followed by some short bullets of things I think could be better.

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Happy Pi Day 2012!

Posted by Aaron West at 9:12 AM in Personal

Help Save the Children from Kony

Posted by Aaron West at 8:38 AM in Personal

The following video was shared with me last night. It was a bit gut wrenching, horrific, and immensely sad all at the same time. I've seen similar videos like this before but rarely has a group of people stepped up and actually done something about it. I was impressed and felt challenged. So I'm getting involved. Please take 30 minutes to watch this video and if you're moved as I was get involved too. It doesn't require much time, effort, or money and your help would make a big difference.



The Verge ran a story earlier about Canonical creating a docking station that provided Ubuntu desktop access for your smartphone.

I called this at least two years ago. Not the specific instance of Canonical releasing a desktop dock for Android device plug-in, but the idea of how this will change computing. If you discount some of the newest quad-core and 8-core systems out there, the latest mobile phones aren't too far behind laptops in their power. Certainly they don't have the graphics horsepower but I don't see that as an issue.

I imagine a new computing setup where your main - and perhaps only - device is your mobile device. Think Galaxy Note here. You're at the office and instead of using a desktop computer or laptop you use your mobile device alongside a docking station with dedicated horsepower and graphical capability. You essentially "side load" additional processors, RAM, and even disk storage (or you access cloud storage such as DropBox, Amazon S3/Cloud, or the newer Bitcasa). When connected to this system you're able to do most normal things you would do on your computer. And when you're done you disconnect, grab your device and head home.

The thing I haven't worked out is the software aspect. What if you're a huge Adobe Photoshop user. Are you going to have a version of this on Android or does your connection to the docking station bring about connections to typically laptop/desktop-only software? I think this will be worked out in the next 2-3 years and in 5 years we may all be using a setup like this.


For those reading this that do not know, I'm the CTO of Nashville-based startup Dataium, LLC. Dataium is the largest aggregator of Internet automotive shopping activity, and I'm looking to hire a Database Administrator and a Senior Software Engineer. Both of these positions are critical to the success and technical direction of Dataium and each will join our already amazing team of engineers, systems administrators, and business analysts.

If you're interested in learning more about the DBA position, please click here to download the full job description (PDF).

If you're interested in learning more about the Senior Software Engineer position, please click here to download the full job description (PDF).

Please note: Interested and qualified people should show their interest by emailing their resume to gethired AT dataium DOT com.


Photo of Sam Hill mountain bike shoes

I'm a platform pedal kind of guy except for a short stint riding my brothers Cannondale racing bike during my high school days. Clip-in pedals have always scared me for some reason and wearing clip-in shoes isn't my style nor are they very versatile. Given I've been riding hard core MTB for a year now I decided to invest in a set of platform pedals and new mountain bike specific shoes.

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I drove to Columbia (south of Nashville) yesterday to participate in a Trek demo day. This is where biking enthusiasts can test ride the latest Trek bikes in the woods and on the street.

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It's Working for Me

Posted by Aaron West at 10:55 AM in Programming

One of the worst things you can ever say as a developer/programmer is "It's working for me." Unless of course that is immediately followed by "..but let's dig in and figure out why it isn't working for you." This type of thinking is a cancer within development teams and certainly isn't customer focused. Software breaks, apps don't work properly, and if you're a developer it's your responsibility to do whatever it takes to resolve your customer issues. A few years ago one of my dev teams was having tremendous difficulty replicating a customer-reported issue. One of the developers started the whole "It's working for me" thing and my manager heard it. He jumped in and quickly asked my developer if he was going to package up his computer and ship it to the customer. What a great response.

When you're up against tough issues, try not to think about how hard or how long it might take you to resolve the issue, but resolve to fix it no matter what it takes. Then, and as early as possible, assure your customer that you will do whatever it takes.


New Business Card!

Posted by Aaron West at 2:27 PM in Dataium, Personal

We redesigned our business cards at Dataium and the new ones came in today. It's embarrassing how long it took us to decide on a design and I bet people wonder why when they see the result. We wanted to go the super simple and clean route and the final result is quite nice even if anticlimatic.


Home Page Tributes to Steve Jobs

Posted by Aaron West at 12:11 PM in iPhone, Mac

I thought it was pretty cool big sites (and in some cases competitors) like and posted tributes to Steve Jobs on their home page. I looked around to see which other sites were doing this and have posted some screenshots after the break. If you know of others please let me know in the comments.

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