Random Updates

Had a nice, abbreviated Christmas in Arizona. I got a model rocket that I intend to do something cool with, like integrate a sparkfun module or something. Speaking of Sparkfun, how crazy is this Free Day thing? I’m excited to see how that all goes!

For various reasons related to the out-of-stock problem I got to do my own laser etching on Logic for the first time in a long while.  And this is by far the most I had ever done, so it needed to be done right (I did have an entire 2.5 hour window at Techshop, but experience has shown that things never go smoothly with the laser).  I did a bunch of prep work in illustrator creating all the artwork.   I had to design up a little cardboard (only thing I had around the office that would work) jig.  Overall it worked great, although it did smell strongly of burned cardboard.

My brother is out here over the winter break and we are hammering out the software 80hrs/week. The reason for the latest delay – with the analyzers – is that I realized about a month ago the entire data architecture would have to have a very significant overhaul in order to be future proof, and EVERYTHING depended on this path and what we had better do it now rather than later. This is largely completed, and now we’re more or less porting everything over to use the new data layer. It is necessarily complex, and we iterated quite a few times to come up with something that didn’t explode in complexity and edge cases once you tried to implement it. I think we have something really solid now, and most of the scary (i.e. I don’t know if this problem has a realistic solution) and mission-critical problems have been solved. Frankly the fact that this is really hard stuff, some of it, certainly keeps it interesting. I readily admit that on the surface a Logic Analyzer does appear very simple. It is simple, to a point. But if you want to do really cool stuff, and do it really fast, it stops being simple fairly quickly. Take drawing to the screen as the obvious example. On the one had this couldn’t be easier. Is the input high? Draw a line at the top, and so on. But what if you have 100M samples on the screen at once? Now every pixel represents on the order of 500K samples. You need to know if all these samples are one, or zero, or something else. That’s not necessarily easy to do quickly, particularly in the worst cases. That’s pretty much why the current Logic Software (windows only) can really only handle about 200M or so samples before it starts to chug badly when zoomed way out. It does some fancy stuff to make this much better than it would be otherwise, but ultimately we want it to be lightning fast at all zoom levels.

I’m liking Windows 7. OS X needs to deliver something really nice in the next release, we’ll see what they pull off. The iPhone however appears to really have a nearly unbeatable position, thanks largely to the apps. I recommend it hands down to everyone, if you can stomach the monthly payments. My brother has the Pre, which is pretty awesome. I haven’t played much with Android. I’ll bet Apple is steamed about everyone mentioning how the iPhone can’t multitask. It’s almost the only area where they are venerable, and it’s one of those things that most people don’t even know what it means, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hurting sales. If I were them I’d give in and do some sort of compromise – allow memory and processor constrained “mini processes” or something like that. There are some cool things you can do with that – such as make a pedometer app, or a GPS logging app. But they do have a legitimate concern, keeping high performance on a phone isn’t easy to do when managing a ton of virtual memory, etc.

Little milestone over here – UPS has a sales guy that now comes by and makes sure we’re happy and provides some pretty good discounts, over and above the ones you get just by having a daily pickup. I keep pestering those guys to get me some UPS posters for the office, and it paid off, now I have a little UPS cast iron truck model. I really like UPS, (and container boats) because they literally represent ‘shipping’ a product, which is kind of what it’s all about if you like entrepreneurship. By the way, if you’re really interested in entrepreneurship, there’s some really good talks by entrepreneurs on iTunesU, largely associated with Stanford. It’s a little bit hit or miss, but there are some serious gems in there.

One of my personal heroes is Elon Musk (I’m getting a Tesla Roadster to celebrate ‘making it’ when that ultimately happens) and SpaceX is just about ready to launch their big Falcon 9 rocket for the first time. I think they’re a little behind, and for sure the pressure is on. Talk about stress, and a hard core problem. Makes me less stressed about the comparatively minor fires that are constantly being put out over here.

We pulled all our inventory back in-house, and that’s where it’s going to stay. It’s too messy to try to maintain separate inventory at your assembler’s location. To the extent we need assembly help, we’re going to just kit it from now on. We also got another office/space at Activspace, so no I have a fridge (with ice, and iced tea, soda, etc) a microwave, and tons of these cool storage shelves filled with inventory.
Speaking of inventory, we continue to have some issues there. This was mostly caused by the Logic Aluminum case debacle, which has ripple effects. But here’s my new and improved philosophy, which is somewhat contradictory.
1. Finished goods inventory is king.
2. It doesn’t make sense to have uneven quantities of parts inventory because parts that can’t be assembled into finished goods inventory is just tied up cash.
3. It makes sense to have tons of inventory of the inexpensive components because this 1) doesn’t require substantial cash outlay, and 2) reduces to a handful the number of parts you have to actively and carefully manage.

USPS is bleeding money, I wonder what they’re going to do to fix that. Not exactly an easy problem… I don’t really like USPS (understatement), but still they are tolerable and for cheap international shipping they are the only option. That said, I hope to be offering UPS as well, internationally, very soon (just takes some IT work), as our costs for that are coming down due to volume discounts and it’s really the only way to get something oversees quickly, and I think some of our customers (typically businesses) would rather do that than risk the open ended customs delay.

All for now, back to coding!

Joe Garrison

Co-Founder, Saleae

San Francisco, CA https://www.saleae.com