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MacTech Spotlight: Tim Standing, VP Engineering, SoftRAID, LLC.

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 03
Column Tag: MacTech Spotlight

MacTech Spotlight

Tim Standing, VP Engineering, SoftRAID, LLC. www.softraid.com


What do you do?

I write most of the SoftRAID code and help figure out the future product directions. I am also part of the team which designs the UI for our products. We always story board the entire interface before we write any code. This was one of the gems I picked up from Bruce Tognazzini's book "Tog on Interface".

How long have you been doing what you do?

I started writing code in high school back when our high school had just received a teletype terminal and a 110 baud modem for accessing the mainframe at UC Berkeley. Larry Zulch (who started Dantz Development with his brother) and I used to write programs in basic on that terminal. I used computers only as a user for the next 10 years. Then, when I was in graduate school biochemistry in Boston, I decided to take night school classes to learn about assembly language and how computers actually worked. That was the fall I bought my 128 KB Mac. I took VAX assembly language followed by a class in 68000 assembly language. After that, computers really came alive for me. For the next four years, I worked biochemistry during the day and learned all I could about computers the rest of the time. Then in 1988, I started writing code for a living.

Your first computer:

A 128 KB Mac.

Are you Mac-only, or a multi-platform person?

When I was consulting 8 years ago, I wrote drivers and applications for Mac OS, Linux and Windows. Now that I am working for my own company, I can afford to work only on the platform that inspires me.

What's the coolest thing about the Mac?

The attention to detail which Apple and 3rd party developers apply when creating hardware and software products for the Mac. When I use other platforms, I am always amazed at the bugs and confusing UIs that users have to put up with.

If I could change one thing about Apple/OS X, I'd:

Fix the incredible number of bugs in XCode. It seems like each new release introduces new bugs. Most bugs seem to take 12 - 18 months to get fixed. They keep introducing new features rather than fixing bugs. Arrgh.

What's the coolest tech thing you've done using OS X?

I tracked down and fixed a bug in the SoftRAID driver which occurred every 20,000,000 i/os. It was a bug which we saw in house every 2 - 4 months. We finally found a user halfway around the world who could reproduce it in 12 - 18 hours. I put together a set of tools to figure out the root cause of the bug. In less than a week, we had the bug isolated and a fix in place. The bug turned out to be caused by an "undocumented feature" in the kernel's atomic add routine.

Ever?

I wrote the driver for the Asante SCSI-Ethernet adapter. The device didn't contain a CPU or a SCSI chip, just a couple of PALs (simple logic devices) which sensed the state of the SCSI control and data lines. To get the device to work reliably and have good performance, I wrote a set of SCSI routines which worked in parallel with the original SCSI Manager.

Where can we see a sample of your work?

http://www.softraid.com/demo

The next way I'm going to impact IT/OS X/the Mac universe is:

We have a really cool product under development for portable storage devices. I can't wait to be using it myself. I'm unable to say any more.

Anything else we should know about you?

I love my work and the challenges it provides. The other major passion I have is being a volunteer fire fighter. I started 3 years ago, and the experience has been one of the most moving and rewarding things I have ever done. I do about 150 calls a year most of which are medical; there are a few traffic accidents and even fewer fires. There is something very surreal about going to work on computers in the morning after getting up in the middle of the night to pull someone out of a wreck.

 
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