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Kevin Johnson 21 February 2008

Kevin Johnson

Aloof Schipperke – The Aloof Architect

Professionally, Kevin Johnson is an IT Architect. He has worked in IT and Engineering in various disguises for 25 years. He worked at Motorola in Arizona for most of those years.  Tiring of the heat, he and his wife packed their bags and headed for the Pacific Northwest.

Kevin is the author of “Internet Email Protocols: A Developer’s Guide”, published by Addison-Wesley. The book is now out of print – you missed your chance.

Kevin spent his early years in computers as an ‘old school’ systerm administrator.  He was fortunate enough to spend much of his career working with the chip jocks, board designers, kernel geeks, system designers, and other misfits that created VME, StarMax, PPC-NT, uTCA, and ATCA.

As an architect, he’s done work in infrastructure, product security metrics, automation, acquisitions, and business transformation.

Kevin is a reformed musician. In his dubious past, he played double-bass and piano, and majored in music theory and composition in college.  Electronic music prompted his original attraction to computers. Facing a choice between starving artist and  computer geek, he disguised himself as a respectable human being and made his way into corporate America. He doesn’t play an instrument anymore, but he’s been known to ponder obscure music theory topics from time to time. Don’t get him started on the topic of playing fugues and canons on drum sets.

What are you up to?

By day, I’m the IT Architect for Knowledge Learning Corporation. I’ve been working there for the past 15 months or so. It’s a wild ride. I’ve been able to sink my teeth into more architecturally interesting topics in the past 15 months than I can put to words…

By night, I blog and work on my latest creation – Aloofix, a build kit for a linux distribution optimized for virtual machines.

Up and beyond that, my wife and I are getting acquainted with Oregon. I had hire a horticulturist to explain the plant-life I have in my yard. :-)

What are you into?

My wife and my dogs are at the top of the list.

I’m an on-and-off photographer. My wife says I don’t do it enough. She originally thought it would get me away from technology a little bit – bhahahahaha.

I noodle a fair amount with the various social software out there, particularly since moving to a new locale.

Other than that, I’m a sucker for the usual gadgetry. I dismantled 18 machines when I left PHX, but they are slowly sprouting back one machine at a time. Everyone needs a set-top box, a PBX, a full email reference architecture, and a compile cluster, right?

What do you like most about Portland?

The rain!! I love the drizzle, the downpours, the fog – you name it. Having transplanted from AZ, it will probably take me years to rehydrate.

I managed to make it to the jazz festival last summer. I was amazed at the diversity here in Portland. Two thumbs up!

Ooh – can’t forget the micro-brews and Oregon wines. Wow!

Last, but not least, I love the large-town smallness of it all. It’s a relatively small city, yet feels so cosmopolitan.

Why, pray tell, are you creating yet another Linux distribution?

(warning: heavy geeking here)

The project started as a result of a blog conversation I had with several people regarding the ‘impending multi-core crisis’.  There has been a lot of discussion surrounding changes that need to occur in order to handle the fact that we’re transitioning from a long period of increasing CPU speeds. Rather than CPU speeds increasing, we’re seeing the number of CPU cores increasing. Existing software isn’t generally designed to take advantage of this type of architectural change.

While some folks have been evangelizing the need to resurrect parallel programming techniques and the need to improve our programming languages, I chimed in with the belief that this is unlikely to occur any time soon. It’s more likely is that we’ll stick with what we’re used to, resorting to the use of virtual machines sitting on top of systems with large numbers of CPU cores. This prompted the meme ‘Pile of Lamps’.

While contemplating the idea, it occurred to me that much of what is in a general purpose OS distribution is undesired if you need to manage thousands of these things. Perhaps we need to consider a minimalist approach where the base distribution only contains the bare essentials.

This prompted me to start Aloofix as a testbed, of sorts.

Oh yes, and it’s been fun beyond words…

What the heck is a Schipperke, and why did you use it in your moniker?

A Schipperke is a breed of dog.

My wife and I own four dogs: a Toy Fox Terrier, a Corgi, a Sheltie, and a Schipperke. Of the four, the Schipperke is my favorite.

Here’s the obligatory wikipedia entry.

This description, however, doesn’t do them justice. They are spooky-smart, independent, stubborn, intensely loyal, and pleasantly aloof – all qualities to admire in an Architect. :-}


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