About Rob

My name is Rob Desbois, and I live in England near the cities of Bristol and Bath, with my wonderful wife and highly-energetic son, several computers, a lovely garden, and a library of at least 15 different types of tea. (Strictly speaking most are tisanes, but let’s not split hairs here.)

In about 1995 I discovered ‘Gorillas’, a game that shipped with Windows 3.1, and was intrigued by the QBasic code that made it ‘go’. Following the instinctive curiosity that, at the age of 3, had led me to disassemble my parents’ alarm clock beyond their ability to repair, I soon gave Gorillas the same treatment. Thus began my journey into programming…

Fortunately my knowledge and skills have since improved; I have journeyed through casual hobby programming, server-side Web programming (with unattractive Web pages), a bachelor’s degree, being the sole developer in a medium-sized company new to software, and managing a team of 7 cross-discipline software developers, to working for a large multinational corporation with a much narrower, but deeper, skillset.

University

In 2002 I went to the University of Bristol to study computer science and maths, settling on the ‘pure maths and information security’ theme. gaining insights in varying degrees into number and group theory, mathematical analysis, computer architecture, compiler design, concurrency & communications and cryptography, to mention a few key modules.

In and around these studies I had flings with a few markedly different languages including x86 (Intel) assembly, C, Java and Haskell, and have found that my experience of the different programming paradigms across these languages is great to draw on when approaching software design.

Functional programming in particular is a great one to wrap your head around, and though I’ve not programmed exclusively functionally since, I am a fan of applying functional principles and styles in C++. Ruby’s deliciously clean syntax and its support for FP also combine to make a language I’ve enjoyed a few explorations with but would love to know more in-depth.

Telecoms and GPS

I joined Chronos Technology, an SME selling components, equipment and knowledge into the telecoms sector, in 2005 to work on a system for monitoring the quality an asynchronous comms link’s clock signal. The product deployment consists of multiple monitoring probes, running C++ applications and a custom (non-realtime) Linux build on custom-designed hardware, and a single WAMP management and analysis server. I’m lucky to have worked with several languages and platforms for this project, and to have gained a good working knowledge of hardware devices, particularly through active input into a major redesign of the probe hardware platform.

We also worked on a public grant-funded R&D project with 6 academic and commercial partners to investigate detection of accidental or intentional GPS interference. The project was into its second grant when I left and had gained international interest and real-world usage.

During my time at Chronos the team developed from a sole developer – myself – working on requirements which evolved (read ‘moved’) from day to day, to a group of 7 developers working with a Scrum(-ish) framework for workflow, scheduling and estimation, and elements of XP to improve software quality (pair programming, unit testing and TDD).

Storage and backup

In July 2011 I joined n.able technology services, and have since been working in the Storage Division’s data deduplication team at Hewlett-Packard Bristol – a role that has enabled me to narrow my focus on C++ development, and as a consequence I have gained a lot of skill over the last year around areas of the language and library I had only touched on previously. Fortunately I’ve also been lucky enough to be working on the next generation data deduplication software, learning a lot from experienced and highly-skilled developers and using much of C++11’s additions to the language and library.

The rest of me

In addition to my working life I also play squash (when I get around to booking a game and partner), play the piano and guitar, and have an interest in woodcrafts that may yet progress to actually making things. I have drummed with Bristol Samba, and have a UK fixed-wing private pilot licence, though am currently on an extended break from both.

I have an interest in photography which comes and goes like the sea. I have a Konica Minolta Dynax 5D and a Canon Powershot SX210 IS. Some of my more recent photographic endeavours are available on Flickr.

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