Solving Real-World Problems | Joe Williams

PublishedDec 10, 2021BySubspace Team
What could be cooler than learning what happens inside Subspace? Let’s take a peek behind the curtain with Joe Williams, Networking Software Lead. On the way, we can learn about Joe’s drive to solve problems, how he helps make real-time computing available to everyone and what could be the next wave in coding—Purr Programming.

Q&A with Joe

Share a bit about what you’ve worked on since you joined Subspace.
I primarily work on the system that measures performance inside the Subspace network. We perform nanosecond resolution measurements continuously between all points in the network. The network will send traffic along the best-performing path based on these measurements. When this system sees loss or latency, the network reacts immediately to reroute traffic on a better path. It’s exciting to work on because these measurements power the entire network and determine the path customer traffic takes to get to its destination.
What’s your favorite part of what you do? Why do you like it?
I enjoy building systems that solve real-world problems. It’s a big reason I joined Subspace—everyone experiences lag on the internet and it’s exciting to work on fixing that. It’s a real problem and solving it will greatly impact the world.
Which problem with the current public internet are you most excited to solve? Why?
When a new technology is introduced, creative engineers find surprising ways to use it. I’m very interested in all the cool, unexpected things that our customers will build that would not be possible without Subspace.
Describe your work-from-home set-up.
I’ve been working remotely for more than a decade. For me, it’s essential to have a dedicated space for work so I can walk away and turn my brain off when the workday ends. I have a good ergonomic chair and an adjustable height desk to stand or change positions easily. I prefer a single monitor but also like the ability to have code side-by-side, so I use a 38-inch ultra-wide screen. I use a Happy Hacking Keyboard and a standard Apple trackpad. I recently got a set of Dan Clark Audio headphones for focused coding sessions. They block out the outside world, are very comfortable and sound great. I use it with an AudioQuest Dragonfly Red 1.0 DAC.
Most importantly, I frequently purr program with my cat Motorboat.
What’s something that’s a must-have for your workspace?
A window, with lots of sunlight!
What music (if any) do you listen to while you work? Drop a playlist link!
I work better and stay more focused while listening to music. Usually an assorted mix of hip-hop, jazz and metal. Some recent favorites are: Talk Memory by BADBADNOTGOOOD Infinite Granite by Deafheaven Sankofa by Amaro Freitas Vince Staples by Vince Staples Septet by John Carroll Kirby The Plugs I Met 2, Benny the Butcher / Harry Fraud
What podcast do you most love listening to, and which would you most like to be a guest on?
I generally tend to listen to news-related podcasts to keep tabs on what’s going on in the world. Usually, it’s NPR News, Motherboard’s Cyber, The Economist Money Talks and Vox’s Today Explained.
What past achievement are you especially proud of?
I’ve been racing bicycles since I was in high school, even raced in Europe for a short time after college. So I spend a lot of my time outside of work riding a bicycle, around 12,000 miles a year. I’ll travel the country throughout the year, competing in the professional ranks as an endurance mountain biker. A few years ago, I finished 15th in the pro field at the USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike National Championships.
Do you have any published articles/books/interviews? Share links!
I’ve written a few articles on my blog but haven’t had time to do much writing lately. My most recent conference talk was a couple of years ago due to COVID. It’s a deep dive into how you build a high-performance load balancer.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I wanted to play in the NBA, turns out you need to be a bit taller to do that.
What made you decide to be an engineer?
I’ve always liked building and creating things that solve problems. Nothing is more satisfying than using your brain to develop a creative solution to a thorny problem. Computers, networks and programming are interesting mediums for creativity—a blend of both physical and abstract, constraints and imagination.
Tell us about the first programming language you learned, and how you learned it.
My start with computers was mostly with networking. I started taking CCNA classes in high school. Programming didn’t come until later when I learned C and Java in the same semester in college—which was quite the mind-bending experience.

Joe’s Quick Picks

Favorite IDE: Atom.
Favorite Programming Language: Erlang.
What programming language do you think in? UML.
Theme: I’m solidly on the dark side.
Functional vs imperative? Functional.
Tabs or spaces? Spaces.
Nano or Vim? Vim.
.Most used keyboard shortcut: Crtl+Tab.
Preferred OS: Ubuntu.
Favorite game: (And on what console?) Breath of Wild. I played through Control recently and it was great.
Preferred headset: Old Apple earbuds with a headphone jack, all the way!

Final Notes from Joe

How do you keep up with the latest trends, advances, and programming languages?
Usually a combination of Twitter (you can follow me here) and an extensive RSS feed collection. arXiv also has feeds for a lot of technical domains where you can find pre-prints of interesting research. Conferences and organizations like SIGCOMM and CAIDA always publish interesting work as well.
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