I am a long time member of the ACM, and I've always thought the value for money was excellent. I'm not an academic and I don't go to conferences. The Safari and 24/7 Books Online subscriptions, plus the skillsoft training is where I see most of the value.
I really liked my fitbit, but it somehow came off while I was camping and I never bothered replacing it.
Now I just use Endomondo to track activities I'm really interested in tracking from my phone. I'm very interested in the newer more energy efficient technologies being introduced to phones for tracking activity since I've almost always got mine on me anyway.
That is true for modern operating systems. The BIOS (Basic Input Output System) ran as the layer under DOS before Windows NT. I remember writing DOS apps, and invoking both DOS and BIOS interrupts to get things done with the disks, keyboard and monitor. DOS acted as a layer on top of the BIOS, so it was still generally used even when you made a call to DOS. Back in the day the BIOS code would have been a strong contender except for the fact that it was written in assembler and therefore disqualified.
I think you're on the right track though... The microcontrollers which run hard disk drives execute the same code repeatedly, and while many microcontrollers are programmed in assembler, I prefer to do my microcontroller programming in C. I betcha some hard drives have microcontrollers executing code written in C.
As you might have imagined, my beard is grey.
I used to have two full sized racks in my basement. I had smoked glass doors on the front side into my home office, and a storage room behind them so that I could get to the backs of them.
I also built a small data-centre with 12 full sized racks, and for it I had a 12RU box wall mounted in addition to the floor models which I used for the main routers and telephony. It was on hinges and swung away from the wall so that I could get at the back. I don't recall the price, but I know it wasn't cheap. Also I had trouble with the cable management between the equipment mounted in it, and the fibre and other feeds coming into it.
Either way I think you're correct that having access to the back is pretty much a requirement for it to be very usable.
BTW, I got rid of all my racks in the end. I gave away my hosting business and consolidated my home stuff into a couple of towers that sit on a desk. I now have a nice wood lathe where the old racks used to sit. I mounted my home routers and switches into the joists with wood screws. Maybe you don't need a rack at all?
Sounds a lot like iCraveTV: http://slashdot.org/index2.pl?fhfilter=icravetv
This captured signals in Canada and provided them for live streaming. It was eventually shut down by the broadcasters because it was illegal in the US, even though it was legal in Canada. The owners of the business wanted to be able to travel to the US without being arrested if I recall it correctly. I worked on the project at the time. It was loads of fun! I'd like to see this kind of thing thrive one day.
You will be missed. Best wishes for whatever the future brings!