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Comments

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Ask Slashdot: Can an Old Programmer Learn New Tricks?

Calibax I've been programming for 45 years (306 comments)

I started programming professionally in 1969 with Fortran, followed by COBOL in 1970, Algol and IBM 360 Assembler in 1972. Since then I've coded projects in Basic, Simula, ESPOL, NDL, Databus, PL/1, PL/S, Rexx, Forth, Pascal, and half a dozen different assembler languages such as 6502, 6800, 68000, x86, Datapoint, PDP-11 and PowerPC. My current languages of choice are C, C++, C#, and JavaScript, although I can do Transact/SQL, Visual Basic, and Python if needed.

Here's my point. A computer language is just a way of expressing simple commands. The concepts are pretty much the same across most procedural languages. A DO loop is a DO loop, regardless of what you call it and the exact syntax. A much bigger issue is learning the idioms and the libraries associated with each implementation of a language. Just like human languages, the more of them you know, the easier it is to pick up the next one.

I've never had any formal computer classes. Back when I started there was no such thing as a computer science degree - most university classes in computing were done the math department. But you still have to learn. Buy books, read them, do small projects to familiarize yourself with the languages. Make yourself learn. It's your career, manage it. Make certain you have the skills that are needed, and if you think you don't have the skills you need then be proactive in getting them. Use the Tiobe index to see what's trending up.

I'm at my sixth company at present. I have never been unemployed. I don't code as much as I used to because I'm in an architectural role now, but I still can code and I enjoy it immensely. I'm still the go-to guy in my areas of expertise. I made the mistake of going the managerial route at one point and discovered I hated it. Computers are easier to handle than people - they don't lie, they do what you tell them, and they don't have hidden agendas, and they don't backstab.

18 years is less than half of your working life. Coders will be needed for long time. Application coders will needed for years to come. People will be needed to code operating systems, drivers, environmental software, IDEs, compilers, etc. for many years. Don't give up, and don't believe all you read about ageism. I interviewed for my current gig with a full head of grey hair.

about a month ago
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Man Jailed For Refusing To Reveal USB Password

Calibax Re:Cry me a fucking river... (374 comments)

In the UK, the right to remain silent has been around since the 17th Century. However, it was removed by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1984.

Since the UK doesn't have a written constitution, it's impossible to argue that a law is unconstitutional. The question cannot be taken to the European Court of Human Rights, because the tight to remain silent is not mentioned in the European Convention on Human Rights, although the majority of E.U. countries have laws giving that right.

Further, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 make it a crime not to disclose an encryption key to police when asked.

about 3 months ago
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Man Jailed For Refusing To Reveal USB Password

Calibax Re:Cry me a fucking river... (374 comments)

In the USA there is a constitutional right against self incrimination, and the right not to answer questions from the police has been the subject of many movies, both fictional and non-fictional. It's generally considered that "taking the fifth" is a well known act by criminals.

Without doubt it is possible to argue that not answering questions is impeding an investigation and therefore obstructing justice, but it is balanced by a suspect's right to remain silent when questioned by police. Now whether a person can be compelled to answer questions about a password is a different twist on the question "where did you hide the key the safe" or whatever, but I think the answer is well settled in U.S. jurisprudence.

about 3 months ago
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Man Shot To Death For Texting During Movie

Calibax Re:It's about time! (1431 comments)

You do know that this occurred BEFORE the movie started? The guy who was shot dead (whom you call a jerk) was not texting during the movie, but during the opening adverts. You know who the real jerk in this story is?

The man who shot him had to go to his car to retrieve his gun. This was an intentional and premeditated act of violence that deserves severe punishment.

Now a child will grow up without his father. A wife will have to bring up the child without her husband's help. All because some jerk didn't like the adverts being interrupted.

about 3 months ago
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What Would It Cost To Build a Windows Version of the Pricey New Mac Pro?

Calibax Re:The Mac tax is not just cost, it's expandabilit (804 comments)

The title of this story is "How much would it cost to build a Windows version of the Mac Pro", so I described a system I specced that is very similar.

The user wanted a system, I specced it for him. It was built and he's happy. Your comment notwithstanding. And I am hideous :)

about 4 months ago
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What Would It Cost To Build a Windows Version of the Pricey New Mac Pro?

Calibax Re:Very Doubtful (804 comments)

The title of this story is "How much would it cost to build a Windows version of the Mac Pro". I claim that the system is an equivalent system to the Mac Pro - and that's the whole point of my listing the system components and the system cost.

In this case the user can't use a Mac Pro because it doesn't support his applications which are written in CUDA - an NVIDIA proprietary language that the user claims is vastly superior to OpenCL for his needs.

I understand that the Mac Pro GPUs are being build specifically for Apple by AMD and are not available elsewhere, so I don't know how you can claim anything about their speed unless you have benchmarked them with the code they are intended to run. Similarly, you say it's "very likely" that the storage is slower, again without doing any benchmarks in the setting they are being used with the intended applications.

In this case, the user needed a new system. He gave me the requirements, and I specced a system that has made him happy. In addition, I think it has some serious advantages over a Mac Pro. And it's fast enough for the user, and in the end, that's all that matters.

about 4 months ago
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What Would It Cost To Build a Windows Version of the Pricey New Mac Pro?

Calibax The Mac tax is not just cost, it's expandability (804 comments)

I recently specced a system quite similar to the Mac Pro. I used a SuperMicro motherboard, a similar Xeon 6-core CPU, 128 GB of ECC RAM, two Samsung 512 GB Pro SSDs (primary and a local backup), and an NVIDIA Quadro GPU. All the other components (case, power supply, CPU cooler, fans) are top quality. My supplier ordered the parts and charged $100 to assemble and test it. The user is running Linux and he's happy with the system - happy enough that he's demoed it around his department and says it has generated much interest. In any case, a new Mac Pro wasn't an option for him as he's using CUDA rather than OpenCL.

The total cost was $4,150. The system has twice as much RAM as the Mac Pro supports, an upgradeable GPU, space for many more drives in the box, and a savings of about $1,500 over an equivalent Mac Pro with 64GB RAM. OK, the box doesn't look as nice, but since it's under the user's desk that's not so terrible.

The cost saving is not the biggest improvement over the Mac Pro. The big items are having an upgradeable GPU and expandability inside the box - Thunderbolt just doesn't have the product base yet. I'm beginning to doubt it ever will with higher speed USB in the pipeline.

about 4 months ago
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Netflix: Non-'A' Players Unworthy of Jobs

Calibax Can you run a Tech Company on Grade A folks only? (397 comments)

Here's the problem. Grade A people expect to do grade A work. In almost every organization there is a ton of work that doesn't fit into this category but still needs attention. Code gets old and has to be updated, and there's a ton of work that doesn't require the brightest and best but still has to be done.

Now the grade A people don't want to know that. They want to work on the sexy new stuff that makes them look like the superstars they are. They might put up with maintenance coding for a while, but they won't stay there. They will want to move to better things, and if they can't they will move to another company - and because they are grade A, they can do that with relative ease.

Google used to have the same issue with a grade A requirement, and they found that products stayed in beta for years as a result of engineers moving on when the interesting parts of the code was done. They even had to cancel some products because they couldn't get engineering resources that wanted to work on them. So they lowered their standards a little and things improved somewhat.

By the way, I'm not knocking maintenance programming - that's often difficult work. Maintenance guys have to come up to speed quickly on systems they never wrote and then make the code do things it was never designed to do, and finish it in an impossible short deadline, because it's "only" maintenance. But it's not sexy enough for most grade A folks.

about 4 months ago
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Intel Open-Sources Broadwell GPU Driver & Indicates Major Silicon Changes

Calibax Intel is keeping pace (103 comments)

It's not like AMD, nVidia, PowerVR, etc. are standing still Every year brings better graphics, and Intel needs to keep pace.

But since they came late to the game, they have a patent minefield in front of them.

about 5 months ago
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Bill Gates: Internet Will Not Save the World

Calibax Bill is doing the right things (247 comments)

Years ago, when I was a zoology major in university, I spent some time working on a study of elephant migration paths in Africa.

It was an eye opening experience. I was staggered by the sheer poverty, the lack of access to safe drinking water and food, the high rates of preventable illness, and the high rate of child deaths. I remember a woman living in Uganda who made "biscuits" for children made with washed dirt simply so they could get something into their stomachs that would reduce the hunger pains and not kill them. I don't give to USA charities since then. I give all my charity dollars to people who are doing outstanding work in areas of disease and poverty.

I have no idea what people struggling to find food would do with the internet. Would it enrich their lives? I don't see how. Would it save them from disease? Would it allow their children greater likelyhood to see their fifth birthday?

Bill Gates has the right idea. I just wish other very rich people had as much sense and willingness to spend their money to help people.

about 5 months ago
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Ten Steps You Can Take Against Internet Surveillance

Calibax Do you think you are special? (234 comments)

According to news reports, there are around 1000 analysts at NSA engaged in surveillance. Let's assume half of them are looking at foreign traffic and half at domestic traffic. That's 500 analysts for 350 million population, or 1 analyst for every 700,000 people. What makes you think you are special enough to deserve their attention?

Personally, I'm much more concerned about the way commercial organizations are spying on us. I think the loss of privacy to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, and other social media is much more creepy than some secret government bureau knowing that I called my parents 3 times last week.

Of course, there are those that worry about cops knowing when they are calling their drug supplier to set up a buy, but all indications so far is that the data is not available to regular police organizations.

about 6 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Is a Reasonable Way To Deter Piracy?

Calibax Give value for money (687 comments)

Assuming you have a good product, the best way to deter pirates is to set a reasonable price so that people feel they are getting value for their money. The lower the price, the less people will want or need to evade the cost. There are studies showing the price points where you tend to meet increasing resistence, although I don't think they have much data on the sub-$10 field.

Having a free trial period with limited time or limited features would probably help to ensure people can feel good about spending their money.
Offering support would help also.
Free updates would also be a plus.

Any sort of serious DRM will turn people off for low cost products, but some sort of protection (serial number tied to user name?) will be necessary if you offer a free trial.

1 year,27 days
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Elon Musk Lays Out His Evidence That NYT Tesla Test Drive Was Staged

Calibax Re:Musk isn't doing himself any favors here (841 comments)

You might not want to. However, some of us have a different lifestyle and may have different concerns. It would be an ideal car for people who spend most of their time in their car commuting and can charge it every night. Given the large reduction in fuel and pollution costs some might consider that worthwhile.

In my case I have 48 solar panels on top of my house and the ability to charge an electric vehicle for free. Yes, I will be getting an EV when costs of being at the bleeding edge of development are reduced.

about a year ago
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Chinese Blogger Becomes Celebrity Exposing Corruption

Calibax Re:Stay low (143 comments)

Almost certainly the guy who posed the video is being used by someone who passed him the tape.

The real whistle blower is probably a higher level functionary who wanted the tape released to discredit a political enemy and able to protect this guy, for now. How long the poster will continue to be protected is anyone's guess.

about a year ago
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Chinese Blogger Becomes Celebrity Exposing Corruption

Calibax But how long will this last? (143 comments)

The newly minted Standing Committee of the Politburu (the 9 folks who rule China) have made it clear that corruption is a major issue. However, previous Standing Committees have said the same and even started efforts to tackle it. These efforts haven't lasted long enough to make a small dent in the problem, never mind eradicate it.

The problem is that all levels of politicians and bureaucrats benefit greatly from corruption. Lower level bureaucrats want to become rich, higher level bureaucrats and they have no reason to rock the boat for themselves or their bureaucratic and political superiors.

I wonder how long these sorts of grass roots efforts will be tolerated. China has repeatedly shown that they can bury anything on their portion of the internet given sufficient incentive.

about a year ago
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Smart Guns To Stop Mass Killings

Calibax Re:Oh, now this is fucking brilliant (1388 comments)

As a counter argument, about a year ago a bystander with a gun killed an off-duty ATF agent who was struggling with a pharmacy robbery suspect who had a gun. The bystander thought he was shooting the bad guy, but he shot and killed a 20-year Federal agent who had a wife and two kids and was at the pharmacy to pick up cancer drugs for his dad. Then a cop killed the suspect.

Intervening After Robbery, an Off-Duty A.T.F. Agent Is Killed

about a year ago
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Congressman Introduces Bill To Ban Minting of Trillion-Dollar Coin

Calibax Any member can introduce a bill but... (1059 comments)

It's a long way from introducing a bill to getting it through Congress and signed by the President.

about a year ago
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Are you better off than you were four years ago?

Calibax Re:Wishing that Obamacare had been aound 4 years a (524 comments)

This was my second cancer. After the first one I became unable to get insurance that would cover cancer. No insurance company wants to take that sort of risk with a disease that often reappears some years later and requires very expensive treatment.

about a year and a half ago
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Are you better off than you were four years ago?

Calibax Re:Wishing that Obamacare had been aound 4 years a (524 comments)

Just to make it clear, I did have health insurance. But after my first bout with cancer the insurance company decided that cancer (of any type) would not be covered in the future, and almost tripled my premium for coverage of everything else. No other company would would give me coverage at a reasonable cost - one well known company quoted $1,900 per month if I paid the first $100,000 of claims per year.

My understanding of Obamacare is that premiums cannot be raised because of preexisting conditions. Hence my comment about wishing it was around.

about a year and a half ago
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Are you better off than you were four years ago?

Calibax Wishing that Obamacare had been aound 4 years ago (524 comments)

Four years ago I was in chemotherapy after my second bout with cancer (first was seven years ago). Things were looking grim. I couldn't work, I felt like crap because of all the drugs, and I was paying my medical bills out of savings.

Today I'm in good health, I married in February and we have twins due in December, I have an interesting job that pays well, and we just paid cash for a new minivan. Short of winning the lottery, I don't think life could be better.

I just wish that Obamacare had been around when I needed it. I would have $400k more than I have now. USA badly needs medical insurance reform and the Republicans certainly don't want to help.

about a year and a half ago

Submissions

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Parallels Update Installs Unrelated Deamon Without Permission

Calibax Calibax writes  |  about 7 months ago

Calibax (151875) writes "Parallels recently released version 9 of Parallels Desktop, their popular hypervisor application for Mac. They also released a new product named Parallels Access that offers access to Windows applications from an iPad for $80 per year. Access has received less than stellar reviews.

When a user upgrades Parallels Desktop, he is asked if he wants a free six month subscription to Parallels Access. Even if he says no, the product is installed on his system and the application is started each time the system is rebooted. It is installed with ancillary files scattered around several directories in the system and Parallels has not supplied an uninstaller or listed the steps to fully uninstall the application, despite a number of requests.

In other words, Parallels has decided it's a good idea to silently install a difficult to remove deamon application on the system, even if the user has explicitly stated they do not want it. They have not provided an uninstaller or a list of files installed or instructions on how to remove the application files. These are scattered to at least four Mac OS X OS system level directories."
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Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked to Prejud

Calibax Calibax writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Calibax (151875) writes "A recent study by a psychologist at Brock University in Ontario finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults and that low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice."
Link to Original Source
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88 Year Old Scientist Hassled by DEA

Calibax Calibax writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Calibax (151875) writes "30 years ago Bob Wallace and his partner came up with a product to help hikers, flood victims and others purify water. Wallace, now 88 years old, packs his product by hand in his garage, stores it in his backyard shed and sells it for $6.50.

Recently, the DEA has been hassling him because his product uses crystalline iodine. He has been refused a license to purchase the iodine because it can be used in the production of crystal meth, and as a result he is now out of business.

A DEA spokesman describes this as "collateral damage" not resulting from DEA regulations but from the selfish actions of criminals."

Link to Original Source

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