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Ask Slashdot: What Do You Wish You'd Known Starting Out As a Programmer?

DERoss Learn to Recognize Abusive Employers and Jump Away (548 comments)

I went to work for System Development Corporation (SDC) in 1969. SDC was actually the company that established computer programming as being distinct from building computers; before then, the only people programming were the engineers who built the computers. SDC was a good company with good pay and good benefits. Then, SDC sold itself to the Burroughs Corporation, which succeeded in a hostile takeover of Sperry Univac and became Unisys.

At Unisys, we found ourselves in an environment that treated highly experienced technicians and professionals as if we were assembly line workers. Unisys even imposed work rules on us salaried employees that are actually legal only for hourly wage-earners. I should have recognized the abuse sooner than I did and "jumped ship". I could have timed a change for when shortage of software experts made job jumping very profitable. Instead I stuck it out until mass layoffs were very near.

When Burroughs and Sperry Univac merged, the resulting Unisys had more than 120,000 employees. Today, Unisys has less than 25,000.

I must disagree with the replies that indicate programming is poorly paid. I earned sufficient pay that I was able to retire very comfortably before I was 62.

I would suggest that programmers learn how to test rigorously the software they create. This requires that they also write software specifications that are testable, after which they should learn to write formal test procedures. They can then advance into becoming requirements analysts and software test engineers (except in states where "engineer" is a career that requires a license). There are too few analysts and testers, who are often paid much more than programmers. Large computer-based projects are failing because of a lack of clear, objective, and testable specifications. Attempts to put those projects into actual use are disastrous because of a lack of testing.

For some details about my career, see

about 1 month ago

Ask Slashdot: What Do You Wish You'd Known Starting Out As a Programmer?

DERoss Re:I wish you'd know basic English... (548 comments)

Given that snydeq wrote the opposite of what we think he meant, he might not understand your (Anonymous Coward's) correction. After all illiteracy often includes an inability to understand what is written and not merely an inability to express one's self in writing.

snydeq wrote: "I simply loved to code and could have cared less about my 'career' ..." That means snydeq cared more than he could have cared. If he instead wrote: "I simply loved to code and could not have cared less about my 'career' ...", that would mean he did not care at all.

about a month ago

How many devices are connected to your home Wi-Fi?

DERoss Re:None (260 comments)

I paid someone to go into my cramped upper attic (during a hot summer day) and run a cable from my wife's PC to our router, which is located in our lower attic on the other side of the wall from my own PC. He then ran a cable from the TV cable to our modem. This latter involved removing several cable splices in favor of just 1 or 2 in order to improve the quality of the signal.

Although I had subscribed to Time Warner Cable for Internet service, the system did not work. TWC had to come to my house and lay a new underground cable from their own junction box at the street to my junction box on my house. The existing TWC cable (more than 35 years old at that time) just did not have the capacity to handle a broadband Internet connection. During that, I noticed that the old cable had merely been laid in a trench in the ground without any conduit; a conduit would have made the task so much more easy. Unfortunately, the new cable was also placed without any conduit. I got credit on my TWC bill for the time between subscribing and getting the new cable.

Although the router has WiFi capability, I disabled that.

about a month ago

51% of Computer Users Share Passwords

DERoss Re:I definitely share password with family (117 comments)

Problem #1 is NOT a problem in California. A safe deposit box at a bank is not sealed when one of the owners dies. Those who are on the signature card to open a safe deposit box retain full access after one of them dies.

In my case, the box is part of a bank account that is owned by a living trust that is part of my wife's and my estate plan. For continuity, our trust requires that there always be two trustees; and our heirs are excluded from being trustees to prevent conflict among them. Nevertheless, our son was on the signature card for the safe deposit box; the bank allows existing signers to add anyone to the card. When he died, the bank required a new signature card without his name on it. We then added our daughter to the card. If either my wife or I die, the trustee-in-waiting named in the trust document becomes the second trustee. She will then be added to the signature card. In the meantime, the bank does not block any access to the box by anyone on the current signature card when one of them dies.

For problem #2, I do not disclose at which bank -- let alone at which bank branch -- our safe deposit box is located. I definitely do not disclose the box number. If a court order was issued to access the box, it would have to be served on me for me to locate the box. At that point, I would have the opportunity to go back to court to challenge the order. Anyway, there is nothing on our box that represents criminal activity. A civil lawsuit that would require the other party to access my box might involve an improper "fishing expedition" since the other party would not have any prior knowledge of the box's contents.

about a month ago

51% of Computer Users Share Passwords

DERoss Re:I definitely share password with family (117 comments)

I did the same. My Web user IDs and passwords are in an envelope in my bank's safe deposit box as well as in a strongly encrypted file on my PC. The encryption key exists only in my head and in that envelope.

But for some non-Internet files (e.g., complete PC backups, tax returns from prior years), the files are encrypted via PGP. Decrypting them requires a passphrase (longer than a password, with embedded blanks and punctuation); some require my PGP private key. The envelope in the safe deposit box contains the passphrase on paper and the private key on a floppy, on a CD, and on paper. Otherwise, the passphrase exists only in my head. (My PGP public key is indeed public and is found on a number of key servers around the world.)

When my wife's cousin died, his widow could not access anything on his PC. I hope my wife does not have that problem.

about a month ago

Slashdot Asks: Should Schooling Be Year-Round?

DERoss A Different Approach (421 comments)

I was an elected school board member in the 1980s. During that time, I would attend the annual California School Boards Association conferences.

One year, I heard an interesting presentation on a form of year-round schooling. The presenter described a calendar in which regular classes would meet for 9 weeks followed by a 3-week break, making a four-quarter school year. The 3-week break would not be a break for all students. He pointed out that 9 months of failure could not be corrected in only 6 weeks of summer school, a ratio of 6.5 to 1. Instead, students not meeting expected academic performance would have to attend remedial classes during the 3-week break, a ratio of 3 to 1.

It was already a noticeable problem in our schools that students would sometime miss classes because their parents took them on a skiing trip in the winter, to visit family in the spring, or to see fall color. As a member of the 2005-2006 County Grand Jury, I learned that this problem had grown worse county-wide in the 15 years after I left the school board. This radical calendar would provide 3 weeks off for those trips for students who were performing well in class.

This calendar would also provide an extra 2 weeks around Christmas and New Year, when even remedial students and their teachers would be off. It would provide for all the holidays the state Legislature mandates on public schools. Yet it would still involve the full 182 days of instruction annually that the Legislature also mandates. By shifting teacher in-service days to the 3-week breaks, students would actually be learning during all 182 days.

Of course, there would be increased costs for the remedial instruction and for the in-service days. That likely dooms this concept since too many members of the state Legislature think cutting taxes is the most important thing they can do, more important than educating our children, repairing our roads, assuring a supply of water, or anything else.

about a month and a half ago

How long ago did you last assemble a computer?

DERoss Never (391 comments)

Q: How many software engineers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: None. That's a hardware problem.

I was a SOFTWARE test engineer for 30+ years and a programmer before that (starting in the early 1960s). I understand what many of the hardware components do, but that is the limit of my knowledge.

about 2 months ago

35% of American Adults Have Debt 'In Collections'

DERoss Debts of a Dead Person Sent to Collection (570 comments)

My son died in early April 2013 without a will. Sufficient funds to pay his bills remained in his bank and credit union accounts, but no one could touch them. I sorted through all his bills and contacted all his creditors, informing them of the situation -- that they would indeed be paid if their bills were legitimate but that they might have to wait a few months for me to access his funds.

I finally got a court order to access his funds seven months later. In the meantime, three bills had already been sent to collection -- bills from creditors that I had previously contacted.

One bill in collection was for a major balance on a Discover credit card. By the time I got the collection notice, I had already sent a check to Discover. That problem was quickly resolved with no further problems.

Another bill in collection was for Time Warner Cable, for TV, phone, and Internet. I notified them shortly after my son died that they had to discontinue his service. They had billed him for the entire month of April, including the weeks following his death. I sent a check for a lesser amount to the collection agency with a cover letter detailing how I computed a pro-rata amount of the bill for the short part of the month before my son died. The collection agency returned the check with a letter informing me that they had returned the account back to Time Warner Cable. I never heard again from either the collection agency or Time Warner Cable.

The third bill sent to collection was for a medical group that supplies emergency room doctors to a local hospital. The explanation of benefits from my son's health insurance indicated that they had paid the medical group and that no further payment was due from my son. My further investigation revealed that, while the hospital and its emergency room were in-network for my son's health insurance, the hospital had out-sourced their emergency room doctor service to a medical group that was out-of-network for ALL insurance plans except Medicare. The medical group wanted payment for the difference between what the insurance allowed and what they billed. I wrote a letter to the collection agency (having already sent a similar letter to the medical group) informing them that the hospital chose my son's doctor and, since my son had no choice in the matter, they would have to deal with the hospital for any further payment. I also informed the the credit agency that my son's estate was not large enough to require probate and, if they insisted on payment, they would have to initiate probate at their own expense. I never heard again from either the collection agency or the medical group.

While all this was being resolved, we received several phone calls from the collection agencies. They insisted on knowing where my son was, so my wife gave them the address of his cemetery.

We also received insurance explanations of benefits indicating several medical providers were not being paid because they submitted their claims too late (more than 6 months after the dates of service). I have not heard directly from any of those providers. If they do send me a request for payment, I will reply that I am not responsible for their failure to submit timely claims. In any case, my son's estate is now "closed". All remaining funds were transferred into a blocked guardianship on behalf of my grandson. It will take a court order -- at the creditor's expense -- to unblock the accounts.

I am quite sure that my son is well beyond caring about black marks on his credit history. It seems, however, that no black marks have appeared. More than a year after his death, offers of new credit cards for large credit limits still keep arriving in the mail for him.

about 2 months ago

$10 Million Lawsuit Against Wikipedia Editors "Stragetically" Withdrawn

DERoss Yank's Legal Team Is Deficient (51 comments)

I notice from the Web site of the Superior Court in Ventura County that the legal team representing Yank was at least twice on the verge of being sanctioned for failing to provide legal filings in a timely manner. Ventura County's judges do not tolerate sloppiness. Most are former prosecutors. I have been on trial juries there three times and served two consecutive years on the Grand Jury.

about 2 months ago

India's National Informatics Centre Forged Google SSL Certificates

DERoss Not a Problem with Mozilla-Based Applications (107 comments)

This is not a problem with Firefox, SeaMonkey, or other Mozilla-based applications. They use a certificate database separate from Microsoft's, a database that does not contain the certificate used in the forgery.

The certification authority at fault (NIC) has an open request to have its root certificate added to Mozilla's database. However, NIC has failed to respond to requests for further information, requested over a year ago by the Mozilla person who is in charge of the process of approving certificates. Furthermore, Mozilla persons -- both staff and users -- are aware of NIC's problem; some have suggested that NIC's request be rejected and NIC be permanently banned from the database.

To see the discussion, see

Some certification authorities and some of their subscribers complain that Mozilla takes too long to approve root certificates and then to add those certificates to Mozilla's database. At least in this case, delay served to protect users. The delays are significantly caused by Mozilla's requirement for independent audit reports and for a period of public review and comment on each request. Hooray for Mozilla!!

about 2 months ago

India's National Informatics Centre Forged Google SSL Certificates

DERoss Re:Scoped certificates (107 comments)

That is an existing capability within the SSL process. NIC will be restricted to issuing certificates only for a set of domains that are specific to India. Just be careful if you want to have financial transactions over the Web with institutions based in India.

about 2 months ago

YouTube Issuing "Report Cards" On Carriers' Streaming Speeds

DERoss Re:Some Problems (110 comments)

I have never had a problem specifically with YouTube. However, my statement about blaming servers stands. YouTube is just not a target for such blame.

about 2 months ago

YouTube Issuing "Report Cards" On Carriers' Streaming Speeds

DERoss Some Problems (110 comments)

The vertical scale in the charts has no indices or any indication of what is measured. I see the statement to the right "Daily video activity is averaged
over 30 days.", but it does not say what is really averaged. Is this MB/sec, percentage of available bandwidth, or what?

In any case, the throughput of a broadband connection is not the only issue in moving large amounts of bytes. I am having a problem with software for an HP printer. Today, HP advised me to download the entire software package for that printer, approximately 1.4 GB. However, HP's server could not deliver event 300 KB/sec into my 15 MB/sec broadband connection. There are servers delivering video that cannot keep up with playback speeds.

When I cannot get downloads a MB/sec rates, I generally blame the server at the other end and not my broadband provider. After all, I can immediately try a different download from a different source, and get my full 15 MB/sec.

about 2 months ago

Goldman Sachs Demands Google Unsend One of Its E-mails

DERoss Unsending E-mail (346 comments)

The ancient Roman Horace (65-8 bce) said: "Once a word has been allowed to escape, it cannot be recalled."

More recently, Omar, the Tentmaker (died ca 1123 ce) said:
"The moving finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety or Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it."

about 3 months ago

Researchers Claim Wind Turbine Energy Payback In Less Than a Year

DERoss The Wind Does Blow (441 comments)

About 30 years ago, "wind farms" were built in several places in California where the wind seems constant, not intermittent. One is in the San Gorgonio Pass along I10 between Beaumont and Palm Springs. Another one is in the Altamont Pass in the hills near Oakland. In both places, with what was then primitive technology, the constancy of the wind still justified the construction of these "wind farms". I have seen both installations, and I have never seen them idled by a lack of wind.

Similarly, there are places where sunshine is so prevalent that solar power would have few interruptions during the day. Unlike wind power, however, storage of electricity during the day is needed for use at night.

In the meantime, Southern California Edison has outages at all times of the year. These are not the result of unreliable generation sources. Instead, these are the result of not performing any kind of scheduled preventive maintenance on local portions of the distribution system.

about 3 months ago

Facial Recognition Might Be Coming To Your Car

DERoss Will Not Work With Me (131 comments)

I see the the following problems --

For at least 20 years, I have had a full beard. Since I am mostly (not entirely) bald on top, I do not get a haircut more than once in two months. When I get a haircut, I also get my beard trimmed somewhat short. Will facial recognition allow me to drive home from the barber shop?

I do not have a mobile phone, smart or dumb. When I leave my house, I want to leave my phone, computer, garden, etc behind me. Where would this feature send the photo?

about 3 months ago

Microsoft Suspending "Patch Tuesday" Emails

DERoss Never Got MS E-mails (145 comments)

I never got E-mails from Micro$oft about updates, vulnerabilities, etc. Instead, I have an RSS feed from US-CERT (computer emergency response team), an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (Yes, they do have a few useful functions.) US-CERT not only notifies me about Micro$oft's alerts and provides links to them, but that agency also notifies me of alerts from other companies.

The link to subscribe to the RSS feed is

about 3 months ago

Ask Slashdot: What Would It Take For You To Buy a Smartwatch?

DERoss Pocket Watch (427 comments)

I bought a new Hamilton Railway Special conductor's pocket watch with the first paycheck I earned as a computer programmer in 1962. Since then, I have never worn a wrist watch and do not plan to wear one.

I retired the Hamilton when I got a pocket Casio with a calculator, alarm, and count-down timer. I now have an electronic pocket watch with a round dial and hour, minute, and second hands; it also shows the date (but not the month or year). I have to reset the date when a 30-day month ends. When that happens, I recheck the time against a global array of atomic clocks that are tied to the Internet; I find it keeps excellent time.

Yes, I was a computer geek in the early days of geekdom and remained so until I retired. I do not own a smart phone or even a dumb cell phone. When I leave the house, I prefer to leave it entirely -- phones, computers, etc. But I do carry a watch in my pocket on the end of a chain attached to my belt.

By the way, during much of my career, I was the go-to person for issues relating to time-keeping and the rotation of the earth on which time-keeping is based. This was for various projects involving earth-orbiting, military space satellites.

about 3 months ago

MP Says 'Failed' Piracy Warnings Should Escalate To Fines & Jail

DERoss False Warnings? (135 comments)

How about a fine and prison for making a false complaint or warning about a copyright violation?

about 3 months ago



Regional Concentrations of Scientists and Engineers in the United States

DERoss DERoss writes  |  1 year,29 days

DERoss (1919496) writes "The National Science Foundation has publish a research paper with the subject title, which may be found at The lead paragraph contains the sentence "The three most populous states—California, Texas, and New York—together accounted for more than one-fourth of all S&E employment in the United States."

According to the 2010 census, however, those three states also contain more than one-fourth (26.5%) percent of the U.S. population. In other words, there is NO concentration beyond how the general population is concentrated."

Question: How do I obtain enforcement of my copyr

DERoss DERoss writes  |  more than 2 years ago

DERoss (1919496) writes "I have a personal Web site with many, many pages. One of the pages — one of my very first from before 1999 — describes the community in which I live. As with most of my Web pages, this one carries a copyright notice.

Often, my community page is plagiarized by real estate agents and brokers without my permission. Can I get the U.S. government to enforce my copyright. Or is enforcement limited to the MPAA , RIAA, and their allies."

Link to Original Source

PGP Vulnerability -- No Fix for Freeware Version

DERoss DERoss writes  |  more than 3 years ago

DERoss (1919496) writes "PGP Desktop — used to encrypt or digitally sign E-mail and files — contains a serious vulnerability in current versions 10.0.3 and 10.1. This vulnerability allows a signed message or file (or sometimes a signed and encrypted message or file) to be altered without invalidating the signature. This makes it impossible to use a digital signature to verify the integrity of a message or file. While many individual, non-commercial users of PGP Desktop use the freeware trial version, Symantec will not provide a fix except for the purchased version. For non-technical details, see []."
Link to Original Source


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