The Magic of Pallets
The Truckie above is right about CHEP pallets. These blue pallets with white lettering are ubiquitous in Australia, and there are a number of yards at which you can pick them up and drop them off.
Because it's a rental thing and pallets aren't free to manufacture, there's a penalty if you don't bring them back. AND -- amazingly -- it is at least sometimes NOT on the people who picked them up, or loaded or unloaded them, but on the person who authorised the job with the contractor, who may not have ever even SEEN the pallets in question.
Why would this happen? Because anyone can rock up to a CHEP yard with a bunch of blue pallets and receive back, in cash, the deposit for said pallets. Going pallet-hunting is apparently not an uncommon activity among Australian tradesman after a big night of drinking when the next payday is still days away. Most of us would have no reason to know this, and presumably the economy somewhat relies on this, but basically an unguarded CHEP pallet is like a $100 note (or whatever the deposit is... as I recall, it isn't a small number) sitting on the ground.
So, a friend of mine, in charge of maintenance for a piece of public infrastructure, one day had some maintenance done. The supplies for this apparently came on CHEP pallets. He knows this not because he'd ever been TOLD about any CHEP pallets by the workers... but because one day CHEP sent him a bill for $4,000. He wrote back, don't know anything about your pallets, never seen 'em, don't have 'em, not paying this invoice. SOMEHOW this degenerated into a personal attack by CHEP on him, calling him at home, nagging him for these pallets he'd had nothing to do with. It went on for months. His management backed him on not paying the invoice, but that didn't help in the context of CHEP taking the dispute personal.
One day he got sick and tired of this, and called up the contractors in the middle of the night. "Round up your mates, and round up a big-ass truck. We're going for a drive." And they drove around all night, picking up any blue pallet that wasn't nailed down. Final count it was something like hundreds of them, if I recall correctly. They dropped them off at CHEP. He used the funds to pay the CHEP invoice and pocketed the rest and told the contractors they better not ever say another word about this.
Apparently in recent years, CHEP has begun to bar code pallets so they can track them, so I have no idea if they're still easy, untraceable currency as they were 5+ years ago.
A Job Fair For Jobs In India — In California
My parents gre up in the Great Depression. My mom's family had the only car on the block, and they took in 4-5 boarders at a time to make ends meet.
Now I myself am a boarder. Working overseas at less than half my old income in a coal mining town where housing costs 45% of my weekly paycheck. Mandatory insurance eats up another 10%. Then there's food (meat unlikely, as i cannot cook where I live, so I eat a lot of veggies out of the can, for example), detergent to wash my work clothes since I cannot afford to have them dry cleaned, etc. And that housing is a single non-airconditioned room big enough for a bed, garment rack and refrigerator. And hundreds of cockroaches and lizards no matter how many cans of spray I emtpy onto floors and into corners. In the tropics where 95 degree days are common. Kind of makes it not so bad that some mornings there isn't any hot water, because I need to cool off before going to work in my office geek job.
I was lucky to land this accomodation. Many people have it worse; I've heard my region leads the country in homelessness percentage. I begged my way into couch surfing for months while looking for impossible to find affordale housing that 2000 other people in town are also searching for. I was out on the street for a while, periodically when between accommodations. Lacking a car, I slept rough.
And I didn't have to use the daily newspaper for tp only because I could swipe some from a public restroom when needed. But the rest of it, like going without food for 3 days because I'd used up my stock of canned beans, while waitng for the next payday, is de rigeur.
If someone with a masters degree with 20 years experience working in a professional technical field is part of the working poor as a result of the events of the past 3-4 years, and even needed to leave the country to get a deal that good, the country has a problem.
Sharks Seen Swimming Down Australian Streets
Ayers Rock (it's a big rock in outback Oz) paper scissors.
Gecko frightens non-Aussie-native human. Human's out, hiding away from gecko-attracting lights and insects (that would be, ohhhh, somewhere in Antarctica?)
Gecko eats spider. Spider's out, much in the sense that the innocuous paper covers rock.
Gecko v shark. Hardly a decent entree, where's the rest of the plate?
Shark v croc. How big a croc did you say it was? Less than 2.5m? Shark. One of those medieval guys? Croc.
Should Employees Buy Their Own Computers?
I've brought my own laptop to a startup that employed me on a W-2 basis. The idea being, it's already set up with all of my dev and productivity tools, and I'm comfortable with its performance, so why spend $$ on giving someone a duplicate of what they already have (that I'm not using during business hours otherwise), if they're still willing to sign the agreement saying they give all rights to what they do for you in the workplace to the employer? (Note: it's crucial in these situations to make sure that you keep rights to your OWN stuff developed on the same hardware for non-work purposes.)
Another time, years ago, I was stuck with a 486sx PC. I had a Sun Sparcstation at home. I brought in the Sparcstation and was much, much, much more productive for two weeks, until the beancounters spied it and asked WTF? I copped to it being my personal machine, whereupon they directed me to take it home at the end of the day because it ran afoul of their insurance requirements that all in-house equipment be owned by the company. It was only months later that I realized they leased a crapload of machines from GE Leasing, and that I could have suggested, "Why don't you lease it from me for $1/month?", as a way around that if the problem REALLY was the insurance issue they described.
Still another time, I worked for a large tech company. Whilst they were a bit skittish about people's personal laptops being connected to the domain, as long as you went through the setup process to put all of their security software on your machine (and were willing to accept someone else's closed-source security software whose full functionality you could not predict), they tended to tolerate it. Eventually, they got more generous in handing out laptops.
At the same company, they have a policy of allowing personal phones to connect to the Exchange server for email and calendaring purposes. Not everyone gets a company cell phone, but since it's a company full of geeks, most employees have one of their own. Being able to catch up on your email in the morning whilst on the bus to work, and being reminded while you're out at lunch that a super-important meeting is beginning in 15 minutes and you better get yourself back to the office, are valuable things that contribute to productivity. Sure, the company may lose a bit in security by "opening up" their email server to personal devices, but multiple large and small companies I know have concluded that the tradeoff is worth it. Funny thing was, they didn't like iphone, and I THINK they might even have had an official policy against allowing iphones on their network, but since at least 20% of the technical staff at the company (a couple years ago) seemed to use iphones, I'm not sure it was enforced.
At my present employer, only high level managers and up have access to smartphone based email. Some other employees have company phones, but they're not net-access-capable. However, many employees seem to have Apple, HTC, Sony, etc. devices with smartphone functionality -- and many of them could benefit from being able to send "oops, I'll be a bit late, stuck in traffic" to the office, or check their email while out in the field, etc. So I'm currently playing change agent and talking up the benefits of allowing them access to company email from those devices.
HiJacking the iPhone's Headset Port
That was my first thought. Gee, someone's rediscovered digital/analog conversion... funny how in this industry things that were ubiquitous 20 years ago sometimes pop up as the next new groundbreaking thins 20 years later. (Accessing centralized systems from relatively dumb/low-powered clients, I'm thinking of you, too! ;-)
Microsoft Reportedly Working On TV Service For Xbox 360
$20 for the basic package (which is quite basic), and $15 each for additional sets of channels like sport, movies, Showtime, and "entertainment" (random channels that didn't get into the basic package ;-).
This is not perfect. For example, Fox Sports will black out AFL and NRL games that they would normally show on cable, because they don't have Internet broadcast rights for those games. But it seems to be a fair start at giving people tired of paying hundreds of dollars for hundreds of channels, when they may only watch 7 or 8 channels that just happen to be spread across a few different packages, an alternative to cable TV. Completely unbundled pricing -- subscribe on a channel by channel basis -- would be ideal, and this isn't there yet, but maybe it'll help push things in that direction.
Stupid Data Center Tricks
Good post title, BrokenHalo.
I'll chime in with my two.
1987, my first full time job. I was a small ISV's UNIX guru. I wanted to remove everything under /usr/someone. I cd'd to /usr/someone and typed, "rm -r *", then I realized, hey, I know that won't get everything, better add some more, and the command became, "rm -r * .*". I realized, oh, no, this'll get .. too, so I better change it to: "rm -r * .?*". It took about 12 microseconds after I hit enter to realize that ".?*" still included "..". Yes, disastrous results ensued, even though I was able to ^C to avoid most of the damage, and I had the backup tape (back in the day, we used reels) in the tape drive just as users (other devs) began to notice that /usr/lib wasn't there. Yep, I have my own memories of red-facedly telling my boss, "oops, I did this, I'm in the process of fixing it now. Give me half an hour." In the future, "rm -r /usr/someone" did the trick nicely.
Early 1990's, I was consulting in the data center of a company with 8 locations around the world. It contained the company's central servers that were accessed by about 700 users. Being a consultant, they didn't have a good place to put me, so I ended up at a desk in the computer room. Behind me was a large counter-high UPS that the previous occupant had used as somewhat of a credenza, and I carried on the tradition. That is, until the day I had put my cape on there, and the cape slid down and through one of those Rube Goldberg miracles caught the UPS master shutoff handle, pulled it down, and I heard about 30 servers (thank goodness there weren't more) powering down instantaneously. Amazingly, I lived, based on the ops manager pointing out to the powers that be that it was a freak accident and that others had been sitting similar stuff in the same place for years. The cape, however, was not allowed back in the data center.
Fortunately, I've had better luck and/or been more careful over the past 20 years.
Amazon Kindle Fails First College Test
The parent makes an interesting point -- that searching is done on electronic devices by text, but not all of our memory cues which aid in searching are textual. I am absolutely sure that arrangement of information on a page, the presence or absense of a particular graphic, or the color of text (or, my highlighting of it :-) were all factors in how I remembered information when I was in academia and had to study for exams. And I made a bit of pocket money selling my color-highlighted and carefully indented/organized study sheets to other students studying for the same exams, too, so I wasn't the only one who found visual presentation useful.
In the case of color, that entire aspect of visual presentation is missing on some electronic readers including the Kindle, thereby giving me one less memory aid.
IT Infrastructure As a House of Cards
To me, kernel and other generally-invisible platform internals *are* the sexy parts, because they require serious geek skill, and often a combination of both software AND hardware know-how to code around hardware bugs, meet perf targets, etc. If these parts don't work, that Flash game is going to have a hell of a time impressing anyone.
Ham Radio Still Growing In the iStuff Age
As a no-code tech, I'm feeling a bit inadequate here, but be that as it may. My radio is with me when I'm at home and whenever I'm out doing something where it's more likely than usual that I'll be out of cell contact (think bike rides in the countryside), just in case.
I started declaring I wanted a license back in the 1980's. For a long time, I held out because I wanted one of the "real" licenses that required Morse Code, and I was simply having a hard time learning it due to lack of time to obsessively devote to it until I'd "gotten it". I finally got my no-code tech 20 years later. What helped push me over the edge: I was in Seattle when we hard our earthquake. Cell phones were down for hours, and (back then) the laptop I was using to access the Internet only lasted an hour and a half without power. No one else was home when it happened. I decided that an extra bit of communication redundancy *NOW* was better than no license at all until I qualified for one of the higher classes.
Microsoft Fuzzing Botnet Finds 1,800 Office Bugs
"nobody's going to have a single-quote character in their name" (hello, SQL injection attack)
Hey, I resemble that remark! And yes, it's resulted in chuckles over the years. Microsoft, DevelopMentor, random e-commerce sites... many have fallen to the Irish. When talking to security professionals, I introduce myself as "the woman whose name is a SQL injection attack", and it seems to help them remember me.
Google, Apple Call Workers' Race & Gender Trade Secrets
I don't think that's what's going on, because the government already makes H1B statistics available. They can't be hiding something that's already out there in plain sight. If you want to know how many H1B's have been granted to your least favorite employer, you can look it up! True, the statistics are a couple years behind the current year, but the statistics are THERE.
Take a look at Microsoft's for example, and take a look at the salaries offered (for those of you who know MS salary levels). And then factor in a good portion of Wipro and other Indian contracting firms requesting H1B's for positions in Redmond, as also likely working at MS. Given how desperate MS is for staff that they'd be importing that many workers, it doesn't make sense that there'd be more than 1-2% tech unemployment in this area, but there is. Still, I don't think that's what Google and Apple don't want others finding out.
Google/Apple/others MIGHT think (for example) that they're carefully crafting their image to every country they serve, and that a country hearing google only has 7 people on staff from that particular country might feel a bit put out and find reason to, maybe, make a search deal with a competitor who offers more employment to its countrymen. This would be the kind of logic that would lead someone to claim that divulging that information would be too much of a window into strategy.
Gender, I can't explain as easily. But one look around the annual Microsoft "MVP Conference" occurring in downtown Bellevue, WA this week (near MS) tells me that if they're primarily male, they're not the only ones. So I'm not sure why it'd be an issue, except that it could be as simple as preventing someone from being successful with the argument that, "If you divulged your gender mix, why won't you divulge your racial mix?".
The Hidden Treasures of Sysinternals
Parent wrote the $64,000 question:
Why would the exact same list of services running under svchost.exe use different amounts of memory when reported by two different versions of Process Explorer?
Plausible answer: because one of the versions of Process Explorer has a bug, and the other either does not, or has a different bug.
Gates Foundation Plans To Invest $10B Into Vaccines
I had the same thought after doing similar math. Saving that many more lives == that many more mouths to feed. People die of starvation every day, particularly in the kind of under-developed countries that might be most deficient in their vaccination programs. I'd like to know what the plan is to keep the people saved from death-by-disease, from dying of starvation when villages of 150 become villages of 250 due to the increased life expectancy of residents. Reducing the expected population increase rate through birth control seems one way to do it.
Still, it's an impressive goal. I can think of many worse uses for that level of financial commitment, can't you?
Rockstar Employees Badly Overworked, Say Wives
Parent article said:
No, most programmers in the US work for companies who CLAIM they are classified as "exempt". There are specific legal requirements for such classification, and the truth is that the vast majority of programmers _do not_ meet them.
Mod parent up. IT tech support staff working primarily from troubleshooting guides, attorneys reviewing documents, and other "professionals" have found to be misclassified as exempt from OT. It certainly appears to be the case that there are more jobs classified as "exempt" than there are jobs that are really exempt from OT compensation. Note that the specifics of the laws vary from state to state.
IANAL, and I last looked at this a while back, but I believe that when looking at a particular incidence of possible misclassification, you match the situation against both federal and applicable state laws, and whichever laws are more favorable TO THE EMPLOYEE apply. In some cases, exactly what you do on the job (not your title, but your actual duties) in IT may be the deciding factor. (Please check that before relying on it, of course. But I'm tossing it out there in case it's useful to someone.)
Rockstar Employees Badly Overworked, Say Wives
Grandparent MemoryDragon wrote:
I refuse to work in an industry which has a history of abusing its own employees up to levels where it becomes dangerous for your live.
Parent post replied:
Are you serious? Dangerous to their lives?
THEY ARE DESK JOCKEYS, get some fucking perspective people, for fucks sake.
The author of the parent post clearly gets out too much. :-) Lucky him.
For the benefit of those who've never had the experience, I'll explain. After you've done a 390 hour month followed by a 340 hour month followed by a 370 hour month, in an effort to complete something that will save your employer hundreds of millions of dollars (don't ask, please), you are tired enough that yes, your well-being and possibly your life is at risk.
This isn't an over-dramatic comment, just reality. It's difficult to eat well, it's impossible to sleep well, and the combination wears you down. You start doing things like misinterpreting traffic signals when crossing the street, your physical systems go into overdrive (high blood pressure, heart racing, etc.) because your body doesn't have the chance to adequately recover at night, and sometimes you aren't the best judge of whether it's safe enough to try to get yourself home from the office or whether you'd better crash on the floor for a few hours before navigating roads.
I've done the 90-100 hour weeks for months at a time. I've done the 72+ hour weeks for years at a time, after the 90-100 hour weeks, with no break in between. And I haven't been in the game industry since 1984. Sometimes it's just part of the job. The trouble (as is mentioned in the article) is when it doesn't end in
I've had the distinct pleasure of having management srecommend to me that I go out on disability if I wanted a break from the 72+ hour weeks and months of 90-100 hour weeks, because they simply weren't going to assign me only the amount of work I could get done in 40 hours.
[ FYI, I lost significant golden handcuffs when I left that employer. I wonder if that's at all a factor at Rockstar. ]
And for those of you who think this is just another sign of how screwed up the US is, the Japanese have coined a term, karoshi, for death-by-overwork in their country.
Eolas Sues World + Dog For AJAX Patent
Established companies knowingly pay huge amounts on dubious claims just to raise the barrier to entry of their turf. In the long run 0.5 bill is not a big sum for Microsoft. Further there are likely to be silent undisclosed deals specifying that a huge portion of the pay out should be used exclusively to enforce the widest claims of the patent on all violations fingered by Microsoft. There is a precedent for that.
Oh, I wish I had mod points today.
This is the first time I've seen that angle discussed.
(I'm still in the "please get ajax off slashdot" camp though, as it doesn't play nice with my netbook.)
Music While Programming?
For me, I can have the news or a sitcom or some such audio (to an extent, even old Saturday morning cartoons) with conversation going on in the background and tune it out happily enough, while letting it serve its purpose of masking background noise.
However, put music in there, and my bain involuntarily starts to pattern match on the harmonies, chord progresions, etc., and I don't get to use all of my brain on the task I'm working on, because no matter how hard I try to keep it on task, it gets pulled away by the music. Listening to music for me seems to be necessarily a "foreground" task even if I attempt to put it in the "background" because my brain seeks patterns and it finds them in music, but not in random spoken audio. Based on how my brain reacts to music in headphones while I'm trying to do analytical work, I would not without anecdotal evidence to the contrary from colleagues believe that anyone could work with that cacophany going in their ears.
From talking to other engineers, I believe my preference for spoken audio rather than music is unusual but not necessarily rare.
This seems to be one of those things where it just depends on how your brain works. Maybe that can be explained to the boss? It's definitely not a one-size-fits-all thing, and I completely understand how someone could end up with his perspective. Time to widen his focus a bit, I think.
"Lawful Spying" Price Lists Leaked
Actually, I expected that they'd store messenger chat logs for at least 30 days, in order to review them after some alleged incident took place, to look for evidence. It's interesting that they don't. I wonder whether volume or performance is the constraint.
And IKEA Billy bookshelves are not junk fit only for 0-25 year olds. They're sturdy enough to hold lots of hardback textbooks and, with glass doors, their clean lines look better than many "real furniture" bookshelves.
Microsoft's Top Devs Don't Seem To Like Own Tools
Wow! I never thought I'd see a "crappy Microsoft software made me disabled!" post on Slashdot.
(Puts hand up) Never, really? You haven't spent as much time marking up Word documents with bold, italic and other random tags, or working with people who have, as I have, then. Multiple people doing similar work on a crunch project would go home at the end of the night after about 14 hours, hands/fingers/wrists too sore to continue, because the actions required to highlight text accurately in MS Word either by keyboard or mouse are hard on one's hands and wrists.
Yes, day after day of 14 hour days or longer will be hard in any tool. But I've been able to work in various text editors (programming or doing similar document markup) for similar long stretches without coming home with hands so cramped that I couldn't even pick up a bowl to make soup. The experience reinforced two things I knew already.
(1) Just because a tool CAN do something, doesn't mean that that tool SHOULD be used to do it.
(2) The easiest tool to learn how to use passably enough for casual work is often not the best tool for intensive repetitive work.
Epilogue. The company eventually developed a tool to replace Word, which did not require engineers to perform extensive visual markup for bold, italics, etc. Sounds good, eh? The tool is based on Word. It requres extensive semantic markup which is used by a back-end process that replaces the semantic markup with visual markup. Lots of smart decisions were made by the managers who ran this project. Using Word as an XML editor (and requiring that files contain all of the Word XML overhead, thereby making it next to impossible to use any other tool to edit the XML) was not, IMHO, one of them. Really, I understand vendor lock-in as a marketing strategy, but for an internal tool?
Company name omitted for obvious reasons.
Security+ is a hellaciously broad survey exam over the entire subject area of computer security, though it doesn't go into much depth in any one place.
We created a 220-page annotated guide to Decrypting the Security+ Beta Objectives, just before the beta exam went live last September, and put it up for free use at http://www.alphageekproductions.com. Within a month, there had been 10,000 downloads from its official home site, PLUS, in one of the more modern forms of flattery, it made its way onto kazaa. Dozens/hundreds of beta participants told us how helpful it was in doing well on the exam.
It's not exactly open source documentation, as redistributing a *revised* document is not permitted, but as long as you're willing to live with the original as a unit, you can pass it around to your heart's content for non-commercial purposes. For that matter, even if you have commercial purposes at heart, we might be willing to let you distribute it if we see the opportunity as good marketing for us. Please contact us with your requests!
It's not completely uncommon for publishers to release drafts of technical books for open peer review, much as software companies release alpha and beta code. But it was unheard of (AFAIK) for someone publishing in the cert space to do this. Normally in this market segment, peer review is done (if at all) by the folks who buy the first printing and unhappily report errors. And if you're in that (significant) percentage of customers who wouldn't know an error when it hit them in the face, because you're using exam study to learn the product in the first place... well, you lose. Through our release, we gained an army of tech reviewers who were not shy about making comments. The final result includes their feedback as well as our own revisions.
Why did we make a draft available for free at the start of the beta? Oh, for zillions of reasons, like:
1. We wanted to get the information out there, in hopes of making people better prepared for the exam; this would hopefully raise the average exam score, and result in the "cut score" that determines pass/fail for the exam being higher than it otherwise would have been. Many certs get a bad rap. We wanted to try to raise the quality of this one, because we feel it's especially important.
2. Free is a good price. If you're not really at the point of wanting to BUY a book on security, you might be willing to download a free one. If you learn something you didn't know before reading our book, we've just had a positive impact on the world, and this is something, as responsible humans, that we like.
3. Market share and mind share are good things. Currently, we've got the lion's share of both, for this particular subject area. Generally the best way to get the word out about something without pissing folks off is to give them something they want, along with the marketing message (be it trade show schwag, "marketing betas" of software which are so named for exactly that reason, free news in magazines or web sites such as /.).
4. If we wrote and timestamped the document before the start of the beta exam period, we were safe from any cries of "braindump" (people complaining we were distributing actual exam content, which is against the rules). Our final book was built primarily from this first draft for the same reason. I think, actually, that draft is the ONLY study material certified to have been produced prior to someone involved in the book taking the exam. Normally, this would not be something to crow about, but in this case... folks, we guessed remarkably well as to the types of questions that might be asked about each topic area. Incomplete though it is, the freebie guide is nonetheless a very useful prep tool.
5. Of course, since this is /. after all, doing what has not been done before, and changing the rules of the game, is simply fun. We shook up the cert book publishing industry a bit, and even caused a dotcom to suddenly reverse direction (deciding to offer for free, somewhat-competing content that they'd planned to charge for).
After the Security+ book is out, watch for my comments on the security-related chapters I'm starting to write for a VB.Net book.
This is a lame test of /.'s journaling. Yay, just four days until my friend shows up to visit for a few days. :-) :-)