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Ask Slashdot: Future-Proof Jobs?

John_Sauter Re:Nothing, really. (507 comments)

Prostitution . . . the world's oldest profession will be around . . . well, as long as humans are still around.

It may be the world's oldest profession, but that doesn't mean it is a career that lasts a lifetime. It would seem to me that the older one gets, the less this career choice would pay so the best bet is to start this one young and plan to transition into some other line of work pretty quickly.

Not necessarily. There are some forms of beauty that last a lifetime. A few years ago I met a grandmother who was still making a good living as a prostitute.

about a week ago

No Shortage In Tech Workers, Advocacy Groups Say

John_Sauter Re:Class conflict (401 comments)

I think there's an obvious class conflict when it comes to STEM fields. Wages are high enough that it challenges the corporate class structure that dictates what field should be paid more than other fields.

My wife works in marketing for a company that makes an engineered product and we had a fairly heated discussion about this once. Without thinking about the implications, she actually said that marketing was more important than engineering and marketing should always be paid more. Raising engineering salaries above some ceiling wasn't an option.

Now, my wife isn't a mean spirited snob but I think she genuinely meant this and I think it reflects the class consciousness in corporate thinking.

Strangely I never see this mentioned in articles about H1-Bs and STEM workers. It always seems to devolve into an unresolvable debate involving conflicting macoeconomic labor statistics.

I have seen this also. I think there is an evolution in large companies: even if they start by developing good products, they eventually become so focused on sales and marketing that they forget that the quality of their products is the basis of their business. I was at Digital Equipment Corporation as it went through this transition. By the time the founder, an engineer, was finally forced out, the company was headed downhill, and was soon acquired.

IBM has somehow managed to avoid this problem. While definitely focused on sales, they continue to develop new, competitive products. Whatever their secret is, I wish it was taught in American business schools.

about two weeks ago

Goldman Sachs Demands Google Unsend One of Its E-mails

John_Sauter Re:better translation (346 comments)

My Gutenberg reference was to the fifth edition of Edward Fitcgerand's translation, which gives a different number to the verse. Nonetheless, your reference uses "nor" and "thy", just like mine does.

about three weeks ago

Goldman Sachs Demands Google Unsend One of Its E-mails

John_Sauter better translation (346 comments)

A better translation of Rubiat 51 is:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

Notice "Piety nor Wit". See

about three weeks ago

RAND Study: Looser Civil Service Rules Would Ease Cybersecurity Shortage

John_Sauter Re:So train them. (97 comments)

I hate the employers that whine that they can't get good help. The reality is that most employers are not able to pay for skilled or reliable workers. People with tremendous skills and good work habits are available but they do demand real pay. The cabinet shop that wants to hire workers for $10. per hour has a big problem. The cabinet shop that pays $60. per hour gets an entirely different type of worker. Offer $200. per hour and you can create world class cabinets.

I suspect that many employers are able, but not willing, to pay for skilled and reliable workers. I recently spent 9 months at a temp job with a large and wealthy employer, demonstrating my skill and work ethic to the hiring manager. At the end of the job he offered me a permanent position, but at $20 to $25 per hour. I would have been willing to take the job if I could have been compensated for my 900 miles per week commute. However, the policies of the institution did not permit him to do that, or, equivalently, offer me $35 per hour. I reluctantly turned down the job.

about three weeks ago

Ask Slashdot: Correlation Between Text Editor and Programming Language?

John_Sauter Re:varies (359 comments)

Actually, I did use TECO on the PDP-6 until Stopgap was ready. I also coded in assembly language for the PDP-6/10, and in Gogol for the PDP-1. I used Bliss-36 to write a PDP-11 task builder that ran on the PDP-10, so a customer wouldn't have to take his KL10 down to run the PDP-11 TKB on the PDP-11 front end in order to build the DECnet code.

about three weeks ago

Ask Slashdot: Correlation Between Text Editor and Programming Language?

John_Sauter varies (359 comments)

Like some others who have posted here, my choice of editor and language have varied with time.

  • In 1964 I coded in PDP-1 assembly language and my editor was TVedit.
  • In the early 1970s I used PDP-6 assembly language and Stopgap.
  • In the late 1970s I used Bliss-36 and SOS.
  • In the 1980s I used Bliss-32 and EDT.
  • In the 1990s and early 2000s I used DCL and EDT.
  • In the late 2000s and early 2010s I used Perl and Vim.
  • Today I use Python and EMACS.

about three weeks ago

Linux Format Magazine Team Quits, Launches New Profit-Donating Mag

John_Sauter Re:No, but the Age of Information will. (90 comments)

People still publish Shakespeare and Mark Twain, even though they are in the public domain. You can even find the King James Bible if you look for it. If a book is popular enough there will be a demand for it, and someone to fill that demand.

about 8 months ago

Linux Format Magazine Team Quits, Launches New Profit-Donating Mag

John_Sauter Re:No, but the Age of Information will. (90 comments)

Realistically, Paramount (or any big entertainment company) isn't going to be able to pass off your work as their own. Even if the public neither knows or cares, the industry insiders will know it is yours. If the big production of your script is successful, everybody in the industry will know that you are the person to get on-board for the next big success. The big production gives you publicity, even if your name does not appear in the credits.

Having a history of success is what gives you leverage.

about 8 months ago

Linux Format Magazine Team Quits, Launches New Profit-Donating Mag

John_Sauter Re:No, but the Age of Information will. (90 comments)

The chicken and egg problem has a well-known solution, the one used by musicians. You start by writing for free, to gain an audience. If and when you achieve popularity, you can quit your job and write professionally. Don't think that is realistic? Imagine how many people would pay Stephen King or Tom Clancy to write another best-seller. If you aren't in their league, you remain a hobbyist


about 8 months ago

Linux Format Magazine Team Quits, Launches New Profit-Donating Mag

John_Sauter Re:No, but the Age of Information will. (90 comments)

Get paid for that work once. Ask for enough up front to cover your expenses for the work just like in ANY other market: See also, Mechanics. Bid, do the work, get paid; No fee each time you start the car and benefit from the work. You want more money? Do more work.

OK, I'm an author who self publishes.....Or do you propose that I just write for free and get a job at McDonald's to keep a roof over my head?

You've figured it out. If you aren't popular enough for your readers to pay you in advance to write a book for them, then writing is a hobby for you, and you also need to have a job. I used to be paid to write computer programs. Today it is a hobby, and I have a job so I can eat.

about 8 months ago

Software Glitch Means Loss of NASA's Deep Impact Comet Probe

John_Sauter the spacecraft may still be alive (65 comments)

It is possible that the spacecraft is going through layers of falesafes, until it finally just points its solar panels at the Sun, points its radio antenna at Earth, and cries for help. Remember the mission to Eros:

about 10 months ago

When 1 GB Is Really 0.9313 Gigabytes

John_Sauter Re:"Real GB" or "marketing GB"? (618 comments)

Likewise I say "true GB" for 1024-based and "salesman's GB" for 1000-based. Because the 1024-based units ARE the true units, and the 1000-based units WERE created just to make hard drives look bigger than they actually were.

Your second sentence turns out not to be correct. The decimal prefixes were long-established by the time binary computers were invented. I use GiB for binary and GB for decimal. If Microsoft Windows did the same, confusion would be reduced.

about a year and a half ago

When 1 GB Is Really 0.9313 Gigabytes

John_Sauter mistake made long ago (618 comments)

If the computer industry can't adapt to counting the way of the rest of the world does, that's our problem. We should be pointing at whoever originally decided that they should usurp the already established term Kilo to mean 1024 and slapping them upside the head. Anything less is pure arrogance on our part.

I don't know who originally decided to mis-use "kilo" to mean 1024, but the mistake was made in the late 1950s or early 1960s. I first heard that the PDP-1 was a "4K" machine in 1963, and the terminology was already well-established. It might have been done by several people independently.

The difference between 1000 and 1024 is only 2.4%, and the Ki prefix didn't exist yet, so perhaps the misuse is forgivable. However, there is a slippery slope: once you are comfortable with Kilo as 1024, it is easier to successively misuse Mega as 1048576 (4.9%), Giga as 1073741024 (7.4%), Tera as 1099511627776 (10%) and Peta as 1125899906842620 (12.6%).

The obvious solution is for all operating systems, even Microsoft Windows, to display hard drive sizes in decimal, and RAM sizes in binary. When displaying RAM sizes they should use the binary prefixes.

about a year and a half ago

What Early Software Was Influential Enough To Deserve Acclaim?

John_Sauter FLINT (704 comments)

If you are interested in early software, consider FLINT. FLINT was a floating-point package for the IAS computer, which was designed by John von Neumann in the early 1950s. FLINT was intended to be a high-level language which could be implemented on other computers.

FLINT, "which, as far as its user is concerned, transforms our machine into a slower, less sophisticated instrument for which coding is much simpler," insulated the end user from having to communicate directly with the machine. "The planned general external language should be influenced as little as possible by the peculiarities of the machine; in other words, it should be as close as possible to the thinking of the programmer" it was explained. The user "need not know machine language at all, even, and in particular, while debugging his program."

The above paragraph is from Turing's Cathedral: the origins of the digital universe by George Dyson, 2012, ISBN 987-1-4000-7599-7, page 318. The quotations are from "Institute for Advanced Study Electronic Computer Project Monthly Progress Report, January 1957", page 3. See also

about a year and a half ago

Voyager 1, So Close To Interstellar Space That We Can Taste It!

John_Sauter previous inspiration (271 comments)

I'm certain Star Trek was one of the top reasons many of the engineers at NASA became interested in engineering in the first place.

That may be so, but the previous generation of NASA engineers was inspired by the Walt Disney program Man in Space, which featured Wernher von Braun.

about a year and a half ago

A Tale of Two Companies

John_Sauter clean exit strategy (70 comments)

Given how frequently (and often painfully, toward the end) companies seem to founder in the face of structural changes that they can't do much about (short of essentially re-founding as something else, just carrying over the campus and the capital), I have to wonder if there has been any work done outside of the barbaric corporate raider sector on building companies with clean exit strategies...

After all, there isn't any reason why a company needs to struggle to perpetuate its existence forever (any more than a company would struggle to perpetuate the existence of a given product line forever). Sure, the process that companies who do fight and then die go through is pretty grim; but that is, at least in part, because they keep struggling even after the situation is hopeless, and just bleed and bleed and bleed.

Is there a process where you just quit before you are behind, wind down neatly, rather than the corporate equivalent of spending a few years stuck full of tubes and unresponsive in the ICU?

It is possible for a company to cease operations without lots of pain. All it requires is a management willing to face facts. Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, used to tell the story of a corner barbershop that knew its finances very well. When their landlord increased the lease on their parking lot, they immediately closed: they knew that with the increased cost they could not survive.

Some years ago, I owned and operated a store which sold and serviced the Commodore Amiga. When Commodore folded, I had two choices: convert to an IBM PC store, or close. There were already several IBM PC stores in town, better established than I would have been, so I decided to close.

I decided that December 31 would be my last day. I told my technician to go home, but I would continue his health benefits through the end of the year. I paid my rent and hired kids off the street to help me clean out the store. Most of the stuff in the store was trashed, but I took a few items home. I kept the store name for my personal consulting business.

No pain, no tears, just the orderly end of a retail business that had lost its manufacturer.

about a year and a half ago

Ask Slashdot: How To Avoid Working With Awful Legacy Code?

John_Sauter design document and automated QA system (360 comments)

The two things I ask about are a design document and an automated QA system.

Don Knuth's Literate Programming is the very best way to write a design document, but even much less than that is better than nothing. The worst case is having nothing but uncommented code. I once had a programmer tell me that he didn't need to comment his code: the names of the variables provided enough information. He was coding in Macro-10, a language that limited variable names to six characters.

The automated QA system is crucial for maintenance. You need a test for every feature described in the documentation, plus one for every bug fixed, to make sure it doesn't come back. The QA system must be automated or management will insist you skip running it because a bug fix has to ship "right now", and you don't have two days to run the manual tests. Having a QA system that can be run after each build is so important that it should be the first thing you write when taking over legacy code. If you aren't allowed to write it because fixing bugs or adding features is more important, pass on the project.

When I started programming I didn't have to deal with legacy code, even though I was at a large university. That was because when I started programming there was no legacy code: we wrote everything ourselves. A friend of mine wrote the original recursive binary to decimal conversion subroutine for the DEC PDP-1, and was astonished when it worked the first time. The world has moved on, however, and the situation I was in no longer exists.

about a year and a half ago

Impending CA Sales Tax Sparks Amazon Buying Frenzy

John_Sauter Re:Jerks (259 comments)

Nevada or New Mexico or Oregon are alllll calling...

Don't forget New Hampshire! We have high property taxes, but no sales tax (other than stuff tourists buy) and no tax on wages.

A couple of weeks ago I was talking to a truck driver from Montreal. He comes here every few weeks with his wife and daughter to shop. He said the prices are lower, he can take back everything he buys duty-free, he can get the famous brands of stuff, and the quality of the cloth in the clothing is better. Anybody who will drive an 18-wheeler from Montreal to southern New Hampshire to shop has got to be motivated!

about 2 years ago

White House Finalizes 54.5 MPG Fuel Efficiency Standard

John_Sauter Re:Air resistance. (1184 comments)

There's not a single car sold in America that gets 50+ mpg....

I drive a 2000 Honda Insight, which is rated by the EPA at 53 miles per gallon. You can't buy them new, but they are available on the used market.

about 2 years ago


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