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Ask Slashdot: IT Spending In Engineering?

Saxerman Know Value (146 comments)

As much as I would never want to see any of those presentation slides or spreadsheets with all the reasons why you are doing as well as can be expected, I would still expect you to be able to put such things together in some sort of reasonable business argument. But I suspect that it's not your 'gut' telling you that everything is fine, that's ignorance. I certainly understand the perils upper management meddling in affairs of which they know nothing, but I also understand middle management resting on their laurels and thinking they're doing 'just fine' without any way to try and judge that metric.

Getting a baseline on what similar departments might be spending can sometimes be helpful. But your goal shouldn't just be to find some metrics by which you compare favorably to the competition and judge that everything is fine. Every time you have to sign off on a purchase order for new hardware or renew a license for software you should be asking questions about value. Change by itself is never without risks, so the mere disruption of existing workflows might be reason enough not to switch to some alternative, even what that alternative is 'clearly' better.

You should be able to make your case for all your spending, such as why it's needed and why it's the best choice for your business. It doesn't always boil down to easy numbers for the bean counters, but at least be able to put on a good show.

about a year ago
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TSA 'Secured' Metrodome During Recent Football Game

Saxerman Re:Had we not flown... (364 comments)

My wife and I did take the train for our holiday travel rather than flying, explicitly because I hate being manhandled like a criminal. Total transit time, one way, would have been about 4 hours by air or about 13 hours if we drove straight there. By train, one way, transit time was 28 hours. Certainly, the train was a lot less cramped than either a car or plane, plus we have outlets and no restrictions on using our electronic toys, and a dining, cafe, and observation car. (Kudos to the team who played more than 12 hours of Settlers of Catan in the observation car!) And our layover at one train station did include complimentary propaganda TSA video playing continuously.

Which is to say, yes, we do have a few options to try and boycott the growing police state in this country. However, they are not without some serious compromises, and even those of us who do value freedom have to balance that value against the many other priorities in our lives. My wife and I had the privilege to spend an extra two of our vacation days on travel, but not everyone is so fortunate. And I have no idea how we're going to manage a trip to Alaska.

about a year and a half ago
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Is Silicon Valley Morally Bankrupt and Toxic?

Saxerman Re:Stopping road deaths is a "geek toy"? (469 comments)

Machines are fallible! Complex machines, double so! I will not trust my life to these undead abominations! At least I'm used to dealing with human mistakes!

What sort of Luddite troll is this? How is this insightful? Cruise missiles are not gently guided to their targets by hand. Machines presently navigate our cars, regulate our air flow, control our planes and nuclear reactors, and keep our hearts beating. But suddenly steering our cars is crossing a line?

My fear is not that machines will make a mistake and kill people. That's already happened plenty of times. My fear is that we will allow our fear to control us more than the machines.

about 2 years ago
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Supreme Court To Decide If Monsanto GMO Patents Are Valid

Saxerman Re:I still think this guy should countersue . . . (308 comments)

Thanks for the information. After your comment, I went back and looked at the Monsanto Canada v. Percy Schmeiser case, which I had believed was based on the idea that Percy was being sued because some of his crop next to a highway had been contaminated with patented Roundup Ready crops being shipped in open trucks.

Turns out, of the charges against Schmeiser, the only one which survived in court was not that his crops might have been cross-contaminated in 1997. It was that he had sprayed some of that crop with Roundup, and found it to be resistant, and so harvested the seeds separately for replanting. He was being sued because his crop the following year in 1998 was found to be %95+ of the Roundup resistant strain, and this level of concentration had to constitute knowing infringement.

The Supreme Court of Canada agreed with Monsanto 5-4. The dissenting opinion was based in part that allowing gene patents to extend beyond the 'founder plant' and to the offspring would go too far.

about 2 years ago
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CmdrTaco Looks Back on Fifteen Years of Slashdot

Saxerman Re:The Problem with Trading Hands (178 comments)

The internet is a big place. And the competitive advantage held by the early Slashdot was the community. Certainly a 'nerd news' feed was also relatively nice and novel, but all that can be easily duplicated elsewhere. And it was. But for perhaps the first decade Slashdot was around, it felt like a quasi-niche group of smart kids. But too much of a good thing becomes... some other kind of thing. More and more people arrived and started to comment. Some of the old timers left. Eternal September had come to Slashdot.

I still read here regularly. I even comment occasionally. But I no longer think of this place as the nerd-cool water cooler chat room. Things change. After the meta newsfeed there was the meta-meta news feeds. The meta cubed and squared stuff is coming. The real challenge will be the same one Slashdot faced. How do you attract the positive community you want, while exuding those you don't want... without making the rest feel excluded?

about 2 years ago
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NCSoft Closes "City of Heroes" Publisher Paragon Studios

Saxerman Re:Being "Super" (109 comments)

I do want to encourage the sentiment that people desire to be able to play games for as long as they desire, and not on some corporate or copyright schedule. But I keep hearing other MMO players express some kind of regret or fear that their character(s) only exist inside the digital prison of some corporate server. Those characters are you. Those achievements are yours. Those experience points weren't just points... they were experiences. And you get to keep them for as long as you care to remember.

I do think I sort of understand... I expect I feel a similar sort of regret whenever I finish reading an exceptional novel. But its not like I'm afraid to invest the time in reading books.

about 2 years ago
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Eben Moglen: Time To Apply Asimov's First Law of Robotics To Smartphones

Saxerman Re:Laws of Robotics have AI as a prerequisite (305 comments)

We don't need strong AI to have our devices 'betray' us. Just as Stuxnet didn't need to be self aware to wreck havoc.

Equipment doesn't get happy, it doesn't get sad, it just runs programs. But are you, as the owner of your phone in control? Or is the manufacturer? Or whoever they contracted to write the OS? Or the apps? Or the guy who's taking advantage of a 0day exploit? Or even the guy who added the exploit in the first place?

Perhaps your phone won't try and send his friends back in time to kill Sarah Connor. But where does it get its orders from? You?

What can we do to mitigate the risks of having our 'smart' phones following us around all day?

Obviously, none of these concerns are substantially different than existing network security risks. And the Law of Robotics angle is just sensationalism to get people thinking more about security. So... are you thinking?

more than 2 years ago
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Dungeons & Dragons Next Playtest Released

Saxerman Gaming Evolution (213 comments)

For the first few levels of Gamer, the game system matters quite a bit. Be it so you can collect 'em, min/max them, abuse them, or complain and contrast them. These levels tend to be an adrenaline filled ride, and quite a rush.

After Gamer level four, you start to get access to the skills which suggest the rules themselves aren't as important as you thought. And maybe you start to doctor up your own set of house rules errata, or start to blend aspects from various systems you like, or just start writing up your own.

Around Gamer level seven, the social and creative aspects of gaming can come into sharper focus. This also tends be around the time of the realization that the raw supplies for gaming aren't just coming from RPG and office supply companies... but rather from life itself. Creative inspiration can suddenly be found almost anywhere, not just from books, movies, and songs, but every cultural medium... every thought or emotion.

By level eleven (or sooner, from certain types of cross-class synergy) you tend to have open access to the skills that let you liberally apply your gaming experience to manipulate many of the rules found in life itself.

And since I'm here, I'd like to give a big shout out to those who gamers who breeched the teen levels. Your secrets remain safe with us.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: At What Point Has a Kickstarter Project Failed?

Saxerman Re:Its venture capital (247 comments)

This is not venture capital, but donations. In my limited exposure to venture capital and other business investments, there is usually an ownership stake or some other form of equity being purchased.

Society has been dealing with snake oil salesmen for centuries. And civilization has come up with some novel concepts to fund ideas and protect against fraud. Back before we called it crowd sourcing, we called it the stock market. I think that might still be around in some form or another...

more than 2 years ago
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Vatican Attack Provides Insight Into Anonymous

Saxerman Re:Anonymous (355 comments)

I'm guessing the John Markoff who wrote the first article is the guy who wrote to the world about the dangers of Kevin Mitnick. It's a good thing Kevin was stopped before launching those nukes. Thank god for responsible journalism and best selling books.

more than 2 years ago
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Is Santorum's "Google Problem" a Google Problem?

Saxerman Re:Cyberbullying (775 comments)

Consider this thought exercise. You have an idea that you find important. You think other people will find it important. You want to share it with others. You want people to remember the message long after the messenger. How do you spread your message?

I know I would personally prefer that as a society we have higher level political philosophy debates and discussions and less sound bites and attack ads. But a society tends to have a very short attention span. As individuals, we all tend to have more than enough on our plates at a personal level without having to scale our perceptions up to the broader political arena. So it might be more tasteful and civil if anti-Santorum groups put up sites that detail merely the hows of whys of what they disagree with, rather than vulgar imagery. Unfortunately, our brains tend to gloss over the logical and thoughtful debates, and fixate on the shocking and the vulgar. Which is why the most popular political ad remains the negative attack ad, and why SpreadingSantorum has elevated political displeasure into a decade long bathroom humor punchline that continues to delight and disgust.

more than 2 years ago
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The Future of Protest In Panopticon Nation

Saxerman Re:agents provocateurs (566 comments)

It's actually even more complex than that. Police are now basically being required to do their own recording merely to provide evidence of their own side of the argument, to prevent any 'provocateurs' from rabble-rousing.

This leads to pressure in law enforcement to deploy even more invasive surveillance. We could have officers then being required to keep their own personal cameras running constantly merely to prevent them from self blatantly self censoring footage that is not advantageous to their own point of view. And while I'm not strictly against police officers being under additional scrutiny, I'm not sure how I'd feel if every officer showing up to a public or domestic disturbance call needs to be wearing personal video surveillance. How much public privacy are we willing to sacrifice in order to keep everyone honest?

more than 2 years ago
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I typically run Windows ...

Saxerman Re:I am windows free and proud (417 comments)

I run Linux at home AND work you insensitive clod! And my girlfriend borrows a Linux machine when... well, not really. She's happy off in Mac land. But my home has been Windows free since the last drive running Windows ME died back in 2003ish. And ME was what really convinced me to stay off Windows for good. And I can't say I miss it.

I won't lie, I certainly became less of a gamer as a result. But console games and Wine fill the need that the small but slowly increasing handful of Linux released games can't fill. And I'd also like to think I've become a much better developer/system administrator/alpha geek as a result.

Seriously, what's to be surprised about? What do you really think you can do under Windows that we poor Linux users can't manage with our cryptic command line ways?

more than 2 years ago
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Court: Domain Seizures Don't Violate Free Speech

Saxerman Re:Not really a free speech ruling (96 comments)

I'm not saying this isn't a free speech issue. I think these ICE domain seizures are total bullshit.

I'm merely pointing out that the part in the rules which says you can declare something a violation on First Amendment grounds hasn't happened yet. This is a ruling on a petition which is covered by the same rules that ICE used to seize the domains in the first place. And that section of law declares that after the domain Nazis seize your domains, you get to file this petition to declare the seizure bogus.

In the petition, you can appeal to the judge on several different grounds. The specific part of law they're claiming in their petition is that they that they're suffering an undue financial hardship. On those grounds the judge says he's denying the petition and letting the case move forward.

They haven't yet reach the part in the court drama where they get to ask the judge to throw out the case on First Amendment grounds. It's still coming up after the next few commercials.

about 3 years ago
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Court: Domain Seizures Don't Violate Free Speech

Saxerman Not really a free speech ruling (96 comments)

The actual ruling here is on a specific provision of the law where a seized domain owner to petition the courts to have the domains returned.

(Relevant part of the code here: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/983.html)

The judge is merely ruling here that this provision doesn't meet the requirements of this specific provision.

The Judge continues, "Although some discussion may take place in the forums, the fact that visitors must now go to other websites to partake in the same discussions is clearly not the kind of substantial hardship that Congress intended to ameliorate in enacting 983. See 145 Cong. Rec. H4854-02 (daily ed. June 24, 1999) (statement of Rep. Hyde) (“Individuals lives and livelihoods should not be in peril during the course of a legal challenge to a seizure.”). Puerto 80 may certainly argue this First Amendment issue in its upcoming motion to dismiss, but the First Amendment considerations discussed here certainly do not establish the kind of substantial hardship required to prevail on this petition."

about 3 years ago
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Banks Faulted For Fake Antivirus Scourge

Saxerman Re:Payment processors need RICOing (117 comments)

Well, towards that end, it's not just payment processing that remains a sink hole for fraud.

Identify Theft could also be mitigated by the banks, yet at present they have no financial incentives to make any changes. This is because when a bank allows a criminal to open a credit line in your name, it remains your problem rather than a problem for the bank.

more than 3 years ago
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Turkish Police Nab 32 Suspects Tied To Anonymous

Saxerman Re:Like the cloud... (153 comments)

It's far worse than that. Anyone can apply the "Anonymous" moniker to anything, and there can be no way to prove or disprove such a relationship. Because, at the end of the day, "Anonymous" resolves into exactly what it sounds like... anonymity.

Which is not to say that there aren't individuals acting collectively under the name "Anonymous" that could be identified. Merely that you can't identify someone as solely being a member. You need to tie them back to specific actions to give them a 'real' identify, such as posted on a specific forum with a given user name, or participated in a given DDoS from a given IP address.

Which becomes even more confusing when people want to attribute press releases to "Anonymous" which is analogous to saying "someone, somewhere posted this and we don't know who."

more than 3 years ago
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Pranksters Post Giant Windows Logo On Hamburg Apple Store

Saxerman Re:Once Every Few Years (249 comments)

I haven't purchased a Microsoft product for over 10 years now due to my own Linux zealotry and open source fanaticism. I'm quick to criticize Microsoft for their villainy over the years, but even I have to admit this prank is pretty funny no matter if Redmond footed the bill.

more than 3 years ago
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Bubble Bursting On the MMO Market?

Saxerman Re:Skinner Boxes (162 comments)

Certainly, the gaming industry is not immune to the march of 'progress'. But neither is any other. Advertising continues to become more effective as new techniques emerge that allow them to be more targeted and tantalizing. So, too, do games that want to charge you by the month instead of a lump sum up front become better at luring their players back for just one more numerical increase. And there are certainly a host of creepy psychological factors at work, being taken into account when designing new games or television series or grocery store advert.

But I have to take exception with the idea that an MMO is an 'inherently amoral business'. Escapism isn't some new concept created by the video game industry. The entertainment industry has been feeding off society's desire to escape from the banality of reality since the dawn of art. They've just gotten better at it over the years.

More specifically, if you want to point out the large downside in the growth of all this new and compelling entertainment content, is the growing need many people feel for it. Not because the entertainment is getting better... which, to be sure, it is. But because the reality of their lives is getting worse, and they feel powerless to change things. And this change in society has very little to do with the entertainment industry, and more to do with greed in general.

more than 3 years ago

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