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Ask Slashdot: "Real" Computer Scientists vs. Modern Curriculum?

a2wflc focus on engineering (637 comments)

The problem I've seen in CS grads over the last 10-15 years is they have little to no engineering background (even when their degree is "Computer Engineering"). Most applications are complex systems. And most CS grads don't understand systems. I've been able to teach EEs, a chem E, a civil E, an MD and a CPA (among others) how to program. And they've had no trouble implementing solid class hierarchies and robust applications. It's much harder to teach a CS grad about structural integrity, analyzing a design for weaknesses, and root cause analysis. In some cases they won't accept those are even an issue since "software is so different from physical structures". So they keep building things that pass all the tests but repeatedly fall down once they get to production.

about 6 months ago

Normal Humans Effectively Excluded From Developing Software

a2wflc what? (608 comments)

I know quite a few "normal" people who have developed software. I've worked with a doctor (MD) and CPA who learned programming on their own and decided to switch careers. No to mention a lot of people with non-technical backgrounds who got into designing web sites, then javascript, then backend work.

If anything it's getting too easy to get a "software development" job. Lot's of "programmers" work their way up to all levels of "software development" without expanding their understanding of software systems. Lots of others do learn along the way and belong where they rise to. But there is a lot of learning that needs to be done and many colleges don't even give a broad base to start with so even that's not always a good start. My guess is that healthcare.gov had too many people who knew how to program (i.e. "programmers") and not enough who understood systems/engineering ("software engineers" though that term is misused often since people don't understand the "engineering" aspect which takes a lot of learning )

If you want to see "exclusion" from a job try to help a sheetrocker, electrician, or plumber be allowed to be the lead architect for the next 70-story skyscraper. Or see if they can work their way up to that responsibility over the next 20 years without "requiring rare talents, grueling training, and total dedication".

about 7 months ago

Whistleblowers Enter the Post-Snowden Era

a2wflc do we get to find out? (129 comments)

Is the IG obligated to tell the people anything? Or is this an attempt for them to find out (and cover up) any wrongdoings before we find out?

"Mr S found out about a part of project X. We need to tighten security on that project before the wrong workers find out about the rest of project X. Also start monitoring all of Mr S's personal communications and arrest him if anything looks suspicious and save anything that we can use to attack him publicly and destroy his credibility if he tells a reporter that we are doing something illegal and didn't stop when it was pointed out."

about 8 months ago

Kids Can Swipe a Screen But Can't Use LEGOs

a2wflc Re:Relevant Skills (355 comments)

Lego skills are very useful for engineering. I've been in software development 30+ years and still apply skills I learned from lego, lincoln logs, and erector sets in the 60s and 70s. You can use these sets to build almost identical looking structures in many ways . Some will fall over when you barely touch them. Some can be rolled and even tossed a short distance without falling apart. Software is the same. You can put classes together to make a robust & stable system, or use similar classes to make a similar looking fragile system.

An understanding of structural stability is the biggest lack I've seen in developers the last 10 years. Non-software engineers are generally better than software engineers right out of school because the physical engineers got some understanding of structures in school. You can't test stability in. You need to be aware of it in all phases - design, throughout implementation, and finding root causes when there are problems rather than just fixing the bug (which needs to be fixed but may or may not be the root cause).

about 9 months ago

Geologists Warned of Washington State Mudslides For Decades

a2wflc one warning came to pass (230 comments)

Think of all of the warnings we hear from scientists/experts.

Mudslides, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes - there are lots of places we just shouldn't live because some day there will be a disaster.

Bridges, buildings, subways - there are lots of man-made structures we need to repair. some will collapse

Diet, medicine, excessive - it will harm society if we are allowed 20 oz drinks or salt at the table.

We could probably list legitimate warnings all day. And I'll probably experience dozens of things today that scientists have warned about. This situation is tragic but it doesn't mean anyone is to blame. With 1000s of warnings from scientists, some will happen - but most don't.

  If there's anywhere to focus it's on how to evaluate and prioritize warnings across a wide variety of areas (natural disaster, diet, structures, etc). We don't have the resources to fix everything we are warned about - where do we start?

The other thing we may want to learn is that the media should not over-hype all warnings. People need to know better what warnings to pay attention to. When we watch the news and scientists say "just about everything you do today" may kill you (or the planet), why even try to fix anything?

about 10 months ago

I prefer my peppers ...

a2wflc depends what I'm doing (285 comments)

I voted for the way I like to eat them raw. But I want a big range when I'm cooking depending what's cooking and who it's for.

about 10 months ago

Nate Silver's New Site Stirs Climate Controversy

a2wflc Re:Should be easy to prove or dis-prove (335 comments)

Detection of extreme weather events hasn't been consistent so it's hard to say for example if there are more or more powerful hurricanes now than in the 1930's. Hurricanes need an eye witness to label them. These days we see something on radar and send a plane. In the 1930's it depended on having a boat in the area or making landfall in a populated area. One result is that there are a lot more recorded cat 1 and 2s now than 100 years ago but not so many more 4s and 5s (very likely they usually made land or were big enough that a boat recorded them before as now).

Around TAR timeframe this was not a generally accepted explanation so skeptics were called wrong when they pointed it out. But now it is more accepted and the latest IPCC report reduced their confidence that AGW will make hurricanes worse.

We can "prove or dis-prove" a lot if you're talking about 20-30 years. When you go back further it's much harder to say things are worse. Methods and devices have changed. We don't always even have access to those devices or the people who used them, especially if you want to go back 100s of years. We know about a few decadal oscillation and 60 year oscillations and there's evidence of multi-century natural oscillations. We don't know enough about the longer oscillations to say where we are in them and how extreme weather events are affected by them vs AGW. The medieval warm period and little ice age could cause problems for AGW supporters if it ends up that there is a multi-century cycle peaking that contributes to these extreme events. But, we really don't know much about those centuries or weather events in them.

about 10 months ago

Microsoft Releases Free Edition of OneNote

a2wflc took me a while to get used to it (208 comments)

I liked what I saw co-workers able to do with it and saw potential once I got it figured out so I kept at it. It took me a few weeks to get used to it but once I did, I loved it.

I was part of dozens (20-40) of projects at a time and it was great for keeping all of my notes about each project organized as I went from meeting to meeting. After I left that job (too many meetings) I didn't have a paid version of office. I've been more than happy with substitutes for everything else but have missed OneNote.

about 10 months ago

NASA-Funded Study Investigates Collapse of Industrial Civilization

a2wflc it may be good that billionaires fund science (401 comments)

The government should be studying civilization, but if this is where NASA decides to spend money, we need private businessmen funding any space related science. Maybe we can get the USDA to fund the next Mars mission.

about 10 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Why Do Mobile Versions of Websites Suck?

a2wflc laws and creative agencies (382 comments)

That's what I've seen in a very big company (100s of web sites)

Once you've met accessibility laws and blown this year's budget on new cookie laws and have done a lot to ensure privacy and security is a big cost and risk to be mobile friendly.

Add to that creative agencies who are GREAT at non-interactive but just getting good at desktop Web usability and mobile is tough. Agencies aren't always good with you going somewhere else for Web/mobile. And the interactive agencies aren't always good at understanding brand equity which is VERY important to the overall marketing strategy.

There are many other reasons (crappy old CMS). But I'd put legal and creative as the two biggest by far.

about a year ago

Ask Slashdot: Can Commercial Hardware Routers Be Trusted?

a2wflc depends on what you're protecting (213 comments)

The front door on my house works great for me. A bank wouldn't want to use it to protect their vault.

My router does fine for me. I'd like my politicians, and boss, and many other people who's decisions & actions affect me to be better protected than I am, but I can't build a custom router for them.

about a year ago

Credit Card Numbers Still Google-able

a2wflc another solution (157 comments)

Credit card companies could google all of the numbers for cards they have issued and take care of it themselves. Why would this be google's responsibility?

about a year ago

Ask Slashdot: Are 'Rock Star' Developers a Necessity?

a2wflc there are different types of dev and rock stars (356 comments)

Many development project don't need a 'rock star'. They can be done with "typical" architectures, existing frameworks, and just need "assembly-line-type" workers for all of the steps. I'd even say "most" projects are like this and any project can survive without a rock star.

There are also different types of 'rock stars' and they can help on even the most basic project. In general, the 'rock star' can do any/all of these things, but what do they do on a day to day basis varies based on their individual "specialty"

* some can architect the "difficulty 10" projects so it can be implemented in assembly-line fashion by "typical" developers

* some can implement the "difficulty 10" projects that wasn't architected well (when a team of N "normal" developers would end up with a late and buggy implementation)

* some can debug like nothing most people have ever seen (they don't usually create difficult-to-find bugs but are a huge asset to the team when the bugs come up which can happen on even the most trivial project)

* some just implement so well (speed of development + lack of bugs) that they literally will be cheaper than a team of N people (so, to the manager they aren't necessary but would be preferred)

* some can mentor, and find other people's strengths, and reorganize efforts on the fly. they can help everyone else be more productive, and can adapt the process/team as requirements change and can be critical to delivering on time and above requirements especially when things go wrong.

* some can help where ever needed (front-end, db, back-end, sysadmin, security, build, etc) and can step in without losing a beat when another member of the team is out (sick, vacation, left for another job).

* some can find bugs in 3rd party libraries or system components (without the source code). find workarounds and/or patch those libraries to continue development quickly while sending the bug fix and appropriate level of explanation to the library developer to get a permanent fix. If you've ever been on a "difficulty 5" project which found a show-stopper bug in a critical 3rd party library during QA, you'll really appreciate this skill. I have seen one case on a "trivial" project where this skill was necessary and a few other cases where it really helped.

I've worked with a very small number of "rock stars" over 30 years. They all had multiple of the above skills. I've worked with 3x as many people who were considered "rock stars" (by themselves and sometimes others) but weren't. In almost all cases, the "fake rock stars" slowed the project down more than they helped and the team would have been better off with one less member.

about a year ago

Google Play Services Supplants Android As Google's "Platform"

a2wflc google updates make my phone useless (182 comments)

I have a low-end phone. It came with a number of google apps that "work" (google play music/books/mags, youtube, google+). When I set "automatically update" it gives me new versions that eat up the battery, run in the background when I don't want, or fail to update because they are too big. I can't disable the new apps unless I uninstall back to the original and I can't uninstall the original but only disable it. So I have to update manually and only get the apps I want to update.

about a year ago

International Climate Panel Cites Near Certainty On Warming

a2wflc very true (510 comments)

scientists can calculate the forcing effect of greenhouse gases with certainty. The IPCC convinces people of that (which should be easy since it's true). Then they switch from talk of forcing to talk of feedback which is what "is going to kill us". There is no certainty of feedback and they don't make a significant claim of certainty but they fail to point out that they've made the switch, so people believe that feedback is also certain.

If feedback is so deadly, we need to be talking much more about soot, aerosols, urbanization (not urban heat islands), deforestation, greenhouse gasses other than CO2 and other man-made causes of warming (pro-AWG scientists are no longer denying these and they add up to more warming than CO2). We also need to worry about potential heating of the sun or other natural causes even if we don't expect them because, if feedback is what the models say, ANY cause of warming will kill us and there has been warming before without man-made reasons.

about a year and a half ago

Back To 'The Future of Programming'

a2wflc better feel for stability in the 70s/80s (214 comments)

Most people I worked with in the 80s (and learned from in the 70s) had a good feel for concepts like "stable systems", "structural integrity", "load bearing weight", and other physical engineering concepts. Many from engineering degrees (most of them weren't CS grads like me), and a lot from playing with legos, erector sets, chemistry sets, building treehouses (and real houses). These concepts are just as important in software systems, but I can only think of a handful of people I've worked with over the last 20 years who had a feel for the stability of a system (physical or software) or an ability to find system weaknesses when a bug is found rather than fix a programming error.

That's very important for development time and quality. To go fast you need to know where it's important to go slow. You have to know what's important to get right at the start (structurally) so you can change requirements as needed and not risk breaking the system or requiring a lot of rewriting (or refactoring). Your framework should be a stable "frame" for the system (like a building or car), not a set of libraries you cobble together for speed of implementation. After deploy, "bugs" are easy to fix but system weaknesses are not.

On the other hand, a lot of things have improved. Tools, methods, and specializations allow a team to be comprised of some people who understand systems (architects, senior developers) and others who specialize in certain areas (html, db, communication protocols, builds, etc). And there are many more people available who are capable in specific areas so far more teams can exist doing many more applications. If we only had the same percentage of people writing software now as in the 70s & 80s and those people had the backgrounds developers had then, we'd be producing better software but orders of magnitude less of it.

about a year and a half ago

My NSA-induced paranoia level:

a2wflc they don't care about me (290 comments)

but, they are watching everyone and that includes a lot of people who's decisions affect me. If they are collecting information illegally, who's to say they won't use it illegally. For example to influence congressional oversight or even to tilt a campaign toward the congressman who is more likely to be pro-NSA.

On a less 'conspiracy theory' line of thought, the CEO of my global company may decide that the US isn't the best place to do business.

So, even though they don't care about me, their collection of my information can affect me in big ways since that collection is part of a big, poorly-targeted surveillance system.

about a year and a half ago

Hands-On With Windows 8.1 Preview

a2wflc not ready yet (505 comments)

Hosed my machine. The usb system restore I made before I started won't work (boots but can't recover). Resinstalling now. 20+ years installing from NT to Windows 8 and this is the first time I remember that I haven't been able to recover from a command prompt (which I can get now) or the restore media (which I have) or a live cd. I have a small SSD for c: with junction points to other drives for some of the bigger directories (users, program files, etc) Maybe it didn't like that.

about a year and a half ago

Officials Say NSA Probed Fewer Than 300 Numbers - Broke Plots In 20 Nations

a2wflc and the database is secure (419 comments)

He seems to want to focus on the 300 "numbers only" they checked and not the big database of "phone records" that exists. But I'm sure the "database of millions of U.S. phone records" he refers to is at least as secure as the existence of the program itself. It's not doubt more secure but that doesn't mean it's safe. And many attackers would love to just get a handful of records (congressmen, judges, candidates, ceos, opposition party leaders).

Plus I've already heard quotes from politicians and other government officials that the database needs to be more widely shared. FBI and DHS need access now. I imagine the IRS could find a few things and "improve" tax collection if it was shared with them. We better not get used to being ok with the NSA having access to "numbers only". The nature of government is to expand and make "better" use of data, not to ignore a valuable resource because of privacy concerns. And also to protect those in power, so any 3rd party leader making progress better have a squeaky clean record. One place the 2 parties can agree is on attacking any opposition to their power.

about a year and a half ago


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