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Ask Slashdot: Minimum Programming Competence In Order To Get a Job?

bzzfzz Productivity is an exponential function of talent (466 comments)

The relationship between programming talent and programming productivity, at least in complex real-world systems, isn't linear. The very best (top 10%) of programmers can get things done dozens of times faster than average programmers. And it's not just about speed. The very best programmers produce code with fewer defects. They are less prone to making unfortunate architectural decisions that cause problems later. They can find difficult bugs and solve difficult problems that average programmers simply cannot, regardless of time spent.

Sure, there are jobs out there for people with limited talent, mainly involving software that solves simple problems. There are reports to be generated that are too complex for someone without a certain amount of database and software experience. There are relatively isolated scripts that connect stuff together that wasn't originally designed for that. There are the sort of third-tier corporations that need some IT but can't attract top-flight talent. All kinds of stuff that's more complicated than an Excel macro but simpler than a web browser.

about 6 months ago
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GCC Turns 25

bzzfzz Always been? Hmmpf. (192 comments)

Before GCC there were some excellent (for their day) compilers available from what was then an obscure technology company called Microsoft. There were cross-compilers for unusual platforms from Manx Software.

Kids these days. Next thing you know they'll think they invented sex.

more than 2 years ago
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IT Shops Coping With Overloaded 2.4GHz WiFi Band

bzzfzz Re:Channel 14 (165 comments)

It's part of the MMDS spectrum, which in many communities has been relicensed for wireless data purposes using either 802.16e (WiMAX) or older proprietary systems from Alvarion or Nextnet.

more than 3 years ago
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Timezone Maintainer Retiring

bzzfzz Re:Stupid humans, why do we still need this crap? (198 comments)

We just need obeisance to a single world government run by you then it will all work great. We can switch Spain to the same time zone as England to follow your rules and make a few other adjustments.

But that aside, it's not as easy as you make it. For example, there are a few large metropolitan areas that would be split by a time zone if the world did it your way, at great inconvenience to many. Political boundaries shift. I believe there are still a few half-hour time zones in island nations to place the whole nation in one zone.

more than 3 years ago
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The True Cost of Publishing On the Amazon Kindle

bzzfzz An incentive to keep files small for usability (236 comments)

I believe that Amazon has the fee in place to provide an incentive to publishers to keep their files small, not because of bandwidth or storage costs, but rather because large files degrade the user experience on the Kindle.

This thread on an end-user bulletin board shows the frustration that users frequently experience because of the device's limited memory. Amazon sells the idea that the Kindle will hold 1500 books despite having only 2 GB or 4 GB of storage, depending on model. Image-rich files, especially if the image compression is not applied with care, can easily exceed the 1-2 MB size that must be reached for that promise to come true.

Rather like the U.S. government rationing gasoline during the second world war despite its abundance. The real goal was to limit tire wear and therefore consumption of rubber.

more than 3 years ago
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Should Wikipedia Just Accept Ads Already?

bzzfzz Wikipedia itself has plenty of funding (608 comments)

The technical, legal, and administrative costs of Wikipedia are not the problem. There's plenty of funding for that, and if the site were truly in jeopardy there would be a long line of institutional donors ready to support it.

The problem is that there's a bloated global administrative organization that doesn't actually help the core projects, and which drives up costs immensely. There are people in charge of partnerships who fly around the world looking for the next great thing, trying to get the foundation's foot in the door so that the empire will expand. There's money spent handling administration, legal matters, and software maintenance for projects like WikiNews, WikiBooks and WikiSpecies that, after using up more runway than Wikipedia did before it went aloft, still don't show meaningful signs of growth and relevance. There is money and effort being spent to maintain an egalitarian spirit and level playing field by supporting Wikipedia projects in dying languages, even though there is ample evidence to show that beyond the top 100 or so languages worldwide (maybe fewer) there aren't going to be enough contributors. There is money being spent on international staff travel that serves no useful purpose beyond demonstrating that the staff is globally engaged.

Perhaps these are all laudable projects and the effort is worthwhile. But the major institutional donors don't agree, and so the money isn't coming in.

If a foundation were created with a mission limited to supporting the largest 10, 20, 50, or 100 Wikipedias plus the commons image hosting platform, using a small administrative and technical staff in a single location with a token travel budget, there would be plenty of money. There would be enough money to build an endowment.

The smaller Wikipedias, the side projects, the partnerships, the in-country "chapters" could all be spun out to succeed or fail on their own merits. But that's not the way the foundation wants it. They want something bigger.

As though Wikipedia isn't enough of a success to be worth maintaining.

more than 3 years ago
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The Limits To Perpendicular Recording

bzzfzz SSDs are the future (222 comments)

I think a more realistic assessment is that the rate of growth in hard disk densities will decline.

We've had a recent article on the shortcomings of SSDs, but I think the maturity of hard disk technology and the minimum cost posed by the complicated mechanical design will make hard disks obsolete for most applications in a few more years. Hey, people thought 3.5" disks would be here forever, too.

more than 4 years ago
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Why Designers Hate Crowdsourcing

bzzfzz Most clients don't need high-end design (569 comments)

The problem that 99designs solves is that most clients don't need a $20,000 design and don't have $20,000 to spend.

Years ago I worked for a company that made point of sale systems. They had a logo that looked like a monogram on someone's shirt. It was drawn by a marketing VP who had no design experience, in the early days of the company. Eventually it became an embarrassment and they hired a consultant who made a new logo, new letterhead, etc., for $80,000.

But the thing is that they only sold to industry and didn't need that degree of expertise. Something from 99designs would have been good enough, and if it happened to look exactly like the logo some real estate management startup in Boise, Idaho was using, too, so what. Since then I've worked for a bunch of startups and the logo and website design has always been a problem. Usually it gets done by somebody's kid or somebody's friend, because startups don't want to spend thousands of dollars on a logo unless they're selling a consumer product.

more than 4 years ago
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Doubled Yield For Bio-Fuel From Waste

bzzfzz Re:Duke Nukem Forever (97 comments)

Cellulosic isn't remotely cost effective even when the source materials are free or nearly so, as when wood chips or other waste products from other industries are used.

I used to grow corn. The subsidies vary from year to year. For the last several years, they have amounted to around 5-10% of the price of corn. There are also subsidies for ethanol production itself.

One fact to consider is that pulpwood has subsidies, as well.

more than 4 years ago
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Doubled Yield For Bio-Fuel From Waste

bzzfzz Duke Nukem Forever (97 comments)

There have been research and "breakthroughs" in cellulosic ethanol production reported with stunning regularity since 1898. Yet, a commercially viable process remains elusive. The combination of enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation described as a breakthrough in TFPR is prior art and covered in the Wikipedia article (see link in summary).

Until the process becomes cost competitive with corn, this is just a story about some enzymes and yeast that only a zymurgy nerd could love.

We'll see whether they commercialize this before cold fusion becomes a practical source of commercial electrical power.

more than 4 years ago
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VLC 1.1 Forced To Drop Shoutcast Due To AOL Anti-OSS Provision

bzzfzz OSS not the real reason (315 comments)

From TFA:

"When sold or distributed to End Users, the Integrated Product shall not [...] (c) incorporate any Publically Available Software, in whole or in part, in a manner that may subject SHOUTcast Radio or the SHOUTcast Radio Materials, in whole or in part, to all or part of the license obligations of any Publically Available Software. As used herein, the term "Publicly Available Software" means any software that contains, or is derived in any manner (in whole or in part) from, any software that is distributed as free software, open source software or similar licensing or distribution models; and that requires as a condition of use, modification or distribution that such software or other software incorporated into, derived from or distributed with such software: (1) be disclosed or distributed in source code form; (2) be licensed for the purpose of making derivative works; or (3) be redistributable at no charge." (Emphasis mine)

This is a standard provision that is part of any license agreement for commercial software, and all it says is that you can't distribute the software in a way that makes it subject to the GFDL or some other Free license.

I'm not sure what the real reason is, but the OSS provision isn't it.

more than 4 years ago
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Secure Communication Comes To Android

bzzfzz We'll know it's pretty good when it's outlawed (150 comments)

We'll know it's at least OK if the FBI and CIA start lobbying congress to outlaw it.

We'll know it's pretty good if the NSA starts lobbying congress to outlaw it.

The government is absolutely convinced that law enforcement will come to a screeching halt if people can communicate casually without being subject to eavesdropping. This despite the courts' general distaste for such evidence (people rarely speak candidly in phone conversations regarding criminal enterprises and therefore establishing context and the meaning of codewords becomes a prosecutorial hurdle), and the paucity of successful prosecutions built primarily on the strength of intercepts.

So we've had cryptography treated as a munition. And clipper. And CALEA.

Of course, if the keys are on a server somewhere they can always just subpoena them.

more than 4 years ago
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Mobile 'Remote Wipe' Thwarts Secret Service

bzzfzz Re:from the cry-them-a-river dept. (383 comments)

I think most Slashdotters will agree that the Service is well within their rights to perform forensic analysis on any device that they obtain during a lawful search, whether conducted under a warrant, incidental to an arrest, or based on probable cause. I do not believe that the Service suffers a poor track record regarding extralegal searches as does INS and some other agencies.

On the other hand, the availability of an effective "remote wipe" of a personal device is a rightful means of exercising freedom.

It's about balance.

more than 4 years ago
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Mobile 'Remote Wipe' Thwarts Secret Service

bzzfzz Re:Hm (383 comments)

Although most of them aren't scientists or engineers, they're smarter than your average bear. Nearly all have four-year degrees, in addition to their law-enforcement training.

Don't conflate them with the donut-eating locals whose eyes glaze over when you try to explain the Doppler effect and what it has to do with their radar.

more than 4 years ago
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Innocent Until Predicted Guilty

bzzfzz Re:Does it work for white collar crime? (430 comments)

Probably. People with no moral scruples later in life often have a history that goes back to childhood.

more than 4 years ago
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Innocent Until Predicted Guilty

bzzfzz Re:Thoughtcrime (430 comments)

Which is exactly what judges and parole officers do today using guesswork and Kentucky windage. I think it's hard to maintain that making that process more objective and automated is a bad thing.

Of course, there's potential for abuse through its misapplication to other areas.

more than 4 years ago
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Innocent Until Predicted Guilty

bzzfzz Re:Self-fulfilling Prophecy? (430 comments)

The best available studies show that, once a suspect is arrested and charged, the probability of conviction is the same regardless of their actual guilt or innocence of the the particular crime with which they are charged.

In general, there are two kinds of defendants. Those who are guilty as charged, and those who while not guilty of the particular crime they are charged with were nonetheless a) up to something shifty that got them arrested and b) guilty of plenty of other related crimes for which they could not be charged due to an absence of evidence.

The innocent defendant who is pure as the driven snow is a rarity outside Hollywood and Sartre novels.

I think that a presumption of innocence is the only way a court system should be run but that shouldn't blind us to the facts on the ground in other policy areas.

more than 4 years ago
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Senate Votes To Replace Aviation Radar With GPS

bzzfzz Radar not necessary for safety (457 comments)

The existing surveillance radar system isn't necessary for safe IFR operations. There are nonradar procedures. Every controller and every IFR pilot knows them. Once widely used, they became less relevant in the 1970s as radar coverage improved to the point where most of major terminals and the route structure in the U.S. were covered by radar. Outages still take place however and the nonradar procedures are still used.

In essence the nonradar system involves separating aircraft by time, altitude, or route, and relies on periodic position reports from pilots, at standardized locations. The position reports follow a standard sequence and would read something like "United 123 Gopher at 1851Z, 17,000 feet Halfway at 58Z, Rochester next" where "United 123" is the flight identifier, "Gopher" is the location name, 1851Z is the time over the location (possibly a minute or two in the past due to delays in reporting if the radio channel is busy), 17,000 feet is the altitude of the aircraft, "Halfway" is the next reporting point, 58Z is the pilot's estimate of the aircraft's arrival time over that point (in minutes after the hour), and "Rochester" is the subsequent reporting point.

Radar is a great tool. It improves capacity, reduces pilot and controller workload, and allows for random routes. However, it would be a mistake to think that aviation depends on it or on any automated replacement for it.

The technologies that made IFR flight possible were the gyro systems that allowed the aircraft to be controlled without a horizon reference, and radionavigation. Radio systems that permitted pilot-controller communication came next. Radar was first deployed at congested airports to improve capacity, and it was not until much later that route surveillance radar and ubiquitous transponder use became the norm.

more than 4 years ago
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Apple Bans Sexy Apps, Developers Upset

bzzfzz Re:This Is Not Censorship At All (492 comments)

Sure, if you presume an open, free market where there are competing devices with no artificial barriers to switching. That's not what's going on. Apple enjoys lock-in with both users and application vendors, who incur significant costs to have an iPhone or participate in the App Store respectively. Apple is taking advantage of this lock-in to make up whatever rules it pleases.

And they have apparently decided that the iPhone is mainly for sexless lily-white puritans who pay for DRMed rap music. Or something.

more than 4 years ago
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Tenenbaum's Final Brief — $675K Award Too High

bzzfzz Well worth the read (525 comments)

Tenenbaum did an excellent job. The research behind this is significant. The brief is well worth reading, in its entirety.

more than 4 years ago

Submissions

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Minnesota Supreme Court rejects DUI challenges based on buggy software

bzzfzz bzzfzz writes  |  more than 2 years ago

bzzfzz (1542813) writes "In a case with parallels to the Diebold Voting Machine fiasco, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the reliability of the Intoxilyzer 5000EN breath testing machine on a narrow 4-3 vote. Source code analysis during the six-year legal battle revealed a number of bugs that could potentially affect test results. Several thousand DUI cases that were pending the results of this appeal will now proceed.

The ruling is one in a series of DUI-related court victories for police and prosecutors. Other recent cases upheld a conviction of a person with no evidence that the vehicle had been driven and convictions based solely on urine samples that may only show impairment hours before driving.

The Intoxilyzer 5000EN is now considered obsolete, and replacement devices are being rolled out with the last jurisdictions in the state scheduled to retire their 5000ENs by the end of the year."

Link to Original Source
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Sources in the U.S. government confrirm Israeli and U.S. authorship of Stuxnet

bzzfzz bzzfzz writes  |  more than 2 years ago

bzzfzz (1542813) writes "While there has been widespread speculation in the technical community that Stuxnet had official sponsorship from the U.S. and Israel, there was no clear evidence until now. In what appears to be a deliberate leak, "current and former U.S. officials" state that the project code named "Olympic Games" and now known as Stuxnet was initiated under the Bush administration and continued under secret orders from Obama."
Link to Original Source
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Sources in the U.S. government confirm U.S. and Isreali authorship of Stuxnet

bzzfzz bzzfzz writes  |  more than 2 years ago

bzzfzz (1542813) writes "While there has been widespread speculation in the technical community that Stuxnet had official sponsorship from the U.S. and Isreal, there was no clear evidence until now. In what appears to be a deliberate leak, "current and former U.S. officials" state that the project code named "Olympic Games" and now known as Stuxnet was initiated under the Bush administration and continued under secret orders from Obama."
Link to Original Source
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Minneapolis Airport Installing 1800 high-definition surveillance cameras

bzzfzz bzzfzz writes  |  more than 2 years ago

bzzfzz (1542813) writes "The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) is beginning a $20 million dollar upgrade of its surveillance system. The upgrade will include 1800 high-definition cameras, facial recognition systems, and digital archiving to replace the analog tape system in use since the 1980s. The system will serve both security and operational goals. The MAC asserts that improved camera technology yields improved security as though the connection between the two is so strong that no proof is required."
Link to Original Source
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ING Direct's web site down most of the morning

bzzfzz bzzfzz writes  |  about 5 years ago

bzzfzz (1542813) writes "Popular online-only bank ING Direct's web site has been down most of the morning, returning 503s and a maintenance slide with a lame pocket protector joke. When a bricks-and-mortar banks online transaction processing system fails, most in-person transactions can still be handled (or at least batched up for later processing) using a variety of fallbacks. When a web-only bank's web site goes down, then what?"
Link to Original Source
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Secure personal email hosting providers

bzzfzz bzzfzz writes  |  more than 5 years ago

bzzfzz (1542813) writes "The security of many of my online activities (banking, stock trades, FOSS activities, Slashdot, various social sites) are tied to the security of my email account. I presently pay for email hosting through one of the larger, volume-oriented hosting companies. While they do a good job and have the obvious things like SSL, I would like to find a hosting provider that offers two-factor authentication and has a more transparent security policy that makes it clear that they're riding herd over their admins. I have looked around and can't find any hosting providers that do this. Running my own server is out of the question because I can't get broadband at my house. Have any Slashdotters encountered an email hosting company that has real security?"

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