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Stack Overflow Could Explain Toyota Vehicles' Unintended Acceleration

celest In Canada Engineers Are Required to Write the Code (664 comments)

In Canada, the public is protected from such software bugs by statute, in the same way the public is protected from medical screw ups: a professional engineer is required by law to write any software code where safety is on the line. Just like when a new bridge is constructed and must be designed and validated by a professional engineer who is an expert in structures and who becomes professionally liable for the project, the same is true for software. If safety is on the line, a professional engineer who is an expert in software and/or computer systems (as the case may be) must design and validate the code and they become professionally liable for the software. Unfortunately, too many companies ignore the law.

Source: Professional Engineers Act of Ontario (http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90p28_e.htm ) and Professional Engineers Ontario (http://www.peo.on.ca/). There are similar acts and professional associations for all provinces and territories in Canada.

Full disclosure: I'm a professional computer engineer registered in Ontario with PEO.

about 8 months ago
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Network Solutions Opts Customer Into $1,850 Security Service

celest Re:I can't find this feature (405 comments)

If you enable replies on the Network Solutions' Twitter feed, you can see them responding to the flurry of crap they got from this. They mention that the email is the "first step".

Seems real: https://twitter.com/netsolcare...

about 9 months ago
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Network Solutions Opts Customer Into $1,850 Security Service

celest Illegal in Canada (405 comments)

It's worth noting that this action (auto-enroll and bill) is illegal in Canada. Each province/territory has its own consumer protection act that requires explicit opt-in for any new services that are provided to existing customers, in writing. You cannot auto-enroll people and require them to opt-out to not be charged.

Source (for Ontario, at least): http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/ht...

Non-legalese summary provided by the Ministry of Consumer Services of Ontario: http://www.sse.gov.on.ca/mcs/e...

about 9 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Developer Responsibility When Apps Might Risk Lives?

celest In Canada Professional Engineers Must Do The Work (100 comments)

In Canada, under the various provincial acts (and a National act that keeps them largely consistent), professional engineers (note, the word "engineer" is legally protected in Canada, like Medical Doctor or Lawyer, unlike in the US.) must do any work that involves human safety. That INCLUDES computer/technical related work. The classic example is software for air traffic control systems or software on space shuttle modules.

One of the problems for the engineering regulatory bodies (Professional Engineers Ontario - PEO - in the case of Ontario) is that many companies don't employ computer/software engineers even when their software involves human safety. They use computer science majors, or people with 1 year technical diplomas from the local college, or people with Microsoft or Cisco courses, or whoever happens to know whatever programming language they are using. The companies are legally required to have the work reviewed and signed off on by licensed engineers, but they just assume "oh, it's not like software is like a bridge or a building or something", so don't realise that the engineering priciples are no different than those used in structural engineering. Where it becomes even more fuzy is that the laws also state that licensed engineers must be used when "financial welfare" is on the line. Very few banking systems are properly designed by licensed computer/software engineers...

Source: I'm a professional engineer (P.Eng) registered in Ontario. Related legislation in Ontario:http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90p28_e.htm - Professional regulatory body in Ontario: www.peo.on.ca

about a year ago
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Should Google Get Aggressive About Monetizing Android?

celest Why is "monetizing" OS still = "clamping down"? (168 comments)

Why is it that in 2013 the majority of discussions about generating revenue using a free/libre/open source strategy are still focused on "clamping down" and other zero-sum game thought patterns? Haven't we shown yet that there are not only strategies to generate revenue with open source that don't involve trying to control everything, but also that these strategies can be more successful in the long run? The type of "collision course" competition that the OP mentions is strategy thinking from the 70s and 80s. We're past that. We can do better.

I think a more interesting question to ask is: "How can Google generate revenue from Android while continuing to nurture the ecosystem and helping other stakeholders also continue to benefit from its success?". Facing challenging questions and trying to solve them is far more interesting than simply assuming that there is no solution, especially when anecdoctal evidence suggests otherwise.

Disclaimer: I'm doing my doctoral research in strategic management in the area of open source strategy, so my perspective is necessarily biased. Some of my work can be found at http://osstrategy.org/

1 year,4 days
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Reversible Male Contraception With Gold Nanorods

celest Real problem is estimated market size, not tech (160 comments)

The real problem is that pharmaceutical companies don't think there is a market for male contraceptives. It has nothing to do with technologies. There have been many effective, reversible, non-invasive procedures in human trials for the past 30 years:

http://www.malecontraceptives.org/

The issue is that "most men" think contraceptives are "unmanly" and will "never take them". At least that's what several doctors have personally told me when I was investigating contraceptive options. Nothing will move forward until there is a (at least perceived) cultural shift towards the acceptance that males should be responsible for their own fertility, creating a (at least perceived) market to justify the large capital expenses required to finalize and make available the various drugs and procedures.

about a year ago
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EA Is the Game Company Disney Was Looking For

celest The death of Lucas Arts wasn't painful enough... (254 comments)

Because the death of Lucas Arts wasn't painful enough for Star Wars fans, we can now look forward to all future Star Wars games being in the Origin-only, Rootkit-DRM enabled, online-at-all-times failboat that is EA's formula. Or is my lack of faith disturbing?

about a year and a half ago
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SendGrid Fires Employee After Firestorm Over Inappropriate Jokes

celest Re:The issue of perspective (1145 comments)

Rationality is only one way of viewing the world. Lots of people aren't rational and a lot of social behaviour isn't rational. As an engineer, my brain is wired to think rationally and to view the world through a rational lense. It's my prefered way of interacting with people. A very large percentage of people don't work that way. They are driven more by emotions, communicate with emotions, interpret the world through feelings, not reason. They're humans too. Part of the point of the blog post I linked is to help you step into their world and understand it. Trying to understand people who don't see the world through a rational lense is still a worthy pursuit and can help you grow as a person, even if your preferred way of understanding the world (and mine too) is rationality. It's too easy to just say "they're not rational" and leave it there. Let's dig deeper and see what we can learn.

about a year and a half ago
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GoPro Issues DMCA Takedown Over Negative Review

celest Kingdom of Loathing IP Law Test (232 comments)

New rule: If you don't know the difference between trademark and copyright, you're not allowed to send DMCA takedown notices on behalf of your company.

Can we encode this rule into a simple test like the Kingdom of Loathing literacy test? http://i.imgur.com/PeClG.jpg

about a year and a half ago
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SendGrid Fires Employee After Firestorm Over Inappropriate Jokes

celest The issue of perspective (1145 comments)

While reading about all of this, my biggest issue was that I felt like I was lacking perspective. I was seeing a lot of arguments from various people but I didn't understand how anyone's perspective could lead to the given outcomes.

I found this post very helpful: http://griffin.oobleyboo.com/archive/on-pycon2013-and-equality/

It does a good job of moving you into someone else's shoes; some who is very different from you, whoever you might be. It was helpful. Viewing things from another perspective is NOT condoning actions. It's learning. Understanding. It's a step in the direction of addressing long-standing systematic issues. A first step.

about a year and a half ago
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VMware Causes Second Outage While Recovering From First

celest UR DOING IT WRONG! (215 comments)

You would think someone as big as VMware would have figured out, by now, that if "An inadvertent press of a key on a keyboard" can lead to "a full outage of the network infrastructure [including] all load balancers, routers, and firewalls [resulting] in a complete external loss of connectivity to [their Cloud service]" that they are DOING IT WRONG!

In other news, VMware announces they're releasing a new voting machine: http://xkcd.com/463/

more than 3 years ago
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What is your favorite Cloud Platform?

celest Missing Option: Steam (396 comments)

How about Valve's Steam platform?

Saving my Plants vs Zombies game in the Steam Cloud lets me keep the damn Zombies off mah lawn no matter where I am!

more than 3 years ago
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Easing the Job of Family Tech Support?

celest You can't teach people who don't want to learn (932 comments)

In my experience, it is not an issue of easy-to-digest material, and explanations that they understand. It's a hard mental block. I've been in the same cycle for 10+ years, and my parents have said, flat out, they they "just can't learn". I've tried written, step-by-step instructions; I've tried demonstrating; I've tried tutorials. It's not the information or how it is presented. It's a mental block about learning new things.

"Why can't it just work?", and the fact that it doesn't is put on my shoulders as the "tech" generation. And that's that.

What really gets me angry is that they are helpless to do anything in their daily lives without their computer, and blame me for that fact (Cause *I* created all malware and put it on their computer, clearly), while simultaneously ridiculing my choice of career as worthless, because "technology is not important". The irony is lost on them. Completely.

The war you are facing is a cultural one, not a technical, or information/communication one. It's one better asked to a psychologist than Slashdot. Best of luck.

more than 4 years ago
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More Brains Needed

celest How about a link with info on HOW to sign up? (232 comments)

Seriously.

Jokes are great, but I'm looking for information on HOW TO SIGN UP!

I WANT to donate my brain to science after I die, but I have no idea what paper work I have to fill out to do this in my province/country. (Ontario, Canada)

Anyone have the necessary information? Please post.

more than 5 years ago
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Interviewing Experienced IT People?

celest Ask if their experience is an asset to your work (835 comments)

It is taken for granted in this industry (and many others) that more experience == good. There has been some recent research in this area, specifically in engineering management, and the management of innovation, that suggests that when working in innovative, rapidly evolving areas, trying to come up with novel solutions and build novel systems, experience can be /detrimental/ as it acts as a ball and chain to the way things used to be done, and hampers an innovative mindset that tries to figure out a better way to do things.

See, for example, "Innovators' Insights - Which Schools of Experience Should Your Executives Attend?". Anthony, S. D., & Christensen, C.M. Nov 2004. Harvard Management Update. Harvard Business Publishing

Describe the work you are hiring the person for, and ask them why their experience would be an asset and not a detriment to the work you are doing. Ask them to explain their thoughts about learning new skills, using new methodologies, vs doing what they have always done for the past x years over again.

It is my firm opinion that an ability to grow and learn and evolve is the single most useful skill for any employee.

more than 5 years ago
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OpenOffice.org V3.0 Sets Download Record, 80% Windows

celest Apathy trumps price for most users (451 comments)

when it comes to a choice between almost identical software (e.g. Microsoft Office and OpenOffice), price is the determining factor.

Actually, I'm currently doing my Master's thesis on this exact topic, namely the switching barriers between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org. I'll post a summary of the full empirically assessed results to Slashdot when the study is complete. Currently, however, it looks like that Apathy is a much stronger factor than price. In fact, the author of the article hints at this:

In the past, it's always been included on my computers which is fine

Another important factor which I have hypothesized (and the literature suggests is accurate) trumps price is user inconvenience. Most users will pay to avoid hassle of any sorts. Further, most users will pay to avoid PERCEIVED inconvenience, even if, in reality, there would be no inconvenience. The FEAR of inconvenience is enough to make them continue to pay.

If you would like more details about my empirical research on this subject, feel free to contact me. A paper on the subject will be published by the Open Source Business Resource in the spring.

more than 5 years ago

Submissions

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Open sourcing: How do average users respond?

celest celest writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Mekki MacAulay writes "Developers get excited when closed source software gets released as open source. We see an opportunity to add new features, poke around in the code to figure out how it ticks, fix that annoying bug, or set it free. We have our own views on the open source debate. We've considered the trade offs. We've picked our sides.

But, how does the average user respond to open sourcing of software they use? How does it affect the their perception of the product? How they feel about the company? How they feel about the product's security? How more or less likely they are to recommend the product to a friend? Their performance expectations?

Think of the average user of Skype, MSN, Second Life, World of Warcraft, MS Office, Photoshop, Acrobat, Quicken, and so on. How do you think average users would respond to an announcement that their product was being open sourced? How would these views differ from the responses of developers?

If a business with a closed source product was considering open sourcing it, what would you tell them to expect the average user response to be?"

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