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Ask Slashdot: Online, Free Equivalent To a CompSci BS?

drstevep Re:Ivy League = theroy loaded classes with skill g (197 comments)

...until you have to write a truly complex system. Then, knowledge of correctness, algorithmic complexity, graph theory, functional and operational paradigms, etc., will separate the low end code generators from the people who actually design and build the system.

The skills you need are related to how to think about the system, find an appropriate approach to designing and implementing the solution, and being able to demonstrate that it is effective. Putting it into a language is a last step.

I can't tell you HOW MANY TIMES I've run into people who think they know how to build a system because they know a tool. And they are fine, until I ask them about timing and randomness, data complexity, parallelizing on a massive scale, and so on. And then I have to explain the CONCEPTS so they'll even begin to understand the questions I'm asking.

Learn the WHY of what's going on. You can always pick up a tool.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Distributed Online Storage For Families?

drstevep Re:rsync -- look at Unison! (168 comments)

Rsync is a one-way synchronization. Check out Unison; it readily performs a bidirectional merge. You might have to do a little compiling, but hey, isn't that what the Family Geek is for?

I've been using Unison to sync a pair of Synology boxes that act as my cloud. (One in my office, one at home, each with a RAID-1 array.) I've also gotten it running on a pair of DLink DNS-323 boxes (yes, also RAID-1'ed). The Synology has cloud software; might be a good choice if you want to invest in a cheap small light unobtrusive (Linux) NFS/cloud/music server/etc box.

about 2 months ago
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GOP Bill To Outlaw EPA 'Secret Science' That Is Not Transparent, Reproducible

drstevep And the next time we go to war... (618 comments)

Can we amend this legislation to include similar principles to be used when a president proposes invading a foreign country?

about 2 months ago
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Blowing Up a Pointless Job Interview

drstevep Thinking outside of the box (692 comments)

True story: A typical HR person going through her standard interview question list asked me, "Do you ever think outside of the box?"

I responded, "No. I just live in a very big box."

She didn't know how to handle the answer. It was outside of her box, I guess.

about 2 months ago
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Do Non-Technical Managers Add Value?

drstevep What makes a good manager? (249 comments)

A good manager keeps invasive outsiders away and makes sure that the workers have what they need.

Bidirectionally, this means understanding (of the needs of each group) and communication (both listening and answering). To the outsider, this means understanding their issues and communicating meaningful replies in terms they understand. It means making appropriate requests and supporting the requests using concepts that the outsiders understand. To the insider, this means understanding their needs and being able to re-frame them in a business sense (for the outsider). It means being able to answer why the insider can't have everything. It means being able to explain business needs and how the technology can meet it. Within the team, it means managing the dynamics of the group without being a babysitter or kindergarten teacher.

A business-oriented person who understands the implications of the technology can make as good a manager as a technical person with a strong understanding of the business needs. The most critical factor is the ability to translate and communicate.

about 4 months ago
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Member of President Obama's NSA Panel Recommends Increased Data Collection

drstevep TSA-quality thinking (349 comments)

This is exactly the level of thinking the TSA uses to design its so-called security protocols. Figure out what was done. Design something that looks like you are looking at it. Then do it.

Meanwhile, terrorists move ahead to different protocols, different targets. Such as (as has been written), using Google Mail and cross-editing mail drafts to pass information. The drafts are never sent. They are an ongoing, live document. Let me repeat, the drafts are never sent. No emails are generated.

So all that we are left with is a bloated, monstrous governmental organization that monitors the citizenry but not the terrorists. And justifies its own existence and growing expense.

Life by fear.

about 4 months ago
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Top US Lobbyist Wants Broadband Data Caps

drstevep Data caps aren't about data caps (568 comments)

Data caps are about charging for what is popular.

No company has ever really demonstrated a shortage of cell phone minutes, text bandwidth, connection count, data [bandwidth latency voluume]. The companies have only demonstrated a need to maximize revenue based upon what was in vogue.

In the early cell phone days, it was "minutes". Suddenly, minutes became cheap to unlimited (especially as a marketing tool: "friends and family", etc.) and we moved to extensive charge-by-the-text-message. Now, phones are more versatile as data engines (pictures, streaming music/video, GPS, etc.) and we are offered unlimited text and voice, with caps on the things we use the most. Excuse me, extensive charges.

Mostly in the major providers. At the same time they boast of the best and fastest and most capable networks. "We have the most but you can't use it."

Same thing with the home data providers (internet providers). Capacity grows beyond use, perceived need/use increases, and now we are seeing the two financial vampires appear: data caps and bandwidth limitations (no network neutrality).

There is no shortage. This is not a supply-and-demand curve model. This is a monopoly-and-demand model. With limited suppliers acting in an unstated collusion, we have the movement towards pricing models that focus on today's usage patterns. "Last year we drummed up the demand by offering unlimited data, now you want it so we're going to create an artificial scarcity and charge you for it."

Sadly, as monopolistic as these services are, they are not treated as utilities. They should be. A quarter-century ago they were a nicety. Now they are an essential part of the functioning/growing society/economy, and should be treated accordingly. Doing so would increase stability, access, and overall functionality.

about 6 months ago
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California Elementary Schools To Test Anti-Piracy Curriculum

drstevep Love your educational priorities! (356 comments)

Ladies and gentlemen of the school board, let's play that ever-fun game, Set Your Priorities!

And what are our choices for this year? Where should we be spending our time and money? Pick carefully, the ones you want will be included in the curriculum and the ones you don't want won't be taught!

  • Science
  • Library
  • Music
  • Physical well-being
  • How to be good copyright-following citizens
  • How your corporate sponsor creates a great product

And the winner is....

about 7 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Cloud Service On a Budget?

drstevep Re:Snail Mail and a hardrive (121 comments)

From my earlier years: Fast and cheap file transfer? A grad student with a mag tape.

about 7 months ago
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A Tale of Two MySQL Bugs

drstevep Obscure + Performance - Low Priority (191 comments)

This demonstrates the difference between commercial/professionally run products and what can be a very ad hoc management style for open products.

A commercial organization receives a DR and reviews it. The DR is assigned a priority and a severity. Being obscure and performance related, I'd guess that it scored low on both. It doesn't impact security, it doesn't rear its ugly head often. So it won't impact many users, and presumably, the impact won't be that great. As such, and assuming that you have limited resources devoted to a product, it doesn't exactly float to the top of the heap.

But from the standpoint of code, the defect *might* be interesting! And in a looser environment, interesting trumps utility. Also, the impacted source might be more isolated... meaning to the volunteer "dive right in" developer, it is a more attractive problem to handle.

I'm not trying to defend Oracle or condemn the MariaDB team. I'm using this as an example of how different development processes and practices (highly managed/cathedral vs. open-uncommitted/bazaar) might yield different results. And how different group goals (further integration of MySQL into the Oracle family vs. ??? for MariaDB) might impact where efforts are place.

about 7 months ago
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For Education, Why TI-83 > iPad

drstevep Re:But neverletheless... (340 comments)

Yet a smart calculator can get past the "here's the formula for this" phase to "here's a way to think about and experiment with data" phase. After all, do you know how to compute square roots by hand? I learned it in fifth grade (some long time ago), and haven't used it since, well, fifth grade.

Consider my daughter (now in college) studying biology. I'd help/watch her with homework over time while she was in high school. TI-84, using statistical software. Having the tool, and quickly being able to go from raw data to processed data? Priceless, in that she could experiment. She could try different sets and learn the impact of source changes on the resultant. I wouldn't have wanted her to have had to calculate that by hand. She'd have learned technique, but not comprehension.

And I'm happy with her there. I'd rather she know how to work with data and build from there. That's the future.

about 8 months ago
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Dotless Domain Names Prohibited, ICANN Tells Google

drstevep The death of domain names (132 comments)

TLDs are a thing of the past, or will be. The TLD explosion will hasten that.

Remember the early days of ebay? How you could peruse ALL of the new postings for a day in "computer hardware" (one single category) in ten minutes? Yes, you would go to computer>hardware to get to the category, and that's what you did.

Now ebay has been overrun by online stores and bulk postings, a single ID posting hundreds or more items per day. A virtual online catalog for thousands of sale-by-the-shovel retailers. And everything is found via search. (Hey, try posting computer hardware in "dolls". People will find it and it'll sell for the same price you'd get elsewhere.)

This is the future of domain names. You search by company name in the address field, it goes where you want to, your browser/search engine learn your preferences. In five years, no one will care if you are prostitutes-international.xxx or im.a.who.re !

about 8 months ago
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How Are You Celebrating National Sysadmin Day?

drstevep National Coffee Milkshake Day (200 comments)

Today is National Sysadmin Day. It is also National Coffee Milkshake Day.

Coincidence? I think not.

about 9 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Important Is Advanced Math In a CS Degree?

drstevep Re:trig (656 comments)

Yeah, I anayzed the CORDICS. And the source implementation of atan2, etc. And optimized for cos = 1-sqrt(sin). (By the way, sqrt is expensive, too). And looked at integer approximations.

The key was I ONLY NEEDED ACCURACY WITHIN 5%!!!!! As others have pointed out, understanding the problem speeds things along nicely. Reviewing the source code showed that the lib calls used hardware doubles. Cycle-expensive. Modern processors, FP and INT are pretty close when compared to trig functions. And only needing very low precision meant the taylor expansions were around two mults and an add. Three and two for some of the more expensive ops, but the trig ran more expensive there as well.

Side note: Going to int was considered as well, but adding in the renormalizations added time, too. And I usually avoid div when I can.

Side note: The power of 1.5 can be done as a cube and a square root (sqrt(x*x*x)). It is cheaper to do x^1.5 as x*sqrt(x), saving a couple of mults...

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Important Is Advanced Math In a CS Degree?

drstevep Re:depends on what you're going into (656 comments)

Did the math... around 100K trig calls per frame. Maybe a few thousand points, but each calculated the intersection of multiple phased waves. And my code was faster than a table lookup!

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Important Is Advanced Math In a CS Degree?

drstevep Re:depends on what you're going into (656 comments)

Look it up, program it, forget it, and leave it for someone else to fix the bugs because you didn't understand it...

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Important Is Advanced Math In a CS Degree?

drstevep Re:depends on what you're going into (656 comments)

Bullshit. You want to develop game engines, you have to know how to move things around. You have to know how to create a world. You have to understand what your team is doing, and understand it at a gut level. This isn't rendering, this is creating a world.

So learn your math well. It will give you an additional layer of depth that will differentiate you from those who don't.

Disclaimer: I just coded up some low-precision trig operations. I'm generating some simulated waves in the world I'm creating. Costing hundreds of trig calls per frame, and figure 50 frames per second... My routines are around 3 to 5 times faster than system calls, you want to look up that hundreds per frame at 50 fps again? It means I have a lot more CPU available for other tasks. Math. Taylor series. Error analysis. Makes me the person that gets hired instead of the one that gets passed over.

about a year ago

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