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Do We Really Have a Shortage of STEM Workers?

etphonehome8706 Re:Not all STEM fields are equal (491 comments)

Indeed. I'm a software developer, and therefore am a "STEM worker." I'm not remotely qualified to design bridges, develop vaccines, research particle physics, or any number of other jobs that other "STEM workers" perform. It's disingenuous to count the total number of science and engineering degrees awarded each year, discover it's more than the total number of science and engineering jobs created each year, and decide we already educate "enough" people in these fields. No doubt there are many industries where there's already an adequate supply of skilled labor. Software development is not one of them.

about 7 months ago

The Whole Story Behind Low AP CS Exam Stats

etphonehome8706 Re: CS education for all?" (325 comments)

Most people don't need to know anything about computer science for their daily lives. That is absolutely true. However, most people don't need to know anything about chemistry or physics or trigonometry either, but these are standard parts of the high school curriculum. Why should computer science be relegated to elective status (if it's even offered), while these other subjects are typically required for graduation?

High school is all about breadth: students spend a little time learning about a lot of different subjects to create a well-rounded individual, and they get a chance to try things to decide whether they might want to study them in more depth in college. I'm not suggesting that high schools stop teaching chemistry or physics or any of these other things, but perhaps it would be a good idea to throw computer science into the mix as one of several technical subjects that can count toward graduation requirements. Some students might choose to take computer science and physics but skip chemistry, while others would choose chemistry and biology but not CS or physics.

about 8 months ago

The Whole Story Behind Low AP CS Exam Stats

etphonehome8706 Re:Smart CS students don't fall for AP scam! (325 comments)

Well, you're going to pay for four years of college regardless of what you do in high school. The college will just pad out your schedule with more required courses.

I doubt this is true for many schools that give credit for AP exams. I studied computer engineering. My AP exams got me credit for introductory programming, freshman chemistry, and four of my five humanities electives. That let me graduate a semester early. This is not to say that every AP exam you take will help you graduate earlier, even at colleges that award credit for AP exams. By the time I had to sign up for AP exams my senior year I already knew which college I would be attending. I looked and discovered that two of the exams for AP classes I was taking (English Literature and Statistics) would count for credit but would not help me fulfill any additional degree requirements for any of the majors I was considering at the time. So I saved a bit of money and time studying by skipping those exams.

about 8 months ago

Should Wikipedia Just Accept Ads Already?

etphonehome8706 Re:Advertisers are a bad idea (608 comments)

Why would ads imply editorial control? A system such as Google AdSense allows site owners to put ads on their website without ever even talking to the advertisers, much less agreeing to give up control to them.

If Wikipedia adopted such a system, I would expect the existing community would only go along with it if strict rules were put in place to ban edits made for the purpose of affecting the profitability of the page in any way. Furthermore, there's no reason the Wikimedia Foundation would have to stop accepting donations and become a for-profit company just because they put ads on their site. They could use the ad revenue to supplement donation money, pay to keep their servers running, and divert any surplus directly to their existing initiatives to help bring knowledge and education to developing countries.

The current system seems sort of like a PBS pledge drive to me. PBS chooses to solicit for donations at certain times of the year all at once rather than selling small chunks of air time for advertising throughout the year. Wikipedia, instead of devoting a small section of their site to advertising throughout the year, is throwing up a huge banner at the top of every page to beg for money. There's nothing inherently wrong with this strategy, other than it seems to annoy some users more than a discreetly-placed advertisement would. It also seems to be mostly ineffective.

more than 2 years ago

US House Democrats Unveil a Health Care Plan

etphonehome8706 Re:Great quote... (925 comments)

If you live in a sizable metro area, I'd bet there are quite a few kids in your town not related to you who have leukemia or other expensive, life-threatening diseases. How much money have you personally mailed to their parents to help with their medical care? If the answer is "quite a lot," then I salute you. You're a much better person than most. But I'd be willing to bet that the answer is very little, if any.

And it's just this sort of hypocrisy that gets to me in the whole health care debate. We have a government that is supposed to be responsive to the wishes of the people, but actions speak louder than words. How do you reconcile the idea that our democratic government should provide health care for those less fortunate with the fact that almost nobody is currently giving their own money to random sick people on the street? These two ideas seem diametrically opposed to me, until you consider that most people have been convinced that "the rich" will be the only ones to pay for this care, and that the middle class get the best of both worlds: satisfaction of knowing you voted to help the poor, all without having to trim your budget to achieve it.

Most of the people on the street that you see interviewed on TV about universal health care like the idea not because they are altruistic and want to help the poor, they support it because they have been led to believe that they will get more service for less money than they pay under the current system. For many of them, that may very well be true. But what's also true is that somebody will get stuck with the bill in the end, and there's only so much tax money that you can try to squeeze out of the super rich before they decide to take their ball and go home to the Cayman Islands. So here we are, constantly increasing spending faster than we increase revenue, and our debt is snowballing out of control. I don't want to be around when the excrement hits the fan, but I'm young enough that I probably will.

more than 5 years ago

Go For a Masters, Or Not?

etphonehome8706 Depends on your situation (834 comments)

For me, getting a master's turned out to be a great decision career-wise. But I would say it depends a great deal on the specifics of your situation. Here's mine:

I graduated with a BS in computer engineering from a middle-of-the-road university. I had a decent job offer coming out of college, but not with a company I wanted to work for in the long term. I was accepted to a master's program in computer science at a top tier university, and decided to do that instead. I'm going to graduate with my MS next week.

I believe just being at a better university has opened doors for me. Last summer I was able to score an internship at a company that probably would not have given me a second look if I was an undergrad at my previous school. Now I have an offer to work as a full-time software engineer with another great company.

My pay will be slightly higher than my undergrad friends at this school who are going to that same company, but probably no higher than theirs will be after two years of experience there. If I had spent two years working at the company that gave me an offer after undergrad, would I have been able to get this same job? Maybe, maybe not. I do know that my initial salary with this company will be nearly 50% higher than the other company offered me two years ago.

In your situation, you have to consider what value will be added by going for another degree. What work opportunities are available to you now? What new opportunities will open up as a result of your master's education? How much will a master's degree cost, both in terms of tuition and lost earning potential from being out of the workforce during that time? These are all things you need to consider. There is no easy, cookie-cutter answer.

more than 5 years ago

Warrantless GPS Tracking Is Legal, Says WI Court

etphonehome8706 Better legal strategy: claim the tracker is a gift (594 comments)

What the defense lawyers should have argued is that by affixing the GPS device to the defendant's car without his knowledge or request, the GPS device was a gift to the defendant. When they did so, they gave up the right to claim the device as their own property, and in fact gave it to the defendant. There is precedent to back up this argument.

When the police took the tracker back, the defense should have claimed that was a seizure of the defendant's property, and should have required service of a warrant. Hey, it worked for music CDs. Might as well try it for GPS trackers.

more than 5 years ago

Your Commuting Costs By Car Vs. Train?

etphonehome8706 Something doesn't add up (1137 comments)

The Boston Globe article says that the worst city is Pittsburgh, where you can *only* save $7724 per year by taking public transit.

I don't spend anywhere near that much on my car. I bought a used vehicle in decent condition for $5000 about three years ago. It's still running fine, and I expect to keep it for at least another two years. Assuming I own it for five years, that's roughly $1000/yr to buy the car itself, even if you assume the car will be completely worthless when I get another one. I spend about $500/yr on insurance. I've been lucky enough to not have to put in any major repairs yet on this car, but let's just say $500/yr as an average ballpark figure, knowing that it will be $0 some years and much more in others. I just pulled up my Quicken records and I spend about $750/yr on fuel, for about 10k miles/yr. Let's suppose for the sake of argument that I drove twice that much, or had a less fuel-efficient car. That would still only bump the fuel cost up to around $1500.

So, we have $1000/yr to purchase a used car, $500 to insure it, $500 to maintain it, and $1500 to fuel it, for a grand total of $3500/yr. The only other major variable is tolls and parking, which vary wildly between locations. Still, I doubt that tolls and parking in Pittsburgh are higher than the $4224 more that they say you would be saving somehow. Do they actually pay you to ride the transit in Pittsburgh? That's the only way I can think of to bridge the gap. Maybe you could save as much as they're saying if you lease a new Hummer every year, have a 100 mile commute each way, and you get daily valet parking in Manhattan's priciest parking garage. However, for a person who buys a used, relatively fuel-efficient vehicle and lives relatively close to work, their numbers simply don't add up.

more than 5 years ago

RIP the Campus Computer Lab, 1960-2009

etphonehome8706 A couple of benifits (571 comments)

As a current student and teaching assistant at a university computer science department, I see several benefits to having computer labs, including two really big ones.

First, almost all of our courses from the sophomore level on up require development in Linux. Many students use Linux on their personal machines, but many more do not. Most of the students have absolutely no experience with Linux or a command line at all prior to taking their first course that requires it. If a prerequisite to these courses was that you first install Linux on your own computer, I bet that would scare away a bunch of students, especially non-majors who just want to take a couple of courses to help them better understand computing to help their work in other fields.

A second, related benefit to having labs is that you can have a standardized set of development tools. We tell students that they are welcome to use their own computers to complete assignments. However, we will test their programs on a university lab computer, and they should do the same before turning their code in so that they know it will build and run properly during grading.

Most of these problems could be mitigated to a certain extent by providing free use of a standardized Linux VM image, but I for one would rather avoid doing large projects inside an instance of VMWare.

more than 5 years ago


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