Not Enough Women In Computing, Or Too Many Men?
He's absolutely right. Women are too smart for careers in computers. Most intelligent women take a close look at the unrepentantly fucked-up culture that surrounds computing careers, and run like hell.
It's men who are dumb enough to tolerate the aspy-programmer types, the sneering arrogant IT guys, the mailing lists full of flaming personal attacks leveled by closet bullies empowered by semi-anonymity, the phallic-compensating gadget consumerists, constantly "helpful" types who manage to insult while trying to rescue, and the sexually inept who use pinup wallpaper and leer at any woman in eyeshot. Membership in (or at least tolerance of) a repellant boys' club is an almost-mandatory feature of our industry.
Men don't have to be passionate about computers and programming to do well in our field. It's possible to be a day-job geek who never plays video games, doesn't own an iphone, and doesn't read xkcd, yet still thrive in high-tech. They get flamed them for a few newbie questions and they'll just think you're an asshole. But brilliant women who are not passionate about the field are smart enough to tell us all to go fuck ourselves after the first serious flame, because they know nobody should have to put up with that shit.
So yes. Women are in fact generally too smart for careers in computers. He nailed it.
Comcast to Buy 51% of NBC, GE Goes After 49%
When are we as a country going to learn? We gave these shitheads municipal monopoly power, and now they want to radically expand their control.
What we need is a law that states this: You can own the pipe, or you can deliver through the pipe, but you cannot do both.
Easing the Job of Family Tech Support?
This. My 60-year-old father can tell the make and model of any car manufactured before the catalytic converter, just by hearing the sound of an engine. As a career veterinarian with 30+ years of experience and an interest in staying abreast, he is intimately familiar with the latest in small animal medicine. But when it comes to anything with transistors, he knows only the basics. He's always found them frustrating and irritating, and only started using email about 6 years ago when forced into it by an extended vacation my mother took alone. He only got a cell phone 2 years ago. I used to spend hours each month helping him maintain his slow-because-he-bought-a-P4-with-SDRAM Windows computer.
After being fed up with years of parental support, I convinced him with much prodding this past spring that instead of an HP, he should spend a bit more to buy a refurbished aluminum iMac with a full extended warranty and a Time Capsule. I was done with limited Windows profiles, spyware,Firefox with IE skins and changed icons, and all the rest. The Mac was a great decision. He's in love with it, and my Mom is now plotting her own mac purchase.
I spent the largest part of the two hours of setup copying files via thumb drive, configuring his Safari Top Sites page, and getting Skype turned on so he can talk to my brother in Italy. Haven't really thought about it since, but after years as a reluctant computer user, he's blossomed with the Mac. The iPod he never used to use is suddenly full of podcasts and music, and we'll talk about the Writer's Almanac show a couple of times a week. His digital camera no longer stores all of his photos for viewing on the little screen, and he doesn't go to Walgreen's to get help make prints anymore. - instead, they're in iPhoto with face tags, organized into events, and he uses his own inkjet with photo paper now. He never has to futz with the mic or camera when he's doing a video call with my siblings. He's an avid skier, so we put the snow reports for his season ticket resorts on his Dashboard, as well as the weather reports and clocks for various places around the world where we have family.
This is turning into a Mac ad, and I didn't mean that. Clearly all of these things can be done with Windows/Linux. My point is that the right combination of technology, in my case an iMac, managed to excite my father into an interest in my own passions, while simultaneously opening up all the really cool parts of the internet to him. And in the process, I no longer have to do any tech support for him. I don't have to worry about backups, I don't have to worry about viruses, I don't have to worry about email attachments, I don't have to worry about "How do I..." phone calls.
Instead, we have more things to talk about, and he's able to finally use these fantastic tools from which I've made my career. So: if the technology your family is using doesn't work for them, whether they're currently on Apple, Linux, or Microsoft OS's, try a different one. It's made all the difference for me.
Caveat: I really can't recommend buying a computer without a user-serviceable hard disk unless you also buy the extended warranty. Apple wants $450 to replace the 320GB hard disk on an out-of-warranty iMac with another 320GB. I found out the hard way on my own iMac. To replace the disk in an iMac you have to remove the glass and the screen. Get dust between those two during the repair, and it's game over. This is the rare case where the warranty is money well spent.
Low-Power Home Linux Server?
Where are you getting 85W for the Mini? Maybe under load it's that high, but at idle it's much less. Apple publishes power consumption numbers on all their consumer systems, and the mini pulls 13.5W at idle load (aka. "apache, imap, ssh and some nfs."). Not to say you couldn't do even better with some other lower-power ARM- or ATOM-based options on busybox, but for your specs the Mini is certainly a contender.
When Libertarians Attack Free Software
A walled garden is by definition a monopoly force. If multiple organizations charge all entities to appear in their network, then interconnection becomes a classic prisoner's dilemma. Connecting to other gardens opens the door to competitive pricing for access to the complete network, rather than an all-or-nothing deal. AOL, Prodigy, and Compuserve were eventually done in by the ability of news providers and corporations to host their own sites on the World Wide Web for a single fee, rather than paying each walled-garden provider separately.
If these entities were not forced to compete with a subsidized, not-for-profit network that happily allowed them each to peer not only with one another, but also those who chose not to subscribe to or publish on any walled-garden service, what would have become of the marketplace?
When Libertarians Attack Free Software
A simple test that I ask big-L Libertarians to engage in before I will discuss anything political with them on the internet:
Explain, in your own words, how the internet as it is presently could possibly have come to exist under a Libertarian political structure. In order to be taken seriously, Be sure to account for how we would have moved beyond the walled-garden networks of the late 80's early 90's, cite ARPAnet, and reference current backbone peering economics, including the recent maneuvering by Google which prompted the whole network neutrality debate in the first place.
Nobody's passed it yet.
FOSS Sexism Claims Met With Ire and Denial
Wow. You're really committed to being right about this. I'm going to try and explain it anyway, even though I'm fairly certain this isn't going to go anywhere with you. Maybe someone else will read this and Get It, because I'm almost certain that you won't.
First, that 5 minutes included formatting the HTML for the reply and proof-reading. Not time-consuming, but in the context of 300 seconds, not exactly trivial either.
Second: Because only 1.5% of FOSS developers are women, it has created a fraternal atmosphere where jokes such as Stallman's are an acceptable part of the FOSS society. This becomes self-perpetuating, because sexist jokes and attitudes become more acceptable in a homogenous culture. Meanwhile, apologists are free to say "Women are totally welcome, if they can hang with us," thus relieving themselves of the responsibility of creating an environment that is more welcoming toward outsiders. It's the woman's problem that she is offended and unable to be "one of the boys," and not the responsibility of those who are acting offensively.
When the brave and the pioneering outsiders do come into the culture and attempt to change it so that it is more welcoming and they can be more comfortable, they are met with overwhelming resistance. Some of it, such as the Ruby pr0n presentation or the continued adulation of booth bunnies, is brazen. Other opposition, such as your own, is more subtle. You are insisting that there is nothing wrong with the current way things are done, that there is no reason to change, that there is no evidence of institutional sexism in the FOSS world, and that accusations of such are outlandish. Meanwhile, the number of women involved in the movement remains the same paltry 1.5%, because the established culture that excludes women remains static. Nothing is done accommodate those who would otherwise join the movement, were the movement itself not structured so as to be exclusionary.
Third: There is an issue of magnification that disappears when you go hiding behind the statistics. For every woman who is willing to stick it out in the face of something like Shuttleworth's comments, there are uncounted numbers who hear the message loud and clear: They are not welcome as FOSS developers. It doesn't matter if only 0.1% of the traffic on the kernel list is sexist, because it only takes a few to chase away many. If a small number of men project a clear message that women are not welcome, and they are not shouted down by ten times as many other men, then the message is deafening: Those few are our mouthpieces, and we are content to let them speak for us. In this instance, lack of public disavowal is seen as tacit agreement.
It's hard admitting that you're part of something that hurts people, especially if it's something you love. I understand. The initial reaction of denial that I had was much the same, but all the denial in the world doesn't make it any less true. The FOSS movement is changing its attitudes toward sexism much more slowly than the field of computer science and IT in general, but we can't stay put forever. It's my feeling that we're entering a period of growth, and growing is painful. But the potential reward is great. Right now, the best and brightest minds of half our population are smart enough to tell us to fuck ourselves, because they won't put up with our shitty, sexist attitude. If we get smart in return and create a culture where they are welcome, I guarantee the results will be more than worth it.
FOSS Sexism Claims Met With Ire and Denial
Are you seriously going to sit there and argue that open source is a sheer meritocracy with a straight face?
Okay. Here are 4 examples:
That's the result of a 5 minute google search.
Choosing a Personal Printer For the Long Haul
I too just recently retired an NEC Silentwriter '95 printer. Man, I loved that thing. I've been a laser printer adherent for years, and it was an unstoppable beast of a printer. What a tank! Every time I thought I was out of toner and this was it, one would pop up on craigslist with a couple of cartridges thrown in. Post-XP support in Windows was sketchy, but you could get the XP driver to work in Vista / Win7 if you were willing to turn off driver signing to import the driver. I finally gave it away because I got a better printer.
A friend wound up giving me a free Canon Pixma iP5000 5-cartridge (CMYK+K) inkjet that she was going to donate to Goodwill. After about 2 hours of cleaning / dusting and a box of new cartridges, I gave it a test run. 3 weeks, a full box of photo paper, 200 sheets of black text on plain paper, and still no replacement cartridges later , I listed the NEC on craigslist.
Inkjets have greatly matured in the 14 years since the SilentWriter '95. The inkjet is silent, it works with my Time Capsule base station, it wakes on USB but stays powered off the rest of the time, and it's fast. In the time it takes me to walk from my computer to the printer after I click print, most single-sheet print jobs have already completed. The Canon has a duplexer on it, and the print quality with photographs on good glossy paper is good enough for framing.
Add in that the printer is $100 and cartridges are $50 for a 4-pack of new Canon-branded carts, and there's just no reason not to stick with it. TCO is not the near-zero of the Silentwriter, but it's pretty low, and it's not the complete horrorshow scam that I've been led to believe that inkjet ownership entailed.
I love my little Canon. It's cheap enough to be disposable, full-featured enough to be a personal workhorse, quiet, uses so much less energy my electric bill dropped, quick, and useful. Support is ubiquitous (tested personally on XP-Vista-Win7, Leopard/Snow Leopard, Ubuntu, even the freakin' PS3). TCO is low. I can't recommend it enough.
Growing Power Gap Could Force Smartphone Tradeoffs
It's my thinking that a smartphone is a closed system with a base initial launch spec that's never going to change, much like a game console. Game console power requirements and manufacturing costs drop over time, as the chipsets inside are consolidated and die shrinks lessen power consumption. But since a PS3 made in 2009 can't be any more powerful than a PS3 made in 2006, and the XBox 360 spec for 2009 is the same as the one that was released in 2005, the manufacturers can focus on electrical and manufacturing efficiency instead of increasing computing power with every hardware iteration.
Why does the same not hold true for the static handset platforms like the iphone? Yes, the iphone has added features as life has progressed (slightly faster clocks, 3g antennae, bigger storage, compass, etc) but these things - with the possible exception of 3g - are not huge power sinks, and most of them aren't even turned on most of the time.
Bad PC Sales Staff Exposed
A horrible gig doing contract IT for an IT manager who was just as corrupt as the owner of the whitebox dealer. This guy's thing was firing the temps one-by-one to cover his own mistakes (including, eventually, me) as he made serious blunder after serious blunder.
The job after that one, though, I finally found a good employer, and that set me off on a career path in enterprise IT. Today I work as a senior sysadmin in large-scale operations shop with hundreds of servers.
Those first few jobs out of college, though, I flailed around an awful lot before finding the right niche.
Bad PC Sales Staff Exposed
In 1999, I worked sales at PCs For Everyone, a (now-defunct, mostly) whitebox dealer in Cambridge, MA. They were a big operation, with a stellar reputation and good draw. People would drive for hundreds of miles to get a PCsFE system. As New England's largest whitebox dealer, they had about 15 guys in the back room assembling computers on any given day, and the burn-in racks were usually backlogged. We were always busy - when we weren't selling systems we were selling parts, and we got so packed on the weekends that there was a numbered ticketing system for counter help. I worked my ass off there 5 and a half days a week (the mandatory sales meeting was on my day off) and brought in, by my own conservative estimate, about $2M in gross sales during my year working for them. You wouldn't believe how many Celeron A 300's we went through. Those things went out the door like you could get high by smoking them.
I know a lot about personal computer internals. I knew even more back then. I spent at least an hour every night reading up on Anandtech and Tom's Hardware, and the other big hardware sites of 10 years back. I helped set up the demos, and I never sold anyone more computer than I thought they could reasonably need. I did product research, recommended new kit for us to sell, and did basic troubleshooting with customers, spending 1:1 time. I had a base of dedicated customers who would wait for me rather than deal with another salesman.
When stumped, other sales reps would come to me for answers much of the time. In short, if I haven't tooted my own horn enough, I was the goddamn bomb when it came to selling computers and parts.
In that year, I made a little over $22,000, and was shafted out of my bonus . I was gone on day 380, off to a job that paid 3 times as much that I got through a customer.
Taking away for a minute from the fact that my boss / the owner was a crook (and he was), even when shafting me that hard, here's the thing: I brought in $2M to a business myself, and that business 2 years later wasjust an online storefront.
There is no margin in computer sales. Even with a locally-respected brand name that drew customers from out-of-state, even when the owner was as crooked as Quasimodo's back, even when bringing in gross revenues in the tens of millions, the storefront was gone inside of a few years.
The reason PC sales sucks is because the margins are 0. The average PC salesman doesn't make dick unless he's selling in enterprise volumes, and you're lucky if they've even taken an A+ course. Anyone who genuinely enjoys both computers and sales quickly moves into sales engineering, or finds another lateral move that will net some income. The margins on each part are nil, the margins on systems are nil. CompUSA is gone because the margins were too slim. The Best Buy rep and the Dell consumer reps are incompetent because they're given 2 days with a 3-ring binder of training, then set loose on the floor. Like it or not, qualified sales staff costs money, and anyone with the know-how to be an effective salesperson with computers is going to chase the dollar out of that basement as soon as possible.
TomTom Releases iPhone Navigation App
You fail at reading comprehension. I wasn't advocating streaming.
TomTom Releases iPhone Navigation App
Ugh. Sorry about that post. Slashdot ate my formatting, and of course I meant "$30 100MB app," not "1GB app." Need more coffee.
TomTom Releases iPhone Navigation App
While you're correct about the original silver-back iPhone, the iPhone 3G & 3Gs have A-GPS. A-GPS is a system that uses cell tower & wireless hotspot triangulation to get the receiver's general location, then uses the GPS antenna to nail down the final position. In this way they can get a fix just as quickly as a device that only has a GPS antenna, while using less battery on the handset acquiring a signal.
TomTom Releases iPhone Navigation App
Wow, this is a crap deal. How disappointing.
Why is the app is 1.2GB in size, when the iPhone is designed as an always-on device? A $30 1GB app with paid map downloads on demand, instead of storing the entire USA on the phone at once, would make much more sense. I agree that streaming maps (such as the google maps app) are useless if you're in the sticks with no coverage or Edge-only coverage, but giving up over 1/8th or 1/16th of my total storage for maps I won't use 99% of the time is a terrible compromise. if I could install map packs based on my travel plans, that would make much more sense.
And $100 for the USA, when I can buy a standalone TomTom 125 for $80? Unless the $100 app has feature parity with the $400 standalone units, the only conclusion I can come to is that they are trying to incentivise people away from using the iPhone app, and toward buying a dedicated GPS unit instead. I can think of no other excuse.
Bad form, guys. I hope someone sees the market opportunity and steals your cake.
Windows 7 RTM Reviewed & Benchmarked
Reposted with a few slight edits from my own blog a few days ago:
My poor PC broke. Some of my RAM went bad due to the summer heat, combined and my obstinate refusal to turn the AC on until the temperature in my office is well into the 90's. Fortunately RAM is cheap as hell these days, and I can get twice as much memory for half the price I paid a year ago, so I ordered a full 8GB of replacement memory, as much as my motherboard can handle.
The problem is that I was running Windows Vista 32bit, which can only address a bit under 4GB of RAM. The only way my Windows computer could use the extra memory I'd purchased would be to re-install a 64-bit version of Windows. But I've already pre-ordered Windows 7 Pro, and it seems silly to install Vista 64-bit now when my copy of Windows 7 will arrive in October. So, over the weekend I got a correctly-checksumming ISO of Windows 7 from The Usual Sources and installed it without a key, giving me 30 days to register. The plan is to just use the rearm trick to tide me over until my legal activation keys come in the mail.
It took a few hours to get everything installed, but today all my apps and games are back, and my files are copied over. I gotta say, if you're going to run a Windows desktop, this is the way to do it. It's NICE. It feels much snappier than Vista, and while it's got more overhead (and thus runs a bit slower) than XP 64-bit, the UI enhancements make up for it. Since today is apparently a bullet-list day, here's a quick rundown of my favorite things:
- The taskbar / quicklaunch toolbar / system tray / start menu have all been revamped, and the new way is awesome. The taskbar and the quicklaunch bar have been completely integrated, making the functionality very similar to the OS X Dock. To see the open windows for a running application, just hover your mouse over the icon. IE8 integrates very well with this, showing a preview window for each of the open tabs, regardless of window, and allowing you to switch quickly. It's like mini-expose. All very polished. Right-clicking on a Windows 7-native app, whether it's open or not, gives you a jumplist of recently used items, similar to right-clicking on a systray icon.
- The icon management in the system tray is much improved. You can banish icons from your sight forever, so annoying applications that refuse to let you remove the icon can be shoved off the desktop. No more company logos cluttering up your screen.
- IE8 rules. Who'd have thought? The privacy filters let you duplicate the functionality of adblock by importing an XML file, and the accelerator framework lets you do things like hilite text and post it to a blog, or email it to someone, all with a couple of clicks. New pages and tabs are linked in a security jail with their parent and can't work with other tabs/windows, and they're automatically color-coded. I like it a lot.
- The 'show desktop' hover / button in the bottom right. I HATE not being able to look at the desktop for stray icons or whatnot. Now there's a permanent show desktop button in that little strip of pixels between the system tray and the edge of the screen. Formerly useless real estate has been reclaimed for a good purpose!
- Vista's sidebar gadgets are now completely free-roaming anywhere on the desktop. This is nice, since I always liked the idea of gadgets but didn't want a whole sidebar. Now I can put them wherever, not worry about putting Windows over them, and just hover over the "show desktop" area on the taskbar to check the weather.
- Fast fast fast. 64-bit IE is speedy! File copies are speedy! The operating system is speedy! Everything just feels snappy and quick.
- Libraries - this is really neat, Libraries are consolidated collections of folders that all have the same kind of data. So if C:\photos and d:\photos both contain images, I can make them both part of the photo library, and view it as one folder. What makes this interesting is that I can plug in an external disk o' photos, add it to my Library, and as you'd expect view all the photos as part of the library. But once I unplug the disk, they're gone. Plug it in again with file changes, it's re-added and the changes are picked up. Ditto this for music, videos. External storage gets handled in a very sane manner!
- Better handling of peripherals. There's a peripheral manager that covers keyboards, mice, webcams, external disks, scanners, printers etc. separately form the monolithic device manager, which was always a bit intimidating to people who don't care about the computer's internals.
- Interesting-looking scanner/fax app. I still have to send more faxes than I'd like, and there's no modem in this computer, but having a good app for it could save me some money on eFaxing with a $5 winmodem from the used PC shop.
That said, there's still some problems, although I think time will handle most of them. I'm looking forward to the following:
- Compatible scanner driver for the new scanner/fax app, since my existing TWAIN driver from Vista doesn't seem to work.
- Installing a modem so I can fax directly from PC instead of paying an online fax service for their printer driver (have to send faxes for insurance co a fair amount). Welcome back to the 90's! Seriously, I wasn't expecting the new OS to be awesome for faxing, of all things.
- The apps I use most, like Steam, being recompiled to be Win7-native. It would be fantastic if Steam games could show up in the Games folder with the proper icons & metadata, and it would be awesome if Steam would ditch the system tray and just run with the Windows 7 jumplists. Ditto Stardock's Reactor, Putty, really EVERYTHING. The jumplist is revolutionary.
- 64-bit Flash Player, so I can retire the 32-bit browser.
- Figuring out how to change the default Explorer location.
For an OS transition, this has been pretty damn smooth. And I love the UI changes. Overall I'm very, very pleased.
Palm Pre Does Not Get US Tethering Either
Look: If you are willing to buy a data access plan to a wireless network on the following terms:
-Higher per-month cost than access to traditional wired infrastructure at lower bandwidth;
-Access is sold on a per-device basis, meaning that if you own a laptop and a smartphone and want them both online, you must pay twice;
-Specific technically inconsequential data packets cost exponentially more than all other packets (txt messages);
-The device you connect to this network automatically prefers to use other wireless networks when possible (802.11);
Then you are a fool. Speaking as one such fool, I recognize that the market is so corrupt that there is no intelligent option for the buyer, but that does not make me any less a fool than the other 40 million people who also agreed to take part in this chicanery.
Publishers Want a Slice of Used Game Market
In the age of the internet, games are uniquely poised to capitalize on aftermarket sales (and sales due to piracy) in a way that no medium in history has been able to, and it can all be done just by modifying the design of the product. Here's some examples that work extremely well:
-DLC. Look at Burnout Paradise. Two years later, it's still getting meaty, significant upgrades on a regular basis. The game has had ELEVEN content updates, 5 of which were paid / premium add-ons. The publisher gets paid for each of those! Bethesda knows how to nail this too, despite some early mishaps with horse armor. Rockstar's figuring it out too. The right DLC will make you a ton of cash, even from the pirates.
-Recurring subscriptions: Some MMO's give away their clients, and make their money on premium DLC and monthly subscription fees. Apogee understood this years ago, with the original Wolfenstein shareware. Download it and get 1/6 of the game, which was a meaty, satisfying experience on its own. But pay up and you can get the other 5/6ths!
-High replay value: Rock Band & Left 4 Dead's co-operative multiplayer emphasis give them huge replay. I almost never see a reasonably priced copy of Rock Band sitting on the used shelf (trust me, I've looked, I want to import the songs into Rock Band 2). Rock Band follows the DLC model, too! The longer you convince someone to hold onto your game, the lower the aftermarket churn, and the higher you can keep your MSRP before you're undercut by the used market. Just ask the creators of Mass Effect, or Super Mario Galaxy (I dare you, get all 242 stars).
-In-game advertsiing. The people who buy games used are necessarily doing so after the big retail splash of the original launch. These new eyeballs can view ads impressions just as well as the original pair, though, and the value of that digital billboard is only as high as the number of people who can look at it at any given time.
Efforts to thwart the aftermarket's existence entirely, through one-time activation keys and emphasizing downloadable games, are just going to piss the customer off. The days of making a 4-hour singleplayer game with no replay value beyond deathmatch/ctf and expecting to have high sell-through are over; The high-budget $60 Terminator: Salvation game is only 4 hours long, it's going to be littering the shelves of used stores. The only way to stop the used market from undercutting the new market is to make the new experience so compelling, people don't want to part with their new game for a long, long time.
Directory Service Implementation From Scratch?
This. AD's management tools are brutally efficient and understandable. The newest versions of Samba+KB5 make it trivial to authenticate *nix systems against it and have fully integrated, cross-platform user & privilege management with consistent uid's/gid's across all hosts. Assuming you throw the right amount of resources at it (at least 2 AD servers per tree in the forest, per site), and take advantage of the DDNS services, you'll have a really scalable, easily managed infrastructure for years to come.