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Our Education System Is Failing IT

goathumper The biggest problem... (306 comments)

Are the business leaders and their "collusion" with the vendors. It's all too easy to require new IT talent to be "Cisco-certified" or Java-certified or this-or-that certified. Think about it. Cisco wants their certified engineers to be "recipe-followers". If they run into a brick wall, they're supposed to run home to mama so the business can buy Cisco support time and contracts. Likewise, the business doesn't want to risk it with someone who isn't Cisco-certified because that gives Cisco an out in case things go wrong (i.e. "your guy messed with something he shouldn't have messed with, covered in clause 32-a-X-35-b-VII-(x$^32) in the support contract, written in 2 point Arial font in white ink. Pay us more or fuck off.").

The same principle applies to other technological areas. I'm not defending them, simply pointing out their (twisted, so-so far gone) logic. It's about risk management and having someone to blame (or sue). That's what the suits care about. It's the single, solitary reason M$ was never in any real danger from Linux on the desktop - corporate IT departments were NEVER going to move away from being able to point the finger at Redmond when shit went down. It's all about self-preservation, really.

Remember that in business (moreso in BIG business), the higher up you are, the more important it is to cover your ass, over being good at your job.

about 5 months ago

How Does Heartbleed Alter the 'Open Source Is Safer' Discussion?

goathumper Two things to note (582 comments)

"Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow" has proven true time and again. The key point in the phrase is "enough eyeballs". In this particular case, the affected software was OpenSSL. Let's examine that for a second.

OpenSSL is a cryptography library. Cryptography is, by definition, a very "exclusive" field of development due to the complex mathematics and rigorous rules that have to be followed in order to successfully contribute. It then follows that the audience that is both capable and willing to contribute to the project is very, very small in relation to the audiences readily available to other projects such as Apache Tomcat or GNOME.

This is where the "enough eyeballs" comes into play: clearly, for the longest time, there weren't enough. The reason is understandable and explained in the above paragraph - the vast majority of software developers out there are probably not able to contribute meaningfully to a project such as OpenSSL.

However, and echoing on other comments that have already been posted, the good news is that because it was open source the vulnerability was detected and corrected. Had it been closed-source it might never have been found - let alone acknowledged or even fixed. I'll take that over a walled garden any day of the week and twice on Sunday. That - to me, at least - reinforces the argument that open-source is safer and more secure than closed-source, not the other way around as some would like to believe. This is by the simple fact that larger number of eyeballs can be brought to bear on a piece of software in order to eventually shallow out the bugs.

How many closed-source companies are willing to make that level of investment in their software quality if they can still be profitable without having to do it? Further still, what if making that investment would bring profitability into question? Would they still make the investment? I think not...

about 5 months ago

Apple Patent Could Herald Interchangeable iPhone Camera Lenses

goathumper Prior Art (160 comments)

Would the concept modular phone that was floating around some months ago constitute prior art? I remember it had just such a concept. It should at least be proof of non-originality (not that this would really matter legally speaking, unless it's actual prior art). How would this be affected by the recent patent changes where it's now "first to file" vs. "first to describe"?

about 6 months ago

DirectX 12 Promises Lower-level Hardware Access On Multiple Platforms

goathumper SteamBox (107 comments)

This has nothing to do with competing with Mantle or even improving the DirectX technology stack. The target here is the Steam Box, and Linux+OpenGL to a lesser extent. M$ can't afford to let the Steam box become the dominant PC gaming platform (or at least a major player) as it's threatening to become. The news that Linux+OpenGL could run some Source games much faster than Windows with lesser hardware did not sit well in Redmond, and this is their response.

about 6 months ago

Obamacare and Middle-Wheel-Wheelbarrows

goathumper It's simple... (199 comments)

It's called capitalism. It's not profitable to solve these complex software problems correctly the first time around because then the software companies would be out of the job of maintaining the deployed solutions.

about 9 months ago

Feds Confiscate Investigative Reporter's Confidential Files During Raid

goathumper Re:The best defense... (622 comments)

You're right, but that's all the more reason to go public. The establishment can only crush "vermin" (in their eyes) when it's anonymous or unknown (i.e. one more brick in the wall). That would be the strategy: remove yourself as a target by making it too costly to come after you. There is nothing politicians despise more than bad PR.

about a year ago

Feds Confiscate Investigative Reporter's Confidential Files During Raid

goathumper The best defense... (622 comments)

At this point, the best defense is a good offense. They know by now their identities are compromised to their employer, so whatever they said that could be construed to be negative against the TSA will be used against them. Otherwise, it's just a waiting game to find out how much harassment and attrition will be leveled against them to force them to resign, if not downright fire them.

Except if they go public with it. In unison. Loudly. Right now.

Turn the tables. Then again, that approach will be heavily dependent on how the media will cover it, and what the spinsters have to say. Yes - there are risks. Yes - these are probably people with families and commitments and responsibilities that would be at risk. Then again, as of this raid, they already are.

In my mind, this was a stupid move by the establishment. The whistleblowers now have nothing to lose. Absolutely nothing.

about a year ago

Ask Slashdot: Is Outsourcing Development a Good Idea?

goathumper Re:Is it just a bad idea? (403 comments)

I neglected to complete my comment - sorry! When I said "where the outfit is from", generally speaking: India and Pakistan are usually the cheapest, but have the most serious quality issues - they tend to say "yes" to everything, but in my experience they consistently under-perform and under-deliver to the point that the work has to be done all over again by qualified workers "elsewhere". Again - I'm not saying that's how ALL the Indian/Pakistani shops are, just the (many) ones I've dealt with over time have all fit that pattern.

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Is Outsourcing Development a Good Idea?

goathumper Re:Is it just a bad idea? (403 comments)

I wholeheartedly disagree. It depends strictly on where the outfit is from and how competent an outfit they are to begin with. The problem with the selection of outsourcing options is that most of the time, the decision makers focus on cost more than on quality (because it's more expensive).

A band of idiots will do a crappy job regardless of where they're from - homegrown or foreign. The difference lies in selecting the band of non-idiots to do the job to begin with. You'll find that things go much smoother then. Then again, the non-idiots are less cheap and sometimes that can be a turn-off for decision makers who are more focused on the bottom line than on the quality of the work.

more than 2 years ago

Your Next TV Interface Will Be a Tablet

goathumper Tablets themselves (210 comments)

The tablets themselves as first screens should be the most disruptive of all. The ability to stream TV shows live onto your tablet while you relax outside on the porch would be tantamount to having your cake and eating it too. No more having to plan a living room around a TV: except for those larger events like the superbowl, or for the movie freaks who like to have a home theater setup for a "movie experience". However, those are "specialized applications" of the television signal - for the "base application" of the tv signal, display on a tablet would be good enough for most use cases methinks.

more than 2 years ago

Study Says E-prescription Systems Would Save At Least 50k Lives a Year

goathumper Re:10 years ago... (134 comments)

The interesting thing is that the whole system had been proposed and led by doctors. They knew the benefits and seemed to actively want them. Perhaps most crucially: the system didn't take doctors out of the loop - humans could still override the computer's warnings/indications/whatnot as necessary (obviously this would be well-audited).

I agree that the risk of replacing humans with technology is still there. And yes - hacks are always possible as long as humans are in the mix of creating the computerized system. However, even if it lowers the number of fatalities due to PAEs by half, it would be a huge win money-wise for insurance companies, etc. (which begs the question: why hasn't it been done on that basis alone? We all know ca$h makes the world go round...) - despite the risk of hacks or tampering.

Just sayin'... maybe we should build a F/LOSS platform for this so that it can be widely audited and its quality can be more transparently verified... volunteers?

more than 2 years ago

Study Says E-prescription Systems Would Save At Least 50k Lives a Year

goathumper 10 years ago... (134 comments)

I worked on a hospital system 11 years ago that would provide this sort of cross-referencing functionality. It always baffled me why their use wasn't widespread. Back then there were (evidently) no smartphones, etc, so the whole idea of having barcodes on patients' wrists was revolutionary, as was the concept of having computer systems perform the drug-to-pathology matching and medication interactions analyses.

From what I learned working on that project, this sort of system can lower the costs of operation, staffing, and evidently lower risk inside a hospital. Does anyone out there know why they've not seen widespread adoption (besides the "obvious" tin-foil hat doctor-nurse-conspiracy theories)?

more than 2 years ago

Google Accused of Bypassing Safari's Privacy Controls

goathumper Sounds to me... (202 comments)

This sounds to me more like a defect in Safari's cookie handling than a problem on Google's part. Sure it's a dicey practice anyway to overtly try to circumvent those security and privacy features, but if the browser in question had implemented them properly in the first place this would be a non-issue.

more than 2 years ago

Journalist Arrested By Interpol For Tweet

goathumper Re:and where is exactly the problem? (915 comments)

Had God wanted me to be follow a set of rules to the letter without question or hesitation, he wouldn't have given me the use of reason or, at least, would have severely restricted it. The alternative is that I was given it, but the giver was unable restrict it it, in which case - why call him God and thus why follow "him"?

It follows then that if he does exist and gave me the unrestricted use of reason, clearly it wasn't with the intent that I forego or restrict its use.

If that's not the case, then the only remaining possibility is that God doesn't exist, in which case reason is all I have.

Therefore, religion (theology in general) has no place in my life, and although I respect others' rights to live and believe as they choose, I also believe it should have no place in anyone else's lives either. It breeds nothing but regression, ignorance and hostility.

So let's kill all the religious-types we come across until we've converted everyone to follow only the use of reason!

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Protecting Tech Gear From Smash-and-Grab Theft?

goathumper Protection film (514 comments)

Where I live, there was a rash of smash'n'grab jobs (primarily against women) in traffic jams. Thieves would drive up on a motorcycle, hammer the window, and grab the purse on the seat. Since the victim was on a traffic jam, the bike could get away rather easily while the victim was helpless.

As a result, a vendor began importing film that can be applied to car windows to protect against such smash jobs. The film doesn't keep the glass from breaking, but instead keeps holding it together making it very very hard to actually make it PAST the glass in a short amount of time. Thus, the effect of the "smash" part of the operation is broken: smashing the glass is not enough to make it past it. And obviously you're concerned about protecting the data and the time and effort lost if the laptop is stolen, so an investment in this sort of passive protection system might be warranted - even if you throw in the price of a new (set of) window(s).

This is an example of just such a technology. I'm sure there are others and more than likely at a better price. The flipside is that in the event of an accident, it might increase the chances of injury (just a guess), or delay emergency personnel from prying your damaged laptop from your cold, dead fingers.

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Getting a Grip On an Inherited IT Mess?

goathumper Rebuild (424 comments)

The truth is if it's that fragile, then recovery or repair are not options because you never know when you'll be done. Your best strategy is to rebuild. Organize the rebuild jobs from smallest (simplest, or least-complex) to biggest, and start from the smaller ones.

Importantly, you need to understand what your infrastructure does and why (which you claim you're already trying to do). However, the most critical point is that your superiors understand what you're up against and the risks they bite into if they choose to not go forward with the rebuild(s).

Once you understand what it is you need to rebuild, then you can do it properly: document the strategy to be followed (and incredibly important is that you document the key reasoning points behind the decision process), and plan out the implementation. If your superiors find that it consumes too much of your time, try to talk them into hiring (one? two?) more folks to help you hold the fort while the rebuilds are in progress so the day-to-day isn't left in the lurch. I had to go through this type of a situation recently and the end result of the rebuilds was that the previously inevitable downtime went away almost completely (only ISP outages were an issue). Deployment of new servers was cut down by 95%, and tons and tons of other benefits. Biggest of all: by the time I was done, everything essentially ran itself and even on the end-user support things were almost automated (granted, 99% of my audience were tech-savvy so they didn't need much help anyway). 95%+ of my time was spent just scouring logs and servers to ensure everything was running smoothly (which it was).

Then again, the key point was selling my upper management on the fact that my predecessors had done such a lousy job of setting everything up that trying to fix it was more expensive than a from-scratch rebuild, and that they were one fly's fart away from a catastrophe. You don't need to scare them shitless, just point out where they are and what they're up against if a rebuild isn't even done (even rebuild of only SOME of the systems can make a huge difference). Make sure it's clearly stated in writing (a "big" e-mail explaining the situation clearly to get the ball rolling usually takes care of that).

Key thing: DO NOT try to fix or recover the old stuff - if it's really as messed up as you suggest, you will consume comparable amounts of time to a rebuild, with none of the benefits and the added risk that you didn't fix all the problems because you couldn't spot some of them.

One other thing that served me well in terms of plotting my strategy: take the approach that I'm building something and going to be fired the day I'm done, and whatever I build needs to be inheritable and clearly understandable by my potential successors. This angle will encourage you to keep it simple, stupid, well documented, and easy to maintain/audit. In the end, this is why your predecessors sucked: they didn't think they'd eventually (be) move(d) on - but in IT, that's the one constant: staff rotation.

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Ergonomic Office Environment?

goathumper Re:Exercise (235 comments)

Seconded. I've recently dropped ~70lbs (yes, I have pictures to prove it!! haha) in the span of about 9 months, and have not significantly decreased my time in front of the computer. What I have changed is that I exercise much more (~2h/day), and obviously eating right (but that's not what this is about).

My point is that with exercise, your body will keep itself aligned and tuned up (so to speak). Make sure that whoever your trainer is or "gym guy" is, knows his stuff - mine has made all the difference b/c he was able to spot all of the little "deformities" and "inconsistencies" in posture and movement that I had earned from ~20 years in front of a computer with marginal exercise. For instance, I have a bad knee injury which for the better part of 15 years has plagued me. I'm now able to play sports in spite of not yet having the surgery I need because of all the other corrections in posture and joint movement. Point is: it won't make you a jock, but it will make a HUGE difference and you'll be less vulnerable to "bad" or "un-ergonomic" equipment.

I'm now able to play sports again (like in high-school and early college), and my posture is near-picture perfect (still some things to tweak). I sleep better at night, and have no aches or pains anymore other than the occasional bruise from football (soccer, for the gringos in the house!) contact.

I do have this keyboard (but ONLY the keyboard), but that's because I'm used to the curvature. Other than that my equipment is fairly standard.

One important detail: proper posture of your back when you sit - regardless of the chair - is CRUCIAL. Always sit with your back up straight, no slouching, and your weight on your buttocks and adductors (back of your leg), with your knee making a ~90 degree angle (can be slightly more or slightly less, as comfortable, but the closer to 90 you are the better). You can relax this position occasionally for short periods, but never more than as a "break".

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Does Being 'Loyal' Pay As a Developer?

goathumper Re:You're a virgin! (735 comments)

I would have to disagree with much of what you say here, at least in the case of smaller companies. I've been fucked as much as the next guy (I think). And while I agree that your thinking is accurate when dealing with larger or somewhat politicized organizations, most smaller shops haven't yet succumbed to the corruption you speak of. If you've not been fucked, then don't act like you have... this is just me trying to see the glass half-full until proven otherwise (innocent until proven corrupt, anyone?).

I for one know of a small shop that got acquired a couple of years back in deep financial trouble. Everyone got fucked one way or the other. And I mean EVERYONE. Yet because of how things are run and their ability to insulate themselves from the parent company's policies, idiocy and bureaucracy, they are still fanatically loyal to each other as a group because they still run the shop the way they like it. That's an exception to the general rule of acquisitions, I know, but it also highlights the example that just because your cherry has been popped, you shouldn't assume everyone walking behind you has their dick in their hand waiting for you to drop your guard so they can play poke-the-stinker.

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Does Being 'Loyal' Pay As a Developer?

goathumper Two questions (735 comments)

There are two questions you need to ask yourself:

  • Will the company show YOU the same loyalty you're showing the company?
  • Will you be happy enough on the new job that you won't miss the old one?

In the end it all boils down to quality of life, a.k.a.: happiness. Does your current job make you happy? Do you look forward to going into work every day? That your job makes you happy may sound naïve to some, so let's sum it up as this: does going to work amount to a positive experience for you that you are (at least!) content to partake in?

To me, for example, the happiness is the kicker - if you can't guarantee yourself that you'll be happy enough in the new job that you won't miss your old one, then don't leave. Sure you'll be getting more money, saving on gas and time, and not dealing with the "long" commute... but if you're going to be miserable doing it, all you'll really be doing is giving up quality of life - and that tends to be fairly hard to come by once given up.

Note that I didn't mention how you would measure "happy with your current job" - that's something deeply personal that only you can ascertain. The key thing is: the level of happiness you expect in the new job must be sufficient that you won't miss your old one. Note that I don't say that you must be as happy as, or happier than... you just have to be happy enough that you won't want to go back.

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Best Way To Destroy Hard Drives?

goathumper Naive though it may sound, Zeroing it? (1016 comments)

A while back I remember a challenge being put out to any company specializing in drive forensics to recover ANY data from a drive that had been wiped using a simple dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda or what not. Something in the order of a million dollars or some other huge(ish) prize.

I also remember that there ended up being no takers for what would have in theory been a free meal if we're to believe the prevalent hooplah around drive forensics. Given how widely publicized the challenge was it was taken as many in the know as a sign that despite what the science behind the magnetic data on the platters says, once wiped to zeroes it becomes either impractical or impossible to reliably recover the actual data that was once stored there.

Again, this is just conjecture based on partially-informed observation, and incomplete recollection of that event. I didn't track it enough to know if there ended up being takers after all, how they fared, etc. I do remember it being publicized here on /. so you might search the archives for it. It was some time ago - years maybe, months definitely.

more than 2 years ago


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