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65,000 Complaints Later, Microsoft Files Suit Against Tech Support Scammers

lrichardson Re:I have a fun time with these calls (246 comments)

Used #5 myself - another 'The New Age' fan.

My wife has used the "But, we don't have any computers in the house. Phones? Yes, we've got one of those, with the dial that spins around."

I've also used the "There's a pop-up window. It says "Navigation to this site has been blocked. This site contains malicious software. What does that mean?"

about a month and a half ago

Ask Slashdot: How To Avoid Becoming a Complacent Software Developer?

lrichardson Re:Change Jobs (275 comments)

I take the opposite view - when I see version control, bug tracking, and automated testing, it sets off alarm bells that a company is in the compartmentalization downslide. An IT group that is stretched too thin, asked to do too many things, or held accountable for things beyond its control, and has therefore devised methods to insulate itself from complaints ... and accountability.

"Thank goodness for quality control; without it, who knows what heights quality could soar to!"

Take HPQC (please!) ... the overwhelming majority of people who use it are challenged by anything more than drag-n-drop. Worse, management of these groups goes for the easy metrics it can provide (e.g. # of typos), rather than anything meaningful. One project I was part of had nearly thirty testers checking on such important things as 'Did Field A make it from Database 1 to Database 2?'. Checking the financial totals matched? 1.5 people, not using HPQC, which simply couldn't do that testing. Needless to say, the HPQC team put out lots of reports showing how the number of defects was rapidly decreasing ... and the entire project went down in flames.

(I have a theory that Mercury, the company that originally devised this product, simply hit upon something that appealed to management; the reality was that it did more to destroy quality than improve it was part of their scam. And the company, and subsequently HP, ended up paying tens of millions in fines when all their other scam-like behaviour came out. It's hard to imagine something useful ever evolving out of a criminal origin)

"When people start to value process over product, it's time to kick them to the curb."

The use of these tools _can_ have value. But, more often, it results in people who take refuge in the cry "But I did what was required of me!" Yep, 'The patient died, but the operation was a success!' mentality.

about 4 months ago

Sony Tosses the Sony Reader On the Scrap Heap

lrichardson Re:That kinda sucks (172 comments)

I thought Sony had learned their lesson after losing completely and utterly to VHS. Most would agree Betamax was a superior product, technically speaking, but being the 'better' product is no guarantee of success - pricing and marketing are critical. They priced themselves out of existence.

Blu-ray was a much better roll-out. They enlisted major studios before the product hit the market. Licensed it to many other companies. And the pricing - while still not making most happy - is keeping them in the game. (And Toshiba's HD DVD died just like Betamax did before it)

I had a pair of the Sony eReaders. They were great - insane battery life, excellent controls. And no stupid touch-screen - like any sane person wants fingerprints on their reading surface? OTOH, the software, as you said, sucked big-time. And then, both readers died within a few months of each other. And my customer experience with Sony pretty much drove me to the competition. And while that is a technically inferior model, I don't suffer from the software pains that Sony caused.

My Sony library still exists - inaccessible - on my hard-drive, thanks to their !@#$ DRM insanity. Again, part of the friendly service from the Sony people - their advice began and ended with 'Buy a newer Sony eReader!'

about 6 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Re-Learning How To Interview As a Developer?

lrichardson Maybe ... (218 comments)

It's not you.

I've had some odd interviews over the years. One in which the head of IT was a Luddite - and proud of it. One in which the phone and HR interviews went well, but the interview with the manager left me wondering if she had psychological problems ... later, from my headhunter, I learned her sister was going though a very bad breakup, including stalking, and I was very similar to the ex.

And, of course, sometimes the interview is for show. They've got someone they want, but have to keep HR happy, and demonstrate they considered other candidates.

My best advice is a) research the company/position, b) be honest, and c) try and be positive. Note that 'being honest' doesn't preclude omitting horrendous things. e.g. "I made an internal transfer as soon as I realized my boss was a lying, backstabbing hypocritical s.o.b., and was much happier with my new position." can be reworded as "I made an internal transfer, after achieving some great things in my first position, because the new job offered more opportunities for professional development."

about 10 months ago

How Do You Detect Cheating In Chess? Watch the Computer

lrichardson Re:Simply put.. (328 comments)

The first series (1996) was a PR scam. It is incorrect to say he was playing 'Deep Blue'. It is far, far more correct to say he was playing a team, comprising many of the top players, who used Deep Blue to test their moves before implementing them. The programming on the machine changed daily. In the second series, the program was - according to IBM - only changed between games ... although there was a serious question of a mid-game change (Game 1) that led to the computer's loss.

That said, yeah, a lot of modern machines leave their predecessors in the dust, computationally. Chess algorithms ... not so much. Deep Blue's 'innovation', such as it was, was simply to numerically rate a sequence of moves, discarding the lowest scoring, and then continuing its computation from that point. (...and it was a supercomputer) Contrasting with the previous 'Brute force, try all possibilities, select the best after _n_ moves.' As chess is, practically, a finite game, once computers reach the level of _n_ that is about the end point of all games, they aren't going to lose anymore. A lot of the modern chess programs that are free/cheap follow the brute force model, not the more analytical method pioneered by Deep Blue. The top machines do have better coding that Deep Blue ... more importantly, the number of plies has improved, due to better weighting (far more situational / far less point oriented).

about 2 years ago

Searching For Backdoors From Rogue IT Staff

lrichardson Re:Three words (328 comments)

Yes and no. I've done so flashing-star, how-the-heck-did-you-get-that programming, mostly because of a unique position that straddled various corporate silos.

Two killers, i.e. 'making them so complex only ...'

1/ Not having the time to clean stuff up. If it works, management generally wants you to move on to the next fire.

2/ Documentation oversights and assumptions. "Check the syslog for errors" doesn't cover what to do when errors arise. I'd reached the point of coding the automated sending of e-mails on errors - with the fix included - to the person running a job, on dozens of issues. Things that one just assumes after years of experience are complete show-stoppers to someone who doesn't have that same experience. And it only shows up when someone else does try and run something, per the documentation.

&, of course, 1.5, not having the time to do any documentation ...

I like automating the heck out of stuff, handing it off to some poor schlub to run as needed/scheduled, and moving on to the next problem. But I also recognize that it's done me out of a job a couple of times. Which really, truly sucks.

The best advice I received from a friend was "Don't make yourself indispensible. You won't get vacations."

It's a trade-off. I think I prefer being viewed as a valuable asset, getting new challenges, rather than the only guy who knows how to fix something.

more than 4 years ago

Circuit City and the American Dream

lrichardson Re:Democracy? (835 comments)

Rights are pretty much defined by society. No more, no less. There are no absolute 'Rights'. And let's not forget every 'right' also has a matching 'responsibility'.

That said, US law does support wrongful termination, in many states. Which, strangely enough, covers people quitting when their work is substantially changed ... i.e. a $50K programmer gets transferred to a $11K washroom scrubber. Or telling someone that their salary has just been cut in half.

The legal fiction of firing, and then rehiring for the same position, at a lower wage, has been stomped on by the courts.

Although - and this is where things get interesting - I'm wondering if 10 weeks is long enough to get around the courts' interpretation of the prior precedent. That's slightly over two months, which far exceeds the previous cases.

The reason the courts originally jumped in was because this was used as a union busting tactic. A company's workforce goes union, the company lays them all off ... changes hands on paper ... and then offers to rehire previous employees (albeit with different titles and lower wages). Needless to say, the (US) courts take a very dim view of anyone trying legal trickery (that is, after all, reserved for themselves in their decisions).

But man, Circuit City? The company that even beats cable companies at the BBB for number of complaints? Buying there is idiotic enough (Go NewEgg!), working there about the same.

more than 7 years ago


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