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Comments

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Ask Slashdot: "Real" Computer Scientists vs. Modern Curriculum?

mckellar75238 Experience Only counts If You Learn From It (637 comments)

After 10 years in IT, you should already have a good answer to your own question. If you don't, you may already be too far behind the curve. Look at your peers; in particular, look at what the successful ones know that the others don't.

You should understand how computers work. You should understand how systems talk to each other. You should understand how to communicate what you want to the computer. The more of this you do, in fact, know, the better off you'll be in the future. Try to learn it ALL; you won't, but the closer you get the better off you'll be.

Of course, when you start getting close enough to stand out, either you'll be running your own company successfully, or you'll be wondering why those whippersnappers around you are waiting for you to fall over dead. Whatever you do, don't spend your money just because you have it. Either gamble big and win (i.e., get the Big Bucks for designing and building the Next Big Thing) or save carefully so that you won't be depending on Social Security (or the current equivalent when you get that far) to pay for your food, clothing, and shelter.

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About the Sorry State of FOSS Documentation?

mckellar75238 Re:Yes! (430 comments)

This has been my experience as well -- although, to be fair, it's been a while since I actually got "RTFM" as an answer. (It's just as well; my response would probably have been, "That's fine, but which FM should I be R'ing?")

To answer the OP's question about what I do: I generally use Google, with as many key words as I need to use to refine the links returned. As an example, when I ran into a problem with not being able to enable my speakers, I Googled "[sound subsystem] speakers not found" and rummaged through the links returned until I found a workaround. That was a year or two ago, BTW, and the problem still hasn't been fixed properly, but at least the workaround is still good. And, yes, I did notify the package owner about what I found. Not only didn't he fix it, he never replied. But at least I had the satisfaction of knowing I'd done what I could.

about two weeks ago
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Workaholism In America Is Hurting the Economy

mckellar75238 It's All About Productivity (710 comments)

I've read comments above about loving your job, about pressure from management, about socialism, about Obamacare, and none of them seemed really to address the issue -- at least, as far as I could see. I worked in IT for 25 years, plus another 15 or so in other fields. I absolutely loved programming, the others just paid the bills, but there was one constant: my productivity maxed out at about 45 hours a week. If I worked 50, I didn't get any more done (net, i.e., after fixing errors) than if I had only worked 40; if I worked more than 50, things just got worse. I'm sure I lost some job offers along the way, because I was always careful to ask about overtime and then describe my experience if I was told it would be significant. Yes, I would work overtime if it was necessary; if it needs to be done, then "suck it up" is the rule of the day. But long term, heavy overtime costs more than it gains -- even if it's unpaid.

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Are You Apocalypse-Useful?

mckellar75238 Second Career (737 comments)

For 25 years I was a computer programmer (software designer) (systems engineer) (ehh, pick your own title). Then I got laid off and fell back on my hobby, which was brewing beer. I think I'd do okay.

about 4 months ago
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Should Patients Have the Option To Not Know Their DNA?

mckellar75238 Who Would (or Wouldn't) Want to Know? (157 comments)

As asked, the question seems ludicrous; "If you don't want to know, don't ask." But I am sure there are some things (venereal diseases, for example) that doctors are required to inform their patients about. The more important question is, "What will the doctor tell anyone else?" Even if I wouldn't choose to tell others, I would certainly want to know what my insurance company (again, for example) was being told about me.

about 5 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Development Requirements Change But Deadlines Do Not?

mckellar75238 Easy Fix, but it's hard to sell (221 comments)

As has already been mentioned, this is an age-old problem. One of my co-workers many years ago addressed it thusly (after long and bitter discussion): "Okay, you demand that I finish it quickly? All right, I give up; it's finished. Now, when do you want to discuss fixing the bugs?" Never, ever, EVER let anyone talk you into a time commitment you don't think you can meet. If you do, you'll get fired just as surely -- and with much better cause -- as because you won't knuckle under to unreasonable demands.

about a year ago
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Real World Code Sucks

mckellar75238 Academia Isn't the Real World? Who knew??! (292 comments)

So, "real world" code isn't clean and elegant. So what? Get over it. In case you haven't noticed it, most of us out here don't look like high school or college athletes, either. Life is a compromise between avoiding problems and getting things done. Look at the problem you've been dealt, do the best you can with it, and go on to the nest one.

about a year and a half ago
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Apple Patents Page Turn Animation

mckellar75238 Re:A prior art ? (192 comments)

If you can't remember that movie, don't worry about it; I've seen the same effect in earlier movies -- usually with calendars rather than books, though; I hope that doesn't invalidate the concept.

about 2 years ago
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Why Coding At Fifty May Be Nifty

mckellar75238 66 and retired -- but not by choice (317 comments)

I wrote code for a little over 20 years, starting when I was 30-something. Then I got caught in a layoff in the double-whammie of the dotcom bubble bursting and 9/11; by the time people were hiring again, my resume had gone completely stale and I was in my mid-50s. Even taking some retooling classes, i couldn't find anyone who would hire me. I ended up retiring out of a retail job that barely paid the bills. Now I'm living on savings and Social Security; fortunately, the savings survived all of the turmoil, so it's enough.

I know I did some things wrong (didn't take XXX classes, spent too much time on YYY job boards, didn't get to the ZZZ networking sessions, ...) while looking for another job; that's not the point. If someone offered me a job coding, I'd probably take it, enjoy it, and do it well, but I've given up hope finding it for myself; the repeated "Sorry, we're not interested -- Next!" just got too painful to endure, so I quit trying.

So, why am I grumping about and not adding anything to the conversation? Partly to get it off my chest, and partly to make this one point: The older you get, the harder it is to find someone who will hire you. I don't know why that is, or even if it's true for everyone, but it certainly was for me. If you're over 30, keep an eye on what's happening around you. If it looks like things are going south, jump ship while you still can. It's a lot easier to get a new job if you look while you're still in the old one.

about 2 years ago
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Analytics Company Settles Charges For User Tracking

mckellar75238 Re:Socialist fucks (43 comments)

A completely free market doesn't really benefit society as a whole nearly as much as it does the strongest competitors -- who are not necessarily the best citizens. It's a special case of "might makes right" -- not, IMHO, the best basis for an economic or social system. But then, no one worries about walking through the valley of the shadow of death if they think they're the biggest, baddest motherf*cker in the valley.

about 2 years ago
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Analytics Company Settles Charges For User Tracking

mckellar75238 Who should really win? (43 comments)

Apparently the real purpose of class action suits is not compensation for the victims, but rather punishment of the guilty; if that is really the case, it makes sense that the lawyers who did the work should be the big winners. But, in my mind, that a very big "if."

about 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Am I Too Old To Retrain?

mckellar75238 Too Old to Retrain? (418 comments)

No. If you can't retrain (and you don't know that), it because you've forgotten how to learn, not because of your age. The only way to find out is to try.

But be aware that, at 40, you've crossed over into what passes for middle age in the development world. This isn't necessarily fatal, but it does mean that you can't afford to leave a current job before having the next one secured. Being over 40, having an out-of-date skill set, and not having a current job (in no particular order) are all strikes against you if they apply. You can overcome one; you might overcome two; all three is more than you want to face.

Believe me, I know. I was laid off just before 9/11, with no web or database experience, and that's all anyone wanted then. I never did get back into IT, i spite of taking several classes, and ended up retiring out of retail sales. Even the hiring mangers near my age wouldn't take a chance on an over-40 with no working background in what they were doing.

And, yes, I KNOW that age discrimination is illegal. That doesn't keep it from happening.

about 2 years ago
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Are 10-11 Hour Programming Days Feasible?

mckellar75238 Too much overtime means less effective work done (997 comments)

Tell him that too much overtime is counter-productive, because the error count goes up faster than the extra work does. Anyone who can work much over 45 hours a week without suffering a drop in effectiveness isn't putting out full effort while working less than that. If he doesn't agree, find another job fast -- he doesn't know what he's doing.

more than 3 years ago
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If IP Is Property, Where Is the Property Tax?

mckellar75238 Re:Wow... (691 comments)

I have to agree; setting a value to be taxed is the key. But, as several have pointed out, allowing anyone who wishes to force a sale at the value declared for tax purposes would allow the deep pockets to simply steamroller the little guys and also, essentially, destroy the open source movement. As much of a Heinlein fans as I am, I can't see this working for IP.

On the other hand, setting the value based on yearly sales is even less workable, at least for the open source community. The people making most of the money from Linux are the release publishers, not the copyright holder (Linus). Do we really want the paperwork nightmare that would result from trying to manage this?

My own feeling is that the best answer is also the simplest: Cut back the duration of copyright to a more reasonable time -- say, somewhere around 5 to 20 years. I would also, in the case of software, advocate putting the source code in escrow, to be released to the public at the end of the copyright period. There would, of course, be nothing preventing the author from improving the code in the meantime and acquiring new copyrights at any time, but the new copyright would only cover the changes, not the original unmodified code.

more than 6 years ago

Submissions

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How to Get Started in Linux Graphics Programming

mckellar75238 mckellar75238 writes  |  about 2 years ago

mckellar75238 (1218210) writes "Can anyone suggest a good way to get into writing X Windows code for Linux? I'm no longer working for a living, but I'm not ready to quit coding yet; my problem is that, although I flatter myself that I'm a good coder, I don't know the tools I need to pop up a window and make it do what I want. I run Fedora Linux 99% of the time, and this is for my own pleasure only, so I need Linux tools that are either free or only a small cost.

To give you an idea of what I' want to do, I used to do graphical UI work for a small VAR company selling PC systems in the pre-Windows world;I really loved that, until they were bought out by a competitor and I had to switch fields (to telecomm, not that it matters). Now that I'm no longer doing telecomm, I'd like to go back to graphics, but everything I knew then is decades out of date.

What I'm really looking for is the Linux equivalent of the Microsoft Visual C IDE. I liked the way I could use it to create a window object, add the bells and whistles I wanted, and then pull up the code in the editor and start adding the "under the hood" code to do what I really wanted. I've tried a couple of Linux IDEs, but the ones I've used so far either are buggy, have little or no documentation, or otherwise leave me floundering helplessly. What I really need is a mentor of some kind, but not having any human ones around, I have to rely on software. Can anyone help me get started?"
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Mechanical Energy Storage

mckellar75238 mckellar75238 writes  |  more than 6 years ago

mckellar75238 (1218210) writes "In reading this article on the cost of green energy production, I came across the following text:

"... Whereas coal, nuclear, natural gas, and geothermal plants are able to provide base-load power — that is, nearly continuous power — solar and wind are intermittent resources. To compete with conventional sources, solar and wind have to be paired with base-load power sources, or require the implementation of energy storage and so-called smart-grid capabilities such as devices that help users and utilities better conserve energy and reduce consumption during peak demand. ..."

Something else I was reading recently — I don't remember what, and it really doesn't matter — reminded me that there are various ways of storing mechanical energy (such as wind energy) with near-perfect efficiency; as an example, a turning shaft could drive a gear train to lift a heavy weight in a deep well, and the weight could in turn be used to produce other forms of energy (for example, driving an electrical generator). Not only would this provide a way of driving the generator when no wind was blowing, but the generator could be fine-tuned to the constant force of the falling weight to improve its efficiency. Does anyone know of any efforts to pair these, or similarly complementary, technologies?"

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