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Ask Slashdot: Best Practices For Starting and Running a Software Shop?

microTodd Don't listen to naysayers...here's my experience (176 comments)

  • Set up a VM server...Oracle Virtualbox is free. Run integration/platform testing and maybe even development on shared VMs. Don't be scared to spin up new VMs a lot for any reason
  • Have a bug/task/defect tracking system. Either run bugzilla or JIRA or buy a cloud service like Atlassian's.
  • Decide on source code control and use it. Either Mercurial or Git is probably your best choice nowadays. Host your own or pay the relatively cheap rate for a cloud service
  • If your team is small, run your sprints in short spurts. When I have 2-4 person teams we do 1-week sprints. Daily standups are in a shared chatroom.
  • Continuous integration. Automated nightly builds/unit/system tests with emailed reports to the team. Always be ready to ship.
  • Don't skimp on your QC/test cycle...you'll hate yourself later when you have to pay down the technical debt. But in my experience new features/bulletpoints on the marketing slides sells more than the occasional bug takes away.

Play to your strengths. Be agile. React quickly to marketing changes. Some customer wants to buy but you don't do something? Promise it withing 6 weeks and then frickin' do it.

Good luck, dude. Its a fun and fulfilling endeavor.

8 hours ago
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How to Maintain Lab Safety While Making Viruses Deadlier

microTodd Re:Huh (218 comments)

Thank you. I was fairly surprised when I read that line in the summary and tried to Google it but couldn't find anything. I guess I should have RTFA instead of just RTFS

about 3 months ago
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Getting IT Talent In Government Will Take Culture Change, Says Google Engineer

microTodd Re:Not creative rock stars? (166 comments)

Well...

When I was Civil Service IT, I had frickin' awesome benefits (sick leave AND annual leave?? And sick leave doesn't have max carryover?!? And I can use sick leave as paternity leave?!?!?!?!?), I got 3 hours a week PAID to go to the gym (link), and I got to work a 9/80 schedule.

In the private sector job I'm at now, where you have to, you know, actually produce results on time and under budget, I'm frequently working nights and long hours because if I don't get our release done by a certain date, our customer won't pay us and I won't have a job.

But yeah, despite the awesomeness of the benefits and work life of civil service, it can be pretty soul-crushing to not actually do anything relevant and important. I spent most of my time making powerpoint slides of our enterprise architecture. And I probably got between 80-120 emails a day. And usually had at least 3-5 meetings.

Contrast that with my current commercial corporate job, I am directly responsible for delivery and revenue so I'm usually left alone so I can actually deliver.

about 3 months ago
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Company Uses 3D Printing and Design To Change the Way We Look At Prosthetics

microTodd Best Quote(paraphrase): "My leg is now badass" (28 comments)

A guy quoted in the article said something like, "I've never had someone tell me my leg was badass before." This (seemed to me like) was said in a positive way. Dude is an athlete.

I have to say, I think these guys hit it right on the nose. Why did all prosthetics before look like metal poles or wooden sticks? Why can't they be leg-shaped, like a mannequin? Why can't they be all colorful or sleek, make you look like Iron Man or have your favorite sports team or whatever on it?

I can't even imagine what being an amputee is like, but this seems like a positive, morale-boosting step in the right direction.

Super kudos to them, and super awesome way to show how 3D printing is awesome.

about 4 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Inspired You To Start Hacking?

microTodd Cheating on the old text adventure games (153 comments)

My dad bought a TI-99/4A when I was about 7 or 8. I did the BASIC tutorial, learned how to load the old scott adams games like 'pirate adventure' from cassette. Then I learned how to modify the source, started doing things like changing my inventory and teleporting from room to room. Then I started writing my own games. All by the time I was about 10.

about 6 months ago
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I expect to retire ...

microTodd Re:By choice, not by necessity... (341 comments)

Why are you not doing "fun" work now, instead of sitting at a cube? Become a consultant now. Telecommute and work at the beach.

I made the change about 2 years ago. Left corporate cubelandia and created my own company. Its a shit-ton of work but a LOT more fun. And I've got two school age kids and a stay at home wife so I'm the sole breadwinner. Everyone thought I was nuts. But so far its turned out ok. Yeah its risky but so is life.

about 7 months ago
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I expect to retire ...

microTodd By choice, not by necessity... (341 comments)

I'm sure a lot of people who said "Never" are because they can never afford it. Cue gripes about economy, job market, politics, etc.

But for me its because I enjoy working. The dean at my last college was a retired CPA. At my last job several of the retired engineers still booked consulting hours. Barring any medical issues I hope to stay busy and active my entire life doing something I enjoy.

about 7 months ago
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What day of the week is your most productive?

microTodd Right before I have to leave (91 comments)

Seriously. Its frustrating. I try to not work too late cause I want to see my kids before bedtime but right around 4PM is when I get this big rush of energy. It was great in college and when I was single but now it just creates conflict in my life. So I'm stuck between wanting to stay and work or head out the door.

about 8 months ago
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Kickstarted Veronica Mars Promised Digital Download; Pirate Bay Delivers

microTodd Re:Warner used Kickstarter? Bad precedent... (243 comments)

Aha. Yeah I went and RTFA after I posted.

So its not black and white...its a shade of grey.

about 8 months ago
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Kickstarted Veronica Mars Promised Digital Download; Pirate Bay Delivers

microTodd Warner used Kickstarter? Bad precedent... (243 comments)

wait a minute...I'm late to the game here but let me make sure I understand the story.

  1. Warner...frickin' Warner Bros, which made $12B in revenue last year, parent company is Time frickin' Warner...used Kickstarter to fund a movie?
  2. After raising $5M on kickstarter they used that to fund the movie
  3. The movie, after it was released and they started making money, then basically paid back part of the kickstarter because they are reneging on the kickstarter deal?
  4. PROFIT!!!

so basically they played the system to get an interest-free loan.

I thought kickstarter was really for people who couldn't conventionally raise funds?

Well, ok. I just read the Kickstarter FAQ. They don't really say anything like that. Its for any creative project. https://www.kickstarter.com/he...

So yeah, I guess even if you are a $12Billion company you can use kickstarter instead of fronting your own money.

about 8 months ago
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Silicon Valley's Youth Problem

microTodd Re:Barrier to entry (225 comments)

So I've seen several anecdotal refutations to my assertions in the parent comment. I think these are interesting and I appreciate hearing these stories. The Slashdot collective hivemind seems to push the "HR sux" comments to the top and since I read at "3" I probably don't see the opposite stories.

What I think is interesting is that the anecdotes are all about Cisco, and even in this article the author talks about how Cisco is doing some things "out of the box" to address this issue. So at least they recognize the situation are are trying things to address it. So maybe Cisco is one of the better companies to work for?

about 8 months ago
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Silicon Valley's Youth Problem

microTodd Re:Barrier to entry (225 comments)

I think this comment might be closer to the truth. We always see Slashdot stories and anecdotes about how big companies' HR procedures are dumb and you can't barely get hired there because of that (i.e. 10 years experience in a 5-year-old tech. Not willing to train because you have to "hit the ground running"). Meanwhile a startup founder will meet with you at Your Coffee Place Of Choice and hire you on the spot.

So...younger, no experience, not trained in resume writing? Probably can't even get an interview at Cisco.

As I see it, its the big companies' problem. They're the ones with screwed up HR procedures.

about 8 months ago
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Time sucked into Netflix or similar, weekly:

microTodd Much more than I realized....(yes I'm American) (146 comments)

So at first I thought, nah, not that much. But then I really thought about it. It adds up quick.

If every night during the week I watch 1 1-hour show with my wife before we go to sleep. Then a movie on each day Sat and Sun, that's already like 10 hours! I didn't realize I was spending so much time watching TV (or at least the modern equivalent of TV). I could easily see someone who is NOT a TV-a-holic put in 20 hours. All you have to do is watch a movie a day, maybe two on weekends, and you're already up there.

That being said, its not like I sit and stare at the screen blankly. Usually my wife and I will converse about whatever it is we're watching, and frequently the weekend shows get interrupted with kids, games, phone calls, reading a magazine, or heck sometimes even sex.

But yeah, I was a little shocked and disappointed in myself when I realized the hour count was so high, because I'll bet its even higher for my kids. I'll have to look into that.

about 9 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Do You Run a Copy-Cat Installation At Home?

microTodd Self employed so no separation (308 comments)

This was an interesting question and I feel like I can give an interesting answer. I'm self-employed, in that I'm the owner of the company. So for me there is no separation. My "work" laptop is also my beefiest and hence my primary laptop. I can dictate how our lab environment is built out.

To address what you talk about with my employees, generally speaking I'm pretty lenient with what they want to use and do (no porn no pirated software, that's pretty much it). I give pretty much free reign in the lab. I do this by having a development VM server and allowing a dev to spin up pretty much any VM he wants. I got an MSDN subscription to cover all the various MS OS flavors, but I see lots of ubuntu and OpenSolaris VMs too.

The bigger issue for me is not computing resources, its time. You have to show me that your research efforts are worth our time. If we're building a J2EE project on top of Ubuntu with mysql, I will question why you are doing a python tutorial on the company time, for example.

For me personally, since we're a small company and cashflow is tight I personally follow a "10% IPA rule". No more than 10% of my time can be spent on non-Income-Producing-Activity. I try to make sure 90% of my time is directly billable to revenue and not spend more than 10% of my time beyond that. Maybe larger companies with bigger profit margins can handle more, but we just can't right now.

I certainly encourage people to learn new things and I can see the value of doing this out of left field. (For example, last year I decided to finally really learn functional programming, and it gave me a huge positive impact on my vanilla Java/Perl/JS/etc coding). And since most engineering talent is the geeky sort who love to learn for learning's sake then its a positive morale influence to let people dabble. But when I can see the cash flow report every month then I can see where the PHB/clueless MBAs get nervous when you spend too much time doing research and learning.

Now, when you mention security being an issue.....well, can't help you there. Most large companies have fairly brain-dead security policies so there's not much you can do about it.

about a year ago
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New Documentary Chronicles Road Tripping Scientists Promoting Reason

microTodd Re:Atheism is a religion (674 comments)

This really intrigued me. I've never thought of atheism as a "religion" per se. It seemed silly to me, like calling someone who chooses to not watch sports a fan (see? silly!). But let's see what the dictionary thinks.

reÂliÂgion noun \ri-Ëli-jÉ(TM)n\
: the belief in a god or in a group of gods

: an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods

: an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/religion

The third definition is certainly interesting. If Dawkins and these other scientists feel strongly enough about their atheism to write books and make movies and go on lecture tours then I would posit that this interest/activity is very important to them.

So yeah, maybe hardcore atheism IS a religion.

about a year ago
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Nasdaq 4000 — This Time It's Different?

microTodd Re:What if you could earn money on a CD? (241 comments)

How do you do #2 without a lot of work? I like the idea of microloans where someone else does the legwork and paperwork but I don't have the know-how to find a farmer, convince him to borrow from me instead of a bank, and then do the paperwork right.

about a year ago
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22-Year-Old Norwegian Magnus Carlsen Is the New World Chess Champion

microTodd What was the "huge mistake" by Anand? (131 comments)

I read the articles and am kind of a novice chess player but I can't figure out what this "huge blunder" that Vishy made? He was playing white and didn't respond properly to an attack from black? This would be huge, right? Isn't it typically when playing white you play to win and black you play to draw (that one-move advantage is huge)? So the fact that Carlsen got a win as Black was huge, right?

Can someone explain the details of the mistake to me? The commentators and commenters all make it seem obvious but I can't tell what's going on.

I've always wanted to be good at chess (I equate it to being "smart") but I've never been able to be very good at it.

1 year,4 days
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Norway's Army Battles Global Warming By Going Vegetarian

microTodd Re:ridiculous... (495 comments)

If it makes you feel better (and I mean this with all sincerity) I don't think you and your wife are idiots. My wife and I experience the same thing. Whenever we try to do something "good" that pushes outside the typical societal norm, everyone thinks we are idiots. It can be very frustrating. We jokingly call it "us against the world". So actually I'm glad to know we're not alone.

1 year,4 days
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Soylent: No Food For 30 Days

microTodd Re:Calories (440 comments)

Nope. Your body's "at rest" metabolism absolutely dominates. Even a high activity level only BARELY changes the number of calories you need. It takes something on the order of running marathons to significantly change your metabolism. The level of deviation from base metabolism is positively tiny, across a wide range of physical activity levels.

I know I'm late to the game replying to your post, but is this true? This seems like the exact opposite of what I hear and read a lot. The concept of doing strength training for example, because "muscle burns more calories than fat". In other words, by building muscle you are increasing your RMR. Which is basically completely different than what you said.

Or am I missing something? This is an honest question...I, like many USians, am trying to lose weight.

1 year,13 days

Submissions

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Finding Work-Life Balance Between Family and Coding

microTodd microTodd writes  |  more than 2 years ago

microTodd (240390) writes "I am a long time reader of Slashdot and I greatly respect the thoughts and opinions of much of the readership. But after doing some searches I found an issue that has never really been deeply explored on Slashdot. I currently work as a developer in a demanding position, and I really love what I'm doing and can happily spend many hours a day at my desk coding. However, I'm also married with 2 young children and I have an obligation to spend time with them and be a supportive, loving husband and father. Not surprisingly these two things come into constant conflict with one another. I tried waking up earlier to work but the kids are basically awake and demanding attention early as well. I tried working at night but after being up all day and putting the kids to bed and spending some quality time with my wife its usually really late and I'm pretty exhausted. Not to mention adding in exercise, cooking, chores, etc. So to my Slashdot brethren (because despite jokes about being basement-dwellers I know many of us are married with kids), how do you find this balance in your life? Or do you just accept the fact that you have to give up some aspects and can't be good at it all?"
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Ensuring validity and safety of a download website

microTodd microTodd writes  |  more than 5 years ago

microTodd (240390) writes "When I'm perusing the web, like many here I like to download various open source and shareware apps to use. The problem is, how do you know if the download site you are at is legit, or if its a black hat trying to get you to install a trojan or virus? Sometimes, older apps can no longer be found on the reputable standards (cnet, tucows, etc) so by using Google or torret searches the file can be found in other places. I try to use wikipedia or Google to get people's opinions on the site, but how do the tech-savvy Slashdot users ensure they are not getting something bad?"
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School won't release kids to parents

microTodd microTodd writes  |  more than 7 years ago

microTodd writes "Last week, during a thunderstorm, elementary and middle schools in Orange County, FL, would not release students, not even when the parents were right there in the lobby. Due to a lightning policy, some parents waited over four hours in the cafeteria for their kids. A child was killed a couple years ago from a lightning strike while boarding a bus so I can see why the schools were concerned (or feared a lawsuit) but it was interesting to note that apparently when a child goes to school in Florida, parental rights are absconded."
Link to Original Source

Journals

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From SamTheButcher(574069) and JWSmythe's Journals'

microTodd microTodd writes  |  more than 10 years ago

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Turn to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions

"Then the overall machine will correctly compute n+1." --- Computational Complexity by Christos Padadimitriou

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