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Ask Slashdot: Should You Invest In Documentation, Or UX?

ripvlan Separate Docs from Training (199 comments)

Yes - an obvious UI should reduce the need for documentation. Are you documenting every single screen - and is it really useful?

We split everything into a few buckets:
  * Proper and Intended Use of the product
  * End User Training
  * Suggested workflow and use (kind of a how-to accomplish important tasks)

If users are unable to accomplish their work without reading the documentation - then there is a problem. Our documentation went down from "feet thick" to a small "1 cm thick" manual. Via a removal of duplication and splitting into Role based helped keep changes to a minimum.

Of course - if the UI is changing that drastically every year - are the customers happy? It sounds like there's a huge investment from the customer base to re-learn the product every year. At some point I'd get tired of that and slow down how often I upgraded...or went looking for a less complicated product.

To answer your general question: Yes - it is possible and you will be successful in doing it.
Wider question, not asked but we all derived, it sounds like some change control needs to happen.

Good luck.

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: "Real" Computer Scientists vs. Modern Curriculum?

ripvlan Re:Three Divisions of Computer Science (637 comments)

Yes - thank you for this - I'll add my follow on here.

I've heard people speak of this difference as Computer Scientist (strategy/concepts) vs a Computer Engineer (code monkey/skills)

Your job will be to solve problems - what language you use is secondary. Solving the problem efficiently is more important than the language you use. My current company outsources to the lowest bidder the code monkey/maint jobs and retains the educated people to solve the hard problems.

Differences in teaching methodology via an example: I recently took a Relational database class at the local University (my alma mater), and a younger friend did the same at a local "skills" College. I learned Relational Algebra & Calculus, how one mathematically reduces a statement to find the shortest/fastest "plan" - brush up on set theory, and how modern "search" is really done. He learned SQL Syntax and how to write/type SQL. I also looked at his C#/Java class and he was learning Syntax - whereas I remember learning Linked Lists the differences between Asm/Lisp/C/Prolog (yea - a while ago) - Functional vs Imperative vs Logic vs... etc and syntax came only as part of learning the concepts and visiting each language.

Coding-wise, when I went to University - Java didn't exist (actually, ANSI-C had just become - well ANSI Standard C, my K&R book was stamped "NEW! Updated for ANSI-C"). But I learned what Garbage collection was - in the class on memory management and CPU architecture. What is a Heap/Stack and why approaches such as Garbage collection are useful (including algorithms for multi vs single pass culling) There were little 1 credit classes to learn specific languages(e.g. later on C++). Heck - I even learned how an ALU physically works in my EE class (that was way-cool ! A light bulb went on and I switched from EE to CS)

The best classes where the Analysis of Algorithms & Data Structures. While I hated it at the time, learning what O(n) means has turned out to be very helpful - esp when applied to other concepts like Bandwidth and Latency. A lot of "new" programmers don't understand latency and believe trips across the wire are just fine - yo - make as many as you'd like. In my day a trip across the wire was from the CPU to main memory. No adays it is from browser to web-server. However, with proper training one learns the Min/Max of "as few as necessary"

If your method of solving a problem can't possibly go faster - fiddling with code will only improve it in single digit percentages. Knowing why this is and finding the better algorithm or mathematical simplification/reduction will improve execution time by double/triple or maybe exponentially - and thus make you a better asset.

about three weeks ago
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White House petitioned to save those in hot cars

ripvlan A law to violate personal space (13 comments)

Yeah - I can see it now... "I saw a dog panting in the locked car" ... "oh - your purse is missing from the front seat?! don't know anything about that, and you're right...there wasn't a dog in the car"

Liberals need a law to do the right thing. Ask first for permission!

Don't most states have a Good Samaritan law? and isn't that enough?

about a month and a half ago
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Massachusetts SWAT Teams Claim They're Private Corporations, Immune To Oversight

ripvlan Re:This is not a contract issue (534 comments)

The government has certain protections not afforded to the rest of us. You can't sue the gov't for certain things (like having an accident on the highway). I don't recall what this protection is called. But I don't believe it can be extended.

Therefore - is SWAT responsible for things that go wrong? And can they be individually sued ? The Govt can contract - but can they extend protections?

Ooooh, what an interesting definition they've put on themselves.

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Would It Take For You To Buy a Smartwatch?

ripvlan Re:Only if... (427 comments)

I'm growing weary of the "smartphone" - yes, it is very nice to have. But I look at my life and being mobile. Personally a smaller phone would be better - my phone is not my computer.

I'm reminded of the Dilbert where he's surfing the web with one eye on his smartwatch, "h..t..t..p...://w...w...w..."

My watch tells me the time. Sure I could fish around in my pockets and pull out the phone, turn it on, then put it back in my pocket. Or glance at my wrist - done. Although I don't really need to know the time - guessing tends to be good enough. A quick glance is important.

Hence - what is a wearable for me: My watch is jewlery/dressy, waterproof, shockproof, multiple years between charges...and above all cheap. If I smash it - I'll buy a new one. It is small, doesn't weigh much, and is fast & good at doing it's main function.

I've wished that my phone could come apart into a smaller piece. Reading SMS ("hi - we're running late"), Weather alerts, and phone call (emergency), and a few other basic functions when I'm out hiking/biking etc. Having a hunk of aluminum and glass in my pocket is not inconvenient (and some want a bigger phone?!)

Therefore the mobile watch sounds good. It must have week of battery - I can't be tied to a power cord, esp when traveling. Waterproof, show the time, weather alerts (the only news that really matters), and since it is a sensor - measure some data to help monitor daily goals for exercise. And above all - needs to look nice, and not be a piece of black rubber.

Although being able to take a photo and post to {insert social media of week} could be fun.

about 2 months ago
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eBay Compromised

ripvlan Wait - what?! (193 comments)

The hackers gained access to " name, [...], physical address, phone number and date of birth"

But they "did not [access] other confidential personal information"

What other personal information is there on the planet? Your name, address and DOB is pretty much everything needed for identify theft.

Okay - I guess they didn't get Health records. Seriously though - what "other confidential information" does eBay store?

about 3 months ago
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7.1 Billion People, 7.1 Billion Mobile Phone Accounts Activated

ripvlan Re:They can go to 110% and beyond (197 comments)

Yes - I have two. A cell phone and a data-only device (iPad w/LTE). Do Kindles count as a mobile activation?

I wonder if cars count?! I know people with cars that use cell technology to phone home.

I read through the article and he draws a distinction between people vs handsets. I didn't see though if it was voice devices or whether hotspot/data-only devices make up that stat (there was discussion with regards to revenue breakdowns).

Now - will mobile data allow a way to skip over the cable-internet providers and offer real competition?

about 4 months ago
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60 Minutes Dubbed Engines Noise Over Tesla Model S

ripvlan Re:Top Gear was worse. (544 comments)

Wait - Audi created e-sound for their e-tron electric cars.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?...

Although that Top Gear episode was funny. Until this year I don't think they gave electric cars any serious consideration. Now that Porsche has an electric car to make the Hamster happy - I'd expect we'll see more of them. He can drive that until his GT3 is re-delivered.

about 5 months ago
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NSA General Counsel Insists US Companies Assisted In Data Collection

ripvlan Re:Taking bets here.. (103 comments)

Yeah - that was my first thought. Kind of like when a bully is beating a weak kid with his own arms. "he was hitting himself"

Wasn't that the definition of "the letter" - the one that companies aren't allowed to acknowledge they received?! Maybe they aren't allowed to even say that they heard of the program.

about 5 months ago
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The Era of Facebook Is an Anomaly

ripvlan Re:Laughable (260 comments)

I didn't interpret her words in that manner. She seems to be suggesting that we would NOT come to a common place for *all* interactions. Ever been to a company party with your parents? You probably don't know many of the other kids - and the adults are a bit different too from the ones who came to your house for a BBQ. We all interact differently, even with the same people, when the context is different.

When I was in college there was a bar/pub that "everyone" hung out at on Friday nights. There were two guys who played Irish songs in sing-along fashion - we'd all sing and drink and otherwise socialize. But after last-call we'd all head our separate ways - until the next weekend. Sunday morning I would meet other friends at a different location to play games.

Different places for different kinds of interactions - I believe that is her point. We don't all go to FB for everything.

Even now I use other web-forums for things like car racing, or software-architecture, or other hobbies. Gosh - that's almost the design of meetup.com - a board for like minded people to find each other - and then they meet externally in a place conducive to the theme of the meetup.

Last time I saw a company on the web try to be everything - we later laughed at it. It was called AOL.

about 5 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Does your employer perform HTTPS MITM attacks on employees?

ripvlan Well gosh darn (1 comments)

How would employees know that such a system was installed?

I can understand a company needing to monitor for leaks - and granted they do own everything. Yes - my cell phone is my "trusted" way out to the internet that my employer can't snoop on (and I'm not using their resources).

Seriously though - how could anyone know the difference between "good" vs "bad" MITM ? Could DNSSEC be fooled in this same way?

Please - get back to work. Nothing else shall be tolerated.

about 6 months ago
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Teaching Calculus To 5-Year-Olds

ripvlan Re:I had something similar as a kid (231 comments)

Yes - Calculus can be taught visually, that's how my father taught it to me. I was a wiz at geometry, I can bisect lines and draw tangents in my mind.

Here's what I didn't understand though....what does the area under the curve have to do with anything? The line on graph paper was a line - what value was the area? To me the line was continuous - it didn't end, it was a function - so how could the area have bounds?

When I was given min-max problems in College the area/vol was always something concrete (e.g. land size, a rectangle, or a water bottle). I had a difficult time with Calc in college because I just couldn't relate these "areas under the curve" to anything real. I could do the mechanics (integrate, derivatives etc) and understood acceleration/speed. It wasn't until I was older that some of these area/volumes started to make sense (What is "work?" :-D )

My suggestion - I can't be alone in this problem - is to relate these areas to things. Answer the question: why is the area equal/equivalent/describe X ?. I had to take it on faith - my Dad said so. Can this be shown or described and be shown to "be really the answer" -- Why is it that?! A bit more concrete evidence that this is true.

I may not be an abstract thinker in math. This is why I program computers ;-)

about 6 months ago
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Using Handheld Phone GPS While Driving Is Legal In California

ripvlan Re:Still should be hands free (142 comments)

Handsfree does not lead to less-distraction. The very conversation, hands-free or not, is still a problem. How much of a problem? I don't understand yet.

Most states that I've traveled are hands-free. Although a few are anti-texting only. Fewer yet have no restrictions. I haven't seen any that restrict usage in all-forms (except for specific classes of drivers, such as young/new).

Personally - it's the pushing of "buttons" that causes me pain. Using Google maps on my iPhone is a PITA (finding the "start route" button generally is hard). When hands-free I use Siri and Apple maps (for good or bad) - or having to Unlock the damn thing to make a modification (Siri, stop route, "sorry Dave, I can't do that") I bring my Garmin GPS with me whenever possible as it has the best UI - purpose built for in-car use (actually - navigation in general). I only use my phone for looking around or finding something very specific [planning phase]... then plug it into my Garmin and go. Plus, I tend to find myself in No-signal zones a lot. And of course - Siri has failed me multiple times with bogus routes or wrong address locations (arggg, sorry - breathe, breathe, take a slow breath)

NY has a rule that the driver may not operate a hand-held phone (although observationally few adhere to the law). When I went to CA last week the airport announcement was that CA restricts using any device that was not *specifically designed* for hands-free operation (or in car use?). I just remember the Specifically Designed statement.

VT has an anti-texting law (after a spate of joggers being run down & killed by folks texting and driving). Although they are currently considering upgrading that to hands-free because the Police have said that they can't tell if people are texting or dialing their phone, or using some GPS app. It all looks the same to them so enforcement is complicated. People under a certain age (17?) already may not use a cell phone at anytime in any manner while driving.

And WI or MI has restrictions on where the GPS unit may be mounted (must be mounted on the dash - not on the glass, I assume to keep it low in the field of vision). I can't remember which state - I just know that it caused me to buy a dash-mount for my GPS.

My null position is that I assume every state has a hands-free rule. Keeping with the spirit that Distracted is distracted. But commanding my phone to do my bidding seems like a fair risk to take.

about 6 months ago
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Using Handheld Phone GPS While Driving Is Legal In California

ripvlan Re:Still should be hands free (142 comments)

So very inconsistent. I drove cross country a few years ago. My GPS came with a suction-cup window mount, and for a variety of reasons I also purchased a dash-mount. Good thing because one upper-mid-west state requires dash mount. They had a big sign as I crossed the border announcing that requirement along with their cell-phone rules. I think I Googled something like "GPS mounting laws" while prepping for my trip.

I now travel on business and bring the dash-mount with me everywhere I go because of that one restriction. Plus some rental car windshields are too short to use the suction-cup (angle too great) - such that the GPS hits the dash - or I have to place the suction-cup so high that it blocks my view.

Nobody stopped me in CA last week - I put the dashmount right in the middle of the dash above the radio.

about 6 months ago
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Facebook Shuts Down @Facebook Email System

ripvlan FB had email? (149 comments)

ah - now I know why I haven't been getting email all of these years.

about 6 months ago
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Ford Dumping Windows For QNX In New Vehicles

ripvlan Re:MSFT seems to work... (314 comments)

I also rented a Ford (a small car) with the MSFT system. While the car was fine - I was infuriated by the MS system.

I opened the car door and the dash showed a popup "Engine is running" with an "Okay" button on it. Really? What purpose was this? And how do I press "okay" (it wasn't touch screen). Staring at the steering wheel later I noticed that there were two buttons labeled Okay (and each worked separately).

The worst part was the radio. I had gotten into some menu deep down and decided I didn't want to do whatever I had started. So I tried pressing the "FM" and "Radio" button - nothing would "exit" and return me to the top level. Many minutes of fumbling around through menus and deeper sub-menus the UI would sit idle and finally show "okay / cancel" on the screen. There weren't any buttons near the screen! Finally I discovered that way down low on the dash near the shifter were 4 decorative buttons with lines on them. Turns out they lined up with the UI (though 18 inches away).

Between the software of the UI and the physical UI I couldn't stand it. Nothing made sense.

about 6 months ago
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Do Hypersonic Missiles Make Defense Systems Obsolete?

ripvlan Re:Procurement inertia (365 comments)

Well - I'm not sure I agree with the inertia position. Granted old ideas take a long time to die - until a disrupting technology comes along. I was touring a Navy museum once and the guide (retired Navy veteran) said, sometimes its about having the big guns and parking it in the harbor. Simple intimidation. You won't use it - it just looks big.

The US strength - we can build a ship larger than yours and sail it into your backyard.

Back on topic - as others have pointed out already, the defense system is designed to repel realistic attacks. Some group that is starting out will unlikely get their hands on a hypersonic missile. First they start out with a battering ram, then a Yugo, move up to a Pinto, some rockets, old SCUDs, and finally ICBMs. Sure - the smart ones are building disruptors, but another branch is thinking of ways to protect against them.

It's MAD I tell you, MAD. It's a MAD MAD world. What, me worry?

about 7 months ago
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A New Use For Drones: Traffic Scouting

ripvlan Re:Would it not be easier.. (144 comments)

Exactly how I see it playing out. There will be more traffic jams and crashes in the sky from all of these drones filling the air. Yes - parts will rain down from the sky and kill small children. The sky will go black from the flocks of drones. Did they get this idea from playing Call of Duty?

Next somebody will sell an accessory laser so your drone can shoot others out of the sky as a sort of crash avoidance system.

Available only to the rich.

about 7 months ago
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How Adobe Got Rid of Traditional Stack-Ranking Performance Reviews

ripvlan Comment from Beta (175 comments)

Hey look - this is a comment input from the beta.

I'll give you the white space. It feels like we've all got pitchforks and are standing at the gates of the User Experience.

Maybe the UX designer got a deal on whitespace from the cloud vendor. Next will be pastel colors and strange thin outlined buttons that convey nothing to the user until they click them (cough... iOS7).

about 7 months ago

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