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Ask Slashdot: Any Place For Liberal Arts Degrees In Tech?

rockmuelle If High School is sufficient for CS, then why not? (389 comments)

The question is interesting in relation to the current bias against four year degrees for software developers in some circles. If, as Peter Thiel claims, you don't need a degree, then it shouldn't matter what your degree is if you get one. So, from that perspective, a tech degree or a liberal arts degree shouldn't make a difference. If a liberal arts degree makes for a more intellectually well rounded person, then it could be argued that that's the better degree for tech.

Of course, I don't buy Peter's argument at all. A good CS degree teaches foundational methods that can be applied throughout a career. Don't get me started on the number of times basic complexity theory or knowledge of the full memory hierarchy has helped improve performance of web pages. Most hobbyists don't have those skills and write them off as just academic oddities. A good CS degree also exposes you to a range of technologies and methods for developing software (no, CS is not just math, no more than physics is just theoretical physics). It gives you an environment where you can develop your skills and gain exposure to the breadth of topics in the field. It's a Good Thing(tm).

Should all programmers have CS degrees? Of course not, but those that do are always going to have an edge over most of the other ones (there are always exceptions - I know a few great developers without degrees).



Oculus Rift CEO Says Classrooms of the Future Will Be In VR Goggles

rockmuelle Re:Some classes would be AWESOME! (182 comments)

VR simulations are only as good as our ability to model and simulate the things we're studying. Physics, maybe. Chemistry and Biology, no way. The latter two are messy and don't lend themselves to simulation expect in a few very specific situations. If it's simply for information retrieval and watching videos, a book or screen is sufficient.

I've spent a lot of time with various 3D emersion technologies and scientific applications (old-school VR, Caves, polarized googles, etc) and the reality is that they don't add much. Don't get me wrong, they make GREAT demos. I love playing with the technology. But, spend any amount of time doing real work with them and their limitations quickly become apparent. It's not that the technology doesn't work, it's that most content doesn't really lend itself to the medium and for content that does, getting the user experience right is a difficult and expensive task.


2 days ago

3 Recent Flights Make Unscheduled Landings, After Disputes Over Knee Room

rockmuelle Re:Wait a minute, a few years ago I recall and AA (813 comments)

And that is how our current implementation of the free market actually works. No business action is made for the customer's benefit. It's always about making one more dollar off a captive customer base and pretending you're doing them a favor. America needs to return to stakeholder capitalism rather than the current shareholder model (yes, there actually are different models for market-based economies).

about two weeks ago

C++14 Is Set In Stone

rockmuelle Re:What about (193 comments)

Yes!!! I wish I had mod points. They basically had them ready to go for C++11 and then committee infighting killed them (Bjarne stubbornly backed the wrong horse - not that I have a strong opinion on this or anything ;) ).

Syntactic support for generic programming would be the single best addition to C++ to breathe new life into the language and get a whole generation of developers who've written it off interested in it. Generic programming is as paradigm shifting as OOP. It just kills me that it's so thoroughly obfuscated by template meta-programming in C++.

about a month ago

The Fiercest Rivalry In Tech: Uber vs. Lyft

rockmuelle Re:good (125 comments)

Markets are defined by their rules, plain and simple.

The rules for an ideal free market are pretty straight forward: everyone is free to do whatever they want. There's also another term for this approach in the political sphere: anarchy.

What most people really mean when they say free market (in America, at least) is a market defined by the rules of property law (the foundation of most western legal systems). As soon as you have some basic rules, you no longer have a free market.

A real free market is a theoretical extreme, like an ideal gas. It's useful for reasoning about things, but doesn't actually exist in any practical form in real life.


about a month ago

PHP Finally Getting a Formal Specification

rockmuelle Re:Formal specifications are pretty useless for th (180 comments)

Actually, neither C nor C++ have formal specifications. They both have very well defined and curated standards documents that can be called specifications (without the formal part), but neither has a proper formal specification.


about a month and a half ago

Three-Year Deal Nets Hulu Exclusive Rights To South Park

rockmuelle Re:Not worth it (138 comments)

I look at it this way: I can pay $100+ a month to watch cable TV with commercials or I can pay $9 for Netflix, $8 for Hulu Plus, and nothing for my TV antenna for local shows. Yes, the ads on Hulu Plus are annoying, repetitive, and can't be skipped. But, I grew up in the 70s and 80s and have developed the skills to cope with ads and the lack of time shifting for local news. Millennial's milage may vary...


about 2 months ago

Former NSA Chief Warned Against Selling NSA Secrets

rockmuelle Re:Laugh-worthy (138 comments)

Nope. I've talked about this with many lawyers. It varies by state. In CA, non-compete clauses are basically unenforceable. In TX, where I live, they're the law of the land.


about 3 months ago

How Virtual Reality Became Reality

rockmuelle Re:Except It Isn't (104 comments)

I've tried Occulus and agree with the parent (I'm also 40 and have been around this block before). VR will never be a mainstream, mass market application. Now that the tech is mostly working (OR is awesome - it works like we all wanted it to the first time Jaron Lanier was in the news), it needs applications. Sure, core gaming will change as will some industrial applications, but otherwise there aren't a lot of good reasons to put an app in an head mounted display. HMDs are not exactly a great fashion accessory (even at the scale of google glass).


about 4 months ago

Could High Bay-Area Prices Make Sacramento the Next Big Startup Hub?

rockmuelle Didn't Happen in 2001, won't happen now (190 comments)

Sacramento and the rest of the Central Valley has been trying this forever. It didn't happen during the first bubble, it likely won't happen this time around. The Delta and Valley regions may as well be flyover country as far as techs are concerned. It's almost as easy to hop on a plane and be in Austin, Boulder, Portland, SLC, or any other regional tech hub than it is to drive around in CA.

I grew up in Merced and have seen this same story too many times in the past... 80s, 90s, 00s, 10s... This conversation is a good predictor for bursting bubbles, though. ;)


about 4 months ago

Traffic Optimization: Cyclists Should Roll Past Stop Signs, Pause At Red Lights

rockmuelle Re:So a bicyclist is safer..... (490 comments)

I'm a bike commuter and I own two cars. I pay more taxes relative to car commuters for the use of the roads.

Of course, I could get rid of the fun car and keep just the practical one, but I'd still be paying more than most drivers relative to my impact.

For rule 1 to be a valid argument, all bikers can't own cars. In the US, that's almost universally not the case.


about 4 months ago

Applying Pavlovian Psychology to Password Management

rockmuelle Wrong side of the Pavlovian... (288 comments)

How about this: sites that have their password databases breached pay a $1B fine, the fine paid in part by the company, the management, and the devs responsible.

The users are not the ones in need of training here.


about 4 months ago

Japanese and Swiss Watchmakers Scoff At Smartwatches

rockmuelle Who needs watches in the first place? (399 comments)

So, there are two types of people out there: those that wear watches and those that don't. I fall into the latter category. As someone who doesn't wear jewelry, I've never felt the need to accessorise with time (save for that brief period in 7th grade where I had a few Swatches... ;) ). The other reason for a watch would be practical. But here's the thing: I always know within a few minutes what time it is. If you don't wear a watch, you get pretty good at knowing the time. And, in most cases, you realise that it doesn't matter that much. Is it early? Have breakfast. Is it late? Have a cocktail. Am I at work? I have clocks surrounding me that are more accurate than any watch I'd wear.

Having played around with the "quantified self" gadgets, I can also say that they didn't give me much more than I could get through just general self awareness and a scale (or a more precise measuring device for whatever it is I'm quantifying). So, a smartwatch for me would just be a connected device for email, Web, and phone calls. My smartphone is great for that and I don't have to wear it on my wrist (see above: I don't wear jewelry). I can also set my phone aside and easily walk away from it when I need to be disconnected, which is key for long term sanity.

I know I'm only a portion of the market, but when it comes to smart watches, the manufacturers are already dealing with a segmented market. The luxury manufacturers are right to focus on what their bread and butter is: high end, mechanical jewelry (which, imho, is way cooler than a smart watch from an engineering perspective). The smartwatch space will need to focus on the intersection of smartphone users who wear watches for practical reasons and want to move away from their phone. They'll likely never capture the smartphone users who don't like to wear watches.


about 5 months ago

Google: Better To Be a 'B' CS Grad Than an 'A+' English Grad

rockmuelle A little out of touch with reality... (358 comments)

"You need to be very adaptable, so that you have a baseline skill set that allows you to be a call center operator today and tomorrow be able to interpret MRI scans."

I'm not sure if this is just naivete or Silicon Valley hubris, but this statement doesn't really make much sense. MRIs are interpreted by MDs (radiologists) with years of training. Call centers can be staffed by high-school drop outs. I have friends from both ends of the spectrum in exactly those jobs and I can tell you the starting point for each career and baseline skill set are not the same. Note that baseline intelligence may be the same - my call center friends are all phenomenal musicians who put their intellectual effort into music and use call center jobs to pay the bills, but there's no way they're interpreting MRIs in this lifetime.

I'm seeing the same high level of hubris in tech right now that I saw (and was guilty of) in 1999. There seems to be this feeling that good software skills are a proxy for any other discipline. After all, if I can write an MRI app for an iPhone (or, in the 90s, if I could write a Web 1.0 MRI viewer - which I did, fwiw), then I'm clearly qualified to take the next step and start diagnosing patients (or better yet, just write an app for that, too). Once you know the jargon and basic requirements, everything else is just implementation details, right? Of course, the reality is is that those implementation details are years of dedicated training, not a few weeks of hacking. You only get so many years in life - you can't do everything with them.

In Bock's comments, I see either ignorance or sleaziness. Maybe he really believes that anyone can and should be anything and everything. In that case, he's wasting his time in HR and should become a motivational speaker. But, it also seems like he's just using this as a way to get more call center operators to believe that there's a career path at Google that will allow everyone with a CS degree to be true renaissance people. Sure, every now and then one will pull it off, but people also win the lottery. That doesn't mean everyone will.


about 5 months ago

Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment

rockmuelle Re:"What I find interesting is how..." (1633 comments)

Literal, out of context interpretations of sacred documents by the masses has been great for science.

There is a middle ground in citizen scholarship, between taking a document at its most literal and complete deference to the the high priests. An educated populace should understand the nuances that led to a document being written in the first place and applying critical thought to determine if those reasons are still valid today or if the document should be evolved.


about 5 months ago
top Ends Free Dynamic DNS

rockmuelle Re:Overvalued (242 comments)

With all the comments about moving to other free services or using this as an opportunity to start a new business, what is the value for most people? If there are enough people that value it at a certain price such that the costs of running the business are covered, there's a business to be made. Otherwise, it's just charity on the service's part. Sure, everyone likes getting stuff for free, but even free stuff costs money for someone.


about 5 months ago

Ad Tracking: Is Anything Being Done?

rockmuelle Plot to end all ads... (303 comments)

(and maybe the internet as we know it)

Here's a crowd-based experiment I've always wanted to initiate: For one day, everyone follows ads and stays on the ad site for a non-trivial amount of time.

If everyone clicks on ads (or even a small percentage of people), monthly ad budgets will be very quickly drained. The companies will have received no value from their ad spend (if they do at all as it is). Google, et al. will get a one day windfall from the ad revenues. It might take a few coordinated "denial-of-ad-attacks", but eventually vendors will start to question the value of their internet advertising budgets and find better ways to spend their money connecting with customers.

Of course, a side effect of this might be killing the goose that laid the golden egg. If Google and Facebook suddenly lose their primary source of revenue, they will have to look for other ways to monetize their services (maybe just asking users to pay? if Facebook's numbers are real (haha), $5/month/user would be ~$5B/month ,which is not bad).

A more devious alternative would be to have ad blockers silently follow the ads and "fake" a user session...

about 5 months ago

How Satellite Company Inmarsat Tracked Down MH370

rockmuelle US Intel Said this on Day 1 (491 comments)

What's most interesting is that the anonymous reports from the US intelligence community the day after the plane disappeared said that the plane was on the bottom of the Indian Ocean. These claims seemed a little odd at the time since there was no supporting evidence at all and rescuers were still looking for debris on the original flight path. But, it's looking like they were spot on.

I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the only real conspiracy in this whole affair is the US govt's cover up of the initial leak. The plane itself likely just suffered a catastrophic failure and lumbered on until it ran out of fuel. But, the US govt also likely tracked it the entire time. That's why someone was able to make a confident pronouncement so quickly. They knew exactly where the plane was, if not exactly what happened. But, this intelligence capability (tracking all flying objects all the time) is probably highly classified. Rather than give it up for a civilian SAR effort, they decided to keep it under wraps, knowing that eventually the plane would be found and the capability is far more useful if no one knows it exists.

about 6 months ago



Just what is 'Big Data'?

rockmuelle rockmuelle writes  |  more than 2 years ago

rockmuelle (575982) writes "I work in a 'Big Data' space (genome sequencing) and routinely operate on tera-scale data sets in a high-performance computing environment (high-memory (64-200GB) nodes, 10 GigE/IB networks, peta-scale high-performance stroage systems). However, the more people I chat with professionaly on the topic, the more I realize everyone has a different definition of what consitutites big data and what the best solutions for working with large data are. If you term yourself a 'big data' user, what do you consider 'big data'? Do you measure data in mega, giga, tera, peta-bytes? What is a typical data set you work with? What are the main algorithms you use for analysis? What turn-around times are typical for analyses? What infrastructure software do you use? What system achitectures work best for your problem (and which have you tried that don't work well?)?"

CorePy - Assembly Programming with Python

rockmuelle rockmuelle writes  |  more than 5 years ago

rockmuelle writes "We are pleased to announce the latest release of CorePy, now with full support for x86 processors (32 and 64-bit) and an Open Source license. CorePy is a Python package for developing assembly-level applications on x86, Cell BE and PowerPC processors. Its simple APIs enable the creation of complex, high-performance applications that take advantage of advanced processor features usually inaccessible from high-level scripting languages, including multiple cores and vector instruction sets (SSE, VMX, SPU). Based on an advanced run-time system, CorePy lets developers build and execute assembly-level programs interactively from the Python command prompt or embed them directly in Python applications. CorePy is available under a standard BSD license."
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