top Why Is Science Behind a Paywall?
Anyone pursuing an academic career knows that there are certain journals that are considered prestigious. Publishing your papers in such journals (typically those of professional societies and many of those owned by Elsevier, Springer, and Wiley) is an essential part of the academic promotion process. Failure to do so means that you are unlikely to be promoted to a senior tenured rank (e.g., Associate Professor), and is typically the end of your stay at that institution. Publishing in some of the new
"fake" journals is worse than useless, even though it pads your resume. Many fields also look down upon conference papers, though that is less of a problem in computer science where there are numerous highly selective and well-regarded academically-oriented conferences, such as the Int'l Conf. on Software Engineering. Not surprisingly, many of the proceedings for those conferences are published by Elsevier and Springer.
The whole process, to date, is self-perpetuating, since serving as an Editor or Associate Editor for a prestigious journal also gets you points when you come up for promotion. As noted by others, serving in an editorial capacity or even as a reviewer for these journals is uncompensated. (You might think of it as falling into the same category as contributing voluntarily to an open source project.) The best that one can say for this activity is that it helps build an academic network, making it easier to obtain recommendation letters from senior faculty to include in your promotion case. The best way to disrupt this system in the short-term is for libraries refuse to renew their exorbitantly-priced journal subscriptions. (Money talks.) The high-quality online journals (e.g.,
PLoS) have not yet made a significant dent against the biggest academic publishers.
top Ask Slashdot: How Do You Assess the Status of an Open Source Project?
In 2005, several of us started the Business Readiness Rating project. Its goal was to provide an objective (quantitative) evaluation of free and open source projects largely based on metrics, including project activity, downloads, publications on the project, etc. We originally defined 12 areas for evaluation, which I later reduced to 7. We thought (and still think) that such a tool would be a good idea, but we were an unsuccessful project ourselves, unable to attract sufficient funding or volunteers. There's an inactive SourceForge project and a single page website, ready to spin up if there is sufficient interest.
I subsequently discovered that people wanted not just the numbers, but also subjective reviews in the style of Amazon, Rotten Tomatoes, or Yelp. I also personally believe that we need a way to evaluate FOSS projects against proprietary software so that more organizations will be able to justify FOSS solutions.
top Course Asks University Students To Tackle Medical Device Insecurity
I think that the FDA should require medical device makers to submit the source code of any device that is considered for approval. If someone is going to implant a device in my body, then I want the opportunity to see what it does and how it does it. What data is it collecting? What data is it transmitting? Can the operation of the device be modified or shut down over-the-air? As an example, is the algorithm for a heart pacemaker written efficiently so that battery life is maximized, thus reducing the need for repeated surgery?
This proposal raises the question of whether the creator of a device can protect the associated intellectual property if they are required to include source code as part of their submission for approval. I hope that we can have that discussion instead of continuing to treat all medical devices as black boxes.
top Petition For Metric In US Halfway To Requiring Response From the White House
We had a similar conversion proposal 40 years ago, back in the early 1970s. Apart from the very sizable costs of converting everything, the winning argument in favor of the status quo was that the American people wouldn't be able to learn to think in metric. Really! I think that meant that our elected representatives didn't understand the metric system.
In the meantime, virtually all manufacturing is done in metric, and almost every product that is sold includes metric weight, capacity, or dimensions, since that's what the rest of the world knows and expects. But even if the current petition inspires action (highly unlikely), it will take another 40 years before the majority of people use the metric system, and longer for Honey Boo Boo.
top Ask Slashdot: Which OSS Database Project To Help?
Not to take anything away from PostgreSQL and MySQL (and their forks), but these are mature systems with extensive communities and a very complex code base. If you want to learn the architecture of a new class of open source database systems, as well as to have the opportunity to make a significant contribution to a project, then you should consider joining a NoSQL project, such as Neo4j or MongoDB.
top Computer Science vs. Software Engineering
I have always found that the best software engineers are those people who have a solid background in computer science. That knowledge is valuable throughout one's career and enables one to participate effectively in discussions and reviews of architectures, data models, and more even after being promoted to a position that doesn't include writing code. To me, the two areas are complementary.
Side note: I'm mystified at how someone with a Bachelor's degree in business can earn an MS in Software Engineering. Yes, management skills have an important role in an SE curriculum, but not to the exclusion of the technical skills.
top Ask Slashdot: Finding Work Over 60?
About teaching -- don't just think of teaching CS in community colleges. Lots of other options: corporate training departments, software vendors who need field-based instructors for product training and consulting, online education, etc. For example, just think about the number of companies who are going to need Windows 8 training (whether or not we like it). I could imagine an entrepreneurial soul developing a couple of short courses of different lengths, picking a well-chosen domain name, creating a website to promote them, and strategically buying some keyword search terms to attract prospects.
Someone else mentioned teaching certificates - check out the alternative NYC programs at
http://schools.nyc.gov/TeachNYC/certification/alternatives.htm and http://schools.nyc.gov/TeachNYC/certification/cte.htm (tech at the very bottom of this list).
top Ask Slashdot: Finding Work Over 60?
I suggest that you think about how you could market yourself. What are your top three features that would make you particularly attractive to an employer? Are there specific application domains where your experience would make you more valuable than less chronologically advanced people? Make sure that you have taken all of the modern steps to create an online presence, e.g., LinkedIn. Unfortunately, for many people who have been out of work for a few years, and especially for older people, it's hard to build a strong case for yourself over someone who is willing to work > 60 hours/week and who is more current in terms of technical skills and job history.
It's much easier to find a tech job with a government agency (local, state, or federal) than it is to find a job in industry. Government jobs are publicly posted, and governments are especially sensitive to various laws regarding equal employment opportunity; there's also a higher percentage of older employees in governments than you will find in most companies. There's something positive to be said for a steady 40-hour/week job. While I don't think much of certifications, some government job postings include them, in which case it would be worth pursuing that certification for a specific position.
If you enjoy teaching, you should consider finding a way to teach at the college level. Community colleges and university extension programs often need instructors, and there are numerous for-profit institutions that don't require advanced degrees of their faculty. While teaching itself can be personally rewarding (not so much financially, though), many of your students will be working for companies that might be willing to hire you as a contractor or perhaps even as an instructor for the company's internal education programs.
In summary, be realistic about what you can bring to the party, recognize that many companies simply find legal ways not to hire people over 40, and focus on those opportunities where you are on a relatively even playing field in seeking a job. Good luck.
top HP Plans To Cut Product Lines; Company Turnaround In 2016
For the past 10 years or so, going back to Her Worship (Fiorina), HP has been cutting staff. Total layoffs through Hurd, Apotheker, and Meg are now up to 100K. HP has decimated its R&D capabilities, to the extent that they are essentially incapable of creating innovative products, which partly explains their 2100 printers. Too many of the people who are left are lifers who know how to keep their jobs. Anyone who is capable of finding a job elsewhere has done so.
If you are looking for a job, HP is a company without an interesting mobile strategy and a cloud strategy focused predominantly on IT services - not very attractive for entrepreneurial types, who have many other excellent opportunities.
Finally, the 100K HP departees are not likely to purchase HP products or to recommend them in their new settings. That's a very large pool of people who are going to advocate for competing products.
So the turnaround projected for 2016 is unlikely to happen, but it's a pretty fair bet than Meg Whitman won't be around HP when that day arrives.
about a year and a half ago
top Steve Ballmer's Head On the Block?
Sometimes the world just passes you by.... Steve Ballmer at Microsoft, John Chambers at Cisco, Sir Howard Stringer at Sony. Three hugely wealthy and successful men who now seem at a loss to address, let alone control, the sweeping changes affecting their respective companies. They all have loyal Boards that have supported their companies' strategies, at least until now. So it's unlikely that they are going to push their leaders out the door without external impetus or internal scandal.
Whatever you may think of him, Einhorn has a reason to provide that impetus at Microsoft. He's losing money on his Microsoft investment, which makes him and his hedge fund look bad. When his hedge fund performs poorly compared to others, investors take out their money and invest it somewhere else. So Einhorn's complaint is strongly in his own self-interest, since he is unlikely to concede that he made a bad decision to invest in Microsoft. The question is whether other institutional (large and influential) investors will support him. If so, then they can put more financial pressure on the Microsoft Board, and hold down the Microsoft stock price.
top Golden Gate Bridge To Eliminate Tollbooths
I live in SF, and have also run a business here. We were at 2nd and Market, very close to all kinds of public transportation, including GG Transit from Marin (bus and ferry). We couldn't do much about the absence of BART, since that issue was decided in 1962 when only San Francisco, Alameda (Berkeley, Oakland, Fremont), and Contra Costa Counties voted in favor of BART. The other counties didn't want to spend the money and were afraid that criminal elements from the urban areas would use BART to reverse commute and rob them and their homes. (Really!) My current commute to Mountain View from SF can be pretty painful, again because of that long-ago vote.
Back to the subject at hand, though...
The GG Bridge toll is now $5-6, depending on the time of day. A fair amount (15%?) of that is out-of-staters and drivers of rental cars, many of whom drive across the bridge Northbound to the vista point on the Sausalito side, then drive under the bridge to return to the City Southbound through the toll booths. The word will quickly get out about the toll system, and most of those revenues will be lost. So I still think that taking away the human toll takers is a bad idea in every sense.
top Golden Gate Bridge To Eliminate Tollbooths
I'm mystified about how the Golden Gate District is going to save money by eliminating human toll takers on the Golden Gate Bridge. Here are some questions
that immediately came to my mind -- each has negative financial implications for the District.
1) How will the District be able to collect tolls from drivers in new vehicles? There is no license plate available to the cameras.
2) How will the District collect tolls from out-of-state vehicles? If I have an Oregon or Florida car, I'll just sail right through and ignore any bill that I receive.
3) Who's going to send out the bills to the people whose license plates were captured by photo driving through the toll area without a FasTrak? Apart from the postage, how much will that cost per driver? Will they have to hire back the toll takers to send out these notices? The number of cars without a FasTrak is pretty high.
4) Who's going to open up all of the envelopes that contain the payment checks? Toll takers can collect about 5-6 fares per minute. It takes longer to open and sort envelopes.
5) Who's going to follow up on the bounced checks? That takes time, too.
In all, my sense is that the switch away from human toll takers is likely to result in lower revenues and higher costs for the District. They'll have to hire all of the toll
takers for the manual tasks, and then some more people. Overall, it looks like a terrible business decision, even apart from the human costs.
top Is Mark Zuckerberg the Next Steve Case?
Count me as someone who has not drunk the Facebook Kool-Aid. No wall, no friends -- poor me. Every now and then, I get an invitation from a friend or personal acquaintance to join. But lately almost all of the invitations are from corporations -- inviting me to Like them in return for some coupon or other offer. I know that the Supreme Court recognizes corporations as people, but I'm still able to make the distinction. Will I offer my identity (which they probably already have) in return for a sweepstakes entry or a 10% discount on some product I don't really need? Probably not.
FB is clearly very exciting and innovative in developing countries, at least for now. If I lived in Indonesia, where FB seems to be a basic part of life, then I would surely sign up. From my perspective, though, FB's growth is in quantity of users, not necessarily in quality. Not a good sign.
top Battle Escalates Between Airlines and Online Agents
If you are a high-status member of American's AAdvantage frequent flyer program, you are probably already booking directly on the AA.com site or through a travel agent who has access to all of American's flights through SABRE or one of the other reservation systems. If you want to fly in or out of DFW, you may know that American has about 85% of the total traffic, since Southwest flies to the more convenient Love Field. But that doesn't cover a very large percentage of American's potential customers. While many of us know about Kayak and other fare comparison sites, there are a lot of people who automatically go to Travelocity or Expedia to arrange their flghts. If the American flights don't pop up on a search, then these people are going to choose from the options that are shown. It's not as if American has retained the strong passenger loyalty that they had back in the days when their crew smiled at you and fed you. So American loses those revenue opportunities, and gives a different carrier the opportunity to fill the seat. If I were an AMR stockholder, I would bail. AMR stock was even in 2010 while JetBlue, Southwest, Delta and other airline stocks were up. Without a presence on a major reservation site, AMR is likely to lose market share (and thus stock value) in 2011. I can't imagine what American execs have been smoking to have made such a poor decision.
top Does Anyone Really Prefer Glossy Screens?
Yes, you can enlarge text in individual applications, but here you have to go to considerable effort to end up with a solution that is inferior to what was standard before. All I want is the option to buy an i7-based 15" MacBook Pro with a matte screen and 1440x900 rez.
top Does Anyone Really Prefer Glossy Screens?
My 3 year old MacBook Pro has a matte display with a 1440x900 screen. In the current MacBook Pro product lineup, the matte display is only available with the high rez 1650x1080 screen. That's not so great for those of us with aging eyes, which presumably includes Steve Jobs, who is now 55. I tried the screen in an Apple store, and (fortunately) I could still see everything OK. I also tried stepping the resolution down to approximate the current resolution. That gives you 1440x852, which means that the resolution is 5% worse than on the current matte displays. Even the staff at the Apple Store were surprised by that. So I'm hoping that those of us with a strong preference for matte over glossy will be able to prevail on Apple's MacBook product managers to again offer a matte display with a 1440x900 resolution.
top DARPA Issues Call For Computer Science Devotees
Some respondents have misread what DARPA is trying to do here. From the announcement, it appears that DARPA is looking to put together a study panel of computer science researchers composed of junior computer science faculty to help them identify promising research areas for the future; they aren't hiring anyone. Some of the panel's ideas will lead to fundable research, and the members of that study panel will have an inside track on getting funded, something that is likely to help them get promoted to a tenured position in their universities. In the old days, many DARPA-funded projects were "dual use", meeting the needs of the military, but also having value for the public at large. The Internet is a good example of that, as is BSD Unix. Many of the US's top computer science departments have received a very substantial percentage of their external research from DARPA. Under Bush, DARPA's focus was more on the military side, but the focus may now be shifting back toward dual use.
DARPA is probably seeking junior faculty members because they are more likely to have fresh ideas than do the more-established senior faculty. Also, junior faculty are in greater need of funding, especially in this economy where a lot of corporate funding for computer science research has been cut. Those research funds primarily support graduate students working on their advanced degrees. Finally, DARPA is sort of marketing itself to these young researchers, who may never have considered working with DARPA, especially when it was so directly focused on military programs.
There are many of us in the academic computer science research community (including me) who have never applied for DARPA funds or participated in their programs. But everyone with a computer has been the beneficiary of DARPA-funded projects.
top Metasploit As Case Study In Selling a FOSS Project
Another interesting example of commercial success around a "pure" FOSS project is Drupal, originally developed about 10 years ago as the centerpiece of Dries Buytaert's Ph.D. research. About two years ago, Acquia was started to provide a supported distribution of Drupal with commercial support and now hosting for Drupal projects (drupalgardens). With so many themes and modules being developed for Drupal, many of which are free, we are now seeing new Drupal distros spring up, in much the same way that Linux distros sprung up in the 1990's. The various distros package a "trusted" collection of modules and themes, which work across all community and commercial versions of a specific version of Drupal, e.g.,Drupal 6.x. The recent Drupalcon in San Francisco had about 3000 registrants, hundreds of sessions, and about 20 vendors of Drupal training and professional services. The registration fee averaged about $200, so that added up to some significant revenue, along with some very substantial expenses from holding the event in Moscone Center, the same place that Oracle holds their OpenWorld event with 40,000 attendees.
Even with all of this commercial activity, anyone can go to drupal.org, freely download the community edition with any desired modules and themes, and participate as a member of the Drupal community, contributing to the project in many different ways.
top Geek Travel To London From the US — Tips?
London is a surveillance society, with closed-circuit cameras everywhere: in the museums and theatres, on public transport, in and near office buildings, in your hotel lobby, and probably even in the public restrooms. I personally find that to be very creepy, and it has caused me to stop going to London. As others have noted, Heathrow Airport is pretty terrible, but you can take the Piccadilly Line subway into Central London quite easily. Make sure that you buy an Oyster Card at your first opportunity so that you don't pay the highest fares on the Underground.
You're going to find a laptop useful, not just for your email, but for restaurant guides, theatre tickets, and all of the usual travel info. As in the US, the expensive hotels will charge you a fortune for Internet access, and the less expensive ones will provide it for free. You just need to find and set the appropriate SSID. You will find pay WiFi at Heathrow (The Cloud is pretty good service), and that will come in handy if your flight is delayed or cancelled. You should bring an unlocked GSM mobile phone, and buy a prepaid SIM card for about $20 at Phones 4U or Carphone Warehouse. I've had good success with Virgin Mobile there. That gives you a local phone and number, and avoids the roaming and data charges of your US carrier. It's easy to find an unlocked GSM phone in the US before you travel - try Craigslist.
London theatre is outstanding, and you can often find discounted tickets at the official ticket booth in Leicester Square. Be careful about this, since there are many other ticket agencies in that neighborhood pretending to be the official one.
Others have suggested the various London tourist attractions, but I would add that you would do well to get out of London. Both Cambridge and Oxford are easily reachable in about an hour by train (Liverpool Street for Cambridge and Paddington for Oxford). It's well worth a day trip to each, and I highly recommend seeing some of the various colleges, as well as the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
As for shopping, prices in London (all of England, really) are so high that you're not going to want to buy a lot of stuff. In addition, one effect of globalization is that many products that you will find there are available in the US at lower prices. Of course, it's still enjoyable to wander through Harrod's, Hamley's, Liberty, and other unique London shops. Oxford Street and Regent Street stores will be nicely decorated for the holidays, which makes for great window shopping.
top Oracle To Sell Sun's Hardware Business To HP?
While I think that it makes good sense for Oracle to sell off the hardware business that they acquired from Sun, I find it hard to imagine H-P as a potential buyer. I'd be much more likely to believe the story if the buyer were Fujitsu, who has been involved with Sun and SPARC since the 1980's.
Here's why I think that H-P is unlikely to do this:
They are trying to focus more on their services business, having recently spent $14 Billion acquiring EDS
The SPARC line and the Solaris operating system would go head-to-head with HP's high-end servers (Itanium-based) and HP-UX operating system. While it would take a strong competitor off the table, it would also create uncertainty with the large SPARC installed base, especially in the financial community.
H-P's acquisition of COMPAQ wasn't exactly a roaring success. The only good thing that came of it was that it led to the downfall of Her Worship, La Fiorina, who viewed the acquistion as her crowning achievement, even though it led to firing 30000 people. Today the COMPAQ brand is fading away and mostly is used for inexpensive PCs.
Mark Hurd is extremely cost-conscious and very focused on quarter-to-quarter results for Wall Street. A big acquisition like this would be very disruptive and require some significant writeoffs and future earnings impairments.
I would not be at all surprised to learn of talks between Oracle and HP, but I would really be shocked if this deal happened.