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Comments

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The Grumpy Programmer has Advice for Young Computer Workers (Video)

unimacs Read the blog. He still has something to give. (119 comments)

I was kind of confused about the message and intent of the videos. If the goal is to give advice to those who want to continue programming as a career beyond their 40's and into their 60's, it might make more sense to interview somebody who has managed to do that. I guess the idea was to avoid doing what he did.

The advice seemed to come down to this: Take care of yourself and work for the government or just skip a career in programming altogether. The rest was made up of miscellaneous recollections.

I was curious enough to look at his blog. Though he's only posted sporadically, he does come across as a very intelligent guy with a graduate degree that still has something to give the industry, though I'm not sure in what capacity. He was a teacher for awhile and that seems to have been a good fit but it sounds like health issues ended that part of his career.

Outside of management, keeping ones career going all the way through to retirement can be a challenge in technical fields. Part of that is pure discrimination but I would also guess that in many cases companies get are getting more per dollar spent out of younger employees. How does one combat that as they age? Some do it successfully. Is becoming a consultant or moving into management the only way to go?

about a week ago
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Helsinki Aims To Obviate Private Cars

unimacs Re:Living in the country is an anachronism (276 comments)

So what constitutes a small town vs a city? You talk about Ancient Athens and Sante Fe as if they aren't cities.

I live in a city of 400,000. I grew up in small town. It's population was about 2,000 when I was young. It's evolved/devolved into an outer ring suburb of about 30,000.

I went to college in a town of about 50,000. My wife grew up in what I consider to be a small city, - 80,000

For awhile we lived a suburb of about 30,000 in a metropolitan area of about 4.5 million.

So those are my reference points. My parents knew most of the people in our small town, but most of the socializing was done with extended family. I knew hardly any of my neighbors when I lived in the suburbs. You just never saw them. People drove from the street into their attached garages and went into the house without ever setting foot outside. By contrast I know my neighbors in the city very well.

Anyway, you have some long posts and I could pick at them point by point but I don't have time for that. For decades cities were losing population to the suburbs and that trend has reversed. Assume for the moment that many places in many cities are desirable places to live for a certain segment of the population. Given that, here is my challenge to you: Go to a city or especially a suburb and take a long look at how much infrastructure and space is devoted to the automobile. We don't notice because we are so used it. Look at how much space is devoted to roads and parking. Look at some modern suburban homes where the garage takes up 1/3 of footprint the whole structure. Is that really a good use of limited resources?

Then ask yourself if maybe Helsinki isn't on the right track, especially in a city where there are a number of good and healthier alternatives to climbing into a car.

about two weeks ago
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Helsinki Aims To Obviate Private Cars

unimacs Re:which turns transport into a monopoly... (276 comments)

Have you ever lived in a city?

I do. I have a yard and two dogs. Once in awhile we plant a garden. I can even play music. Plus I can walk to local bakeries, breweries, restaurants, hardware stores, beaches, parks, etc.

A lot of the time, between biking and walking your legs are the only transit you need. If not, there are buses, trains, taxis, and services like Car2go and ZipCar.

I understand that kind of lifestyle is not for everybody, but the worst thing we can do is spread out more. That has lead to all kinds of problems.

about two weeks ago
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Blackberry Moves Non-Handset Divisions Into New Business Unit

unimacs Re:Looks like some editorializing by the submitter (89 comments)

In my opinion, in order for Blackberry to succeed in the phone market as a unique platform (not another android device), they have to have hardware and software that is head and shoulders above Android and iOS. Their phones would have to have features that neither of the others have, nor are they likely to get in the near future, - something big enough to excite customers that would take competitors a couple of years to catch up to.

It would have to be long enough for developers to decide they can't wait for Apple and Google to catch up and would have to write apps for Blackberry.

I just don't see that happening. They may come up with a nice feature or two that the competition doesn't have yet, but it's unlikely to be enticing enough to lure many people away from all the apps available on iPhones and Androids. How long can Blackberry continue to sink large sums of money into R & D that doesn't result in enough sales to sustain it?

about two weeks ago
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Blackberry Moves Non-Handset Divisions Into New Business Unit

unimacs Re:Looks like some editorializing by the submitter (89 comments)

I think the market has pretty much abandoned them. They started the year with a market share of a few percentage points in the US, now it's less than .5 percent.

It's hard to survive as a platform if the market isn't big enough to justify 3rd party development. Yes I know it can run Android apps, - sort of. The reality simply may be that they can not get enough traction and sell enough units to justify the R&D it takes to turn out decent hardware and software. Lots of good PC operating systems died when Microsoft was dominating the PC market, - not because they weren't good but because developers didn't want to waste their time on a minuscule market.

Call it shifting focus if you want, but the writing is on the wall and has been for awhile. Now we are beginning to see the signs that BlackBerry knows it too.

about two weeks ago
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Apple's App Store Needs a Radical Revamp; How Would You Go About It?

unimacs Re:Two things.... (249 comments)

You are right about the 30% cut. It seems like a lot. I wonder how much is left over after all the fees and the cost of running the App Store is factored in. I'm sure they're still making money, I just wonder how much.
However, there are ways to run OS X on non Apple hardware if that's what's stopping you.

about three weeks ago
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Apple's App Store Needs a Radical Revamp; How Would You Go About It?

unimacs Re:Two things.... (249 comments)

Let me re-phrase. The degree to which the iPhone has been a success is in part due to the App store. My evidence? The fact that now Microsoft and Google have app stores. It is considered an essential part of a platform's "Ecosystem".

about three weeks ago
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Apple's App Store Needs a Radical Revamp; How Would You Go About It?

unimacs Re:Two things.... (249 comments)

You are right of course. I missed the obvious.

about three weeks ago
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Apple's App Store Needs a Radical Revamp; How Would You Go About It?

unimacs Re:Hey Apple, U got problems? I got solutions! (249 comments)

Why can't you just have different places supply different ratings, - maybe even specialize in certain types of app, but the apps themselves still come from the same store?

about three weeks ago
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Apple's App Store Needs a Radical Revamp; How Would You Go About It?

unimacs Re:Two things.... (249 comments)

The reason the App store and perhaps even the iPhone itself was such a success is because there is only one place you need to go to find Apps. And although many on Slashdot complain about the "Walled Garden", having an App store run by Apple itself provides some assurance to the customer that the App is legit and not some form of malware.

Is it perfect in that regard? No.

I'm not sure. What revenue stream does the App store have? I mean other than the $99 annual developer fee. Is that what you meant? The developer tools themselves are free. I used to spend hundreds on development tools and upgrades so I guess I'm not bothered much by the $99. I can play around with the tools and creating apps as much as I want without spending a dime. It's only when I want to put an app on actual device that I need to spend the money.

about three weeks ago
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Apple's App Store Needs a Radical Revamp; How Would You Go About It?

unimacs Gassée's suggestions aren't bad, but... (249 comments)

It would inevitably lead to some developers of accusing Apple of playing favorites.

What they could do instead (or in addition) is allow 3rd parties to easily obtain information on the most recent submissions, upgrades, etc and let them supply users with information on what is new and noteworthy.

It's good for Apple to surface really valuable apps, but it's not their job to do the marketing for every developer nor to make sure that everyone turns a profit. They've made a huge change in the industry by making virtually all the apps available for a popular platform available from a single place. This has had both positive and negative effects on developers. It was great for awhile when there weren't that many developers and all it took to get your app in front of millions was to submit it. Now your app is competing with hundreds of thousands of others.

It could simply be that the market is saturated and no amount of App store revamping is really going to fix that.

about three weeks ago
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Apple's Diversity Numbers: 70% Male, 55% White

unimacs Constantly surprised at the reactions (561 comments)

How often does a company REALLY hire the best possible person for the position? I'd say the chances are pretty slim. They may very well hire somebody who ends up being successful, but that's not the same as the best.

Usually the way it works is that the person that gets hired is the one that the hiring manager likes the most out of the people they've interviewed. The people that get interviewed are the ones that HR/hiring manager liked out of the pool of people that applied.

There may have been highly qualified people that were eliminated at any step. I've seen managers throw out resumes because the name wasn't "American sounding". That's a more blatant case. Some of the more subtle cases occur because there is a tendency to hire people like yourself.

For example, I was nearly turned down for a position because they wanted someone with a masters degree. Why? Because the people running the business unit and doing the hiring had MBAs, not because anything about the job required a masters.

I would venture that in many cases where a white male is hired into a technical position, there are equally or better qualified non-whites out there some place. To find them, you may have to look in different places, - cast a wider net. My point is that making an effort to have a more diverse workforce DOES NOT mean you have to settle for less qualified people.

On the other hand, there is a definite shortage of women CS and engineering grads. There are lots of complex reasons for this. But it's worse than it used to be, - which means it can be better than it is now. Companies like Apple are big enough to help make that happen, but not overnight.

about three weeks ago
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Man-Made "Dead Zone" In Gulf of Mexico the Size of Connecticut

unimacs Re:So? (184 comments)

The problem isn't just fertilizers, it's also that runoff is fast-tracked into lakes, streams, and rivers that lead to the Gulf. If instead we restored some wetlands and allowed the rivers to move beyond their banks now and then rather than just making the banks taller, you wouldn't have so much water flowing into the Gulf at such a furious pace dragging a ton of silt with it. It would have time to be filtered naturally, replenish aquifers, and grow plants instead of it all ending up in the ocean.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: "Real" Computer Scientists vs. Modern Curriculum?

unimacs Learn how to learn. (637 comments)

As someone who has been in the field a long time now, I've learned not to judge programmer's talent so much on what they were taught or even what they're currently doing. It's how quickly they can pick up something new. And it's not alway about technology. It's also about being able to effectively grasp the subject matter that's the basis of the software you're developing.

My recommendation is to constantly challenge yourself to learn something new. If all your current CS work has been java based, then definitely it's time to expand beyond that, and not because there is anything wrong with java. I'd say the same thing if you had been using C++ instead.

To me you can make the same sort of argument about CS Grads never being exposed LISP/Scheme/Clojure. The problem is that a 4 year degree must include other things besides CS courses (which is good), but there is only so much time. You can't learn everything in 4 years which is why you must continue learning your entire career.

I'm willing to bet that the dude complaining about modern CS grads is woefully deficient themselves in some areas of CS that could they could really benefit from.

about a month ago
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Peter Hoddie Talks About His Internet of Things Construction Kit (Video)

unimacs Re:Shitvertisement (53 comments)

Forget the "Internet of Things" buzzwords for the moment and watch the video. In my line of work being able to interact with remote sensors is a huge time saver. There are proprietary devices which allow that already but they have their limitations. The biggest problem with home made solutions like using a Raspberry Pi and a Cell Modem (which this doesn't seem to solve), is powering them for an extended period on a battery.

about a month ago
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Peter Hoddie Talks About His Internet of Things Construction Kit (Video)

unimacs Re:What credentials? (53 comments)

QuickTime was pretty impressive when first introduced (if you had a powerful enough Mac). If he was one of the original developers, he's definitely got some talent.

about a month ago
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Is the App Store Broken?

unimacs Top lists aren't the problem (258 comments)

The problem is that the mobile app market has become saturated and the price users are willing to pay for apps is so low. Getting rid of top lists may remove some perceived unfairness but it won't solve the fundamental problem (from the app developer perspective) of supply and demand.

about a month ago
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Blueprints For Taming the Climate Crisis

unimacs Re:If you want local solar (389 comments)

I should probably back up a little. There are a couple of issues here, - generation and consumption. From my perspective, no matter how you generate it, our level of consumption is not sustainable. Solar, wind, and other renewables may be better than fossil fuels, but you can't tell me that there won't be negative environmental impacts from covering deserts in the Southwest with solar panels, transmitting half of the power to the North, - and losing 6% of that in the process.

We were able absorb the costs associated with transmission loses in the past because power generation was artificially cheap and we didn't make the generators pay for the environmental impacts. The other problem with transmitting power over long distances is that it ultimately creates more points of failure and a more fragile system.

about 2 months ago
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Blueprints For Taming the Climate Crisis

unimacs Re:If you want local solar (389 comments)

In the US natural gas costs 60 cents per kWh, coal 95 cents per kWh, nuclear 96 cents per kWh, and solar 130 cents per kWh. They are not on par with each other. We wouldn't be having this discussion if they were.

When you consider the amount of power the US (and other parts of the world) consume, 6 to 7% is huge.

about 2 months ago

Submissions

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Forcing IT Department Staff to Take Long Vacations

unimacs unimacs writes  |  about a year ago

unimacs (597299) writes "I run the IT Department at a relatively small organization. Each year we go through an annual audit. This year the IT portion of the audit was much more extensive than in the past and we were provided with a written report that contained various recommendations. One of them was that staff be required to take a vacation each year that was at least a week in duration.

The reason behind the recommendation is that it would ensure that people are adequately cross trained and that no particular employee would become so critical that the organization couldn't function without them for a week.

I should add that the auditing company specializes on small non-profits and I could see where heavy reliance on one person could be a problem for some places though I don't think it's a issue for us at the moment. Anyway, I'm in a position to implement that policy and am not really opposed to it but I am wondering what Slashdot's take on it is. Seems to me we could accomplish the same thing (and more) by making sure each staff person leaves the office for a week long training session each year."
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Want to buy a smart phone without exploiting Chinese workers. Choices ?

unimacs unimacs writes  |  more than 2 years ago

unimacs writes "So Apple has been under fire recently for the conditions at the factories of their Chinese suppliers. I listened to "This American Life's" recent retraction of the Michael Daisey piece they did awhile back. Great Radio for those of you who haven't heard it. Rarely has dead air been used to such effect.

Anyway, while his work has been discredited, Michael Daisey wasn't inaccurate in his claims that working conditions are poor in iPhone and iPad factories. Given that, are there any smart phone manufacturers whose phones are made under better conditions?"
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Still getting bit by Y2K bug. Why haven't we learn

unimacs unimacs writes  |  more than 2 years ago

unimacs (597299) writes "I work with data loggers of various types and I use perl to parse the information. I rely heavily on the str2time function to parse the timestamps. It works pretty well except that I was getting strange errors with a new logger file format I was processing.

It turns out that the logger was outputting dates like "9/24/11 10:27:30 AM". On my OSX development machine, perl and str2time (via timelocal) interpreted that date as September 24, 2011. On our linux production server, it was interpreted as September 24th, 1911.

Have we already forgotten that 2 digit years are no-no? Anybody else running into these kinds of problems?"

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