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Ask Slashdot: IT Career Path After 35?

vinn Do what you want and try *not to be afraid* (376 comments)

Fear is the hardest thing to get over on the road to being happy. And for this purpose, I'll define happy as "doing what you want", both professionally and in the rest of your life. If you want to keep doing what you're doing, then you should just do that. Don't worry about what your friends are doing. If you want to go start your own business, then you should just go do that. If you want to write code until you're 50, you should do that. You're probably pretty bright and perhaps you haven't realized it yet, but because of that you'll always be employed. Don't worry about your job, you'll find another and if you want to switch career paths, it's probably easier than you think. I know those pay checks are comfy and they arrive regularly. That health insurance you probably don't use much is comforting too. You're probably afraid what might happen to your family if you decided to chance upon something different. Just keep in mind, the market or perhaps even the company you work for has very carefully determined the bare minimum it should pay you or otherwise compensate you to keep your job. If you're already happy, keep doing what you're doing. If you're not happy, stop being afraid. (Just a bit over a year ago the company I worked for slowly melted down over the course of the summer. Losing my job was the best thing that ever happened to me. Along the way to where I'm at now, I had to take some small risks - at each turn life got better.)

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Biometric Authentication System?

vinn Who wants this? You? (127 comments)

Having spent a lot of time around such things, I have to ask, who's project is this? Who wants this? Just you?

If your boss or the CEO is asking for this - great. Go do it. That's your job. (The RFID comments seem in the right ballpark.)

If a mid-level manager or you is taking this on as a pet project, then you need to do some soul searching. This doesn't seem to have much immediate benefit to the bottom line of the company. This doesn't drive revenue creation and it doesn't drive product development. Almost every time I hear someone say, "We need to track X", I rarely ever hear someone else say, "Get me the statistics on X". Tracking shit is easy, crunching the numbers to calculate metrics isn't. If this is simply compliance tracking, listen to the guy who says to install cameras and then dump it to a crapload of drives. If there's an audit, hand over the video and let the auditors sort it out.

There is a whole lot of not-your-job in here and very little hero making to be done.

about three weeks ago
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AT&T To "Pause" Gigabit Internet Rollout Until Net Neutrality Is Settled

vinn What rhymes with "douchebag"? (308 comments)

AT&T. I would hope Comcast or someone would take this news and announce they'll be expanding service to try to edge out AT&T, but we're much more likely to just end up and an announcement from Comcast that they'll do the same thing.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Is Reporting Still Relevant?

vinn Finance needs it (179 comments)

Where reporting is really needed is with finance. So all those lovely metrics you collect should at some level get tied to financials. That site traffic has expenses associated with it - labor, acquisition, and hard costs like data pipes. Downtime has costs associated with it. At the end of the day, I'd venture that nearly every company just uses Excel to crunch those kinds numbers. (Perhaps they get stored in a database, in which case the staff accountant who generates the reports likely exports them to Excel, makes a few modifications or fixups, and then emails them on.) So yes, in order to intelligently run your company you need to meld together all kinds of different numbers and that's where reporting typically comes into play. Also, the higher up the food chain you go in any company, typically the older the employees are. The folks higher up typically have very little time to twiddle around with a web interface. In fact, they probably just use Outlook all day long and just send email around. So, if the report comes in via email, there's a reasonable chance they'll look at it. Not every day, but at least occasionally.

about 3 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Who Should Pay Costs To Attend Conferences?

vinn Cost/benefit (182 comments)

First off, if you enjoy your job and this is the single sticking point, then I would consider it to be relatively minor. In which case you either play by their rules, quit, or some how convince them to pay. If I was in the position of your manager, I think their offer is fair. For instance, it might be easy for him to get payments made for an actual training or conference, but employee expenses might involve a lot of scrutiny. So, in your ideal world you want him to pay for it. Well, every time I've been in this situation (i.e. paying for training that wasn't budgeted), I've always told the person that if they can directly show me a cost/benefit that I'll go to bat for them and sign off on it. For example, one guy wanted us to pay for his CCNA and later CCNP training and at the time we had an external support contract in a specific area. Well, he made a convincing case we'd be able to cut back on that support contract. He was right - the first year we went from a $48000 expense to a $24000 expense and later down to a $6000 expense. I wanted to go to a conference to meet some contacts, so I told my boss we'd be able to save on custom reporting that was being outsourced. Sure enough, 3 months later a guy I met at the conference did some simple modifications to a canned report that our vendor would have charged a bunch for. I've almost always been able to send someone to training or a conference if I can directly show how it'll benefit.

about 3 months ago
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Did you use technology to get into mischief as a child?

vinn Anarchist Cookbook (231 comments)

My early years on a computer were spent cracking the DRM (I think we just called it copy protection back then) on Commodore video games and sharing them with friends. It was fun and a good learning experience.

What would have likely landed me in juvey today or possibly jail though was when we discovered the Anarchist Cookbook. We had an AP chemistry teacher who was really cool and we used to try to work out some of the formulas for some of the explosives found in there... so we could "improve" them. I distinctly remember one night being out in the middle of a farmer's field with something consisting of cotton balls soaked in something, stuffed inside newspaper and diesel fuel. A curious sheriff showed up and some how believed we were doing a science experiment for class. (Probably because most people building bombs don't pull out sheets of chemical equations to show off.) We also used to buy black powder, ground it, build into various kinds of pipe bombs along with custom fuses.

In college I fell in love with Sun workstations and loved using in the engineering labs. Workstations all in use? Compile a fork bomb and crash SunOS. Need to start your own business? Acquire some university server space for hosting. Need some fake ID's? Get access to the lab with the Tektronix dye sub color printer.

about 3 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: When Is It Better To Modify the ERP vs. Interfacing It?

vinn Quit (209 comments)

Just quit.

1. You don't seem to be the one in control of this project. So, you are stuck on this path. Or, do you have the political capital and will to fight to get your way? You're seriously going to piss in someone's Wheaties and when you're standing in the shower in the morning, you better have a smile on your face knowing it's worth it.

2. You work for a major HVAC manufacturer. That's the most exciting thing you can do with your life? It would make me want to slit my wrists every day with a spoon.

3. You have to re-do these applications and make the data integrity robust. That means seriously looking at things like where you can get the most benefit for least amount of cost and/or where the data integrity is shit. "Oh, Jim manages our entire Northwest supply chain and inventory using that Excel spreadsheet he keeps on his desktop." I don't care if you use and Oracle product to get there or a cloud-based, super-redundant shade of the color blue. The only thing your boss's boss cares about is whether you a) prevent the company from losing money or b) make the company more money.

4. Speaking about data center room makes you sound like a systems or support person. This is an application and developer thing.

5. I'm not sure I understand where your pain points are. Customer relationship management? Supply chain? Inventory? Quality control? Payroll/HR? Quantify.

6. Do they pay you enough to worry about this? That might seem flippant, but it's very valid.

about 5 months ago
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Microsoft FY2014 Q4 Earnings: Revenues Up, Profits Down Slightly

vinn Licensing/ownership irony (66 comments)

I find it a bit ironic that Microsoft has helped usher in this huge digital age where none of us really want to "own" digital content any more. We don't rush out to buy CD's any more, we subscribe to music services or stream Pandora. We don't go out and purchase DVD's, we subscribe to Netflix or rent some viewing via iTunes.

Yet, despite some little things like Office 365, Microsoft still makes its bread and butter via selling software to OEM's and volume customers that runs on hardware, both of which many of us are increasingly not wanting to own. I f*cking hate installing an OS on a server and then making sure the damn thing stays running. I'd much rather rent the VM in the cloud. Even better, just let me subscribe to your web service.

about 5 months ago
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Blueprints For Taming the Climate Crisis

vinn I live in Montana. I'm looking forward to it. (389 comments)

I live in Montana and I'm rather looking forward to global warming. This place is gonna be even more amazing when it gets warmer. I might even have to buy a summer home in the Yukon.

On a slightly more serious note, as Winston Churchill once said, "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else."

about 5 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Is It Feasible To Revive an Old Linux PC Setup?

vinn duh: arch (176 comments)

Obviously architecture is the biggest hindrance to what you proposed.

You could get away with some modern hardware, as long as it's x86 based. Or, maybe what you really want to consider is virtualizing an old distro on other modern hardware along with a modern distro, assuming the other modern hardware supports it.

There is some novelty in running old stuff, and I suppose everyone goes through that phase (along with the "I'm going to build a massive home network with multiple servers and run my own email" phase). But, I suspect you'll tire of it so you're just better off keeping it at a small budget and use hardware you can repurpose when you get bored with that little experiment.

about 6 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Communication With Locked-in Syndrome Patient?

vinn suecenter.org (552 comments)

First off, be sure to read that post higher up about the guy who had a similar condition due to a ski accident - heed his advice - get a brain stem specialist contacted ASAP.

Down the road, you may want to consider looking at some software that was put together and found at suecenter.org. The fella who developed it is very enthusiastic about it and willing to help out. It doesn't sound like she has enough motor movement yet for the tracker to work, but conceivably you could attach the tracker to her lip to let her control the mouse in the application.

Prayers to ya.

about 7 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Anti-Theft Products For the Over-Equipped Household?

vinn DIY? (408 comments)

What about some kind of DIY thing? Get a Raspberry Pi, use the GPIO pins to run some wires from the cases of each device (something thing like telco cross-connect), drive it and if the circuit breaks then send out an email or something. Bonus points for integrating a camera and snapping photos at the same time the wires break. Similarly, if the device is an always on kind of thing, just use some kind of network monitoring.

about 7 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Intelligently Moving From IT Into Management?

vinn Re:Stop dicking around on the network, sign payche (125 comments)

+1

Seriously, at some point managing operations has to come second to company growth. Put your strategic vision goggles on when you leave the house every morning.

Now, as someone who has also very recently transitioned from the world of IT to money stuff, I will say you need to be very careful about it. Right now I have very few resources at my disposal to turn to when things get mucky. And, sometimes you need some accounting magic to get that balance sheet to balance (find an asset, depreciate it! have the company loan itself money!) Now, I've found it to be ridiculously easy compared to IT - oh, sure, I have a vast amount to learn, but I've found I absorb the knowledge quite fast. My recommendation to you is to begin building that safety net - find some friends who are amazing accountants (controllers) you can discuss things like P&L's and balance sheets with. Find finance friends who can give you sage advice on everything you don't know - are there tax ramifications if you make that purchase this quarter?

Then, just remember, always make sure the decision you're making isn't going to affect making payroll. If it does, what's your plan?

about 8 months ago
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Survey: 56 Percent of US Developers Expect To Become Millionaires

vinn Dear Boneheads: Don't ever be happy on paper (467 comments)

I remember when I was younger and management would send out employee opinion surveys. I'd answer them, be truthful and feel like my opinion actually mattered. I felt it was proper to express exactly how happy or unhappy I was and that the survey was some mechanism for improving things.

Then I became part of management and I realized how completely wrong I was.

The employee opinion survey mostly serves as a crutch for manager's to pat themselves on the back and the do a very good job curve fitting the results to their preconceived notions of how things are. It also serves to weed out people with bad attitudes - I've overheard more than one discussion of trying to locate an employee based on the comment they made on the survey.

So, if you say you're happy with the wage you're getting, you won't be getting a raise. In fact, it's even seen as a sign that pay cuts should be happening. Likewise, if you feel like you're a valued employee, good luck getting any more benefits. It's more likely management will use that as an excuse to strip away that one little perk, like free soda or something, just because they'll decrease the amount of HR budget dedicated to keeping employees happy. Don't ever be happy on paper.

Unfortunately, it's not enough for just you to express your desire for a raise. If 40% of your colleagues think they get paid enough, that's probably enough for management to little to no wage increase. You really want less than 5 - 10% say they're happy - in other words, 90% of the employees in your department need to express displeasure with their wages in order for the survey to have any meaningful effect on wages. (There's plenty of other ways to get a raise though - an employee survey is probably one of the least likely ways for it to happen.)

PS. If you think your company is one of those awesome companies that cares, you're probably wrong. If you sat in the room with the CEO, COO, and HR Director and heard that private conversation about the survey, you'd be horrified.

about 8 months ago
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Slashdot Asks: How Do You Pay Your Taxes?

vinn Re:Itemizing? Pay someone. (386 comments)

Wrong. Do you buy clothes? Do laundry? Check your email from a computer at home? Do you pay electricity bills? Any of that kind of stuff can be itemized if done properly. More importantly, at the point where you itemize, the smart thing to do is start a LLC and accrue business expenses.

about 8 months ago
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Slashdot Asks: How Do You Pay Your Taxes?

vinn Itemizing? Pay someone. (386 comments)

At the point where you can itemize your deductions, you're better off paying someone else to do you taxes. A good accountant will more than pay for themselves - you'll likely be able to recoup thousands of dollars. A normal human just can't stay on top of the US tax code enough from year to year to know how to file for every qualifying deduction.

Finding the right accountant/tax preparer is very important. I don't have a lot of tips there other than asking around - I recommend asking some small business owners who they use. I've gone through 4 different accountants over the past ten years. One got me audited, two were just so-so, and now I have one that's fantastic. You probably don't want to go to one of those tax mill places like HR Block, although there is some advantage to working with someone who sees A LOT of tax returns. You probably also don't want to go to a big CPA firm that doesn't a lot of business work.

Even more important, if you don't own your own business yet, you need to create one. Filing an LLC is fairly simple in most states. Your business should be fairly in line with one of your hobbies and the writeoffs will be well worth it.

about 8 months ago
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North Korean Business Park Getting Internet Access

vinn Still prohibited from importing computers.. (46 comments)

Keep in mind, US sanctions against North Korea mean key technologies make it difficult to import computers. Although these days there's so many ways to get mobile devices that might be a moot point.

Last year we were in South Korea and we went on one of the popular "DMZ Tours". So, on the tour you go to Dorason Station, which is the jumping off point from South Korea onto the rail line into North Korea, and then after that you go up a hill and look into North Korea. From that overlook, you can see Kaesong, which I think is about 7 miles over the border or so.

My guess is that this is going to be a simple and highly restricted system. A lot of management is from South Korea, so they'll give them access. From there, the simplest way would be a straight wireless shot to South Korea, but maybe N. Korea can make a play to get their paws on the traffic.

Interesting factoid, North Korea's official GDP (not counting it's counterfeit currency, drug and arms trade) is about $12 billion. Of that, $2 billion comes from trade generated by Kaesong. So when North Korea cut off access to Kaesong, it effectively made the decision to shut down 17% of its economy overnight.

about 10 months ago
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Slashdot Tries Something New; Audience Responds!

vinn How about a poll? (2219 comments)

Apparently NO ONE has listened since the beta period began. I realize Timothy and Soulskill are replying above, but clearly no one has done any work on the actual site. Is there anyone who likes anything about the new beta? Put me in the *it blows fucking donkeyballs* category; for all the reasons cited above - broken comments, terrible layout, terrible waste of space.

So why not do a poll on it?

* I like the new beta
* I don't like it, but it's fixable
* It's terrible
* It's so terrible I'll quit using the site if you keep the design
* Print out the new website on dead trees and shove it up CowboyNeal's ass

about 10 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Why So Hard Landing Interviews In Seattle Versus SoCal?

vinn What works in SoCal should stay in SoCal (506 comments)

The Pacific Northwest has reached it's max quota of Californians. Sorry, but we really don't want any more. Please consider reapplying after you've mounted a roof rack on your vehicle, own a kayak, mountain bike and a pair of tele skis (road bikes and snowboards are for pussies and white rappers.) Also, you'll need to complete 6 months working as a barista in order to fully appreciate the nuances of coffee. Finally, if you decide to whine about anything and/or compare it to SoCal, you'll be deported.

1 year,12 days
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Ask Slashdot: Are We Older Experts Being Retired Too Early?

vinn Team up with a marketing contractor (629 comments)

Find a contractor who works in the marketing field - you know, someone who specializes in things like building websites, developing CRM programs for companies, etc. Often the smaller marketing contractors have a hell of a time finding a tech person who can help support their projects. They also don't understand the nuances of how a lot of pieces of technology fit together. However, and most importantly for you, marketing budgets are fantastic if you're on the contractor end.

1 year,20 days

Submissions

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Wine 1.4 Released

vinn vinn writes  |  more than 2 years ago

vinn (4370) writes "Wine 1.4 was released today and includes support for a wide range of applications, including Office 2010. There are some major architectural changes, including a built-in DIB engine for better graphics display and a new audio stack designed around the newer Vista / Win 7 system and integrated into the native audio system. Almost every other subsystem received substantial updates, including Direct3D, the Gecko-based web browsing components, and better internationalization. The release notes contain more detail and you can download the source code now, or wait for packages to appear soon."
Link to Original Source
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Do-It-Yourself Solar?

vinn vinn writes  |  more than 3 years ago

vinn writes "It's been three years since Slashdot last visited do-it-yourself solar and things have changed quite a bit. I'm looking to spend this winter putting a grid-tie solar project together and have the work completed early in the spring. What's the best way to do this? What should I buy and where should I get it?

More details: I live in Montana and our local power company supplies 1:1 credits on alternative energy. Therefore, I don't need batteries or a rectifier, which is fantastic. That means I just need a basic grid-tie inverter, PV panels, and all the stuff to connect them. The power company has a list of technicians approved to install grid-tie inverters, but most of them seem intent on trying to sell me $30k worth of stuff and not do the project the way I want.

That's to say, I need someone to install the inverter, about a 4kW or 5kW one (either is sufficient for our needs). Then I want to start by adding about 1kW worth of panels. Gradually I want to scale this to about 3kW, but I want to do it over a series of a few years. Panel prices are dropping and it doesn't seem to make sense to spend all the money right now. So, as near as I can tell, I should be able to do this project for about $6000 and provide for a big chunk of our energy needs (which are extremely modest.) I plan on having the panels fixed on the roof — no tracker or anything.

Does that approach make sense? What brands should I be looking at? I'm pretty good with wiring (I've wired most of our house and I'm comfortable working on panels), but I'm sure there's some great connector kits out there that would really make this installation easier and set it up to grow over time."
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CodeWeavers Ports Chrome to Linux and OS X

vinn vinn writes  |  more than 6 years ago

vinn (4370) writes "CodeWeavers announced a port of Google's Chrome to Linux and Mac OS X. From the press release, "We did this to prove a point," said Jeremy White, CodeWeavers President and chief executive officer. "The message is very simply this: if you are a Windows software vendor, and you want to get your product into new markets, you should pay attention to Wine. Wine is a very powerful tool for bringing your product to new audiences in the Mac and Linux spaces. And in many cases Wine is faster and more economical than doing a native port." Codeweaver's blog offers some insight into the process."
Link to Original Source

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