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Comment The eternal balance question... (Score 1) 261

I've been doing end user computing for quite a while, and we've gone through so many cycles of "where the client intelligence lives" or "where the virtual desktop is hosted" and everyone oscillates between two extremes. PCs to zero clients usually ends up being a mix of laptops and thin clients in the end. All VDI ends up being some VDI after some very expensive POCs in most cases. I guess the same debate of "host it yourself vs. rely on a cloud provider" is alive and well here. I see it every day where I work -- the management is all about cloud, and the staff are fine with some cloud, but going all the way over to total dependence on a third party is not great in my mind.

Something as fundamental as DNS should probably at least have some footprint in your "locus of control." I didn't say "in your office" but fundamental stuff that could completely kill everything else if you lost it shouldn't be given over to a third party that you don't directly control. In this case, Dyn had a DDoS attack, and on-premises DNS could too. But having a way to run both off and on premises makes good sense...if one entity is having a bad day, the other could at least keep things alive. However, all this old school DR stuff is lost in the world of the cloud and startups. It all comes down to how much in dollars or reputation the loss of a service costs the company...if you can quantify that and the number exceeds the cost of mitigation, businesses would be stupid not to put something in place to mitigate it.

Comment How much of this is productive time? (Score 1) 403

One thing I could see contributing to this difference is the amount of time _wasted_ at work. Now that I'm a dad whose wife also works, as soon as I'm in the office the proverbial clock starts ticking. If I don't want to be stuck doing stuff after the kids go to bed at night, I have to get my work done in that narrow window of time. Lots of tech employers, especially Silicon Valley type companies operate on the college campus model, where long hours in the office are encouraged and part of the culture. Google serves 3 meals a day to their employees, and expects you to be there long before/long after those meals to make up for it. Your workplace becomes your extended family, and you are expected to put in time accordingly. If you want to see an extreme of this, look at Japanese work culture, where salarymen work massive amounts of hours _and_ have to go drinking with the boss when they're done.

If more employers would adopt the "get your stuff done when you want, as long as it gets done" mentality, I think most people would choose to be at work fewer hours. This may not be true for recent college grads who have no commitments at home, but I think it's very true for anyone wanting to maintain some sort of home life. You could say that in the traditional family, the father was the one working all the time and that was all that mattered, but I think priorities and society are shifting away from that.

Comment Everyone's job is at risk, not just laborers (Score 1) 890

What I don't think people see when they complain about UBI is how vulnerable their jobs are. Techies in particular feel that they're always going to get high pay and have great jobs, but we keep seeing offhshoring of even the good tech jobs in pursuit of lower labor costs. Removal of the rest of the white collar low-to-mid level workforce is going to be even more disruptive than getting rid of labor. I work very hard to stay current with the technology I work with and I'm still seeing companies doing everything they can to pay less...managing out older employees, removing the idea of a career track, etc. All I'm saying is that the people who are currently smug and looking down at the "unskilled" class of labor from on high are about to be shocked when it turns out their job can be automated or done cheaper somewhere else as well.

Why do I think this is a big deal? In corporate IT, I constantly see tons of jobs that could easily be automated if some MBA decided to do a cost-benefit analysis. In lots of companies these jobs are the majority of the workforce. Why do you think HP, Dell, etc. are announcing layoffs in the 5 digits as a response to the slump in PC sales? Lots of people in cube-dweller land are doing modern versions of paper-movement jobs that existed 40 years ago, having pointless project meetings, etc. Inefficient, right? Sure, but those same people pay taxes, have children, buy houses, buy the products their companies make, and generally keep things moving. People being worried that they'll be able to pay their bills all the time reduce their spending and put off major purchases. Look at the Millennials as an example...most aren't jumping right into home ownership because they don't feel they have a stable footing.

I do see a lot of logistical problems, but I see way more problems if something like this isn't done. If companies suddenly don't have to pay their workforce as much, and wages are the highest cost in many companies, you suddenly have tons of money floating around. Businesses are going to scream socialism if we try something like forcing them to contribute to the UBI fund with all this extra money they have. I imagine that without UBI, the business owners will just keep squeezing employees and keep all the savings for themselves. The problem with this scenario is that money-for-labor economies can cope with 5% unemployment, are uncomfortable at 10+%, and get pretty screwed up much beyond that. Imagine an 80 or 90% unemployment rate across all walks of life...all the guards in the world won't protect the business owners from an angry population with nothing else to do and no way to earn a living.

Comment They're having a "Sputnik moment" (Score 1) 97

Whether those paper publications are high quality or not, it definitely shows the difference between a government with full control over its economy and one that's given all the control over to businesses. In my opinion, there are 3 primary reasons for the decline of science education in the US:
1. Anti-intellectualism on a massive scale -- other countries shower their scientists with praise and research dollars, and we dismiss research as something those "leftist egghead liberals in the ivory tower" do. Other countries place education as the top priority, and we don't care anymore.
2. Lack of employment prospects -- everyone keeps saying "STEM is the future" and I believe this, but you have to have jobs for all these scientists and engineers you're graduating. Why would someone smart enough to be a research scientist, who had the photographic memory to get a 4.0 GPA and a perfect score on the MCATs, choose anything other than medicine, management consulting or investment banking? Medicine, dentistry and pharmacy are the last fully protected professions in the US, and banking/consulting are guaranteed success tickets. Any rational actor is gong to choose the safe path.
3. Lack of funding -- most state university systems are cutting back on research funding, not filling as many tenured professor positions, etc. R&D is typically funded through private grants and demands only research that will produce a completely new product within a few months.

Contrast this with China, which has full control over where their money is spent. Nearly every private company still answers to the government in one way or another, and no one is going to say a word about building up universities at a faster pace. This is basically why I think they're going to be the long-term economic winners -- larger population and more central control.

The funny thing is that in this country, during the 50s through the 70s, there was a massive investment in universities and science. No one batted an eyelash about how much things cost and what they were being spent on, as long as it kept us on par with or ahead of the Soviet Union. However it seems that priorities have shifted away from that. I really don't want to be worried about being wiped out constantly, but maybe a new cold war with another powerful adversary is the way to stimulate growth in science again. All of the US conflicts since Vietnam have been very one-sided -- I imagine a war with China wouldn't be just based on numbers and sheer will. When you have a situation like that, just as we had with the Soviet Union, a cold war seems like a good idea.

Comment Interesting (Score 1) 183

I'd never really given a thought as to _why_ Synaptics and friends required their touchpads to have a full-blown application and a driver installed to have full gesture functionality...but I do know it's another pain in the butt step that has to be automated when a laptop is deployed in order to have a common Windows image. I didn't even know there was a standard. Now I know why - you learn something new every day.

Microsoft does have info on how to implement their standard here but I wonder if Linux hardware drivers can implement the same spec, or if there will always be a "legacy fallback mode" so the touchpad can be used in situations like navigating the UEFI, which has gotten very GUI-like lately.

Comment PCs aren't dying, they're just a niche player now (Score 1) 116

HP and all the other manufacturers are caught in the perfect storm of:
- PCs having enough power for almost anything an end user can throw at them (including games) for a much longer period of time
- Tablets cannibalizing the "information consumer" side of the market
- Nothing really exciting and new in the PC space for years

The industry in general is hyping the cloud as well, which basically reduces PCs to thin clients...even though all those JavaScript front ends require at least a full processor core and 16 GB of RAM to run efficiently ( case you didn't notice.)

I do end user computing in the business world. Yes, Millennials are bringing their phones and tablets in, but outside of a few niches, most of the real work gets done on PCs or Surface-esque full PCs in a tablet form. I sure hope HP is using these 4,000 layoffs to refocus on providing a rock-solid line of business PCs and dumping all their consumer junk down the toilet. That's the side of the industry that is falling off a can't make margin on $300 PCs, and consumers don't need them as much as businesses need $700 PCs with real warranties and support.

Comment Temp jobs and gig economy != Employment (Score 3, Interesting) 50

These crappy temp jobs are going to bubble up into the unemployment numbers and, though the rate is seasonally adjusted, they'll show job growth. What I want to see is real full-time employee job growth, the kind of work that comes with real salaries, retirement and health benefits. It's really sad to see people in their mid-50s driving for Uber because they can't find work after having their jobs offshored or eliminated. Uber will say they're doing people a favor, but I think they and companies like them are contributing to the perception that employees should be treated as disposable commodities.

There has to be a better safety net for these people than what unemployment insurance provides in the US these days. If people could be assured of at least their full salary being replaced for a reasonable amount of time, they might be willing to take more risks, look for a job that's a good fit rather than the first thing that comes along, etc. I know we're supposed to be living in a wondrous time of automation, innovation, etc. but the fact is that most people need something to do. They need full time employment, a sense of purpose, the ability to put down roots, etc. Almost no one can be a fabulously wealthy entrepreneur no matter how much the small business owners/cheerleaders want people to believe that. Very few people want to be nomadic and move from place to place chasing work every year or so.

I know one theory I have on how to solve this is not popular at all, but what about forcing businesses to pre-fund longer-term employee severance packages at a rate proportional to the employee's salary? Employees would be free to leave at will and their pre-funding would go back into a general fund. But, just dumping a worker because you feel like it, offshore their job, etc. would require a payment out of the fund that would actually carry the employee until they could find new work. It's good for the businesses too, because it forces them to really think hard about who they hire rather than just take the first guy who comes in the door. I know every business owner would scream socialism, evil regulations, etc. over this one. But the reality is that every single business, small or large, has huge advantages over regular workers. Business owners can just funnel all their personal expenses through their companies, the really large ones can take advantage of loopholes to pay zero taxes, etc. Having a common sense plan like this makes sense -- it's just a bigger payment into the unemployment insurance fund to ensure people aren't reduced to what amounts to minimum wage when you get thrown out of a job and still have bills to pay.

Comment Not lack of work ethic, lack of stability (Score 4, Insightful) 326

I think that in most cases, if employees felt safe in their jobs, they'd do better work. That Millennial who seems to be "slacking" because they won't put in 90 hour weeks for years on end just sees what's going on. SV startups live on fresh college kids who haven't experienced what it's like to work in an unstable environment or for a hostile employer. Older Millennials are more cynical, just like older people of other generations.

Restoring the balance of employer/employee loyalty would be a good start if employers want a more productive workforce. Smart people see employers who will replace them at the drop of a hat and don't put in the extra effort as a result. Previous generations had some employers who would employ you for life...IBM had a no-layoff policy for ages and there are legions of people who worked for large employers like this their entire careers. In return, their employees were loyal, worked hard, put in extra hours where needed, etc.

Unfortunately, I can't see this happening any time soon. Back in the 60s/70s, the US was quite different. Absolutely everything was manufactured domestically, there was very little foreign competition, only 3 car companies of note, etc. And, companies needed thousands and thousands of people just to move paperwork around the organization, all of whom had stable jobs. Now, we manufacture very little, offshore well-paid technical jobs, and companies just keep squeezing harder to get those pennies out of their operational processes.

Comment "Closed Network Syndrome" strikes again (Score 3, Insightful) 15

This is the same thing that happens with networks like SCADA systems, supposedly "air gapped" networks, etc. Even if there is no physical access to the network, it can totally be defeated by a USB key. I'm sure SWIFT has tons of security in place to protect the actual transaction, but lots of these systems that I've seen over the years have relied on the fact that they're typically isolated...which means very little these days. Because the networks are isolated, it becomes more of a pain to apply patches and updates, and network owners are less likely to bother because of this. And in the case of the SCADA stuff or a vertical-market company that doesn't really have much competition, there's little incentive for the device manufacturer or network owner to do any maintenance or write secure code in the first place.

It's kind of sad, but any networked system these days has to assume that anyone accessing it, whether inside or outside the company perimeter, is attacking it. Too many companies assume that if a machine is plugged into the "inside" network, it's safe. Changing access policies is a hard sell though, so places keep doing it and keep getting compromised.

Comment I'm for this, and I'm not a user (Score 1) 255

I don't understand why people don't see that trying to curtail the supply of drugs and locking people up doesn't work. You're never going to convince people who use drugs that they shouldn't. Look how hard it is to get the hardcore cigarette smokers to quit -- our state has the highest tobacco tax in the country, and you basically can't smoke anywhere anymore, and there is still a cohort of people who will do it until they die. It's way less than it was in, say, the 50s where absolutely everyone smoked, but it's there and keeps the cigarette makers employed.

I think the entire war on drugs should just be dropped. I've never done anything in my life (OK, alcohol, but that's legal.) And even though I'm not a user, I think the overall cost of drugs in society would go way down if everyone had easy access to safe, cheap sources with no questions asked. Imagine being able to go into a pharmacy to get painkillers -- people wouldn't have to resort to heroin. Overdose incidents would also go way down because users would know what they're getting -- this is a major driver to the "opioid crisis" where inexperienced users OD because they were given a dose they weren't used's not like dealers are testing the concentration of their product.

If enforcement just stopped, and supply were regulated and made available to everyone who wanted it, the crime surrounding drug use would drop to zero, which is what most people who don't have a moral problem with it are upset about. The other thing I think this would help is the upcoming mass-unemployment event that's going to come from automation of all jobs. As a society, do we really want 90% of the population unemployed with nothing to do, or should we give them something to do that's cheap and keeps them out of trouble if they choose?

Comment Re: WHY ? (Score 2) 106

"In my experience, the best employees are "boomerangs", that resign, work somewhere else for a few years, and then return."

Exactly - My current company is full of employees like this, and I'm one. The only danger is having "resume loops" but that matters less if you've built up a network and aren't just cold-calling people begging for a job.

It's a good lesson for all the young job-hopping folks out there -- don't burn bridges with previous employers! A counter-example to this would be someone we tried to rehire who left on really bad terms, not just burning bridges but nuking them because he was temporarily pissed off. My boss got all the way through the process of getting him back, only to have HR deny him because he did something bad enough in his exit interview to get him marked as a "no re-hire" person. Protip: exit interviews are not the place to air one's grievances.

Comment Kill the stigma around job searches!!! (Score 4, Insightful) 106

I've always hated the whole cat and mouse game that's involved with finding a new job. You have to sneak around, start calling contacts, hope one of them doesn't spill the beans to someone else both they and your boss knows, etc. It's just one of those things you wish you could be open about, but you know you can't.

The problem is that even managers who aren't insecure know that if someone's looking, and they're good, they're unhappy and will be gone as soon as they can find something that they like. Note that I said "that they like" instead of "that pays more." Lots of employee moves aren't due to compensation. I work at my current employer for less than I could be making elsewhere because at this point in my life I trade off a flexible, stable job for reduced earning potential. Not everyone is a nomadic childless consultant who doesn't even have a permanent address because they travel so much. By the same token, not everyone is a family guy working a stable job who wants to see their kids go through school in the same place rather than move 3 times in 10 years.

It's like mental illness...if some way could be found to remove the stigma around talking about it, things would improve. If employees felt they could go to their boss with concerns and not worry about being targeted for layoffs or being fired, things would work out much better. The problem is that in the current climate, you can't tell your boss "Hey, I'm not totally happy here because [tangible reasons]" or "Hey, I could use another 5% in salary because [tangible reasons]." Even if your boss were supportive and understanding, everyone's deathly afraid of unemployment...especially if you're over 40. Getting caught out in a layoff when you're over 40 makes it significantly harder to find new work. Employers just assume anyone over 40 is too old, and anyone unemployed can't possibly be any good.

Comment So why keep hiring contractors? (Score 1) 101

The government seems to have the same accountants my company does...effectively paying twice for an employee but coming out ahead because OpEx.

Why in the world would the government hire contractors to work in the intelligence agencies? Even if they have their clearances, etc. you exercise less control over a contractor than you would your own employee. I saw a post above saying GS workers can't be fired and the government can't pay talented people enough -- I'd be tempted to take the "can't be fired" with a grain of salt given most /.'er's political leanings, but I could be wrong. Hiring contractors to work on sensitive material doesn't make too much sense to me. In my IT experience, contractors tend to be much more transient than permanent employees and a whole lot less interested in doing a good job (beyond what it takes to keep getting renewed.)

To me, it would make sense to fire all the contractors, hire FTEs to replace them, and bump up a few salary grades so they can be assigned to techies. That's one thing my current company does right -- the first 2 management ranks out of 4 are assignable to technical people as well, which allows smart people to be compensated for being smart rather than having to go into full blown management-only career paths. You're expected to mentor and supervise, but the political crap gets handled by managers. If government workers really do top out at a low salary, the benefits may not make it worth sticking around. However, with the spectre of offshoring and constant downsizing, I could definitely see the attraction of a very stable job in the next 10 years or so...people have different priorities. Some want to make as much as possible, and others want to do the family thing and have a safe income to fall back on.

Comment Not sure what else there is to reveal (Score 3, Insightful) 380

We already have the email issue, the Clinton Foundation issue, the fact that the DNC intentionally torpedoed her rival in the primary, etc. I can't see anything else left to reveal that would be any more damaging at this point.

My feeling on both sides is that people should be grown up enough to realize that all politicians aren't "normal people." They have immense power, immense wealth, and are masters at manipulating people to get things they need done. The only reason we didn't hear about their inner circle of dealings in the past is because we didn't used to have every news agency in the country camped out on their doorsteps 24/7 listening to them breathe, or idiotic staffers who can't seem to get their heads around secure email and computer networks. I think we're actually lucky in the US in terms of the level of corruption in our political system..many more countries have it much worse.

Seriously, anyone who voluntarily goes out seeking political office is not normal, plain and simple. You can't expect them to act like regular people. Corporate executives fall into this category too -- most executives live on another planet compared to us in terms of their daily walk through life. You're just not going to get a regular person as a politician or an executive. Trying to hold them to standards like that just breeds disappointment and discontent.

Comment Good, now prosecute the loophole users (Score 4, Insightful) 111

The problem with this whole program is that they can't go after companies that violate the spirit of the law. In this case, the government was clearly responding to an actual fraud (falsification of records, etc.)

I don't really have a problem with the H-1B program, in its original form. Before all the loopholes were discovered, it provided a useful way to get very highly skilled people into the US to work on projects. The thing I don't like seeing is the whole wave of body shops that are clearly using the law to bring people in house who are clearly not highly skilled, but work cheap enough to displace a native employee. I'm a reasonably senior systems integration engineer, and it's clear that the Tatas and Infosys's of the world aren't bringing in Ph. D. geniuses to work as routine DBAs and coders. My team and I get a lot of the output of these folks and have to make it work in the real isn't ground breaking innovative stuff. The other thing that I've seen the offshore firms use H-1Bs for is a rotating "train your replacement" team. When they hook another company for an IT outsourcing deal, this is the team that gets sent in to collect procedures and send the work offshore. When the press picks up on stories like this, these teams are usually the ones the workers are talking about when they say they're being shadowed and forced to document their jobs.

I really think it's going to take massive unemployment in sectors other than IT for the loopholes to be closed. When the BPO firms start coming for the professional accountants and other "expensive" talent as well as IT, people might notice and/or sympathize. I think lots of people really think that IT folks are way overpaid and don't totally understand the job, cost of living differences, etc. It also doesn't help that there are a lot of people inside and outside of IT that express the opinion that all of the displaced workers were "old fossils" who don't keep up. I'm old and spend a ton of time keeping up, so I hate getting lumped in with this crowd....but at least I'm still employed!

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