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Comment: Re: I don't follow (Score 3, Insightful) 358

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48180955) Attached to: Apple Doesn't Design For Yesterday

It's general knowledge in typography that Helvetica is the most legible typeface.

That is very much convention wisdom, yes.

It really isn't. Helvetica is actually a relatively awkward typeface to work with, particularly for body text. Its default tracking/kerning are tight for extended reading, its glyphs have quite inconsistent width fittings, and it has various problems with similar-looking glyphs that are easily mistaken for one another, which also makes it a less than ideal choice for user interfaces. Don't mistake popularity or endurance for quality.

Comment: HR idealism vs. the real world (Score 1) 143

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48175495) Attached to: Cisco Exec: Turnover In Engineering No Problem

Lest somebody misunderstand, the very essence of an enterprise (any enterprise) is that it is a bundle of labour and capital whose essential structure and identity is independent of and more persistent than the labour it employs.

That's a horrible oversimplification, but let's take it as read for the purposes of this discussion.

It is for this reason that any contemporary HR policy is aimed at (and this is important) divorcing the work from specific individuals.
What this means is that all and any employees must (and this is essential) be plug-replaceable as a matter of policy.

Unfortunately, if you adopt that policy, you have immediately and severely restricted your ability both to hire and retain the most effective staff and to build the most productive teams.

It is obvious that HR would love for employees to be plug-replaceable in such a way, and it is obvious why. However, the reality is that in a creative industry, and particularly in one related to technology, no two employees offer exactly the same potential contributions. If as a matter of policy you won't hire or depend on anyone with unique contributions to offer, then almost by definition you're only going to have staff with typical combinations of widely available skills and no special experience or unique insights to draw upon.

However, given that the creative component of technology companies is often where much of their value comes from, a business that can't or won't hire the most creative people is always at risk of a competitor disrupting their business model with a new product, service, distribution model...

Moreover, technology can be a dramatic effectiveness multiplier. A single smart, creative person using the best technologies can sometimes outperform an entire team of mediocre people with average technologies. More importantly, in scalable fields like software and on-line services, a relatively small team of smart, creative people with complementary skill sets and the best technologies has the potential compete with a much larger organisation on raw effectiveness, before you even consider the overheads that the larger organisation must bear.

Finally, one of the major factors in maintaining productivity and developing existing technological assets and IP is keeping sufficient knowledge and expertise available within the development team. That can be done through good documentation, tools, processes and so on, but in reality this very rarely happens and word-of-mouth advice is a far more efficient and effective way to pass information around. Of course, if you treat everyone as replaceable you not only forego that most efficient mechanism but also incur the very substantial overheads of trying to use other documentation and tools to compensate. In short, high turnover is an efficiency killer in technical teams where shared knowledge is a vital asset.

If you think all of this is nonsense, you might consider that this is a discussion about Cisco, whose main business model is currently facing an existential threat from modern technologies like SDN. I'm guessing you're a business studies or MBA student, so you might like to consider the commercial relationships between Cisco and the likes of Amazon, Facebook and Google as a case study for what can happen. Cisco's recurring model of spinning out and later buying up side companies to do the R&D for innovative technologies would also make an interesting case study.

Comment: Re:incremental backups (Score 1) 150

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48152439) Attached to: If Your Cloud Vendor Goes Out of Business, Are You Ready?

Gosh, I'm running out of "I told you so" moments lately. First it turns out that Open Source networking software can have spectacularly serious security vulnerabilities after all. Then it turns out that Linux is not immune to worms and other malware. Now you're telling me that outsourcing everything to a remote system and remote staff of unknown competence, unknown security, unknown reliability, unknown solvency and business planning, and assorted other uncontrolled risks might not always be the best solution to every problem in computing? Seriously? :-)

Comment: Any standard source for reliable info on updates? (Score 1) 63

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48120563) Attached to: Windows Users, Get Ready For a Bigger-Than-Usual Patch Tuesday

Does anyone know of a site or mailing list specifically dedicated to checking out the new updates and rating how safe and reliable they are to install? I've had far too many stability and performance problems after installing recommend updates to trust Microsoft's "Install this update to make {some important but unspecified change} to Windows" messages any more. However, life's too short to keep running a search on every update ID every month to see which ones are getting red flagged.

Comment: Re:Leader quotation bingo (Score 1) 264

I decided four quotations was enough to make my point, but that observation by Mencken was nearly the fifth. It comes to mind every time some government minister talks about repealing the Human Rights Act and cites the difficulties they've had in deporting a tiny number of high profile people as their justification.

Comment: Re:Leader quotation bingo (Score 2) 264

To borrow a well-known retort, if you outlaw encryption then only outlaws will use encryption. How does opening everyone else up to fraud, identity theft, and all the other problems encryption helps to fight on-line do anything to prevent bad people from communicating securely when encryption tools are widely available?

Comment: Re:Leader quotation bingo (Score 1) 264

That is all true, but it's difficult to have that sensible debate when one side's argument is expressed with approximately the intellectual and ethical rigour of "there are scary people out there who you should be scared of, and if you don't let us do anything we want no matter the other consequences then those scary people will kill other people and it will be your fault".

Comment: Re:That's How Law Works (Score 1) 264

I honestly don't know what point you're trying to make here. Do you understand that the Human Rights Act is national law, and that the rights and freedoms within its scope can therefore be protected by our own courts without necessarily resorting to any action at European level?

Comment: Re:Leader quotation bingo (Score 1) 264

Are we talking at cross-purposes here? My point was that plenty of people who do presumably have access to the whole picture, including sensitive details about security procedures and threat assessments and whatever else goes on behind closed doors, still lean toward liberty over security on this issue.

For example, right now the Lib Dems are in government. Their leader is the Deputy PM. They have MPs on relevant select committees in Parliament. As such, it is reasonable to assume that at least some senior Lib Dems have access to sensitive information about any identified threats that are out there. And yet they still all seem to oppose the so-called snooper's charter, citing similar civil liberties concerns to the rest of us.

Comment: Re:That's How Law Works (Score 4, Insightful) 264

All laws involve giving up freedom to do a certain thing, usually in exchange for security or safety for the society.

That is a reasonable ethical argument in favour of having laws, but unfortunately it is sometimes quite far from how the world really works. Laws are made by a small group of people, subject to a wide range of influences, most of which are not promoting the best interests of the population. Ideally, the democratic machinery of a government ensures that the population's interests still outweigh the other factors, but I think we all know this doesn't always happen.

The primary benefit of a formal constitution is to establish that certain principles are so important that they must be beyond the reach of whatever small group of lawmakers happens to hold power at any given time. To some extent, our Human Rights Act here has served a similar purpose in recent years, but of course the Tories want to get rid of that as well. In the absence of effective safeguards like this, as we have seen all too often in recent years, the politics of fear can dominate the agenda.

Comment: Leader quotation bingo (Score 5, Insightful) 264

It's almost like playing quotation bingo with these issues now.

"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves." -- Pitt the Younger

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin

"The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without." -- Dwight D. Eisenhower

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -- George Santayana

Comment: Re:Why do people still care about C++ for kernel d (Score 1) 365

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48063647) Attached to: Object Oriented Linux Kernel With C++ Driver Support

C certainly can have some magic happening under the covers, but it's an order of magnitude less than what goes on in C++.

Well, that's exactly the assumption I'm questioning. Certainly it was true once, but I'm not sure the gap is anywhere near that wide any more. It's not just about the differences written into the language specs, like overloading and construction/destruction in C++. It's also about all the things that aren't specified at all but matter in practice.

Perhaps the balance will shift back a bit now that both C and C++ have incorporated more detailed semantics in some of the tricky areas into their recent specifications, particularly in terms of the memory access model and concurrency, but even that is just the headline example at the top of a long list.

Possessions increase to fill the space available for their storage. -- Ryan

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