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Comment: I gotta call BS on this (Score 1) 546

by DaChesserCat (#47820505) Attached to: Does Learning To Code Outweigh a Degree In Computer Science?
In 1990, with a couple semesters of college behind me (including formal courses in C and Fortran) and a LOT of self-directed learning behind me in high school (including AppleSoft Basic, 6502 Assembly and Machine Language, 8080 Assembly Language and Pascal), I took an entry-level development job. I was working with C (on which I had formal training), an assembly language (different from the others I'd already learned) and a language called Occam II.

It did not go well.

While I had a good understanding of the basics, and I could do bitwise logic and such (courtesy of my assembly language and machine language experience), I found myself struggling. Hard. It took me a while to get stuff working, because I had to "feel my way through" on most everything and I was severely handicapped in how complex the code could get before I was lost.

I eventually went back to college and got the Computer Science degree.

Being able to program is a useful skill. But if you don't know enough theory to handle relational databases, trees and other fairly complex data structures, you're hampered right out of the gate. Yeah, that's theory. Being able to code a balanced tree is useful; understanding when you do and DON'T need that data structure is more so.

Additionally, I don't get where they're saying these degrees are all theory. I had to write a pile of assignments in C++ during my college studies, as well as learning enough Scheme, Java and MIPS and x86 Assembly Languages to write assignments in those languages. That's practical, hands-on development, gaining experience with the language and its associated APIs. Additionally, if you do an internship somewhere while you're in college (I didn't, but I've managed/mentored an intern or two, now that I'm an experienced dev), you have hands-on experience with more than just a programming language.

Every company does things a little differently. Different standards, different conventions, different infrastructure. Ergo, it is PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE for someone to walk in, with no existing experience with that company, and go right to work, being productive for the employer on day one. Yes, Human Resources and management keep indulging in that pipe dream. If only the schools would teach THIS, not that. If only they'd spend less time on math and more time on the finer points of this framework. Failing to realize that they'd be chopping out useful theory which could (and quite frequently, will) be useful down the line.

Besides, if you were trained in EXACTLY what this company needed, you would never be able to jump ship to another employer. Too many employers keep finding excuses not to provide raises that keep up with the cost of living. The only way to keep up, these days, is to jump ship every few years. And your next employer will need stuff the last employer didn't need. So, getting trapped in a pipeline which is heavily customized for one employer is bad for your long-term prospects.

Comment: Re:Lithium shortage (Score 1) 143

by DaChesserCat (#47723681) Attached to: How Argonne National Lab Will Make Electric Cars Cheaper
For your first question, unlikely. People like to compare supply/demand for lithium to petroleum. Unlike petroleum, you aren't "consuming" lithium. You're making it into stuff. Stuff which can be recycled. So, if you're seeing articles about "Peak Lithium" (a reference to "Peak Oil"), you can safely bet they're full of it.

Your second question suggests a basic understanding of supply-demand. Good.

As the demand for lithium increases, the price WILL go up in the short-term, which will stimulate investments in creating supply. We're already seeing the ramp-up in supply coincident with the ramp-up in demand. A few years ago, Electrovaya was advertising Lithium Ion batteries, large-format, for $300 / kWh in volume. That's what Elon Musk claims to be paying for his batteries, today. But the demand is at least an order of magnitude higher. We've already passed the "hump." And Elon Musk's investment, with Panasonic, in the "Gigafactory" is intended to push the supply higher, pushing the price lower, on the cheaper side of that hump.

A sudden, HUGE spike in demand could create another hump, but most manufacturers are sensitive enough on price that they will probably avoid it.
User Journal

Journal: Competition needed 1

Journal by DaChesserCat

When you go to fill up your car, you have a choice of where to fill the tank. All too often, all of the gas stations in an area have the same price. Or if one is slightly cheaper than another, there's some other factor that "evens" them out.

User Journal

Journal: Truly private email

Journal by DaChesserCat

The problem with modern email systems is that the emails are stored in plaintext. Some systems may use site-wide public/private key encryption but, if a third party gets access to the site's private key, everything is, effectively, plaintext.

So how do we fix this?

Do all encryption/decryption on the client. The client holds the private keys. The server has everyone's public keys. All traffic and stored data is, by default, encrypted.

More specifically:

Comment: Actually contributing something (Score 1) 712

by DaChesserCat (#46297873) Attached to: Are Bankers Paid Too Much? Are Technology CEOs?
Google actually provides something useful to society; I may not like advertising (which is where they make most of their their money) but, at least, there is SOME utility. And the profits from that subsidize their other activites, which are quite useful.

JPMorgan Chase makes their money skimming a percentage off financial transactions. And gambling (let's face it, that's what 'investing' in the modern stock market really is). And, all too often, rigging the gambling (high-frequency trading, anyone? Mortgage Backed Securities, which they sold KNOWING that the valuation was a flat-out lie?) What's the utility to society?

None. So we get kinda up-in-arms when we see people getting obscene amounts of scratch for such grifting.

The sooner a tech company can automate getting/paying loans (the one useful thing which JPMC does), the better. The sooner tech companies can create the kinds of financial networks which undercut Mastercard, Visa et al. with similar utility and lower rates (less "skim"), the better. At that point, the only thing keeping dinosaurs like JPMC in business will be regulations REQUIRING human interaction on certain transactions, put in place at the urging of JPMC-paid lobbyists (such regs already exist).

That said, not all tech companies provide utility. So being a tech company doesn't mean you're automatically off-the-hook.
User Journal

Journal: Graphical SQL query builder

Journal by DaChesserCat
There has been significant talk, as of late, about how to to do programming using a graphical interface, instead of the usual text-based ones. A previous entry into this journal talked about that. It's time to start nailing down some more concrete ideas about this.

Comment: Re:COST (Score 1) 473

by DaChesserCat (#46217877) Attached to: Ugly Trends Threaten Aviation Industry
It's not the federal regs. It's the financial liability.

Properly maintained, an airplane will last much longer than a car. But even an airplane hits "tired iron" status after some decades.

Your 30-year-old car is involved in a crash. You die. Do your relatives sue the car company? Probably not. It's an old car. Most cars don't last 30 years. The auto manufacturer is perceived as being absolved of any liability, long ago. Three years, the manufacturer may be liable. Most people won't find an auto manufacturer liable for a 10-year-old car, much less 30.

Your 30-year-old airplane crashes. You die. Do your relatives sue the aircraft manufacturer? Probably. And, quite frequently, collect. Consequently, Cessna, Piper etc. are largely on the hook for EVERY AIRPLANE THEY EVER BUILT, even ones from decades ago. At least one company was talking about leasing their aircraft, not selling them, and pointedly destroying them after so many years of flight time, so that they could limit their liability.

I know, I know. It's fashionable to blame everything on federal regulations. And yes, they are pretty strenuous. But the financial liability is, quite literally, sky-high.

Then, of course, there's the fact that they don't build as many airplanes as they do cars; they never did. Which means they don't get to amortize their R&D across as many produced items.

Comment: Re:Lego Mindstorms (Score 1) 876

by DaChesserCat (#46211539) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Why Are We Still Writing Text-Based Code?
IIRC, you don't have to have 30,000 keys. You need something akin to the text prediction systems found on most modern smartphones and tablets. Enter a few symbols (phonetic, a small subset of possible symbols), the system 'guesses' what word you're typing, suggests possibilties, you keep doing input until the symbol you want appears and you select it. I do that all day long with my smartphone. I can use T9 or 'compact' layouts to further reduce the number of possible symbols I can enter, but such things depend more heavily on the text prediction having my desired word in its dictionary/corpus.

The difference is that, for Japanese and Chines, you had to do that for desktop PCs and laptops because there was no way to represent the thousands of symbols available on any keyboard.

As touch-based input systems become more common (smartphones/tablets), there's the possibility to have a 'finger painting' type input system, where you draw the symbols. In that respect, eastern languages would be better suited to text input on such devices than us westerners.

Comment: I've pondered this as well ... (Score 1) 876

by DaChesserCat (#46195611) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Why Are We Still Writing Text-Based Code?
... and posted a Journal article about it a couple months back. Yes, folks, it IS possible to create a general-purpose programming language which can be represented, and written, graphically. As more and more devices sport touch-based interfaces, this will work even better. The main reason we're still writing code with text is because programming involves a lot of complex, inter-related data input. And, for now, the fastest, most efficient mechanism we have for putting lots of complex inter-related data into a computer is ... text.
User Journal

Journal: Conversion slide rules

Journal by DaChesserCat
I mention, in a previous journal entry, the fact that I want a wristwatch with a slide rule bezel. We do a lot of traveling, frequently to places where they use Metric, instead of the Imperial units with which I'm familiar. I have also traveled to places which had significantly different currencies. When I was in Norway, it was approx. 6.5 NOK = 1 USD. When I was in South Korea, it was about 800 SKW = 1 USD. When we went to C

Comment: Cryptonomicon (Score 2) 266

Really? This is news?

In Cryponomicon, they create a special unit (Detachment 2702) to guard the secret of the Bletchley Park. This unit is engaged in actively feeding misinformation to the enemy and arranging "accidental" discoveries. For example, if decrypted information says that a convoy of German ships is moving from port A to port B, they determine about where that convoy should be at this time and "arrange" for a patrol aircraft to fly over the area and spot it. When the Allies, subsequently, bomb the heck out of the convoy, the Germans don't ponder "how did they know?" They know the convoy was spotted by an Allied aircraft before the bombers arrived on the scene.

In one part of the book, a tramp steamer, operated by a bunch of people from this unit, "stumble" on a German "milk cow" submarine refueling/rearming an attack sub in the Caribbean. And Allied ships are promptly called in to depth charge the silly thing. The Germans don't have to ask how the allies knew it was there. They "stumbled on" it. The Germans are left to assume that they are just having really rotten luck. And that the Allies have a lot more patrol aircraft than they really do.

Yes, Cryptonomicon is a work of fiction. Such things are, however, perfectly believable. The Allies went to great lengths to hide the fact that we could read their encrypted transmissions. A great many German officers, after the war, were told that we had been "reading their mail" for much of the war, and were utterly astounded. They had no idea. Such a good job had been done at keeping the secret.

Protecting confidential sources? Arranging "accidental" discoveries of the necessary evidence? Gee, this sounds awfully familiar.

Comment: Re:Great news! (Score 1) 343

by DaChesserCat (#46110305) Attached to: Edward Snowden Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize
Gore got it for the same reason Obama did: he opposed GWB. In both cases, they were stating that W's warmongering needed to be opposed.

For Obama, arguably, they were also trying to contribute some international cred to whatever efforts he was making toward trying to convince the Muslims of the world that the USA had not declared a jihad against them. Early in his first term, he was actively engaged in that kind of "cooling off" rhetoric. He has had a pretty lousy follow-through on that. Celebrating the fact that America has sufficiently overcome decades of racism that we could elect someone from I minority race? Maybe. But I'm not so sure about that one.

A century ago, the countries of the modern-day European Union would've been at war with each other, given the economic climate. Are they fighting? They're certainly not getting the economic prosperity they were hoping for, but are they shooting at each other. As such, it could be argued that the EU is preventing an all-out war in Europe. Is that unworthy of a Peace Prize? In the absence of any other stand-out peacemaking by any other organization?

Edward Snowden has exposed a lot of hypocrisy on the part of the US government, particularly the NSA. Awarding him the Peace Prize, particularly after awarding it Obama, would be a particularly delicious irony.

Comment: Re: Probably more to it (Score 1) 439

by DaChesserCat (#45740673) Attached to: US Spying Costs Boeing Military Jet Deal With Brazil
The JAS at the beginning of the designation stands for the Swedish words for Fighter, Attack and Reconnaissance. It's a true multi-role fighter. The F/A designation means the SH is supposed be a Fighter and Attack aircraft but, considering its larger size, it's more Attack than Fighter. Don't waste your time with the Reconnaisance on the SH.

It has been pointed out that it is designed to operate from short fields, mostly just short stretches of roadway. Most US fighters would have a problem with that. The SH would definitely have a problem with that. Yes, it has longer range, but it's also considerably heavier.

Since Sweden requires a year of military service from all citizens, much of their enlisted military is made up of people who won't be around long enough to do six-month- or year-long training programs. The Gripen is designed so that a squadron of them can be maintained by a handful of experienced sergeants and a large bunch of barely-trained grunts. That means the maintenance tasks have to be kept relatively simple. Parts replacement has to be relatively easy, assuming the people wielding the wrenches are at least competent mechanics, not necessarily aerospace mechanics.

Also, the engine supplied with it is a modified version of a licensed GE engine design. Good luck vetoing the shipment of those engines to other countries. The plane can take armaments from a variety of countries. So, they are not dependent on good trade relations with the US.

Finally, yes, local industries stand to benefit from an influx of "fresh blood" from SAAB. I suspect they've already absorbed most of what they can get from Boeing. So, in terms of helping the local industrial base, the Gripen is a better choice.

Comment: Some good points (Score 1) 277

by DaChesserCat (#45727681) Attached to: Surviving the Internet On Low Speed DSL
My wife and I have both worked from home, using a 3G Verizon link which might, occasionally, approach 1 mb/s. And yes, that's megabit, not megabyte, per second. Typical behavior was more like 1/2 megabit / second. Implement the following, in order, to get by comfortably.
  1. #1 yes, get a cloud server. Do the big upload/download thing from there. I use rsync to move the "deltas" between my home systems and the cloud system, which allows me to avoid big uploads/downloads from/to my home system. If I need to actually modify a big file, sometimes I do a VNC-over-SSH to the cloud server and run GIMP or whatever in the cloud, so I don't actually have to download it. So long as the latency is decent, you can do this pretty effectively.
  2. #2 yes, get a good router. One which will allow you to prioritize connections. I have a CradlePoint MBR-1000. It does this. That way, connectivity to the office VPN or the cloud server takes priority over whatever else is going on.
  3. #3 yes, get a local, personal server which can do caching DNS. This will reduce the latency on most everything else. It is hard to overstate just how big a difference this makes.
  4. #4 have that personal server do a caching web proxy. Much surfing has the same stuff (CSS, images, javascript, etc.) from one page to the next. Also, wireless tends to have a higher error rate, so downloading stuff tends to result in lots of packet retries. Browsers don't like that; they can do it, but it tends to disrupt everything. The caching web proxy handles that transparently so the browser just sees a pause, when a packet has an error, then a burst of data when the following, non-errored packets and the retried, error-free packet come out of the proxy in order. Meanwhile, the browser kept downloading everything else it needed and running smoothly. This also works very nicely if you have multiple machines running some Linux distro which need to be updated. The first machine to do the update may have to wait for slow downloads, but additional machines will get files from the cache, making them screaming fast to update.

I had an old Cobalt RAQ2 which did the 3rd and 4th items. It died, recently, so I'm looking at a QNAP box, which runs a version of Debian. It can do the caching DNS, but it might not be up to the caching web proxy. We've definitely noticed a difference with the 3rd and 4th items out of commission.

Scientists are people who build the Brooklyn Bridge and then buy it. -- William Buckley