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Comment: Re:It could happen (Score 1) 326

by ErichTheRed (#46789961) Attached to: Detroit: America's Next Tech Boomtown

I've had different experiences. I worked at 2 places that threatened to relocate to the South, one to Atlanta, and one to Orlando. The first one was just a corporate fiat, as in "those NY guys are too expensive, close the office and move it all down here." The second was an active IDA poach by Florida. Both wound up not working...the first was because, as you said, the company would lose too many of their knowledge workers and they weren't confident they could find new ones. When they started bleeding people, they realized they might want to rethink it. The second was basically just called off because the company got a sweetheart deal from New York.

My experience has been that companies will try to move their less skilled work or work that is considered non-core (like IT) to cheaper locations first. If the target location gives them a good enough deal, they'll just move the whole company. This is probably just short-sighted MBA stuff...executives are largely shielded from whatever environment the lower infrastructure investment produces. Their kids will go to private schools, they'll live in the best areas, etc. so they don't see any of the problems and they also see a quick win. Even if you get to keep your salary and relocate, you'll either be up for a layoff right away or never have your salary increased by much again, until your compensation matches the local market. So, you have to take that into consideration; either you love the area you're moving to and make a decision to stay, or you'll have to pull up stakes again and move back.

When even the real estate agents running a relocation tour mention that your kids will need to go to private school to get an equivalent education to where you're coming from, you know you're going to be in for an interesting experience.

Comment: IBM Model M Keyboard (Score 1) 652

by ErichTheRed (#46789357) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Tech Products Were Built To Last?

Typing this on a Unicomp model based on the original design. Awesome keyboard, but it lacks the heavy steel backplate of the original.

Please buy a keyboard from this company so they keep making them. :-) http://www.pckeyboard.com/

Generally, any computer equipment before the mid 90s was made quite well, simply because it was so expensive at the time. It also tended to be heavily over-engineered. Some Compaq ProLiants from that era are 100 pounds because they're just solid metal all the way through.

Comment: It could happen (Score 3, Insightful) 326

by ErichTheRed (#46788387) Attached to: Detroit: America's Next Tech Boomtown

I'm a Rust Belt kid, so seeing northern cities on something of a comeback trajectory is a good thing to me. The problem is image -- you have to find techies who are willing to put up with a very messed up local economy and deal with winter. I'm from Buffalo, and winters there are very long and cold. The obvious benefit is that the cost of living is much lower than California or similar. I couldn't believe last time I was in CA to visit a friend that they had just paid almost a million dollars for a 3-bedroom house with no property. I don't care how good the weather is, that's absolutely nuts, and I live in the NYC metro area, so I know about high real estate prices.

I think it's all cyclical. Right now where I am, everyone is moving to North Carolina (Why??) People cite a much lower cost of living. That's true -- you can sell your Long Island house and buy (literally) a mansion on several acres in NC. The only problem is that Charlotte, RTP, etc. are still cities and real estate that's close to jobs is going to be more. Your mansion is going to be 25 miles' drive from anywhere. Atlanta has a similar issue -- people deal with multi-hour commutes so they can live in a massive house inside a gated community in the middle of nowhere. Side note - a friend of mine who moved there for a job refers to Cary, NC as an acronym -- Containment Area for Relocated Yankees.

Personally, I love winter and would have no desire to move somewhere like Florida, Texas, or Arizona. Right now, those are the cheapest places business-wise, so jobs move there. But the northern states can play the game too. New York just gave some new businesses a 10 year tax holiday if they locate in certain parts of the state. All the state economic development agencies engage in this kind of poaching. The only problem is that the South is better at it because they don't fund schools and local governments to the same extent. If Michigan and Detroit are serious about this, and can afford it, then the businesses will move back. Executives don't care because they would either stay put or be happy just about anywhere. To them, it's not all that hard to pick up and move.

Low real estate prices, compact metro areas that mean short commute times, etc. are advantages that these states and cities can use. We'll see if it pans out.

Comment: I can hear the US complaints already... (Score 2) 477

by ErichTheRed (#46715159) Attached to: New French Law Prohibits After-Hours Work Emails

I work for a European company in the US. Our work rules are very different because we're a multinational and HR is handled on a regional basis. Every single one of my colleagues complains about the French 35 hour week and their unwillingness to put in crazy hours like Americans do. I happen to agree with the French on this one, and this comes from a lot of experience working in several different work environments.

US workers love to point to the "lazy socialist French" and make fun of their long vacations and very relaxed work style. And at the same time, they don't realize that they live longer, have better family lives, and are generally better adjusted than most stressed out Americans. Unemployment is higher than it is here, but their society isn't structured around crushing anyone who doesn't have a job. As an example, look at how much people complained about continuing the meager unemployment benefits for long-term unemployed people in the US. People were complaining about giving someone who has no hope of getting another job ever a couple hundred dollars a week to survive on. Long term unemployed this time around aren't lazy -- this time, all the old school manufacturing jobs are being thrown out of the economy, leaving people with average or below average intelligence with no hope of anything beyond fast food employment. But that's another worry for another time.

Back to work hours and work/life balance -- I am incredibly lucky in that I have a job in IT with lots of flexibility. Lots of my peers don't. Employers are constantly trying to squeeze every last minute of work out of their existing resources rather than adding more. Mine is too, but less so...I've been trying to get us another head for quite some time now and it's very hard. I have no problem with having a healthy work ethic, and people do need to be motivated. I do have a problem when I see employers taking advantage of people who don't realize they're being taken advantage of. Especially in IT, I have witnessed a lot of "hero culture" employers who demand that employees be available 24/7 even when it's not really necessary. Millennials are especially susceptible to this because they're used to being tethered to social media all day long. I think this is one of the reasons companies prefer younger workers -- fewer non-work demands on their time and a willingness to work crazy hours simply because they haven't figured out that their employer won't extend them the same loyalty down the road. In my opinion, your average employee is deluding him or herself into thinking that their job is super-important, that everyone else is lazy, and that their employer values them immensely. Evidence shows that this is no longer the case. It may have been in the 50s/60s "job for life" era, but unfortunately that's gone for the most part.

I'm also a new parent, and if you don't have experience, it's very hard to explain the drain on your free time that this places on you if you're doing it right and paying attention to your family. I see stressed out parents working for employers who don't give a damn responding to work emails at 2 in the morning simply because their employer expects that of them. I'll _glance_ at my messages once or twice in the evening, but I don't feel pressure to jump in and fix something right away -- unless something's literally on fire, it can wait. My opinion is this -- if something is really critical enough to require 24/7 coverage, then staff it that way. If you aren't willing to do that, then it's not critical. If the US were to adopt a "no after hours contact" rule or 35-hour week, it would reduce unemployment simply because companies would have to hire more resources. Either that, or a whole lot of "priority 1 mission critical" stuff would suddenly become less so.

Comment: I agree, with very few exceptions (Score 4, Interesting) 127

by ErichTheRed (#46630337) Attached to: State Colleges May Offer Best ROI On Comp Sci Degrees

If you're after a good solid education, state schools do offer the best ROI for undergrad studies. I went to one, and was able to (barely) pay for it myself with a small amount of student loans, summer work and a little savings. Undergraduate education, from a content perspective, is very similar everywhere. I have a chemistry degree, and almost all undergrad chemistry programs are the same -- 2 survey courses, 2 organic chem, 2 physical chem, 2 analytical chem, 4 or 5 different lab courses, 4 or 5 electives (which vary based on what the schools' professors are concentrating on.)

The main differentiating factors I've noticed with private schools are the networking opportunities in and out of school, and the "cushy" factor. Even in a high tax state like New York, the state universities are pretty Spartan as far as accommodations go. Lately, states have been spending lavish sums trying to catch up in terms of sports facilities, etc. but they're still not a Harvard or Yale. Students going the state university route need to understand that they're going to get what they pay for, and likely be ahead of their private university peers in terms of raw dollars in debt when they get out. They need to be self-motivated and mature enough to handle their own affairs -- outside of class, everything at a state university is like dealing with a state agency. You're one student of thousands, and no one but you is going to care if you fail out. As far as opportunities go, private schools do give you a leg up. There are certain jobs you can't even hope to interview for such as white-shoe consulting firms or investment banking, who almost exclusively recruit from Ivy League schools. In my experience, this only applies to your first job or two, however. I've interviewed both public and private college grads, and there's an equal distribution of qualified people in each camp.

Since tuition is going way up at both the public and private levels, students who don't already have the money saved really do need to do a cost-benefit analysis. I probably would have had a better experience at somewhere like MIT or Stanford, just because I would have been studying with more smart people. But, I didn't have the money for $100K+ tuition. Students need to stop and think whether the caché of a big name school offsets the huge expense. They need to think about things like:

  • - Do I want to go to medical or law school after undergrad?
  • - Do I ever want to work in investment banking?
  • - Will I be disappointed if I don't get to work at BCG, Bain, or Booz & Company?
  • - Do I want the opportunity to hang out with the children of corporate executives and make those "school ties" connections that public university students can't get?

If the answer to any of these is "yes" and the student has a pot of money, they should go to private school. Otherwise, they should save their money. If a student is willing to hustle a little to get their first job, their accomplishments at that job and the connections they make will carry them through the rest of their careers. They probably won't reach stratospheric heights of corporate power, but talented students graduating with in-demand degrees can still do well.

+ - Apple buys iFixit, declares repairable devices "antiquated".-> 2

Submitted by ErichTheRed
ErichTheRed (39327) writes "Apparently, Apple is buying iFixit. iFixit is (was?) a website that posted teardown photos of gadgets and offered repair advice. According to the website: "Apple is working hard to make devices last long enough to be upgraded or irrelevant, making repairability an antiquated notion." It's all clear now — I can't replace the batteries, hard drives or RAM in new Macs because I'm expected to throw them in the landfill every 2 years!

It made it to CNN, so it has to be true, right?"

Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:Still don't know what everyone's complaining ab (Score 1) 168

by ErichTheRed (#46623525) Attached to: NSA Infiltrated RSA Deeper Than Imagined

As for being woried more about the corps than government why? Can corperations arrest and imprison you? If not then you really have screwed up threat assesment abilities.

This is kind of what I was getting at -- among those more concerned about privacy, everything is part of a vast government conspiracy, and they're lurking behind the next corner just waiting to imprison and torture you. I think the reality is a little different -- the US has become way too diverse even in the last 50 years to allow any one group to gain enough power to do anything major. There's 300+ million people, spread over a huge geographic area, all with different opinions on pretty much everything. Even if you did live in a mountaintop compound stockpiling ammunition for the revolution, no one would bother you unless you start using it on your neighbors. Look at how hard it is to get anything accomplished with a divided Congress...the entire country is polarized like that, and I doubt that will change anytime soon.

Companies having access to your personal data is a little different. There's an incentive to squeeze every last cent out of every single customer interaction now, and I think most people don't realize how much their data is being mined, for whatever reason. I find the increasingly focused ad targeting I've been noticing lately to be a little more invasive than an imagined threat. I'd love it if Google charged a subscription fee instead of using my data as payment for their services, but I guess they make way more from advertisers or they would have offered it as an option by now.

+ - "Clean up Github" -- A backlash against stereotypical nerd culture?->

Submitted by ErichTheRed
ErichTheRed (39327) writes "The story on Monday about Julie Ann Horvath quitting GitHub because of harassment ties in nicely with this. A group called Ethical Code is starting a "Clean Up GitHub" campaign to request people to pull offensive comments out of their code. This brings up a very interesting question...is it still considered too PC to expect people to be somewhat professional in their public code submissions, or is this a sign that the industry might be "growing up" a little? I'd like to hope it's the latter...."
Link to Original Source

Comment: Why all the fuss about Common Core? (Score 1, Interesting) 273

by ErichTheRed (#46474489) Attached to: Is the New "Common Core SAT" Bill Gates' Doing?

Common Core is a big thing in NY where I live right now, because the state just voted to suspend its implementation for 2 years. NY already has pretty high standards for high school graduation and, if I'm any indication as a product of it, the curriculum is pretty good too. That doesn't mean that all other states have the same standards, and it seems to me that Common Core was designed to bring all states up to a higher level. As an example, my previous job wanted me to move to Florida, so I played along and did the whole relocation trip thing before telling them, "Sorry." Even the real estate agents who were pushing the place hard told me that my children, if they were smart, would have to be in private school to get a good education...just like Texas, FL values football more than education in high school apparently.

It seems to me that all the people screaming about how bad this is brought it on themselves. Look at all the press about the evil teachers' unions who have pensions, yearly raises, protect their members and only work 180 days of the year. Also here in NY, there was a big fight to force teachers to be evaluated and ranked like corporate employees get their performance reviews. I'm not a teacher, and I'm totally against that. First off, getting stuck with a class of crappy students can cost you your job, especially early on in your career when you might have to work in a bad school district. Second, teachers are professionals. Once they receive tenure, they should no longer be subject to evaluation and should have a job for life, end of story. Doctors and lawyers aren't stack-ranked -- those of us in private sector jobs who don't like it should fight to get representation.

Regarding the SAT, I wound up doing much better on the ACT when I took both. The ACT was much closer to what the SAT is slated to become. I remember it focused a lot more on what you were learning in school rather than obscure vocabulary words. I have a horrible time with head-based arithmetic, and the math section of the SAT (when I took it) had no calculators allowed and was basically two 30-minute tests of arithmetic and algebra tricks. I went on to make pretty decent grades at a state university in chemistry, so so much for the predictive factor or SAT scores... :-)

Comment: Definitely not for power users (Score 2) 103

by ErichTheRed (#46474261) Attached to: Tested: Asus Chromebox Based On Haswell Core i3

Even though I do find myself using things like OneDrive and Dropbox to keep non-sensitive stuff I'm working on available at home or at work, I'm not totally convinced that most power users will be replacing their PC or laptop with what's essentially a thin client that Google has control over.

On the other hand, for people who truly don't know any better, live in a location with five-nine, super-fast broadband access and just don't have the savvy to understand that their data is being mined by a third party, this might take off. It's the same reason tablets are taking off among the "content consumer" set. Amazon is doing something very similar with the Kindle Fire -- basically give away the hardware with the knowledge that Amazon uses your browsing habits to improve their prediction engine.

Honestly, I wish Google and similar services would offer a "paid" version with no data mining or tracking. People forget that the awesome search engine, maps, etc. aren't a free resource, and their data is paying Google's bills.

Comment: I've seen this before (Score 5, Insightful) 137

by ErichTheRed (#46456253) Attached to: Computer Science Enrollments Rocketed Last Year, Up 22%

I remember CS enrollment shot way up in the late 90s as the dotcom bubble was inflating. Now that we're in the late stages of the social media/apps bubble, and people are getting interested in computer science again, I'm guessing that's the reason for the spike.

Bubble or no bubble, there's always going to be demand for good, talented people in software development and IT. The H-1B and offshoring trends have cut salaries significantly, and have made employment less stable, but there are still jobs out there. If students are going into CS that have a genuine interest in computers, that's good. Chasing the money like they were doing in the 90s without the desire will lead to the same problem we had when 2001 rolled around -- tons of "IT professionals" who had no aptitude for the work and were just employed because of the frothy market.

I've managed to stay employed for almost 20 years now and I still really enjoy what I do. It's not as wildly lucrative as it was in the 90s when you could get 20+% salary increases by changing jobs every six months. The only things I've done consistently over this time are:
- Keeping my skills current (and yes, it is a tough commitment especially when you employer doesn't care.)
- Not begging for higher and higher raises every single time salary review time comes around (which requires saving and living within one's means...)
- Choosing employers who don't treat their employees like they're disposable.

I've heard lots of older IT people that they're actively discouraging their kids from following in their footsteps. I don't think that's necessarily good advice. Sure, there are crappy employers out there, and it's not a guaranteed ticket to wealth anymore. But if you're flexible and want interesting work that lets you use your brain and get paid for it, it's still a good move IMO. Look at the legal profession right now - the ABA sold out their members by allowing basic legal work to be offshored. Law degrees were previously an absolute guarantee of a respected, high-salary job, and now that profession is starting to see what we're seeing. My opinion is that as computers get more and more involved in our daily lives, a professional framework will eventually develop when things really start getting safety-sensitive and people stop treating computers like magic boxes and IT/developers like magicians.

Comment: Interesting idea (Score 1) 231

by ErichTheRed (#46399969) Attached to: Teaching Calculus To 5-Year-Olds

I think that one of the problems with the way math is taught in schools is the fact that very little is done to explain how calculations students are doing can be applied to actual problems. Now that I'm older, went through a science education in college and work in a technical field, I understand this. However, one of my problems early on was that I never really felt comfortable doing math problems. It sounds really stupid, but I must have some sort of disability -- I can't do basic arithmetic in my head. The numbers just don't stick in my head the way they need to when you're doing multi-column addition or multiplication. My wife, a finance wizard, laughs at and pities me at the same time when I'm manually figuring out a tip. When I was learning math back in the Jurassic period, the students who were "good at math" were the ones who could easily do calculations in their head and just had a feel for numbers. Calculators in the early grades were unheard of back then. And this skill is still what a trader needs -- they need to be able to make a decision in 5 seconds based on a calculation they do in their head. It's also a skill you need to do well on the SATs, since they basically contain two 30-minute timed algebra and arithmetic tests.

What I'm saying is that math is more than basic arithmetic and algebraic manipulation. If you can get a student to understand what you mean when you say exponential growth, and how it relates to something they care about, then students will understand it more. I remember hating grade school math with the endless arithmetic drills, and later, the rote memorization of procedures for fractions, long division, etc. I also remember going through high school algebra just memorizing the exact steps to complete the crazy factoring/simplification problems and not understanding _anything_. It literally took me until about halfway through high school, when science classes actually got somewhat challenging and delivered meatier material, to make any sort of connection.

Calculus and other applied math should be at least touched on earlier on in the school career. I think it would help students who don't necessarily have the skills that would make them "good at math" to at least understand some of it. People I know who understand math well say it's like a foreign language, so maybe we should be teaching useful phrases for travellers more than we teach verb conjugation and sentence structure...

Comment: It all depends on where you work (Score 1) 427

Not all companies are crazy software development shops run by 20somethings who don't mind working 100 hour weeks. If you go to a company like that and ask about wage parity, you'll get all the excuses that were posted in this thread -- time off for kiddies, inability to travel, inability to work 100 hour weeks when needed, etc.

The reality is a little different. My wife and I both work, and we have 2 little kids. They take an insane amount of BOTH our time. Both of us have to share the responsibility of sick days, chores around the house and running errands, and especially this winter, snow days. We both have technical jobs, mine in IT, hers in finance. The difference is that we work for companies that don't expect 100 hour weeks. So far, it's worked out as long as one of us isn't taking all the time off work. It's not the 50s anymore -- most companies are mainly concerned with whether you get your work done and less obsessed with the butts-in-seats factor. The trade off for this is that sometimes we end up having to do a little extra work to catch up after the kids go to bed, which sucks when we're dead tired for working AND taking care of the kids. But, we're (at least not publicly) referred to as the one team member who can't get their stuff done.

So it's less of a female wage parity problem, and more of an "old guy/girl with kids" problem. That really bites as the two of us get older. We have to be smarter about the type of companies we choose to work for, and yes, both of us are leaving money on the table compared to the wages in our area. Single people who just graduated and have zero obligations will always have more choices. They can choose to work at an investment bank, or for a consulting firm that will fly them to clients' offices 300 days out of the year. They could go work for EA and fulfill their "lifelong dream to break into the exciting video game industry." These are choices only, not necessarily good or bad ones. It's just that as we get older, if we don't want to ignore our kids, we have to give up some of our options. ECO 101 - opportunity costs.

For fathers that aren't totally disconnected with the responsibility of raising kids, it can be very close to the same amount of extra time off the woman needs. You need to be there for them. It's harder to understand as you get to your late 30s and are still single or married and childless, but in my experience good managers have been able to at least relate. If one of your team members is still doing great work and needs to work a weird schedule, you would be silly to dump them and replace them with a fresh grad who doesn't have the experience but is willing to work themselves to death for you.

Comment: Pretty silly (Score 1) 146

by ErichTheRed (#46391329) Attached to: IEEE Predicts 85% of Daily Tasks Will Be Games By 2020

I think this might work for _some_ millenials who are so used to this kind of reward system that this becomes the only way they can function in a work environment. If someone is raised on video games and collecting badges/trophies/points/whatever for doing a task, then it becomes a good workplace motivator. This would be especially true for younger software developers -- grind out this module/finish this sprint/debug this feature and receive the "Chief Debugger" badge. It could also work for mundane tasks that younger workers might turn their noses up at if there wasn't some sort of bragging rights attached to it. I'm not that old, and I was raised on video games, but not the whole "status collection" thing.

For someone who is already motivated to do a good job and doesn't need this, I can see it becoming a huge wedge issue. Not everyone works for companies that are arranged around being an extension of the college dorm lifestyle. Different people are motivated by different things. Money is nice for me, for example. Same goes for finishing something, seeing it go out to a customer or one of our internal guys, and having it work without coming back. I don't care if I have 16 badges and 20,000 points for doing that -- I care about the end result.

Comment: Is the abuse problem really that big a deal? (Score 4, Insightful) 294

by ErichTheRed (#46357489) Attached to: Doctors Say New Pain Pill Is "Genuinely Frightening"

I know "drugs are evil" and all, but I genuinely don't understand why people are so panicked about people abusing prescription pain killers. The reality is that there's a huge demand for pain medication, both for legitimate and abuse purposes. Just like the other wars on drugs, it's impossible to stop. Therefore, I'm of the mind that we shouldn't do anything...and that's coming from a very left-wing, big-government type. We should focus on providing abusers safe drugs, and spend the money we save on enforcement on treatment for the people who really want to get off drugs. I've never touched drugs, but I can't blame someone who has a crappy life and no prospects of it getting better from doing so.

Providing pain medication addicts with a preparation that won't destroy their liver (due to the included acetaminophen in other meds) would be a start. There's no fix for the demand problem, and reducing supply just drives up the price.

The reality is that the future is looking pretty bleak -- unemployment is going to be incredibly high as even safe middle class jobs are automated. Unless we want a revolution, it might be time to start loosening the restrictions on controlled substances. When unemployment goes up past 30, 40% and higher, governments are going to have angry mobs on their hands unless they have something to keep them occupied...

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