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Submission + - 11 Things Computer Users Will Never Experience Again

Esther Schindler writes: Why sure, who has resist geek nostalgia? Because "kids these days" only know about all-in-one computers, wherein you can destroy thousands of dollars of equipment by pouring a cup of coffee into a laptop keyboard. But, O Best Beloved, once upon a time, microcomputers weren't all-in-one devices. They were put together from standalone components, each with its technical merits. And we had to know all about every one of them. So take a short trip into the WayBack machine — via this collection of old computer hardware ads and photos of rats-nests of cables — to remind yourself how much better things are today.

Submission + - See the Sketches J.R.R. Tolkien Used to Build Middle-Earth. (

Esther Schindler writes: In addition to writing the story, Tolkien drew it. The maps and sketches he made while drafting The Lord of the Rings "informed his storytelling, allowing him to test narrative ideas and illustrate scenes he needed to capture in words," reports Ethan Gilsdorf at Wired. "For Tolkien, the art of writing and the art of drawing were inextricably intertwined."

It's all coming out in a new book, but here we get a sneak preview, along with several cool observations, such as:

If Tolkien’s nerdy use of graph paper feels like a secret message to future Dungeons & Dragons players, then so does his “Plan of Shelob’s lair.” Tolkien’s map of tunnels stocked with nasties—here, a spider named Shelob—would be right at home in any Dungeon Master’s campaign notes. He even marks the place for a classic dungeon crawl feature: “trap.”

I said, "Ooooh!" You will, too."

Comment Re:Both types of learning are important (Score 1) 307

I agree that both types of learning are important. And that we need to learn to work outside our comfort zones, whatever they are, simply because in "real life" we're going to need to work in all sorts of environments.

I agree, too, when you say, "Group projects and collaborative work are, at best, tools that should be used in only limited roles in the classroom." We're talking about learning situations. That includes socialization, but it also touches on the best way for any given individual to soak up the factual knowledge necessary to get along in life, whether that's understanding Calculus, learning grammar, or writing a term paper. If the environment becomes a barrier to grokking the knowledge, then it adds to the difficulty of learning the subject. That is: If the only way that American History is presented to me is in a big group where I'm supposed to discuss it, and I find it difficult to be around people, I'm apt to end up less interested in American History.

Of course, the notion of using different types of teaching/learning applies more widely than introversion and extroversion. My husband (the extreme introvert) reads a book and applies the knowledge. I learn best when I have someone hovering over my shoulder, giving me slight corrections as I go. Other people like listening to a teacher at the front of the room. Shouldn't education include all of those, so that each of us can get what we need?

Submission + - How the FBI Hacks around Encryption (

Advocatus Diaboli writes: To hear FBI Director James Comey tell it, strong encryption stops law enforcement dead in its tracks by letting terrorists, kidnappers and rapists communicate in complete secrecy. But that’s just not true. In the rare cases in which an investigation may initially appear to be blocked by encryption — and so far, the FBI has yet to identify a single one — the government has a Plan B: it’s called hacking.

Hacking — just like kicking down a door and looking through someone’s stuff — is a perfectly legal tactic for law enforcement officers, provided they have a warrant. And law enforcement officials have, over the years, learned many ways to install viruses, Trojan horses, and other forms of malicious code onto suspects’ devices. Doing so gives them the same access the suspects have to communications — before they’ve been encrypted, or after they’ve been unencrypted.

Submission + - Introverts STILL don't get respect

Esther Schindler writes: A few years ago, Susan Cain's book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking seemed to give the world a bit of enlightenment about getting the most out of people who don't think they should have to be social in order to succeed. For a while, at least some folks worked to respect the needs and advantages of introversion, such as careful, reflective thinking based on the solitude that idea-generation requires.

But in When Schools Overlook Introverts, Michael Godsey writes, "The way in which certain instructional trends — education buzzwords like “collaborative learning” and “project-based learning” and “flipped classrooms” — are applied often neglect the needs of introverts. In fact, these trends could mean that classroom environments that embrace extroverted behavior — through dynamic and social learning activities — are being promoted now more than ever." It's a thoughtful article, worth reading. As I think many people on slashdot will agree, Godsley observes, "This growing emphasis in classrooms on group projects and other interactive arrangements can be challenging for introverted students who tend to perform better when they’re working independently and in more subdued environments."

So the larger question is... why does this society still treat introverts as second-class citizens, when most of us are aware of the value of introverts' contributions? Why do all those "open floor plans" continue to be adopted in the tech industry, when some of us need peace and quiet in order to do our best? Even though I'm a relentless extrovert, I need my "cocoon time," and few work environments (or educational institutions training us for work) respect that. I don't have answers. Maybe you do.

Submission + - Selling Steve Jobs' Liver! 1

gskiba writes: Selling Steve Jobs’ Liver: A Story of Startups, Innovation, and Connectivity in the Clouds is a wickedly funny and satirical look at the high-tech industry and the cult of the entrepreneur. Just released, I’ve never read anything like it and once you pick the book up and start reading, you’ll find it hard to put down. I devoured it in one go.

Author Merrill Chapman is no stranger to the Slashdot community. Both editions of his cult classic, In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters , were reviewed on Slashdot. Liver is very much written in Stupidity’s subversive tone, sending up Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, startups, Y Combinator, China, CES, the Catholic Church, Apple, DEMO, hedge funds, packaging, Silicon Valley, zombies, the IoT, PowerPoint, and probably a dozen other topics I’ve omitted.

Let’s sweep any metaphor questions out of the way. Selling Steve Jobs Liver is indeed a contemporary tale of two Silicon Valley wantrepreneurs, Nate Pennington and Ignacio Loehman, who are contacted by a modern day ghoul and purchase the late Apple CEO’s original liver, removed from his body during his 2009 transplant operation (the book refers to it as the “1.0 version”).

Using the organ to create a “compelling value proposition,” the pair launch Reliqueree, a cloud startup whose mission is to “reposition” the market’s current perception of death and dying. The new company’s first product is the uLivv, a device that upon launch contains a sample of Jobs’ DNA extracted from his liver, a complete map of his genome (Jobs was one of the first people in the world to have his genome completely sequenced as part of his cancer treatment), and an interactive Steve Jobs persona, an “iBrain” built on top of his genome that can be trained to advise and guide business dreamers on how to be just like Steve.

Also part of the package is an extensive bundle of Jobs-based services such as Codex Steve, “(A day-by-day compilation of the life of Steve Jobs), The Steve Jobs Diet Cookbook, (The ultimate cookbook for people who don’t like to cook), and even exciting games such as Interview with Steve Jobs:

“Enjoy this brain twisting, mind-blowing game of knowledge and problem solving. Visit Steve in his office for a job interview and find out if you have what it takes to join Apple’s ‘A’ Team. Will he find you an “insanely excellent” hire or write you off as Team Bozo? Or even worse, subject you to a “Smelly Feet” dismissal?”

Of course, any self-respecting device requires a platform and development environment and the uLivv has both, the IoDT (Internet of Departed Things) and TransLivvient, respectively. Liver is told in the first person through the eyes of Nate Pennington, who is clearly an alternate universe version of Steve Jobs. Nate is a cheerful monster, burning with the desire to disrupt markets, change the world, fail upwards, and drive Reliqueree to a successful monetization event. Almost completely amoral, he’s a high-tech cross between Candide and Sammy Glick. Oddly enough, he often does the right thing, though invariably for the wrong reason, and moves through his entrepreneurial existence guided by a cloud of auto-generated aphorisms such as “Strong startup CEO leadership is marked by the ability to blend effective micromanagement with selective amnesia.” Like many other entrepreneurs, Nate hasn’t drunk the Kool-Aid--he is the Kool-Aid.

When we first meet him and Ignacio, they’ve just hit entrepreneurial rock bottom, having guided three startups from inception to gruesome failure. Their last company, which drains them of their cash, optimism, and membership in San Francisco’s most prestigious high-tech incubator, is theTogetherhood. Pitched to the local VC community as a risk management system enabling towns and villages to protect themselves against financial downturns and liabilities, the product is actually an online hedge system that manages dead pools where the citizenry can “invest” in such things as local pet and citizenry mortality rates, or, in the words of the appalled incubator director, “monetize municipal evil.”

Making things worse is Nate’s discovery that his Chinese girl friend, Angie, is pregnant and determined that Nate make an honest woman of her, a turn of events which pleases him not all (and reminds us of a famous Cupertino entrepreneur who once upon a time was in a similar position). Despondent, Nate returns home to New York City (where most of the novel’s action takes place) to visit his intolerant, on-the-edge-of senility mother who is sure of only one thing and that is her son should not be marrying a woman whose proper place in life is either to process laundry or perhaps work the takeout counter at the local Peking Garden. Nonetheless, the trip turns out to be inspirational as a meeting with a mysterious Russian “investor,” a visit to his father’s funeral urn, and a chance encounter with a long dead Catholic saint all prime Nate to be ready to ideate a new business paradigm when Steve Jobs’ liver appears for sale on the human spare-parts market.

Now, this is all completely off the wall, but Liver’s narrative is completely deadpan and the story moves at a crackling and hilarious pace. Chapman’s technology background and accurate use of industry sales and marketing buzzwords and jargon helps create the story’s increasingly eerie atmosphere of reality. By the time you’ve finished the book, you’ll be muttering to yourself that maybe there’s a real business model to be found at heart of the tale. This feeling is only heightened when you begin to contemplate that, as Liver points out, you have no legal rights to your DNA or what’s done with it once it leaves the mothership, so to speak. Selling Steve Jobs’ Liver sports a rich cast of supporting characters including Boris, the company’s lonely and lovelorn Russian master coder, May Lei, his one true soul mate, packaging and design impresario Gruezén, who’s a very funny parody of Apple design god Jony Ive, Mother Cabrini, the aforementioned Catholic saint who has an important, though non-speaking role in the book, and yes, Steve Jobs himself, who returns to the industry stage at a major show in persona form and promptly begins taking control of the event, as you would expect.

Liver is perhaps at its funniest when Chapman is taking dead aim at high-tech pretensions, rituals and prejudices. Take as an example his description of the proper way to prepare for DEMO, the industry conference where firms who are preparing to make a dent in the universe launch their latest offerings in front of anticipatory audiences:

“While most attention is paid to the six-minute show-and-tell, there are other lesser-known but still important preparations you need to make to boost your chances of success. In no particular order they are:

If you’re over 30, moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.

DEMO likes its entrepreneurs to be dewy-eyed and under 30 if at all possible. It’s still sort of OK to be over 30, but you can’t look like you’re approaching 40! (See below.) Excess facial wrinkles, bags under the eyes, and deep gray hair are all no-no’s. There’s a mini-trend for startup CEOs to resort to plastic surgery, but in many cases this is overkill. First spend time watching the cosmetics segments of the QVC channel for useful products that can help. And remember there’s a reason God created Grecian Formula.

If you’re over 40, don’t come.”

I fully expect the characters in Silicon Valley to soon appear on screen reading Liver. They and the book are a natural bundle.

Check out the authors website .

Selling Steve Jobs Liver can be purchased on B&N

Gary Skiba is currently a principal software engineer at RF Code and a partner at investment firm GrokFish. Previously, he has worked at such firms as Katerra, IBM, Ashton-Tate, and Inset Systems. He provided technical advice to the author of Selling Steve Jobs Liver on some of the books technical issues and in regards to the pyschological foibles and quirks of programmers.

Submission + - Who Makes The Decision To Go Cloud and Who Should?

Esther Schindler writes: It’s a predictable argument in any IT shop: Should the techies — with their hands on their keyboards — be the people who decide which technology or deployment is right for the company? Or should CIOs and senior management — with their strategic perspective — be the ones to make the call? Ellis Luk got input from plenty of people about management vs. techies making cloud/on-premise decisions... with, of course, a lot of varying in opinion.

Comment Re:REALLY? (Score 1) 698



And then those people tried to use email, and thought that it was perfectly fine to write all non-programming correspondence that way. Including my brother-in-law... and you can't tell your BiL he's an idiot. Not if you want your sister to keep talking to you.

Submission + - Why do we still have caps lock prominently on keyboards?

Esther Schindler writes: The developers at .io are into tracking things, I guess. In any case, a few weeks back they decided to track team performance in terms of keyboard and mouse activity during the working day. They installed a simple Chrome plugin on every macbook and collected some statistics. For instance, developers have fewer keypresses than editors and managers—around 4k every day. Managers type more than 23k characters per day. And so on. Some pretty neat statistics.

But the piece that jumped out at me was this:

What’s curious—the least popular keys are Capslock and Right Mouse Button. Somewhere around 0.1% of all keypresses together. It’s time to make some changes to keyboards.

I've been whining about this for years. Why is it that the least-used key on my keyboard not just in a prominent position, but also bigger than most other keys? I can I invest in a real alternate keyboard with a different layout (my husband's a big fan of the Kinesis keyboards, initially to cope with carpal tunnel). But surely it's time to re-visit the standard key layout?

Submission + - Good: Companies care about data privacy. Bad: No idea how to protect it. 1

Esther Schindler writes: Research performed by Dimensional Research demonstrated something most of us know: Just about every business cares about data privacy, and intends to do something to protect sensitive information. But when you cross-tabulate the results to look more closely at what organizations are actually doing to ensure that private data stays private, the results are sadly predictable: While smaller companies care about data privacy just as much as big ones do, they’re ill-equipped to respond. What’s different is not the perceived urgency of data privacy and other privacy/security matters. It’s what companies are prepared (and funded) to do about it.

For instance:

When it comes to training employees on data privacy, 82% of the largest organizations do tell the people who work for them the right way to handle personally identifiable data and other sensitive information. Similarly, 71% of the businesses with 1,000-5,000 employees offer such training.

However, even though smaller companies are equally concerned about the subject, that concern does not trickle down to the employees quite so effectively. Half of the midsize businesses offer no such training; just 39% of organizations with under 100 employees regularly train employees on data privacy.

Presumably, your employer cares about data security and privacy, too (if for no other reason than to keep its name out of the news). But what is it really doing to ensure that protection?


We'll Be the Last PC Company Standing, Acer CEO Says 417

Velcroman1 writes: At a sky-high press conference atop the new World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, Acer unveiled a sky-high lineup of goods – and placed a flag in the sand for the sagging PC industry. "There are only four or five players in the PC industry, and all of us are survivors," Jason Chen, CEO of Acer Corp, told an international group of reporters. "We will be the last man standing for the PC industry." To that end, the company showed off a slew of new laptops and 2-in-1s, the new Liquid X2 smartphone, and introduces a new line of gaming PCs, called Predator. I suspect Apple will outlive Acer; who do you think will fall next (or rise next)?

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