Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?

Slashdot videos: Now with more Slashdot!

  • View

  • Discuss

  • Share

We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).


Comment: This could go very bad, very fast (Score 1) 1089

by FrnkMit (#49298317) Attached to: Obama: Maybe It's Time For Mandatory Voting In US

1. Voting becomes compulsory.

2. Party in power manipulates poll hours and ID requirements so that working poor and other groups can't vote without taking time off work, standing in long lines, triple-checking their papers, etc.

3. Working poor, etc., not only still have no voice but owe money for being excluded from voting.

(4. PROFIT!)

We need to make voting as easy and transparent as possible, not to impose rules the disenfranchised can't follow.

Comment: Re: Waste of money (Score 2) 341

by FrnkMit (#48754153) Attached to: Intel Pledges $300 Million To Improve Diversity In Tech

To all the people who say "women don't want to work in tech", note that women were the MAJORITY in the early days of computing, right up until the advent of personal computers. (Source) From the article: "... families were much more likely to buy computers for boys than for girls — even when their girls were really interested in computers."

So it's quite probable women WOULD go into tech fields ... if they had encouragement, a pleasant working atmosphere, and at least some assurance that motherhood wouldn't throw them completely off their career track.

Comment: Re:Its Urban Trees (Score 1) 516

by FrnkMit (#48466721) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Why Is the Power Grid So Crummy In So Many Places?

Weather is also a factor. Our power has gone out sporadically (usually preceded by the loud pop of something getting fried), and it usually comes back within an hour or two of my calling. Except during the Great Dallas Ice Storm which happens *every year* and which *nobody* seems to plan for. The last two years the power has been out for days, which is especially fun with an elderly invalid. The fact that the city/county response to ice is to toss some sand and ice on it, compounded with Dallasites inability to drive even during good weather, prolongs response times even further. But I still blame Oncor.

Comment: Re:Good managers manage up, not down (Score 2) 186

by FrnkMit (#48435863) Attached to: It's Not Developers Slowing Things Down, It's the Process

To my mind, the best managers set up conditions for their staff to succeed and defend them against higher-level managers. That's it. Managers should take care of head-count and hiring and meetings and all the other boring but apparently necessary stuff; they shouldn't be responsible for *any* analysis and design, let alone coding. Because all the "boring" stuff will eat up someone's time, and better the designated victim, I mean manager, than someone responsible for making progress.

The *worst* managers, in my not-too-atypical experience, are the rock-stars, micromanagers, timekeepers, and corporate climbers. True rock-star programmers should be writing code, not going to meetings ... and if they can't cooperate with the rest of the team they shouldn't be on the project at all. Micromanagers second-guess their staff and the staff waste valuable work time indulging the boss. Management by Gantt chart is even worse, since estimates in software are rough guesses, not contractual commitments; the work takes as long as it takes, for a set amount of work, and forcing the staff to work harder to satisfy a bogus schedule only makes work later (or buggier). Worst of all are the managers who are simply mouthpieces and boot-licks for their bosses, because they'll throw you under the bus for any perceived failure and claim credit for all your successes, often both at the same time.

Comment: Re: Agile / Waterfall mix? (Score 5, Interesting) 186

by FrnkMit (#48435725) Attached to: It's Not Developers Slowing Things Down, It's the Process

It depends which parts are "agile" and which are "waterfall". From my not-exactly-vast experience, whatever mix you choose has to address four concerns:

1. WHAT ARE YOU BUILDING? Seriously. This is where the extra planning of "waterfall" -- itself a misunderstanding of someone else's comments -- comes in. One of my first jobs was a derivatives trading app in a perpetual tug of war between an outspoken exotic derivatives trader, back office and compliance folks wanting to automate trade reconciliation, risk managers wanting to manage risk, and the rest of the trading desk who just wanted to price whatever deal they were trying to do (vanilla or not). The end result was a kludgey mess that everyone hated.

2. HOW DO YOU ALLOW FOR GROWTH? There are right ways and wrong ways. Agile has a good tip: build only what you need, and as cleanly as you can. Better said than done, of course, and sometimes (as the Pragmatic Programmers have said) you *know* there will be a database in there sooner or later, so plan your architecture accordingly even if it's a little awkward short-term. Then there's the wrong way, which I saw in one project: build a "flexible" architecture with "configurable" components so that you can do "anything"! 1) KNOW WHAT YOU'RE BUILDING, even in broad strokes (see above). 2) For software to be reusable, it must first be usable for *something*. 3) If your "flexible" and "configurable" architecture takes more time to modify than writing straightforward code would take, it has failed; start over. 4) It's better to use open-source architecture than build it yourself. (Buying is also better, but beware of vendor lock-in and every-increasing fees, especially if you only use a small part of an elaborate framework.)

3. HOW DO STAKE-HOLDERS REQUEST CHANGES? No specification will be adequate out of the gate, and unless you're working for NASA or the military people CAN and WILL request changes, sometimes while you're building the product and certainly once people begin using it. Do you jump when they say how high? Do you have a long and slow review process? Do you work individual tickets? Do you have potentially disruptive "projects", and if so how do you integrate them back into the main project? Different applications have different rates of change and different tolerance for defects, but it's best to work out change process before the complaints come in.

4. WHEN AND HOW DO YOU CUT YOUR LOSSES? Despite your best efforts the whole thing will become obsolete or unmaintainable, sooner or later (hopefully later). As in point #1, have some idea which you're building, and at what point do you deprecate it to build something better. (This is the hardest part for many organizations; why can't the floor wax also be a salad dressing?) At some point make a plan, refactor your code base -- over time! -- to separate the parts you'll keep from the parts you don't need, and toss out the latter. If a radical rewrite is the only way to go, bite the bullet and do it, with appropriate safe-guards like regression tests. If you can't evolve or replace your product, a competitor -- maybe within your own organization -- will do it for you.

That's my long-winded advice, from someone who's watched many "successful" and "unsuccessful" projects die. Nearly all in-house software is a Potemkin village designed to keep the tzars happy. If the tzars aren't happy, the fake village is set ablaze and you, the fake peasants, go to Siberia. The only real question is how to keep your frantic peasant dance going as long as possible without dying of exhaustion or being sent to Siberia.

TL;DR: Plan the limits, goals, requirements, and large-scale architecture up front (erroneously called "waterfall"). But planning never really ends; stay agile to correct your course or take advantage of opportunities ... and be willing to throw the whole thing away if warranted. Also, keep your resume updated.

+ - Maps Suggest Marco Polo May Have "Discovered" America 1

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "For a guy who claimed to spend 17 years in China as a confidant of Kublai Khan, Marco Polo left a surprisingly skimpy paper trail. No Asian sources mention the footloose Italian. The only record of his 13th-century odyssey through the Far East is the hot air of his own Travels, which was actually an “as told to” penned by a writer of romances. But a set of 14 parchments, now collected and exhaustively studied for the first time, give us a raft of new stories about Polo’s journeys and something notably missing from his own account: maps. If genuine, the maps would show that Polo recorded the shape of the Alaskan coast—and the strait separating it from Asia—four centuries before Vitus Bering, the Danish explorer long considered the first European to do so. Perhaps more important, they suggest Polo was aware of the New World two centuries before Columbus."

+ - NASA asks Boeing, SpaceX to stop work on next-gen space taxi

Submitted by BarbaraHudson
BarbaraHudson (3785311) writes "Due to a challenge by Sierra Nevada, NASA has asked the winners for the next earth-to-orbit launch vehicles to halt work, at least temporarily.

After rewarding Boeing and SpaceX with the contracts to build the spacecrafts NASA is now asking the companies to stop their work on the project.

The move comes after aerospace company Sierra Nevada filed a protest of the decision after losing out on the bid.

Sierra Nevada was competing against Boeing and SpaceX for a share of the $6.8 billion CCP contracts. The contracts will cover all phases of development as well as testing and operational flights. Each contract will cover a minimum of two flights and a maximum of four, with each agency required to have one test flight with a NASA representative on board.

On Sept. 16, NASA announced who the winners were of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCAP) contracts. Sierra Nevada then filed a protest with the GAO on Sept. 26, and issued a statement saying the protest was asking for: “a further detailed review and evaluation of the submitted proposals and capabilities.”

According to NASA’s Public Affairs Office, this legal protest stops all work currently being done under these contracts. However, officials have not commented on whether-or-not the companies can continue working if they are using private funds.

Sierra Nevada's orbiter resembles a mini space shuttle. That alone (remember the problems with the tiles) should have been enough to disqualify them."

Comment: Re:This again... (Score 2) 227

"On average, girls are - for whatever reason - less interested in math, physics, chemistry. ... Likely, these preferences are based in biology ..."

The article said none of this. In fact, it freely acknowledged social pressures that discourage women from entering or staying in tech. It's not unreasonable to suppose stories from women in tech discourage the next generation from even attempting to enter computer-related fields. It helps to read the freaking article.

As others have said, people -- mostly male upper-class Europeans -- have used biology to justify slavery, denying women/minorities the vote, giving harsher sentences to black or Eastern European defendants, and so on. (And I'm not even Godwinning.) Read Steven J. Gould's _The Mismeasure of Man_, then read Carol Tavris's _The Mismeasure of Woman_.

+ - Blame Tech Diversity On Culture, not Pipeline->

Submitted by FrnkMit
FrnkMit (302934) writes "Challenging a previous story on tech diversity, a writer interviewed 716 women who left the technology field. Her conclusion: corporate culture, and the larger social structure, is the primary cause they shook the sand of the tech industry from their shoes, never looking back. Specific issues include a lack of maternity policies in small companies, low pay which barely covers day care, "jokes" from male coworkers, and always feeling like the "odd duck". In reality, there are probably many intertwined causes: peer pressure at the high-school and college level, female-unfriendly geek culture, low pay, a lack of accommodations for pregnant/nursing mothers, the myth of "having it all", stereotype threat, and repeated assertions that women aren't biologically suited to writing software and therefore there's no problem at all."
Link to Original Source

+ - Solar Could Lead In Power Production By 2050->

Submitted by Lucas123
Lucas123 (935744) writes "Solar power could be the leading source of electricity compared with other renewables and conventional sources of power, such as oil and coal, according to a pair of reports from International Energy Agency. PV panels could produce 16% of the world's electricity, while solar thermal electricity (STE) is on track to produce 11%. At the end of 2013, there had been 137GW of solar capacity deployed around the world. Each day, an additional 100MW of power is deployed. One reason solar is so promising are plummeting prices for photovoltaic cells and new technologies that promise greater solar panel efficiency. For example, MIT just published a report on a new a material that could be ideal for converting solar energy into heat by tuning the material's spectrum of absorption. Ohio State University just announced what it's referring to as the world's first solar battery, which integrates PV with storage at a microsopic level. "We've integrated both functions into one device. Any time you can do that, you reduce cost," said iying Wu, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio State."
Link to Original Source

+ - Snowflake-shaped networks are easiest to mend->

Submitted by Z00L00K
Z00L00K (682162) writes "Networks shaped like delicate snowflakes are the ones that are easiest to fix when disaster strikes.

Power grids, the internet and other networks often mitigate the effects of damage using redundancy: they build in multiple routes between nodes so that if one path is knocked out by falling trees, flooding or some other disaster, another route can take over. But that approach can make them expensive to set up and maintain. The alternative is to repair networks with new links as needed, which brings the price down – although it can also mean the network is down while it happens.

As a result, engineers tend to favour redundancy for critical infrastructure like power networks, says Robert Farr of the London Institute for Mathematical Sciences.

So Farr and colleagues decided to investigate which network structures are the easiest to repair. Some repairs just restore broken links in their original position, but that may not always be possible. So the team looked at networks that require links in new locations to get up and running again. They simulated a variety of networks, linking nodes in a regular square or triangular pattern and looked at the average cost of repairing different breaks, assuming that expense increases with the length of a rebuilt link."

Link to Original Source

Comment: Correlation != causation, dammit (Score 1) 329

by FrnkMit (#47745365) Attached to: ACM Blames the PC For Driving Women Away From Computer Science

*People* are different, and like different things. Men and women, however, aren't that different (roles in reproduction excepted), so a statistically significant difference points to a social or psychological cause, not biology.

That said, the PC isn't itself the problem, as the TFA -- or maybe just the summary -- seems to imply. Looking at other professions with gender imbalances, though, one can posit a few underlying causes. a) Secretaries were once men who helped important people with important matters; once the typewriter came in, women seized on typing as a "respectable" way to support themselves and the modern secretarial pool was born. (See b) Blechley Park and earlier research projects employed female "computers" before they developed electric ones because women worked hard and worked cheap. All the mathematical whizzes, however, were upper-class men; who would pay for a woman's education, when they would just get married and pop out kids? (See also Disney animators.)

Obviously somebody needs to do solid research, but one could hypothesize that the PC coincided with three trends: the growth of male-dominated "hacker" culture, the use of PCs by Serious Men for Serious Business, and the decline of mainframes (i.e. server rooms in which nobody knew or cared women worked). Without hard data, though, this is mere conjecture. Loads better than "women don't like computers", though.

Comment: Not a controversial question AT ALL ... (Score 2) 247

by FrnkMit (#46437519) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What's New In Legacy Languages?

Legacy properly describes a software system, not a language. Languages rise and fall in popularity. Sometimes a language has inherent limits, sometimes the implementation stinks, sometimes the syntax or paradigm no longer become fashionable. Sometimes languages and platforms disappear only to re-emerge years later. Back in the late 1990's NeXTSTEP/OPENSTEP was turning into a "legacy platform" ... yet today MacOSX and iOS rely on Objective-C and descendants of the NeXT APIs. Even if a language fades completely from the mainstream its ideas inspire new languages: Java borrowed from Objective-C and C++; Ruby borrowed from Perl, Smalltalk, and a little from Eiffel.

Stay in the industry long enough, you'll see everything come back.

"Now this is a totally brain damaged algorithm. Gag me with a smurfette." -- P. Buhr, Computer Science 354