Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:Abuse of sudo (Score 2) 145

Also at an old job...I was mini-mainframe programmer/analyst rendered nearly ineffective by a sysadmin that set up automatic log-out after A FEW MINUTES of keyboard inactivity from the terminal in the name of security. I didn't appreciate having my thought-train derailed every few minutes by a message saying I'd been kicked off. My terminal was a DOS-based PC running terminal emulation software. I wrote a macro to insert two keystrokes into the keyboard buffer every few minutes. (cursor-right followed by cursor-left.)

Comment Please mod parent up (Score 1) 242

I'd agree the market quickly expanded, but Radio Shack did a poor job of maintaining it's supremacy in it. Frys and Microcenter kick butt for brick-n-mortar tech hobbiest stores. Digi-key is great for 2-3 day delivery. Even a small town like Anchorage, Alaska, supports a big-box store full of electronic components called Frigid North. http://store.frigidnorth.com/ I don't feel sad. They all represent what Radio Shack was well-positioned to be, but blew money on NFL Superbowl ads instead of revamping their tech line-up.

Comment Re:Sci-fi is not "Econo-fi?" (Score 1) 300

Interesting example and question. It provoked a lot of thought and I'm glad you took the time to post it. In dissecting your closing question I do agree we need to make money serve us and not the other way around. However, I can't seriously take the position that money is merely a technology, like, say paper or telephones. Money is also a representation of wealth and as such, is tightly tied to culture and motive, both good and bad. In your perverse incentives example, I would envision AT&T's suppression internet technology as helping AT&T only in the short-term, but short-changing AT&T's technology position in the long term. The manager(s) or organizations that decide to suppress a useful technology ultimately harm the firm's natural advantage. (I'm ignoring the complexities of a company's ability to bring a technology to market. AT&T was arguably in a natural position to lead and do well with it. ) I see the *real* perverseness as not one of capitalism, but as the focus on short-term protectionism over the creation of long-term value. AT&T had a long history of thinking in terms of government-enforced monopolies, which generally is a bad idea for both consumers and shareholders in the long-term.

It's a bit like the issue of race in hiring. A manager that decides to ignore better talent with racial characteristics he doesn't like, is ultimately self-punishing because he brings inferior talent to bear on a problem or operation. Likewise, a manager that ignores a better network technology to preserve existing central office routing technology invites better/faster/cheaper competition while squandering the natural value of AT&T's R&D and pre-existing customer base.

To stay relevant long-term, It's generally better to direct, control and profit off a new technology than suppress it to preserve your old technology. As an example, look at intel, it's constantly developing designs that compete with itself. AMD actually seems to help intel by keeping intel paranoid and focused.

I really did appreciate the question and the thought experiments it triggered.

Comment Sci-fi is not "Econo-fi?" (Score 1) 300

Sci-fi is usually literate in matters of science. I'm guessing that's why they call it "Sci-fi" instead of "Econo-fi"

I've noticed those deeply moved by science and technology are a *very* different crowd than those deeply moved by economics, accounting and finance. Too many sci-fi stories cop out on the explanation of how something was funded by saying something like "we've advanced FAR beyond the need for money" as if money is merely a technology with no ties to motive, ambition, wealth, effort or culture.

As a counter-point, some sci-fi authors include economic desperation as a major motivator. My favorite was Frederik Phol in "Gateway" as part of the HeeChee Saga. Many of the dystopian-future stories focus on an overly-powerful central government working in partnership with very large corporations.

Comment Mandatory Retirement Jobs (Score 1) 286

I've known many to retire in their early 40's from the military, but don't know if its mandatory. Air traffic control, federal law enforcement or some military specialties have mandatory upper-limits on age, coded into law. I think that, after 39 yrs old, you can no longer join the military via a recruiter, but must be "pulled in" by justified exception, such as critical expertise. Even that is hard to justify, if the same skill can be had through a civilian contractors, who face no maximum age limits.

Some private companies can also set mandatory age limits, if they are in an industry exempted from age-discrimination laws or the specific job is age-critical. For example, my friend flies Boeing 747 on international routes for a private USA airline. Even if under the mandatory retirement age, you must pass physical-fitness tests.

Comment Re:Can't avoid medical records (Score 1) 528

I feel for you on the job-shadowing and wondering if the talent will be alive or in a hospital bed next month. It's not limited to IT. If I look at my critical vendors, my brilliant tax CPA is another one I wonder about from month to month. He is a lone practitioner with no clerical assistants. I also look at the current batch of kids (future talent) graduating from high school and notice that, while technically literate and imaginative, 1/3 of the graduating kids are obese, as the new normal.
I'm not sure how to build a resurgent culture of self-responsibility and sporting physical play in western civilization, except to encourage a few fellow geek friends here and there and maybe a thoughtful slashdotter or two.

Comment Footage n Accounting same system? (Score 2) 528

Putting on my IT geek hat, I'd say the term "system" or "same system" is rapidly losing its meaning in the age of "server fabric" and virtualized computing resources. You have systems of systems. Accessing everything from video editing apps to timecard and budgeting submission apps or web-pages from the same workstation, possibly at your home, on the day you telecommuted, using your "federated security credential" on your key-logging terminal. The key-logging pretty much by-passes all security from full-disk encryption, VPNs and secure sockets to compartmentalization and containment schemes, all of which become irrelevent. You don't even need to infect or access the target workstation to key-log it to gain access to bigger systems. Many of the attack techniques have been published or hinted at by security firms, ars technica and commented on by slashdotters over the years. In some of the more interesting techniques, attackers use your smartphone's microphone or your Xbox's Kinnect features.

I don't actually know, but I would speculate that a state-sponsored actor, such as North Korea, can point a low-power laser at your window as you type on your keyboard and a small, crude app can statistically deduce which keys are being struck by both the rhythm, frequency and a differential analysis of the resonant frequency signatures inherent in each keystroke. Don't believe it's possible? Try this simple test. Listen carefully to the tap of your ~tilde key in the upper left corner. Now tap a "home" key such as D, F, J or K. They don't sound EVEN CLOSE in tone of click...do they? Precise tonal frequency differentiation is trivial for a low-end 80's era microphone and 80's era processor. While North Korea likely didn't create the acoustic key-logging technology, they likely can get their hands on it as long as the share the "intelligence take" with their Chinese or middle-eastern eavesdropping equipment suppliers, who most likely also hate Sony even more than some of Sony's consumers.

North Korea has it in for anything Japanese. Strict middle-eastern religions include some great electrical engineering types and are likely outraged by the hot women in Sony's movies. who typically don't cover up in Burkas and have the audacity to drive themselves in cars and argue with men. China wants control of the Asian-Pacific region and wants all the intel, server access and compromised foreigners it can manage to obtain without upsetting its western-civilization consumers of Chinese-made goodies like Lenovo Thinkpads and Apple iPhones.

Comment Can't avoid medical records (Score 5, Insightful) 528

I employ people in the USA in small IT and EE/IC specialty design shops. Most expert-level employees seem to come with white or grey hair. One of my IT geeks is a "MT Dew Diabetic." Avoiding the maintenance of medical records is simply not an option in the USA, given our laws and court rulings. We have to comply with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), keep records of workman's comp medical restrictions, including very specific information, on what an employee may and may not do as well as provide emergency information to first responders. While often inconvenient, these are requirements I cannot avoid. Some of my employees have medical conditions (heart conditions, organ replacement, severe allergies, diabetes, unusual prescriptions of controlled sumstances, etc.) that they want known and available to first responders showing up at the office if they collapse clutching their heart or go into a sugar coma. Complicating this, if one of your customers is a Federal agency or Defense, you must, by law, have a "zero tolerance policy" for controlled substances. All this requires records to prove or excuse. For government accusations, corporations are "effectively guilty" until they prove themselves innocent with appropriate record keeping. Making this even more difficult, USA court rulings say we're also not allowed to store this information in their personal files, but must keep it in a separate, access controlled file, otherwise we could get sued if that person missed a pay raise or promotion because it was available to anyone reviewing their service and discipline records. The separate files seem silly when the teams are small enough that everyone knows each other very well anyway. Also, what if the employee who first greets the medics from the ambulance don't have easy access the secured medical files? Isn't that an even worse problem? Sued if you do. Sued if you don't. Sued if you didn't do it the nuanced way a team of $300/hr attorneys thinks you should have half-way done it. Nuisance suits are common in the USA.

As a practical matter, a lot of valuable talent is not healthy. Many experts are experts because they have been at a speciality for 30-60yrs. If you have an employee that has an epileptic seizure, you don't want the rest of the team to stand there confused and gawking. You want them to recognize it and intervening to protect that individual's head and spine from injury. I had an employee with mental health issues under the care of a psychiatrist. While she was physically 100% capable (she was young and athletic) yet she was restricted from certain emotionally triggering situations. You want their supervisor trained know what those are and how to avoid it. You want a written record, periodically refreshed, that her supervisor knows and understands. You could say "I don't want to deal with that" but then you lose out on some great talent. Imagine a physics institute that didn't want to deal with maintaining medical records for Stephan Hawking.

Comment thriftiness, speed and humanity requires cash (Score 1) 375

Cash brings me enjoyable transactions and frees me from POS terminals, paperwork hassles. I increasingly find that people are patient and courteous while systems are impatient and rude. I paid a neighbor kid $20 cash to shovel a small driveway. I try to purchase my non-tech items used, typically from real people that genuinely appreciate the cash. I paid $150 cash for a 49cc scooter that runs but needs a new battery, $0.25 for a paperback to go in my airline carry-on, $2 for a 16-drawer organizer box nearly full of screws, washers, wire nuts and crimp-on connectors for twisted pair. I doubt the neighbor kids or garage sale lady would have taken anything other than cash.

I try to avoid big-box stores but needed to go to big hardware store get some specific-sized screws to fit the holes in my 19-inch rack to finish a project before the end of the day. It didn't want to swipe my corporate credit card and trigger a bunch of process for a few lousy screws. By spending about $2 cash, I saved me the hassle of filing out an expense report and saved my employer ~$25/hr for each person that would have had to touch the report and approve re-imbursing me with a corporate check for less than $2.

"Oh my! An `inflammatory attitude' in alt.flame? Never heard of such a thing..." -- Allen Gwinn, allen@sulaco.Sigma.COM