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Comment: Fun with lasers (Score 1) 356 356

My personal best was when I was writing the firmware for a customer's laser marker system. It was a big industrial machine that moved the laser head on a very expensive gantry using 15-pound servos that could generate ungodly amounts of torque. I had a bug in the code that drove the servos, and I issued a command to home the gantry, after which the X-axis went zipping across as fast as it would go. Wouldn't have been a problem except there was a faulty limit switch on that end of the axis, so the 25-pound laser head got slammed into the stops at what we estimated was about 100 inches per second. Totally destroyed the laser head (there's nothing more disheartening to hear than the tinkling of broken steering mirrors and seeing a cracked flat field lens as a bonus), and caused some severe mechanical damage to the rest of the assembly. Fortunately the motors shut down automatically when the temperature sensor tripped, but it wasn't fun explaining to the boss that we had to replace about $30,000 of hardware.

My favorites are those I thankfully had nothing at all to do with - where I am now, we write and maintain the warehouse management software for a very, very large snack food vendor, and we have a VPN link to all of the plants to maintain and monitor what's going on. It's happened before where co-workers haven't paid close enough attention and have connected to live plants instead of the test systems, and accidentally shut down the warehouse, which means production gets shut down too since there's nowhere to put those thousands and thousands of bags of chips until the warehouse system comes back up, and it takes them hours to get stuff restarted and settled once that happens. I don't know how much it costs, but it can't be cheap. I'm also not sure why we don't have some kind of two-factor system with a unique key for each plant to keep that from happening. [shrug]

Comment: Re:Carl Sagan thought Titan was more important (Score 3, Interesting) 98 98

And what gives him the authority to dictate to NASA how to run their space program?

Mostly the fact that he was one of the most prominent and well-rounded planetary astronomers and astrobiologists in the world, and the fact that he had a pretty good batting average in predicting conditions on Venus, Europa, and other bodies that were later confirmed. Sagan didn't dictate the Voyagers' itineraries, but NASA sure as hell wanted to know what he had to say.

Comment: Re:Because titan has ice, pluto isn't even a plane (Score 4, Informative) 98 98

I believe Voyager 1 still hasn't passed pluto if projected back down onto its orbital plane.

Voyager 1 is almost 20 billion miles away from us now, and is traveling about 35 degrees out of the ecliptic. Some really rough trigonometry shows that if you project that down onto the ecliptic, it's still about 16 billion miles away from the Sun, which is almost three times the length of the long axis of Pluto's entire orbit.

Comment: Re:It's all about the environment... (Score 1) 126 126

Hard to concentrate when you can smell your neighbor didn't shower this week.

Fortunately everyone in my office bathes regularly, but we do have an office manager that believes too much perfume is merely a starting point. Seriously, I'm four cubes down from where she works and I can tell when she's arrived to within five minutes.

Comment: Re:Confirmed... I've been hiring. (Score 1) 179 179

It allows the hiring company to keep an applicant from straying, without having to commit the resources to the checks until after you know the employee will accept the position.

Except that it doesn't keep the applicant from straying. If he gets a better offer from the time he accepts and the other company gives him a firm start date of next Monday while the first company still has two more weeks to go of dicking around with their internal paperwork, odds are the first company is going to get a phone call rescinding the acceptance and thanking them for their time, especially if they pay in arrears. On the flip side, I've also seen people accept an offer, start work, and then leave after two weeks when the job they really wanted with another company is offered.

Comment: Re: Labour laws (Score 1) 422 422

In which case the employees who said "give me my damned money now" spared themselves from being the ones with no chair when the music stopped.

Having been in the situation where my employer stiffed me out of thousands of dollars in pay (let's call it for what it is: "theft of services"), I've adopted the wisdom of Paulie Cicero: "Fuck you, pay me." Next time an employer can't make payroll, I'm out, with a small claims suit to follow if necessary. Not that I'll actually recover anything, but the time spent donating labor to an insolvent employer can be put to better use finding another job.

Comment: Re:So, the other side? (Score 1) 422 422

Some of the decisions might also be said to be in the shared traders best interest, but definitely not in the shareholders best interest.

Depends on what kind of shareholders you have. This business strategy sucks for those looking to gain long-term value or even (gasp!) dividends, but often works great for the day traders that aren't going to hold onto the stock long enough to see more than a couple of quarters pass in the quest for instant returns.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. - Edmund Burke