Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Take advantage of Black Friday with 15% off sitewide with coupon code "BLACKFRIDAY" on Slashdot Deals (some exclusions apply)". ×

Comment Client Surveys and finding the decision-makers (Score 1) 192

Internally within most organisations in my experience, developers write the code their management team tells them to write, which comes from competitive analysis, feedback from sales or pre-sales demo teams, analysis of trends in support calls, and feedback from client relationship managers.
1. When we go out to show our products to prospective clients, what do they want that we cannot do or cannot do easily?
2. What feedback are our existing customers giving us (through any channel, but mainly their relationship manager or the support team) about what they are finding hard?
3. When we lose a deal to the competition on something other than price, what was the deciding factor? What features were we lacking, or is it just that the competition have better sales staff?
4. What bugs/features exist in our system that are causing problems for our clients, or are preventing us landing new deals? (This one is different from points 1 and 2 - this is a functional issue, 1 and 2 are design issues).

In most development companies where I have worked, the answers to those questions are constantly monitored by a focus group for future development, and they mandate what new features (or fixes for existing bugs) are included in the product roadmap.

It sounds as though that entire process is missing from OP's company, and getting management buy-in to get that setup would be my first suggestion. Once that is up and running, the organisation becomes more focused on profitably delivering what the customer wants, instead of what seems to be the case in OP's office - what the developers want to produce.

Asking clients specifically for feedback about what features they find good and bad about the system, and how the system can better support their workflow is a question for the relationship manager, if there is one. Similarly, if a client decides not to renew a contract or wants to break the contract part way through to move to a competitor's product, asking why the decision to migrate was made would be a good idea - often it will be purely price-driven and features will have no relevance. But sometimes, the lack of a specific feature or generally bad UI programming causing lost productivity for the client can be the cause, and really needs to be addressed.

Comment Re:New employer = not happy (Score 1) 92

As others have said, stopping the payment of severance is one avenue, although in my case as in some others there was a clause that if I find another job within the severance period, the remainder of the severance is paid as a lump sum (or I have seen in some cases that a proportion of the severance is paid), with the previous employer reserving the right to claw back/reclaim the money paid through the severance package if the deal is broken - that reclaim can go through civil courts in some cases, incurring additional expense for the job leaver.
The attendant loss of a reference from that employer, plus the negative impact on the ex-employee's reputation are more troubling issues though, especially when you work in a relatively specialized role with employers who have significant transference between them - a reputation for not honoring severance contracts as an ex-employee can be worse than a reputation for resigning by shitting on the boss' desk.
Not fair, I know - it gives the ex-employer a lot of leverage, and also would devalue their reputation somewhat, but you are the one looking for a new paycheck so you are the one who needs to look awesome.

Comment New employer = not happy (Score 5, Informative) 92

I had a similar clause in my severance contract at a previous employer (only 6 months, though), and started getting calls frequently because the guy to whom I handed over decided to quit after a row with my old boss.
I had covered myself by notifying the new employer of the clause during interviews, but suddenly getting 4 or 5 calls a day that took up 1-2 hours of the working day was a problem and as the new guy on the team, I did not have a huge amount of good-will with my team to be able to "slack off" from the team's projects.
The old employer also had a vested interest. Knowing the way my old manager's mind worked, he would have had no problem with making calls to the point where the new employer terminated my contract because of it, so that he could try to rehire me.
My new boss got his legal team talking to the old company, and when the possibility of either legal action or invoicing for my time came up, the call volume dropped to near zero - 2 calls in 3 months, if I recall correctly.
The project they were calling about was well documented, thanks to me and a detail-oriented intern who had been working with me for a couple of months, but these clauses still leave an ex-employee on the hook for a lot of potential problems if they are vaguely worded.

Comment Re:Too little, too late (Score 1) 262

Simple answer... you cannot. Useful answer, buy from a place that has a "full refund" policy which will not be invalidated by you doing enough with the phone to install the app that will tell you which chip you got.
Cannot get a suitable refund guarantee? Then either do not buy the phone or buy one and take pot luck.

Comment Ads: The new internet (Score 1) 318

Personally, I have no problem with visiting a web site that has ads on it, within reason. That mainly applies to my home internet connection, but my mobile is a work tool and I rarely browse the internet on it anyway.
However, pages that load within a second or two, but then sit with a blank window "waiting for Adserve/Adsense/some-other-bullshit-3rd-party-ad-site" for a minute or so; or pages that have a tiny amount of useful content but which have 30-40 trackers on them, meaning that my (admittedly crap) home internet connection slows from a crawl to a coma-inducing slither; or sites that try to fetch ads from a third party which has been infected with malware which then tries to install on my system; ads that lead my technologically illiterate family members to call me in a panic because there is a thing on the screen saying their computer is infected; or ads that are so visually intrusive that I can barely see the information I am interested in; these are the main things that drive me to install ad blockers, script blockers, and privacy tools.
They also drive me to restrict access for user accounts to system resources, so if any of those family members want stuff installed, I have to go and install it for them (a pain in the ass and a time sink, but from experience I can say that it is less of a pain in the ass and much less of a time sink than the alternatives I have found).

If I was on a connection where I was paying for every megabyte of data I download, such as the typical mobile contracts, I would be even harder.

Advertisers want to paint this as me "stealing" from them, as if I have taken from them anything more tangible than the POTENTIAL to try and sell me something I do not want. But for me, loading a web page is akin to inviting someone into my house (I generally offer coffee, tea and cake to people I invite in) - I am inviting that information, that company, to make a connection to me. Just because I have invited that ONE connection does not mean that I am going to extend that invitation to their friends, friends of friends, neighbours and some drug-addled homeless psycho that is tagging along with them to come in, drink my coffee, eat my cake, piss all over the dining room and steal the painting on the wall. With allowing ads on my system, sometimes it feels as though that is what I would be doing.

So, umm, no Mr. Advertiser, sorry. I might trust the person or party that I have invited enough to load their web page, but I do not know you or any of your friends, and you are not accepting any liability for bad stuff that happens, so if you happen to cause me problems I have no recourse against you. That means you get left at the front door, and while I will not come out brandishing a shotgun shouting "Get off my lawn!", it is an awfully tempting thing.

Comment Maybe, but not in the way VW are trying to say... (Score 1) 479

Software engineers generally (always, in my experience) do what management tells them to do, and nothing more - with the pressure of hitting a deadline, no engineer wants to miss a deadline and then tell their boss that the reason they missed it was because they were getting creative with the code and requirements.
However, I can see a scenario where this might be laid at the feet of a couple of software engineers.

Presumably, the ECM is capable of dynamically switching the engine mode depending on a range of factors - sensor measurements, controls in the cabin, driver actions, and so on. Presumably also, each engine mode is used in a variety of different scenarios.

So if a manager tasks one particular software engineer with, among other "minor changes", detecting when an emissions testing rig is attached and setting a flag in the system (or even when *anything* is attached to the port used by the testing rig), then that engineer is probably not going to see anything untoward in the request - the system might want to log that a test rig has been plugged in on a particular date and time for any number of reasons relating to the servicing, maintenance and operation of the vehicle.
Separately, and maybe at quite a significantly later date, a manager might ask another software engineer to tweak the controls on the ECM, so that if a particular flag is set, the engine is put into super-low-emission economy mode.

If the two engineers are feeling un-curious or if the instructions are phrased in a highly innocuous way, then it would just be one of a number of commits to the version control system by those engineers, probably with no record of managerial requests, and as there would also be no record of any management discussions about this - informal "chance" meetings over lunch in the management canteen rarely have detailed minutes of the meeting - it is laid at the door of a couple of hapless engineers.

Comment Manager, or technical person promoted? (Score 1) 152

Personally, I have had more crap managers who were actually brilliant technical people with no management skills than good managers.
If a person has good management skills but no technical ability, they will still be a much better manager than a technical person who is promoted to management because the company "wants to reward their loyalty/performance".
Sadly, I have also met a lot of managers who were crap managers and who also had no technical knowledge. But in almost all cases, the bad managers were good at something within the company, and were simply promoted beyond their competence.

Comment Third party meatbag fact checkers, typically. (Score 1) 95

For the purpose of ensuring consistency, the author (whose concentration within the story is typically on what is coming and where characters and the story arc are going to be) is usually not the best person to ensure that current or recent story updates are consistent with existing material they have already written for that universe. For that task, third party human fact-checkers are best (readers of the existing works who have the attention to detail and the fanatical sense of ownership of the author's creation to have built up a body of lore based on the existing material - effectively, people whose concentration within the story is on where the characters and story have already been.

It makes things harder for the author if they are up against a publisher's deadline, and their fact checker points out that the character who is central to a plot twist in Chapter 13 of book 4 had their head chopped off in chapter 9 of book 2, but it is better for the problem to be raised before going to print.

Comment Re:Complete Bullshit - funded by Koch-funded CATO (Score 2) 417

It doesn't say anywhere that the study is funded by CATO, although there is nothing stopping a bit of friendly back-scratching between golf-course buddies to cross-fund studies so that the interested party gets a piece of paper that supports their argument, without there being any direct financial ties. Which is not to say, of course, that this is an example of such.

In this case, the author of the study, David Bier, is the Immigration Policy Analyst at the Niskanen Center, which is a basically Libertarian think-tank whose major opinion pieces on Climate Change, EPA and ITC oversight, CISA, Defence reform and pretty much everything else read to me as "trust big business, they are not going to screw things up, and then you will not need all those expensive gubmint headcounts that are currently wasted on watching us do what is best".

In other words, just the kind of group whom I would expect to come out with the kind of H1b opinion piece they have done.

Comment Re:Amazing (Score 1) 492

As the original comment was

"I might actually vote for him because of this policy. Never thought I would say that."

the second half of the comment suggests that OP was about as close to voting for Trump as you are to, say, the moon. "Never thought I would say that" kind of implies that "I find myself having nothing in common with this candidate".
However the first part of the comment - "I might actually vote for him because of this policy", when taken in line with the second half of the statement, says "nothing else I have heard from this candidate would make me want to vote for him or even consider the possibility that I might want to vote for him, but this policy does, and would make me seriously consider voting for Trump."
In other words, the most perfect example of "single issue voting" - assuming that the OP actually does at some point in the future put an "X" next to Trump - that you will ever see in the real world.

Comment Yay for the march of technology... (Score 2) 318

For those of us who went through our teenage years before the internet, the records were mostly out of reach - parents pulling out embarrassing baby/child photos to show a girlfriend/boyfriend, childhood friends with unfortunately good memories recounting stories about embarrassing behaviour, tattoos that we regretted but could generally cover up, and for the more adventurous of us the juvenile criminal records that resulted from pranks or misbehaviour are the kinds of things we deal with.
The current generation are going through all of that while also having an almost uncontrollable urge to post every iota of their lives online. Somebody with the ability to step back and think "will I regret this tomorrow/next week/next year/at a job interview" would probably not do a lot of the things that end up being posted, but today's teenagers are no better at consequence analysis than we were when we were that age. The difference is that today the records are more permanent and more visible.

Personally, I do not believe that people should be able to airbrush their past to this degree, even though as adults we all do it up to a point - after all, rewriting a resumé so it is still basically true but puts you in a better light is a common tactic before applying for jobs, and keeping some of your more embarrassing secrets is natural - we all want people to see the good parts, and we want to hide the bad parts. That will be harder for teenagers in the digital world. But rather than allowing children to erase the past and thus escape the consequences of their actions, I would prefer to educate them about those consequences and how long they can go on for. It means they have to grow up a bit more quickly in some ways, but better that than to teach them that you can do bad or embarrassing shit and then rewrite history after the fact.

Comment 1950's code (but also a pencil, paper and wheels) (Score 1) 620

Some code written in RPG on an AS/400 that was hosting a MAAPICS environment. Some of the code updates were dated to the early 1960's, and there were indications that some of the original code dated back to the 1950's.
But yes, technically the oldest technology I have used is either a pencil and paper or the wheels on an old cart - those specific instances of the wheels were not that old, but as instances of the "wheel" object within the OO design schema, the wheel object itself is pretty old.

Comment BOFH says "none" (Score 1) 267

My perspective is from working as a contractor to banks and other companies in the banking sector in the UK and Europe, and occasionally to companies working in Defence contracting, where there is no issue with foreign nationals providing such services. The ultimate goal is, where possible, to prevent data breaches. However, when budgets are limited and business requirements mandate access to external services, IT security becomes about (0.9) Establishing ownership of the IT security policy and firewall management; (1) making it as hard as possible for the breach to occur; (2) minimizing the data that can be lost during a breach; (3) establishing clear auditing procedures to help recognize and quantify the nature of the breach and the data exposed; and (4) establish reporting and information sharing policies to advise internal and external stake-holders of the breach.
There should probably be a (1.1) in there as well, which is to identify the most likely sources of a breach and manage the risks in each case, although as an IT security issue the biggest single source of hacks, electronic break-ins, lost data, and any kind of shenanigans that lead to your company's data being splurged all over the internet, is the stupid fuck-wit sitting at the desk (you and I included, but especially the users outside the IT department). Everyone from the company chairman down to the lowest employee is a softer target than the firewall itself.

If there is a breach (and chances are that there will be one if there has not been one already, so the statement should probably be "if/when you DISCOVER the breach"), the IT team are the ones who will get it in the neck for allowing the breach, even if users are given the ability to control their own firewall settings.
If users need access to a website or service that is not currently allowed, they should submit a business case/request to their line manager who then approves it. IT then co-approve and make the relevant changes (and if IT say "no", they need to have a damn good reason). There is a paper trail, and all open ports and firewall rules are there because of business decisions. IT will still get it in the neck, but there will be an audit trail.

Allowing users to open their own ports (whether it is temporary or permanent is totally irrelevant) means that those clients cannot be trusted by the server farms/network resources on the network, so they should be moved into a DMZ with a firewall between them and the rest of the network.

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright