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Comment: Re:Relevant Skills (Score 2) 352

by a2wflc (#46777951) Attached to: Kids Can Swipe a Screen But Can't Use LEGOs

Lego skills are very useful for engineering. I've been in software development 30+ years and still apply skills I learned from lego, lincoln logs, and erector sets in the 60s and 70s. You can use these sets to build almost identical looking structures in many ways . Some will fall over when you barely touch them. Some can be rolled and even tossed a short distance without falling apart. Software is the same. You can put classes together to make a robust & stable system, or use similar classes to make a similar looking fragile system.

An understanding of structural stability is the biggest lack I've seen in developers the last 10 years. Non-software engineers are generally better than software engineers right out of school because the physical engineers got some understanding of structures in school. You can't test stability in. You need to be aware of it in all phases - design, throughout implementation, and finding root causes when there are problems rather than just fixing the bug (which needs to be fixed but may or may not be the root cause).

Comment: one warning came to pass (Score 2) 230

by a2wflc (#46609213) Attached to: Geologists Warned of Washington State Mudslides For Decades

Think of all of the warnings we hear from scientists/experts.

Mudslides, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes - there are lots of places we just shouldn't live because some day there will be a disaster.

Bridges, buildings, subways - there are lots of man-made structures we need to repair. some will collapse

Diet, medicine, excessive - it will harm society if we are allowed 20 oz drinks or salt at the table.

We could probably list legitimate warnings all day. And I'll probably experience dozens of things today that scientists have warned about. This situation is tragic but it doesn't mean anyone is to blame. With 1000s of warnings from scientists, some will happen - but most don't.

  If there's anywhere to focus it's on how to evaluate and prioritize warnings across a wide variety of areas (natural disaster, diet, structures, etc). We don't have the resources to fix everything we are warned about - where do we start?

The other thing we may want to learn is that the media should not over-hype all warnings. People need to know better what warnings to pay attention to. When we watch the news and scientists say "just about everything you do today" may kill you (or the planet), why even try to fix anything?

Comment: Re:Should be easy to prove or dis-prove (Score 1) 335

by a2wflc (#46540043) Attached to: Nate Silver's New Site Stirs Climate Controversy

Detection of extreme weather events hasn't been consistent so it's hard to say for example if there are more or more powerful hurricanes now than in the 1930's. Hurricanes need an eye witness to label them. These days we see something on radar and send a plane. In the 1930's it depended on having a boat in the area or making landfall in a populated area. One result is that there are a lot more recorded cat 1 and 2s now than 100 years ago but not so many more 4s and 5s (very likely they usually made land or were big enough that a boat recorded them before as now).

Around TAR timeframe this was not a generally accepted explanation so skeptics were called wrong when they pointed it out. But now it is more accepted and the latest IPCC report reduced their confidence that AGW will make hurricanes worse.

We can "prove or dis-prove" a lot if you're talking about 20-30 years. When you go back further it's much harder to say things are worse. Methods and devices have changed. We don't always even have access to those devices or the people who used them, especially if you want to go back 100s of years. We know about a few decadal oscillation and 60 year oscillations and there's evidence of multi-century natural oscillations. We don't know enough about the longer oscillations to say where we are in them and how extreme weather events are affected by them vs AGW. The medieval warm period and little ice age could cause problems for AGW supporters if it ends up that there is a multi-century cycle peaking that contributes to these extreme events. But, we really don't know much about those centuries or weather events in them.

Comment: took me a while to get used to it (Score 4, Interesting) 208

by a2wflc (#46517091) Attached to: Microsoft Releases Free Edition of OneNote

I liked what I saw co-workers able to do with it and saw potential once I got it figured out so I kept at it. It took me a few weeks to get used to it but once I did, I loved it.

I was part of dozens (20-40) of projects at a time and it was great for keeping all of my notes about each project organized as I went from meeting to meeting. After I left that job (too many meetings) I didn't have a paid version of office. I've been more than happy with substitutes for everything else but have missed OneNote.

Comment: laws and creative agencies (Score 1) 382

by a2wflc (#45772371) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Why Do Mobile Versions of Websites Suck?

That's what I've seen in a very big company (100s of web sites)

Once you've met accessibility laws and blown this year's budget on new cookie laws and have done a lot to ensure privacy and security is a big cost and risk to be mobile friendly.

Add to that creative agencies who are GREAT at non-interactive but just getting good at desktop Web usability and mobile is tough. Agencies aren't always good with you going somewhere else for Web/mobile. And the interactive agencies aren't always good at understanding brand equity which is VERY important to the overall marketing strategy.

There are many other reasons (crappy old CMS). But I'd put legal and creative as the two biggest by far.

Comment: depends on what you're protecting (Score 1) 213

by a2wflc (#45759415) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Can Commercial Hardware Routers Be Trusted?

The front door on my house works great for me. A bank wouldn't want to use it to protect their vault.

My router does fine for me. I'd like my politicians, and boss, and many other people who's decisions & actions affect me to be better protected than I am, but I can't build a custom router for them.

Comment: there are different types of dev and rock stars (Score 5, Insightful) 356

by a2wflc (#44823695) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Are 'Rock Star' Developers a Necessity?

Many development project don't need a 'rock star'. They can be done with "typical" architectures, existing frameworks, and just need "assembly-line-type" workers for all of the steps. I'd even say "most" projects are like this and any project can survive without a rock star.

There are also different types of 'rock stars' and they can help on even the most basic project. In general, the 'rock star' can do any/all of these things, but what do they do on a day to day basis varies based on their individual "specialty"

* some can architect the "difficulty 10" projects so it can be implemented in assembly-line fashion by "typical" developers

* some can implement the "difficulty 10" projects that wasn't architected well (when a team of N "normal" developers would end up with a late and buggy implementation)

* some can debug like nothing most people have ever seen (they don't usually create difficult-to-find bugs but are a huge asset to the team when the bugs come up which can happen on even the most trivial project)

* some just implement so well (speed of development + lack of bugs) that they literally will be cheaper than a team of N people (so, to the manager they aren't necessary but would be preferred)

* some can mentor, and find other people's strengths, and reorganize efforts on the fly. they can help everyone else be more productive, and can adapt the process/team as requirements change and can be critical to delivering on time and above requirements especially when things go wrong.

* some can help where ever needed (front-end, db, back-end, sysadmin, security, build, etc) and can step in without losing a beat when another member of the team is out (sick, vacation, left for another job).

* some can find bugs in 3rd party libraries or system components (without the source code). find workarounds and/or patch those libraries to continue development quickly while sending the bug fix and appropriate level of explanation to the library developer to get a permanent fix. If you've ever been on a "difficulty 5" project which found a show-stopper bug in a critical 3rd party library during QA, you'll really appreciate this skill. I have seen one case on a "trivial" project where this skill was necessary and a few other cases where it really helped.

I've worked with a very small number of "rock stars" over 30 years. They all had multiple of the above skills. I've worked with 3x as many people who were considered "rock stars" (by themselves and sometimes others) but weren't. In almost all cases, the "fake rock stars" slowed the project down more than they helped and the team would have been better off with one less member.

Comment: google updates make my phone useless (Score 1) 182

by a2wflc (#44745121) Attached to: Google Play Services Supplants Android As Google's "Platform"

I have a low-end phone. It came with a number of google apps that "work" (google play music/books/mags, youtube, google+). When I set "automatically update" it gives me new versions that eat up the battery, run in the background when I don't want, or fail to update because they are too big. I can't disable the new apps unless I uninstall back to the original and I can't uninstall the original but only disable it. So I have to update manually and only get the apps I want to update.

Comment: very true (Score 1) 510

by a2wflc (#44629749) Attached to: International Climate Panel Cites Near Certainty On Warming

scientists can calculate the forcing effect of greenhouse gases with certainty. The IPCC convinces people of that (which should be easy since it's true). Then they switch from talk of forcing to talk of feedback which is what "is going to kill us". There is no certainty of feedback and they don't make a significant claim of certainty but they fail to point out that they've made the switch, so people believe that feedback is also certain.

If feedback is so deadly, we need to be talking much more about soot, aerosols, urbanization (not urban heat islands), deforestation, greenhouse gasses other than CO2 and other man-made causes of warming (pro-AWG scientists are no longer denying these and they add up to more warming than CO2). We also need to worry about potential heating of the sun or other natural causes even if we don't expect them because, if feedback is what the models say, ANY cause of warming will kill us and there has been warming before without man-made reasons.

Comment: better feel for stability in the 70s/80s (Score 1) 214

by a2wflc (#44524141) Attached to: Back To 'The Future of Programming'

Most people I worked with in the 80s (and learned from in the 70s) had a good feel for concepts like "stable systems", "structural integrity", "load bearing weight", and other physical engineering concepts. Many from engineering degrees (most of them weren't CS grads like me), and a lot from playing with legos, erector sets, chemistry sets, building treehouses (and real houses). These concepts are just as important in software systems, but I can only think of a handful of people I've worked with over the last 20 years who had a feel for the stability of a system (physical or software) or an ability to find system weaknesses when a bug is found rather than fix a programming error.

That's very important for development time and quality. To go fast you need to know where it's important to go slow. You have to know what's important to get right at the start (structurally) so you can change requirements as needed and not risk breaking the system or requiring a lot of rewriting (or refactoring). Your framework should be a stable "frame" for the system (like a building or car), not a set of libraries you cobble together for speed of implementation. After deploy, "bugs" are easy to fix but system weaknesses are not.

On the other hand, a lot of things have improved. Tools, methods, and specializations allow a team to be comprised of some people who understand systems (architects, senior developers) and others who specialize in certain areas (html, db, communication protocols, builds, etc). And there are many more people available who are capable in specific areas so far more teams can exist doing many more applications. If we only had the same percentage of people writing software now as in the 70s & 80s and those people had the backgrounds developers had then, we'd be producing better software but orders of magnitude less of it.

Comment: they don't care about me (Score 3, Interesting) 290

by a2wflc (#44359801) Attached to: My NSA-induced paranoia level:

but, they are watching everyone and that includes a lot of people who's decisions affect me. If they are collecting information illegally, who's to say they won't use it illegally. For example to influence congressional oversight or even to tilt a campaign toward the congressman who is more likely to be pro-NSA.

On a less 'conspiracy theory' line of thought, the CEO of my global company may decide that the US isn't the best place to do business.

So, even though they don't care about me, their collection of my information can affect me in big ways since that collection is part of a big, poorly-targeted surveillance system.

Ma Bell is a mean mother!