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Comment package bomb (Score 3, Interesting) 431

I love how they say that Mercury switches can detonate explosives, as if any other switch can't.

A mercury switch operates on gravity. Tilt a package (like, say, pick it up carelessly, or rotate it to face the label up to read who sent it) to complete the circuit.

So, mercury switches are more interesting to law enforcement than other types. He was into experimenting with chemicals. He was caught trespassing to acquire mercury switches. Of course he was interesting to law enforcement.

Comment A place without anonymity is useful (Score 1) 290

Facebook is a place where most of the people you encounter have a real-world persona that pretty much matches their online persona, so if you take care to know the people you friend, it cuts out a lot of bad behavior. You have the opportunity, though you can also screw it up with poor choices of friends, to have a community that avoids much of the trouble of random corners of the internet. People are *much* better behaved when their real-world friends and acquaintances can see them.

This is useful. It doesn't serve every purpose, and it isn't intended to. It isn't for everyone, and that's okay. It discriminates against people who would otherwise behave behind a pseudonym, so it's not perfect. Nothing is.

A place without pseudonyms is useful, even if it isn't universal.

Disclaimer: My slashdot name is a pseudonym. My facebook name isn't.

Comment Re:We need to learn hipster BS [Re:Tech Savvy] (Score 1) 553

I remember during one interview the PHB asked me if I liked to download stuff to my PC to experiment with new gizmos. I replied that I did, but that I prefer to have one "production" PC to get regular work done and a separate "experimental" PC that can be rebaselined if the experiments mess it up and/or to not cross-mix experiments. (Active-X was the "big thing" at the time, which should be enough to explain my caution.)

Anybody with experience will agree this is the rational way to do it. However, this was a start-up and they had no money for double PC's. (Maybe I should have offered to buy my own spare.) My "kind" wasn't welcome. The details of reality bothered them:

Sounds like what really happened was they gave you an opportunity to say something interesting about yourself and demonstrate some camaraderie and some love for the field, and you instead bored them with unnecessary details. They may have viewed that as a failure to communicate clearly. It's a problem many programmers have. They give impressive-sounding non-answers.

Comment Re:Doublethink (Score 1) 686

I don't know about that. Millennials by and large seem to be better informed, well, maybe not 'better', but more likely to know about things since they tend to be a lot more integrated with online communities. They are also more likely than older generations to have some (if light) knowledge of the technologies involved since they have gone more of their life exposed to them.

You've grown up too fond of the internet.

The "older generations" are perhaps too trusting of authority and media. They are perhaps too uncritical. They are perhaps too paranoid and prejudiced.

"Millennials" are perhaps too trusting of their friends, even those they don't really know much about. They are perhaps too easily manipulated with flattery and camaraderie. They are perhaps too subject to group think and naivete.

Neither, as a whole, is particularly well-informed.

Comment Re:Gender balance "problem"? (Score 1) 428

I chose to do my first programming class when I was 16. The students were virtually all male. Nobody who signed up for that course had the slightest idea about how to program, let alone what programming culture was like. So you want me to believe that all the girls in my grade went out to different jobs, experienced a culture of misogny and then decided not to enroll in programming because of that?

I can tell you why most of the males were in my class and that's because we were all the kids who would sit around at lunch and talk about computers or videogames.

You were 16 at a time when "we were all the kids who would sit around at lunch and talk about computers or videogames". You are not old enough to remember a time when there were not enough kids talking about computers or video games for there to be a group of them chatting over lunch. You are not old enough to remember a time before there was a programmer/gamer culture. For you, it's always been that way, and it's always been a boy's thing. It's no surprise there were no girls in your group.

Kids don't talk about accounting or engineering or nursing or law over lunch. Not that I know of, anyway. They didn't used to talk about computers, either. It wasn't until the 80's that computers became a mainstream entertainment medium. It wasn't until the 90's that programming was common among high-school aged kids. And in the 90's the internet turned any discussion of computers or video games into a boy's thing.

Prior to that women could show up to a college (or high school) programming class on equal footing. Since then, they've learned that programming is a boy's thing. If they think they're going to buck that trend all they have to do is show up at a place like slashdot (or a gaming website) to be discouraged.

Comment Re:Gender balance "problem"? (Score 1) 428

An interesting statistic that never gets mentioned by the "Men's Rights Activists" who like to talk about how women aren't suited for programming is that up until the late 1980s, half of the people graduating from Computer Science programs were women.

I got into the field in the early 80's, when there were a lot more women than there are now. At my first job, half the developers were women.

I blame the internet. I'm not kidding. Online forums have empowered the brogrammer culture. It's great that there is now a forum for interacting socially on a grand scale, but there's also an opportunity and an excuse for not developing socially.

Today's employers don't know how bad they have it. They don't know how unproductive today's developers are, chasing after self-congratulatory complexity rather than doing real work. On the upside, there's real opportunity for people of any gender to be heroes, going against the grain of the culture. In organizations run by adults, it's not difficult to be seen as a standout performer.

Comment Re:Gender balance "problem"? (Score 1) 428

As to whether there is a "problem"...

If you're surrounded by people just like yourself, of course you don't think there's a problem. But a monoculture may not be the most efficient way of getting things done. You may not think there's a problem, and your organization may not know any better because they've never seen any different, but you are almost certainly less efficient (and less profitable, less satisfied, less secure) for being so un-diverse.

Comment Re:Gender balance "problem"? (Score 1) 428

SJWs have spent decades telling women they need "special help" to become engineers and programmers. We can't overcome that by being "welcoming" because they chose a different path before college.

If you think you are not involved before college you may be mistaken. Discouraging women has more to do with the culture of programming than with SJWs, and that culture exists everywhere a young woman might go to talk with programmers, including here. How it got that way is not your fault, specifically, but clearly you aren't interested in being "welcoming", which perpetuates the problem.

Staring at code all day isn't for everyone, just like working with babies all day would drive me mad

Yeah, like that.

Comment They needed a tracker to find an advertised event? (Score 1) 143

So, while the car was out of his sight for the first incident, some evil government agency placed a tracker, and used it to track him to...a "Circumvention Tech Festival"? An advertised event, at a physical venue, with sponsors and a website. They needed a tracker to find people who went to this event. I see.

Comment Because "re-use" is self-congratulatory nonsense (Score 1) 158

"I found code that already does this" sounds like you're a better problem solver. It's self-congratulatory nonsense. If the result is very complex, you congratulate yourself even more, for being able to do complex things, rather than punching yourself in the head like you should, for making things more difficult than they need to be.

If you found code that really does make your life easier, that's great. It hardly ever happens.

Comment Re:iOS (Score 2) 63

I have a partially-sighted (legally blind) friend who hates touch displays with a firey passion. What she wants most in life is an MP3 player / book reader with a large capacity and tactile controls, which has a clear voice for reading, and which can be loaded from an interface that is not accessibility-hostile (like iTunes) and which will allow her to use content she already has or can get from the public domain.

Comment Re:iOS (Score 1) 63

The main negative is....ebooks... Publishers want to gouge people for having the text of a book read to them, and would rather screw over blind people than permit Apple to read the text of ebooks for no additional charge. Some publishers have some kind of workaround for blind people, so they don't come across as complete douchebags, but the workarounds also tend to be a hassle.

This. Very much, this.

A bug in the hand is better than one as yet undetected.