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Comment: Re:It's true - most programmers don't need college (Score 2) 287

by billius (#46749841) Attached to: Bachelor's Degree: An Unnecessary Path To a Tech Job

When hiring, I often found the CS majors as having an inflated sense of their own abilities, and a general lack of knowledge of how programming is generally done in the real world - hacking on some other schmuck's broken legacy code that nobody can figure out. And a kid who started programming in high school and just kept working at it may have five years of real experience before they get their first job, and does it because he/she can't _stop_ doing it.

I'm really sick of how this seems to come up every time every time people debate the merits of a CS degree. Does it occur to nobody that maybe, just maybe, a fair chunk of the students who chose CS in college are also the kids who started programming in high school (or even earlier!) and have a fair amount of practical experience before they ever get hired because they work on their own projects? And that maybe their CS degree helped open their eyes to new ideas and furthered their learning? I don't understand why so many people on Slashdot insist on creating this false dichotomy, where either a person is passionate about programming and technology and learns a lot on their own or they have a CS degree and never pursue anything outside of their coursework.

Yes, it's true that some CS grads have an overinflated sense of their abilities and are clueless about the real world. But on the flip side of the coin, I've met some *amazingly* egotistical "self-taught" programmers who think they are geniuses because "I taught myself what those fancy pants CS kids *had* to go to school for!" I've seen people like that roll their eyes at "academic" concepts like database normalization and foreign key constraints because they "need to get the job done" and "don't have time for this crap".

All in all, I think I'm a much better developer for having gotten a CS degree. I think the most helpful way of thinking about my degree was understanding that it was a starting point, not an ending point. By the end of my degree, I had been exposed to broad enough range of stuff to be able to dive into subjects I found interesting without feeling like I was having to start at square one. It gave me the practical basis and theoretical problem solving skills to allow me to pick up new languages, technologies, and ideas.

Comment: Hurting the brand (Score 1) 1746

by billius (#46653925) Attached to: Brendan Eich Steps Down As Mozilla CEO
This isn't an issue of freedom of speech or freedom of religion. Eich wasn't fired; he stepped down. To be fair, there was probably a lot of pressure on him to step down, but at the end of the day I think all the higher ups at Mozilla (Eich included) realized that the revelation of Eich's donation to Prop 8 was doing a huge amount of damage to the Mozilla brand. In addition to managerial duties, a big part of being a CEO is being the face of a company. There's a reason why many companies vet potential CEOs the same way political parties vet candidates; if you do something that pisses people off, particularly people in your key demographic, you are hurting your company. A lot of young people use Mozilla products and young people in the United States overwhelmingly support gay marriage. Mozilla didn't want Firefox to become "the browser made by that guy who hates gay people" in the eyes of the public, so they made the call of getting rid of a very new CEO to avoid further public pressure. I would imagine that there's still a job for Eich at Mozilla if he wants it, but probably a lot more behind the scenes.

Comment: Re:Why mention Schoenberg? (Score 1) 183

by billius (#41977587) Attached to: Why Dissonant Music Sounds 'Wrong'
Pretty much all metal music (regardless of subgenre) makes extensive use of the tritone. While other genres like blues and rock use the tritone interval as a passing tone, metal emphasizes it greatly. This is true of all real metal music (i.e. not the slick, glam-obsessed that happened to be marketed as "metal" in the 80s) from Black Sabbath to today's bands. Exhibit A: Cannibal Corpse - From Skin To Liquid, an instrumental Death Metal song. Alex Webster, the bassist of the band, hit the nail on the head when asked why Death Metal was not a mainstream genre of music:

The gory lyrics are probably not, as much as people say that’s what would keep us from being mainstream, like “death metal would never go into the mainstream because the lyrics are too gory”, I think it’s really the music, because violent entertainment is totally mainstream. Violent video games sell more than any death metal band ever will. Violent movies, like “Saw” and “Hostel” for example, those movies sell more than any death metal band probably ever will.

(source) There's a particular aesthetic to metal that some people, like myself, absolutely love and the tritone and dissonance are huge parts of that.

Comment: Re:Public vs Private and Expectations (Score 2) 848

by billius (#41719807) Attached to: Judge Rules Defense Can Use Trayvon Martin Tweets

A fit 6'2 17 year old who fist fought for sport could credibly get an out of shape heavier man afraid for his life.

The autopsy showed that Martin was 5'11" and weighed 158 pounds at the time of his death. When Zimmerman was arrested, he was recorded as being 5'8" and weighing 185 pounds. The has been a lot of misinformation about the height and weight of both Martin and Zimmerman, with Martin's defenders claiming that Zimmerman weighed over 200 pounds (which had previously, but lost weight later) and Zimmerman's defenders vastly exaggerating Martin's height.

Comment: Re:How Much Would What Cost? (Score 5, Informative) 383

by billius (#41460639) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Explaining Version Control To Non-Technical People?
Hey everyone,

First of all, thank you so much for all of the responses! I've seen some really good ideas and I appreciate all the input. It seems that I unfortunately wasn't quite clear enough in my initial post. The other developer and I have been trying to get the management to spring for an online service like Github or Kiln. To answer a few frequently asked questions:

Q: Why don't you just run git/svn/hg on your local machine? A: I am running hg on my local machine currently for version control. While this is much better than no version control at all, it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of collaborating with the other dev and managing deployment.

Q: Why not run your own server? A: The other dev and I have talked about this, but there are a few problems. First and foremost, it takes time to setup and maintain such a server and the cost of many online services like Github are pretty modest. The other problem is that we're not really in control of the servers and equipment. That's handled by a separate IT group, so we would have to get them involved to make this happen. Then there's the fact that the IT guys at our work mostly deal with Windows servers while we're mostly *nix fans. Neither one of us has setup a Windows box as a VC server before, so I'm really not sure how well-supported that is. What is really boils down to is the fact we could get a month of hosting at Github that would suit our needs for about the cost of an hour of work from on person. Therefore we kinda figured that it might just be easiest/cheapest to go with a service like Github.

Anyway, thanks again for all the responses!

+ - Ask Slashdot: Explaining Version Control to Non-Techincal People 2

Submitted by billius
billius (1188143) writes "I was recently hired (along with another guy) as a web developer at a large university. Our job is to build tools to support the social science researchers on our team. When I got here the codebase was an unholy mess: the formatting was terrible, there were .bak files scattered everywhere and there was no version control system in place. We quickly went to work cleaning things up and implementing new features. My boss was so pleased with our work that she took us out to lunch. During lunch, she asked us if there were any additional tools we needed to do our job more efficiently. We both told her that version control was an invaluable tool for any kind of software development, but had a difficult time describing to her what exactly version control was. I attempted to explain that it created a log of all the changes made to the code and allowed us to make sure that multiple developers working on the same project would not step on each other’s toes. I don’t think we really got through to her and a few weeks passed with us hearing nothing. Today we were asked by another supervisor if we needed any additional tools and we went through the same spiel about version control. She suggested that we try to write up a brief description of what we wanted and how much it would cost, but I’m drawing a blank an how exactly to describe version control to a person who isn’t very technical, let alone a developer. Does anyone out there have any tips on how to sell version control to management?"

Comment: Re:Next? (Score 1) 253

by billius (#40683155) Attached to: Google Joining Fight Against Drug Cartels

The war on drugs, as well as all other wars, only profit the profiteers. The wars are a lost cause. The first casualties in any conflict are truth and innocence.

Michael Douglas, in his role as Judge Robert Wakefield in the film Traffic , said it best:

"If there is a war on drugs, then many of our family members are the enemy. And I don't know how you wage war on your own family."

Very effectively, as a matter of fact.

Comment: Re:Confirms what a lot of us know already. (Score 1) 305

by billius (#40455885) Attached to: On Orbitz, Mac Users Offered Pricier Hotels First

Obviously they didn't teach reading at that school?

"Most of them are clueless..."

I'm not getting into specifics of your CS profs and that would be short sighted. I'll bet you found that quite a few used Macs, some used other things as well.

So yes, there are a lot of moo cows out there who follow the herd mentality.. Next point?

Typically you have to be able to read and write to go to college, so no, they didn't "teach reading" :p

Back to the point of the discussion, Windows is generally accepted to have a market share of around 80-90% and Mac OS X is generally accepted to have a market share of 5-10%. If you were utterly clueless about computers, would you buy a computer that runs an operating system used by most of your friends, colleagues, relatives, etc and is generally cheaper or would you buy a computer that you knew most of your friends, colleagues, etc wouldn't be able to help you with and was generally more expensive? My guess is that you would go for the former (Windows) even if money was no object. This is why my father (who isn't a "computer guy" at all) sticks to Windows.

This also is why I resent the notion that Mac users are "clueless", even when prefaced by wavering modifiers like "most". You've probably guessed by now that I am a Mac user (well at home anyway). My main hobby is recording music and my decision to buy a Mac was greatly informed by positive experiences I had recording music on my brother's Mac, which was much more stable and adept at detecting and using my recording interface and midi controllers than my computer at the time, which ran Windows. I also really liked the fact that underneath it all, Mac OS X is Unix. So I saved up some money and when the time was right, I bought a Macbook Pro. That was four years ago and my computer is still running perfectly fine and doing all the things I want it to.

The thing about my story is that it's not terribly unique. I can honestly say that *everyone* I know who switched to using a Mac from Windows did so after researching their options and doing a cost-benefit analysis. Compare this to the majority of Windows users I know, who use Windows because "it's what everyone else uses".

Comment: Re:Confirms what a lot of us know already. (Score 1) 305

by billius (#40454767) Attached to: On Orbitz, Mac Users Offered Pricier Hotels First

1) MAC User may be more affluent. It's not always the case, but most of the time there's probably a lot of credit card debt associated with the individual as well. 2) Most of them are clueless about technology and just want to leave it to someone else. The mentality "it just works" comes to mind but these folks don't shop around. They see their friends with Apple stuff, they buy Apple stuff. 3) Like rounded corners a lot and need to have the latest fashion. Fondleslabs and Mac Books along with Iphones and Ipods are the new jewelry.. It's a status symbol.

So Why wouldn't they go to more expensive hotels where they can show off their bling? I mean honestly, it's not rare to see apple products "In Use" on multiple TV shows, so if the shallow actors are playing with a mac, why can't everybody else? It's really great marketing PR and hype and Orbitz picking up on this is just an astute observation on customer preference. No if you'll excuse me I'm going down to my local Apple store and speak Farsi and try to by a mac book.

Cool story bro! Never mind that no less than four of my CS professors used Macs! Clearly they too are clueless about technology, unlike an enlightened, discerning consumer who buys a Windows laptop because "it's what I have at work, so I'm used to it."

Comment: Re:Yet another reason.... (Score 2) 1141

by billius (#40172397) Attached to: Soda Ban May Hit the Big Apple

I think we do and we should continue to espouse sound eating principals and practices.

Why would you say that? The information is freely available. Your logic would seem to suggest that actively encouraging people to be healthier would also somehow circumvent natural selection, because we would be rewarding the people who were too lazy to figure it out for themselves. Of course, this is all a moot point since your understanding of natural selection (or at least the way you are trying to apply natural selection to this issue) is deeply flawed.

However, the article is talking about the govt. actually banning the USE of a food (in this case a beverage) that isn't really healthy for you.

No, it's about banning sodas larger than 16 fl. oz in restaurants. If you want to drink 32 fl. oz of soda (the size of a large at McDonald's), you still can do it, it'll probably just cost you a little bit more (if you buy two) or take a bit more time (if you get a refill). It is a very mild way to nudge people into drinking less soda by making them think a bit more about how much they're drinking.

It's pretty clear that you lack even a high school level understanding of natural selection and didn't read the article at all. How your comment relating the concept you don't understand to the article you didn't read was modded "+5 Insightful" is frankly beyond me.

Comment: Re:Get a refill.. (Score 1) 1141

by billius (#40170815) Attached to: Soda Ban May Hit the Big Apple

You don't get it. This is a proposal that curbs the ability of Machiavellian vendors to profit because of people's misunderstanding of basic economics. It's a regulation of the vendors, not the buyers.

Here's how it works: Most people don't really want the oversized cup. The theaters, stadiums, etc sell it because people will pay $1 more for a larger amount that has an incremental cost for the vendor that is significantly less than selling another cup.

In other words, the vendors sell it for no other reason that it's insanely profitable to get people to pay more for something they don't need at all (but feel as if they should want because it seems like a good price for the excess amount). People see that the second 16 ounces cost significantly less than the first 16 ounces, so they feel compelled to buy it in order to get "a good deal". However, most buyers don't consider that the value to them of the second 16 ounces is close to $0, but they're paying close to $1 for it.

Exactly! Soda is almost PERFECTLY engineered to exploit this mentality. It's cheap as hell to produce, it's carbonated (so you can't really save it for later without it becoming flat and gross), and (at least in the US) it's generally served over ice, so if you let it sit for too long, it will become diluted, warm and *really* gross. Every time you buy soda at a restaurant, vending machine, gas station, etc, you have to ask yourself "How much soda do I want to drink right now?" The price per ounces is basically irrelevant; you're never getting a "good deal".

Comment: Re:Get a refill.. (Score 1) 1141

by billius (#40170715) Attached to: Soda Ban May Hit the Big Apple

As long as the government is intervening in their every day life by providing a safety net for their irresponsible decisions, how is this a bad thing?

Who is the government to tell people that they're being irresponsible? And, if they are but aren't harming anyone else, so what?

Do you really, seriously, truthfully believe that the Nanny State banning big sodas won't prevent soda addicts from... drum roll please... buying two of them?

All this really does is prove that politicians are stupider than people who drink ten liters of soda in a day.

So back in 1993 when the largest soda was say, 20 floz (I can't remember the exact numbers), did you go and buy two of them? Of course not! That would have seemed weird. But now, nobody bats an eye and someone getting a 40 floz soda, especially when it's the default size for a value meal. The fact is, serving sizes are normative. I don't think it's a coincidence that they correlate strongly with the rise on obesity in the US.

Here's a quick anecdote: my care is a '96 model. The cup holders can't fit any size bigger than a small from most fast food restaurants these days. Imagine the psychological impact of having all cup holders be this size. It would tend to stop and make you think, "Man, I'm drinking a *lot* of soda!".

If Machiavelli were a hacker, he'd have worked for the CSSG. -- Phil Lapsley

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