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Comment: Pay To Install It Before Closing? (Score 2) 536

Why didn't the purchaser pay to install Comcast before he bought the house? This would have been a few hundred bucks, which is significantly less than the cost of reselling a house (normally.) This makes no sense to me. An reasonable seller would totally allow a potential buyer to pay for the installation of high speed Internet...

I work from home as a software developer too, and I'm aware of my Internet connectivity. I also helped a friend run a wireless ISP, and the cost of setting up unlicensed wireless equipment capable of carrying the kind of bandwidth necessary to run an ISP is probably less than the lose on a house.

If a criteria is critical to buying a house, it's a good idea to make sure that the criteria is met, or that there are major consequences to the entity "promising" that it is met (such as another posted mentioned, the closing of the house being contingent on wired high speed Internet being installed before closing.)

This sounds like buyer's remorse.

Comment: Re:Of course! (Score 2) 305

by brian.stinar (#49261847) Attached to: Prison Program Aims To Turn Criminals Into Coders

I don't believe that my education and experience is comparable to that which would be received in prison, which makes me think there wouldn't be much direct competition to me. If anything, something like this would seems (likely to me) to result in the massive, lower skilled end, of tech work being sent to prisons or half-way houses inside the U.S. as opposed to being shipped outside the U.S. This seems like a good thing.

I've worked on numerous projects that were shipped outside the country, to MUCH cheaper labor rate places. That tends not to work out very well, unless the project is extremely well spec'd, and/or requires very basic skills, and a very strong relationship exists between the buyer and seller. Typically, I become involved when the project has failed, and the customer decides that dealing with someone with greater skills that lives in a higher wage place is a better investment.

I am grateful for the fact that different options exist. Most projects that I could view as "competition" with low waged workers are not the types of projects I'd like to be involved with. The person shipping the project out typically has no long term relationship with the outside entity, is EXTREMELY price conscientious, is unable to clearly state what they want, and has very limited abilities to evaluate the quality of what they receive. These are people I do not want to deal with, until they have decided that they want to spend some serious money and change their viewpoints.

For me, it is a good thing that purchasers of goods and services have an option VASTLY different than what I'd like to sell. It allows them to segment themselves, and not come to me until they are the types of purchasers that I'd like to deal with. I would waste a lot of time dealing with the lower end of the market if these release valves didn't exist.

Throughout this response, I've tried to make it clear that these ideas only represent my viewpoint : I do not consider what low wage / low skilled people to be selling to be competition. I have never wanted to compete at the bottom, and I recommend that anyone involved with ./ not compete with prisoners, or outsourcing companies.

Comment: What My Father Instilled In Me (Score 1) 698

I'm sorry that you won't be around to watch your daughter grow into a woman. I am extremely lucky that my father is still alive, and an an active part of my life. I am thankful for that. When I think of the values that my father worked (is still working...) on instilling into me, they are love, a respect for formal education as well as informal learning, and a good work ethic.

"...and the greatest of these is love." Despite the partial quotation, and not exactly intended application, I think this quote is applicable to your situation. If you only can share one thing with your future daughter, I hope it is that you love her very much. Other values are important, but I think the most important thing for a child is to know that they are loved.

Comment: Re:It's a vast field.... (Score 4, Interesting) 809

by brian.stinar (#49049327) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Portion of Developers Are Bad At What They Do?

I've found this to be much easier as a contractor. I have different rates for different skills that I have, versus my less-skilled areas, and my less skilled employees. One major problem with W2 style employment is that it is inflexible. People can become rapidly more, or less, valuable based on their skills (attitudes, or whatever), and their compensation doesn't quickly change. Quite often, what happens with me is that a client hires me for something I am very skilled at, that I can sell them well, and then after that is finished and good, they realize they need other things too that I'm not quite as skilled at. I can have a conversation with them about giving them a discount on the rate no problem, and because of the relationship we've built up, they normally have no issue subsidizing (at a discount) my learning. Typically, I try and charge them about what an employee would make for things I'm not (yet) good at, and around 2-3x what an employee would make for things I am good at. Plus, all of this is legal. Depending on your state, there are all sorts of laws about cutting employee's salaries and/or firing them.

The downside of this flexibility is that the income is also quite flexible. If you are expecting a consistent, senior level salary, then I think you'll be consistently doing things you're already senior level at.

Or become part of a fully funded startup. That is a crazy roller coaster ride one of my buddies is getting on, and it sounds like a psychedelic combination of contracting, W2 employment, and doing everything that needs to be done, now. I've been a part of an unfunded startup, and I learned a TON quickly, but I also never got paid and (now) never expect to.

Comment: You Call Yourself a Data Scientist (Score 1) 94

by brian.stinar (#49044781) Attached to: What Does It Mean To Be a Data Scientist?

What it means "to be a data scientist?" It means that you call yourself a data scientist, and that someone pays you to do things that either you, they, or both of you, agree are "data scientist" types of things. If you're not getting paid, then I think it makes you an "amateur data scientist", "data scientist in training", and "intern data scientist" or my favorite, an "indentured data scientist." There may be other amazing terms to describe this phenomenon (unpaid data scientist) but I believe I am missing them.

I could be a "data scientist", "programmer", "technical manager", "software engineer", "software architect", "pimp" or "software gangster." I prefer to call myself a "contractor" or sometimes "consultant" though. The last two tend to have the type of tax benefits I like, and don't really result in a customer specifying the time, place, and manner of my work to the same degree as if I used the term "employee."

The only person that I've met that I wouldn't feel like punching them in the face for them calling themselves a "data scientist" had a masters degree in statistics, was super good with relational databases, and all right at programming (but not awesome.) I do live in New Mexico, and we aren't exactly trendy, so I can imagine a lot of people that might be legitimate (not amateur) data scientists that live here call themselves database administrators, or programmers, since they aren't concerned with what Dice says they should be making as a "data scientist."

To me, this distinction has no use. That may be because I don't want to be a "data scientist" or spend time with them, despite working on analyzing large data sets and doing "data science" for paying customers.

Comment: Re:what is your return on investment? (Score 1) 189

by brian.stinar (#48778095) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Options For Cheap Home Automation?

That's OK, the conversion is really easy. 1 USCU = 10,000 CCU. Canada's central bank hasn't gone crazy lately with printing of the Canadian Coolness Units, and the dip in crude hasn't seemed to impact it yet, so I think that it's still 10,000-to-one.

Again though, I recommend using the SI Coolness Unit - the Fonzie.

Comment: Re:what is your return on investment? (Score 5, Insightful) 189

by brian.stinar (#48776247) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Options For Cheap Home Automation?

Because it is cool. You're measuring ROI in United States Dollars, when you should be measuring it in United States Coolness Units.

Seriously, this is the argument that people use on me with trying to convince me to buy a hybrid, or more fuel efficient vehicle. My car is horribly inefficient (seven seater SUV) but I either need something that big to haul around 4'x8' construction materials, I ride my bicycle, or I drive it like once a month out of town for a few hundred miles for work. It's entirely paid off, and the (relatively high for me) purchasing gasoline part of owning a car (unit cost per mile driven) is insignificant compared to the free/already paid for fixed costs of owning a car.

An ex-girlfriend and I had this discussion, and eventually it came down to the don't you want a nicer car to drive around? argument. No, I don't want one, if I have to pay for it. Having a cool car isn't that important to me. I have a different girlfriend now...

There is no financial, or logical, reason to automate a home to save electricity in your case, unless you want to be cool. If you want to show all your friends how "green" you're being (despite all the manufacturing, shipping, and other environmental costs used in producing the crap you're busy buying), write blog posts about your home automation project, take a bunch of pictures and post them to instagram, then it makes sense. OR If you plan on living in your apartment for more than 200 months (16 years) then you'd eventually break even on the project cost...

Comment: NULL ABC (Score 1) 169

H. Beam Piper wrote about this in 1952, in his book Null ABC. The author detailed how literacy in schools continued to decline, as more and more educational gadgets became available, until society was divided between "literates" and "illiterates." The illiterates controlled the vast majority of business, but literacy was still required to practice law, and serve in the judicial branch of government.

Check out a physical version of the book here, an audio link here, a free eBook version here and a free audio book (that is probably the same as the paid one I linked to you above) here.

I really enjoyed the audio version I listened to. It was extremely entertaining, and a scathing social commentary on the future of public education as H. Beam Piper (correctly) envisioned it.

Comment: Do It On The Cheap (Score 3, Informative) 280

by brian.stinar (#48611951) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Should a Liberal Arts Major Get Into STEM?

I would highly recommend you take as much as possible at community colleges, paying as you go. The universities in my state (New Mexico) accept community college credits very, very well. Slightly before you've exhausted the community college course load, apply to, and get accepted into, a bachelor's program in some sort of engineering (not all science degrees are equally marketable.) After you're accepted, and have completed a year or two's worth of marketable engineering courses at the community college, you should be able to get an engineering internship and continue to pay cash for classes. These student, engineering, jobs (in my state) pay more than English degree professional jobs do. I've seen this approach work with computer science students.

My state has extremely inexpensive, or free, tuition for residents and access to a huge amount of engineering resources (two national labs + tons of military bases + the initial stages of a tech start up scene) as well as dirt cheap cost of living. I realize this approach might not work well in other states, but that's the approach I talk with people about. I'm working with a guy that studied music, but is getting into web development. His goal is to get accepted into a master's program, and spend an extra 2-3 semesters in it taking undergrad courses. If he can get funding (as a research assistant, or teaching assistant) that will be a great approach too.

Comment: Re:Cheap? (Score 1) 52

by brian.stinar (#48556059) Attached to: Material Possiblities: A Flying Drone Built From Fungus

I agree - the plastic holding it together isn't going to be the expensive part...I think for this drone the expensive parts are probably going to be the research and development, rather than any manufacturing. This sounds super cool, and possibly have tons of interesting ramifications in materials science, manufacturing, and other fields, but I haven't ever really heard of any long term vision, government funded, R&D project described as "cheap."

Comment: Introduction to Algorithms (Score 2) 223

by brian.stinar (#48389941) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Programming Education Resources For a Year Offline?

The one book that helped me out more than any with my programming was "Introduction to Algorithms." This book helped me understand how to program efficiently, how to look at problems objectively and speak about them using the language describing algorithmic efficiency, and determine if a polynomial solution is NOT known to exist for the class of problem I am trying to solve. If you study this book, you will no longer be able to be derisively called a "code monkey" after someone looks at the output of your programming efforts.

I used this book for my undergraduate degree in computer science for my algorithms class, and then at a different school for my masters degree in computer science algorithms class (we did the star'd problems in grad school, finished more of the book, and generally went into greater depth.) If you understand this book, you will understand a major portion of computer science. Plus, whenever someone has a very difficult problem, and you know the content of this book, you will look extremely cool solving the problem in an efficient and elegant way (this only happened to me once, but it was very fun.)

This book is worth the weight in paper. If you can get (power?) an electronic version, there are a few other books I would recommend, but if you only bring one book on computer science (programming?) please consider bringing this one. You will be able to solve problems efficiently in any language after deeply studying this book.

We declare the names of all variables and functions. Yet the Tao has no type specifier.