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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.

Comment: "Progressive" Labor Laws (Score 1) 574

by brian.stinar (#48307737) Attached to: The Great IT Hiring He-Said / She-Said

Hiring someone (as a regular, W2) employee in the United States is a tremendous risk. Just look at all the social problems illustrated in the following comments, and you can see how quickly an HR hiring manager's spider sense starts to tingle about a talented software specialist, with some obvious social "issues."

In every company, and government organization, I've worked in, they will sit with positions empty, forgoing business and running their shops so fast and hot that people burn out, rather than take the risk of hiring a talented weird-o that will result in a lawsuit, dealing with increases in unemployment insurance, or EEOP federal focus.

This principle is one reason that makes contractors so valuable. They are not "protected" employees, and do not act on the behalf of the company they are working for (legally) despite being much more expensive than employees. I also believe this is a huge draw to hiring non-US workers (and they are inexpensive.)

Comment: Re:Who "needs"? (Score 1) 269

by brian.stinar (#48215521) Attached to: We Need Distributed Social Networks More Than Ello

Exactly. ... Unless the person talking about these "needs" build a product that satisfies these needs, and a supporting organization to market that product, support that product, sell it, and otherwise fulfill all the ancillary needs associated with fulfilling the primary need. Otherwise, it's just some pie-in-the-sky talking about other people's "needs" without actually doing anything to satisfy them in a constructive way.

Comment: Three Divisions of Computer Science (Score 4, Insightful) 637

by brian.stinar (#47615873) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: "Real" Computer Scientists vs. Modern Curriculum?

The department I go my masters in computer science from divided the discipline into three chunks:

I think this is a good way to divide computer science.

It sounds like your Java / C question involves mostly languages, and a little bit about systems (since Java programmers do not need to have a fundamental understanding of memory works at a system's level.)

I don't think this question really addresses the underlying issue - what is computer science? To me, I tell people that my formal education is closer to applied mathematics than what I do on a day to day basis. I also like to humorously use the derogatory term "code monkey" to people that have learned everything through the "languages" chunk above. A lot of times when I've worked with these people, they haven't even really studied languages (Why did the language designers make the choice that they did? What does the formal language specification say the language should do in this case? How is this language related to earlier languages?)

Again, about 90% of what I do on a daily basis could be considered "code monkey" level. It's when a customer has a REALLY difficult math problem that my formal education comes into play, and for giving people confidence in me.

For your direct question, I'd study the book Computer Architecture, Fifth Edition: A Quantitative Approach (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Computer Architecture and Design)

That's what I used, and it helped me understand a ton of memory management. Then again, my undergrad curriculum was based on C....

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker