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Comment: Re:Why Not? (Score 1) 504

I'm sorry, I disagree. A good foundation in CS cannot be self-taught by definition. Getting a "good foundation" in any professional area is to be guided through the right types of information and practice from impartial, expert sources. Unfortunately, the "expertise" found in corporate setting is far too implementation and product-situational to be of any real value in teaching anything other than the mechanics of a specific craft. Great for learning the ropes, but not for learning how the bell tower or attached cathedral was made. And wikipedia and O'Reilly as a substitute for college? Well.

Being self-taught or corporate-trained, a learner will never get the kind of clear, rigorous exposure to abstractions, aesthetics and theory behind the technologies, which all change over time, whose implementations are basically different regurgitations of same the basic same thing. I don't know how many times I have told corporate interviewers that colleges are not in the business of teaching computer languages. It seems the quest to find Mr. Right can obscure perception of fact. Languages, whatever they are at the time of education, are only tools of demonstrating and learning algorithms, proofs, theories and methods - the things universities aim to teach.

It's a shame that corporate technologists with indirect academic backgrounds who were hired during more liberal times have became entrenched in their jobs and are now in the position to destructively judge well-qualified people who come to their doorstep as being somehow irrelevant. It is true Liberal Arts technologists have brought different perspective and light into the workplace through a kind of orthogonal view of technology drawn from their various academic disciplines. It's like stained-glass in a cathedral. This is valuable in and of itself regarding work environment and even trade craft, but to reject the original engineering science and people who studied it is arrogant and misguided.

People from any background may find it easy to build upon the engineering efforts of others, but without properly educated engineers and programmers on your staff you'll be eventually find yourself building colorful but leaning towers of Pisa, not cathedrals you'd want to set foot in.

Comment: Re:dont worry about it - i have a ged (Score 1) 504

I have a GED too - and an undergraduate degree in Journalism; and another undergrad degree in CS. I started professionally in the mid-90s, and programming was my hobby long before that. Yet I make 39k, less than half of what you make.

It only goes to show that experience and education do not matter in this field.

Comment: I don't see why not (Score 1) 504

If you are willing to put in huge hours to impress people it doesn't matter what your degree is in or even if you have one. Degree or no degree, what's really valued are entirely company-culture things. You don't even have to be all that smart. Just be a good technician, be loyal and enthusiastic. Getting a job may not be that easy for anyone these days, but it sounds like you have enough experience to start anywhere. Keeping a job and building a career is another problem. If you have the intestinal fortitude to put in extraordinary hours, be enthusiastically interested in understanding the Goldberg machines and the mess that other people have created, and deluded enough to plan to stay for a lifetime at a single job (or single company) - you should be fine and will eventually become astonishingly well-paid, comfortable and arrogant. That's what you're aiming-for, right?

Yes, actually studying mathematics and computer science in undergraduate school would have been the correct choice of major and to built a solid foundation of understanding of the underpinnings of the occupation, but nobody in the business world really cares about that. They just want people who work like dogs and are loyal to their masters. No degree required.

Comment: Re:Stay Put (Score 1) 772

by callmehank (#37070018) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Am I Too Old To Learn New Programming Languages?

I'm 51, have a BS in CS and have been out of work for two years as well. On the very last day of my UI benefits, someone hired me for substantially less pay than I was hoping for. (and I'm not that expensive to begin with.) I feel like two years of my life has simply been erased. I'm taking the low-paying job because it's better than wasting away at home, pumping out resumes, and going to interviews where they never hire. There's a real deadlock going on in the job market, especially with older people. Government has become risk aversive, corporations have become that way, and technical job seekers have fallen for it too.

1. All the government wants to do is to pretend to fix the problem by throwing money at it. But they offer no backup. No worthwhile counseling or educational benefits to improve yourself professionally. We are just pawns in their game. They throw money at us and demand that we persist in our job hunt, even when it's not working. At ground-level, they simply don't have the resources to help. No domain experts in the field, no flexibility, no personal attention, no educational enhancements, no outreach and no street-knowledge of what hiring managers are saying in interviews. This is a funded, unmanaged process. The UI system badly needs to be revamped. It's built on a 1930s factory layoff model of supporting people when the dog chow plant has to lay folks off a few months. In no way is it capable of dealing with the special problems of an unemployed modern professional workforce, who can be treated as washed-out pariahs if they have been out of work for 6 months.

2. Corporations, if they can be generalized, are too chicken to take the leap and hire you. I've heard every excuse from hiring managers who - simply put - do not know what they are doing. Perhaps this is unique to the industry, because techs are promoted to the responsibilities of management and have no competency or education for it. To mitigate the risk, they act like sheep and assume you are not a good "cultural fit" if you are 50 and are STILL looking for a technical job. They assume the worst, and engage in the worst kind of thought processes and suspicions to support their intuition and excuses, and are dead wrong in rejecting you. Most of them simply have no professional acumen to get over their misapprehensions, and it's the primary cause of the deadlock. There is no no social or regulatory accountability.

3. The unemployed tech worker. Very sad situation. You made enough money when you were working that even cutting it in half for UI benefits can be scrimped off for two years, with substantial personal sacrifice. It's like being an 80 year old lady on social security with two cats. You push the cart to the grocery store because the car is too expensive to operate. Most of your money goes for rent. You hold yourself accountable to the state with a rigor that is unimaginable, keeping spreadsheets and copies of every place you apply to, so in the case you are audited for fraud you will have all the evidence in hand that you were doing EXACTLY what you were told to do. You can't take any courses to improve yourself, unless they are on some pre-approved government list (which only has flagger training, restaurant training, or "how to use MS Word" courses, etc.) You can't engage in anything like a virtual job, open-source work, or anything that even could be remotely construed to displace any of your "availability" during working hours of 9-5, which the Occupational Outlook Handbook cites as the normal working hours for a programmer. The very LAST thing you want is to have even ONE CHECK denied you for doing something out of bounds that would arouse the suspicion of the state. Who can technically throw you in jail and make you pay it all back. You have NO INCENTIVE to be audited, or to take up any sort of self-guided professional improvement program that could potentially provide a technical argument for the state fraud investigators to make a case against you. If it is a synchronous activity with respect to your job hunt, you are on thin ice.

Any sort of scrimping, marginal, but livable income has come to such a premium, that no government wants to give it away, no person wants to give it up, and no corporation wants to pay much more than it. This is a deadlocked cycle of abuse. It can only be broken by agreement of two parties to accept the unacceptable. I suggest asking for a lot less money. I mean WAY LESS than what you used to make. 2/3s to 50% less. You'll get an offer, because the corporations need to feel like they're getting a good deal, a bargain. Do anything to break the cycle of abuse.

Comment: Re:Linux Hardware Support?? (Score 1) 136

by callmehank (#36757630) Attached to: Samsung Chromebook Series 5 Review

They'll never freeze the features. Google updates the OS frequently, and you can choose an update channel to hook into from Stable to Development version. The updates are fully automated and basically foolproof. Since all your data and state info is stored in the cloud, it all gets restored after an update which is cool. It's really quite difficult to lose data. The machine is stable and usable. They're pretty careful about usability, even in developer mode.

Most of the hardware is pretty well supported for a Linux install. You can install Ubuntu but it will be using the ChromeOS Linux kernel, which seems to be kept in-sync. Since you install Linux with no swapfile, booting, shutdown and loading applications is faster. If you switch back and forth between ChomeOS and Ubuntu, OS updates to ChromeOS don't affect the partition you run Linux in.

You don't have installation disks or license keys since the OS and future updates come with the hardware. The OS just gets updated over the network and if your installation becomes corrupted for any reason, it pretty much self-repairs. The whole process is automatic and takes about 5-10 minutes over wifi.

Comment: Re:People don't need dumbbooks (Score 2) 136

by callmehank (#36756980) Attached to: Samsung Chromebook Series 5 Review

Doing (almost) everything on a Chromebook takes some readjustment. The idea of using cloud apps for everything is still new. As far as I can see, the phenomenon is only going to become more ubiquitous as time passes.

The machine is a lot more secure than regular laptops, and battery life is almost a full work day. It also has a nice SSH terminal, if your IDE is Vim. But if you can't live without installable software, you can always hit the developer switch, and install/use Ubuntu in dev mode.

Comment: Re:Try Not To Code (Score 1) 152

by callmehank (#36576958) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Stepping Sideways Into Programming?

Some of the best PMs out there are technically literate people who also happen to be a resource to programmers. Admittedly, that's rare, but being at least a domain expert in the software project they manage is what PMs should strive to be, rather than being simply trackers and schedulers who report to management.

Comment: Tutorial and Book (Score 0) 152

by callmehank (#36576872) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Stepping Sideways Into Programming?

Michael Hartl's Learn Rails by Example is probably the bets tutorial out there, but beware - it's about 270 pages long, but do the whole thing!
http://ruby.railstutorial.org/ruby-on-rails-tutorial-book

I would also recommend reading cover-to-cover David Black's book: Ruby for Rails (Manning). It's a great way to get introduced to the Ruby language.

All told, that should be about 2-3 months of exposure, enough for you to start. Or at least decide if it's what you want to do.

Comment: You need to raise the bar and get some PR (Score 0) 331

I don't know the details, but it really sounds like your sales people need to be seriously put into the background, and you need hire and/or train some technical evangelists centered on each product you're trying to sell. I say "evangelists" because they don't handle the details of sales, but merely act as a knowledgable PR interface to potential customers. They can answer questions about the technology, can explain its pros and cons, can do the high-level persuasion, organize and lead speak at trade shows, etc. Evangelism is a technical PR position, and is not sales.

A lot of tech companies seem to think they only need are good technicians and good salespeople. Sales people don't know where to draw the line on promises to customers, and are motivated by something other than product merit. You need a group of people who bridge the gap who are not necessarily technicians, but who are closely related to the technical side. These technical evangelist/PR people are not going to be paid commissions on individual sales. Nor do they do the technical work, but know more than enough about the technical details to promote your products intelligently, and become the 'go to' people for your customers and the products and the industry itself.

Like a PR director, the lead evangelist is a director-level position. Technical workers should back up evangelists, but should not be responsible for building the image of the products and services, or really even answering layman's questions about the technology. Nor should they be engaging the customer in discussions about new features. And as you said, sales people are not well trusted with the task of persuasion, or worse yet, as a technical resource. Tech evangelists are definitely engineering-trained, but have enough liberal arts to know how to write press releases, make speeches and maybe some PR/Mass Comm education to organize events. There are people who do exist with this kind of dual LAS/COMPSCI background (I am one of them) but you could easily move an experience technologist with good speaking skills or a technically-adept salesperson into this position.

Comment: It's video games and IPhones (Score 0) 606

by callmehank (#36209330) Attached to: Professor Questions Sink-Or-Swim Intro To CS Courses
The observations of the article are basically correct.

But it's the fact kids are brought up on game consoles and social-networking phones now instead of raw computers which is part of the problem. These intentionally-sealed entertainment devices don't encourage you to get under the hood and program. Thus, you gain no appreciation for things you don't know - no thirst for knowledge about things like pointers, interrupts and computer architecture.

Back in the 70s and 80s the only "tech toys" you could play with were things like the Timex Sinclairs, Amigas, Heathkits and KIM-1s. That stuff was all new and exciting, and a lot of people got into that and started programming on their own. Many of these computers had BASIC hard-wired into the machine, and decent instruction manuals. You could learn enough to be dangerous, but not much more.

It doesn't take that much time using BASIC on a Timex-Sinclair to develop a sense of appreciation for classical problems you'll encounter in programming. Running code in 1.5k of memory on an 8 MHz machine serves as an adequate introduction to runtime efficiency issues. And when all you've got is a floppy disk or tape to write to, trees and sorting techniques have relevance when you learn about them later. When you play with slow and incapable hardware enough, you begin to become acquainted with the names of techniques and principles you don't know, which could speed up your programs.

So going into a CS program with curiosity about pointers and data structures will motivate you to grasp these concepts more eagerly. A lot of students typically have problems understanding the purpose and mechanics of pointers in CS 101. "Getting" pointers (not only their mechanics, but their purpose and utility) is a very important step in moving through a typical first CS class. Understanding pointers leads to "getting" the idea of passing data by reference, creating data structures, and lays the groundwork for talking to peripherals.

I kind of think that the advent of game boxes like the Xbox have led to an overall sense of computer illiteracy. People have to have their appetites whetted for things like sorting and data structures because it's so damn boring otherwise...

"Just Say No." - Nancy Reagan "No." - Ronald Reagan

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