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Comment We had a Channel F! (Score 1) 60

As a kid my family had a Channel F and a boatload of cartridges for it -- plus 2 built-in games! The last one I remember getting was "Galactic Space Wars", and then the Atari 2600 showed up thus relegating the Channel F to the closet.

The graphics weren't great, and the games were something that a beginner could code up on an Atari 800 of the same era in BASIC. But they were fun enough. The Channel F did have a really unusual controller: the joystick could be moved about in a normal axis (up,down,left,right,diagonals) but also twisted, pulled up, or pushed down. The damned things broke a lot and were hard-wired into the console itself.

Comment Re:Chinese that speak English (Score 1) 578

I didn't! Nowhere did I say the term was the authors exclusively. If you RTFA, you'll see the author uses the term twice for a specific reason. That is, where one speaker uses a more complex form of language relative to another speaker. To each the other's English is "broken" (his quotes, not mine). One is merely a subset or a simplification of the other. The author's point here being that "broken" is a two way street.

Comment Re:Chinese that speak English (Score 1) 578

There are cases in English, and some of the more common verbs are irregular. However, to your point, if I didn't decline my pronouns properly and fumbled around my irregular verbs in English I'm still perfectly understood. (But, to use the article's term, "broken".)

English's main problem for non-English speakers seems to be the vast vocabulary and idioms, neither of which are needed for functional communication.

Comment Also an old-timey fix for hard drive failures. (Score 2) 304

Back in the day (80's, 90's) when hard drives would refuse to spin up, a similar technique often worked. Take the drive and pop it into a very warm (but too hot) oven, or leave it on a car's dashboard on a hot summer's day. When it's hot enough that it's very uncomfortable to hold, but not hot enough to burn you... quickly drop it back into the system and spin it up. Then.. back up your data.

This'll cure stiction or lubricant problems with the platters.

Comment Re:Wrong conclusion: not "unintended consequences" (Score 4, Interesting) 118

One of the things that always mystified me growing up fishing here was the incredible uniformity of freshwater fish species across water bodies with very little geographic connection. New England is dotted with thousands of small ponds, and they all have more or less the same fish. Even tiny little ponds of a few acres with no major tributaries and only seasonal outlets will have bluegill, yellow perch, and probably a few black bass lurking somewhere and reportedly some pike or muskellenge. How did they get there? And why aren't fish like bluegill from different watersheds distinctive, the way the finches Darwin found in different Galapagos islands were different?

From Michigan here, lots of unconnected lakes and ponds here too.

It was always explained to me that they get there carried on the feet of waterfowl. Ducks and such land in the shallows and weeds, feet get covered in eggs. Ducks move on. Sometimes they're stocked by property owners or the DNR.

The fish *are* genetically diverse. Big fishing tournaments rely on this fact and do genetic testing on fish to make sure they came from the correct lake.

Comment Re:the bottom dregs for the cloistered elite. (Score 5, Insightful) 284

Slightly offtopic...

These companies insist you work in armpits like Bentonville Arkansas or Decalb Georgia so your salary can be shuffled down the chain to 40 grand a year not under the implication that your services are worthless, but under the assertion that the "cost of living" is so inexpensive you shouldnt need a respectable wage.

As a midwesterner, I'd like to tell you firmly to go fuck yourself ... but also I'm far too polite to do that.

Instead maybe realize that wage costs are only part of having your business in the "armpits" -- and a pretty small one at that. Real estate, utilities, shipping, taxes, buildout costs, and a lot of other factors make flyover states a financially beneficial place to locate a business. With tech jobs there's no geographical need to pick a particular location other than space, power and bandwidth -- and those can be bought. Why not go cheap?

Comment Re:Prior art (Score 1) 468

The bridge of the Enterprise.


I think it was in the TNG episode Brothers where Data locked out all of the systems on the ship, including Navigation.

WESLEY: We don't even know what star system we're in, sir.
RIKER: The only way we knew we'd come out of warp was by looking out a window.

Comment Re:software (Score 1) 169

Um, so how does one break into this dull field?

* Learn systems, and programming, and all that other crap but you were going to do that anyway. Linux and the cool stuff are fine, just remember to learn Windows too. Enjoy it. It won't be the worst system you'll use by any stretch.
  * Use whatever system they give you. You'll learn something from everything you use. If someone pulls a 1978 CADO Systems CAT III out of a closet and needs you to retrieve financials from it, you'll learn the wonders of 8086 multi-user programming and hashed files.
  * Take an accounting class. Hell, take two. Business classes are helpful as well. See things from your employer's and their client's perspective. Look at double-entry bookkeeping as a wonderful checksum and transaction based system. Speak to them in their own language.
  * Try data entry for a spell. Barring that, go quietly watch your users work. Don't tell people how to use your software, watch how they use it. Nobody wants to click a mouse when they're being read columns of numbers over a telephone by a busy accountant.
  * Make yourself useful. If you're not useful there, go find somewhere else to work.

Comment Re:software (Score 1) 169

No fear of that my friend. The biggest reason is that most US employers are unwilling to put their futures with the IRS into the hands of someone beyond the reach of US law. Generally, employers want the money here, the companies here, the programmers within easy reach, and full auditing on everything. Even if most of the code is done offshore, someone here still has to look it over.

There are a lot of trust issues around this industry. If the bank absconds with your cash, you're out the cash. If the payroll company takes the cash and fails to make your Federal deposit, you can go to jail (you can't pass the buck on that one).

This is what happens when you deal with something not entirely transparent.

Comment Re:software (Score 2) 169

That's because the software is largely crap. I say that as someone who still learned COBOL and yes, on a mainframe, in university.

I didn't pull any good lessons out of COBOL decades ago, however the designs around RPG turn out to be surprisingly useful even today. The basic concepts of header, details, running totals, nested breaks, subtotals, etc.. don't seem to be easy for programmers, and the interfaces to them in modern reporting systems are universally terrible.

All the while RPG handles this stuff like breathing, in a minimal problems kind of way. Plus the event-loop concept of processing incoming records and calculations is still freaking genius.

I wish they'd teach it now.

Comment Re:software (Score -1, Flamebait) 169

We struggle trying to get someone new motivated to learn the technology.

I wonder how the banks end up getting people working in banking. After all, it's dull (yeah, the maths in the software is generally not that interesting), high stress and ultimately pointless. I guess they find *some* way of motivating those people.

Agreed. Adding my own anecdote.

(modesty filter off for a moment)

I'm a talented programmer. Yes, I'm in my 40's, but I'm also well-versed in tech both new and old. I keep up with the kiddies and their frameworks-of-the-month for web, mobile, and other development platforms. I grok my systems from the applications down to the network protocols on the wire and the byte arrangement on the disks. I can train, have written books, deal with management well, and mange people adequately. I can work where I want to, command good salaries, and have turned down good offers recently.

(modesty filter back on)

I'm currently working in the Payroll industry in the midwest. Not quite banking, but well, it's close. The core application here is from the 1980's. Legacy shit abounds in this place. Our vendors are using tech even older, judging by how file exchange and their API's look. Government and regulatory agencies are terrible partners. Progress is slow, cumbersome, and painful.

Why the hell would I work here? Employers take note:

    * They pay me very well.
    * I have a short commute. I don't waste a lot of time in my car or on a train.
    * They don't work me very hard. Honestly I can come and go as I need. My time off is mine.
    * Regulatory deadlines are distant, well-known, rock solid, and usually easily achieved. Congress notwithstanding.
    * There's money here. If I need equipment, it shows up. If I need software, it gets bought.
    * My software is quietly useful. Millions of people look at their paychecks (or bank statements) and most of the time it's just right.
    * I am not technologically micromanaged. I can use the tools I want, the way I want.
    * My employers are good at weeding out poisonous co-workers. I don't work with assholes, ever.
    * The challenges are of my own devising. I have enough time to experiment, throw away, re-work, and try new things.

All of that is how dull industries like banking (and payroll) wind up with talented people.

Comment Re:I'll wait and see (Score 1) 117

It's not the boxes themselves that are the failures, it's the content that's all shit. Netflix has old shit, HBO doesn't play nicely with anyone, movie and cable distributors are still living in the 1970's, sports leagues are still living in the 1980's. Even when you manage to get two or more players together, the metadata blows chunks.

No thanks. I'll wait for the Pirate Bay STB.

Comment Re:Prior Art (Score 1) 93

I've seen largemouth bass take dragonflies at full speed over the water, and those little things are fast. That a larger fish could take a bird in flight comes as no surprise.

For the fish a bird is a large, tasty, pretty much defenseless (once it hits the water) meal.

Nico Smit, director of the Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management at North-West University in Potchefstroom, needs to get out more.

Comment Re:Do I need a license? (Score 1) 370

If you shot down a PETA drone on public land while, say, quail hunting the local sheriff or game officer who'd investigate wouldn't give you any trouble and would be quite sympathetic I'm sure. You're shooting flying things, something flew by, oh well. Many birding seasons overlap.

Deer hunting would be a tougher sell to the sheriff.

I don't hunt, but I do fish (for food, not sport). If I were harassed somehow by a PETA drone it would have to be awfully close by to really be bothersome; close enough that a heavy test line and a weight with large treble hooks attached could bring it down. Like anything caught accidentally out of season, I'd evaluate its condition and throw it back in the water immediately. Possibly with some assistance to help it swim.

It's easier to spook game for hunters than fishermen. You'd have to fly damned close to the water for noise, and drones don't fly like fish-eating birds do.

Variables don't; constants aren't.