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Comment Time to shine (Score 2) 43

I had completely forgotten about Contiki. It's actually quite a neat OS, but I moved away from embedded systems years ago and all that sort of stuff slipped away. There's a box of things gathering dust that could run this.

Good stuff. Better than an oversized OS draining your power and sucking performance out of constrained hardware. Maybe it's finally Contiki's time to shine.

Comment Re:So don't put it in backwards? (Score 1) 157

Have to agree. We have no stories about people actually doing this by accident - just someone emulating stupidity. Fuck me... science.

If it does turn out to be a real problem, cue the fans boys on other side of the fence with "You're sticking it in wrong" jokes.

Man, this is turning out to be a dumb century.

Comment Re:Evidence (Score 1) 61

We could start with some evidence that tech per se is necessary to or improves education [*]. Education methods developed around 600 BC (if not borrowed from earlier times) have been pretty successful across many times, places, and cultures in the 2600 years since; post-1970 "electronic learning" beginning with PLATO has not proven very successful, or even at all. Oddly however the "metrics" so beloved of "reformers" today doesn't seem to apply to technology-based education attempts.


* other than education in that particular sub-area of technology, although even there deeper education in more fundamental principles often proves superior to narrowly focused training.

The same critique could be applied to business. There's a lot of "magical" thinking when it comes to technology - as opposed to reviewing outcomes empirically. I think the point of the original article was to re-examine our techno-fetishism. Sadly, I can't see it ever happening and as a consequence education will suffer, business will suffer and society will just roll along...

Real reform *should* come out an evidence-based approach. But when the key metrics being developed in education now (ala MOOCs) is more about how we can get more revenue out of the education sector - not better learning outcomes - it's unlikely to get traction.

Comment Re:Why?? (Score 1) 160

Why exactly is the entertainment system of a vehicle, devoloped by design to display "unknown" content, tied into critical systems? First airplanes and now cars. What the actual fuck are these people thinking?

As other people have noted, it's probably related to CAN bus integration.

I like CAN bus, but this sort of implementation reflects a problem across industries. Years ago, when engineers ran the show, you'd never connect mission critical networks to anything. Then slowly, as engineers lost cachet to the IT and Accounting teams, the arguments for separate networks got howled down over calls for efficiency and cost-cutting.

Engineers knew their networks were insecure - in part because of the reliance on insecure protocols, but also because of the certainty that ANY network is hackable. That's why they refused to connect industrial control systems to corporate networks - until they got told to. Just one big happy network. What could possibly go wrong?

Fast forward to 2015 and it's now the norm to have mission critical system components on the same footing as more trivial components. The genie's out of the bottle now, and we'll never go back to purely electrical/mechanical control systems. But not airgapping the accelerator from the car radio is insane.

It'll be interesting to see what the outcome - in terms of technical change, isolating critical components, etc - of the first death by car hacking will be, other than the inevitable "told you so".

Comment Re:MUMPS, ancient and rarely used (Score 1) 166

As mentioned in the article, it's still in use in VistA (, which has its own interesting history - in that the source code was made available via a successful application for release under Freedom of Information Act and has subsequently entered the public domain.

VistA still going strong, and a number of successful businesses are based on it.

MUMPS (or M if you prefer) is a terrible language, but it's heartening to know that all the effort that went into VistA didn't go to waste - and that there is still a viable community around it.

Comment Re:Please Expand (Score 1) 125

I would very much like some information from you on this.

I have a B.S in Compy Sci, I worked in programming for several years, then I jumped into the management track.

I have kept up the programming for fun (Write flash games, taught my kids to code, etc.).

My company is doing a "reorganization" and my position is being eliminated (My entire department is). I'm getting severance for years put in, and having my accumulated leave paid out. That covers me for quite a while, my car is paid off and I have less than 5 years left on my mortgage, no other debt and a ton of savings. I was toying with the notion of being self-employed as a programmer (As in, a friend has some actually good ideas for apps that haven't been made yet, I can code them).

How is coding as freelance? How do you do your taxes? Did you set up your company at your house, or a P.O. Box?


Wow. There are a few questions there. Let me see if I can answer a couple without going off tangent.

Coding as a freelancer has been pretty good. I get to work on interesting problems. I get to choose who I want to work with. I get to learn and grow as a developer and at a personal by engaging with people in different countries, different backgrounds.

My accountant looks after my taxes. It's not complicated, money comes on, money goes out. But he's the expert and I don't want to fuck things up. It's something I learned when I was managing. A book that I dug at the time was James Persse's "Hollywood Secrets of Project Management Success", which basically asks the question: what can project managers learn from the Hollywood system that manages to churn out film after film, year after year, generally on time and on budget. Seriously, they do. Not all of them make a return on investment, but the real shockers we hear about - where some "star" gets his/her own way and ruins a studio with a runaway pet project - are way off the norm. The vast majority of Hollywood films are delivered on budget, yet they have the same mix of technical and creative activities as IT project - and have to respond to change in an agile manner.

My takeaway is that Hollywood has been doing all this for over a century and have figured out that you basically need to (a) manage risk and (b) have the right people doing the right job. Two things we are spectacularly bad at doing in the IT. Ah, and there I go off tangent.

My point is, I let people who know what they are doing worry about the tax, the company structure, etc. I just do what I love, which is coding. Do a good job, opportunities seem to arise - though I'm sure there's more to it.

Yes, I work from home - if that's what you are asking. Don't have any use for a PO Box. Everything happens on the internet anyway.

You seem superbly set up to give working as a freelancer a go. I don't have the luxury of a small mortgage, which can be a stress when you're waiting for invoices to be paid and such. But is it what you want to do? You have an opportunity here. Maybe use it to figure out what you really want to be doing with your time on Earth.

This may be terrible advice, but maybe just hunt down what makes you happy. Wish I did earlier, instead of following a career train I thought was what you were meant to do as a "grown up" - and missed out on too much watching my own kids growing up.

Sounds like you got it sorted. Your heart has probably already made the choices you'll use your head to justify. Good luck.

Comment Re:Don't Do IT! (Score 1) 125

Toyota Production System? TPS? Doesn't that require properly formatted cover sheets in its report?

Heh.. as important a film as Office Space is, that little acronym has done nothing but a disservice to one of the most practical and human-centric management disciplines in current use :)

At least once a year I look up IMDB to find answers to the question: did Ronald Livingston peak in 1999, or has he done more fine work since.

Comment Re:Don't Do IT! (Score 4, Interesting) 125

As someone who transitioned from Jockey to ShitMover I can assure you the move isn't worth the headaches. I used to work with a great bunch of like minded people who where interested in creation. Now i work with a bunch of egotistical idiots who just want to push stuff they know is garbage over the line just so they can get ticks against their name and get out before it blows up.

Absolutely agree with the AC here. I made the move to management about 10 years ago and consider this a lost decade. Moved back to coding as a freelance and loving it.

If you must, then at least learn some of the disciplines around management. Take some time to read up on management systems that actually work (e.g. Toyota Production System) and don't lose sight of your analytical past. I found the skills developed as a coder - being able to break a problem down into smaller parts, using empirical techniques to determine whether an approach would (or did) work... using logic and evidence - were of paramount importance to succeeding as a manager.

On the flip side, I found a lot of magical thinking on the part of other managers - refusing to believe what maths or reason made self-evident. That's where people skills come in - getting people over the hump of their own prejudices or wishful thinking. Get the mix right and you'll shine.

Good luck in any case.

Comment Nice use of ambiguous quotes (Score 3, Insightful) 266

From the FA: 'no evidence fracking has a "widespread" impact on drinking water'

What does "widespread" mean? Is this like bullets, where statistically they do no harm but in certain localised scenarios (e.g. entering a particular human body at speed) they cause a lot of damage?

I'm not sure what the water management strategies are like in the US, but I find it hard to conceive that communities may not be affected by the impact of fracking in their region. The article mentions the impact in "select areas" - and problems when the water supply is constrained (US never suffers droughts, do they?) - but doesn't go into details in the article. Does this mean that some communities are effectively shut off from their local water supply because of fracking? It's unclear.

I suspect the potential impact of fracking is more complex than the one-line takeaway from a report. But I'm not a geoscientist, so I'll shut up now.

Comment Re:4? (Score 1) 229

After you play it through (assuming you are playing on a PC), check out nexusmods. I went out and bought the PC version just for the mods. They add an incredible amount of story an detail to an already rich universe.

Thank you Jackie. We've been playing on console, but plan is to build a rig to complete our gaming experience for the family. Funnily enough, I'm the least active gamer in the family (as in I play the least, again to you AC). When I go to spec the gaming box, if I happen to mention that it's for my wife I fully expect the "sure it is" retort I got when bought the original XBox.

Ha, my good lady has just started watching the trailer again. I can hear it playing in the background. The woman is obsessed - heard her shout "bobble head".

Anyway, again... thank you for the advice. It'll be something to look forward to when we do get to play it on PC.

Comment Re:4? (Score 1) 229

Sure. Such as a series of the most legendary games in history.

My wife is having kittens (metaphorically, getting in before you Mr AC) at the moment - having just watched the trailer.

We came to the series somewhat late, after buying Fallout 3 in a sale and then leaving it forgotten, unwrapped, for months. But since starting on it, it's been the biggest detriment to household productivity since Skyrim. We've been looking forward to New Vegas (also currently unwrapped), but this... this gives us something to aim for. MUST finish all the series before Fallout 4 comes out.

You got to have goals in life.

Comment Fear of the West? (Score 5, Interesting) 268

I know Russians who are busily working on all sorts of interesting technologies in-house (SCADA, DCS, etc) There seems to be a real fear that if sanctions increase they'll be cut off from technology they need to run their industrial systems. It seems to have sparked a renaissance in the local software community, hell-bent of forging a form of self-reliance. Interesting to see where all this leads.

Nothing is finished until the paperwork is done.