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Comment: It's true - most programmers don't need college (Score 3, Insightful) 280

by garyebickford (#46747959) Attached to: Bachelor's Degree: An Unnecessary Path To a Tech Job

In my long experience as a coder, systems architect, and manager of teams, I have found that for most programming jobs a college degree in CS just isn't necessary. In my early days, few programmers or 'software engineers' even had CS degrees - we had history majors, music majors, a few math majors, etc. Music majors tend to do quite well as they are attracted to patterns and elegance.

Especially today, web programming is rarely concerned with developing deep algorithms, rather with assembling a set of tools. So a mechanical mind may do quite nicely, and a strong desire to make sure things are correct given all possible inputs - like an accountant, a good programmer won't be satisfied unless every 'penny' is accounted for.

When hiring, I often found the CS majors as having an inflated sense of their own abilities, and a general lack of knowledge of how programming is generally done in the real world - hacking on some other schmuck's broken legacy code that nobody can figure out. And a kid who started programming in high school and just kept working at it may have five years of real experience before they get their first job, and does it because he/she can't _stop_ doing it.

The company I work for now has a chief programmer who started writing games in high school, never went to college. He's pretty good, though he needs more real world experience to see how to prevent problems - that's the hardest thing, knowing enough and gettin the habits to avoid the bugs in the first place, which is only possible AFAIK in just experience.

Once they are in the job, then I would definitely encourage, even require, continuing education - go ahead and take some classes, read the books, try things out. Then they will be learning the algorithms, the techniques, in the context of what they already know.

Comment: Re:ok all you smug opensource sheep (Score 1, Insightful) 55

a) I would not say this is the worst ever - it allows random data to be viewed, which may or may not contain something valuable. There is no evidence (yet) that this was actually exploited prior to its publication. Various other breeches have resulted in proven loss of millions of identities, and near-billions in actual money. If it had been exploited very much, it would probably have been tracked down earlier.

Technically it's not the worst - it's the same as literally thousands of other exploited bugs, and just yet another example of why C should not be used for applications programming, at least without a very strong IDE to catch these kinds of problems and perhaps a macro system that forces bounds-checking, etc. 'Programming without a net' is _sometimes_ necessary for programming at the metal interface, but OpenSSL, though needing high performance, is not an example of that. It's also an example of why SW quality methods need to be followed for this kind of code, especially for a relatively new member of the programming team - and why OpenSSL and other OSS projects need our support.

b) Fortunately, the barn door seems to have been shut before much got out. We'll see, but that's the present apparent situation. There will probably be a few relatively small ongoing successful exploits on servers that don't get fixed, as usual. But this is not anything like a wholesale loss of 100 million credit card records.

c) In this case there was a failure of the open source model of 'many eyes'. But there have been thousands of such failures in proprietary software, some of which resulted in most of the really big exploits, that were invisible until the exploit was used. Here, open source at least allowed researchers to identify it before it was really exploited (as far as we know today).

Comment: Re:Financial Institution Vulnerabilities? (Score 2) 55

Indeed. Bank managements are interested in making money, not spending it on IT. A big part of JPMorgan's present problems (and some forthcoming ones that have not hit the fan yet, according to rumor) are due to their CIO's refusal to implement required IT risk management, despite repeated warnings from their auditors. If they fail this aspect of the audit a third time, hundreds of pension funds will be required by law to provide personnel to stand behind the JPM traders and monitor their activities - or move their funds to a different bank. This will be a bad thing for JPM, and fully deserved.

NB: no, I can't provide a citation. Source was a personal discussion. I will note that one of their top risk management people just got fired, basically for bringing this up. That's the third in a row in that position.

Comment: Re:So wait, shotguns are more accurate than the bi (Score 3, Interesting) 303

Research back in the 1930s discovered that there's more to that verse than appears. In Hebrew, the letters are also numbers, and the number values of letters and words are often very significant to the reading. There is a 'jot' ('jot' and 'tittle' are like diacritic marks) in the original, which here means, "look deeper". So with a bit of deeper analysis, one finds that the letters there turn out to make up a fraction. I forget what the fraction is, but it's something like 31/222 or some such, and with the fraction the value is within 1% or less of pi. This is discussed in one of Chuck Missler's research texts, about that book in the Bible.

Comment: Re:The downside may be. (Score 1) 630

by garyebickford (#46708669) Attached to: Navy Debuts New Railgun That Launches Shells at Mach 7

One of the articles I read today says that the Army has already got that going. They are already firing 'smart' projectiles from howitzers and other large guns, and I would think that the accelerations are equivalent.

Just idly thinking about this, solid state electronics can take a lot. When you drop your watch on a concrete floor it may experience 700 G deceleration on impact, at an arbitrary angle.

Comment: Re:IANA Physicist, So... (Score 4, Informative) 630

by garyebickford (#46707473) Attached to: Navy Debuts New Railgun That Launches Shells at Mach 7

There are several advantages to railguns for the Navy, in lethality, cost-per-round, how much ammo you can carry, and overall safety.

Lethality - the kinetic energy of a 'passive' round at these velocities is equivalent to or greater than an explosive round (though I would think it might not be all that useful in all circumstances - just flying through some softer materials instead of blowing them up). As the videos show, the 'kill' factor is substantial. The projectiles are also much less affected by gravitational drop and windage - I would think proportional to the velocity - so accuracy will be better. The higher velocity also allows for firing at much longer range - up to 200 miles vs. 30 for the latest 155mm round.

Cost-per-round - while not as cheap as lasers (the laser about to go through sea trials has a cost of about $1 per shot), these systems should have a cost-per-round an order of magnitude cheaper than the big artillery presently in use. (I just read that 155mm shells cost $50,000 each.) It's much easier, cheaper, and safer to build a solid chunk of tungsten or whatever than a huge shell, especially when the savings in transport and necessary safety systems and procedures is taken into account.

How much - the propellant takes up a lot of space, must be stored in special containment that takes up more space. All of that space can be used to store actual projectiles instead, possibly multiplying the number of rounds available by a factor of 5 to 10. Add to that the the higher kinetic energy allows a smaller projectile to be equally effective, which means you can increase the number even more.

Safety - this eliminates the problem of ammunition exploding either in the ship that will use it, or the supply ship. There are many instances of a single 'lucky' hit on a ship that happens to penetrate the ammunition magazines, whereupon that explosion rips the ship in half. The explosives used in ammunition are also toxic. Removing the propellant greatly increases the survival probability in the event of a hit, and eliminates the probability of an unfortunate accident sinking the ship. This also means the supply ships are safer and can deliver much more ammunition in one trip.

Comment: Re:I've figured out the cause of the crash (Score 1) 491

by garyebickford (#46570579) Attached to: How Satellite Company Inmarsat Tracked Down MH370

It is _possible_ to land reasonably safely in the ocean. It requires a lot of skill and luck. Basically the plan has to orient in the same direction as the swells, slow down to just above stall speed (still about 150 knots IIRC), take a nose high attitude to prevent cartwheeling, and basically 'land' as slowly as possible, preferably picking the moment of contact on a wave peak. This of course works much better when the water is flat, which it rarely is in the southern Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean - read up on the "Roaring Forties". Even once you have 'landed', the high waves have enough force to start stressing the plane to the breaking point, and as soon as the doors open the waves are going to play hell with rafts and people trying to get out on them. It's not quite like boarding a raft in a hurricane, but it's close.

Comment: Re:This story is so strange (Score 1) 491

by garyebickford (#46570547) Attached to: How Satellite Company Inmarsat Tracked Down MH370

There was a sci fi story that went like that - but I think it was people from the future, who needed the bodies for some reason. So just before everyone died they pulled the real bodies and substituted fake 'meat' bodies that, after the plane burned etc., would be easily assumed to be real.

Comment: Re:Flight recorder (Score 1) 491

by garyebickford (#46570527) Attached to: How Satellite Company Inmarsat Tracked Down MH370

A friend of mine used to work for a company that built satellite receiving antennas, working on the software for the mounts. One of the things they would do is peruse the published satellite ephemera - I think each satellite's data was 80 points - and look for places where no satellites officially existed. Then they'd point their antenna there, and bingo! They found several military satellites that way.

"If John Madden steps outside on February 2, looks down, and doesn't see his feet, we'll have 6 more weeks of Pro football." -- Chuck Newcombe