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Comment: Re:The human side of the story (Score 1) 117

Perhaps you don't understand how governments and large corporations structure themselves in order to save money: they use contractors instead of employees for exactly that reason.

Regardless of the disaster scenario, employee/employer rules stipulate they have to pay their employees during the time when they're normally expected to work, even if they can get no productive work from them. If they have extended downtime due to fire, construction, etc., They would have to lay off the unused workers, which means paying unemployment benefits. Contracts, on the other hand, can be written so they can be paused or terminated at will. It's up to the contracting firm to manage the pay when they're "sitting on the bench", and most of those contracts provide no compensation for periods of non-work.

On the flip side, when you are hired as a contractor, you explicitly sign up for those risks. Even though it may look like a regular job, it isn't. It's a contract.

The human side of the equation was carefully measured and surgically extracted back when the government decided to use contractors instead of employees. Employees cost too much.

Comment: Re:Earthshaking (Score 2) 117

When the Chicago loop flooded in 1991, the Marshall Field's State Street store was impacted. Being the headquarters for the Marshall Field's chain, they had their data and networking centers on the tenth floor. Their network topology was a hub and spoke affair, and the State Street store was the hub. The operators continued working in the building the entire duration of the flood. They had to wade through water on the ground floor to reach the stairs to climb the 10 stories to work. The electrical bus normally feeds from the lower levels, but when power was cut the computers and routers had to be kept running, so the generator on the roof was fired up. The generator was not dedicated to the computer systems, and powered the entire building. The operators said they saw the water boiling around the electrified bus.

I don't know if all that was actually true, but I do know that throughout the entire flood and recovery, the chain experienced no network outages. The fiber optic cables carrying the data had no problems being immersed, and all the terminations and transceivers were in the data center on the tenth floor.

Comment: Re:Stability (Score 2) 81

by plover (#47539733) Attached to: Nightfall: Can Kalgash Exist?

Couldn't an already evolved planet be orbiting a star that is traveling, and is then captured by a multi-star system?

Assuming that evolution has produced other forms of life in many systems around the universe, it makes sense that it's done so on stars that have then had their travels altered. And yes, there are all kinds of problems. During the transition, would the evolved planet remain a safe distance from the other stars in the cluster? Would any of the life on it survive as it changes to the new orbit? I don't imagine much life would survive on Earth if we had to make a pass as close to the sun as Mercury, but it's possible a few microbes would make it and evolve again in another billion years.

Comment: Re:Minimum wage (Score 1) 117

by plover (#47539667) Attached to: AP Computer Science Test Takers Up 8,000; Pass Rate Down 6.8%

It seems to me they're trying to offer a career path to a group of people who could use additional options.

If we assume that attributes that make for good programmers (design skills, intelligence, etc) are equally distributed, there are a lot of really smart people (that could become programmers) out there that have something blocking their opportunities.

Things like bias, culture, and upbringing play a huge role. Earlier this year my step-niece (age 21, working on her bachelor's degree) was told "you're far too pretty for all this school, you should just find a nice man and marry him." These exact words came out of her grandmother's mouth. That's what these kids grow up with.

I firmly believe that part of the reason my son has been so successful is that we never expected anything less from him. He knew from kindergarten onwards that college was simply the next school after high school. His decision was "where", not "if". That's far from true in a lot of families or for a lot of kids.

Part of what Gates and Zuckerberg are trying to do is get the message out to these kids. If they don't hear from someone who says "you can certainly do this", they might never try.

Comment: Re:Sad (Score 1) 161

by plover (#47533113) Attached to: Wikipedia Blocks 'Disruptive' Edits From US Congress

The vandalism in question is coming from someone who has access to a congressional staffer's computer, not necessarily a member of congress. This could be anyone from a member of congress to a teenage page to the 12-year-old nephew of a congressman's chief of staff to an intern to a night watchman. Apparently, there are about 9000 people with regular access to the machines in this address range. Given a sampling of 9000 people, how many are going to be as impolite as an internet troll? That there is at least one uncultured moron in the crowd is not particularly surprising.

Yes, it's sad that anyone would either sink to this level, or fail to grow beyond it. It's just not surprising.

Comment: Re:Bullshit (Score 1) 198

Since the city is still going to have to tie into someone's top tier backbone to carry their traffic to the rest of the world, they'll still likely have to route it through Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, or some other provider's network, and the NSA's taps are on those top tier providers. I also don't know if a city would fight against a National Security Letter any more or less than any other provider, so they would still never tell you about a tap. But at least they could go in claiming to start from the moral high ground: "Support Cleveland's new city-wide Internet service - We Have Never Tapped Anyone's Data (only because we haven't been asked.)"

Comment: Re:Bullshit (Score 1) 198

I have to say something on Comcast's defense here. I have never had bad customer service from them, and I've had cable through them for a very long time. Do I pay through the nose? Yes. But they answer the phone when I call, they get a service guy out to my house in hours, not days, and they hit their promised windows. The technicians are competent, and they're friendly: "hey I've got a 1TB DVR in my truck, if you want I can swap out your old 200GB DVR, you'll get a lot more hours of storage."

I have had no problems with Comcast's customer service. (That said, I haven't had to cancel my service with them for about 25 years, and haven't had to go through the horrors of talking to a "Customer Retention Specialist".)

Comment: Re:Bullshit (Score 5, Insightful) 198

Actually, communities tend to run infrastructure remarkably well. Look at water systems. When is the last time you were in a location with city water, turned on the tap, and nothing came out? (Assuming you weren't cut off for lack of payment, of course.) Towns know how to keep the water flowing. If a town is without water for a period of time, it makes national news. (Yes, there are developing nations that do not have potable water coming out of their taps. The US is not one of those nations, and this is a US topic.)

Governments are not incapable of running such a program, and they are not inherently guaranteed to suck at it.

Now, is this different because it will require tech support? Sure. Are cities prepared to deal with the calls, the service interruptions, the network attacks, etc? The cities that are asking are going into this eyes wide open. The FCC is not mandating that cities must carry their own networks, they are simply being asked to rule on a non-competition clause that unfairly prevents the city itself from providing said competition.

I think the biggest problem the cable companies face is that cities now know exactly how much it costs to run a network, and it's nothing like the extortionate rates the cable companies are charging today. If the city has a competent manager leading the project, and good engineering staff, they will deliver fast data along with great customer service at a price that is not only going to be competitive, it's going to dominate. Everyone wins, except for the shareholders of the cable companies - and as they've been winning for a couple of decades already, my sympathy for their plight is not exactly overwhelming.

"Just think of a computer as hardware you can program." -- Nigel de la Tierre