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Comment: Managers need to learn how to understand others (Score 2) 112 112

A manager need to learn about the psychology of people at work and in groups. That not all people work the same. Some are inherently more efficient and productive working in one manner while others are more efficient and productive when working in a different manner. Some can get by with headphones in a noisy open environment, others require a quiet office to themselves. Some do well bouncing around from one part of a program to another, a breadth first sort of traversal of the code. Others do well drilling down into more and more detail in a single part of the program, a depth first sort of traversal of the code. In short, they need to learn that there are no universal answers. No universal manner in which to measure productivity. No shortcut for managers, that management is hard and you have to put in a lot of work to do it right. A manager also needs to develop an increasingly better understanding of other departments in a company or organization. How do the accountants look at this project? How do the marketing people look at it? How do the executives think it fits (or doesn't fit) into their objectives? Are any of the preceding or other interests in the company failing to properly understand a project and it value? How do I persuade them? Well the first step in persuading them is to understand their perspective and concerns. Then you can address these concerns in a manner that they understand, from perspective they have. Management is hard, you not only need to possess a deep understand of the specialty of the people you directly manage but you need to have a working understanding of the specialties of other people in unrelated departments. Again, there is no shortcut. Its hard work.

On recurring theme in all the case studies of real businesses and project that you will study, regardless of area or topic (engineering, marketing, managements, etc) is that most failure are human in nature. That people were in the wrong position, used in the wrong way or were just plain unfairly treated. People both inside and outside a team, and inside and outside a company. A lot of this came from the arrogance and overconfidence of a manager. Hint at what not to do.

So where does one learn more about the psychology of leadership, the psychology of people at work and in organizations, how to motivate, how to persuade, etc. Well that is what MBA programs teach. MBA programs are not about bean counting, finance and accounting. MBA programs are about taking a person with deep understanding of one part of an organization and providing them with a working overview of all the other classic parts and functions of an organization.

Yeah, I said it, an MBA. MBAs are not like other Master's degrees where you delve deeper into a specific topic in your field of expertise. It is an overview of a complete organization. Statistics, organizational behavior (a bit of the psychology stuff I mentioned), marketing and sales, consumer behavior, product development, accounting and finance, management, strategy, operations, information technology, business law, negotiations (which is not limited to contracts, convincing others to see your perspective, to persuade them is a negotiation), etc. Basically you leave an MBA program the same as you entered. If you were a scientist before you are still a scientist, an engineer still an engineer, ... but now you can better understand and communicate with other people in the company or organization. You can be more effective and persuasive at representing the perspective and interests of your specialty. You are a geek that can communicate effectively with an executive if need be.

Roughly 1/3 of my MBA class were scientists and engineers. Less than a quarter accounting and finance people. The classes I took were often very interesting. Personally I was constantly amused at how misinformed I had been. I had the classic engineer's disdain for anything business and marketing, thought marketing was just snake oil and misinformation for example. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my marketing class was actually based on mathematical and scientific principles. That the expected marketshare for a new product was *not* just a number pulled out of ... uh ... the air ... but rather it was a number estimated from mathematical models of the market before and after a product's introduction. A model based on an actual ranking and weighting of customer preferences. Actual vs stated, special surveying techniques are used to determine actuals. Yes, still merely modeling, an educated guess, but not the just "making up" of an answer or the "assuming the same number" as a different product that I had expected. It was nothing like I imagined. Pleasant surprises in most class. Lots of laughing at myself and my former misinformed assumptions. Well, except for accounting, that does suck. :-) Fortunately there are people who genuinely enjoy that.

Comment: OK, F-16 fighter too (Score 3, Informative) 108 108

Interesting, what do you remember about the F-16?

"Multi-mission" was the bright idea of the day, aircraft that could be both fighters and close air support aircraft (tactical bombers). After all fighters are just missile launch platforms, not the "dogfighters" of days gone by. Note the early F-4 Phantom versions had no gun.

The F-16 started out as a design by "rogue" elements of the Pentagon, Air Force and industry. They were going to build a pure fighter, a dogfighter, something with a gun for extremely close range combat (what pilots referred to as "knife fights" (obviously an illusion to distance not weapon). Yes it would be able to drop bombs but no features would be included that assisted bomb dropping at the expense of dog fighting fighter performance. There was also a strong tendency to keep it simple. Not an aversion to technology per se, the F-16 would be the first fly-by-wire aircraft in the Air Force, but keeping in mind that technology must offer a strong benefit to performance and/or the mission and not overly complicate the design or overly drive up the cost. Cost was another important factor, as was maintainability (simplicity).

The underlying motivation was that the fighter and close air support missions were mutually exclusive. Aircraft characteristics that improved performance on one side generally reduced performance on the other. One of various characteristics was armor. Armor was good in the close air support role, it improved survivability. Armor added a lot of weight and degraded the performance of a fighter. Fighters needed minimal armor, unlike a close air support aircraft that needed robust armor. Air Force data from WW2 and Korea showed that high performance fighters were extremely vulnerable in close air support roles. Probably the greatest fighter of its day, the P-51 Mustang, suffered heavy casualties during WW2 ground attack mission and even more horrible casualties in Korea due to more advanced anti-aircraft guns. Note that old propeller driven aircraft like the P-51 were used because jets were just too fast, and greater speed meant they could only attack enemy troops far from friendly troops. Slower aircraft could attack the enemy at far closer distances. What is one of the main characteristics of a fighter, going fast. They generally don't perform so well at slow speeds. Note the F-14 and F-111 tried to address this with movable wings.

An important concept was that it was not how many aircraft one had in inventory that was important. Rather it was how many sorties (missions) per day those aircraft could fly. Cost gave you more aircraft. Simplicity/maintainability gave you more sorties per aircraft per day.

They tried to work under the radar so to speak. Eventually when the word got out and the prototypes flying the Air Force brass rejected the aircraft. They considered it a distraction from the F-15, the culmination of state of the art multi-mission air superiority fighter. But the performance and cost of the F-16 led Congress to virtually force the F-16 on the Air Force. In its day the cost of the F-15 was about as controversial as the cost of the F-22 Raptor today. If the Air Force brass had things their way they would have simply bought more F-15s and let the F-16 be sold to foreign allies.

As the Air Force grudgingly accepted the F-16 they made some design changes. Increased its all-weather capabilities, increased it bombing performance, adding a little more electronics. All reducing its performance as a fighter to a degree. While there is a little deja vu with respect to the M-16 and the Army, forced upon them, redesign reducing performance ... things did not go as far as with the Army. The Air Force did not turn the F-16 into an unreliable mess. It was just heavier and more complicated, cost more, and required more maintenance (fewer sorties).

The story also repeats itself to a degree with the A-10, another rejection of the multi-mission concept. This time focusing on an aircraft for close air support and tactical bombing. Again, ruthless mission focus, simplicity, cost, sorties. Again forced upon a reluctant Air Force, however the Air Force brass having a little more success with respect to getting rid of the aircraft. Although not quite reaching that goal, but perhaps soon actually getting there.

Comment: Re:How about a working rifle for our troops perhap (Score 1) 108 108

My dad was a paratrooper in Vietnam and he told me they used to ditch their defective M-16s, drop in on Charlie and "borrow" their AKs to get the real work done

That deep in enemy territory it worked on two levels:
1. Sounds like a friendly
2. Didn't jam (bonus) 3. If you used the butt of the rifle it didn't shatter

Jungle fighting is close quarters and while you don't get a lot of accuracy with a spot welded hand-me-down Soviet gun you don't really need it anyway

A former manager was a Marine who had to swap his M-14 for an M-16 when deployed around DaNang. His lessons were:
1. Carry lots of grenades.
2. KABAR, zero moving parts.

Also to clarify for some readers, "Sounds like a friendly" is with respect to the enemy's perspective. To make them think they are firing on friendly non-US forces. One had to be a little more careful with an AK's use around US forces, it was a good idea to let them know this "trick" was going to be used.

Comment: Re:How about a working rifle for our troops perhap (Score 5, Informative) 108 108

I think he means to refer to the caliber of round, not the rifle itself. The standard 5.56 NATO round is terrible at stopping targets long range, and they lack the power to break thin cover and in some cases can't even puncture vehicle windows. The AK fires a much heavier loaded 7.62 (i think) almost equivalent to a .308 sniper round.

No. The Russians abandoned the 7.62 in the 1970s and went for a smaller higher speed round just like the M-16. They then began selling / giving away all their unwanted 7.62 AK's and ammo, it was all considered tier 2 equipment. OK for revolutionaries in Africa and South America but Soviet soldiers would get better.

The .308 is not necessarily a sniper round. It is a standard round as well, in particular 7.62 NATO. See US M-14.

In college we read a book that traced the development of two weapons, the M-16 rifle and the F-16 fighter, to gain insight into Pentagon procurement and development. Here is what I recall.

The Army's own research shows that long range shots are rare. WW2 soldiers with the venerable M-1 Garand rarely fired at anything beyond 100 yards despite the Garand having excellent long range accuracy and knock down power. The Army research found that soldiers with the Browning Automatic Rifle were more likely to fire at iffy targets. Hence the move to large capacity detachable magazines in a standard issue rifle. The M-14 being the first for the US however if was found to be effectively uncontrollable on full auto. US Special Forces troops that tested a civilian designed rifle, the Armalite AR-15, found it to be much more suitable. The smaller round in fact deadlier, it went unstable when it hit people and tumbled, doing more damage. M-14 users is SF thought the AR-15 superior. More effective at actual combat distances and one could carry multiple times the amount of ammo for the same weight.

The Army, against their will, "militarized" the Armalite AR-15 into the M-16. The M-14 was their baby, designed in house, they resented it being replaced by an outsider's rifle. Many, including Congressman who investigated the Army and the M-16 eventually, were of the opinion that the Army tried to sabotage the M-16 in this redesign/militarization process. Those of a more generous opinion merely claim that the Army was stupid. Various changes were made to improve accuracy but these reduced reliability and reduced lethality, less likely that a bullet would tumble when it hit a person. Worst of all they change the powder used in the ammunition from a clean burning powder to an older design that left behind more residue. Such residue is a minor issue for a M-1 or M-14 which use pistons near the muzzle and operating rods reaching back to the bolt to drive the mechanisms but in the AR-15/M-16 a tube carries high pressure gas behind the bullet from near the muzzle directly back to the bolt. The working mechanisms of the rifle get fouled by this residue and jamming becomes quite likely.

Unfortunately M-16s sent to Vietnam were of this design and their ammunition used such powder. Compound the preceding by failing to tell troops how important it was to clean the internal mechanism and not sending them much of the newer Cleaner/Lubricant/Preservative that Armalite had expected to be used. It was the poor reliability of these M-16s that made troops regret converting from the M-14, not the long range stopping power notion you suggest. Special Forces carrying the older Armalite AR-15s had no such problems and had a very different impression of the design and the new ammunition. Later redesigns of the M-16 and better powder formulations corrected these problems. However US troops died due to the Army's negligence and a Congressional investigation resulted. The unfairly stains the Armalite design and 5.56 ammunition.

Note that one of the preferred weapons of US Special Forces today is an M-16 "redesign" where the gas tube is replaced by a more traditional piston and operating rod, keeping the inner workings cleaner like an M-14. The ammunition is still 5.56mm. Yes, SF also used M-14s but they are a more specialized weapon for special circumstances.

Comment: How is a quad-copter sci fi ? (Score 4, Insightful) 108 108

Gotta figure out how to spend a trillion dollars without being able to make things out of solid gold or add diamonds - just pick a cool thing from scifi and write up a spec.

How is a quad-copter sci fi? It just a big enough version that a person can ride.

Comment: Re:Maybe, maybe not (Score 1) 528 528

Now, there may actually be a very few people who do genuinely have the problem, but when you come to do the studies, you sample a large number of people. You do the statistics. You do not conclude that there is no link - studies like these cannot show that there is *no* link. You conclude - correctly - that there is no statistically significant link. But there still might (or might not) be a real problem for a very few people.

This is like people who claim they have ESP and magical abilities. If there were even ONE legitimate case, they could simply walk into a casino and repeatedly win multi-million dollar wins until every casino on the planet bans them.

All it takes is ONE "electrosensitive" who can consistently answer yes/no to whether an antenna is broadcasting. Much like ESP and other supernatural abilities, so far they do not exist.


Comment: Re:Knowing when not to (Score 1) 342 342

You are thinking like a manager. As a programmer, I don't want to be replaced easily ...

No, its thinking like an engineer who want to work on the next new project at the company and not be stuck maintaining the old project. Code that only you can work with tends to keep you where you are, limit your options inside the company.

Comment: Re:Knowing when not to (Score 1) 342 342

I agree with your comment entirely. I would only like to add that a true C++ Master writes code that a C++ Novice can understand.

Absolutely. Maintainability is one of the motivations for sticking to "needs".

Also its not just for the novices. It helps when I return to code after a multiyear absence for example. :-)

Comment: Manual copy of a couple folders not bad ... (Score 1) 297 297

... his backup "strategy" was manual drag-copy ...

Manual copies are not so bad. On work computers I have religiously kept everything in /src and /doc hierarchies. I can back these up to an encrypted sdcard when traveling and should my computer spontaneously combust I could buy a replacement and be up in hours depending on the internet connection, downloading any tools/apps I need to install.

For a home computer add /music and /photo hierarchies and such to the scheme.

I also do full backups to externals just in case but for decades I've found that backing up just the key hierarchies (/src, /doc, etc) is all I really needed. Reinstalling operating systems, tools and apps not taking much more time than a complete restore. Admittedly I also manually backup downloaded images of tools and apps to an external, but these are one time events, so everything needed for reinstall is on hand.

Comment: Knowing when not to (Score 5, Insightful) 342 342

What separates C++ beginners from those with 'intermediate' skills, or even masters?

Knowing when not to use templates, virtualization, [insert favorite c++ function here], etc.

Basically knowing enough about programming and problem solving with a particular language to tell a need from a want. Needing to use some language feature vs wanting to use some language feature. And being mature enough to stick to needs rather than indulge wants.

Or to state things differently ... all the features have a time and place, and its probably not all the time and in every place.

Comment: Re:One-size-fits-all, a way to sabotage your app (Score 1) 337 337

The author of the app would rarely hear a complaint. They may see a download of a free app. What they wouldn't see is the uninstall or lack of use of the app and the competitor's app that gets downloaded as an alternative.

Who would hear about an app that didn't look or feel "right", or that lacked expected platform specific functionality? That would be friends, coworkers, classmates, etc. Rarely the author. As I said, its word of mouth that makes or breaks apps.

Comment: Re:One-size-fits-all, a way to sabotage your app (Score 1) 337 337

What is being said is that it puts a modern app at a competitive disadvantage in the market. And Qt on iOS gives you that. You don't notice any difference. Hence your argument is simply wrong.

Numerous users of QT based apps say otherwise. Even when QT is using native widgets instead of emulating them.

Plus there is the whole issue of platform specific functionality and features that QT does not support.

I never cheated an honest man, only rascals. They wanted something for nothing. I gave them nothing for something. -- Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil